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Word Play: Interactivity, Gaming, and the Future of Digital Texts


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Presented to the Writers' Guild of Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden, November 16, 2011
Abstract: E-books sales have grown explosively, have garnered significant press attention, and are finally beginning to impact publisher revenue streams. Still uncertain, however, is whether increasing digital revenues will make up for declining print sales. Most of today’s e-books remain a digital version of a print product, yet some examples provide a glimpse into the future of books and publishing, as they employ interactivity, multimedia, social aspects, and the use of gaming techniques in order to engage readers. These innovative texts and new business models provide lessons for authors and publishers as they embrace electronic publications.

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Word Play: Interactivity, Gaming, and the Future of Digital Texts

  1. 1. Word PlayInteractivity, Gaming, and theFuture of Digital TextsJohn W. WarrenPresented to Writers‘ Guild of Sweden, StockholmNovember 16, 2011
  2. 2. From Gutenbergand the incunabulathere was a 50 yeartransition to thebook as we know it
  3. 3. Incunabula wereinitially consideredinferior, evendangerous,compared withilluminatedmanuscripts
  4. 4. They led to the democratization of reading
  5. 5. The e-book isemerging from asimilar transition
  6. 6. There‘s anexplosion ofdevicesThere‘s an explosion of devices
  7. 7. E-book sales are on the rise$0$20$40$60$80$100$120$140Q102Q202Q302Q402Q103Q203Q303Q403Q104Q204Q304Q404Q105Q205Q305Q405Q106Q206Q306Q406Q107Q207Q307Q407Q108Q208Q308Q408Q109Q209Q309Q409Q110Q210Q310$MillionsUS Trade Wholesale E-book Sales
  8. 8. E-books still represent a smallshare of overall revenue$0$5$10$15$20$25$302008 2009 2010BillionsPrint/Analog Formats Digital FormatsU.S. Publishing Revenue by Overall Format
  9. 9. But represent the primary areaof growth overallU.S. Publishing Revenue Growth: 2008–2010-5% 15% 35% 55% 75% 95%Digital Formats Print/Analog Formats
  10. 10. e-books have beendownloaded fromApple‘s iBookstorefor theiPad/iPhone/iPodTouch130,000,000More than
  11. 11. Moste-books todayare merely a―picture ofa book‖
  12. 12. Some innovativee-booksoffer aglimpse into thefuture of thebook
  13. 13. I Want You! includes 1,700primary source documents— Presidential memos,reports, video — linkeddirectly from the e-book‘sfootnotesEnhanced e-books with ―extras‖ offer additional material
  14. 14. The Digi-Noveluses multimedia totell its story
  15. 15. Inanimate Alice combines text, audio, video,effects, and gaming to convert the reader into anactive participant
  16. 16. The level ofparticipationincreases asreadersprogressthroughepisodesGamingbecomesAlice‘semotionaljourney
  17. 17. Gaming techniques engage users• ―Gamification‖ is the use of gaming techniques to engageusers—and make activities more fun• Appropriate pacing, progress bars, and reward schedulesare dynamics adapted from behavioral psychology• Design for ―onboarding‖ beginners, habit-building that leadsto mastery• Engage users with PERMA– Positive emotions– Engagement– Relationships– Meaning– Accomplishment
  18. 18. Successful games have fourelements in common• The goal is the specific outcome players hope to achieveand gives participants a sense of purpose• Rules place constraints on the achievement of participantsand drive the development of strategic thinking• The Feedback system tells players how close they are toachieving the goal, provides a promise the goal isachievable, and offers motivation to continue• Participants agree on the goal, rules, and feedback systemthrough voluntary participation, providing commonground, and making a pleasurable experienceWinning is not a defining characteristic
  19. 19. Involving the reader is key
  20. 20. Digital textbooksofferinteraction andself-assessment
  21. 21. Inkling is rebuilding the textbook for the tabletgeneration• Collaborates with majorpublishers such as McGraw Hilland Pearson• Uses audio, video, andinteractive features such asquizzes to create interactivecontent• Includes note-sharing tools andother social elements• Plans to have 100 popular titlesready by Fall— available forsale at $2.99 per chapter
  22. 22. Interaction and multimedia elements punch upthe learning quotientFor example, in Cengage Learning‘s New Perspectives onComputer Concepts (Parsons/Oha):• Photos ―come to life‖ as in-place videos; diagrams can be set inmotion• Student scores on computer-scored quizzes, labs and practicetests provided to instructors• Instructors can annotate pages of the textbook to add text, audionotes, Web links, or videos• Students respond to issue questions and polling with responsesdisplayed in-class or online• Students can send questions to their instructor from any page inthe textbook
