This is the second post of a series which spells out a new ebook strategy for trade publishers, expressed in the form of a letter from the publisher to its authors. The first post — the beginning of the letter — expressed the publisher’s intention to invest in a database of digital assets to enhance all their ebooks, and to take advantage of the different opportunities presented by different ebook formats. It also was candid about how little the publisher really knows about what the revenue potential will be for ebooks. This post continues the letter.
Letter from National Trade Publishing (NTP) to its authors, continued:
With that preamble, I would anticipate three questions from you?
1. What do we at NTP mean by an “enhanced” ebook?
2. What do you as an author have to do to help NTP make this happen?
3. What’s our deal?
An enhanced ebook can be an infinite number of things, and probably will become dozens, if not hundreds, of different things over time. The only models there are so far would be the “director’s cut” DVDs of major movies: offering additional content, some of which would have been on the cutting-room floor and some of it promotional. It will take a while to think of all the things we can do with books and there is a lot of time and experimentation between us and knowing what will really work. We know we’ve got tools and it’s time to begin employing them to accomplish something useful.
The tools include internal linking, external linking, embedded video and audio, additional text-and-illustration content, and even software utilities.
Objectives surely include more deeply engaging the reader, more fully documenting material in the book, promoting the author, enabling the house or the author to promote other authors, or delivering additional content, products, or services that enhance the user experience for the reader of the book.
Ebooks are in their infancy and some of what will be part of this program of ever-improved ebooks is pretty fundamental, just blocking and tackling. Much of what we’re thinking of here is accomplished with internal links. We’ll use them to make all footnotes seamlessly accessible in all formats. As you know, they aren’t now. We’ll load a dictionary with every word in the book (and we’ll enable authors to write attributed entries for any they like, including proper nouns that are checked through the dictionary).
External links imply connecting to the Internet, and often they would. You could use links to wikipedia, to source notes, to greater detail about some person or event mentioned in a book. To allow readers to avoid the distraction of links, we’ll let them turn the color-differentiation off. But we’re convinced that readers will increasingly value the capabilities of links and we have to provide them in ebooks.
But for at least a while, we see value in pulling things that are on the Internet into the file itself, to have more control of the linking and to untether the ebook from the need to be connected.
Going from print to digital allows video and audio to be delivered with the book. We know many of our authors have made videos, or have permission to use something from a television appearance. We want to consider that material for our enhanced ebooks.
We see promoting our authors to their readers with longer author bios, pictures, and video. We know readers are interested in what their favorite authors read. So we see opportunity in that.
We don’t know where advertising will go in the ebook world, or whether it will become normal policy to get referral revenue through an affiliate program for pointing the reader to another book that then gets bought. For now our policy will be to work with the authors that want to explore those revenue opportunities, at least until the industry sorts out what will be the established practices.
So the enhanced ebook will have an internal dictionary; it will have links to additional material embedded in the book and on the Internet; it will have robust biographical material on the author; it will have video and audio and reviews or information about other authors; and, in the case of certain non-fiction books, it might have product or retailer or other vendor information in greater detail or through links that would not be possible in the printed book.
Next we need to spell out what you, the author, can do to make your enhanced ebooks as good as they can be.
(To be continued…)