They’re hoping their new touch-publishing platform Motion Books will help artists and creative types fully embrace the power of mobile devices to create immersive reading experiences.
According to Madefire CEO Ben Wolstenholme, it’s not about throwing technology at digital publishing for technology’s sake—it’s still all about storytelling and the user experience. “Everything should serve the story. With traditional print, readers are pretty much limited to turning a page for a surprise or unexpected reveal. But with mobile devices and e-readers, it’s possible to do so much more” said Wolstenholme. “You can create a specific mood and atmosphere. You can use movement, sound, and visuals to enhance a story without taking away from it” he added.
MadeFire was launched in 2011, but they've been getting a lot of buzz lately. Earlier this month they picked up $5.2 million in financing, and at that time VentureBeat described them as:
Madefire produces a storytelling platform that incorporates the full range of a mobile device’s hardware to create a new form of digital storytelling that isn’t limited to turning pages — which is the universal method for advancing a story with books. Unlike the majority of digital comic books that were simply converted from print, motion books provide for artwork on a single page to move and interact with the reader (like swiping or tapping a touchscreen or moving the device to have artwork on a page shuffle around). A motion book’s story unfolds through layers of art, word balloons, and captions that unfold in sequence, which is sort of like reading a book that slowly fills a blank page with text as you read.
I have been aware of MadeFire since some time last year, but I hadn't used their app in quite some time. I installed it again today and spent some time paging through several of the comics.
Frankly, I don't understand the appeal.
It's not just the repeated tapping on the screen that annoyed me and kept pulling me out of the story, but also the soundtrack which distracted me and the pacing which I was not allowed to control. It was almost as if I was being "booked" at (to coin a term) in the MadeFire app. I certainly don't think I was reading.
But you don't have to take my word for it; MadeFire posted this demo:
I don't see how adding "movement, sound, and visuals" creates an immersive reading experience. Speaking as someone who has walked into trees, cars, people, and traffic (once) while being immersed in a book, I don't see how anything else is necessary beyond words on a page/screen.
Am I missing something?
My opinion, in short, is that if I want moving images I will watch a movie. If I want a soundtrack I will load an mp3. And if I want interactivity in my novel I will play a computer game. But if I want to read I will open an ebook.
A book is not any of those other types of content, and trying to make a text into something resembling a game or movie misses the point of what a book is supposed to be.
What do you think?