The potential has been there for years. It has been there since project Gutenberg launched its e-text repository. It has grown with the first experiments in hypertext fiction and interactive adventure stories. The development of programming languages and scripts, advances in graphic design using HTML and CSS, all opened the doors to possibilities for building better books. Yet when I downloaded Calibre the other night and finally catalogued all of my 1,016 e-books, I was struck by how little evolution we've seen in the book. Most were plain text. A few had pictures.
At one time websites were just text on a page with a link or two. Later pictures were added to pep things up. I don't need to tell you how far web pages have evolved since the early days. But why didn't e-books grow with them? Why are e-books still text on a page, with rarely a link or a picture? Isn't it way past time?
I think it's because change comes from the bottom up. Web pages evolved because the development was simple enough that a lot of people dove right in and added their own ideas, creating new possibilites. If we'd left page design to the programmers, we'd still have e-book looking web pages. Programmers used to lecture that HTML was never meant to do all the things people were trying to do with it. We did it anyway and the tools evolved to meet our demands.
If we want a better book, it has to begin where all great ideas and innvations begin -- in the hands of creative people experimenting with possibilites, pushing limits because they don't know they aren't supposed to be able to do that.
I think we're finally turning the corner and heading down the road to better e-books. I ran across an e-book this week, that stunned me with its beautiful design, its prolific links, and its lovely images. Of course it turned out to be a work centered around blogger's thoughts and was compiled by a web designer. Download the book and you will discover a treasure chest of links to blogs you'll love reading.
Free download of: The Quote Effect
For e-book design to take off, we need inexpensive tools in the hands of people with the desire to explore. At Teleread.org I stumbled on new potential, another door opening possibilities for the book, and it places all the tools in your hands. I'd link to their post but the site is down. I found the following comment on that same tool at a comicbook artist's blog:
“I think we recognized the huge potential of myebook about thirty seconds after first being shown it,” said Orang Utan Comics Studio’s Managing Editor and Young Gods’ creator, Ian Sharman.Strangely Drawn
Myebook is a free e-book creation site. They supply the tools to make and publish e-books that are visually striking and interactive. Read that last part again. Yes, I said interactive. And as if that wasn't exciting enough, there's a contest coinciding with Read An E-Book Week:
From now until March 14th we are running a competition on the myebook publishing platform to see who can create the best example of an e-book, making use of the ability to place a host of multi-media assets inside your e-books. Once you've created your book, add it to the 'E-book Week' community.myebook.com will judge the entries and the winner will be added to their carousel of books on the front page of their site, for one week, between the Universal Pictures book and Capcom.Read an E-Book Week - myebooks
One of the things I love about these e-books is that they are embeddable so that people who love your books can easily plug them for you. The first example I've embedded is full of interactive tools to beat writer's block; the second is beautiful.
So what are you waiting for? Build a better e-book in honor of Read An E-Book Week.