Let me (proudly) confess: I am a J.R.R. Tolkien über-nerd. I’ve read The Hobbit half a dozen times, The Lord of the Rings at least ten times. I’ve conquered dozens of his other, lesser-known books. I have friends who declare themselves to be Tolkien fans, and I sit quietly and nod, smirking only slightly, as they discuss the appendices to Lord of the Rings. “I should read the Silmarillion,” they sigh. I nod. Yes. Yes, they should.
But, though Tolkien’s words are in my blood, I won’t be seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. No way. Part two of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s original Middle-Earth novel opened last night in American theaters, but you won’t find me lining up for a ticket this holiday season, or purchasing the DVD, or streaming it on Netflix.
Why not? Continue reading
Some technologies can ruin the very thing they try to improve.
I happened across one of these recently. The conquest of e-readers, tablets, laptops, smartphones, and their ilk over the bound and printed book means that authors can do a lot more things in their e-books than traditional books permitted. They can embed images, video, expandable notes, links between chapters, interactive content, and other obvious things to enhance the text. And, less obviously, they could include sound.
Not merely sound such as, “Here’s a recording of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech to go along with this chapter on the civil rights movement.” Sound such as, “Here is a soundtrack for the book”. Author Nathan Bransford tipped me off to this in his recent blog post Sound effects for books?, which mentions a company, Booktrack, that offers this ability. On Booktrack, users can assemble an audio track from music and other sounds to accompany a text, either their own writing or one from Booktrack’s public domain library. The completed book and audio can then be published for all the world to read and hear.
My immediate reaction to the idea was, “Ugh, no.” However, since I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, I pointed my browser to Booktrack and explored a few of the texts. After ten minutes I was done, wholly convinced: audio accompaniment to a book is a horrible idea. Continue reading