I had a brief debate on the comments stream of Mike Shatzkin’s blog with Mike himself. He utterly discounts multimedia eBooks as a viable format. By this, he means that multimedia eBooks will never approach even distantly the popularity and thus financial success of straight text.
He may be right.
Mike Shatzkin is in the business of the standard trade book. He has made it his specialty to assist the big 5 publishers in negotiating the digital revolution in reading. He is, despite this, a part of the old, legacy system. He has little or no interest, and a seeming contempt for, any new way of reading. To me, he seems like an advisor to typewriter manufacturers just before personal computers became wildly popular. I might be wrong – in fact, as an historian I know how silly anyone who attempts to predict the future can look when that future arrives. In this case, we are both predicting the future. My first comment began my epiphany:
I am not sure you are entirely correct that multimedia eBooks will never have a place in the world of reading. I say this for a couple of reasons. One, no one has yet handled multimedia properly – they have produced what are called ‘enhanced’ eBooks. Enhancing a finished book is a mistake. Multimedia needs to be integral to the experience, not an after thought. Secondly, this sort of experience, part reading, part visual part auditory – sensual in short has to be marketed differently than the pure reading experience. This type of ebook must be regarded in the way art is handled, as a sensual encounter. …
I am, myself, experimenting as a self publisher with this type of eBook – and so far I have had every aspect I list above satisfied with Apple’s iBook Author program. I don’t mind that this limits potential buyers or ‘audience’ as I would hazard a guess that this will be at best a niche market for years if not decades to come. But I do think it will become a regular niche market.
My final comment to him was the epiphany for me. Here it is:
Hi Mike :
I agree with you actually. I understand that your business is advising publishers, especially in the difficult world of eBooks and the disruption caused by the digital revolution. All I am saying is that multimedia books (with the exception of college textbooks), are not really ‘books’ at all. I think the chances of earning money are virtually nil – that multimedia eBooks are more akin to works of art than books to be read. I can imagine a world where the sort of agent who represents a painter also handles multimedia eBooks and you find them in art shows and galleries, not bookstores, electronic or bricks and mortar.