The online world is a wonderful maze of distractions, and consumers could be forgiven for allowing their attention to wander from whatever it was they picked up their tablets and smartphones to do in the first place. But multi-million selling author James Patterson decided he wasn’t going to let anything divert readers’ eyes from his latest novel Private Vegas. Over the last five days, Patterson has released 1000 advance digital copies of the thriller, dubbed the self-destructing book, complete with a 24-hour digital timer: when the time runs out, the book vanishes. Each page, once swiped to left, disappears, and readers have been encouraged to race each other, comparing their progress on a website. The idea is to force the reader into a concentrated and intense reading experience.
Traditional publishing is certainly suffering in the age of the internet but we have recently seen numerous enterprising attempts to bypass the modern reader’s short attention span. From vanishing ink to interactive reading experiences and a smart bookmark which lets authors tweet readers who have neglected their book, publishing houses and writers are using the very technology which could threaten them, to re-enage readers.
Patterson was inspired by the drama and gimmickry of movie marketing and approached creative agency Mother in search of an inventive stunt. As well as the “limited edition” vanishing novels, one physical self-destructing book is for sale for USD 294,038 — although this price includes flights to a secret location, two nights in a luxury hotel and a five course dinner with the author.
The self-destructing book, though undeniably a publicity stunt, can remind consumers how fulfilling it is to immerse themselves in just one thing. Are there other ways that traditional media can manipulate their formats to hold consumers’ attention?