The “Enhanced” Book

The Original Scroll

The Original Scroll

Bolstered by the commercial success of mobile tablets, smartphones, and e-readers, “enhanced” books are now becoming the publishers’ medium of choice and experimentation.

The “enhanced” book offers publishers the following…
• A new market to increase revenue.
• Creative options to distinguish their products from the competitors.
• Less of a reliance on bookstores to store their wares.
• A way to break the Amazon gridlock.

The “enhanced” book offers the reader a whole new reading experience as well. For an example the author writes about the enhanced version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which allows the reader to access “pop-ups” that show snapshots of the writer, characters, the original typed text, scenes (and a map) of the countryside that they traveled through, and a video of a 1959 interview with the author.

I believe that this is an awesome new frontier for literature. Since the dawn of internet for the masses, I have read with a book in one hand and a computer in arms reach if the book was interesting to me. I can only imagine reading On the Road for the first time with this technology. To actually see whom Kerouac was talking about (without the use of his character cipher and an educated guess), a map locating where they were on their journey (with snapshots), and to hear and see the author talk about the book himself, would have been a memorable experience to say the least.


“Cheap Words”



An interesting article came out in the New Yorker ( written by George Packer) about the nature of e-books and Amazon.

“In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich. Dennis Johnson, an independent publisher, says that “Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value—it’s a widget.”

I didn’t actually know this, but Amazon started as an online bookstore.

From the article:

“Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet. (Amazon says that its original business plan “contemplated only books.”)”

This is a prime example of someone capitalizing on the allure of the so-called “primal book”, using the princely status of physical books to gain access to valuable data. Physical books contributed greatly to the inception of, and the consequent global superstore can be traced back to the status that books hold (or held?) in our society. The article really hammers home the ruthless nature Bezos had:

“In the mid-aughts, Bezos,having watched Apple take over the music-selling business with iTunes and the iPod, became determined not to let the same thing happen with books. In 2004, he set up a lab in Silicon Valley that would build Amazon’s first piece of consumer hardware: a device for reading digital books. According to Stone’s book, Bezos told the executive running the project, “Proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.”

And, being ruthless payed off:

“By 2010, Amazon controlled ninety per cent of the market in digital books—a dominance that almost no company, in any industry, could claim.”

The article goes on to address the fact that Amazon has attempted to get into publishing, as to keep it all ‘in-house’, but has failed. Some say that while Amazon is a fast-moving, ever-changing superstore, the publishing industry is something like its opposite: slow, very slow. Super slow. And steady. Publishing a book is usually a process that takes over a year. The nature of an enterprise like Amazon is not very accommodating for long processes. It needs a product, and it needs it immediately.


Reading: From Solitary to Social

“Think about the value of being able to talk about a book while you are reading. You get to a paragraph and love the way the author has described an event. Or, you are shocked by the actions of a character. Instead of waiting to talk with someone else at work the next day about the reading, you can actually talk about it at the moment you are reading and thinking about it. If a friend happens to be reading the book at the same time, you can even have a real-time conversation as you are reading.”

This is taken from a short blog post regarding the social aspect of reading, an aspect that is not actually new, but has risen in popularity with the advent of “screen-reading”. I think it’s interesting how the online, “social” aspect of reading is being compared to book clubs, library discussions, and other interpersonal discussions about books. Is it really the same? I think that to a great extent the use of digital technology might help evolve concepts and ideas that would have initially been disregarded. This means, of course, MORE INFO. Too much info?

Sensory Fiction

A small team at MIT has created a new way to experience fiction.

This sort of tech shows the dualistic demands of the modern reader, yearning for elements of both the future and the past.


The reader uses a special book and wearable support with the following outputs:

  • Light (the book cover has 150 programmable LEDs to create ambient light based on changing setting and mood)
  • Sound
  • Personal heating device to change skin temperature (through a Peltier junction secured at the collarbone)
  • Vibration to influence heart rate
  • Compression system (to convey tightness or loosening through pressurized airbags)

From the creators:

Sensory fiction is about new ways of experiencing and creating stories.

Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images.  By using a combination of networked sensors and actuators, the Sensory Fiction author is provided with new means of conveying plot, mood, and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination. These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.

To explore this idea, we created a connected book and wearable. The ‘augmented’ book portrays the scenery and sets the mood, and the wearable allows the reader to experience the protagonist’s physiological emotions.

The book cover animates to reflect the book’s changing atmosphere, while certain passages trigger vibration patterns.

Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state triggers discrete feedback in the wearable, whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localized temperature fluctuations.

Curating: A working method for DH

We’ll structure our co-operative work in curating around a pattern I’ve repurposed from Steven Downes.

Curation means making arguments through words, images, sounds, and objects, and presenting them for public consideration and response.

Aggregate – Gather: Read, view, play with, and read anything else that comes in. Get the materials in order. Find places for them on your weblog or wiki, bookmark them, link to them, place them on your desktop – whatever you do when you gather materials together to work with them.

Annotate – Do something to the materials. Comment on readings or videos, tweet about them, annotate and tag them. Create a diagram or map opening up the ideas, post a slide show or presentation on prezi.

Discuss – After individual collections, we’ll talk to consider what to select and sequence.

Select – Don’t use everything. But don’t throw anything out, either.  Select those that create a path, and, in sequencing, define alternative paths or trails.

Sequencing – Presenting a sequence in a blog post is an option, but so are creating a video, comic, collage, digram or concept map, research project, survey … whatever. Make the materials you have aggregated and remixed the center of your creation, “the bricks and mortar you … use to compose your own thoughts and understanding of the material” (Downes). This is repurposing.

Publish – Make your work public. This will happen as you work because you’re posting to your blog what you’re working on as you work. If you have your blog set with an RSS feed, you’re sharing. When you tweet a link to your post, you’re sharing.

Reflect – Look at what you’ve done and consider what that doing means, for you, for now. This might be a blog post, video, audio … For reflection, you repurpose your own work. You do something with the materials you have created. In DH, we can reflect by way of discussion on our collective work.