Are Multimedia Books a “Game Changer”?

by Jami Gold on December 4, 2014

in Writing Stuff

Green light in a tunnel with text: Is Multimedia the Future of Books?

While I was deep in NaNoWriMo and running guest posts, a story circulated about how the release of a multimedia fiction ebook was a “game changer.” (Full disclosure: I tend to roll my eyes at such breathless headlines. *smile*) But beyond my eye-rolling, I want to talk about whether multimedia ebooks could be the wave of the future for fiction.

In any profession, we have to stay on top of industry changes, and publishing is no different. Authors have had to adjust to the rise of self-publishing and the opportunities that option brings us. We’ve had to adjust to the increasing importance of branding and taking on more marketing responsibilities. And we’ve had to adjust to the social media tools available for reaching readers directly.

So it’s in our best interest to have a conversation about whether storytelling will evolve into multimedia ebooks as the primary medium. Let’s take a closer look…

The Background: What Is a Multimedia Ebook?

The terms “interactive” and “multimedia” usually refer to ebooks that include elements such as:

  • images and maps
  • “extended editions” or deleted scenes (like DVDs)
  • embedded audio/video
  • in-book glossary/encyclopedia entries, etc.

Despite the breathless press, the story lauded as the “game changer,” Find Me I’m Yours, by Hillary Carlip, wasn’t the first interactive, multimedia ebook. Different platforms have included interactive and multimedia aspects for children’s books for at least a decade, and I bought my first interactive “choose your own adventure” style Kindle book almost three years ago.

However, this ebook is the first to embrace this path to such a large extent, with custom videos, images, original artwork, 33 websites, etc. (You can scroll through the Amazon Look Inside free sample to get an idea of its scope.)

Is this the future for all books? Some say yes. But is it really?

Obstacle #1: Who Has the Ability to Develop All of That?

Writing a book is already a heck of a lot of work. Adding multimedia pieces just adds that much more work and would take time and skills that we might not have.

How many of us would have the ability to create custom fictional websites to fit our story world—and be able to maintain them? Or the ability to find and photograph or record the people or places to embed in the story?

Now I could see some genres, such as fantasy, including the maps that the author already made for their own notes. Ditto for “deleted scenes” and the like. But while many of us have Pinterest boards for inspiration, we don’t have the rights to publish those images in a book.

In other words, it’s one thing to share elements we’ve already developed. It’s another thing to create and develop elements in addition to what we needed for our storytelling process. And if we don’t have the time or ability to develop multimedia elements, we’d have to pay someone to do it for us.

Obstacle #2: Who Can Afford to Develop All of That?

In the case of this “game changer,” Hillary and her entertainment company spent $400,000 to develop all of the custom elements. What author has that kind of money? Or what author wouldn’t rather their publisher spent that money on an advance? *smile*

Hillary and her company financed the development work by negotiating payment for product placement in the story. The company behind an artificial sweetener paid $1.3 million for the right to have positive information about their product included in the story and to sponsor one of the websites. The story includes many other brand names, and the author’s entertainment company is in negotiations with other companies, presumably for the inevitable sequel.

Obstacle #3: Wait, Our Stories Become a Commercial?

In other words, negotiating this payment for funding the multimedia development isn’t something most authors could do—even if we wanted to. Many have already weighed in with their thoughts about the ethics of product placement and the commercialization of storytelling.

In this case, even though the main character quotes company-provided research statistics for health claims about the artificial sweetener product, the book doesn’t reveal the payment connection in footnotes or a mention on the copyright page. Needless to say, arrangements for product placement leave a bad taste in the mouth of many authors and readers, and without that financing, we’re back to the problems listed in #1 and #2 above.

So if we don’t have the money, clout, connections, time, skills, resources, etc. to create multimedia ebooks, should we be worried? Will we be be left behind in the future?

Obstacle #4: Most Stories Don’t Fit the Multimedia Structure

In the story mentioned above, the storytelling structure itself was changed to accommodate the multimedia elements. The story wouldn’t make sense if printed, or even if read on an older ereader. Some stories will work with a multimedia structure, but most won’t.

Stories that don’t lend themselves to a multimedia structure won’t disappear, just as the “choose your own adventure” structure didn’t banish traditional storytelling. Multimedia-driven stories can only become an option, not a requirement.

