Friday, May 27, 2011

The NEW! IMPROVED! ENHANCED! Interactive Book

I took note of an article that I think Teleread linked to a couple of months back. I planned to blog about it. That day has come. I thought I bookmarked it, but can't find the bookmark. So I go to Teleread to do a search on it. Well, regardless of the browser I use, their website somehow gets rid of the side scroll bar, and disables my touchpad's ability to scroll. The advanced search function also doesn't do anything I ask of it. Because I'm incredibly stubborn, I've been banging my head against their website for about an hour.

So I'm in a real good mood.

I'll give you the gist of the article: authors need to be taking advantage of the new, interactive possibilities of ebooks. Imbedding videos. Having readers examine crime scene photos. Having ghosts pop out at the scary parts, I don't know.

Luckily, most authors aren't interested in doing this.

Fiction works through immersion. Amazon knows this. When they described what their goal was with the Kindle, it was to allow the reader to forget she was reading on a Kindle. Maintaining this sort of dream-like state is essential to enjoying fiction, and as I've gotten older, I've found that fewer and fewer books are capable of pulling me in this way for any length of time. So for me, every time I'm asked to click a video button, every time I'm prompted to listen to an audio clip, I would be pulled out of the story and have to work to get back in. It would be a bit like trying to enjoy what you're reading while someone stands over you and whacks you with a yardstick at random intervals.

That's a drawback of the medium of the interactive ebook. Because what we're talking about is a different medium from prose fiction. There would be benefits, and as artists explored and refined the medium, those benefits would be discovered and fully realized. So I'm no fuddy-duddy. I believe it's possible to create a great interactive book. But the author of this goddamn article I can't goddamn find believed that all ebooks should take advantage of the capabilities of the computers they're read on, be that on a laptop, a tablet or a dedicated e-reader.

The position reminds me of the state of the video game industry in the late 90s. With the CD drive of the Playstation, Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid were able to include incredible pre-rendered cut scenes. They were mindblowing, but we soon discovered that they were incredible as a novelty. Long, unskippable cut scenes began to invade all sorts of video games, and many people realized that they just wanted to play the game. A good story can improve a video game, but a video game can reach the pinnacle of its medium without any story at all because gameplay is the only absolute essential to a good video game, and the rest is secondary. Ms. Pac-Man is still one of my favorite games of all time.
Sooooo sexy!

Not too long ago I was asked why I don't like Final Fantasy games anymore. I replied that it's because I like to play video games, not read them or watch them. There are people who enjoy reading video games, and I'm glad there are games out there for them, but I'm also glad that I can avoid those games. I remember hearing that there was like a 30 minute long, unskippable cutscene in one of the Metal Gear sequels.

So honestly, I hope that someone very creative writes? directs? codes? a great interactive e-book that blows all our minds the same way the multimedia beasts of late 90s video games did. I'll check it out when it happens. But I'll be sticking with my prose books, too.

*It's tomorrow. Teleread is loading better but the search function still isn't helping me and I'm tired of looking for it.

I don't mind waking up to no sales quite so much when I can also wake up to reviews like the one Grayson just posted at her blog.

"The bleakness and grit punch through the page" is my fav line. Grayson recently sold her first story, and a pro-sale at that, which is now also good for me. Keep it up and soon you'll be famous enough I can slap some of this on the book cover! Yes, I like to exploit friendly relationships!

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with this more. If prose-fiction isn't good enough for some people, why are they wanting to become writers?

    I'm sure someone somewhere will do something interesting with the idea, but it's like Burroughs's cutups or BS Johnson's novel in a box; it wouldn't work if *everyone* did it for gawd's sake.