The E-book as DVD

Deleted scenes are one of my favorite parts of watching movies on DVD. After the feature I see material that was cut for time or pacing, according to the accompanying introduction or director commentary. The cut footage often lends additional information to one of the film’s subplots or a character’s relationship. It’s tough to leave this material out, but including it on the DVD probably provides some solace to the creators.

One of the more intriguing ideas that has stuck with me from MPub lectures is the idea of marketing electronic books like DVDs. In the early 1990s (approximately), consumers were happy to re-purchase all their old VHS movies on the newer technology, despite the added cost, because of “bonus features.” Now, publishers are looking for ways to pay the technological costs of e-book production (and dwindling print sales). In a couple of MPub classes the possibility of similar value-adds were discussed, like short “behind the scenes” films, author interviews, book trailers, and the like.

How do you think an e-book would deal with a deleted scene?

David Sedaris already tests his pieces out on several audiences before they get published in book form. They may appear in The New Yorker, or excerpts may be read at his speaking engagements and notes about audience reaction taken into account as he continues working on the piece. Surely he has taken that feedback and made cuts from time to time.

Writers vary in their process, but it’s also pretty common to edit as you go along, realizing at the end of a paragraph you’ve gone off on a tangent. Writing on computers means these “deleted scenes” could be lost with just a couple mouse clicks, as many writers self-edit as they work.

Would you be more likely to buy a book that had material that had been edited out? If you think you would, consider the case of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver. One could argue that the “Raymond Carver-ness” of the story is mostly absent in its original form: as seen in the linked reprint, editor Gordon Lish had a lot to do with creating the writing style Carver is known for.

I might be interested in marked-up versions of stories like that only occasionally—mostly for the education to improve my writing, and maybe to remind myself that the best writers are human too.

The value-add that I could see working on me is annotated texts. Great ones exist: my favorite is The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll, with notes by Martin Gardner. Considered a classic, the notes explore various mentions in the text. For example, an offhand comment by Alice about walking into a mirror-world yields a discussion of matter (the real world) coming into contact with anti-matter (the molecules in the mirror-world) and why they would spontaneously combust. A particularly specific illustration points out the historical royal the caricature is based on. The poem “Jabberwocky” yields four full pages of information.

In addition to The Annotated Alice, I also own The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It was my first time reading the novel, but I suspect my appreciation for the work is directly related to additional information illuminated by the notes. And while I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I discovered the existence of The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin last year while doing research for an MPub paper, and look forward to diving into that novel one of these days.

Folding annotation in as an “added feature” to ebooks may result in that format looking like an average hyperlinked web page, interrupting the reading experience when one is required to click back and forth from original text to notes. Notes in The Annotated Alice stylishly lie in the margins of the book next to the relevant text. Readers could choose to absorb the note, or not, without much more than a movement of the eye.

What sort of “bonus features” would you like to see in the books of the future? Would the inclusion of “bonus features” influence how quickly you embrace ebook technology?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The E-book as DVD

  1. I’ld like to see movie houses and publishers get together and bundle the movie with the ebook. What’s better than having a scene from the movie as the book cover? — Being able to watch the movie on your ipad when you’re done reading the book. Get on this ibooks, or maybe they already do? Bookish?

    • Ah yes! First up: the Twilight literary mega-bundle, so I can read the e-books and then see how the movies royally screwed up Stephenie Meyer’s magnificent prose and mile-a-minute allusions to Plato, Byron, and Foucault. 😉

  2. This was a very wonderful post today. Thanks for sharing this. Have a great day.

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  3. Probably the greatest book ever written.

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