After the positive replies I received regarding my 5-minute mini story project, I decided to work on something longer while still staying true to the principle of keeping things short and digestible.

The result of which I would like to present today.

Text is Great, But Context Is Better

It all started about one month ago. I had this idea of a detective story for German learners, but I wasn’t just thinking in terms of text. Instead, I wanted to build an interactive reading experience that would make the most of currently available e-reading devices.

Ever since Al Gore presented his multimedia ebook last year, people have been prophesizing that the future of the book will not consist of text but will include audio, video and interactive apps.

While that sounds very exciting, we have to be aware that there are actually two general types of ebooks or e-reading experiences at the moment:

  1. The e-ink experience (mostly monochrome and specialized on displaying static text or images without screen glare)
  2. LCD screens (think iPad, laptops, smartphones: high resolution screens that can display everything, but not without glare)

In my experience at least, the second variety doesn’t really lend itself to reading. It’s fun to swipe and tap around on a touchscreen, jump through feeds, surf the web and watch videos, but it can’t compete with the paper-like feel of e-ink screens when it comes to reading and focusing on (long) texts for prolonged periods of time.

So for me it was clear that for the detective story I would target e-ink screens in general, in particular the Kindle, since it’s so widespread.

What kind of interactivity can you get with a screen that’s black & white and doesn’t do video or animation, you ask?

Surprisingly, a lot, especially when you stop thinking about interactivity in terms of reacting to menu items and clicking/tapping but more in terms of navigating a text both internally and externally i.e. psychologically and motorically. (Keep in mind also that reading itself is a highly interactive experience)

Put simply, I did the following:

  • create illustrations for each chapter optimized for e-ink screens that encourage visual (and emotional) access
  • append vocabulary and multiple choice questions to each chapter in order to enhance text-comprehension
  • prepare the material in such a way that it can be navigated with a Kindle device and show translations of difficult words directly on screen

I’m aware that none of these is really unique or new on their own  (except the third maybe) but together they make for a very different experience of immersion.

Test-Drive This Publication: Download it for free!

From Wednesday, Apr 4th, 12am to Friday, Apr 6th, 12pm the book will be available as a free download in the Amazon Kindle Store. (The promotion will start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time and end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time)

This is to give as many people as possible the chance to try it out and help improve it (if necessary).

You can get it directly here or by checking out the unique web flyer I built for this publication with a new but very promising tool called Smore. (It’s currently in invite-only mode but after a few days of testing I highly recommend it!)

As usual, if you have any feedback on this I’m more than eager to hear about it here in the comments on the blog or in the form of a review over at Amazon. Tell me what you think! If I like your idea, I might integrate it into the next edition! Oh, and you can also comment directly on the Smore page.

img: icon by Ola