Far more likely is that normal stories would offer multimedia bonuses. Fantasy stories might include a link to a map. Science fiction stories might include a schematic of the spaceship. Mystery stories might include copies of the clues so the reader can try to solve the case along with the detective. But are bonuses really a game changer?

Obstacle #5: Do Readers Even Want Multimedia Ebooks?

As a reader, I read stories to become immersed. Anything that pulls me out of the story is a bad thing.

For me, that includes storytelling issues, poor writing craft, and obvious product placement, but it also includes multimedia elements. When, exactly, is a reader supposed to explore these multimedia bonuses?

Am I supposed to interrupt my reading of the story to check out this website or that song or video? Will I have to look at this map or that schematic to follow along because the author was lazy and decided to skip the written description? If so, I’ve lost immersion into the story.

Or would these multimedia aspects be explored after the story (like the deleted scenes on a DVD)? In that case, I don’t think multimedia becomes a game changer because all that’s doing is including the bonuses we’d usually see on an author’s website within the book itself. Eh. Whatever.

My Verdict? Not a Game Changer

I can see a few, select styles of stories embracing multimedia to the fullest extent, but I don’t ever see multimedia becoming the dominant storytelling structure. There are too many stories in the world that won’t lend themselves to the multimedia structure, and those stories won’t go untold.

Storytelling has existed forever—since caveman days—and our brains are far more wired to relate to stories than anything else. Written language didn’t kill verbal storytelling, and multimedia isn’t a bigger game changer than writing itself. So multimedia can’t make all other forms of storytelling obsolete.

Multimedia is a storytelling option now and in the future, but it’s not “the future of storytelling” or the direction that all storytelling will go. Developing multimedia elements in addition to what the author naturally creates takes too much time, costs too much money, and too often doesn’t make sense from a storytelling perspective.

If we take the “Ooo, shiny” technological terms out of the description, multimedia stories are essentially listening to a storyteller who constantly interrupts themselves with tangents. If a friend started telling us about an important thing that happened during their trip to the beach, and they interrupted themselves to show us a map of the boardwalk and play music they’d recorded from a beach-side club patio, we’d want them to get on with the story: “Yes, but what happened?” In other words, in real life, I’d want to smack a storyteller who acted this way. *smile*

Right now, there is an “Ooo, shiny” aspect to multimedia, and readers are excitedly exploring the possibilities just as much as authors. However, multimedia won’t be accepted long-term unless it seamlessly enhances the storytelling itself. In other words, the multimedia elements must serve the storytelling, not the other way around.

Whether we choose to incorporate multimedia or not, storytelling itself doesn’t change. As long as we’re able to tell a good story, the medium doesn’t matter. *smile*

Signed,
A cranky, old-school reader who wants to remain immersed in the story, no matter how it’s told… *grin*

How much do multimedia books interest you? Do some kinds of multimedia ebooks interest you more than others, and if so, why? Can you think of other obstacles for incorporating multimedia into books? How do you feel about using product placement to finance multimedia development for ebooks? Do you agree or disagree with my theory of storytelling and how multimedia won’t be a game changer for the evolution of all books?

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33 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Anne R. Allen December 4, 2014 at 11:25 am

You’ve put this very well, Jami! I’ve had the same feeling, but I’m older, so I thought maybe it was just me. But I want to live inside a book, not be yanked out every few minutes to go fritter with tech stuff. So thanks for your vote for “not a game-changer”. Add mine to that too.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Hi Anne,

I actually asked some pre-teen kids about this before doing the post so I’d know whether it was just me being cranky and old-school. LOL!

Their answers were the same as we’d have, however. They could see some stories with this structure being cool–they were the ones talking about solving the mystery alongside the detective–but they had no interest in every story, or even most stories, being along those lines. Like us, they want to crawl into a story and live there. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Davonne Burns December 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

I have to agree, not a game changer. There is a reason why deleted scenes are deleted and why DVD extra’s are available after you watch the movie. The producers know that you need to be immersed in the story, everything else is filler. Yes, it’s fun and yes I’m one of the ones who loves deleted scenes, outtakes, and other extras but in the end they are not crucial to my enjoyment of the story. If the movie doesn’t hold my attention by having a good, well told story line and interesting characters why will I care about how many bells and whistles are included on the DVD? The same will most likely hold true for multi-media books.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Hi Davonne,

Exactly! Deleted scenes can be fun…after the movie. But we wouldn’t want the story interrupted to say, “Okay, now that you watched the real scene, let’s watch the outtakes before you move on to the next scene.” Ugh, no. We’d all hate that–at least for our first viewing.

