The Benefits of Augmented Reality in Publishing

Discover how you can use augmented reality (AR) to add multimedia elements like audio, video, and extra images to your new or existing nonfiction book project.
An iphone lying on an open book with an image of a pier and rolling waves

In recent years, the publishing industry has witnessed an exciting development with the introduction of augmented reality (AR) technology. This ground-breaking development invites readers into an immersive experience using an easily accessible mobile app. By hovering their mobile devices over the book’s pages, readers unlock an array of additional audio and visual content that enriches the book’s material. This means that, with a simple download, readers can delve into author interviews, explore 3-D reconstructions, or enjoy extra color illustrations seamlessly, eliminating the need for elaborate websites or extensive printed plates sections within the book.

In this blog post, Vicki Cooper and James Fairclough, co-founders of Immersive Publishing, delve into the impact of this futuristic technology on traditional publishing. Vicki was at Cambridge University Press for over twenty-five years, ending up senior commissioning editor for music and theatre books. In 2014 James co-created The Mozart Project iBook, which won three awards and was the best-selling interactive book on the iPad. In 2016 James and Vicki collaborated on a project with the BBC/AMC Films/The Ink Factory to create an iBook interactive guide to accompany the television adaptation of John le Carre’s The Night Manager.

In this blog they will explain how AR has breathed new life into the literary landscape and, more specifically, explore the advantages it offers to academic and general/trade nonfiction authors. For those seeking to enhance the accessibility of their research materials, Vicki and James will unravel the possibilities and potential benefits that AR technology brings to the forefront of nonfiction writing.

Tell us about AR and why it might be beneficial for the publishing industry.

There are wonderful possibilities to pair AR with the book publishing trade. While AR has been used for some time with marketing and advertisement, this exciting technology is beginning to be coupled with books, and we look forward to enriching the printed book with new opportunities.

One example could be a brief video interview with the author or key specialist contributor that offers additional information relevant to the content on the page. In addition, there are numerous historical archives, often housed in museums and institutions, filled with valuable film footage, photographs, and contemporary sound recordings that usually never make it past a footnote in books. Such informative records could be added to a printed book as audio, video, or illustrative material that launches from the page onto a phone or tablet screen to deepen exploration of the topic.

Another use might be to employ AR to provide a scrolling picture gallery of additional illustrations that could not be accommodated in the printed book. It is often the case that authors already own or have access to relevant video, illustrations, or audio resources that might be used in this way. This could be done retroactively for books already printed and for future titles. In addition, the audio or video content from a book’s accompanying website can more easily be accessed and enjoyed when it opens directly from the book page onto the reader’s phone or tablet, making a more immediate impact. 

At a time when publishers are employing new ways and techniques to expand their markets, this growing technology—pairing AR with the printed book—offers the opportunity to heighten the reader’s experience and reach new audiences, and offers a new future to the book publishing industry.

How does this technology work?

AR allows authors to combine their printed material with an added level of audio, video, additional text, illustrations, and three-dimension, which launch from the page onto a phone or tablet.

At Immersive Publishing, we work with the client or publisher to create a bespoke app with their own logo, design, and a QR code at the front of the book or publication so the user can download the app to their phone or tablet. With this app, their device recognizes any photo or symbol on the printed page and launches media directly onto their device’s screen. Photo recognition is much cleaner on the page and a smoother experience for the reader than relying on QR codes every time the user wants to access an AR component.

Why do you think AR is particularly useful for nonfiction authors?

AR allows nonfiction authors the ability to add much more content to their book without the usual constraints of a limited number of color pages. It also permits them to add interviews, video, and other multimedia that they have uncovered or created during the research process that aren’t printable on paper.

What kinds of media might be used in AR publishing?

AR offers media including audio, video, illustration, and three-dimension. Audio and video extracts can be as long as required and, once loaded, the device can be moved away from the book, so that the user can watch and enjoy the content at their own pace—you don’t need to continuously hold the screen over the page.

How long does it take to add AR to a book?

The workflow is very quick and, depending on the amount material being added, video and audio files can be paired to the printed page in a matter of days. We always include a careful run-through and check of the content with the client to ensure everything launches and runs seamlessly.

How much does it cost to use this technology in a publication?

The cost entirely varies depending on the project but it is much more affordable than in the past and is now economically viable even for smaller publishers.

Tell us about your company, Immersive Publishing, and why you decided to found it.

Other companies that offer AR features usually hand an AR code to clients and expect them to build their interactive material on their own. However, Immersive Publishing holds a somewhat unique position in the AR business. We manage all aspects of developing and producing the AR experience for our customers and bridge the gap between the book’s content and its interactive functionality. With Vicki’s career in publishing and James’s knowledge of interactive digital products, they recognized the requirements of pairing book content with coding and have developed a workflow system that undertakes all steps of the process.   

We want to bring video and audio to the printed book so that people can enjoy a new approach to understanding subjects without the constant distraction of content found on the web. There is an opportunity to bring a new kind of storytelling to books that allows for the richness of multimedia and extra context and content, while still retaining the familiar form of a book that you pick up from your bookshelf and settle down to read.

Want to publish your nonfiction book?

Flatpage publishes nonfiction books written by subject-area experts, thinkers, and journalists who present a strong understanding of historical and contemporary contexts in order to critically analyze current issues. We specialize in helping academics reach a wide audience of general readers, thus broadening the impact of their ideas, and working with journalists who want to tell more in-depth stories through longer-form writing.

We offer an independent, in-house editorial team, comprised of experienced academics, journalists, and published authors. Our editors are qualified professionals who can coach you through the publishing process while still allowing you to stay in control of your text. 

Learn more about the kinds of books we publish by clicking below.

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About the author

Cara Jordan is chief editor and president at Flatpage. She has spent her career editing academic and artists' writings, primarily as a developmental editor and copyeditor. She received her PhD in art history from the Graduate Center, CUNY.


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