Or rather, there were many names. Enhanced ebooks. Animated Books. Interactive Books. iStories. Book Apps. Different examples tended to have different names, ones that worked okay for themselves but didn’t quite stretch to cover all of what I wanted to talk about.
So after a bit of thought I decided on the term ‘Tablet Books’, and this is what I’ll use for the purpose of this blog. I’ll try and define exactly what I mean by tablet books.
I am not talking about ebooks, such as those that you’d read on a Kindle. Ebooks are basically books in a more convenient form. The experience of reading an ebook is essentially the same – or at least, it should be – as reading a paper book. A tablet book, on the other hand, is or should be a different experience, in the same way that a comic is a different experience to prose book because it involves both the literary and visual parts of the brain.
So, the experience is different. But if these things are to have a future, the experience also needs to be better.
But when I say ‘tablet books’, I am talking about a form related to books, to long-form prose narrative, rather than games or toys. There will be much cross-pollination between books, games and toys, of course, and we’ll probably think a lot about that. But games and toys are quite happy to remain games and toys; it is books that are having a bit of an identity crisis and that is our focus here.
And finally, when I say ‘tablet’ it is because that is what they will experienced on. These things are too media-rich for e-ink readers such as the Kindle. They may include video, animation, interactive programmes and Internet links. They can be read on normal PCs and laptops, sure, but the issues of portability and even the time for booting up make touch tablets like the iPad far more suitable. They will exist on smartphones as well, but we’ll consider them mini-tablets with tiny screens.
Currently, tablets like the iPad are expensive, luxury items. Where I live, in Brighton, you sometimes see toddlers playing with them as they are pushed along in buggies. This, of course, is far from the norm. However my belief is they will gradually become more and more commonplace, just in the way that mobile phones went from stockbroker status symbols in the 80s to the cheap ubiquitous necessities of today. This belief is based in part on the sheer addictiveness of the buggers, and the difference the touch interface makes to the Internet experience.
The question, I guess, is whether those growing up with these addictive tablets will have the same love of long-form prose narratives, and whether the evolution of tablet books will be sufficient to keep the form healthy and important.
So then – Tablet Books. Admitedly I’m not aware of anyone else using that term, and Googling for it does tend to take you to the book review section of Catholic newspaper The Tablet. Still, I’ll stick with it – unless you know of a better name?