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The ePUB3 hype: I thought we were talking about books? — 5 Comments

  1. The idea that we’re about to enter a golden age of ebooks that blend text with video is ridiculous. Even a so-so video is quite expensive to create. For an example, watch this 30-second political spot featuring Bill Gates Sr., the father of Microsoft’s founder:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/28/bill-gates-sr-promotes-ro_n_775143.html

    When I lived in Seattle, my apartment was to the left behind that greenery, so I watched it being made. As brief as it is, it took a dozen people all day to film it. That’s thousands of dollars for a simple, short video. Even the major publishers don’t have the money for anything that’d really add value to a book with one exception. An author interview talking about the book might help sales. But it doesn’t have to be online. It can be posted on the Internet.

    I would point out, however, that adding inexpensive stock photos can add a lot to a book. That’s true whether it is printed or digital. But it has to be a topic for which photos are available. My two most recent books are about hospitalized children and teens. For that, there’s a wealth of photos online, thousand of them. It took hours and hours of my time to find the right ones, but it only cost about $100 to add some quite marvelous stock photos to those books. Download the book samples from Amazon or Apple, and you can see the result. The books are:

    Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Hospitals

    My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

    What epublishing needs are not esoteric new features. What it needs are features books have had for some 500 years, including the ability to do complex formatting and control things like page breaks. No ebook page should break halfway down just to include a picture and no ebook should end a chapter with hideous orphans like a single word on the last page. And when pictures are included, they should look good, not relegated to being ugly thumbnails.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Auburn, AL

  2. I’m always wary of defining the boundaries of what is and isn’t a particular type of medium; the lines today are too blurred. Like you, David, I’m into traditional publishing, but I’m also a web developer and I see no purpose in walling off one garden from another. I do agree that too many digital books are becoming cluttered “digital magazines” where the interactive content obscures and dilutes. I suspect we’ll see a lot of school text books that try to imitate video games—mostly developed by people who, as you say, are unlikely to be writers and publishers.

    But ePub and ePub3 will likely not amount to much at least in the short term. I’m all for standard formats but eReaders aren’t supporting those standards consistently. I’ll soon reveal my own take on the digital book. I’ve worked hard on one hand to incorporate video, photo galleries, and other media but at the same time, I’ve pushed the “bookness” back in the direction of traditional typesetting. The magic of it all is that it all happens on the open web—no proprietary, corporate interests to compromise the technology in the interests of profit-making.

    Cheers,

    Dave Bricker

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