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Enhanced reading

With tablets and eReaders approaching ubiquity as the holiday gadget-buying season commences, the conversation over eBooks vs. print, or even “what is a book,” continues to take on different angles. So far, though, one of the big losers in eReading seems to be the “enhanced” eBook, where readers can access ancillary content that’s either embedded or clickable through hyperlinks. The fact that some publishers actually admit this is pretty damning, as publishers typically sing the praises of all things e-related in public.

But maybe there’s a different way to feature enhanced content? According to a Marketwire press release, business author Jeffrey Hayzlett’s forthcoming book Running the Gauntlet will feature SnapTags at the beginning of each chapter, “offering readers a direct connection to unique video content further explaining the core concept of each chapter.” Evidently SnapTags are like QR codes, those blobby barcodes you see on everything these days (for the uninitiated, check out Lauren’s post on QR codes from earlier this year), only these seem to link to specific multimedia content, rather than a website through your phone’s browser.

Now, will readers actually sit with the book in one hand and their Smartphone in the other, using both in conjunction? I have to say, on the face of it, it sounds a bit clunky—but then again, on a recent train ride to Philly, I saw plenty of people with books and newspapers on their laps, phones in their hands. And while I personally don’t get the thrill of QR codes in the first place—always seems like a lot of steps, which was one of the problems with enhanced eBooks in the first place—maybe other readers will find the separation of hard copy and e-content easier to digest? I imagine the SnapTags are less distracting than the links in an enhanced eBook and don’t interfere as much with the strict reading experience.

What do you think about SnapTags or QR codes in a hardcover book? Intriguing? Intruding? Useful for certain subjects? Worth a look-see, or just another e-gimmick?

9 Responses to Enhanced reading

  1. Kathi Taylor says:

    I suppose direct links to the online stores of the manufacturers of the yarns used in knitting books could be useful. But when I’m reading (fiction or anything else), I don’t want to be interrupted. All that stuff mixed in with the text would be visually distracting. I think I’d avoid those books altogether.

  2. Nathan Rudy says:

    I’d love enhanced books for non-fiction, but for fiction it would take me away from the story. Anything that takes me out of the story — whether bad writing, a phone call or a link — is annoying.

    If it is important to the story, it should be in the story. If it’s not that important to the story then why would I want to take the time to go look somewhere OUTSIDE of the book for it?

  3. Catherine Whitney says:

    Holy cow! Can’t we just READ?

  4. Like others, I can imagine a great many uses in non-fiction, especially for academic materials. It could be a very easy way to link to interactive anatomical diagrams in a medicine textbook, or a scan of an old manuscript in a history book, etc.

    For fiction, though, it would drive me nuts, and I’d hope they wouldn’t be too intrusive on the reading experience. I know of a few books that have created soundtracks to go to the story, and I might find something like that cool in theory (because I still probably wouldn’t listen to the music, at least not while reading–maybe after). But in those cases, I’d probably just go to the author’s site anyway if I were interested, so the snap tags seem a bit redundant on top of being possibly annoying…

  5. David Sosnowski says:

    Sounds like e-footnotes to me.

  6. John says:

    Interesting that some of you are open to SmartTags for nonfiction–but do you think it would actually work better on the print/phone model, or as the traditional (hah!) enhanced eBook?

    Also interesting to note the total antipathy for fiction, though of course it totally makes sense–who wants to have the spell of a good story broken by techno-gimmicks? In fact, the only successful book with tags I can think of is THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA by Tony diTerlizzi, which originally was even clunkier than print/phone–you were supposed to unlock the tags using the webcam on your computer!

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