USA Today - 'Interactive' novels link e-readers to real-world settings
Have you ever read a novel and felt immersed in its settings, as if you were walking its streets, browsing shops, exploring museums and historic sites or grabbing lunch at cafes that, when you think about it, are essentially just words on pages?
Yes. Except, when the author is that
good, you don't think about it being just words on pages.
This is where technology has taken us: Now with just a click, you can be there within seconds.
At least virtually.
But if the book moves readers enough, and they're armed with information about things to do and places to see, they're likely to hit the road and actually go there.
Well, for example, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what a young Edward Gibbon did with this tour through Rome in ... 1763.
That's the vision of Montgomery writer Patrick Brian Miller, creator of the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative, who has just jumped on the electronic publishing train and added an innovation of his own: an interactive travel guide within a book
With the introduction of Kindle editions of the two novels, Blind Fate by Miller and Dixie Noir by noted Montgomery author Kirk Curnutt, the concept of "literary tourism" has, like pretty much everything else in our lives, gone high-tech.
"Once this catches on, it's going to become huge," he said. "People just have to be introduced to it first. My hope is that when they hear about it first, they hear about it through Montgomery. The first always gets a lot of attention."
You see, if you market an e-book as a "literary travel guide" then you can get people to buy your book for the places the story in your book occurs in, not for how well you actually write or describe them. Nevermind reading books like American Notes
by Charles Dickens, From Sea to Sea
by Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc's The Path to Rome
, Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad
, Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes
, Archie Roosevelt's For Lust of Knowing
, Nineveh and its Remains: with an Account of a Visit to tile Chaldaean Christians of Kurdistan
by Austen Layard,
George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia
, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
by Francis Yeates-Brown, or Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps
. Or we could take any of these classic works, digitize them, and then cover them with hundreds of electronic travel advertisements for you to click and explore instead of enjoying the steady prose of the book itself.
Miller said he has been surprised by the number of people who respond to this innovation with, "Well, I don't own a Kindle."
He was surprised.
How does it work? At the conclusion of these e-books, "tourism guides" appear to provide links to the websites of many of the places where the action within the novels has taken place, providing an immediate "you are there" gratification for readers. They can visit websites of locations they're curious about, either on a whim or via a click-through of all the site links listed. Miller hopes this extra knowledge and insight will lead readers to put down their e-books and get on the road to visit the real-life destinations to which they have just been introduced.
Immediate "you are there" gratification. I knew there was something missing last time I read Belloc's Path to Rome
. If I just look at some websites, maybe that
will make me actually want to go to Rome instead of just reading about it all the time.
Curnutt's "Dixie Noir" is a mystery set in Montgomery that traces the paths and intersections of some down-and-dirty characters and others who are just down on their luck. At the end of the book, readers are directed to the author's website, where they can find a full array of links related to locations in the book, including the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and El Rey Burrito Lounge.Readers can also visit one particular character in her natural habitat. Photographer Diane Prothro took a series of photo illustrations of one of the characters in "Dixie Noir," Red, who is a waitress at El Rey and lives in an apartment above the Fitzgerald Museum. In a bit of art imitating life, the young woman posing as Red is Audria Carr, who is actually a waitress at El Rey.
Because, you know, that makes the interactive experience you are having with your e-book more real. Knowing that the photo illustration of the scantily clad young lady in the novel who works at the Burrito Lounge is a real person who really works at the Burrito Lounge produces an entirely different sensation than knowing that the illustrations are of people who might, in real life, actually work at, oh say, the nearby Taco Bell.
While new technology is what will enable his vision, it is also one of the biggest obstacles, simply because everything is "new, new, new." That makes it increasingly harder to translate the e-book/literature/tourism link, not only to writers and readers, but to people in state and local government positions who Miller believes could benefit if only they grabbed hold of the idea and took off with it.
So that government bureaucrats can ... add interactive travel guides to the laws in the Legislature? ... have more of an interactive experience while they are sitting in their soul-sucking, bleak little government office cubicles? ... be encouraged to travel more in their free time?
Miller looks forward to a day — maybe within three years or so — when there are "tourism novels" all over the country, spurring readers who love to travel to turn around the economy by putting down their well-read e-books and taking to the road.
Oh. This could fix the economy. That's why.
Edited by Persiflage, 10 October 2011 - 01:00 PM.