Enhanced p-books? (Yes, p-books)
Some e-books are nothing more than PDF versions of print books (p-books). Others are enhanced in some way. For example, they may be updated. Or carry more content – an interview with the author, say. Or include hypertext, for instance to link the main text and the footnotes. Or they may be multimedia. Etc.
There’s been lots of discussion of enhanced e-books recently. People have been interested in publishing them for many reasons. For a start, because you can: that is, digitalisation allows you to do such a thing. So why not? In the process you can seek to segment the market, exploiting some niches that the p-book is less suited to. And perhaps you can get the price of e-books up and with it perhaps the profit margin.
Somehow the debate fails to engage my interest. What does interest me, however, is what we might call its mirror image, namely the idea of enhanced p-books. The argument runs something like this.
1. E-books provide serious competition for p-books, especially paperbacks. E-books are: available to buy 24/7; inexpensive; searchable; and portable.
2. So if we want people to continue to buy p-books, we are going to need to give them some reasons for doing so.
3. And there are ways of doing so. We can enhance those qualities that have always attracted bibliophiles. We can give them beautifully designed jackets and much-better-than-perfect bindings. We can use paper that appeals to more than one sense.
In other words, we can seek to extend into a more general market the kind of approach that has characterised members of the Fine Press Book Association (FPBA). Their presses, far from keeping up with technological developments, have in fact made a point of using ‘out of date’ (typically, letterpress) technology. My copy of A Thrill of Pleasure, for example, was hand-printed by letterpress by The Celtic Cross press, complete with wood engravings by Rosemary Roberts.
Sadly, the market for publishing as fine as that will always be very niche. But enhanced p-books needn’t go to such extremes. The sentiment of FPBA member, The Old School Press – “Our aim is always to find a combination of text, illustration, typeface, papers, and binding that makes a unified whole” – can be interpreted, and implemented, on a number of levels.
Anyway, this is what we plan to do – publish (1) e-books (good ol’ unenhanced ones) and (2) enhanced p-books – books that are good to handle and good to own, with covers adorned with images from the paintings of Rika Newcombe.