As an editor working in digital publishing, I’ve seen a lot of words cross my computer screen. I read eBooks all day for work, but I’m also an avid digital reader in my personal life; my virtual library consists of thousands of titles. But there are two types of books that I still don’t buy digitally: cookbooks and children’s books.
I’m an enthusiastic collector of cookbooks; half of a bookcase in my kitchen is dedicated to various titles I’ve acquired over the years—like one of my old favorites, Betty Crocker Cookbook, and one of my new favorites, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. I also have a five-year-old daughter who has inherited her mother’s passion for books of all shapes and sizes. Being a kid in the digital age, she’s also got an insatiable curiosity about my iPhone. But neither my love of cookbooks nor my daughter’s love of kids’ books has translated fully to digital yet.
I think one obvious reasons for this is pictures. My daughter loves lots of pictures in her books, and I love them in my cookbooks. Nothing makes me choose a recipe faster than a scrumptious-looking photo. So—although I'm already hopelessly devoted to eBooks—today I’m dreaming of what the future might hold for eCookbooks and kids' eBooks. What changes and features are possible for eBooks that would make them even more appealing to the average child or the at-home chef?
Some cookbooks are already making digital headway. Major titles like Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express and Cook Yourself Thin are already available as eBooks (see bn.com's entire spread of eCookbooks here). It's wonderfully convenient to be able to follow recipes on my laptop instead of peeling sticky pages apart. But I’d love to see the digital cookbooks and children’s books of tomorrow offer the same detailed, beautiful, intricate pictures as their print counterparts do today. Who knows: someday, digital books might offer the ability to include even more pictures than print ever could. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a cookbook that has pictures of every step of the process, from start to finish? What if your eCookbook even included a video on how to carry out a complicated technique? Maybe it could recommend wines to pair with your meal, suggest meal plans, or link to online stores that sell unique and hard-to-find ingredients.
And what if my daughter’s eBook had embedded audio, so she could hear clips of the characters’ dialogue, the song the character is singing, or the rhythm of a rhyme? How about a video that demonstrates how to play the same game the characters are playing?
The possibilities seem endless; that's the magic of eBooks. I admit there are times when I just want my book to be a book, with no extra features. But I do hope that someday, eBooks will offer more than I can even imagine. Who knows, maybe they’ll even figure out a way to include the delicious aromas of the recipes in my digital cookbooks. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?
How about you? Dream big with me and tell me what outrageous (or not so outrageous) features you’d love to see in your eBook of the future.
Angela James is a freelance editor who has worked in digital publishing for six years.
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