Interactive texts have been around since the '70s (or earlier, depending on how you're defining them), but the recent push of handheld electronic reading devices has exploded the potential for creating and reimagining works. Still, it hasn't been until recently we've started seeing anyone make real use of the magical touch-o-tronic devices to create authentic and new experiences. This isn't the "You're standing in a room with a light switch and a table, there is cat puke on the rug," type of interactive text -- this is something new.
With eBook pricing being a gambling game of publishers versus the world, it seems like now is a chance for truly innovative, dedicated book apps to take off. It works well with children's books, which have certainly been the highlight of the iPad so far. Case in point: Look at this incredible trailer for the recently released The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, created by onetime Pixar rock star, William Joyce.
It doesn't have to stop at children's literature. A company from Scotland called TernTV is applying the same logic to classic works via an offshoot called Digital Adaptations. Their first planned work is John Buchan's classic espionage thriller The Thirty Nine Steps. But reinventing classic literature is just the first step -- it's just dipping the toe into interactive text to check the water's temperature.
To be fair, though, The Thirty Nine Steps sounds incredibly cool. Readers will be able to experience a book like they've never experienced it before, walking around environments, skipping sections if they're not into them or digging deeper into others. It gives readers a chance to investigate a book, then decide how much time they're willing to willing to invest in it. Sure, it all sounds a bit like Myst, but that doesn't make it any less interesting.
It doesn't stop there. It's not always about creating worlds based on a text. It's also about created a new kind of reading experience. Stephen Fry's "myFry" app has been around in England for a little while now, and all sources seem to suggest we'll be seeing it on this side of the ocean come September. "myFry" is a digital adaptation of The Fry Chronicles, his autobiography -- and through a simple, non-linear menu system, completely reinvents the way we read. It also makes perfect sense as a reading experience when dealing with a collection of essays or memories -- more sense, probably, than a linear book.
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"But I love the smell of paper!" Criers around the world have called the eBook the death of the novel. It's simply not true -- if anything, the wider audience of eBook readers will increase reading, because eBooks offer up not only a store in your pocket, but also a chance to experience a text in new and interesting ways. It doesn't replace the book -- it enhances and changes the fundamental way we read. We're excited to see what happens next.