With the proliferation of e-books on tablet readers like the Kindle and Nook, there are potentially new ways to present literature to readers using the digital medium.
Here are a few ideas that e-books could adopt when it comes to presentation:
1. Enforced Serialization. Imagine if the reading audience was forced to consume a book at the same rate as a television show? Chapters would be released or unlocked on a weekly basis. No skipping ahead, no dealing with spoilers from fellow fans. The final chapter would become something of an event.
You would be forced to put the book down, and be left with anticipation for the next chapter.
This would be ideal for new releases. Customers who are late to the serial could play catchup at a daily rate. Once the serial has been released in it’s entirety, readers would have the option to override the drip-feed and read the whole book at their leisure.
Serial novels aren’t a new thing, but their being regulated in digital form would be. The chapters could be unlocked by the e-book reader, or downloaded from the e-book store through a subscription.
You can also pull the rug out from under the reader for serial books, simply by making the words dissipate at a most inconvenient time. How maddening would it be to finally reach a momentous event in the book, only to see the words start to disappear?.
2. Interactive Stories. It would be nice to see the Choose Your Own Adventure books make a return in e-book form. Those books were limited by a set page count, with numerous one-page endings that were not very satisfying and easy to spot, causing the reader to quickly abort and go back (I know I did). In e-book form, these stories would be colossal narratives. Choices for dialogue would also be present (like a Bioware game), to impact conversations in the story.
I’d also like to see books like the Da Vinci Code incorporate puzzles the reader would need to solve in order to advance the story.
3. Customization. Allowing the reader to re-name any of the characters or the setting gives the e-book a more personal touch. A more advanced option would allow the reader to change the gender of the protagonist (Harriet Potter, anyone?). In fairness to the Author, I would permit these options for the second go-round with the book. This way you can enjoy the book as intended, then maybe down the road you could revisit the story in remixed form. Replay-ability for books!
You could also set parental controls here, either for your kids or if you prefer all the gosh-darn swearing to be gone.
4. Reference At The Ready. This would be like incorporating a standby Wiki into the book. I sometimes find when I am reading A Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings, there will be the odd reference to a person or event that doesn’t ring familiar. I would like to expand on the word or sentence and get the 411. And having the world map a single click away would be handy too.
5. Mood Music. If you are an orchestra junkie like I am, then some background music would be a nice touch. How it would work: you would upload your music into different playlists, each labeled by mood (scary, sad, action, calm, etc.), and the e-book would play a corresponding song depending on what is going on in the story. If there is a change in the mood, the music would quickly fade into another track, or if needed – – complete silence.
6. No Peeking. If you’re one of those people who read the last page of a mystery novel first (shame on you), you should answer a trivia question first before the later parts of the book unlock. Something that proves you made your way through the book.
7. Dialogue With Attitude And Tempo. If you are playing an older video game, you might notice the dialogue unfolds as though someone is typing really fast. When you reach dialogue in the e-book, it should also appear to be typed in real-time, to also give this impression that someone is speaking. Some creative changes in speed would reflect urgency or perhaps broken thought (The character….speaks…..slowly). You may have to prompt this to happen just like a video game, but I think the e-book can get the timing right.
8. Optional Recaps. This is something that is handy with Television shows, at least when returning from the off-season hiatus. An e-book can determine if you have been away for awhile, and can offer to you up to speed with a condensed version of the story so far.
9. Varying Fan Art. Some books like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series feature full-page illustrations to compliment the story. I’d like to see random images or animations culled from a large pool of fan art. Not only would this enhance the book, but the many different art styles would free the reader from viewing the default art (usually done by a single artist) as cannon. In fact, seeing the protagonist illustrated in dozens of different styles would add a mythic quality to that character.
10. Crunch It Down. This is a personal pet peeve of mine: Reading a paragraph that is length of a page! It seems long-winded to me, especially when I can see more interesting bits ahead, like dialogue, one-off sentences, and paragraphs that are only 4-5 sentences long. So I tend to glaze over these gargantuan paragraphs and move on.
I as a reader would like to reduce these to the most relevant information being displayed. After I read this giant paragraph, and suddenly find myself asking what was all that about, I could collapse it into the Reader’s Digest version: Mark had a dog when he was a kid, which his mom wouldn’t let him keep — it’s been eating at him ever since. The author/editor would need to determine what is displayed for the condensed version.