How to Make an Interactive Book

July 24th, 2006 by Adam

Welcome to the future of book technology! In this blog entry we will show hackers like yourself how to build your very own interactive book using supplies that are probably already in your home or office. Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Upgrading an Existing Book

Because interactive books are a cutting edge technology, books published with interactivity built in can be very hard to find at your local book store. However, this fact will not discourage the enterprising hacker from upgrading their own books (also known as “modding” a book).

First, find a black permanent pen (Sharpies are a hacker favorite). Then write “Interactive Book” on the cover of the book you would like to upgrade.

Warning: Be careful to use proper penmanship and spelling as the pen you are using is PERMANENT!

Interactive Book

That’s it! Now your book is interactive! To make the best use of your interactive book you will want to gather some useful accessories including:

  • Highlighter Pen
  • Comfortable writing utensil.
  • Small pad of paper (Post-Its work too).

Interactive Book

When your kit is assembled, you are ready to begin interacting with your book.

Step 2 – Select Some Text

Start by reading the book. When you come across a phrase that you would like to make interactive, highlighting the phrase.

Interactive Book

If you have more than one interactive phrase on a page, use a pen to write a unique number next to the phrase. These numbers only need to be unique to the page, because the page number can also help identify a phrase (for example: page 42, #1)

Interactive Book

Step 3 – Adding Annotations

To add an annotation or comment, simply write your text in the margin of the page. If the margin does not leave enough room or you would like to attach multimedia content (like a photo), add your comment to a separate piece of paper and staple or paperclip your annotation to the page, as shown below.

Interactive Book

Write your initials, date, and page number on all annotations. This will give important context to all future readers.

QUICK TIP: Good annotations will be useful to all future readers. For example, related URLs, insightful comments, or questions are all useful annotations.

As your book gathers more meta-data, it may be full of clippings and marks. Do not worry, this is a sign that your book is becoming more valuable! If the interactive elements make it difficult to read the original text, you may want to purchase a non-interactive book to use in parallel with the interactive version.

Step 4 – Publishing your Annotations

The most important capability of any interactive book is its use as a collaborative medium. Good annotations will breed other good annotations and fruitful discussions may be a positive side effect of well considered questions. To publish your interactive book, hand deliver or mail the book to other readers. It may be helpful to send them a link to this tutorial as a primer if this is their first foray into interactive literature.

QUICK TIP: Choose carefully who you send your valuable book to. A good collaborator will add great value to the book, a bad one won’t read your book, and might not even return it! However, no great reward was ever gained without great risk. Go ahead and send you book to friends, family, strangers you meet on the bus and people you admire (authors may be good collaborators).

Finally, remember to affix the correct postage to your interactive book!

Interactive Book

Step 5 – Hacking the Hack

For those who are not afraid of living on the cutting edge. There are even more daring experiments that haven’t been tried yet. You are encouraged to think of your own variations, but here are a few ideas to get you started.