For all the attention paid to enhanced e-books, Brooklyn-based independent publisher Melville House this week announced the impending launch of its long-planned HybridBook project, an initiative to bring enhanced features to print books. The program will offer a host of free ancillary digital materials, dubbed “Illuminations,” included as essays, maps, illustrations, and other primary source material, available to print bookbuyers via a QR (Quick Response) code printed inside the book. Buyers can simply scan the QR code to receive a download of the material, or the "Illuminations" can also be downloaded via the Internet or e-mail.
The project will launch with the company’s release of five novellas, each titled The Duel, by five different writers: Anton Chekhov, Joseph Conrad, Giacomo Casanova, Heinrich von Kleist, and Alexander Kuprin—on August 16. The “Illuminations” are free, and produced in-house by staffers, under the supervision of marketing manager Paul Oliver, and are intended as a value-added component to help market the print books, says Melville co-publisher Dennis Johnson. “We hope enhancing the value of a print book helps brick-and-mortar booksellers to sell books,” Johnson told PW. “But in a greater sense, the idea is to enhance the general reading experience of the core text.
Johnson said he views the “Illuminations“ as a “treasure trove for readers” as well as a selling point for booksellers. “For example, after finishing Casanova’s The Duel you can then read his autobiographical account of the real-life event that inspired him to write the novella, and you can see one of the few from-life portraits made of Casanova, by his brother, in fact. Or, after finishing Heinrich Von Kleist's The Duel you can read a section on “the art of dueling, and see an illustration of an actual duel that took place in hot air balloons, as well as full-color paintings of other famous duels."
With each book, the materials add up to hundreds of additional pages of “quirky, learned, fascinating stuff,” Johnson adds. “In the end, we hope it adds up to extra value that rewards bookseller and readers alike.