Should You Add Media to Your eBooks?

On November 8, 2011, a question was asked on a LinkedIn writer's forum that merits consideration by any book author. "Is 'media-added' actually good for books?" The author of the question writes in his blog that he fears the media trend will turn the book market into a gaming venture and destroy the market for good books that depend only on the word power of their authors.

Anyone who loves to read knows that the movie never does justice to the book. Hollywood always has to "tweak" the story so it thinks it will have more appeal. If you've read the book, the movie is almost always disappointing. For this reason alone, the trend to add media to books needs to stop short of robbing readers of creating their own cinematic visions in their minds.

Generally, media won't enhance works of fiction very effectively unless the added media is there to create a visual or audio experience of a time in history. Just as artwork and photographs used to enhance the experience of many adult books before the advent of cinema, various media could enhance the experience of even the fiction reader. Imagine the Battle Hymn of the Republic or Dixie playing in a Civil War novel. It could add to the reader's experience without turning the book into a "game." There's nothing like music to take someone back in time. It's not intrusive to the reader's internal experience of the story. It makes it richer.

At the same time, there is a real place for adding media to non-fiction eBooks, especially how-to books. For years, I've had to read cookbooks and decipher what the instructions meant. Even with a Home Economics degree and training in all the different cooking techniques, it has often been difficult to picture what the author is describing. So many times I've wished there was a video clip to show me how to make the recipe up.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth 10 thousand. When you add words to the video, your message is far more likely to be delivered. Words and video complement each other. There are details that aren't apparent in a video that you can flesh out through well written copy. There are things that are far easier to demonstrate than to describe.

There are other non-fiction works that would benefit from the addition of video clips. Books involving history are a natural for this treatment. Slide shows, audio clips, videos, all give an opportunity to expose the reader to a broader experience.

Why not use media to complement your writing?

When it is used appropriately, added media is a wonderful enhancement that leverages the qualities eBooks enable. There's no reason to not harness the combined power of the written word with visual and audio experiences if you can do it in a way that brings more meaning to what you publish.

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