Enhanced E Books — The Evolution of Reading

The notion of enhanced E Books has been around for years, but it is the proliferation of E Book readers, and more specifically tablet devices like the iPad and the unreleased Samsung Galaxy Tab that will truly transform the way some people view, consume and read books.  Many may ask what the heck an enhanced E Book is.  The definition is still being worked out in the publishing industry, and the formats are certainly far from being defined.  But the premise is simple:  include additional links, data, video, audio, or even software to “enhance” a book above and beyond the typical text you would see on the screen.

So curling up with a good book in bed can also include all kinds of extras if and when you want: an audio track of the author reading the prose, movie trailers, videos of book critics or additional explanations, links to related articles, games or contests, or even promotions for book signings or giveaways.  Some might find it sad that we as a society want to merge a good book with mass media, but I find it very exciting.  And I do believe that it will eventually lead to more book sales, can actually spur people to read more by making it a little more fun, and will certainly assist with the dissemination of information.

Devices like the Kindle and Nook do enable some enhanced features to be added to E Books, but the real game changers are the highly successful Apple iPad and all of the new tablets based on the Android platform set to be hitting retailers over the next 12 months.  These devices can really bring all of these other enhancements to life and provide a broadband connection for the ease of serving media elements.

The current trend is for the publishers to develop an app for the enhanced E Book, and the app will be device specific (iPhone, iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc).  Of course this adds to the complexity and cost for publishers.  As more and more of these devices hit the market, decisions will have to be made to determine what apps they will provide and what devices they will support.  Standardization will be difficult as each device will have it’s own specs and SDK.

Enhanced E Book apps can be very large in size as well if a great deal of video or audio is embedded in the app.  The market will trend in the future to try to limit the size of the apps for both magazine and E Book apps.  The hard drives on tablets are not very large and really are not designed to hold vast amounts of data.  Some of the apps for magazines and E Books I have seen recently are over 1GB in size.  Think about it….that means that if I have a 16GB iPad, I could only have 16 books or magazines on it at a time!  It will be imperative that publishers think about this as they are developing their E Book Apps.  Embedding large video or audio files in the apps will not be sustainable over time.  Utilizing a media publishing platform like Castfire can enable these apps to serve media content to the Enhanced E Books and can publish audio or video to the multiple different devices you are targeting. These apps should be designed so that as much data as possible is coming from the cloud so that the file size is minimized.

Publishers really seem to be rushing to develop and nurture the enhanced E Book market right now.  I don’t think anyone knows what they will look like even in the next 12 months, but I know that I’m excited to read, listen and watch them as they rapidly come to market.