A Deal Announcement that Begs a Question

From yesterday’s Publisher’s Lunch:

Creator and executive producer of the CSI television franchise Anthony Zuiker’s series of three suspense-thriller “digital novels” (every five chapters readers are given website codes to access two-minute films that bridge to the next five chapters) beginning with SQWEEGEL, about an former FBI forensic investigator who retired after his whole family was murdered but continues to work a variety of grim cases, to Brian Tart at Dutton, at auction, for publication beginning in fall 2009, by Dan Strone at Trident Media Group (world).

Variety says “Zuiker will write a 60-page outline for each book, then supervise a novelist who’ll turn it into a 100-chapter book. Zuiker will write and direct 20 “cyber-bridges,” the two-minute video segments that supplement the pages.”

Aside from the whole “supervise the novelist” thing that makes me think of James Patterson and not in a good way, is anyone else kind of befuddled by this announcement? Cyber bridge videos between chapters that mix vieweing and reading? What the huh now? Generally speaking, I read on the bus, and on the treadmill (thank you Kindle and your absolutely gi-hummuna-normous text size – all the better to bounce you with, my dear) and am nowhere near a video-enabled computer, much less with the patience to wait for my iPhone to load the video. I can’t say I’d be all excited for a book that ties me to a computer to view the video bridge – half the time reading is a break from the computer, not that I can stay away long, oh Internet, how I love thee. Seems overly complicated, but then, I’m often mystified by Facebook.

Does anyone else think this is a rather bizarre concept, or is this the Future of Reading, with YouTube on Your Kindle?




The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    DS says:

    I had a flashback to those strange album mysteries of the 30’s (reissued more recently).  They contained actual physical clues, such as a piece of carpet or cloth to aid the reader in figuring out whodunnit.  They weren’t very popular although they had some value as collectibles.

    Maybe they are hoping the novelty factor will result in brisk sales.  Maybe they think CSI fans are more apt to be technology oriented. 
    I like mysteries and I like forensic science BUT I doubt if I will bother buying these for reading pleasure.  Like you I usually read away from the computer.

  2. 2
    KG says:

    When I first read this announcement on tvguide.com, I thought they meant it would be llike an e-book. But now I see it is some strange combo of print and video?  How is that going to be delivered to the reader? As one whole book with a bunch of videos to watch on the web between chunks of the story? Or parts at a time?  I guess I’m curious to find out a little more before I judge it.

    I think he has an interesting idea. He’s trying to capture the ‘youth’ market who spend a lot of time online and on YouTube. But I think if he is combining print only with this online video it might miss the mark. Now, if it were an e-book mixed with links to videos, that would make more sense and I would think it to be a little cool.

  3. 3
    Melissa says:

    I’m not to keen on this.  I also read books in places that have no net access (like the tub), and I don’t want to have to hop back and forth between the book and the computer.

    Now if the 2-minute videos were bonus features instead of parts of the story, that could be cool.  Like a little background info on a real forensic technique versus what you see on TV.  Or a bit that explains some of the acronyms commonly used on TV crime dramas.  They’re not always explained in the story, and a guide would be helpful.

  4. 4
    Chicklet says:

    Hmmm. Depending on the execution, it could be interesting. If it is an ebook with added video content, I could handle both on my smartphone, which I can use to access the internet anywhere there’s a cell-phone signal. If it’s print-only, I can carry the book and access the videos either through my computer (at home) or on my phone (away from home).

    But then, I’m so used to reading fanfic online, I have an easier time reading fiction onscreen (as opposed to blogs or nonfiction pieces).

  5. 5
    AQ says:

    Stephen King’s N is a graphic adaptation of a short story broken down into 25 installments. I thought the artwork and the narrator were good. But I couldn’t get through the 25 installments because of the length of the credits (opening plus ending) as well as the commericials. Not enough content for me to bother with more than a few as some of the installments were only a 1:30 to begin with. About 30 seconds of credits out of a 1:30 plus a 30 sec commericial. Well, you do the math.

    It is a very interesting experiment though. It will be interesting to see what happens when the short story is released in print this fall. I assume that a graphic novel will also be released as well. Not sure though.

    Stephen King’s N

  6. 6
    Jessa Slade says:

    I’m way behind in the technology curve (no cell phone, no iPod, still have a record player, etc.) but I think this sounds interesting. CSI people have already proved they like video & tech so they’ll probably go to their screens with a quickness. 

    I’m guessing the 2 minute bridges will be dum-duh-dum cliffhanger moments, so the reader/viewer will be eager—nay, forced—to race to their computers.  I wonder if there will be ads.

  7. 7
    raj says:

    I think the “supervise the author” thing has to do with the fact that this is within a franchise.  If they recruit authors who aren’t into the show, or are just casually into the show, then making it fit with the CSI style and established canon would require some supervision.

