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Orson & Co’s eLumes Are Yet Another Unremarkable Type of eBook App

A new, great and wonderful, ground-breaking type of ebook was launched this week which promises to shake up the digital publishing industry.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the marketing BS out of my system, here’s the news.

A few days ago I got a press release touting the launch of a new edition History of a Pleasure Seeker. This title was released by a relatively new digital publishing start up, Orson & Co, and if you believe the press release it is neither an ebook nor an ebook app (even though it runs on the iPad) but an "eLume".

Luckily for me I did not get any notice of the launch until after Laura had posted her article at paidContent. That removed any need to get the story out that day, so instead I asked for and got a free copy of the app.

Marketing hype aside, it is really just another ebook app. It has a parchment colored off-white background, trim around the edges of the screen, and embedded images and audio (narration provided by Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens). The images can be clicked on and scrolled, which is kinda neat, but only because most other ebook apps will let you zoom in on an image so it fills the screen. There’s also some limited sharing options, but nothing you haven’t seen in other iPad apps.

All in all, this isn’t even a decent quality app. It lacks fairly basic features like a table of contents, font size choices, and pretty much everything that ebook apps have had since late 2010.

While I have seen some new interesting ebook abilities over the past couple years, I don’t see what’s so special about this app (aside from a decent marketing team). Perhaps someone could look over the free sample and explain what is so amazing?

On a related note, Orson & Co is working to release other titles, including an older title by Harriet Sergeant. Shanghai was previously published by British publisher John Murray in 1999, and it will have similarly enhanced content.I’ll keep an eye out and see if that app is more interesting than this one.

iTunes (free)

iTunes (paid)

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Richard Mason February 28, 2013 um 8:12 am

Dear Nate,

As the author of the book HISTORY OF A PLEASURE SEEKER, on which Orson & Co’s eLume edition was based, I want to add to your review of it.

The point of the eLume is NOT games and gimmicks. There are other book apps that do that – which, in my view, often create experiences that are at a strange intersection of book and computer game.

What makes Orson’s eLume so special is the attention to detail and artistic flair that goes into the production. The interface is designed to yield a beautiful digital edition (it does) but otherwise to be largely invisible.

Dan Stevens does a superb job of reading the novel – and the eLume form allows readers to switch between hearing and reading at any moment. When Piet Barol, the central character, plays the piano or sings, you can tap a music illustration and hear one of the best young tenors in America singing the music, exactly as the scene in the novel has it.

In order to have the true eLume experience, it is necessary to read the whole book.

When a child is liberated from his OCD demons in part by playing a Chopin Ballade, HEARING that ballade while reading the scene, particularly when it’s played by a pianist as wonderful as Spencer Meyer, makes for an intense and memorable imaginative experience. One very far from being 'an unremarkable type of ebook app.'

Thanks for letting me share.

Winston May 31, 2016 um 4:37 am

It’s kinda like the internet of things. A "digital innovation" in search of a market.
Like Frankenstein and nuclear power, just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we should.

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