A New Age of Reading?


A couple of weeks back, someone from Random House pinged me to get a short soundbite of what I thought would be the next big thing in reading trends. I thoughtlessly threw out some catch phrases – interactive, e-reading, location-based group reads, and so on without realizing that all that was happening as I was responding to her e-mail.

I’m currently in the midst of reading Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and I am amazed by the innovation in publishing and reading that I see. Night Film is a book about a mysterious reclusive film-maker whose daughter Ashley commits suicide. Scott Mc Grath is a journalist who feels compelled to investigate the cause of her death. Fairly standard stuff so far in terms of plot, but what’s interesting is the way the book has been put together.

This book makes the fullest use of multimedia and online reading as far as I can see. It offers interested readers an opportunity to download an app called Night Film Decoder (available here for Apple users, here for Android).

Here are some screen-caps of the app…

The app has received mixed reviews, as has the book itself, but I for one am absolutely in love with it. You can use the Night Film Decoder to scan the page whenever an image of the bird in the third screen-cap appears. The Decoder then reveals extra features— faux news clips, mocked-up movie posters, and trailers of the films that one of the main protagonists makes.

This interactive app is not the only element that is new and unique in Night Film.

Ashley Cordova - a compelling character in the book

Ashley Cordova – a compelling character in the book

The book is littered with photographs of the main characters scattered throughout the book. There are also mock news articles from Rolling Stone, Time, Vulture, and Vanity Fair magazines, and tons of internet search results that actually propel the story forward without being a distraction. It was fun to see photos and investigative material at the same time as the detectives, rather than have them talk about what they learn. Innovative!

The experience is almost like reading the book and watching a movie made out of the book at the same time (for the very first time). What I also like about the app embed is, it’s your choice entirely. You don’t actually miss any of the plot if you don’t use the app, but it’s fun to get some extra information from the app (sort of like outtakes from movie DVDs).

This is my first such interactive adult reading experience and I quite like the experience so far. How about you? Do you think these embeds are distractions? I didn’t much care for the visuals when I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I found it a distraction in that book, and thought it detracted from the incredible writing. In Night Film though, it’s done really well and I think more books will be implementing such features.

Have you read Night Film? What did you think of it? Was it ground-breaking or incredibly annoying? Or somewhere in between? Have you read other books with similar media set ups?

I am completely for it :). Well played, Random House and Marisha Pessl, well-played!

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  • That’s interesting. I didn’t know that they had something like this too. Wonder if some of the other books have such apps too.

    • Nish

      @Ava: I think this is a new trend. I have heard that Man Booker longlist Richard House’s The Kills also uses a lot of multimedia insets, but I haven’t read enough reviews of it to know whether that’s true or not.

  • How did I not know about this app? I just started Night Film as well and now I will dutifully download the app.

    • Nish

      @Brooke: The info about the app is at the end of the book. I have a bad habit of skipping to the end, and so …

      How are you finding the book so far?

  • I just am intrigued 🙂 in a good way! Would love to read this book!

    • Nish

      @Veena: I have to warn you though that this book is seriously creepy, good book, but very, very creepy. I am able to read only small sections at a time before getting too disturbed.

  • Looks interesting.. rather I would love to read the book and watch a movie made out of it…
    Actually its new age of reading..

    • Nish

      @Manjulika: That it is :)…new age of reading :))

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