The first music video that appeared on the brand new cable channel MTV in 1981 was “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the story of a singer whose career tanked with the arrival of television. “Pictures came and broke your heart,” sang the Buggles, “Oh-a-a-a oh.”
Some contemporary authors might be feeling the pain now that videos are being incorporated into books, or least into ebooks. Where will this new technology leave the reclusive author? The camera-shy? The non-photogenic? Authors are, after all, people who write, and some of them are presumably introspective types who won’t shine on camera. Though this visual trend in publishing has been in the works for a while — book tours and book trailers give the edge to attractive authors with a flair for public speaking — things have reached a whole new level now that author videos are beginning to appear inside books.
Case in point: Crown’s announcement yesterday of an “enhanced” ebook edition of Chris Bohjalian’s novel Secrets of Eden. I decided to check it out by downloading the enhanced version on my iPad. The video “enhancement,” it turns out, is a nicely done nine-minute film of Bohjalian discussing the book, offering readers a brief look at the Vermont house where he lives and works, and a view of a pond that inspired a setting in the novel. Bohjalian is an articulate and appealing narrator and his comments provide an interesting perspective on the novel (particularly for book clubs).
Watching Bohjalian on camera, I tried to picture an author like William Faulkner making a video for an enhanced ebook. Or Harper Lee. Or J. D. Salinger. But time spent on such old-fashioned fretting is time wasted, because this train has left the station. Ebooks and all the bells and whistles that come with them are sweeping into the market at warp speed.
Bohjalian’s video is enjoyable but modest in scale. Can you IMAGINE what kind of audio and video enhancements publishers will begin to produce for mega-commercial novels, the Da Vinci Code-type releases? Will we have soundtracks? Mini-movies? With noted actors? And famous directors? The mind bogles.
Now to the question and answer part of our report:
Where can I can view ebooks with video enhancements?
Only on an iPad, iPod Touch and some smartphones.
But what about my spiffy new Kindle?
Sorry, no video capability.
Ok, I’ll use an iPad. Can I purchase the ebook version of Secrets of Eden through Apple’s iBooks store?
Certainly not. That would be too easy. The Random House Publishing Group has not reached a pricing agreement with Apple and will not sell any of its books through the Apple store.
So what do I now?
Download the Kindle app for your iPad and purchase the ebook from Amazon. It will automatically download onto your iPad, where you can view the video AND read the book. (You are still interested in reading, aren’t you?)
But wait, Amazon’s Kindle bookstore shows only a regular, unenhanced ebook version of Secrets of Eden. Why is that?
You forgot to use the secret passageway! To purchase an “enhanced” ebook edition, you must bypass the main page of the Kindle store and search for a hard-to-spot link for “Kindle Editions with Audio/Video.” There you’ll find a list of all ebooks with enhanced features. There are currently 116 books listed, but you can expect that number to increase exponentially in short order.