Thursday, February 18, 2010


by Michael

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that I’m a bit of a gadget nerd, especially when it comes to mobile tech. It’s bad enough that I should probably go to early-adopters-anonymous. I was in line for the iPhone 3G and would have been for the original but I was on a trip to Italy. And despite its shortcomings, I’m pretty jazzed about the iPad.

I also used to be a big magazine reader—huge. I think I’ve subscribed to just about everything at one point or another: from my Nintendo Power days as a kid, through my Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Movieline period, through the New Yorker and Wired more recently. I do still get Wired, but for someone who used to subscribe to 5 or 6 magazines at once, my consumption has definitely gravitated online.

So I was pretty excited when I saw this video, which combines the shininess of mobile tech with the glossiness of magazines. With active content and ads, and with fantastic design and layouts, I could see myself sitting with this for extended periods of time. And I wouldn’t mind paying a fee for it, either. When the content is interesting and delivered beautifully, I’m happy to pay.

This got me thinking about books, of course, and how this kind of approach might affect them. I’d love to see this kind of format used for a new sort of Choose Your Own Adventure, with clickable links that take you to different strands of the story. Or it could even be used for something nonlinear, a more experimental approach to story. There could be wacky children’s books, where turning the page requires some task--finding Waldo, maybe? How-to books could include video or short animations. I think the possibilities are pretty darn exciting.


  1. This is exactly the technology I can't wait to get my hands on. It also adds possibilities to story-telling that I'm really looking forward to.

  2. Those choose your own adventures have been electronic for a very, very long time.

    Here's a documentary with more info:

  3. I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure books, but I was an anxious child, so I always looked at both choices before making my selection, which basically makes it a "cautiously select the easiest path" book. I wish the grown-up me could go give the childish me an intervention, a cupcake, and a lesson in risk-taking.

  4. As a child, I used to write interactive Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories in BASIC on my dad's (green-and-black screened) computer. I'd love for it to become a real genre.

  5. Delilah - Just wanted you to know I'm still cracking up about this comment, even a day later! I think a line of CAUTIOUSLY SELECT THE EASIEST PATH books for anxious children could be a hit!

    - Michael

  6. Okay, so now I just need to write a query that says:
    To Whom It May Concern,
    I am writing to ask if I may possibly query you regarding a book that I am thinking about writing called CAUTIOUSLY SELECT THE EASIEST PATH. I think it will make an excellent movie and line of action figures. I have already copywritten the unwritten book, just in case. Please contact me in my bomb shelter with your offer of representation.

    ...and somewhere, Janet Reid is throwing up a little.

  7. Part of me likes the idea of choose-your-own-adventure books; part of me wonders how many paths you'd need to write. I can see the future fragmenting into endlessly branching-out roads, all going entirely different places, every different path sparked by the tiniest divergence in choice. It makes me feel a little breathless. Given that, I'm not sure I could have coped at age 11.

  8. Once this kind of technology exists, it will be great for writers like me, who could -- if allowed to -- write 7 different options for the last chapter, because we can't decide how the book should end, and 15 different versions of the first paragraph, because we keep tinkering with the wording. Can't wait!

  9. Be careful what you wish for. The minute you add pictures and video -- IT ISN'T A BOOK.

    Look at all the forms of media available now that think they can get away without writers -- ie, Movies, TV & Video Games.

    Do you really want to embrace another form of technology where the suits at the top of mass market media companies think they can sell product without a writer? Ugh.

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