Harlequin Has Been Looking Over My Shoulder

UnmaskedIf you were to stumble into my house in the evenings, you’d probably find dishes in the sink and Hubby and I on the sofa with our respective laptops in our respective laps. Even if I’m reading I like to have a laptop nearby so I can look stuff up or take care of some item off my to-do list that surfaces through the morass of my memory while I’m reading about the hot hot sexxing. Nookie: it jogs your memory.

I think Harlequin has been looking in the windows at my reading habits, because their new ebook bears a resemblance to how I read and research at the same time:

We have a unique (and pretty cool) version of one of our titles. Nicola Cornick’s Unmasked is available as an Enriched Edition eBook in Adobe Digital Editions. Throughout the eBook, there are hyperlinks to websites that provide additional information about the story details in order to enhance the reading experience. For example, if a reader has always wondered what is involved with dancing the Cotillion, they can simply click the hyperlink and a window will pop up to provide them with information and an image. The blue buttons along the side were designed to be unobtrusive, providing readers with the option to choose how interactive they want their experience to be.

The enriched eBook is only functional when the computer is connected to the internet, so reading the enriched book on an ebook reader wouldn’t work in terms of the extra content. But either way, it sounds coooooool.



The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1

    An annotated edition of a romance novel—very cool indeed! And Nicola Cornick got a lovely cover, too!

  2. 2
    AgTigress says:

    This is the first feature that I have heard of that would actually encourage me to read a whole book on a screen.  It would amount to a novel with footnotes/references.  Yay!

  3. 3
    Suze says:

    It sounds really cool, but I’m a link junkie!  I’d be bopping off in all directions, losing the thread of the story.

    Hm.  I guess I’d have to read one to see if I like it. 

    services68: The number of services available to on-line readers is just endless…

  4. 4
    thirstforknowlege says:

    Oh! That’s a LOVELY idea!

  5. 5
    rebyj says:

    That is a very neat idea! A lot of times something I’m reading will spark an interest in something else and I will put the book down and hit google. With the links handy that would be awesome.

    It wouldn’t work on a kindle though would it? Not that I have one YET!

  6. 6
    ev says:

    What fun! But it would take me ages to finish a book because I would be doing the same thing as Suze!

  7. 7
    Pai says:

    Wow, I LOVE this idea!

  8. 8
    Deb Kinnard says:

    Long ago, in my publishing-naive days, this is what I figured e-books were supposed to be. High time, say I.

    Great cover, too. Why can’t they all aim for this level of beauty & class?

  9. 9
    Chrissy says:

    AgTigress said exactly what I was thinking—that would SO get me to buy the book, and wow, what a BRILLIANT idea!

  10. 10
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Wow, Harlequin is just all over it.  With them and the iPhone FINALLY available for ebooking, this might be the tipping point on ebooks. I wonder what Jane has to say?

  11. 11

    This is really cool! There’s nothing to say that like the iTouch, future eBook can’t have built-in wireless capability. That will take enhanced eBooks from crummy laptop screens to sharp eBook screens. What a win!

  12. 12

    This is a great development, and I’ll be very interested to see how it goes and what the reader response is. I might even be tempted to buy a copy myself!

    I find the author in me wondering, though, whether, if this style of interactivity/interlinking becomes the norm, how that might affect my approach as a writer? Would it change my way of writing? Would I be looking for ways in which to ‘enrich’ the experience for readers? Would I leave out the description of the ‘gentle two-note cadence’ of a boobook owl and just link to an audio file of the sound?

    Hmm… interesting questions to ponder for the future!

  13. 13
    Suze says:

    how that might affect my approach as a writer?

    That’s an interesting question.  Who does all the linky goodness?  Is it the author sharing her research, or does Harlequin have a department of link flunkies adding HTML to the book?  Who decides on what ought to be linked?

    Honestly, the act of writing is so intense that having to keep track of all the link possibilities would overwhelm me, I think.

    And now I’m thinking that it would be a marketing tool as well.  Have a character from another book show up?  Link to a webpage selling the book.  Hmm.

  14. 14

    If you were to stumble into my house in the evenings, you’d probably find dishes in the sink and Hubby and I on the sofa with our respective laptops in our respective laps.

    Copycats! I thought we were the only married couple who did this! ;-)

    I agree, this is a WAY cool idea! It’s something I might expect on non-fiction work.  If it’s optional, than the reader can choose whether or not to have the added experience.

