Amazon now has the patent to add extras to e-books, Wired reports. The e-tailer apparently applied for the right to enhance e-books with complementary content on November 24, 2010, but the patent was just approved.
This could be the beginning of Amazon and publishers making nice as the supplementary content needs to come from publishers and/or “trusted sources.” Or, it could further sour the contentious relationship between publishers and Amazon as the online discounter will have even more control of the reading experience.
Considering that we’ve all gotten used to reading online texts “enhanced” with links to content that offers context or subtext, I’m surprised e-books were barred from being enhanced till now. That said, as a writer, I see the ability to add layers of content to a book as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, enhancements can make the reading experience much more dynamic — something that’s missing from the current reading experience that can be seen as a disadvantage in an increasingly ADD world where intaking multiple and simultaneous streams of content has become the order of the day.
Augmented reality, for example, offers infinite possibilities to deepen the reader’s connection with the story in their hand. However, for the same reason, it’s not that appealing — especially if the writer does not have explicit control over what the enhancements are. For many readers, the kinds of enhancements will be critical. While some may want a chorus of voices and stimuli as they read, other readers prefer the quiet solace of reading without commentary and using their imaginations to envision the characters and stories.
I’m eager to see what Amazon will do with the patent.