A recent article in U.S. News & World Report by Vicky Hallett and Marc Silver reports that several book publishers have noticed the popularity of DVDs with special features, such as documentaries about the making of the movie, profiles of the actors, and trailers for the directors other films. Using the DVD model, Harlequin is adding extras to its Signature Select series of romances. Looking in the SWAN catalog, I see this is reflected in the cataloguing records of several of the books. The Future Widow’s Club by Rhonda Nelson has 32 pages of bonus features, including an author interview, “Top 10 List: Reason Widowhood is Preferable to Divorce,” “Tips & Tricks: a Page Torn from the FWC's Secret Handbook,” and a preview of the romance Making Waves by Julie Elizabeth Leto. The Secret Admirer by Ann Major and others has an extra “Getting to Know the Characters.” The Real McCoy by Tori Carrington has 48 pages of extras, including “Top Ten Signs He's Going to Propose” by Andrea Kerr.
The article also points to Harper Perennial, which has started publishing books with author interviews, bonus short stories, and even “archival documents.” Aiming at the book discussion group market, the publisher will have about 100 titles out by the end of this year.
The idea of adding material to help the reader is not really new. There have always been prefaces and appendices to help readers put texts in context. Dune by Frank Herbert has a glossary to help the reader with all special vocabulary. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry has a map to show where the characters live. Norton Critical Editions often have hundreds of pages of author profiles and critical essays of classic works, such as Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.
What is new is the splashy marketing. Bold labels on the covers point out to the perspective readers that the books have the extras. As consumers they expected by the publishers to see the special value of these editions and buy.
As a reader and librarian, I hope this idea spreads. I enjoyed looking at maps, timelines, and historical notes when I was reading American Girl series books to my daughter when she was younger. I often turn to reference books or the Internet to check historical references that I find in novels. I am disappointed how brief author profiles are in books. I would like some extras. I will be watching to see if this is a trend.
Vicky Hallett and Marc Silver. “Books: the New DVDs.” U.S. News & World Report. April 4, 2005. Page 55.