In deciding to launch the ABC Video Bookstore, Andrew Morse said the giant media company was looking for a product that could reach viewers who are attached to a digital reading device, be it an iPad, Kindle, or cellphone, and decided that an enhanced e-book was the right one. Sounding very much like today's book publishers, Morse, executive producer of innovation and integration for ABC News Digital, said ABC News wants to make its content available to its viewers in whatever form they want. The first two products, announced last week and appearing in the ABC Video Bookstore App for iPad, are A Modern Fairy Tale: William, Kate, and Three Generations of Royal Love and The Amanda Knox Story: A Murder in Perugia. Both were done in cooperation with ABC's sister company Hyperion and sell for $7.99, with a text and photo-based version for e-readers that don't support video available at $5.99.
Morse said ABC News will be "strategic" about its development of future enhanced e-books, looking for projects that can advance the company's storytelling. But while ABC won't commit to doing a certain number of titles each year, Morse is excited about the potential for enhanced e-books. "This is not a one-off," he said about the first two releases. Fairy Tale and Amanda Knox are good examples, however, of the type of enhanced e-book Morse believes ABC News can do well, citing true crime, big events, and anniversaries as three prime areas for development. The rate of development for enhanced e-books, Morse said, will depend upon what ABC learns about how to create them and how scalable the business is, as well as demand. "If people want more, we'll do more," Morse said.
Matt Cavnar, head of product at Vook, which is powering the ABC store, agreed that scalability is key; he said Vook has built a system that could give ABC the ability to do hundreds of enhanced e-books if it wished. When Vook has all the assets in hand, Cavnar said, it can complete an enhanced e-book in two to three days, permitting companies to take advantage of the news cycle. In the case of Fairy Tale, Hyperion had already commissioned author Jane Green to do an e-book on the wedding, and Vook integrated the video. "The key is tapping into the workflows of your partners," Cavnar said, about a rapid turnaround.
Morse said he expects ideas for future projects to come from any one of the partners—ABC, Hyperion, or Vook—adding that it's possible some enhanced e-books could lead to new Hyperion print books. ABC will be careful how it promotes the enhanced e-books, but will use the power of its networks and programming to make sure consumers know that the enhanced e-books are available. In the case of Fairy Tale, consumers who buy the enhanced e-books ahead of the April 29 wedding can receive additional content from the ceremony by synching to the iBookstore. The goal in creating the ABC Video Bookstore, Morse said, is to create a destination where users of ABC News or ABCnews.com can go to get more information about subjects that interest them.
More Than Video
A successful enhanced e-book requires more than just adding video to a text. That was one of the conclusions of a study conducted in November by the Codex Group about consumer interest in the new product. Combining text with new, unique material that in addition to video could include such enhancements as a soundtrack, voice-over narration, and an "author's cut" that would contain such elements as an author's notes or more editorial is just one part of the equation, Peter Hildick-Smith, president of Codex, said. The report found enhancements work best when they are combined with a text from a "known quantity" such as a favorite author. On the other hand, Hildick-Smith said, buyers "don't want extra material on something they don't know about." He believed ABC's Fairy Tale has a good chance of success since it is being driven by a hugely hyped event to which the enhanced e-book will bring lots of video.
Another "extra" that consumers said they would pay more for in an e-book was one not necessarily tied to enhanced e-books—the ability to get the e-book early.