The Society For The Survival Of Literature Presents:

    It’s no question that people are abandoning written-word entertainment in favor of moving images, and this will only continue as technology promotes the advancements of film, television, and videogames while leaving books as an afterthought to be shoehorned into tablets and smartphones.
    Well I, personally still love to read books despite all other options available to me, and it’s clear to me they offer a unique value that no film or television can.  Reading is an extremely, underratedly active entertainment form compared to the screen forms.  The story moves forward only as your brain moves it.  If you get distracted, there is no moving rail to keep your attention from hanging on.  Reading requires an extra amount of concentration to process, and a reader must have his or her brain in a much more focused state to absorb written text, and to imagine it, fully feel its message— all of it requires the reader’s full, undivided imagination.
    One thing for me that makes reading difficult is audible distractions that seem to be inevitably everywhere, pulling me immediately out of the book’s world and tainting it with whatever random noise I’m unfortunate to be in range of.  At first, this problem made me wear earplugs.  I lost my earplugs so I just wore my earbud headphones on silent.  This made me think:  What if we could evolve The Book to survive in today’s noisy, distraction-filled world?  What if we gave the book it’s own audio?  As in, we scored the whole book, and different sections of the soundtrack activated only when you turned the pages, so you could still read at your own pace?
    This way, not only would all those distractions be cut out, but they would be replaced by audio that actually adds to, that complements what you are reading.
    The possibilities for this are vast:  You could use it to add a dramatic undertone to a scene of prose, but you could also, for example, trigger a metronome to play at different rates on different pages of a poetry or music book!  You could trigger all kinds of different sound effects for different scenes.  My favorite trigger method is simply the turning of the page.  I also like the idea of secondarily having some sort of buttons embedded into the pages, but I will focus only on the idea of triggering audio by turning the page, for now.
    I really had this idea while reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s “The Familiar,” an amazingly immersive book— full of interweaving, fantastical stories told through creative use of text manipulation, images, color, and other paper-specific forms.  Pages of the book often only have a few words each, as a dramatic scene unfolds and the turning of the pages becomes the rhythm of the scene.  Suspense will build as you are left to turn the page at the exact right dramatic moment, rather than whenever the type arbitrarily hits the bottom of the page, like most books.  So I thought this was a perfect book to prototype this idea with.
    I chose a scene from the middle of the book where a main character, an 8-year old girl named Xanther, while sitting in the car with her father on a rainy day, hears a kitten’s cry for help in her head (she might be psychic) and dramatically rushes out of the car, sprinting through the rain to try and save it.
    The scene is about 30 pages long but only takes a few minutes to read because of the crazy formatting.  I started by noting which sound effects should kick in on each page:
Then I went into Adobe Audition and made a rough cut of the sound effects in sequence.  I turned the pages as each effect triggered to simulate the effect the final experience would have:
I would definitely love to read this book with this sort of soundtrack through the whole thing, and I’m sure it would spice up many other books, too.
The tech is a whole different beast.  My instinct is to try using a tiny photocell on the corner of each page to detect if there is light currently hitting the page.  This would allow us to easily tell which page the reader is turned to.  Each photocell would have its own audio trigger that corresponds to that page’s audio:
The exposed photocell’s audio would only play if no other photocells are exposed at all.  This would ensure the reader is actually turned to the page and not just flipping through.
    Anyway, that’s the start of what I believe can be an incredibly cool hybrid storytelling form, full of potential to not only enhance existing tales, but to work itself into the creation of new stories (some of which I am already in the process of creating).  To not only preserve the physical book but to help advance it with the rest of media is to me a personally critical cause that I look forward to taking part in.

Categories: itp, journal, pcomp, Uncategorized

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