Friday, January 07, 2005

Why Books Need A DVD Version

I was watching the Extreme Unrated Version of "Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle" yesterday and was struck by how well the film, already good in the theatrical release, has improved in the DVD transfer. There are 3 commentaries, a cab-drive interview, deleted scenes and what's probably a first, Harold and Kumar voice-overs on the selection menu which get progressively more irritated if you do not choose an option.

Many a book could have been improved if authors were able to put out a 'DVD version' a few months after the original release of the book, incorporating plot elements that found their way on the editor's cutting room floor, hypotheses, an annotated commentary by the author, and so much more.

Since this is not the norm, we, the readers, are left to speculate on what might have been, and in the case of some ardent fans, create our own annotated versions, sometimes quite innovatively, such as this reader-annotated version of Neal Stephenson's short "In The Beginning Was The Command Line", ref boingboing.

Many books could be retrieved from their mutilated, flawed forms through this process. The finale to the Stephen King "Dark Tower" series was terribly unsatisfying for many readers. It is entertaining to speculate that the author intended a different approach, and then changed his mind. Perhaps his notes would shed light on the matter.

Critics would be able to peruse multiple readings and perspectives of the book, and not merely have to build sandcastles on the shores of the creative sea. At present, second- and third- and unexpurgated editions serve as modes of further communication between the creator and the consumer of the text, as well as critic-annotated editions and separate, additional releases of related texts. A 'DVD version' would obviate this process.

The publishing industry would welcome this approach, for similar to movies, it would represent a new revenue stream. Film-book tie-ins can also be envisaged. Thus, you could get a 30 pound box with deluxe, annotated, 'DVD versions' of the Lord Of the Rings' books, accompanied with the excellent Tolkien back stories of MiddleEarth, and for $70 more, the extended DVD versions of the films as well, with cross-references to the e-books on the DVDs for each scene.

'DVD versions' of books would also be in line with the similar convergence of media and technology in the consumer electronics, computing and entertainment space. Of course, a purist might object and prefer pure-text readings of the works, much like film aficionados yearn for original theatrical DVD releases of the Star Wars films. Authors of the world, unite - you have nothing to lose but your readers!

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader