Last month we gave you a sneak peek at the enhanced eBook edition of Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet by Tim Flannery–a digital book that incorporates Twitter conversations into the app. Today, the book is on sale in the Apple App Store.
As you can see by the image embedded above (click to enlarge), the new eBook allows readers to take notes, copy text, and join Twitter conversations without ever leaving the digital text. Any Twitter reader can discuss the book at the #HereOnEarth hashtag, and the enhanced eBook will collect those conversations.
What do you think–are you ready to join Twitter conversations inside your eBook? We caught up with Arcade Sunshine Media president Aziz Isham to find out more about the app and how other writers can use these new tools.
Q: Can you talk about your note-taking and Twitter functions inside the eBook app–what can readers do with these features?
A: We’re lifelong readers – and one of the most common complaints we’ve heard about ebooks was that it’s impossible to mark-up a digital book. Our solution, which is a little different from most of the other readers out there, allows you to send passages from the book into an embedded notepad, add your own comments, and store it inside the book. When you’re done, you can simply email the whole file to yourself. If nothing else, it should make writing a term paper a whole lot easier.
As for Twitter, one of the joys of reading is engaging in a conversation with other readers about the book. By incorporating a pre-populated twitter feed into the book, that conversation actually becomes part of the book itself. It’s kind of like having an instant book club inside of your book.
Q: Your company also offers services for individual writers. In the most practical terms, what could you offer to a hypothetical unemployed journalist (with a very limited budget) who has been reporting, blogging and recording multimedia material about the Brooklyn music scene?
A: Here’s a really good example of how multimedia publishing can be profitable for everyone involved. We have an awesome partnership with a company called Element 84 – these are the guys who make apps for NASA – and one of the first things that we set out to do was make sure that our platforms can be extremely versatile.
So if this unemployed journalist has a decent mailing list, a ton of great media, and can write well, and we think he or she can sell a thousand apps, then all of a sudden the numbers aren’t looking so bad after all. And if before it would cost them $50,000 or more to create a multimedia app, we’ve been able to bring that number down to a level that even an unemployed journalist can manage.
Q: Some publishers worry that apps are too expensive and don’t sell enough copies. What do you say to critics of enhanced eBooks?
A: Those publishers are probably right. Honestly speaking, I doubt that we break even on this project – and a lot of favors were called in order to make the Here on Earth app a reality. But I’m not convinced that compensation is the main reason why we create.
Sometimes, we do it just to see what’s out there, to experiment a little and to try new things. I used to make reality television, and I might do it again in the future, and I wouldn’t dream of doing that for free. But the printed page will become digital – that’s inevitable – and when it does, the message that it contains will be changed by the digital medium.
The Here on Earth app isn’t the beginning of this transformation, and it certainly isn’t the end of it, but if it’s a footnote along the way, then we’ll be happy. Of course, you can’t eat happiness, so we’ll also continue experimenting with ways that digital publishing and enhanced eBooks can be profitable – personally, I think that there’s a whole word of narratives that will emerge to take advantage of these new mediums, and I think that there will be customers for these new narratives.
Storytelling is a pretty awesome and pretty ancient art – and I’m pretty sure that it predates capitalism. So I think it’s up to the market to adapt to new forms of storytelling, and not the other way around.