What is a Book?

I don’t have an e-reader. I’ve never listened to an audio book. Not for any deep philosophical reasons, just because in my current lifestyle, print books suit me best. And I like print books.

However, I read a lot of blogs for my duties over at the Author Chronicles,  and I have been reading a lot about enhanced ebooks. You can add a soundtrack to your book (music and sound effects). You can add QR codes to both print and ebooks to take your readers to outside material to enhance their experience. You can add hyperlinks and pop-ups as well.

I can see how great a lot of those enhancements would be for non-fiction books. But I’m not sure they work for fiction as well. As authors, we want our readers to stay immersed in our fictitious world—not give them reasons to leave it.

All this got me thinking about what a book really is. For me, I think it is a complete, immersive story told in words. A print book, obviously. An ebook version of the print book, sure. Even an audiobook, which is a different medium but still relies on the power of the words to tell the story. But enhanced ebooks…? I’m not too sure about them. At some point, a multi-media experience stops being about the fictitious dream created by the writing and more about the other media. I think that when that happens, when the words alone are not enough to create the immersive experience, it can’t be called a book anymore.

It’s something else.

Not necessarily something bad, just something new. A new way of storytelling. Will it be the way of the future? I think it likely for non-fiction books. For fiction, I am not so sure. We as humans have been sitting around the fire weaving stories with words for thousands of years. We have packed millions of square feet of shelves with books. We upload and download millions of books a year. We like our stories told to us. We like to be invited in by the author to create the story with her. We like to be so immersed in a story that we forget where we are.

Words are magic. Story is immortal. That is the ancient power of books.

No enhancement is necessary.

What defines “book” for you?

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  1. I won’t be surprised if this becomes the norm and we all love it. I am reminded of when I first started blogging and was encouraged to use photos. Photos for my stories? I didn’t need photos! It was all about the writing! But one day I tried one and I liked it. Then I started doing it regularly. Before you knew it, I had to reel myself in because photos became almost as important as the writing and my posts were filled with them. I started experimenting with light. I started taking pictures of things IN CASE I might write about that someday. It was fun. It was creative. Not bad. Just new and different.

    • Yes, nothing bad about a new creative format at all. I just think we need a new name for it rather than a book. Like the difference between a blog and a vlog. And you’re right, it IS fun to experiment!

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