A New Game in Books?

By David Alan Rech of Scribe Inc.


Right now, it looks like iPad and Kindle are leading the way in e-book tablet development. There are other platforms that have a lot of functionality, but none really seem to be players in this market. If, however, you examine the world of art and other developments in interactive technology, gaming technology seems to be gaining headway in the race to develop new ways to receive and enjoy various forms of media and entertainment. What if one of the gaming technologies emerges as the method by which we read books?

This question may seem ludicrous, but think about it. A really engaging book would have to be interactive in a way that made the elements fully integrated. It would provide an experience (be it educational or entertaining) that pulled you in and completely engaged you. The ePub 3 standard, to some extent, offers that capability. But even if e-readers take advantage of the full capacity of ePub 3, an enhanced e-book will still seem like a book with added features.

Of all the innovative publishing methods or technologies that replicate the print reading experience in an electronic environment, gaming technology seems to have the most promise. Interestingly, gaming technologies are not based on ePubs.

If someone were to develop a successful competitive format to ePub’s HTML markup, very few publications would be able to take advantage of that format. Sure, to be successful an automated conversion routine from ePub to that format would have to be developed. But merely having the ability to convert that material into a valid format would not mean that publishers could take advantage of what that technology had to offer.

Right now, the primary focus is still on the print book; that remains the starting point for most publishers. When publishers develop a print book, however, they should do so in a structured way that allows for easy conversion, no matter which new formats emerge. Minimally, we should develop and store materials in ways that preserve all elements found in print. We should develop books so we can add information easily (called granularity). The ancillary components of the book (indexes, metadata, marketing materials, etc.) should be developed in such a way to allow publishers to easily connect these components to the book’s content. And other related elements should be exactly that—related.

To rely on ePub, ePub 3, PDF, or any other dead-end technology or format is a recipe for disaster. Failing to keep our publications in robust formats is shortsighted and unnecessary. The foundation for robust markup is contained in the books we are already producing. And preserving this level of markup is easy—in fact, doing so saves money and cuts down on production time.

If a new technology developed tomorrow, would you be ready? Think this is a fantasy? Roll the clock back and consider how you would have felt if someone posed a question to you twenty years ago about reading a book on your telephone!