When books, the web and video collide

People have been trying to get books to work online for a while. There are a variety of book social media sites, such as the Amazon-owned Shelfari, goodreads and Bookrabbit, to name just three. 

We also have the much-heralded arrival of the Kindle (Amazon again), numerous other e-readers and even iPhone apps, such as Stanza.

Then there are the TV adverts created specifically to look like a movie trailer, when they are actually a book plug – namely those of uber-author James Patterson.

There are also some authors, such as Jasper Fforde, who have tried to provide the equivalent of DVD extras, by getting readers to enter a password that’s hidden in books which then unlocks extra content around the specific title. 

But now there’s a new kid and new idea on the block. It comes in the form of mini-videos within a book that both complement and enhance your enjoyment of the material. 

Dark Origins has been created by Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the phenomenon that is CSI. Ostensibly a gruesome crime thriller about a serial killer, what raises this above the norm is the aforementioned additional material. 

To dovetail nicely with Zuiker’s own site Level 26 – a nod to the categorisation of the most heinous serial killers of all – every 26 pages, the reader is prompted to visit the site and enter a special code, which then leads directly to a relevant 3-5 minute video that ties in with the plot at that point. 

Naturally, coming from the creator of CSI, these short clips are extremely expertly and stylishly shot. They wouldn’t look out of place on CSI itself and I wouldn't mind betting that the amount of money spent on video is more than the actual book. 

Will it work? Well, it makes a book more interesting and definitely raises it above the everyday thriller, but a lot depends on how good the writing is. I’m only a short way into Dark Origins currently and the jury is out, as far as I'm concerned. 

The other issue for me still comes down to whether want to stop reading in the middle of a book to watch a video and also want someone else to show them what certain characters look like. 

One of the joys of reading a novel before it’s ever come close to the big or small screen is that you get to create your own idea of what certain characters look like. 

Even though he's been played by both John Hannah and Ken Stott, neither of them match up to my own picture of Iain Rankin's Rebus, so strong is he lodged in my imagination. 

Fair play to Zuiker for trying something different – he's got the clout and cash to do it, but I fear it will remain a gimmick, rather than become the norm.

Posted via email from Rob’s stream of web

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