Annotations for eBooks

In the continuing discussion of e-books and their various potentials and markets and things (hey, Kindle’s coming out with a new version that supports social networking sites and things), a lot of the ongoing conversation is about what could be included on an ebook version to make it an ‘enhanced ebook’, to provide incentive for buying it, and to take advantage of the possibilities of the medium.

In the course of writing my novels, there have been many occasions when I’ve written some scene or some character or even some single line that has some meaning for me beyond the text — it was inspired by a conversation I had, or (often) it’s a (not-so-)subtle reference to another work that I admire or am influenced by. And I think, I’d like to be able to share that with my (hard-core) readers.

I think this because I’ve seen it happen — in annotated editions of a book. A couple series of books that I’ve read a couple times and have heavily influenced me in the past (the Dragonlance Chronicles, and the Dragonlance Legends, both trilogies by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) have been re-released by their publisher in 3-in-1 annotated volumes. Being a fan of the original work, I loved seeing some of the notes by the authors (and the other people they worked with) to create the stories. There were neat “Did-You-Know-That…?” moments and little anecdotes and things like that.

If you need any more evidence that there’s a market for something like that, just look at DVDs. Every DVD that comes out these days, from movies to TV shows, has commentary from the director or other people involved in the production. Sometimes it has multiple commentary tracks. Each one requires you to watch the movie all over again to hear the commentary. But people do it! (Or, I assume a lot of people do it, because they keep putting commentary on DVDs!) So there’s clearly some kind of market for this kind of added feature.

And I think, I’d love to be able to do something like that.

But it doesn’t happen for just any book. In fact, it happens for very few. They need to be high-selling books, with large audiences that would pay for the extra copy just for the annotations from well-known and well-liked authors. That’s not me. If that ever is me, it won’t be for a long time. And the way the publishing industry is going, mainstream publishers won’t have the resources to do it anyway.

Given that, I used to think that maybe that’s something I would use my blog for. Once I have a book published, I can put those kinds of extras or annotations on my blog for people to find if they’re interested.

But maybe the emerging e-book market and the desire to find some way to create an ‘enhanced e-book’ could be the ultimate solution. Enhanced e-book editions of novels could include (among other things) annotations from the author. It would be a great bonus feature for those who want to pay for it. And I don’t think it would cost the publisher too much extra to include.

I’m sure the author would want some extra compensation for putting in the extra work — but I’m equally sure that a lot of authors really want any opportunity they can get to talk about themselves.

I know I do. After all — I started a blog.

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