Actor and comedian Stephen Fry is proving his love of technology with the release of volume two of his autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, as a hardback, e-book, iPhone app, and audio book.
Why the variety of publishing platforms? Jeremy Ettinghausen, digital publisher at Penguin, explains:
“We’ve created the perfect format for dipping in and out of and exploring books in a more playful way. […] the design and technology have allowed us to create an experience that would not be possible in print, and discover a new way to present an author’s work.”
The iPhone app, dubbed myFry, includes the entire autobiography, but has a color-coded index so readers can read sections in any order. The app and the e-book also include additional photos and eight videos of Fry discussing events in the book.
Fry isn’t the first writer to take advantage of digital publishing. In July, Japanese author Ryu Murakami announced a deal with Apple to release his new novel directly to the iPad — bypassing his traditional print publisher completely. A Singing Whale (Utau Kujira in Japanese) will include video content set to music by Academy Award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. And in August, marketing entrepreneur and author Seth Godin announced that he’s no longer publishing his books the traditional way.
“[…] my mission is to figure out who the audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it’s not a traditionally published book.”
It is yet to be seen how many writers will choose to follow Murakami’s and Godin’s lead. After all, these are two established authors (Murakami has published more than 15 novels, Godin has published 12) with devoted audiences, so their decision isn’t as risky as it would be for a lesser-known writer. But the number of authors experimenting with digital publishing will only continue to increase given the interactive content options and the demand for books on both e-readers and mobile devices. It will be interesting to see which of the four platforms will be the most profitable for Fry — numbers that I’m sure other authors will be watching closely as they consider the future of their own publishing endeavors.