Using technology to enhance books

I’ve been waiting for stuff like this since we first started hearing about eBooks! Robert J. Wiersema’s new biography of Bruce Springsteen will have a soundtrack! The book is set up like a mix tape and the soundtrack will include 13 songs Wiersma focuses on in the book:

“Thanks to technology, it’s a challenge easily solved for Wiersema and his publisher Greystone Books, who will create a digital playlist as a free enhancement – and promotional vehicle. Coinciding with the book’s September release, the playlist will be accessible through Wiersema’s iTunes Ping account, and on”

I love the idea of enhancing books with music, maps, photos, etc. Imagine reading about the dance at Longbourn where Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy while listening to period music in the background. Reading a Nero Wolfe mystery and being able to click on a link to bring up the recipe for his famous shad roe mousse or eggs au beurre noir. Reading one of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels with easy access to photos of the costumes and weaponry. And the things you could do with children’s books! Imagination run wild.

It would give a reader unprecedented access to what was going on in the author’s head. An idea of what they were picturing, the reference materials they used, they music they heard in their heads. The article talks primarily about print books, but I think the options will be even more varied for eBooks, with memory, speakers and video at the ready.

One of the advantages, in my opinion, of a book over a movie is that you create the world in your head. So there is a downside: you might imagine something very different than what the author had in mind – but then, simply don’t click on the link or enable the features. (Unless you’re like me, with limited self-control, and you know you’re going to click.) It’s the sort of thing that I think will bring more people back to reading, and has the potential to change the whole experience in ways we don’t expect.

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