Last summer, Variety reported on a deal for Anthony Zuiker (right) to write the world's first transmedia novels. The "CSI" creator signed with Dutton to write (or rather, write outlines for and then supervise a novelist doing the actual writing) three suspense thrillers with significant online components.
Today comes the news that Eqal, the company founded by the creators of lonelygirl15, one of the Web's very very few hit series, will be handling all the digital components. The company will launch a website for the first book, called "Dark Chronicles," two months before its September release, featuring blogs, behind the scenes information, bonus material, and social networking components for fans. Most significantly, though, there will be "cyber bridges" on the site, intended to be opened after every five chapters of the book, that include video, audio and photo content that, we can assume, inform the mystery in the book. The "cyber bridges" can only be accessed with a code from the novel (though it's safe to assume those codes will be all over the Internet within a day of the book going on sale).
More and more TV shows are going "transmedia" — look at the online comics, games, webisodes, etc. for shwos ranging from "Lost" to "Ghost Whisperer" to "The Office," though there's lots of debate as to whether all that content really helps the brand or just appeals to a tiny niche of hardcore fans.
In the world of novels, though, this is definitely a first. Do people really want to engage with the world of a book that deeply? Our stereotype of book readers, especially women who read suspense thrillers, is that they consume the content while sitting on a beach or in bed late at night. Do those same people want to find an Internet connection and jump online every five chapters?
On the other hand, our stereotype of TV watchers used to be that they just sit passively on the couch. That's obviously no longer true for at least a certain portion of the audience. Even if you don't consume every bit of transmedia content, millions of people like to blog, discussion message boards, or vote via text message for the "American Idol" winner.
Of course books are somewhat different, because we all read them at their own pace. It makes sense that there's tons of online discussion about "Lost" on a Thursday morning. But when (if ever) will the "Dark Chronicles" social networking components light up, given that we might all be reading different parts at different times? It will be a really interesting experiment in whether one of the oldest forms of media consumption can connect to some of the newest.