Things are moving fast in the digital book world, but perhaps no one is moving faster than David Marlett. With a background in law, film, and business, Marlett has put together a series of partnerships to develop enhanced e-books and apps through the newly formed enkHouse.
EnkHouse is the digital division of the Dallas, Tex., self-publishing house Brown Books Publishing Group. The company has just signed a deal with KiwiTech, the new company of Aptara founder Rakesh Gupta and the developer of Penguin's amplified e-book Pillars of the Earth. According to Marlett, transmedia producer at enkHouse, pitches for projects are coming so fast, "it's all about picking which rabbit to chase."
Marlett sees enhanced e-books "as a new form of entertainment." While at some point he sees enkHouse providing enhanced e-book services for book publishers, the division's first products will come from original material, enhanced e-book editions of new books published by authors Marlett has signed and, most notably, enhanced e-book editions of movies.
Marlett has been talking to a number of major film studios about using their material as the basis for enhanced e-books. "It will be a bit of reverse engineering," Marlett said, explaining that enkHouse will build enhanced e-books from the video, soundtrack, and scripts created for movies. What will tie all the projects together is storytelling, he said.
Marlett has a stable of writers and graphic artists from all over the world, who, he said, can quickly take an idea—a film script, an ancient text like the Kama Sutra (of which enkHouse has an enhanced e-book version in the works), or movie and turn it into an enhanced e-book, without there ever being a print product, though print is an option, too, through the relationship with Brown.
Marlett says he's able to offer a better than usual royalty rate—about 30%—for authors on his projects, "Plus," said Marlett, "our writers will get to participate in the backend point system, like what you'd have to offer a good screenwriter. I'm a big writer-first kind of guy."
The first enkHouse enhanced e-books to come out will be thrillers by Nick Black, who originally self-published the See Jack Die series, though not with Brown, and then approached Marlett, who says he "just fell in love with the material." He expects those books to be out by November. There's also a book on ancient coins similar to the popular iPad app "The Elements" in the works, as well as the above-mentioned Kama Sutra.
While enkHouse is all about new forms and formats for books, Marlett says he believes in a good story, and that enhanced e-books are an exciting outgrowth of old-fashioned storytelling and technology: "We're all in the business right now of redefining what a book is, and what it is to tell a story, and what is the story-receiving process. It's not reading a book and it's not watching TV, and we're going to have to come up with new names for it."