eBook formatting is pretty standard at the moment. Basic text, with hopefully some sort of flexible paragraph and spacing design so it’ll still look pretty in different readers. eBooks, as a medium, are basically boring. eBooks need to be more interactive and fun than paper books if publishers want to attract more readers to them. Imagine all those potential customers who would happily try out an electronic version of a paper book, if that ebook came packed with all kinds of interesting, extra stuff that the paper book didn’t? Pictures! Music! Even maps could potentially be fun.
I recently found out about Senghor On The Rocks, an online ebook that uses Google Maps as illustrations and guide (more info on the book here). As the reader clicks through the pages, the map follows the characters along their story.
It’s quite neat, and it takes illustration and reader interaction to a whole new level. Wouldn’t it be nifty if, within an ebook (even one on a reader unconnected to the internet), a reader could click on the name of a location and get maps and pictures of that location? I would certainly appreciate such a feature for books that take place in parts of the world I’m not really familiar with, like Russia. Being able to actually see where the story is taking place just brings me that much closer to the characters. I do this already with paper books, only I first have to make my way to a computer and then Google around until I find something useful. I did this just now for one of the Young James Bond books– had to look up what an Eton uniform looked like, as I had no idea. It would be so much easier if those images were already hyperlinked inside my (e)book!
This sort of thing could work with regular illustrations as well, and if they were hyperlinked they wouldn’t even break up the flow of the text. It could potentially make ebooks a lot more fun than they already are. Now, if only ebook readers (both software and hardware) could get with the program and figure out how to show images properly. I’m sure that’d kick-start something.
There’s a whole heap of other things that could be introduced in the ebook format that I haven’t even talked about yet. Wouldn’t it be nifty if, at the end of the book, readers could email the authors with their feedback? Or if they could chat about the book with other people who have read it, like a mini-forum, all within the ebook itself (or the ebook reader, I suppose)? Books should be fun, and ebooks have the potential to be major fun. A new way of reading for a new format– why not?
What do you think? What would you like to see added to the standard ebook formatting?