If you’re old enough you remember the advertisement for the delicious Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup . The old commercial has one person eating peanut butter and another enjoying a chocolate bar. The two bump into each other and, as fate would have it, peanut butter and chocolate collided.
“You got peanut butter on my chocolate” said one.
“You’ve got chocolate on my peanut butter” said the other.
Both took a bite — delicious — and a new confectionery treat was born.
That’s the best metaphor I can offer for the unusual e-book “Level 26″. It’s part e-book and part movie. It takes two story-telling mediums that usually function in entirely separate spheres and creates a mashup not dissimilar to the Peanut Butter Cup. The result is, at least so far, delicious.
Perhaps more importantly, however, I think the e-book/movie mashup offers us a little bit of a taste of why Apple’s tablet is going to shake things up more than anyone realizes.
The e-book itself is gripping. It is the story of a serial killer who is unique unto himself and has achieved legendary status. He is the first serial killer to be conferred a “level 26″ rating on a scale of serial killers that usually ends at 25. It is a dark story. It is a story that makes James Patterson look mild-mannered and emotionally stable. And it is a story that is not for anyone but adults… and only adults who aren’t offended by violence, sexuality, and the combination of the two. On its own it’s a good read so far.
What makes this particular e-book different, however, is that every three or four chapters it offers an additional “chapter” in the form of a video clip.
Each video clip picks up where the last chapter ended and goes the story plot forward the way a traditional text chapter would. I wasn’t sure what I think of the combination but it really works. Especially in this particular story, but the visual of the serial killer ramps up the drama and suspense even more than the written word like.
I like the mashup a lot, but then again I also love the peanut butter cups.
What struck me in reading the first portion of this new emerging medium was that it lends itself well to the iPhone but even better to a tablet of significantly greater size. And I realized that this is, potentially, one of the ways Apple tablet will take things in entirely new direction.
You see, you can’t watch videos on a Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook. E-Paper is just that– it is the attempt to re-create, in electronic form, the experience of reading ink and paper text. And for that it’s excellent. But that is ALL IT IS FOR!
At the same time, while you could watch movies and read ebooks on, for example, a slate tablet running Windows, such a device was designed for much heavier use and some weight, battery, and ergonomics are often an issue. (And this is coming from someone who used tablet PCs for years.)
On the iPhone, however, it is a different story. The reading experience on the iPhone is nice once you get past the issue of the small screen. Similarly, watching a movie on an iPhone is great if you don’t mind the small screen. And when you put the two together the way Level 26 has, the experience is quite good. Video and text work remarkably well together. If you don’t mind he small screen.
Now if the iPhone were bigger it would be an entirely different story. The reading experience would be enhanced. The movie experience would be better. And the combination of the two would be… well terrific. That’s what Level 26 proves.
And if we are to believe the rumors Apple’s tablet is going to be just that… a large-size iPhone or iPod touch. It will offer the color display lacking in other e-readers. It will handle video with ease. And it will be small and relatively light. (Battery life will, of course, stink, but it already stinks on the iPhone and we just find ways to work around it.) On the iTab something like Level 26 would be amazing. And I think that is just what they have planned.
Here’s my guess. “Apps” like Level 26 are testing the waters. Will people like the mixture of text and video? (I sure do) Will people pay $12.99 for such a book/video hybrid? (I did.) Will people embrace an entirely new medium for storytelling? I think so. And at this point, Apple’s as-of-yet-still-only-rumored device is the one that can take us there.
This hybrid experience not only works but it works well. And something tells me it is a taste of much bigger things to come. Just you wait and see. In the meantime… have a peanut butter cup.