  23. 23. Flat World Knowledge brings open content toHigher Education
  24. 24. Flat World Knowledge pursues a ―freemium‖business model• Start-up company backed by venture capital, offers expert-authored and peer-reviewed textbooks, openlylicensed, available free online and affordably offline• Model is to provide content for textbook adoption that is asgood as or better than current textbook, offer content forfree, encourage purchase of add-on and convenienceproducts• Students can buy a PDF download of book or chapter, ~$30black and white printed version, ~$60 color print version• Creative Commons (open source) license and tools tomodify and remix encourage new derivatives andadaptation
  25. 25. • Approximately 65 percent of students make some kind ofpurchase, most ~$30• They purchase downloaded copies, print-on-demand books,digital study guides, practice quizzes, audio guides
  26. 26. Thus far, Flat World‘s modelseems to be working• 1600 professors at over 900 colleges in 44 countries haveadopted Flat World textbooks• Every chapter, every book, includes digital study guidessuch as flashcards, practice quizzes, audio guides• Professors can create custom books, edit at sentencelevel, deliver unique books and print-on-demand versions tostudents• Author incentives include faster publication, ease ofcreating and updating texts, 20 percent royalty on anysale, royalties more consistent over time• Plans to integrate more assessment in future textbooks
  27. 27. Features of the future digitaltextbook
  28. 28. Let‘s imagine a future scholarly book about newresearch on the Americas before ColumbusImage: Tatiana Parcero
  29. 29. Placing the cursor next to a termbrings up its definition
  30. 30. Clicking on a place-name deploys GoogleEarth• Chichén Itzá
  31. 31. Interactive maps show an empire‘s rise and fall overtime
  32. 32. Instead ofa singlepicturethere‘ll bea galleryof photos
  33. 33. Take a photo and instantly upload it to the book‘sgallery
  34. 34. Gesture-based computing allows users to interactphysically with virtual worlds
  35. 35. New tools allow students to manipulate and visualizecomplex data sets
  36. 36. Augmented reality shows 3-Dsimulations
  37. 37. • Links lead to in depth topics of particular interest to thereader and encourage comments and collaboration• Social features promote comments, conversations, andcollaboration between authors, scholars, and readers• Creative Commons license encourages modules to beremixed and repurposed• Open video allows easier editing and remixing of video,audio, and text• Deep Web semantic search unlocks additional in-depthcontent customized to the reader‘s interest, returning resultsnot cluttered by irrelevant contentThe eBook of the future encourages collaboration andcontinuous learning
  38. 38. Libraries arebecoming communityspaces
  39. 39. Instead ofstorage placesfor books
  40. 40. Bookstores are closingand may soon be athing of the past
  41. 41. Challenges for publishers, authors, and agentsremain significant• Increased e-book revenues may not be enough to offsetdecreased print revenues• Open access business models are still largely unprovenover the long haul• Interactive, participatory platforms, utilizing gaming andmultimedia, are expensive to produce and maintain• Finding and maintaining the attention and engagement ofreaders is not an insignificant task
  42. 42. A few tips for authors• Plan from the outset for digital aspects that add value totext• Collaborate with a technology-savvy partner(s)• Experiment with intent• Pursue diverse revenue sources and creative businessmodels• Work to ensure that technology-enabled assessment andfeedback practices support meaningful, high-qualitylearning• Ask publishers or content distributors for metrics, such asaggregate, anonymous performance data, to improve yourtext
  43. 43. Questions?Comments?For a copy of this presentation,please send an email to:johnwwarren AT gmail DOT com
  44. 44. Sources and BibliographyWarren, John W., ―Innovation and the Future of E-Books,‖ International Journal of the Book,Vol. 6, No. 1, 2009, pp. 83–94 (As of November 11, 2011:, ―The Progression of Digital Publishing: Innovation and theE-volution of E-books,‖ International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Number 4, 2010, pp.37–53 (As of November 11, 2011: 2 – 3: Incunabula from Vicent Garcia Editores (, Andrew, The Book in the Renaissance, Yale University Press, 20104: Photo by user J Mark Bertrand: flickr5: Photo by user Gubatron: flickr6: Photos (clockwise from top left) by users robertogreco; andyi; sekimura; GlennFleishman:flickr7: International Digital Publishing Forum website (As of November 11, 2011: BookStats 2001: An Annual Comprehensive Study of the U.S. Publishing Industry,Association of American Publishers/Book Industry Study Group, June 2011, pg. 1610. Photo by user pamhule: flickrApple WWDC, “Streaming video from the WWDC 2011 keynote,” June 6, 2011 (as ofNovember 11, 2011:
