What Will They Come Up With Next?
A recent article on Aparta introduced the newly released interactive ‘Ebook’ from Portal Entertainment: ‘a UK-based premium digital entertainment company… that exists to make ‘immersive entertainment’: stories where the audience take part in the story.’
Their first project is a thriller titled The Craftsman; it is founder John McCrea’s response to the question: how would Alfred Hitchcock tell a story today? They employ a patented storytelling platform called ‘Immersion’ to tell stories over multiple platforms (TV, web, mobile and tablet) and allows the audience’s decisions and anxiety levels to change the course of the story. The story sells for £9.99 through the app store and is aimed at middle-aged men. The adventure takes place over a five-day period, with the first day available for free, although users are able to pause and pick up the ‘ebook’ as often as they need.
The release of The Craftsman has this publisher wondering, where to next? And, what really is a book anymore?
The world we live in has caused us to ask for things to come to us faster. We want everything now. And, with books, we do so in two ways:
1) We want the stories we read to be like movies in our heads, lots of dialogue, less description. Everything needs to flow from the page into our brains without much effort. This is the way film and television (another fundamental storytelling tool) works. It allows us to get in our daily story ‘fix’ in as little time as possible.
2) We adore series, but we don’t want to have to wait for the next book. We want the story to go on; we need to know what happens next. This has lead to a rise in popularity of both film adaptations and fan fictions. These are what tide us over until the author and the publisher can get that next book on the (e)shelf.
Ultimately, book worlds are one place people turn to for escapism. Life is not easy these days and, for some, a book or a film or a video game is the only escape they can find from the the life they otherwise do not enjoy. Books and other media let us forget ourselves and, for the duration of the experience, we can imagine that we’re someone we’re not, in a place we’ll never physically visit. This is the magic of storytelling.
Thus, by creating a mixed media (interactive?) book/game/film, what is it that we offer out audiences? Does it make what we are saying more engaging, does it pull them deeper into our imaginary worlds and further out of their own reality? What are we offering out readers by lumping together what (for a bestseller) would be 3 or more separate experience?
This publisher certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but she has a lot of the questions she’d like to see answered. She also has an opinion.
These interactive ebooks are the next frontier in publishing. What we do with them is up to the publisher but also the reader. Reader are so vocal about what they like and don’t like, but less often do they tell us what they want. I’d like to see more of this. This interactive next-step also asks the publisher to have a bit more skin in the game. It asks us to throw even more money (and time) behind a book (animation and filming and actors don’t come cheap). It may be that the interactive ebook becomes its own entity and the exclusive product of a company like Portal Entertainment which focuses on delivering a multimedia experience to its viewers/readers/gamers, and not a product created or marketed or sold by a publisher at all. Along this vein, the ‘interactive ebook’ may just become another right to sell another expansion product for consumers to buy.
Ultimately, we just don’t know, but we are in a time of change: flux. We like tradition but we crave the unknown. All of us secretly afraid of what may be around the next corner. River Ram Press is cautiously excited by these innovations and optimistic of their future in publishing. One thing is for certain however: in this, as in all else, we will be innovators, and we can’t wait to see what we find along this road.
River Ram Press
CEO and CoFounder