In development for the last two years by the Medallion Media Group, an independent publisher and entertainment firm, TREEbook is an innovative new e-book format that features an underlying time-triggered reading experience that allows the book to generate multiple story-lines based on individual reading pace and other embedded triggers. Medallion will release a TREEbook-compatible e-reading app in October to be followed in 2013 by an original TREEbook novel, The Julian Year by Gregory Lamberson, published in the format and designed to exploit the story-telling features of the new technology.
In a phone interview, Medallion president Adam Mock said the name of the new e-book format, TREEbook, stands for Timed Reading Experience E-Book, and said the technology goes far beyond adding video or animation to an ebook. The new format will allow authors and publishers to embed multiple storylines, or narrative branches, into a story that are triggered by readers behavior or even lack of action.
Mock said Medallion will release TREEbook compatible e-reading software in October that will support the technology. Medallion will also release a suite of authoring tools it plans to license to other publishers as well as individual authors to encourage the creation of e-books in the TREEbook format. In 2013 Medallion will release its first original TREEbook format e-book, The Julian Years, a murder/thriller by Gregory Lamberson. The book’s basic narrative can be read using any e-pub compatible e-book reader, but its time-triggered storylines and easter eggs can only be activated by the Medallion TREEbook e-reader software. Mock said they were still determining the pricing of the TREEbook authoring tools but said, “TREEbook e-books pricing will be in line with other e-books."
“The TREEbook is a time sensitive e-book with multiple story branches,” Mock said, “and the beauty is the passivity of the technology. There aren’t active decisions to be made—its not a choose your own ending approach—you can read the book without being aware that the story is changing. The time triggers are not in your face.” Mock, along with Brian Buck, Medallion executive director of technology and director of sales and marketing Paul Ohlson, will be at the IPDF Conference at BookExpo America to discuss the new technology.
Mock describes the TREEbook technology as creating “branches,” and said a TREEbook is “alive and wants you to engage with it.” Once downloaded to a device with TREEbook compatible e-reader software, the book essentially learns your reading style, measuring the reader’s individual reading pace, time of day reading and length of reading sessions and uses this personalized data as the basis for triggering new narrative events in the book. While each TREEbook novel has a main narrative, the format allows an unlimited number of storylines to be introduced based on these triggers. If a passage says the hero has 5 minutes to stop a bomb from going off, if the reader does not keep reading for the 5 minutes, they will likely either miss the bomb or miss a chance to stop the bombing and arrive in its aftermath.
“If you stop reading or forget to pick up the book, the book knows and will continue on and you might miss something. TREEbooks can include all kinds of easter eggs and side stories, its all up to the creativity of the author to come up with new playful options.” Mock said the publisher can even send out notifications to the book alerting readers that they may be missing new events if they don’t pick the book up within a certain time frame. While Mock emphasized that the books still have “one standard reading experience,” he said, in fact, two friends reading the same book will likely confront different narrative events based on the pacing and quirks of their individual reading habits.
Mock said that the Medallion’s recent acquistion of Triple Threat Mobile Development, a digital consulting firm specializing in creating games and custom applications for mobile devices, was key to the development of the documentation. “Videogame narration is the model for the future of publishing,” Mock said, emphasizing that the new technology can even be used on public domain classics. “We can retro-fit narratives on public domain titles, take it and put in an alternative story branch, maybe give a classic a contemporary spin and see how it plays out.”
In fact, Mock said, TREEbook narratives can even revise themselves, fixing tenses and updating the narrative later in the story when the storylines change or converge or diverge from the main narrative. “We’re looking for serendipity and feedback to learn about unforeseen and creative uses of the TREEbook format,” he said. “We really want to talk to the industry about what this new technology can do.”