eBooks have pushed so many boundaries, stretching our imaginations further than we once thought possible. From carrying around 1,000 books in our pockets to instantly downloading and reading bestsellers—even on the beach—it seems that nearly anything is possible.
Today, there is another trend emerging with eBooks: a social experience. The online world is built on connections, whether they are professional links, social “Likes” or tiny tweets. Many, including publishers and app developers, have started experimenting with adding this element to reading. And while maybe there are some who disagree, enhanced eBooks can be intriguing. Here are a couple of examples that have piqued our interest lately:
From 21 audio tracks included with the book Country Music: The Masters to an update of the 1980s Practical Meditation for Busy Souls that now includes audio with guided meditations, Sourcebooks has been a leader on the enhanced-eBook front. According to the publisher, “These innovative digital books allow for immersion experiences within the book—seamlessly integrating audio, video, and images into the text and creating ‘you are there’ adventures you won’t soon forget.”
Disney has continued to push boundaries with interactive eBooks, which it introduced in February 2011. With Disney Digital Books opened on computer screens, children can use Disney’s magic pen to operate Pen Puzzlers (interactive puzzles featuring favorite Disney characters), hear words pronounced, find definitions and access additional help—enhancing readers’ opportunities for learning and fun.
Readmill, a small company in Berlin, is taking eBook sharing to yet another level. Readmill’s iPad app allows readers to annotate books, share those comments, track what their friends are reading and even view their annotations, all of which creates a social reading experience. This leaves the door wide open for the story to be expanded. In fact, author Aaron Gustafson added commentary to his own book. Now, those who read it through Readmill can view his extended story. Other companies, including Goodreads, OpenMargin and Amazon are creating similar sharing experiences.
So where will eBooks go next? It is really up to you, the publishers. EPUB3 promises animation, interactivity, audio, video and other content not previously available for eBooks. Perhaps teachers could add their notes or texts to classic literature taught in English class—via video. Or maybe we are taken to an interactive version of “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid. A whole world of possibilities awaits us.
Brianne Carlon is a public relations specialist for OverDrive.