Great point about how if we don’t care about the story, why would we care about the bells and whistles? “Content is King” because the story comes first. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) December 4, 2014 at 11:38 am

Hi Jami, haven’t been around as much, like you November was crazy, for varying reasons, and I had to speak to this-

I know a lot of people say “The medium is NOT the message” typically when we have the debate about ebooks vs. print books (whether or not multimedia’s involved), but while there’s truth to that, sometimes the medium is PART of the message, not all that matters, but A PART all the same.

That’s what I think will separate the stories that use multimedia well to those that don’t.

That said, I’m glad you mentioned the financial barriers to entry when you don’t have the publisher or have the funds upfront yourself, and while crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo can help, they’re not always the right move for a given project.

In my case, I do use multimedia, partly because I don’t yet have my work in print or have the finances to do ebooks at a pro level, but I also find it’s a great way to stretch my creative muscles and get people invested in a particular character (Children’s author-illustrator Sam Garton does this with his character “Otter” really well, and of course she’s on Twitter, too [@i_am_otter]) , I still struggle with balancing between quality and quantity (i.e. building a back-list) but I do think it will be worth for me in the long run, it’s just the short term’s that’s really tense.

I used to be wary of Twitter, and now it’s my fave social network tied with YouTube, and some of my story characters are on Twitter too-

Gabriel and Rum [@GabrielandRum]
(from my novel “Gabriel”)

Swinebert and Dempsey [@Swinebert_and_D]
(from an upcoming podcasting project)

Guido and Bonnie [@GuidoandBonnie] (also from an upcoming podcasting project)

While I truly value those intimate inter-personal moments that happen offline, because I don’t have the level of freedom and mobility to go places, I do need to take advantage of whatever online avenues I can.

I have to admit I don’t get into book apps or interactive ebooks much, but I ALWAYS am interested in Or on DVDs/Blu-ray specials features that have audio commentaries with the actors/production staff, or that talk about the production of the film or tv show overall, I’ve always loved seeing how things get made, especially now that I do some level of that myself, albeit on a far smaller scale.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Hi Taurean,

I understand. As I mentioned on Facebook, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter sites (even the original one, not just Pottermore) were filled with “in the know” details and scavenger hunt activities that extended the magic of the books.

So I’m certainly not anti-multimedia. Heck, I took a class on “the future of multimedia in entertainment” class 25 years ago–about things like embedded videos and audio, etc.–so I’ve been waiting for all the stuff I studied to actually come to fruition for a long time. LOL!

What I’ve seen, however, is that many people breathlessly talking about these opportunities think that multimedia will change everything. Maybe it’s because I went through that “Ooo, shiny” stage with all this stuff years ago, but I see multimedia for what it is, not just for the blinding coolness factor. 😉

Is it cool? Absolutely. Can it enhance storytelling and/or the magic of the story? Yes, especially in certain genres or stories. Is it a game changer for storytelling itself? Nope.

So I mostly wanted to point out the obstacles, realities, and limitations so that authors don’t feel like they have to spend the time or money to do these activities–especially not when they don’t make sense for the story. We’re already dividing our resources in too many ways, and we don’t need to feel the pressure of more things we have to do. I know you understand that. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) December 4, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Thanks for replying, Jami, I agree it’s not a game changer by itself, I’m just saying there are ways to do it without feeling you need go from zero to decked out studio, it’s okay to just play around with some stuff now and then.

I certainly don’t want people to feel pressured to do it if it’s not in them, I wouldn’t do what little media I’m doing in my space if I didn’t both LOVE it and see it help build my community a little bit at a time.

Remember, two years ago at this time I was only an admirer of various YouTube videos here and there, and now I’ve created lots of content via video, on my website, and eventually I’ll be podcasting, and yes that all takes time and a little money, but while I’ll always be a writer first, it doesn’t mean I can’t diversify my talents along the way, the key is to focus on what’s within your reach for where you are now, and trust me, this is something I have to learn and re-learn ALL THE TIME.

