4 November 08 | Chad W. Post

Not that anyone’s paying attention to anything aside from the polls today, but the other day there was an interesting article on the Book Design Blog that I’ve been meaning to mention.

Entitled “How to package books for digital media,” this piece looks at what sort of “enhanced content” could go along with eBooks, and how best to create this.

There’s a bit of talk lately about Penguin’s enhanced e-books, which provides the inclusion of additional material as supplements to the book. But this still follows a very print-oriented model.

If I want to learn more about a classic text while using a computing device, then I would really prefer for the material to be presented in a way that leverages multimedia rather than simply reading more and more text. Sell me an e-book that includes extensive commentary in audio, video, and with superb graphic renderings related to the book’s content and I will gladly pay $20 or more (perhaps a lot more, depending upon content) for that title.

I completely agree with this. If the “enhanced content” for eBooks is nothing more than a filmography, period book reviews, recipes and black-and-white illustrations, I really don’t see the point. Use the technology Silicon Valley has given you!

Aside from what the enhanced content should be, Jeff has some interesting ideas about how to create this content:

However, an option for publishers that don’t want to create this material in-house is to partner with universities to produce digital content. Universities are filled with academic specialists on every topic along with librarians, digital media specialists, and professionals who really understand how to use technology to enhance learning. And, after all, isn’t reading closely related to learning?

Publishers can provide grants to universities for producing the enhanced digital content. In turn, the enhanced e-books can be licensed for free use by academic institutions while publishers recoup the costs by selling the enhanced e-books to the public.

Of course, universities should already be developing such content as part of their own digital scholarship initiatives. When I was directing the digital library initiatives at the University of Miami, I formed a series of projects that provided funding to faculty for producing digital content. That was several years ago now, and things in academia move slowly (perhaps almost as slowly as in publishing!)

Again, I completely agree. Since publishers aren’t as savvy as they think they are when it comes to new technologies (simply visit any major publisher’s website—if they can’t get the basics right, I’m sure more complicated stuff is a complete mess), they should be enlisting the help and support of scholars and students who are more involved in this field. We have plans to do something like this, but more on that later . . .

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