Writer and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi is the author of several young adult fantasy novels, including the popular series The Spiderwick Chronicles. Earlier this week, his latest book, The Search for WondLa hit bookshelves in U.S., and within it featured an interactive augmented reality experience readers could unlock using their Web browsers. The book, published by Simon & Schuster, is one of the first of its kind and could be a glimpse into how kids will enjoy reading in the future.

The novel features special emblems on three of its pages which can be used to unlock the augmented reality experience. By holding the emblems infront of their webcam, readers will see a somewhat-interactive 3D map that helps them picture the world of the novel. Animations and sounds play automatically as the experience guides the user around the map.

"The publishing industry is moving rapidly into the digital age," says DiTerlizzi. "I see the integrated use of AR as an ideal bridge, enhancing what readers love best about story and narrative while tapping innovation and imagination, to bring forth entirely new experiences associated with the book."

Exploring the World of WondLa

To access the experience, users need to install Total Immersion's D'Fusion plugin and wait for the applet to load within their browser. I found the experience was loading slow on Chrome, and it didn't load a whole lot faster after switching to Safari.

A few minutes later, when it was up and running, I realized some interesting decisions had been made in the development of app. The interaction one can have with the 3D maps by moving the book around infront of the webcam is very limited. You can move the experience up and down, and can zoom a bit, but that's about it.

This is because the app was designed to be a one-way experience. Once the webcam recognizes an emblem, you can set down the book and let the app take you on a tour of the 3D map. This is mostly a good decision, because it makes it easier for young users to quickly understand what is happening (not to mention the fact that the book is rather large, and kids may grow tired of holing it up).

It is slightly disappointing, however, that more interaction was not built into the experience. In this case, as augmented reality is introduced to a new audience of young adults, it makes sense to simplify things a bit. It's great to see a major publisher like Simon & Schuster get behind augmented reality, as implementations like these could change the way young adults read in the near future.