Google launches e-book 'experiment'

Google launches e-book 'experiment'

Google has launched a new digital-only bookstore "for books that cannot be printed".

The "experiment" into digital books, called Editions at Play, was created by London-based publisher Visual Editions and Google's Creative Lab in Sydney and features books Visual Editions has commissioned, including a book set in Google street view. 

The idea behind Editions at Play is "not to challenge conventional publishing" but to "open some doors", according to its creators. It was born out of a "response" to the evolving digital publishing landscape, including e-books, enhanced e-books and online PDFs. The initiative's goal is to "allow writers to create books that cannot be printed" and, said Google, "fit better with 21st century sensibilities".

In a blog, Google said: "Editions At Play is an experiment by Visual Editions and Google’s Creative Lab to explore the potential of digital books: that is, books that change dynamically on your phone or tablet, using all the attributes of the modern mobile web to do things that printed books never could. Simply put, we wanted to see if we could keep the integrity of reading, but play with the book’s digital form."

It added: "Books in Editions at Play are designed to make the most of the mobile web in order to 'do things printed books never could'. They abide by the principles that books must be envisioned as 'mobile-first', have pages and "use the dynamic qualities of the interweb".

Editions at Play's two launch titles include a book that "travels the world" through Google Street View called Entrances & Exits by Reif Larsen; and a book that invites the reader to "take sides" called The Truth About Cats & Dogs by the authors Joe Dunthorne and Sam Riviere. The titles cost £2.99 each through the Google Play store and can be read through both Apple and Android devices.

Publisher Visual Editions is partnering with PRH UK and independent record label Lex to produce a book for Editions at Play called Strata (below) which sets out to create its own "mini-universe". The project, a sci-fi book, is directed and illustrated by American illustrator Tommy Lee Edwards, with music and sound designed by Tara Busch of I Speak Machine. It will be contributed to by eight different writers to open up a "portal" through each story that is told, while complementary essays will reveal new "layers of science that underpins the world". 

It is also set to release a book by Alan Trotter that explores a "deteriorating" state of mind. The text of the book will change as people read it to evoke the "fragility of reality," Google said. Both books are scheduled for April, with more books planned for later in the year.

Visual Editions was set up in 2010 by co-founders Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen. Gerber, from Paris, has been a graphic design tutor at Central Saint Martins in London for ten years and Iversen, from Copenhagen, has worked in advertising, brand communication and research for fifteen years, including nearly ten years at creative agency Mother London. 

Gerber said: "We think of it as a response to the world of digital books, e-books, enhanced e-books, and online PDFs. Because quite frankly we believe readers deserve more. So why not make digital books that are more bookish. And more delightful. And even magical."

Tom Uglow at the Sydney Google Creative Lab added: “Books can seek to engage the next generation on their phones as well as in print. E-reader use is declining while phones offer countless new ways to construct narrative and read deeply. These are books that can compete for attention on your phone via incredible, dynamic literature.”