  45. 45. Sources and Bibliography (2)11: Photo by user swanksalot: flickr12: Image from Pullinger, Kate, and Chris Joseph, Inanimate Alice, episode 2( Rostker, Bernard, I Want You!: The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force, SantaMonica: RAND Corporation, 2006( Pullinger, Kate, and Chris Joseph, Inanimate Alice, episodes 1–4(; also phone interviews with Kate Pullinger, author, andIan Harper, producerLaccetti, Jess, ―Inanimate Alice Pedagogy Pack: Lesson Plans and education resource pack,2007, (as of November 11, 2011: Kim, Amy Jo, ―Smart Gamification: Designing the Player Journey,‖ Google Tech Talks,February 16, 2011 (as of November 11, 2011:, Mary Leigh, ―Beyond Multimedia Literacy: Supporting Mastery in VirtualEnvironments,‖ International Journal of Learning and Media, Summer 2010, Vol. 2, No. 4,Pages 7-20, (as of November 11, 2011:, Martin, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being,Free Press, 2011
  46. 46. Sources and Bibliography (3)19: McGonigal, Jane, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They CanChange the World, Penguin, NY, 2011; also (as of November 11, ( Photo by user k-ideas: flickrPottermore blog (as of November 11, 2011:, Erica, ―A New Chapter for E-Books,‖ Technology Review, MIT, November-December2011 (As of November 11, 2011: Mongoliad ( Photo, courtesy of Inkling: Essential Clinical Anatomy, Moore et al, Lippincott Williams &WilkinsInkling (as of November 11, 2011: (as of November 11, 2011: ―Digital Textbooks Reaching the Tipping Point in Higher Education: A Revised Five-Year Forecast‖ March 2011 (As of November 11, 2011:
  47. 47. Sources and Bibliography (4)22: Photo, courtesy of Inkling: Essential Clinical Anatomy, Moore et al, Lippincott Williams &WilkinsEric Petitt, VP of Marketing, Inkling phone interview, June 14, 2011Barseghian Tina , ―Watch Out Textbooks, Here Comes Inkling,‖ KQED/Mind Shift, June 8,2011 (as of as of November 11, 2011:, Douglas, ―Inkling Publishes Textbooks for iPads,‖ Bloomberg Business Week,June 9, 2011, (as of as of November 11, 2011: Parsons, June Jamrich and Dan Oja, New Perspectives on Computer Concepts 2012,14th Edition, Cengage Learning (As of November 11, 2011:, June, email exchange, June 201124-27: Flat World Knowledge website (as of November 11, 2011:, also phone interview with Eric FrankCo-founder, FlatWorld Knowledge
  48. 48. Sources and Bibliography (5)28: Photo by user stevegarfield: flickrJohnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., The 2011 Horizon Report,The New Media Consortium (as of as of November 11, 2011:, L., Adams, S., and Haywood, K., The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12Edition. 2011, The New Media Consortium (as of as of November 11, 2011: Artwork by Tatiana Parcero ( (uesd with permission)30: Photo by user zachary b: flickr31: Image from Google Earth ( Image from Concharto ( Image from flickr ( Photo by user tarzan!!!: flickr35: Photo by user OpenExhibits: flickrOpen Exhibits (, Alex, ―7 Areas Beyond Gaming Where Kinect Could Play A Role,‖ O‘Reilly Radar,December 3, 2010 (as of November 11, 2011:
  49. 49. Sources and Bibliography (6)36: image from Ocean Data Viewer website (as of November 11, 2011: Research Tools ( Eyes ( Public Data Explorer ( General Electric, Smart Grid Augmented Reality (As of November 11, 2011:, Kat, ―Storytelling 2.0: Open your books to augmented reality,‖ New ScientistCultureLab blog, November 17, 2010 (as of November 11, 2011: Alexander, Bryan, and Alan Levine, ―Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre,‖Educause Review, November/December 2008 (as of November 11, 2011: and Creative Commons: raising the bar on user creativity, June 2, 2011 (As ofNovember 11, 2011: video Project (
  50. 50. Sources and Bibliography (7)38 cont.: Wright, Alex, ―Exploring a ‗Deep Web‘ That Google Can‘t Grasp,‖ New York Times,February 23, 2009 (as of May 11, 2011: Info- Linked Data ( Photo by user scrunchieface: flickrRausing, Lisbet, ―Toward a New Alexandria: Imagining the Future of Libraries,‖ The NewRepublic, March 12, 2010 (October 10, 2010: Photo by user andrei z: flickr41: Photo by user The Ewan: flickr42: Jaschik, Scott,, ―The World Is Open,‖ Inside Higher Ed, August 25, 2009 (as ofNovember 11, 2011: