Fiction for the YouTube generation?

When I arrived at the Books-A-Million offices for a few publisher meetings back in May, I had just missed their meeting with Penguin. As Julia and I walked in, most of the reps were talking about one thing: Level 26: Dark Origins, a new “digi-novel” coming in September from Anthony Zuiker, the creator of “CSI.” They’d just seen a sample of one of the video “cyber-bridges” that readers will get a link to every 20 pages or so in the book. By all accounts, the video had the same quality as a TV show or film, and the killer was more terrifying than Hannibal Lecter.

This picture certainly lines up with that assessment. Apparently he wears a rubber suit of some kind so as not to leave any forensic info at the crime scenes. Creepy!


Info on the novel’s plot is as vague as it gets (“the story of the world’s most heinous serial killer, and the one man who can stop him”—heard that one before?), but with a gimmick like this, they may be thinking it’s not necessary. There will be three Level 26 novels, and Dutton paid a reported seven figures for the trilogy.

Soap opera fans will find this blend of TV and books to be nothing new (the novels of “Kendall” from “All My Children” and the unforgettable Hidden Passions by “Tabitha Lennox” spring to mind). But this is the first time readers have to get up after 20 pages, go to the computer and search for a video link, something that seems less than ideal to me—but might appeal to YouTube aficionados with smartphones. And who knows, the online content might be exciting enough to send readers racing through the pages to get to the next “cyber-bridge.” I’m happy to see publishers trying something outside the standard print format, though. What do you think? The way forward, or two steps back?

2 Responses to Fiction for the YouTube generation?

  1. rdjahn says:

    I think it’s an interesting experiment, and the project will probably do well, but I don’t know about the “digi-novel” as a whole. I sure don’t see it as a “step forward.” Increasing the cost of putting a book out (by adding the cost of video production) doesn’t seem the likely future for a business where profit margins are already narrow.

    And people who love to read don’t need videos as rewards for finishing pages. Reading is its own reward. If you don’t enjoy it, I’m not sure a video reward will train you to enjoy it. People are not test mice, reading isn’t pushing a button, and a video isn’t sugar water. After this project and a few like it are old news, once the curiosity over the concept has worn off, I suspect the available market will be … people who already enjoy reading. And they’re buying books already, in one format or another.

    I think it’ll revolutionize publishing about as much as that other “interactive” book, the Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

    That said, I kind of hope I’m wrong; I hope it does bring in new readers. I hope it works as a “gateway drug.” Anything that gets people reading is a good thing in the long term.

  2. […] a look, it’s in a . . . Vook? We’ve posted about video/book hybrids before (how did Level 26 do, anyway?). But a new California start-up, Vook, is taking it to the next […]

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