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A Brief Wander into the World of Enhanced Books


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#1 Rick Spilman

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:08 AM

Given all that we keep hearing about "enhanced books" I recently tried two very different types of "enhanced books" to see what all the talk was about.  
 
Experiment #1
 
At the New York Boatshow last weekend I met Steve Buckley who was selling his children's books from a table at the show.  One of his books "Blackbear the Pirate," features an "Augmented Reality Viewer."  After downloading a free app, if you hold your iPad or Android tablet or phone over the book, the pictures become animated and audio of the text on that page is read to the reader, presumably a child.  This works by having the app use the tablet camera to match the picture on the page to the right part of the audio and video.  All really kewl, I guess.
 
I bought a book.  Lacking an iPad, the only Android device I have with a camera is my smart phone. Nevertheless, it didn't work. I think I don't have the minimum memory required in my phone.  Even if it had worked the arrangement is still a bit clumsy. I think it might have been better simply as a book app on a tablet, rather than trying to be both print and e-book.  If an adult holds the tablet, why not just read the book to the child? 

I also bought the Kindle version, which sadly is not "enhanced" using the Kindle 8 format.
 
Experiment #2
 
A very different approach to enhanced books. Melville House is an indie publisher in Brooklyn who offers "HybridBooks."  Here is how they describe them:
 

The HybridBook project is an innovative publishing program that takes the concept of the enhanced ebook and integrates it with print media.
 
Each book in the HybridBook program features not only the core text of the novel, but  extensive additional material rendered in digital form—the Melville House Illuminations. The Illuminations consist of highly curated text, maps, photographs and illustrations related to the original book.
 
The Melville House Illuminations are free with the purchase of any title in the HybridBook series, no matter the format.

 
I bought a hybrid copy of Bartleby the Scrivner by Melville. When I downloaded it, I found that it did have a variety of articles, commentary, maps and illustrations in a section in the back, an appendix really, title Illuminations.

 

The problem was that the Illuminations were not all that illuminating.  The selection included essays by Thoreau, Emerson, and Jonathon Edwards, as well as contemporary criticism, a letters, poems, selected quotes, a few illustrations and maps and a recipe for ginger biscuits.  

 

It felt far too much like the syllabus for a college lit survey course.  It didn't justify the $3.99 price for a book available in the public domain for free.

 

I conclude from this two sample survey that technology for the sake of technology is probably not much of an enhancement.  Still better to read to your child rather than have the tablet read to your child. 

 

Melville House deserves points for seeking a less tech-driven "enhancement." Ultimately, however, their "hybridbook" is less of a true hybrid than simply a book with an appendix added.

 

 
 



#2 Peter Burton

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 01:23 PM

I conclude from this two sample survey that technology for the sake of technology is probably not much of an enhancement.  Still better to read to your child rather than have the tablet read to your child. 

 

Which pretty much sums up the hour+ long discussion I had with a programmer friend of mine, and posted in another thread, Rick.

 

It also explains my joke about the, now defunct, 'talking cars' being pretty much the same thing. Which I still think id pretty funny... even if I did steal it from an indie animation short.

 

"The door is ajar."

 

"No its not, stupid, it's a door!" :biggrin:


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And just like us, you must have had, a Once Upon A Time."

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#3 RC Lewis

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:36 PM

I haven't delved into them much, but I like the apps for Dr. Seuss books, and so does my niece. It has different modes (read it to me, read it myself). My niece likes to try to read it herself, but if she gets stuck, she can tap that specific word to have it read. There are also various sounds that play if you tap the illustrations, and so on.

 

Augmented Reality, however, seems better reserved for the likes of my stargazing app.


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#4 Rick Spilman

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 08:27 AM

I haven't delved into them much, but I like the apps for Dr. Seuss books, and so does my niece. It has different modes (read it to me, read it myself). My niece likes to try to read it herself, but if she gets stuck, she can tap that specific word to have it read. There are also various sounds that play if you tap the illustrations, and so on.

