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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

The NetCapsule

Picture this — once upon a time we had print books with print references to print resources. Now in non fiction for younger readers we most often have print books with print references to both print and online resources. In my last post, and Linda’s responses, I’ve explored the idea of having a dedicated website so the interested reader could more easily make use of those online links and connections. But think the next possible stage: what if the resource website were a kind of Net-Exploration-Capsule that would take you to a curated selection of places where you could experience, not just read about, whatever the author had written about? For example — watch Youtube clips, hear music, play games, zoom in and out of Google Earth topographies. These would not necessarily be the sources the author used, but rather other ways of being immersed in aspects of the story the author tells on the page. This is a musuem as a ride — a journey — an experience of the riches of the net, as selected and provided by the author — who has come to learn about all of these cool places because s/he came upon them while working on the book.

Of course other capacities could be added in to the NetCapsule — a Skype room where you could meet the author or other experts willing to share their time, a BlackBoard space for comments and interactions — all depending on time, availability, price. The larger idea here is shifting from notes and citations as proof of effort by the author to notes and citations as being markers of a journey the author is sharing with readers — and providing, as much as possible, ways for the book reader to experience as a net voyager. To go perhaps a bit crazy in imagery, citations were at one time a safety net — they grounded your narrative in the set of sources you explored to create it. But now they can be the other meaning of net — the web of connections surrounding the text.

I’ve said this before — but what if an author teamed up with a librarian, or a class, so that as the author writes this ally helped to create the web capsule — and in exchange the author shared his/her research and process with the school or library. So what would emerge at publication would be the regular book to be evaluated as always, and the live netcapsule created to provide parallel experiences to net voyagers. The author would not be judged for something s/he did not create — but any review could tell people where to find this tool.


  1. There are other issues to consider. Who is responsible for the design, development, and maintenance of a website, author or publisher? Most authors are concerned with churning out books and may not want to be bothered creating a website as you have done for your book. They also may not have the skills. Publishers are often small overworked operations and they may not have the manpower for the task.

    Additionally, profitability is another concern. Why take the time and effort to develop something that is online for everyone to access if it takes time away from something else and doesn’t help bottom line profits? Would readers skip purchasing the book if there was a website they could access for free? The best way I can think of to do this would be to register users by having them enter userids and passwords. There was some toy (beanies?) that used this technique to get kids to go online and play games…. Of course I don’t remember what it was/is. Also, in the case of a series of books on a subject, the website could have a first screen showing all the books by title in hopes of captivating the viewer’s interest in other books. Maybe the website could frequently reference the page number of the book or something so there would be a need to have the physical book.

  2. I love your idea, Marc. Many writers have elaborate, multimedia websites and could create such a capsule themselves. (I’m not one of them.) I think this would be a great thing for publishers to develop. Authors provide the research material, publishers maintain the website. On second thought, they might not want to use material that competed with their lists. So your idea of an independent research tool/website is perhaps the ideal, if you can figure out how to get the money to create and maintain it!

  3. Here’s a website about registering beanies:
    Maybe publishers can register book buyers…somehow. As for maintenance, it might be nice if the users of the website were responsible for notifying the webmaster if something was out of date. Of course you could get silly emails, but it would save someone the time of rifling through all the links making sure they were in working order.

  4. Marc Aronson says:

    I honestly don’t think the publishers would see this tool as competing with this lists — it is a parallel enhancement, and they are all thinking about what are called “ehanced e-books,” which are all the rage in adult publishing. For the moment, it is entirely up to us (and perhaps any friendly, motivated, librarians/teachers/students) to create these sites.

  5. Marc Aronson says:

    I actually don’t think this kind of site would require registration or bar code entyr — it is a free extra, created with our sweat equity, I just don’t see it as competing with books but rather as a nice extra that makes a book more valuable.