Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard of Pottermore, online home of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Pottermore hosts exclusive content from Rowling, including additional pages of Harry Potter storylines and the ability to interact with the text. So here's how it works: each chapter is split up into key scenes, which players can explore by collecting special items and meeting characters. Players can also connect with other users, presumably to geek out over how cool Pottermore is. Once they've got the hang of things, players can also brew potions, learn spells, and duel each other, although the exact purpose of those activities is a little vague for me. Essentially, Pottermore is a forum for extreme fans to get together and glory in the utter awesomeness of the Potter-verse.
|Property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Brother Entertainment|
Though it's the most widely-known of its kind, Pottermore certainly isn't the only website that accompanies a story and allows the reader to continue their experience even after leaving the pages of the book. Erin Morgenstern's Alex Award winning novel, The Night Circus has a similar web presence. At the Night Circus, users can go on quests and, again, connect with other users to discuss the story and their progress through the game. It functions a bit like an online version of Dungeons and Dragons, with a choose-your-own-adventure element and a points system. Though it's a bit simpler than Pottermore, fans of the understated magic and mystery of The Night Circus will love this ethereal online companion.
|Image Property of Failbetter Games|
Given its wild popularity, it was only a matter of time before The Hunger Games had its own site, too. The Capitol is quite a bit more commercial than Pottermore, which confines its large merchandise section to a different site. The Capitol focus on the movies and the spectacle of The Hunger Games rather than the storyline but players can register to be assigned to a district, learn about district tributes, and explore movie content (my favorite is Capitol Couture).
The last one I'll mention here, although by no means the end of the list, is the Gallagher Academy website, companion to Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series. The fictional Gallagher Academy is a school where characters in Carter's books learn to be international spies. At the website, users can look at courses like "History of Espionage" and "Advanced Encryption." They can also read about the history of the Academy, register as students, and learn more about characters.
|Property of the Walt Disney Internet Group|
There are, of course, lots of websites that allow users to interact with the text like this and I could write an entire series of posts about the book-related apps. But what's the purpose of this new crop of websites? Well if you're like me, you tear through books you like and are left wanting more. I always admire those people who have the self-restraint to read just a chapter at a time to preserve the book and make it last longer, kind of like those people who can eat a popsicle as it melts instead of biting off a big chunk and then suffering through a cold headache. But I'm not the sort to take things slowly and I have the self-restraint of a four-year-old, at least when it comes to books and food.
Much like the new wave of ebooks I discussed eons ago, the technology here allows readers to interact with their stories and beloved fictional friends. Websites like Pottermore allow readers to slip away again into the beautiful and fantastical worlds they have loved and to become a part of the story, to experience new dimensions and depths of fiction.
So is this the wave of the future? Will authors be paired with web designers instead of illustrators? I sincerely hope so. We live in a cyber-speed society, where a website that takes more than twenty seconds to load is considered "slow" and most of my students tweet multiple times a minute. We book people cannot expect to remain unchanged--reading is a slow, solitary pursuit in a time when "fast" and "connected" are the name of the proverbial game. Publishers and authors have to recognize this fact and to adapt to the changes--and opportunities--it creates.
Personally, I think it's a great time to be a reader.