I’m here because I do not go lightly into the realm of digital books, with all of their implications for the intensely human experience of reading. My innately progressive bent turns stubbornly conservative when threatened with the extinction of the hallowed tomes I’ve counted among my closest friends since childhood. I caress physical books. I inhale them. I display them prominently. I achieve a sensory high every time I remove one from its shelf. As an art director, I especially delight in choosing paper stock, finishes, colors. From an early age, they’ve been my drug, and now I’m faced with the DTs of withdrawal.
And yet I manage the creative production of multimedia books that are best served in app form. And so I have found myself making book apps that combine novels, music, and art. I enjoy imagining and executing creative solutions for fusing narrative fiction with rich media in ways that feel faithful and organic to the content of the story. Though wary of gimmicks, bells and whistles associated with gaming, and the distractions that social media can introduce to an experience that requires deep attention, I do believe that fiction can be well-served by native app technology (though I remain adamantly unconvinced about e-books).
Moore’s Law means that these technologies are evolving at an exponential rate, and it can be a lot to keep up with. In addition to long, arduous editing and proofing cycles, there’s the interminable exercise known as beta testing. For an old-school book lover, this can be maddening! Designing for multiple platforms is time-consuming and costly, but the company I work for is in the unusual and fortunate position to be able to afford their high-quality development. I work with only one author and on only one or two titles at a time. Still, we will take a year or more to port a story from first draft to app. Books seem to take longer than ever!
The author I work with and for is even more conservative and anti-Web 2.0 than I, and it’s my job to carry his work forward into ever more daring and engaging formats that will reach new, presumably younger, audiences who demand social interactivity. (To me, reading has always been an inherently interactive experience, so I chafe at this idea, even as I write it.) My publishing company has the resources to push limits, and so I must lead the brigade and buck my own limited ideas about what a book can and should be. Incubating ideas with a coterie of science fiction writers, futurists, and publishers grappling with similar questions seems to me a very good start.