  8. 8
    Suze says:

    Meh.  Link to extras, but don’t be making parts of the actual story inaccessible to people who are NOT in a large urban centre and do NOT have access to high-speed internet.  There are large tracts of North America not covered by wireless networks or network access of any kind.  (Granted, people in these areas prolly not buying e-books, but still…)

  9. 9

    I misread this for a moment…I had thought it read that there would be a 60 page outline and he would supervise an author to turn it into a 100 page book.  It made the idea extremely ludicrous.

    Still, not something I’d probably go for.

  10. 10
    Lori Borrill says:

    Uh….no.  I can’t even get over audio books that have a narrator who doesn’t sound anything like the characters.  I don’t need videos to take my vision of them away, too.  For me, the fun of books is to place my own mental spin on what the setting and characters sound and look like—most usually by mentally intwining my own personal preferences to make the experience more enjoyable.  Fill that in for me and I’d rather just save the extra hours of reading and wait for the movie to come out.

  11. 11

    I read this on Publishers Lunch and thought it was a cool way to get some publicity and generate excitement.  Ideally, the videos would be some kind of extra feature and not essential to the understanding of the book.  They should also be marketing the video clips to CSI fans, in the hopes of getting them to pick up the book.  It has to be a two-way street if the publisher really wants this promotion to have legs.

  12. 12
    Suze says:

    I can’t even get over audio books that have a narrator who doesn’t sound anything like the characters.

    Hee, yeah.  I’ve been driving a lot this summer, so listening to a lot of audio books.  Female reader, doing sex scenes complete with an attempt at deep-male-voice grunts and groans.  Bleargh.

  13. 13
    Soni says:

    I think it’s completely and utterly awesome. And I do think it’s something that skews to the younger crowd (and those of us who are not so much young as just terminally geeky). Although really, I don’t think it’s too different it’s mirror twin, the tv show with nonessential but story expanding tie-in novels.

    For something in a similar theme, if not in execution, consider the incredibly cool group effort known as Shadow Unit. Shadow Unit is “fanfic for a television show that doesn’t exist.” Basically, a group of authors got together to create episodes for their ideal television show (sort of a cross between X Files and Criminal Minds).

    During the “season” there are new novella-length episodes available every other week. But between seasons (as it is right now) and between episodes, they write up “DVD extras” to feed the ravening crowd that sits howling outside their metaphorical doors for more goodies. These are vignettes that aren’t vital to the main story, but that give readers insight into the characters, and offer funny bits of background and “off camera” action that just don’t fit into the episodes, plus they serve to bridge the action between seasons.

    Pretty much all of us who read it hit the site within hours of these extras going live, because if feeds our jones for more SU stuff (these are top-shelf works by popular, published authors, so it’s seriously good stuff – I recommend it to anyone who likes the whole freakshow-meets-FBI trope). In addition to these vignettes, each of the characters has their own in-character LJ blog (and comments that break the 4th wall are not allowed), plus there’s also a fan forum for chatting and a SU wiki that’s being quickly filled in by the readers.

    Zuiker’s project also seems to take some notes from those alternate reality games (sometimes used as publicity-generating events) that have clues in newspapers, websites, trading cards and so on with a big prize at the end. Those are hugely popular and becoming more so.

    So basically what I’m saying is that this multi-level, cross-media approach is becoming very popular and, I would venture to guess, in the near future it’ll start to feel odd when any one publication (whether that’s a book, a film or a tv show) doesn’t extend across the entire available mediaverse.

  14. 14
    Lee Rowan says:

    Call me cynical, but it sounds like some marketing hotshot came up with a way to stuff commercials into a book.  Want to bet what percentage of the video will be actual story as opposed to ads for other junk?

    If I’m reading a really interesting book, there’s no way I’d want to stop and watch some kind of video—because even the Lord of the Rings movie, which is one of my all-time favorite adaptations, had some casting choices that were totally wrong for the characters Tolkien conjured up in my head.  (Gandalf, Saruman, Eowyn, Legolas, Gimli, and especially Gollum, were superb.  The humans… not so much.)  A book is a highly individual experience—for me, at least.  I don’t want somebody else’s pictures until I’ve finished the book with my own interpretation.

    If anything, I think we need less distraction from following the train of thought presented in the written word.  Looking at the result of sound-byte politics, storytelling that fractures the attention span even more is not necessarily a good thing.  Except for sales, of course.  Anything new and shiny is bound to get lots of attention, and that’s all that matters, right?

    I won’t buy this, and I would not want to write for it.

  15. 15

    I don’t see why it has to be either “bizarre” or “the future of the industry.” No more than that “cathy’s book” experiment was. It’s a fun experiment. I’m intrigued, but then again, I love those alternate reality games, and this reminds me of them.

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