Besides, part of why I personally write novels (as much as I LOVE reading and writing in the form) it’s also because I’m unable to illustrate (yet…) or start my own animation studio, but I can tell stories with words far more easily (in terms of various semantics in my life) but I’d still be a writer first and foremost even if I could start my own animation studio! (LOL)

Before I saw (print) books as entertainment, I learned my love of storytelling via film, television and some video games, so I’m not one of those snobbish authors whose anti-multimedia, and I know you’re not either, Jami, I just feel it’s important to make the distinction for new writers especially who might feel torn because as much as they LOVE books and read as much as they can, they also love movies and television, and junk aside, there’s GREAT storytelling going on there, too!

Finally, and I know you know this, Jami, but while I do agree we need first and foremost to tell a good story, that’s not always mutually exclusive with being at the pro level (Nice cover and pro freelance editors) of going back to the whole “Story Trumps All” debate, but weakness in the technical aspects of writing can keep an otherwise good story from being read, and I sometimes fear we put storytelling on such a high pedestal, we unmeaningly ignore the need to keep improving our technical skill.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Hi Taurean,

Agreed! And that’s exactly the happy line I’d like authors to see, so I appreciate your insights. If adding multimedia works for our stories and our situation (skills and resources), there’s no reason not to include it. And like you, we might not discover that we enjoy working on those aspects until we try. 🙂

So while we shouldn’t allow ourselves to feel pressured by the thought that non-enhanced books will go the way of the dodo, we also don’t want to shut ourselves from the possibility. If we find it fun and some of our readers will find it fun, why not? 😉 Thanks for sharing your experience!

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Robert December 4, 2014 at 11:40 am

I agree. There are many multimedia books already out there. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books had maps and many, many books have illustrations. It used to be common to have a list of the “Cast of Characters.” Does anyone find these things to needed in every book? No.

Secondly, I’m with you, Jami. Taking me out of the flow of reading would be like stopping a movie in the middle to show the “Bonus Features.” Again, no.

While some books can be enhanced with some additional information as you say, this sub-sub- genre could lead to chimera like creatures. Too many things put together – Novel, Coffee table photo book, atlas, music box, scent-sprayer, etc – unlikely to attract an audience of any size. (When they come out with an erotic pop-up book, let me know.)

As for being a “game changer,” wasn’t 3D supposed to do that for movies, added videos for music, book trailers for books?

Finally, though, while I don’t see a revolution, there well could be evolution occurring. If some of these added features were seamless, I COULD be interested. I like having dictionaries and Wikipedia built into every book. Footnotes that are easy to access would also be nice. Readers of long, involved fantasy novel might enjoy maps and illustrations available at a touch. (I’m looking at you Brandon Sanderson.)

Some of these types of enhancements could and possibly should come from non-fiction books. DIY and cooking ebooks could be significantly improved with one-touch access to videos. Travel books could – and many already do – show maps and photos of places to visit. Some of these could be professionally produced and underwritten by vendors.

Once some of these enhancement or “enhancements” become common, is their transition to novels that improbable?

In the meantime, I am in the middle of re-reading an out of print novel I discovered 50 years ago and still love even though the pages are becoming unbound. I have an electronic version, but it’s just not the same.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Hi Robert,

LOL! at your chimera description–scent sprayer. 🙂 Your examples also make me think of those “immersive” movies at theme parks, where they blow air or scents or whatever at you during the show. That hasn’t taken over our neighborhood movie theaters because we all know it’s not necessary for the storytelling experience.

This is the same way for books. Can it be cool–especially for certain stories? Yep. Necessary? No.

I agree that if certain features were seamless, they could help. I’m thinking of a large-cast story where you could click on a character name and get their description and how they were related to other characters by touching it–very helpful for that “who was this person again?” moment. 😉

And I also agree that many of these features should be in non-fiction books. My rant here is strictly on the fiction side because of my perspective of multimedia’s affect on storytelling, but as you said, as we get more used to multimedia on the non-fiction side, it might become less unusual to find it on the fiction side.

