Enhanced e-book apps anticipate a new generation of e-readers

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With the release of the iPad just weeks away, enhanced e-book apps are becoming a hot trend in publishing, with many major publishers announcing plans for enhanced titles. Enhanced apps make use of a wide range of tablet and smartphone technology with additional features such as audio, video, images, and other added functionality not possible on e-ink readers.

On March 16, Hachette Book Group announced that it would release an "enriched e-book version" of thriller writer David Baldacci's Deliver Us From Evil, due out April 20. The Writer's Cut E-Book will include an audio Q&A, a video of the author's office, photos of the creative process, and discarded scenes and title. Baldacci explained the reasoning behind the enhanced version to publishing blog GalleyCat: "An eBook by itself is not enthralling; what's on it is. And we have the technology that allows us to do all of this. So why not use it?"

Hachette told AOL's DailyFinance about plans for more enhanced apps, including a synchronized text/audio edition of Michael Connelly's crime novel Echo Park and a stand-alone app of David Foster Wallace's thousand-page novel Infinite Jest that would allow readers to easily jump between the novel's text and its numerous footnotes.

The company Enhanced Editions is behind many of the enhanced apps making their way onto the market, among them a version of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall released on March 9. That app contains the full text of Mantel's novel as well as a 30-minute video discussion between Mantel and historian David Starkey, a cast of characters and Tudor family trees, an essay by Mantel, and a regularly updated news feed.

On March 3, Penguin revealed its own plans for a series of forthcoming apps designed specifically for the iPad's interactive capacities. Among them: an app for the young adult series Vampire Academy that allows for live chat between readers and a Paris travel guide that switches to a GPS street view when placed flat on a table.

Skeptics of enhanced e-books question whether readers are willing to pay slightly more - Baldacci's enhanced app will go for $15.99 whereas the regular e-book will start at $14.99 and then go down to $12.99 - for what are sometimes simply marketing materials. However, with the tablet market imminent and smartphone e-reading on the rise, apps that make the most of the newest e-reading technology are likely to continue their upswing.