Amazon has had enhanced e-books for the Kindle (or what it calls Kindle Edition with Audio/Video) for a little over a month, launching with 13 titles in late June, and at this writing there are 32 on the Kindle Store. At the moment, of course, the enhanced versions are not for the Kindle devices, but the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch Kindle apps.
One of the 13 titles that was part of the launch list is Rick Perlstein's Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, priced for the Kindle at $11.74 (£7.36) - the vanilla Kindle book is, rather bizarrely, priced at $14.79 (£9.28). Originally published by Simon & Schuster in 2008, it is a compelling account of how Richard Nixon exploited the turmoil of the 1960s to lever himself into the White House, and how those negative tactics eventually led to his downfall.
The enhanced portion of the e-book is relatively low key, and for the most part that works perfectly. S&S uses archive footage and broadcasts from CBS television to augment, but not overpower Perlstein's text (you can see some of it in the demo video). Many of the clips are iconic moments in an era when TV became integral to US politics and current events: the Nixon/Kennedy presidential debates, the Martin Luther King assassination, the moment when CBS's Walter Cronkite, the patron saint of US newsmen and "the most trusted man in America", came out against the Vietnam War. The only wrong step is the rather stilted Q&A between Perlstein and old-time CBS hand Bob Schieffer.
Often when digitalisation is discussed, particularly by the mainstream media, the question becomes 'and what will this mean to the book?' By that, I believe that most people mean the novel, and is often followed up by hand-wringing about how the e-book will change our reading habits.
Amazon's list of enhanced books underscores what will first change irrevocably is non-fiction. All of the 32 enhanced Kindle books are non-fiction including a handful of travel guides by the American Euro-phile Rick Steves (whose website, incidentally, is the 'insert your own joke here'-entitled Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door), a couple of For Dummies titles and a slew of music instruction books. All of which you think, 'yeah, I can see that working.' There will come a time very shortly where, for a certain type of digital book (DIY, how-to, cookery etc.), that enhanced will become standard. The enhanced Kindle edition of Andy Rathbone's Windows 7 For Dummies is currently the same price as the vanilla Kindle edition...and about £1 less than the paperback. The choice of format seems pretty obvious.