I’m all for the seamless inclusion of bonus and reference materials. However, it won’t change the nature of storytelling itself because as you said, in most cases, it would interrupt the flow of the story. So that’s why I just wanted to caution authors about buying into the breathless claims that usually precede pressure for “you must do XYZ to succeed.” 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Janet B December 4, 2014 at 11:51 am

I purchased some of Courtney Milan’s books and she explains it here how and why.
http://www.courtneymilan.com/enhanced.php

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hi Janet,

Thank you! I’d vaguely remembered that Courtney had gone this route, but couldn’t remember enough to include the links. As she points out, she has her enhanced elements set up as bonus items, where readers don’t have to interrupt their reading to explore, and they’re all available on her website, so these are website-type bonus materials included with special ebook versions.

I find her case very interesting because of her reasoning behind the releases. She essentially decided to self-publish enhanced versions of her traditionally published works because it was a nifty loophole of her contract. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Janet B December 4, 2014 at 11:54 am
Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hi Janet,

Thanks again for sharing! This link includes the Q&A I’d remembered seeing before. 🙂

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Jennifer Rose December 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

Agreed. Not deserving of the hefty title, “game changer.”

I think a slight ‘game changer’ is the app Booktrack where you create a soundtrack that plays long with your novel. That’s pretty creative and I plan on exploring more in the future.

I agree that readers desire an ‘immersion’ experience while reading. That’s why ‘choose your adventure books’ are not bestsellers. I think it would be fun to right one some day because I always have multiple ideas for one story, but that is later!

And, I would SO be willing to do product placement in my novel – especially if it got me over a million dollars. Do you think I could get BMW to back their placement on the first page of my novel? I don’t think one or two placements in 100k words is that detrimental, as long as its tackful and the reader is not aware its product placement.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Back 5 years ago, I had the thought of a soundtrack playing along with a story, but everyone reads at different speeds, so I’m not sure how that would work. 🙂 I’ll have to look into that Booktrack and see how that’s set up. Thanks for mentioning it!

LOL! Yeah, I don’t think anyone is going to get a million dollars solely for product placement. In this case, much of the payment was for the website sponsorship and not just for product placement.

However, I find the ethics of the question interesting. For example, your statement of “the reader is not aware of its product placement”–does that mean keeping the arrangement secret? Or does that mean keeping the product placement fitting to the story so that it doesn’t stand out? (Or both? 🙂 )

In this case, the fact that the author chose to quote debated health and research statistics provided by the company make it more questionable in my mind. The character is stating debated research as facts rather than “this product is cool” opinion. To me, I think a reveal of the sponsorship in that case should be required on the copyright page or something.

That’s a different situation from a mere mention. There are plenty of YA, New Adult, chick lit, etc. stories that mention the character driving X type of car or wearing Y brand of underwear, and there are plenty of thrillers or mysteries that mention using Z type of gun, so a simple mention (or even a mention with the characters thinking X or Y or Z is cool or impressive) wouldn’t stand out. On the other hand, because those are so common, I doubt companies would feel the need to pay for placement.

On TV, companies pay for product placement all the time, but TV producers also have strict rules about not mentioning or showing brands of any company that hasn’t paid up. Authors don’t work through a producer ensuring “no non-sponsored mentions,” so companies aren’t facing that same issue of scarcity within books. No scarcity, no need to pay. 😉

In other words, to get a product placement arrangement, I think it would have to be more than just a mere mention. Which means that the inclusion would be more likely to stick out in the story. It’s an interesting topic, however. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Jennifer Rose December 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I just can’t get over them spending 400k on that. ON A BOOK.

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Hi Jennifer,

LOL! Yeah, I don’t understand that. 🙂

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Robin December 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Rolling my eyes right along with you.
Maps in a Fantasy novel, yes. Spaceship schematic in a sci fi novel, ok, sure (if it Matters…) But these items should be included at the beginning, or at the end of the text. Not midstream where they jerk me out of the story.

And then… disturbed… product placement is one thing – but citing health statistics provided by the company? Um, NO. It sounds like an example of the corporate attempt to manipulate the narrative in the public discourse to match their message.
Not having seen the science of the specific studies cited, I must reserve judgement. However, I know that by careful selection of the sample population, the definition of “significant” and a few other factors, companies (or any unethical scientist) can skew the results of a study such that they are no longer meaningful, or at least so that the results don’t actually represent what they are implied to.
To then give themthe opportunity to plant these words in the mouth of the protagonist? That’s only one step away from having a personal friend tell each reader these “facts.”
I usually enjoy your blog a lot Jami. Less fun reading today – more disturbing. But thanks for an interesting read. 🙂
robin

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Hi Robin,

LOL! Sorry for the serious subject, but I wanted us to be prepared because we all know the pressure from the industry will make us think “we have to do this” is coming next. 😉

Yes, I don’t know the science behind the debate either, but the fact remains that the company agreed to this product placement because they have an agenda that doesn’t match what the rest of the world naturally believes. How does having a commercial agenda to influence brand impressions not equal an advertisement?

