How creative authors can leverage HTML5

Sep 12, 2013
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In December, many book professionals will be heading to Guadalajara for the International Bookfair to talk about the business of books. Just as in many other conventions, amidst lectures and books’ introductions, there will be talks about the impact of new technology on books and publishing.

HTML5 being one of the hot topics of the tech world, it’s fair to think that the technology will be covered at great length and many vendors will promote solutions promising incredible results.  Lest we forget the true meaning of “incredible”!

The book industry, and self-published authors, will be exposed full force to the hype and truth of HTML5 yet odds are the focus will be on the distribution benefits and digital rights management. However, focusing on these 2 topics may lead authors to miss the true opportunity that’s there for them to harvest.

The opportunity is unleashing creativity.

HTML5 gives authors a blank canvas (no pun intended for the tech readers) to share a story that can be experienced across multiple devices.  All these different devices have their own specific features and are “consumed” differently throughout the day. As a result, for the first time authors can create stories that are embedded in their readers’ lives and immerse them in ways readers have never experienced before.

This immersion goes beyond “reading the story out loud” (the way you can on Amazon” or embedding songs or videos (most kids’ books these days) but rather interact more deeply with the readers as they are consuming the content.

How neat would it be to experience the three musketeers on Google Glass while walking the streets of Paris? Or imagine reading a story set in a London subway and, as you enter the station at King’s Cross, having a call triggered to your cellphone because the main protagonist makes a call to a suspect?  The technology is readily available and you will never be at a loss for an HTML5 developer.
And with most vendors, especially Amazon, supporting HTML5 apps in their stores, distribution channels are not that much of an issue anymore.

What we direly need are great storytellers.

I’m starting to wish a kitten would die every time a magazine launched a new “html5” site that mainly uses a one-page layout with oversize images that are mingled with text as you go along. If that’s the future of publishing and using HTML5, we are doomed.

We are doomed because this type of story telling cannot compete in the new digital landscape.  Forget digital publishing’s biggest challenges as being monetization, Digital Rights Management and sales, there is a much greater challenge that authors have to deal with:  Creating an experience that is compelling enough to compete with the other entertainment options available on a device.

From the moment your device is turned on, data floods it. Between alerts and basic human curiosity, the odds are decent that your reading (regardless of the topic) will be interrupted, sometimes before it even starts!

As authors, your competition is no longer your peers but email, facebook, twitter, candy crush, and a dozen of other apps that will try to distract the reader because their livelihood relies on in-game purchases or advertising meaning they have to hook the user into staying on their app rather than coming to experience your work

So as authors, your real challenge is to crush the competition by providing an experience that is so unique that my only concern is whether I am going to run out of battery life?  For those of us who love to read, we can all remember a book we could not put down and stayed up all night to finish.  As an author you need to make us feel the same way but on a digital device.  While it may seem a bit overwhelming, look at the toolset you know have in front of you that was not available just 10 years ago:

  • You should think of offering a true interactive digital media experience that mixes text, voice, videos and pictures.
  • You need to leverage the opportunity for direct feedback, interaction, and geo-localization
  • You are no longer bound by a horizontal experience. Sure people can “turn pages” left and right but could something else happen if they tried to browse up or down? Could the narrative change or literally open the door to a side story?
  • You have an opportunity to create fully immersed and adaptive stories.

When Television came out creatives quickly realized that there were some better avenues to this new medium than just streaming radio against changing pictures!  With HTML5, authors now have a new medium to express themselves with and the winners will be the creative ones who will use this canvas to change how we experience books in the future.  If you are working on great html5 based stories, feel free to share both your work and impressions.