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Are Cheaper E-book Enhancements Better than Expensive Options?

Readers might just be more satisfied with inexpensive text extras than pricey games and video enhancements.

By Edward Nawotka

book text

In today’s feature story about the Leipzig Book Fair, several publishers reflect on the state of digital publishing and e-books. Notably, several of them point out that e-books are not all about bells and whistles and “Schnickschnack” or 50,000 EUR animations. “Let a comic simply be a comic,” said one, after pointing out that tablets are out of the price range of many readers.

The argument suggests that publishers are getting distracted by the opportunities that digital publishing affords, such as producing films, trailers and transmedia promotions for their work — rather than thinking what plain-and-simple things might appeal most to readers.

Could simple textual add-ons be enough to entice a reader to pay a little more for an e-book? Perhaps. Certainly it’s a strategy that trade paperback publishers have implemented over the years by adding on reading group guides, author Q&A’s and other “extras” to the backs of books, at least in part to justify price hikes.

What’s more, these inexpensive “enhancements” are more complementary to the act of publishing — and reading itself — than games or videos.

At the end of the day, would readers be just as satisfied with an extra sample chapter as with an expensive animation? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Interesting question. One I’m asking myself for some years now (and I’m curious what others think). I think you have to see two things seperate: 1) an enhanced ebook that costs a lot, doesn’t mean automatically that it contains animations, and 2) an ebook that is enhanced by other material than animations doesn’t come cheap per say.

    For instance: you can create an enhanced ebook (app) for a title, using different kind of extra’s (no animations) to create extra value. This costs a lot, but if you make sure it adds value (in other words: makes sense for the reader), but can pay out in the future.

    I’m no big fan of putting all kind of extra’s in text books, like animations, video and images. This reminds me of the CD-ROM era, where we had the first multimedial book upcomming. We now have the second one, and again you see a lot of publishers adding all kind of stuff to make the book (fiction) ‘more exciting’. The main exciting thing in books is the story, the text, itself. The more you add to it, the less you leave over to the readers fantasy to create. So in my opinion that decreases the value/experience. But if you add text, extra functionality or elements that add up to the experience, you create extra value.

    And if that is cheap or expensive, all depends on what you add, how you add it and if you are able to create a framework that is reusable (and so, in the long run, will be cheaper).

  2. Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Absolutely agree with this, whether for fiction or non-fiction.

    Simply put, if the extras are worthwhile, fine.

    If they are buzzy chrome trim to make the suits smile, forget them.

    I am putting this philosophy into action with my own range, due out this year – so I’ll be proven right or wrong (or maybe)!

  3. Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Enhancement doesn’t have to cost $50,000. Companion enhancements can be created and enjoyed for free at http://www.bookdrum.com, a wiki-sourced site that allows readers and authors to contribute images, video, maps, music and further information to enhance any book.

  4. Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Before publishers put money into “enhancing” ebooks, they need to be sure their workflows support putting out error-free ebooks. Get rid of typos, bad formatting of paragraphs, missing word spaces, bad hyphenation, funky conversion of diacritical marks– that’s the enhancement I want to see first!

  5. Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    As Commander Montgomery Scott once said, “the more you overtink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” Some readers just want to read the books. Besides, the formats most reader apps can barely handle is nothing more than text, because of the small screen size. I would much prefer to produce additional material separately and offer it as “bonus” material, leaving the actual book free of clutter very much like a DVD. If the reader wants to look at it, they have the choice to do so. If I want to attach advertising I simply add a few paragraphs in the foreword or at the end of the file. No sense in risking the irritation of buyers, as one does not know who is actually buying, and what taste they have for the sparklies.

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