Google releases digital, interactive books

Reimagining the definition of a book, Google recently released what they call unprintable books. These books, which were created in tandem with Google’s Creative Lab, are only available on a web browser via computer or mobile device.

The collection, titled Editions At Play, currently features two short stories in the form of interactive digital books called The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Entrances and Exits.

Both books require the reader to interact and navigate with the pages in a unique way. Having been compared to forms such as choose your own adventure or hypertext fiction, the books’ experiences are dependent upon how the reader chooses to take the stories, whether by playing a hand in plot twists or using a finger in deciding which direction their character will walk.

Tom Uglow of Google Creative Lab explained that the goal is to create an interactive experience where the technology acts as a scaffold for the words according to

“It should be gently lifting the ideas or themes of the book like a score might life the themes of  a film,” Uglow said. “It should emphasize what the author is talking about.”

Google offers a free trial of their book Entrances and Exits, online in their Editions At Play store. A few of the students at John Brown University experimented with it and were intrigued.

Jane Le, freshman marketing major, found it very interesting. “It’s too distracting for me. It’s more like a game,” Le said. “When someone gives you the picture so clearly then you don’t get to imagine it in your brain.”

Others agreed that it was fun but not as valuable an experience as the old-fashioned books they were used to reading. Nehemiah Hein, freshman engineering student, noted that interactive books lack the gratification that comes with reading a paper book. “You can look at the book and where you stopped within the pages and think, ‘Wow, I’ve read a lot today.’”

These new books may not be targeted for college-aged students, however; they are intended for the rising younger generation.

In a survey done by Nielson’s Book’s, three activities performed by children increased in percentage terms between 2012 and 2013: playing game apps, visiting YouTube and text messaging. Reading dropped by 8 percent.

“The future of digital reading is on the phone,” Judith Curr, publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint Atria Books, said. “It’s going to be on the phone and it’s going to be on paper.” Perhaps this new interactive type of reading can bridge the gap between older generations’ timeless enjoyment of reading and newer generations’ appetite for interactive technology.

These new characteristics of technology, convenience and interaction are what have the creators so excited about the new stories. The publisher responsible for the new books, a  house out of London by the name of Visual Editions, always asks, “Is there a good reason it should be printed?” before committing to a new project. They stretched the limits even more this time around.

Britt Iverson, who co-leads the publishing house, explained, “If it’s as good of an experience printed or as a PDF or as a straightforward e-book, then it’s not right.”

Each book is currently online for $4.25 and more books are set to be released in the spring of 2016.