Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Penguin and eBooks

Last week Jim Makinson, company chairman of  Penguin Books talked to journalists about the Company's new and enhanced line of eBook classics. 

The books will be packaged to work with all existing eBook readers including the Sony and the Kindle.

Penguin is taking ten classics and repackaging digital editions with extra digital information.  Jane Austen's  Pride and Prejudice will be the first and is slate to be release in May.

The enhance eBook is said to include "a filmography, period book reviews, recipes, a primer on social etiquette, rules of period dancing and black-and-white illustrations."  Kind of like the extra info you get on a DVD.  All of this for $8.00!

I have been carping on the idea that publishers don't get it; so you would think that this news would make me very happy.  After all, Penguin is finally utilizing the power of digital presentation. 

Well, sort of. 

First, you have to get over the fact that they are asking you to pay $8.00 for a book that is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free at project Gutenberg.  Even more to the point, Project Gutenberg  offers four different text version (at least two of which can be read on ANY eBook Reader)  and an MP3 audio version.  

Second, from what I can see all they are planning to do is to add more text and a few static images and call it a day.  Things you can easily Google if you are interested in the info.  I have to agree with Jimmy Guteman at O'Reilly Radar that this is a pretty lame experiment in eBooks. 

But it is a start. 

I am actually more impressed with their other experiment entitled We Tell Stories. This is a story/game created by a new Company Six to Start and Penguin.  They describe it as "hybrid of traditional story-telling, Web 2.0-style mashups, interactive games and classic novels."

Jeremy Ettinghausen, the digital publisher for Penguin says "We Tell Stories is actually a seven-part adventure.   It will begin with six weekly installments, each of which is based on a classic novel–and written by a different Penguin author–and which tasks participants with finding their way through the story using tools developed for the game"

The descriptions didn't really tell me anything so I went and checked it out.

The first installment 21 Steps is based on Charles Cumming's 39 Steps. It is clever.  You follow the character on Google map as the story is told in a series of text bubbles.  This is one of those cases where you probably need to experience it to really get it. 


This is not exactly my cup of tea, but it is at least a creative blending of technology and books. 

Kudos' to Penguin for at least trying something different!

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