The headline of this post is the motto of Editions at Play, a new digital bookstore teamup between London publisher Visual Editions and Google. According to Emiko Jozuka at Motherboard, the digital books are crosses between books, movies, and video games.
“We wanted to think about what we could do online that we couldn’t do in print. How could we make books that still feel bookish—so they are books that you would read— but that you could experience as well given they are visual,” Anna Gerber, the co-creative director for Editions at Play, told me over the phone.
Maybe this sounds strange for the co-founder of a book review site to say, but I'm excited to read some of these titles, especially Entrances & Exits by Reif Larsen, the author of the wonderful (and, in its own way, multimedia) The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet. I've always been disappointed that e-books are just a replica of physical books; if you have the capacity to use multiple techniques to tell a story, why wouldn't you?
I certainly don't think Editions at Play will ever replace physical books, but they could become a medium of their own, like comics. To do that, they need a name of their own; Vladimir Verano at Third Place Books calls them "hydras."
A Hydra will engage the reader/viewer in a multi-sensory manner; as one reads, sound effects may well up, then, at a vital moment in the story it might shift into a video clip, which might be overlaid with music or, audio narration of the text. The trend of creating 'book trailers' hints at the Hydra's possibilities. But let's make one thing clear: the Hydra is NOT a book. At least it shouldn't be. If publishers attempt to simply create what would amount to a book with Ads and some noise, then everyone loses out on new ways to tell stories.
I don't know if that particular name will stick, but it's certainly a good step forward. We need to be more intentional with how we name new technologies; otherwise, we wind up with terrible, ugly monster words like "vape."