Redefining The Book

Jasper Fforde releases upgrade patches for his books. If he has made an error of fact, created a plot hole or missspelt a word - you can download an upgrade for your book.  How cool is that?

He also has a "cut scenes" repository where you can see the chapters which were cruelly cut by his editor.

There's even a director's commentary available. Along with behind the scenes material, pre-production artwork and a huge array of special features.

He has, to my mind, redefined the novel. His approach to literature is as big a jump as BluRay is to cine-film.

The only slight problem is that it's all analogue!  To upgrade your book, you need to print off the pages, cut them out, find some glue and stick them in your book.

With the latest innovations in eReaders, we have the chance to radically redefine the novel. Think about a technically advanced DVD like "Moulin Rouge" or some Doctor Who DVDs.  Here's a sample of what they can do differently from a regular VHS.

  • Subtitles.  Not just in multiple languages - but also for use as trivia tracks.
  • Soundtracks. Again, not just multiple languages - but also commentaries, music only, sound effects only.
  • Branching video.  The ability to watch a scene and immediately see the "behind the scenes" work that went in to it.
  • Alternate video.  Some Doctor Who DVDs allow you to see the original special effects or newer CGI effects.
  • Interactivity.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone contains interactive games for you to play.

So, what can we do with the humble novel in order to make the eBook into a new art form?  Here are some of my ideas - I'd love to hear some of yours.


  • Interactivity.  I used to love "Choose Your Own Adventure" books when I was young.  You very rarely see them for adults, I can't think why.  There is a "risk" that an interactive eBook would end up like Zork - just a text adventure game.  There are some fabulous examples of Interactive Fiction over at
  • Notes.  Not just the ability to write your own notes - but to read others.  A "Writer's Commentary" which you can access at key parts of the book.  The Cliff Notes or other explanatory text if you're finding the book too difficult.
  • Upgrading.  If the author has made a mistake, or released a newer version, you should be able to update your book to fix any plot holes.
  • Revising. Suppose a book contains predictions for the fabulous futuristic year 2010.  Let the author upgrade your book to note which predictions she got right.
  • "Alternate Edits" much like a DVD, a way to access cut chapters, perhaps showing the book as edited by different editors.


Sharing books with each other is a joyful pursuit.  But there are ways to make it better.

Imagine if your eReader contains a social network built around books.  It could let you know...

  • Joe just purchased "The Atheists Guide to Christmas"
  • Fred rated "Child of the Hive" as 4* out of 5*.
  • Alice wrote some notes on "The Colour of Magic"
  • Carol finished reading "War and Peace" after only 59 weeks.


Any of the above could be implemented as "optional extras".  Buy the book for €5.00 and buy the "missing scenes" for 25c.
There could be even more uses.

  • At the end of a book, there could be links to buy the next book in the series.
  • If a book is mentioned - say, as a reference - there could be a link to purchase it.
  • Amazon style recommendations based on what you've read and how you've rated it.

What Else

I've a feeling that I've only pricked the surface of future books.  What else would you like to see from your books?

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One thought on “Redefining The Book”

  1. 40_thieves says:

    Easter Eggs! Actually I think Jasper Fforde's already covered that - in the Thursday Next series Chapter 13 is marked in the index, but is missing from the book (still makes sense though!). He's commented at some point that he'll write some plot about the "Case of the Missing Chapter 13"


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