 

Augmented Reality, however, seems better reserved for the likes of my stargazing app.

 

From what I have seen, the book apps, particularly for young kids, can be lots of fun.  

 

I am impressed, however, how little things have changed in the last twenty years.  The few such apps that I have taken a look at remind me of the "talking book" CDs that I bought for my kids, now 16 ad 20 respectively.  The CDs played on our computer and would read the text aloud or not. There was lots of interactivity, sounds and animations and a few built in games.  The major change seems to the development of the tablet which kids can hold in their laps and tap rather than sit in a chair and click with a mouse.   There may be more advanced software that improves the experience, but so far I haven't seen it. 



#5 Leigh Teale

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 09:46 AM

From what I have seen, the book apps, particularly for young kids, can be lots of fun.  

 

I am impressed, however, how little things have changed in the last twenty years.  The few such apps that I have taken a look at remind me of the "talking book" CDs that I bought for my kids, now 16 ad 20 respectively.  The CDs played on our computer and would read the text aloud or not. There was lots of interactivity, sounds and animations and a few built in games.  The major change seems to the development of the tablet which kids can hold in their laps and tap rather than sit in a chair and click with a mouse.   There may be more advanced software that improves the experience, but so far I haven't seen it. 

 

*pulls out cane and suspenders*

*shakes fist at kids on lawn*

 

In my day, we put cassettes into a player and manually hit the button every time we turned the page. Sometimes, for really long stories, we even had to turn the cassette over! Talk about interactive books.

 

:tongue:

 

Seriously, though, my cassette player was pretty cool. It was a robot! I kinda want to go on eBay and buy one, now... I still have all my John Hughes soundtracks on cassette.


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#6 Rick Spilman

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 11:18 AM

Actually I also remember what came before the interactive computer CDs - cardboard books with pop-ups, flaps and sliders.  They were almost as much fun as the computer versions. 



#7 Tom Preece

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 12:56 PM

At CES CBS reported that someone has created a touch screen application that will run under Windows 8 and a giant screen is supported on four legs horizontally to make a table.  This $1700 dollar device can be used to play an electronic version of Monopoly.  That doesn't mean it should.



#8 Leigh Teale

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 01:29 PM

My husband's friend took a 50" flat screen, built a box with legs around it, hooked it up to a computer, and uses it to run D&D campaigns with interactive maps, etc. Cool idea, but he spent almost $2,000 on it. Granted, we pishaw this now and in 10 years it'll be the norm. Advanced tech gets started from silly things like this.


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#9 Peter Burton

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 01:32 PM

Y'all are making me feel older than dirt.

 

Just for that, I'm getting out my vintage Star Trek disk shooter and chasing the cat around the living room with it! evilgrin0031.gif

 

(Not really... I'd never have the heart to take it out of the blister pack for anything that mean. :wink: )


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#10 jenagrey8585

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 06:44 PM

Enhanced will have an incredibly big future in education, but the idea of innovation in the narrative reading process is just a non-starter, I’ve been smug about this, and now I’m even smugger. Speaking of enhanced ebooks, I’ve had one in my library for about 4 years now -  only it might not be what you think of as enhanced. There’s a version of  A Fire upon the DeepbyVernor Vinge that has all sorts of interesting footnotes. It includes a number of his working notes like background data, cross-reference hints, and reminders. It’s worth it to his fans to get the enhanced ebook.


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#11 MichaelRC

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 07:46 PM

Gotta disagree with you on that second point, Jena.

 

We can laugh now, but I'm sure people were laughing at the cardboard 3-D glasses back in the early '80s. The 3-D trend didn't last very long then, but now it's almost unthinkable for a big budget film not to have a 3-D release.

 

Just because the first draft wasn't very good doesn't mean subsquent drafts won't improve upon it. Reading books on your Kindle isn't the future. It's the present. The Ereaders ten or fifteen years from now will make the ones we have today look like caveman stuff.


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