Google’s previous attempt to bring books into the modern age involved digitizing and making them searchable. A new experiment between their Creative Lab and Visual Editions, a London-based publisher, have resulted in Editions at Play. In essence, they are interactive ebooks that are worthy of not immediately being written off as a gimmick.
The books can be bought from the Play Store with your Google account, but they are read through the web browser of your mobile device. The Editions At Play site logs in to your Google account to confirm that you’ve made a purchase. Each book has their own URL, a different digital element, and a unique interface and navigation. At the beginning of each book, readers are first taught the basics and the controls end up being pretty intuitive.
The first two books available for purchase now are Entrances & Exits by Reif Larsen and The Truth About Cats & Dogs by Sam Riviere and Joe Dunthorne. The former has readers navigate around Google Street View and tap on targets in order to proceed to the next chapter. For example, you’re told what your neighbor’s house looks like and are expected to find it in order to continue reading. It’s almost like a game and this particular book takes an hour to finish.
The latter book has two authors that tell the same story, but from different perspectives. Readers can switch between them at anytime. This book is shorter at an estimated 30 mins, but switching around to get both stories makes up for the fact. Both books cost $3.25. Google also has two more books, a science fiction one with music and sound and another book whose words disappear to reflect memory lost and the fragility of the human mind, coming out in April.
The books might have some compatibility issues, so Google recommends that you first try it out and read the first few pages to make sure everything works with your device. The site is compatible with iOS 8 on the iPhone 5 and later and with Android devices running 4.4 KitKat or higher. It also recommends using mobile Chrome or Safari.
I’ll be the first to admit that this sounds rather gimmicky at the start, but the storytelling possibilities for authors and designers are very promising and endless. There are more books planned for the year and it would be fascinating if Google opened this up as a standard for all book publishers, large and small.