In magazines and newspapers in the U.S., ads have to be clearly presented as an ad, with the words “This is an Advertisement” stamped on it if it’s unclear at all. If this trend spreads at all, we know the government will do the same for novels (if that regulation isn’t already there).

And I agree with you that having a character the reader has strongly related to provide the information is very different from having a “I play a doctor on TV” actor provide information in a TV ad. If this dam breaks, companies will want to get their agenda in front of readers while their emotions are engaged. Storytelling is part of every great ad as well because it lowers the audience’s defenses. So this could get ugly, but I hope not. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Kathryn Goldman December 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Jami,

Maybe multimedia is not a game changer for books, but it might be a game changer for storytelling. Movies were a game changer for storytelling, evolving to talkies, then Technicolor.

I agree with many of your points—who can afford to do it and my old Kindle won’t run it, for example. And maps make sense in multimedia, I love maps and am constantly flipping back to look at maps of the world I’m in at the moment.

But imagine the MC walking into the ballroom and the orchestra music begins unobtrusively while you’re reading the scene. An enhancement to the story that can be done without pulling the reader away. And the story still works even if my Kindle won’t play the music.

It’s all so new we just can’t imagine how to do it properly yet (even with a ton of $$). Multimedia are more tools for the storyteller. Possibilities for enhancing the craft. A touch here, a touch there.

Revolutionary game changer for books? No. Storytelling evolution? Maybe.

Kathryn

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Hi Kathryn,

I agree that multimedia could be added unobtrusively, but if it’s not necessary for understanding the story, then it’s not changing storytelling as we know it, is it? 😉

When TV/movie rights are purchased for a book, there’s sometimes a debate about whether it would fit best as a movie or a TV series. In other words, the decision is made about what medium fits best with the story. So we might have debates in the future about whether a story would work best in an enhanced or unenhanced ebook medium, but not that all stories must be told in an enhanced version.

For example, would you be willing to pay more for a book with that ballroom music? Me? I doubt I would pay extra because it’s not essential to the story.

That’s why we still read books and don’t just limit ourselves to the visual mediums of TV and movies. If the “missing” visual aspect isn’t important enough to make us swear off books, the multimedia aspect won’t be enough to doom unenhanced books either. Many of us like books because we get to use our imagination for those details. It’s the story that’s important, not the medium (unless the medium gets in the way of the storytelling). 🙂

As I mentioned to Robert above, we’ve heard this “3D movies will change everything,” “scents during movies will change everything,” etc. cry for decades. But the fact remains that most bells and whistles aren’t necessary for the storytelling. They’re bells and whistles, bonuses and extras, not essential to the nature of storytelling.

So I completely agree that we’ll see more multimedia and enhanced books in the future, but as it doesn’t affect storytelling itself in most cases, it will never be a requirement and non-enhanced books won’t become extinct–at least not in the next several decades. 😉 (Sorry, I have my communication media nerd out on this post. LOL!) Thanks for the comment!

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Killion Slade December 4, 2014 at 1:50 pm

WOW! A lot of naysayers on the post today. 🙂

For the record, I’ll start by saying that multi-media for books isn’t a game changer, but from the interaction I received from our World of Blood website series and from the book reviews, Millennials are truly embracing the Second Screen experience.

Think about it – who here watches the Walking Dead? During that show, multi-media second screen has become very interactive with texts on twitter feeds, quizzes during the LIVE show the Talking Dead, opportunities to submit images of your face as a zombie, and much more. The number one rated TV show is doing something right. Is it a game-changer for books, no – but the concept allows for a more immersive experience for “those who want it.” AND that’s the key – for those who want it.

Digital marketing analysts demonstrate time and again the cross-tracking devices from computers, to tablets, to mobile phones in finally arrive at a conversion. If a reader enjoyed my book, I want them to have the ability to easily share it across all digital medias in order to spread the wordl of mouth. Bottomline = more sales.

