Many publishers – pure players or “traditional” publishers – are now exploring the field of digital literatures by producing enhanced e-books aimed at young readers. Whether they are ePub3 e-books or apps for mobile devices, more and more of these digital works are created for commercial purposes and try to settle in the cultural industry market by adapting to the evolution of digital reading.
This new generation of publishers is only now discovering the poetic potential of hypertext narratives and the endless possibilities that derive from the hybridisation of text, image, sound and video. Yet they find themselves facing many obstacles throughout the design process. Psychologically, digital reading is often associated with disorientation, cognitive overload and discontinued ways of reading (as opposed to the immersive reading experience known with printed novels) (Gervais 1999 ; Baccino 2011). Economically, few examples of profitable models exist. Technically, many constraints emerge, on the one hand from the open and standardised ePub format, on the other from the ideology imposed by the software and hardware industry. Bearing these elements in mind, publishers remain reluctant to offer hyperfictions to their readers and prefer investing in “traditional” models inherited from the print (i.e. models that still rely on pages, tables of content and linear reading) as well as fun, educational games, all of which tend to standardise new reading experiences.
The first part of this paper will present the results of an empirical study carried out with a dozen of digital publishers of children's literature (Tréhondart 2013). The study tries to define how publishers conceive hypertext and their expectations and fears towards interactivity: the fear of losing the reader, the belief that animations might be preposterous, etc. It also aims at defining the socio-technical and socio-economic aspects that hold back the development of “commercial” digital literature.
The second part of this presentation will present the creative research project The Tower of Jezik , a hyperfiction for young readers initiated during the 2014 Erasmus program in Digital Literatures held in Madrid. Originally designed for web browsers, this project is being remediated in ePub 3 by one of the author of the article, as part of the Textualités Augmentées research and creation workshop at Paris 8 University. Through the semio-pragmatic (Jeanneret, Souchier 2005) and semio-rhetoric (Saemmer 2013) approaches of the work (design models, hypertext rhetorics, features of reading) and the presentation of its script, we will try to suggest a hyperfiction model that steps away from the standardised models used in the digital publishing industry, while simultaneously exploring the semiotic, cultural and ideological constraints imposed by the ePub 3 format.
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