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The Genius Behind “Sherlock Holmes + Forensic Scientists + Casino Hotels” Brings Us “Book + Website + Movie”

September 7, 2009

Beginning tomorrow, you’ll be able to purchase a book called Level 26 from whichever massive bookselling conglomerate is located closest to your home. And while most authors hope that you won’t be able to put their books down, CSI: Crime Scene Investigators creator Anthony Zuiker hopes that ever few pages or so you will put it down and go surf the web for a while.

Sounds like a bad idea, to be encouraging people to stop reading your book every twenty pages or so, but that’s exactly the plan. Zuiker claims to have created the first “digi-novel” (no points awarded for finding a clever name there), which combines the media of  book, website and feature film through an intertwining entertainment experience that requires attention to all three. Should it work? Of course — would someone wearing this hat lie to you?

Level 26 will exist as a tangible, readable novel with pages and everything. But every twenty pages, the reader will be invited to log on to a special website associated with the novel and watch a “cyber-bridge, ” a short film connecting the chapters to further the story, and discuss the book on forums and message boards.

Or, if you’re someone like me reading Level 26, that presumably means that every twenty pages you’ll half-interestedly watch a low-budget youtube film associated with Level 26, then go look at your Netflix queue, make a sandwich, and check your fantasy football scores. Because it’s not such a great idea to steer people away from your product.

On paper, of course, it’s an excellent idea. It’s very innovative, combining the media of the novel, the connectivity of the internet and the phenomenon of YouTube. Kudos for that, Herr Zuiker. The problem is that if there’s one thing abundantly clear about this society, it’s that it doesn’t want to have to do a lot for its entertainment. It’s like saying that in the middle of this movie you went to the theater to see, everyone has to run out to the parking lot for an egg relay, then sit around discussing how they feel about the movie so far, then come back inside to watch ten more minutes before repeating the process. Well, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but it seems like if your book’s good enough, you don’t need the supplemental media.Ditto for your website and your “cyber-bridges.” How about you just write a really good book? Why denigrate it with a choppy quicktime video starring someone not as interesting as William Peterson and 47 comments on a message board from someone named TwilightFan43? Because let’s face it, the CSI series isn’t exactly The Brothers Karamazov to begin with. How about you just focus on that first?

I don’t know.  I guess the idea’s okay. It just seems kind of complicated to me. Maybe I’m jaded because we seem to live in a world now where you can’t do anything without having to connect it to the internet in some way, and it seems like the last straw to bring this interference to the bound novel, too. But I enjoyed Treasure Island without the benefit of any cyber-bridges. And I never really missed http://www.thecanterburytales.co.uk either.

Of course, all this could be ripe for the picking, especially with all fantastic video material on the net already. Publishers take note: I’m patenting Tales of Drunk People Hurting Themselves right now. And you’re gonna love the accompanying cyber-bridges — there are already thousands of them. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Call me, we’ll talk.

Sure, I’ll wait until you read twenty more pages of Level 26.

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