There is a fine line to provide multi-media benefits to those who want the second screen experience and for those who don’t. When I write a book for the Exsanguinate series, each book stands alone as a complete reading experience. Period. Embedded at the end of the chapter is a QR code which can then take a reader to the “Special Features” section specific to that chapter, if they so desire to learn more. Does the chapter stand alone on its own? Absolutely! Does the reader have to go to the special features to understand the story? Not at all! My Goal – Hopefully I have risen to the expectations of both the traditionalist and to the Millennial and given them the best user experience I could.

We get rave reviews as to how special a reader feels when they learn extra nuggets about their favorite character from their dossiers, or can see how we have created their avatars in Second Life. They love the deleted scenes where an editor has said, “This doesn’t move the story forward enough – cut it.”

My point is – If you want to develop fun, interactive, multi-media extras for your book, then truly make them “extras” and not must haves in order for the reader to enjoy the story. 🙂

As far as writing a book promoting a product for an artificial sweetener — that’s a little too lobbyist for my taste. Maybe the interactive features of the websites are great – but if it’s one big commercial – no thanks, I’ll pass as well. Game changer – no. Fun if you want it – yes.

Hope I didn’t offend anyone, I just wanted to present a positive point of view from an author who embraces multi-media special features. 🙂

Kind Regards~Killion

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Kathryn Goldman December 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Killion,

I love that phrase, “second screen experience.” First I’ve heard of it but I do it all the time with Twitter on my laptop while watching something live on TV.

I agree. . . fun, fun, fun.

Kathryn

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Jami Gold December 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Hi Killion,

Interesting! I don’t watch the Walking Dead, so I hadn’t heard about all of those elements. I do wonder how much of that will stick long-term, rather than just being cool now because it’s new. The audience will decide that. 🙂

And then of course, that brings up the question, is it the number one show because of those elements? Or does the fact that it is the number one show make those elements more appealing (the “share with others” aspect)?

I can live tweet a movie I’ve seen before (like oh, say, Princess Bride 😉 ), but when I see something for the first time, I don’t want the interruptions. But that’s me. As you said, others will be different. (I can’t live tweet a conference workshop either, so it’s not just about storytelling for me, but also the “listening, processing, doing” multitask aspect.)

Great point about how we already make similar decisions for our series! Some of us decide to write standalone books in a series, while others write cliffhangers. Different stories for different readers.

We can look at this the same way. Some readers will want to experience the multimedia aspects and some won’t. I think your approach of not alienating the readers who don’t want to stop for the multimedia aspects is smart.

And as I’ve mentioned, I studied this stuff in school ages ago, so I’m by no means anti-multimedia. LOL! So I appreciate you sharing your tips and insights how how to include multimedia elements in a smart way. Thanks for the great comment!

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Serena Yung December 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

Very interesting topic! Though I’m not into marketing my books (at least I’m not planning to yet), I still like knowing what’s going on out there, so thanks for keeping us updated! 😀

Hmm the only book I self-published (as a paper back, not an ebook) so far would be a multimedia book, because there’s a map and a 70+ page glossary, lol. Many friends found my glossary very useful, and were grateful I made one. Some friends were thankful I provided a map as well. But then, as you said, some stories may need things like maps and glossaries more than others ; my story is a sci fi set in the far far far future, and I do talk about a lot of special technology and social quirks about this world, so it would be hard for readers to remember it all without a glossary, lol. Plus I have a lot of characters (most minor), so that helped a lot of readers too. A map is interesting because it’s on another planet.

Nevertheless, I agree with you that the actual telling of a good story is the most important. Good point on how multimedia stuff can pull you out of the story, though I’m still grateful George RRM included a huge glossary of all his characters! Very necessary for him to include it. :O

But then again, these maps and glossaries for complex fantasy or sci fi universes completely detached from our own, may simply be useful things to HELP the reader follow the story, rather than shiny things that distract the reader, so I’m not sure if these types of books still count as “multimedia”?

Yeah I don’t think multimedia books will wipe out all “monomedia” books ever, just like how I don’t think hard copy books will ever be fully replaced by ebooks.

