A New Chapter in Book Publishing Recent Packaging Innovations Are Aimed at Revitalizing the Industry, Appealing to Youth

Article excerpt

IN this electronic era of video entertainment and microwave magic, even the age-old pastime of reading a book isn't what it used to be.

Book publishers are venturing into new techology that allows readers to listen, watch, and participate more in the book-reading experience. Whether it's through compact discs (CDs), computer discs, or creative printing techniques, publishers are gradually changing the way they present books to readers.

"We've got all this great technology, and we can work it in our books in creative ways," says Ellen Archer, director of publicity at Doubleday, which recently published Joan Kennedy's "The Joy of Classical Music." The book comes packaged with a compact disc, one of the newest fads in book publishing.

The marketing of books with CDs is just one way books are moving into multimedia - a term to describe the blending of television, computers, and telecommunications.

As society becomes more technologically sophisticated, book publishers need to keep up with the new ways people receive information, says Charles Melcher, publisher at Callaway Editions, Inc. in New York.

Callaway is working on a line of visual books packaged with CDs that the company calls "Boundsound." So far, Callaway has helped produce or publish three such book/CD combinations including Madonna's "Sex," Danny Ferrington's "Ferrington Guitars," and "Malcolm X Speaks Out." The idea is that music or sound complements a story and the whole book-reading experience.

"This is an attempt to revitalize the medium of books and have it appeal to a younger audience," says Mr. Melcher. "When I was a child, a book was an afternoon of entertainment. These days, an afternoon of entertainment is usually focused around Nintendo or a movie. It is not focused around a book."

Books packaged with CDs intrigue listeners in different ways. "Ferrington Guitars," published by Callaway and HarperCollins, features 51 gorgeously photographed custom-made guitars crafted by Danny Ferrington. The CD, made exclusively to accompany the book, includes guitar music by 20 artists including Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Ry Cooder and others. The book/CD package sells for $50.

On the Malcolm X CD are the African-American leader's most important and powerful speeches, says Melcher. The accompanying book is a compilation of his writings and photographs. The book and CD, which sell for $17.95, hit bookstores the same week as Spike Lee's film, although they are not connected.

"Our interest in this book is to put forward Malcolm X in his own words, his own likeness, and his own voice," says Melcher.

Publishers say books packaged with CDs are marketable because they can be sold in both music and bookstores. But some wonder if the books are too costly.

"It is expensive. It's really hard to do these CD books," says Annie Barrows, managing editor at Chronicle Books. …