    As a writer, I can imagine all sorts of things I’d want to link to.  And for the SF Romance writers, there would be a ton of stuff show the research that went into the “science” part of the book!

  15. 15

    Somebody finally remembered hypertext!  The idea reminds me of author websites which include research links and the like.

    I think I would have to read the book first, then go back and frolic amongst the links—otherwise, it would distract me too much, and I wouldn’t be able to keep track of the plot.

  16. 16
    Joykenn says:

    Uh, oh, I think I have another thing on my wish list for improvements to the Kindle.  This is a GREAT idea.  AND, they can make it easy to pre-order the sequel after reading an excerpt at the end.  Not just historical romances but all kinds of fiction can benefit from this.  Think of it, mention an exotic locale and you can click to see photos of it, mention an exotic dish and get its recipe and find restaurants nearby that serve that cuisine.  Clothes, link to the designer’s site.  Vampires—show what Translyvania looks like.  Returning Greek gods—link to their temples in Greece.  It doesn’t have to be on every page but it could be great.  Heroine is a jewelry designer—link to info on making jewelry.  Hero is a Wall Street billionaire—link to information on how Wall Street works, how stocks are traded.  I can think of hundreds of ways to answer some nagging questions I might have.  BUT I suggest clicking only on SECOND reading so you can enjoy the story and then get MORE.  Great idea.

  17. 17
    Marsha says:

    I got out of buying my kids those obnoxious noisy books (you know, the ones shaped like trains and have a button that, when pressed, starts a chugga chugga noise or the firetruck that screams weeeeoooh weeeeoooh until my ears bled) on the grounds that “if you want your books to make noise, read them aloud” and “books don’t require batteries to be enjoyed”.

    Once again, I am bringing up the rear of technological advance.  I guess it’s no longer true that reading aloud is the only “proper” way to have a noisy book and that, indeed, batteries are increasingly necessary. 

    Even with my long-standing misgivings about this kind of thing, I have to say that an annotated novel intrigues me.  With some luck on the part of readers, writing quality will improve – with encyclopedic resources built into the text it will be a lot harder to excuse authors (and editors and publishers) for not nailing the details cold.  When I suspect an error in a regular ole’ dead trees book I generally let it go because I’m too lazy to look it up.  If a reference is right there at my fingertips, well, stuff better be right.

  18. 18
    dillene says:

    “Interactive” romance novels, eh?  Heh heh.

    Actually, one of my favorite books is a heavily annotated edition of “Dracula” that explains all of the cultural and literary references throughout the book (there are zillions).  This could be a great thing if it’s done correctly- I’d love to see some annotated Georgette Heyer.

    Security word:  “having21”.  That must from the latest interactive LKH novel.

  19. 19
    concinnity says:

    Its about time. I can’t believe its taken this long. I’ll be buying my first ebook just to check it out. I think it is rather interesting that romance is going cutting-edge. Plenty of books have been entered and linked (see: Ulysses, etc), but this sort of thing is pretty new, and I *love* that its mass market.

    It does bring up all kinds of questions regarding advertising and research. Are the sites they’ll be linking to going to be scholarly or wikipedia? Who gets the ad rights to these sites? Will the author get paid if you click on an add on an “official harlequin romance” site?

    I love me some annotated editions, but hitherto I’ve been able to disagree or agree with my footnotes without having to think about whether or not they’re trying to sell me something, or tracking my reading for future use. Very, very interesting.

    Securityword: open85. I’ll be opening my first ebook, at any rate…

  20. 20
    Kalen Hughes says:

    *look of horror*

    Not because it’s a bad idea, but because I can already see this becoming one more thing on an author’s plate. It’s basically footnoting your whole novel (which would at least give Cassie Edwards a chance to out her own “lifting”). And what if the things that need footnoting don’t have a convenient Wikipedia page? Is the author going to have to create that too? Cause it’s not like our publishers are going to do it for us . . .

  21. 21
    Suze says:

    Thinking about it some more, if it turns out to be just another marketing venue, kill it now.  Or set it up such that information hyperlinks have a different look from ad hyperlinks.

    I can see me reading merrily along, and see a link for Jimmy Choos—not being a fashionista, I’ve always kind of wondered what a Jimmy Choo looks like, and why it’s such a good thing to have.  So I’d click on a link to see that.

