This is a term Pinwheel has never written about before: Transmedia.
image credit: mentorless
The phrase was very popular, especially in the the Digital Zone, at BookExpoAmerica this year. I wondered why I hadn’t heard the term used more often? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. At one of the panel discussions on The Future of Children’s Books, one of the speakers talked about her discovery of the term. Now the CEO of Atlantyca, she first thought of the many fields of publishing multimedia.
But transmedia is something entirely different.
It was defined at BEA as:
“A process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematiclly across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience” – Henry Jenkins, Confession of an ACA fan, 2011
As publishers, this means we need to create stories that unfold using a variety of media. Using the flow of digital media, we must tell our stories over a multitude of platforms. That is, a single story, not adaptations or sequels to it. Our content should be linked together, yet still be unique and new. It’s as if each platform tells a chapter of the story (although the degree of difference can be slight), and is in sync with the rest.
Henry Jenkins is the go-to for learning about what Transmedia means. He uncovers the myths about Transmedia in an article here, one of the big myths being that this term applies to Video Games or Computer Games. That may be the case, but that doesn’t mean that publishing can learn from it too. When transforming a print book to an enhanced book app, some things can be lost in translation. The ‘bells and whistles’ that publishers add to apps may enhance the book, but are they ‘adding’ to the narrative experience?
Publishing Perspectives posted an article on this terminology back in December. In terms of applying it to the book world, Javier Celaya writes:
In other words, each platform allows the author to tell the story in a different way. It is not a matter of adding extras (videos, podcasts, etc.), as occurs in enhanced books. Each format is part of the story and provides a different experience.
We have a demand for transmedia given our use of digital technology – tablets, phones, etc.. and the fact that we are always wanting more information. Video games use transmedia well because the formula was in place: there was a game, a platform for the game, and then a community based around the game. Now, the platform for the game is in our hands at all times, making the need for the community (for publishers, the additional chapters of storytelling) that much more necessary for our product.
There is a high degree of uncertainty as to the return-of-investment on transmedia projects. However, this uncertainty should not prevent publishers from remembering that part of their responsibility is to assess the risks and opportunities offered by the market and to innovate. If publishers do not assume an attitude of innovation through experimentation, authors will seek support from players outside of the sector.
We must not forget that it is possible to carry out transmedia projects in the book world without incurring high production costs.