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.
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.
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.