Thanks to the advancements in technology, and the proliferation of personal hand held devices, it has become very easy for publishers to disseminate content digitally across a wide spectrum of interested end users. Digital content creation and dissemination has opened up the market place to the extent where users now demand a richer interaction experience while accessing digital content.
From an approach standpoint, one can look at two broad options to enhance digital content:
- eBook applications
- Multimedia enhancements and
eBook Apps: Ebook Apps do not enhance digital content per se. They provide innovative usage options to readers while they access digital content. eBook Apps are typically developed for specific platforms, with the typical objective of ensuring access to content across multiple devices. For instance, Amazon offers a free eBook application that helps a buyer read eBooks across not just their Kindle Fire 8 (KF8) platform, but also across other platforms such as Android, iPhone/iPad, Windows 8. The application boasts of a feature that uses proprietary technology called ‘Whispersync’. This feature ensures that users could start reading an eBook in their native KF8 eReader, book mark the point up to which they have read, and restart reading from that point onward in a Windows 8 smart phone. The eBook app takes care of synchronizing the bookmark across platforms.
One can intuitively understand that the eBook apps approach to enhancing digital content presents limitless potential, but is an option that could be cost and effort inhibitive.
The other common approach to enhancing digital content, namely, multimedia enhancements, provide a vast scope to engage the user. In contrast to the eBook apps approach, this approach directly works on the content to deliver an enhanced user experience.
For publishers, all efforts to enhance digital content needs to: make the content more interesting, informative, and interactive or a combination of all the three. The nature of content enhancement is decided by its relevance to the subject matter of the digital content. In the remainder of this article, let us examine a few options for enhancing digital content.
Multimedia (Audio and Video) Content:
Audio and video content are the most prominent choices that come to mind when we think of enhancing digital content. Incorporating multimedia content can range from the straightforward to sophisticated, as below:
- Audio: These are the simplest enhancements that could possibly be added to digital content. An audio file in one of the compatible formats is incorporated in the content, allowing the user to play/pause/stop as per their preference.
- Audio Overlay: A more sophisticated audio enhancement is to use an audio overlay which synchronizes with the text content. These function like a voice over narration, and can be particularly useful for users who prefer to ‘listen’ to their books on the go.
- Video Files: Despite the prevalence of multiple video file formats such as common file MOV, ASF, ASX, AVI, 3GPP, MP4, MPEG, MPG,QT, WMV, a substantial level of standardization has been achieved in incorporating videos with digital content.
- 360º Illustrations: Panoramic images can be created in multiple file formats, namely Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, etc. These are an enhanced versions of video files, where users are able to control gain a 360º perspective of an image
- Animations: Animations in e-Books are typically two-dimensional, cut-out animations, typically used in children’s e-Books. These can range from simple ones (animations restricted to a single page, simple movements like tilt/rotate along a predefined path), to highly complex ones (animation spread across multiple pages, animation that is synchronized with audio narration, or complex movements).
- Location based enhancements: It is now possible to enhance digital publishing by distributing tailored versions of content as it relates to a geographical region. This presents a unique opportunity for marketers to distribute identical editorial content, but localized advertising as it pertains to the distributed content.
Apart from the multimedia enhancement options mentioned above, there is another option to enhance digital content, namely, incorporating application widgets. Widgets differ from eBook apps in that they are typically embedded in the eBook, and are designed to perform a specific functionality. For instance, one can incorporate a ‘test your understanding’ widget in an educational e-Book which randomly poses questions to the user at the end of each chapter.
Digital publishing has developed to a stage today that there are a vast array of options to make content more meaningful, and engaging to the end user. Although the issue of cross platform compatibility is yet to reach desired levels, industry standards such as EPUB3, HTML 5, etc are leading the industry in that direction.