Slowly, interactive ebooks and comics are becoming more entrancing, creating novel arts that take advantage of mobile capabilities to present alternative story threads under the control of readers, with layers of audio, video, and text creating mood and shaping outcome. Startups like Oolipo are working with experienced crossmedia authors like Kate Pullinger to build more deeply immersive stories. Already acknowledging VR as an alternative experience, Oolipo is factoring in VR outputs to the publishing platform they are building. It is entirely possible that enhanced ebooks will ultimately be the Neanderthal to VR’s Homo sapiens.
The truth is we need to think about how we move beyond the ebook. What the current ebook landscape points to is that we have preserved the print means of producing and distributing books as singular units of content by replicating it perfectly. This leads me to wonder more and more whether this all feels like a missed opportunity. The storm has passed, we get on with things. But actually I think greater upheavals are ahead and where a lot of publishers stormed into the promise of the new — different types of digital products, and particularly apps — we now see more of a retrenchment where it has proved that the AppStore as a shop window is a small space with hundreds of thousands of products. It is almost as difficult as publishing, marketing and selling . . . a book!