Home Will the Future Novel be More than Text on a Page?

Will the Future Novel be More than Text on a Page?

We all know what it looks like when a novel is adapted for film or television. But what would it look like when the novel format is adapted for the Internet? We reported in March that more and more reading is being done online, especially by the younger generation, but because of the distractions of the media rich world in which we live, most reading on the web is actually just skimming. So how do you create a compelling novel format for the online world? Canadian author Nicola Furlong thinks the answer is a new web publishing format she’s calling a “Quillr.”

Furlong’s latest novel, a “supernatural suspense thriller” called Here Ends the Beginning, is the first to be released using the Quillr format (the Quillr site isn’t online yet). The Quillr concept, which was created by Furlong, and colleagues Glynne Turner, a video producer and songwriter, and Charles Ormiston, a web designer, mashes up text, video, audio, and photos to create a new type of ebook that the three hope resonates with the YouTube generation.

“Here Ends the Beginning is much more than a conventional e-book,” wrote Furlong to us in an emailed press release. “The text is punctuated throughout with video clips and photographs of actors recreating the characters and scenes. Music and sound effects further enhance this novel experience.”

The first 5 chapters of the 43-chapter-long book are available for free, with the full book available for $12.95 CDN. But is this really the future of the novel?

We’ve seen a lot of experimentation with the traditional book publishing format over the past year. From an author using Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader to beta test his book to one using blog comments to peer review another. From books being written and released on cell phones to novels being serialized and released over LiveJournal, Twitter, and Google Maps. Unfortunately, none of these experiences have so far been able to match the enjoyable, intimate feeling of curling up with an real, printed book — at least for me.

Writing about Penguin’s Google Maps-based novel mashup in April, Booklist’s Keir Graff wrote, “It’s an odd sensation, really: simple words can evoke a world in our imaginations, but as soon as the words are married to real-world images, they lose much of their power.” The same thing can be said of Furlong’s Quillr concept. While videos and images flowed well as far as where and how they were inserted into the text, they seemed to detract from my reading experience by breaking up the continuity of the “inner movie” I develop whenever I read a piece of fiction. Also, constantly having to scroll and click while reading a long piece of writing can be frustrating — it’s just not as natural or satisfying as turning pages in a book.

But perhaps that’s due to my advanced age of 24 years old (ha!). Maybe multimedia-enhanced, web-delivered books will resonate better with a younger set of readers. Give Furlong’s book a chance and then come back here and leave a comment letting us know what you thought. Is this an enjoyable way to read a book? Or are publishers barking up the wrong tree with experiments in web publishing that mash books with web technology?

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