by Susan DeFreitas, Associate Editor, Indigo
Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile in love with the printed page or an early adopter on the e-book front, there’s no denying that much of the publishing world is migrating to the digital frontier.
This movement has major implications for readers and writers alike. But beyond the nuts and bolts of distribution, marketing, and the various platforms available for digital publishing, a creative question remains: will tomorrow’s e-books continue to look like printed books? Or will they exploit the creative potentials of what writer Valerie Laken calls “the shifting geometry of the page”?
According to a recent article in The Economist, more and more publishers are starting to experiment with what has been dubbed enhanced digital editions. These are books such as Edmund de Waal’s international nonfiction bestseller The Hare with Amber Eyes, which includes photographs, memorabilia, and maps, plus embedded videos of de Waal touring readers through the story in Paris and Vienna.
On the fiction front, the enhanced digital edition of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones fantasy epic helps readers keep track of all those characters and their complicated lineages via a glossary of clans and also offers a map at the touch of a finger. Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants goes a step farther by including a “custom soundscape” to accompany the text.
When it comes to children’s books, publishers have proven even more adventurous as they seek to capture the attention of a generation raised on television, movies, and video games. For evidence of this, look no further than works such as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, which blurs the line between picture book and animated film.
The Trackers series by Patrick Carman (published, notably, by Scholastic) takes a different but equally intriguing route. Kids read the printed book, type in the links on a computer, watch the videos, and unlock the evidence online to help the characters solve the mystery.
Closer to home, Indigo client Ryan Chin has recently released an enhanced digital edition of his “multimedia memoir,” Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows.
Multimedia works are also making their way into the publishing landscape via online journals. From experimental journals dedicated to such forms, such as Beehive Hypertext/Hypermedia Literary Journal, to hip, young literary upstarts like the Brooklyn-based Electric Literature, more and more venues publishing short works are not only interested in but also actively seeking work that pushes the traditional boundaries of the page.
All of which offers writers unprecedented opportunities for experimentation. Perhaps your novel or memoir could include photographs, music, or videos. Maybe you’re one of those bold souls eager to try your hand at experimental, hybrid works of literature such as a hypertext. Or perhaps you write for children or young adults and simply want to keep up with the “digital natives” (i.e., kids these days).
Whatever your interest in the “shifting geometry of the page,” I invite you to join us on September 15th for Indigo’ double-header workshop series: “Of E-Readers, Hypertext, and the Shifting Geography of the Page: New Horizons in Electronic Literature” and “Collaborative EBook Design.”
I can all but promise they’re going to blow your mind (and give you a whole lot of useful information in the process)!
Associate Editor Susan DeFreitas not only edits sci-fi, fantasy, and poetry, but she also writes about green technology and is the author of Hypertext Meditations, where she combines her many passions on the screen.