Monday, April 06, 2009

Adding multimedia and Web 2.0 elements to e-books the next step in media evolution

I found this article about Vook's effort to add multimedia elements to e-books quite interesting. The article points out that with the colorful covers and specially designed (?) fonts eliminated from e-books that they are in danger of becoming too bland to appeal to the younger generation of consumers raised on large helpings of internet multimedia.

"Bradley Inman wants to create great fiction, dramatic online video and compelling Twitter stream — and then roll them all into a multimedia hybrid that is tailored to the rapidly growing number of digital reading devices.

Mr. Inman, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, calls this digital amalgam a “Vook,” ( and the fledgling company he has created with that name just might represent a possible future for the beleaguered book industry." - The New York Times

I've always thought the book industry's abandonment of in-text illustrations was a major mistake anyway. I love to pick up books from the 19th century (and earlier) and flip through them to view the illustrations that were often included within the text. In fact, I plan to take some of the books I inherited from my mother and scan the images within them and upload them to Wikimedia for possible use in illustrating online articles and Wikipedia entries since the artwork within them is now in the public domain. So, I think Mr. Inman has hit upon a very viable idea.

As a history enthusiast I think a line of history books that resemble a graphic novel rather than the dry textbooks we all grew up with would be far more fascinating. There is no reason video cannot be used as well as still images in e-book format, although to keep the cost down, some video may need to be produced with software like iClone or Crazy Talk, using virtual actors and sets instead of real ones. However, if a library of video clips of historical reenactors was available, they could be used as well.

I noticed that the BBC sells snippets of its video productions - most just a few seconds long - for £99 but this is still too expensive for classroom production. I told a friend of mine that, in addition to shooting still images licensed with Creative Commons for free non-commercial use and uploading them to Flickr, we should start shooting bits of video where appropriate, especially since Flickr now accepts video and animation. Many of the latest digital still cameras produce quite respectable video and with the dramatic drop in prices of SD cards and their increase in capacity, shooting video can be easily interspersed with still photography without packing around a lot of extra equipment.
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