Alternative books

Print books may not be dying, but that doesn’t mean publishers and authors aren’t still innovating alternatives to regular lengthy print books.

People who may not be avid readers want something new, fast and easily accessible.

So what are some of these new options?

Google has created some interactive eBooks that are ‘impossible to print’. Working with Visual Editions publishers, the idea is that “there has to be a damn good reason to produce it in print otherwise it might otherwise live as a PDF or e-book.” If the experience is the same across all platforms, this is “not right”. And so they have created some weird and wonderful books using colour coding, movement and interactions. In one book, you use Google maps to click on doors to follow the narrative. The “technology acts as a scaffold for the words” rather than taking over. This is something I would love to try!

In a slightly different vein, a 3D printed tactile story book has been created so that children with vision impairments can experience the illustrations in Goodnight Moon.

Need something faster? Bite-sized eBooks are the new hip thing. First, there is the pocket reading campaign, “designed to help you read daily, in five-minute installments through WhatsApp”, where you are delivered a free book excerpt once a week that can be read in five minutes. The aim is to make reading more accessible to everyone.

Then there are other apps designed to provide readers with bite-sized snippets of classical novels to get users reading just a few minutes each day. PigeonHole, Serial Reader and Crave are examples discussed in the Good eReader blog. If you’re planning to read on your phone when you can snatch a few minutes, these could be great for you! Though not all are free: “Some companies are simply cutting up classic, royalty free novels into bite sized chunks, while others are taking modern novels, and just delivering a little bit at a time.”

Even James Patterson is getting in on this bite-size trend. To broaden his audience to those who do not read much, he has made shorter, cheaper and easily accessible books through BookShots.  They cost less than $5 and can be read in one sitting – “they’re like reading movies”. And my favourite part – they’re actually in print! It will be interesting to see how these fare against the electronic versions above.

Finally, we have short story vending machines. A lovely nexus of print and technology. Readers in a French city can now get free stories, printed like a receipt, to kill the ‘dead time’ on their commute. Simply choose the length of time you want to read for and press the button. Absolutely brilliant! I really hope this idea spreads to Australia.

I still love my print books and always take one with me when I am catching public transport, but I would actually be keen to try out all of these new types of reading as they offer something different and innovative, rather than just an electronic copy of what I am already reading.


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