Last year I read Spook Country by William Gibson. It was, as usual, a great pleasure. I remember Gibson saying in an interview at the time that “every text today has a kind of spectral quasi-hypertext surrounding it… all of the Googled information that found its way into the book but which isn’t available to the reader as a literal hypertext unless you’re willing to be the animator of the hypertext process and Google each term that’s distinctive and new.”

“It’s curious. When I published ‘Pattern Recognition’ ” — his previous book, which was also set in the recent past and achieved mainstream success — “within a few months there was someone who started a Web site. People were compiling Googled references to every term and every place in the book. It has photographs of just about every locale in the book — a massive site that was compiled by volunteer effort. But it took a couple of years to come together. With ‘Spook Country,’ the same thing was up on the Web before the book was published.” Somebody got an advance reader copy, and instantly put up a site for his fictional Node magazine.

Blogs and social media are already making this spectral hypertext less quasi and more actual. But as Gibson predicted, other text was destined to follow.

Today, Harlequin US launched Enriched Edition e-books, acknowledging that books are (and always have been) extensible. The text of enriched edtions will be embedded with links to additional information about the content. (As a cute aside, you’ve gotta love Harlequin’s quaint usage of terms like ‘interactive buttons’ and ‘hyperlinks’ in their media release)

The launch title, UNMASKED by Nicola Cornick, a Regency-set historical available from www.eBooks.eHarlequin.com, has been enriched with interactive buttons that hyperlink to Web sites containing photos, historical commentaries, illustrations, sound effects, maps, articles and more, bringing the world of the novel to life without the reader having to leave the computer or the current screen page. The interactive buttons have been designed to be unobtrusive, so if one prefers not to access the bonus material, the reading experience remains uninterrupted. Link

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