The deleted/ extended scenes look interesting. :O But I do see how they can be bad, like I read the story, believe that that was what happened, and now the author tells me that THIS was what originally happened or could have happened, and I would feel confused by the changes, because I wouldn’t know which reality is the “real reality” of the story, lol.

It’s like how there are different versions of Batman and I don’t know which to believe, haha. I know it’s supposed to be a parallel universes thing, where Batman could become this, or he could become that, etc., but it’s still quite confusing and annoying sometimes, haha. I mean, just imagine that character Y got together with character X as lovers, and you’re very fond of this couple. But then there’s an ALTERNATE version, where Y gets with Z instead, and you’re like, “Whhaaaaaattt???” LOL. That would really break my heart! 🙁

But I’d like to buy and play a Choose Your Own Adventure kindle ebook though, just for fun, haha.

Oh my goodness! Using your characters to advertise for a product??? I have never heard of that before, and certainly think that’s unethical, especially if the story character would originally not say something like that (out of character.)

Exactly. Not many of us have the time or ability to do all of that extra stuff.

Yeah they could just be bonuses rather than a special category of stories called multimedia.

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Jami Gold December 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Hi Serena,

Yes, maps and glossaries can be useful for certain books! 🙂 As to your question, any book that included more than just the text of the book (or the text and pictures, if included in the print version) would be considered multimedia, interactive, or enhanced.

However, as I mentioned here, there is a difference between simple multimedia bonuses and the multimedia structure used in the example I mentioned, where the multimedia elements are part of the story.

I agree that (short of an international ban on paper usage) ebooks won’t wipe out print books for the same reason. Some people want print, some want to make notes in tangible books, some might want books in places they can’t recharge devices, some might want to read in the pool or tub and not risk water, etc., etc. LOL!

Good point about deleted scenes. I’ve seen some where the mood of an existing scene was changed, and that seems potentially confusing to readers for the reasons you mentioned.

However, most I’ve seen have been actual deleted scenes that don’t exist in the book, usually because there wasn’t enough happening in them to justify keeping them, or because the few important details could be moved to a keeper scene. In that case, the deleted scene isn’t about something that confuses the reader with “did this or did this not happen?” but instead is just “yes, this happened but it wasn’t important enough or would slow down the pace of the story.”

So those scenes usually wouldn’t change the nature of the story in any way, and they often are just a slice-of-life that gives more insight into the characters but doesn’t affect the story. I’m all for including those scenes as bonuses on our website or an enhanced book or both.

Thanks for bringing up that point so we could clarify the possibilities. 🙂 And thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung December 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Oh!! Deleted scenes usually about stuff that wasn’t important enough but are like slice of life and give more insight to the character—*jumps up and down in excitement*

Yes!!! I have lots of scenes like that! So if I really think that I couldn’t make a case for a scene that I really liked, I could put it as a deleted scene, but as a bonus at the back of the book. I mean, my story is a romantic comedy very focused on character relationships and stuff, but just in case I need to remove such a character/ relationship scene, I have the option to put it here! But of course I can’t put in too many, haha.

Thanks for telling me about this. 😀

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Jami Gold December 5, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Hi Serena,

Exactly! I knew you’d like that idea. 😀

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Julie Musil December 7, 2014 at 11:01 am

I’m not interested in this type of media at all. I just want to read a story without anything interrupting me. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, but for now, I’m just putting words to the page and that’s it! Cool summary, Jami.

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Jami Gold December 8, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Hi Julie,

I understand. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Carradee December 9, 2014 at 8:30 am

I play Choice of Games games and RPGs, but they’re different experiences from just reading a book. When I want to read a book, I want to read a book, not play a game. When I want to pay a game, I don’t particularly want to read a book. This hybridization stuff is ignoring the difference betwixt the mediums.

I expect it’ll have a small subset of readers who love it (particularly as we get a population that’s grown up with it), and some stories/books that are particularly well suited to it, but I doubt it’ll ever replace reading.

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Jami Gold December 9, 2014 at 8:47 am

Hi Carradee,

Good example! I’ve heard others compare multimedia books to videogames as well, and as you said, if you were in the mood for an immersive game, you’d play a game. 🙂

Like you, I can see non-fiction using more multimedia, a small subset embracing multimedia structure, and the rest will do what they do without any game changing going on. 😉 Thanks for the comment!

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