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

3 reasons why the Kindle will succeed

woman-readingAs the Kindle hits the UK, there’s divided opinion on whether or not, it’s a good thing. David Hepworth wrote an elegant post on why he can’t see the point of a Kindle and all the other e-readers.

Nicholson Baker has also written about his Kindle experience – not all of it positive.

But e-readers are here to stay, no matter how perfect a product the book is, for a number of reasons.

1) Digital is now. For the same reason that digital music has succeeded, there are a lot of people who just aren’t fussed about having a physical product any more. For those of us who still buy CDs/vinyl/paperbacks, this is still a strange concept, but as the digital world progresses, ever more people will be less and less interested in having clutter around.
2) No need to buy crap paperbacks. As much as I love to read new, hot releases, I also like to keep my brain stress-free on occasion and veg out to the latest Lee Child or Kathy Reichs book. The thing is, I don’t really feel the need to buy them physically – an e-reader will be perfect for a space-saving download, speed read and then I won’t feel bad if I keep it, or discard it.
3) You don’t need to tell everyone what you’re reading. Some people have suggested that e-readers could do for the adult fiction industry what DVDs and the internet did for the sex video industry. Imagine the joy of being able to read whatever you want without the need to hide it in a different book jacket.

It’s clear that the book is a pretty perfect product, but technology has a way of taking things to a new place and a new level. When the iPod arrived, there wasn’t total agreement that it would create the music listening revolution that it did. I’m not suggesting that the Kindle will have quite the impact of Apple’s invention, but it’s definitely the next step on the way to a new chapter for books.

And Another Thing… New Douglas Adams book by Eoin Colfer is here

Much excitement in the Mansfield household yesterday when this dropped onto the doormat.

Yes, it's the much-anticipated sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide series, And Another Thing, this time penned by renowned kids' author Eoin Colfer.

It's been years since I read the original H2G2, but this is actually quite exciting.

A recent Guardian article about the series charted how Adams rose from being a lowly comedy writer to one of the most revered writers of his generation, as a result of the success of the Hitchhikers' Guide series.

I'm looking forward to starting it over the next couple of days to see how Colfer manages to keep the series going – a tough job by anyone's standards.

Posted via email from Rob’s stream of web