    If it brought me to a store, I’d be pissed.

    I already resent having to sit through ads (for things other than upcoming movies) at the movie theatre (you know, the 2 or 3 times per year that I go to a theatre).

    And I do think it will add excessive pressure on the author, unless it’s entirely a publisher thing.  Research, and deciding when to say when, and what to choose, and how to interpret it and use it, is already hard enough.  If it becomes something that everybody and his dog will be able to critique at the click of a button, argh.  I’d never, ever, ever write a word for publication.

    At least without the easy links, if a reader disagrees with what you’ve written, they have to go to all the effort to track down their own research before raking you over the coals.

    (Not that I am now, but that’s mostly because I’m intimidated by, um, the research.)

    saying85—yeah, just saying.  Again and again and again.

  22. 22
    Joykenn says:

    Suze’s post reminds me of a very short fad in romance writing in the early 70s, I believe, where everything was “branded”.  I mean, the heroine didn’t slip on her jeans—she slipped on her Levi’s.  She pulled on an old Nine West top and slipped into a well worn Tommy Hilfiger cropped jacket she loved.  She packed her Samsonite luggage.  Etc. etc.  Remember this?  It was mercifully brief and mostly short romances.  Somehow I think the authors were trying to make it seem REAL, not promote certain brands.  Very strange little phase.

  23. 23
    ev says:

    I would want to be able to turn the links off until I read the book and then went back to read it again.

  24. 24
    Cat Marsters says:

    Well, books are probably the last media to be free of advertising, apart from the ‘Buy more books by this author!’ bit you get on the inside cover.

    But I wouldn’t expect an ebook to be directing you to a Jimmy Choo store.  Know why?  No one advertises for free.  Those movie ads—they cost the advertiser a fortune.  The author would have to sign a deal with whoever she was advertising—and I know it has happened before, and can be pretty lucrative (remember that next time you’re reading a book where every car is a Ford, f’rinstance).  But I don’t see it becoming an everyday occurance.

    Although… putting paid ads in ebooks would be a lovely little earner to subsidise the cost of marketing paperbacks!

    Somehow I think the authors were trying to make it seem REAL, not promote certain brands.  Very strange little phase.

    Actually, I much prefer that to seeing “She ordered a diet cola.”  No one asks a waiter for a diet cola.  You order Diet Coke or Pepsi.

    Equally, though, it drives me mad when the not-particularly-fashionista heroine recognises the hero’s wealth by his Armani suit.  I wouldn’t know an Armani suit if it came up and bit me.  Why does she?

  25. 25
    Jackie says:

    I was intrigued by it at first, but when I scrolled down to the bottom of the eHarlequin page, it lists the digital right information:

    Adobe PDF eBook
    Copy: not allowed
    Print: not allowed
    Reading aloud: not allowed

    Reading aloud is prohibited?  The hell?  That’s gotta be a joke, right?  How could they possibly enforce that?  Install an eHarlequin representative in every downloaders’ house?  Sarah – Maybe you were right about them looking over your shoulder!

  26. 26

      Who does all the linky goodness?  Is it the author sharing her research, or does Harlequin have a department of link flunkies adding HTML to the book?  Who decides on what ought to be linked?

    Some very interesting points in this debate! I wasn’t involved in the process of adding any of the links for Unmasked, nor was I asked to share any ideas on what should or should not be linked, or asked to share my research. In fact I didn’t even know Unmasked was coming out as an Enriched Edition until a few days before it happened. So in that sense there was no additional pressure or influence on me to write the book in a different way.

    I think that if the author was involved in the process that makes it a whole different ball game. But perhaps we should be involved because I can imagine getting some of the feedback if, for example, the links aren’t historically accurate. I’d hate people to think that was my research

      Now you’ve got me thinking…

  27. 27
    Jen says:

    Net links are an interesting idea, but it’s gotta be mitigated by the fact that not a nanosecond goes by where you don’t find out that…someone is wrong on the internets!

  28. 28
    reader says:

    Whoa, how did they know? This is like perfect for me, lol. Seriously. I’m always interested in reading more about the little details that crop up while reading (hey, read more, know more, right?), whether it’s corsets or the Mexican war, what have you. Very nice, Harlequin. Maybe I’ll give one of them a whirl.

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