January 14, 2016
The ebook of the future
Nate Hoffelder documents another attempt to revive that digital zombie of the reading world, the interactive novel. A long-forgotten tech bubble was the hypertext CD-ROM boomlet back in the mid-1990s. The era did produce the bestseller Myst, which was more of a game than a work of narrative fiction.
CD-ROMs did pay off big-time in the less glamorous field of database indexing. When I was in graduate school, a single IBM XT loaded with the ERIC index on CD-ROM was the most useful reference tool in the library. (Nowadays, it's available online for free.)
As the old joke goes, the interactive novel is the ebook of the future, and always will be. Though that is not necessarily true abroad and may be changing here at home.
Because for as long as the "interactive novel" hasn't succeeded in the U.S., the "visual novel" has been huge in Japan, with studios like Key VisualArts becoming major players in manga, anime, feature films, and "light novels."
While manga and anime have carved out profitable niches in Western markets, the visual novel has only recently found a tentative (though growing) foothold. It's another one of those touchstones that encompasses a universe of cultural differences (as usual, the easiest explanation is introverts vs. extroverts).
To better understand what the visual novel is all about, I recommend Rockmandash's Beginner's Guide To Visual Novels.