Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting Digi With It

Are you ready to embrace technology today? I am, so follow me.

Next Tuesday, Anthony Zuiker, head poo-bah behind the CSI: investigation empire, will celebrate the release of his latest brainchild: the Digi-novel. In what he believes will be a "jolt to traditional book publishing," his book-movie-website experience invites participants to read the crime novel, Level 26, log on to the book's website every twenty pages or so during the reading experience and view a "cyber-bridge", a three-minute film clip tied to the story. Readers can join in on book discussions, even contribute to the story. He predicts every television show in the next five to ten years will engage their audience in such a way, so why not books? The digi-novel concept came to Zuiker during the writer's strike, but he's hardly the first to attempt a perfect fusion of literary and media entertainment.

On September 29th, fans of ABC's Castle can purchase Heat Wave, a crime novel written by the series' protagonist, Richard Castle. So it's a case of the tube driving the book, but once this technology fusion hits big, no one will be able to tell where one experience starts and the other stops.

A year or more ago, I had the perfect plot in mind for this sort of reader interaction. It was Romancing the Stone meets time travel. A wild chase around the globe and through time, complete with a mini-site experience and links on the e-book version to places and clues that would give the reader an edge figuring out the mystery along with the characters. In my mind, it was epic and fun and all the wonderful things I enjoy about becoming immersed into a novel. But I put the idea aside. Why?

My primary goal as a writer is to launch a reader into a story and keep her there. Inviting a reader to link to stimuli outside the parameters of my book invites distraction and the put-it-down-and-not-come-back disease all authors fear. Let's face it, today's consumer has the attention span of a gnat. She links up to a map of Death Valley to find out where the shifting stones of Racetrack Playa are and I've lost her to half a dozen other time-suck links. Still, the idea is intriguing.

What do you think? Are you a reading purist or do you like your novel sprinkled with lagniappe, that little something extra that quenches our thirst for an interactive experience?


Miladysa said...

Both LOL

I can see a future were the 'book' will be a virtual reality where you become one of the characters and experience the story from their viewpoint. Maybe I should go about creating that right away...

Charles Gramlich said...

It may be the wave of the future but I'm probably not going to catch that wave. Any book that would require such a thing would be something I just won't read. There's WAY too much emphasis on TV/Movies as is. I don't watch them much for a reason. They are weaker methods of storytelling and mostly they're just pretty lame.

Do I sound like an old fogey? Probably.

laughingwolf said...

lol... charles, i'm with you!

[must be a libran thing?]

Robin said...

Reading purist here! I do love TV and movies, but not mixed in with my books.

Marilyn Brant said...

I'm definitely in the reading purist camp...but, as a Castle fan, I'll admit to being really curious about Heat Wave. Haven't ordered it yet, but I'll probably give in and pick up a copy somewhere this fall.

Problem for me with stuff like this is that I get obsessed with the story behind the story. Who REALLY wrote the R. Castle novel? What was his/her writing life like before this opportunity? Is it hard to keep his/her identity a secret? Or, was this whole project the work of the show's writing team? How many inside jokes on the show will I miss if they start integrating details from the book into the episodes (before I read it) or vice versa (before I see them)?

This is already bothering me. No!! Make the interactivity stop!

Todd Wheeler said...

I'm all for fusion of story and interaction, of story and image (e.g. the rise in popularity of graphic novels).

I also think books are not going anywhere anytime soon. But they do face a lot of competition from other forms of entertainment.

The threat of digi-novel might be more to other non-interactive television shows rather than to the book.

the walking man said...

i don't see where the reading experience would be enhanced by having lagniappe (yes Miss Smarty I had to look it up)alongside or within the book. Accidentally rolling over an enhanced word in a news text that pops a window up is distracting from the story. I don't think it would be less so in a work of fiction.

Anonymous said...


Vesper said...

This is the future, I have no doubt about it, unfortunately, but I really prefer the books I read on paper and I very rarely watch television.