An Author’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling – the eBook

I’ve been away from Transmedia Digest since mid-Decmeber but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the field of transmedia storytelling. Quite the opposite. Over the last couple of months I’ve immersed myself in a couple of projects.

One is getting my thesis on the structure and design of transmedia narratives rewritten so it is less academic. My goal is to “translate” it into a book that will be useful to those who want a hands-on guide to transmedia storytelling while still have a good grounding in the theory behind story, audience engagement, and user interaction design. I’m making good progress in that direction.

The second is figuring out what’s involved in using tablets and smartphones to create truly transmedia stories. In my previous post about ebooks, I raise the question of whether ebooks running on tablets and smartphones should be the platform of choice for transmedia storytellers.

Based on my experience so far, my answer is a resounding “YES”!

There are still a lot of issues that need to be dealt with – and I’ll talk about those over the next several posts – but I think the technologies are stable enough and the user base large enough for transmedia storytellers to take a serious look at tablet- and smartphone-based ebooks as the primary platform for transmedia narratives.

As is typical with new technologies, there is no single authoritative source of information about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to developing ebooks. Simply finding complete technical documentation on how to write the code behind an ebook is still challenging. For example, if you want a definitive answer on how to write a piece of code for the Kindle Fire HD, forget going to Amazon’s website. Sure, the site has some basic documentation about what tags work for Amazon’s KF8 (.mobi) format but precious little information that gives you the “how-to” from a design perspective.

The discussion boards that Amazon (are you guys listening!) has to support ebook developers has plenty of comments from people with questions but an equally large number of responses that provide opinions, speculation, and (perhaps) an authoritative (i.e. accurate and useful) answer.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a couple of enormously useful resources that substantially reduced my learning curve. I’ll be sure to share those in future posts.

In the meantime, I’ve uploaded a copy of a the first chapter of my ebook on designing transmedia narratives. I designed for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, where it works pretty well. Based on the emulation software provided by Amazon, it also seems to work well on most of the early Kindle platforms. A free Kindle reader app is available from Amazon if you want to read Kindle books on the iPad/iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, and computers.

I’m planning to do an .epub version in the next couple of weeks if you don’t want to fiddle with the Kindle reader on your device. It is unfortunate that Amazon has decided to adopt its own format, but that isn’t a show-stopper. The .mobi (Amazon’s Kindle) and .epub (pretty much the rest of the world) formats are close enough that authoring for both systems is feasible (although it is a pain in the neck).

While I’m sorting out the details of .epub code and stylesheets, you can download the Kindle version of my sample chapter. Keep in mind that it is a work-in-progress designed to test out basic concepts in page layout and the use of images and hyperlinks.

As this material evolves, I’ll talk about my experiences with ebook design from a transmedia perspective in future posts.

Download a demonstration draft of the first chapter of Transmedia Storytelling: The Author’s Guide to Story Design, Audience Engagement & User Interaction.

If you are downloading to a Kindle Fire HD (and presumably other Kindle devices), simply touch the filename to open the book. On a Samsung Galaxy S3 (and presumably other Android smartphones) you will need to manually move the .mobi file into the Kindle folder on your smartphone. I have not tested this on iPads and iPhones. If you are downloading to a computer, save the file in the folder with your Kindle books.

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