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iBooks Store adding increasing number of multimedia titles

Mel Martin

It was earlier this week that Jeff Bezos, father of the Kindle and CEO of Amazon was saying that "A color screen doesn't make an Ernest Hemingway novel any better."

True enough -- the Kindle has a beautiful sharp screen that is a pleasure to gaze at. Not all books, however, are Hemingways, and we're starting to see so-called multimedia titles showing up in the Apple iBooks Store.

One example is the 'Enhanced Edition' of Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, a chronicle of our 37th President. The book contains the full text of the book first published in 2008. It also includes 27 videos of the former President and newsreels that put those turbulent years into perspective.

Gallery: Enhanced iBooks | 3 Photos

It's a good read so far, and an excellent demonstration of how books don't have to be just books. Bezos doesn't see the value of video or color for his Kindle, but then his Kindle can't do color or video. Bezos is right, that a lot of books don't need any kind of multimedia treatment, but certainly, when used appropriately, it really is a relevant and illuminating feature.

Pricing is really interesting. The Nixonland enhanced iBook is US $15.99 at the iBook Store. In hardcover from Amazon it's $24.75. The Kindle edition is $13.99, and amazingly, Amazon sells a Kindle enhanced edition of the book that includes audio and video, but get this, it only runs on the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It's $15.99, just like the version at the iBooks Store. None of the Kindles can play it, although Amazon is happy to have you use it on Apple devices.

I'm not sure what the future of books will be. I have a houseful of the dead tree variety, and I treasure them. I'm a voracious reader, and as much as I honor the past I'm happy to see these new forms of publishing. I'm also glad that the iPad allows me to dabble in these new experiments (and that's all they are at this point) and see what is appealing.

The Nixon book is very well done. The videos are of good quality, and you have the option to view them in place on the page or you can expand them to fill the screen. Presented in this way, for this type of book, the video is not a gimmick, or a distraction.

It is a big download though, almost 500 megabytes, so beware.

I'm glad Apple has chosen to compete in electronic books, and while the iPad or iPhone text is still not as striking as e-ink, the overall experience is very compelling.

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