Every couple years some outsider comes up with the brilliant idea of reinventing ebooks. If it’s not Vook, it’s Atavist. If it’s not Inkling, it’s Colliloquy. If it’s not Byliner, it’s Atavist. And if it’s not Atavist, just wait 15 minutes and I’m sure another startup will be launched.
This time around the reinventor is London-based Visual Editions, which wants to “reimagine what the ebook can be from the ground up”. VE announced in April that:
The realm of making digital books that are as playful and immersive as printed books are, is something we’ve been thinking about for a little while now. And we’re ridiculously excited to tell you, at long last, about our latest project Editions at Play, working with Universal Everything and Google’s Creative Lab to create a new space for digital books that couldn’t possibly live in print.
Visual Edition plans to work with Google to launch a new part of the Google Play Store called Editions at Play. It’s expected to launch sometime this fall, and will be “a place to showcase, celebrate, and bring out digital books that are immersive and were written and developed with the idea of being digital”.
They don’t have anything to show yet, but they are talking about their goals in lofty terms like their hope that “Editions at Play will have a URL that transports readers to a digital location or even into the real world (well why not?), or chase you across the internet; we imagine digital literature that has no beginning or no end, or landscapes that can travel in any direction or have any number of characters, plots, side plots and inventions”.
In short, Visual Editions has discovered the idea of enhanced ebooks, and they plan to fling all sorts of ideas at the wall and see what sticks.
From what I have read VE hasn’t proposed anything that could be called a new idea; it’s all been done before in either enhanced ebooks, apps, websites, games, ebook apps, or some combination thereof, only now the ideas are being flung in the name of improving ebooks.
Sigh. Why do so many outsiders think that ebooks are a broken or incomplete art form?
I am all for someone developing a new way to tell stories; this has led to better story-telling in games and other media. But what I don’t understand is why people keep insisting that their new art form has to replace ebooks.
It’s not just that I like ebooks the way they are, but also that every past effort to reinvent them has failed utterly for the simple reason that readers don’t want something different. They want ebooks as they are.
You can’t fix what isn’t broken, and yet so many people keep trying.
Okay, you can actually do that, but it requires genius on the level of Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos (surrounded by a lot of other really smart people), and judging by their user-unfriendly and visually ugly website it is clear that the folks at Visual Editions aren’t that smart.
But hey, at least the new attempt will have a pretty logo. (It’s an animated Gif, which by itself is enough to tell you where this project is headed.)