New Adventures in E-books

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting…

The infinitely expandable e-book, tailored to your exact desires and requirements.

What, pray tell, is the infinitely expandable e-book?

Let’s see an example. Ever read something like this, from a crime thriller?

“Moments later, Houlihan barrelled around the corner after the hoodlum, and found himself on Bluthe Street¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

Now, this suffices for the ordinary reader perhaps, but not everyone can be fobbed off with a passing mention of the topography. Some of us like a little more scene-setting. Note the little diaeresis (this  ¨  symbol) on the end of ‘Bluthe Street’? It’s a repurposed umlaut as ellipsis (the … symbol). Clicking on this expands the paragraph to the following:

“Moments later, Houlihan barrelled around the corner after the hoodlum, and found himself on Bluthe Street, a broad boulevard with two lanes in either direction and sidewalks thronged with people¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

There, that’s better. But enough info for you? Me neither. I’m going to click on the ¨ again for more:

“Moments later, Houlihan barrelled around the corner after the hoodlum, and found himself on Bluthe Street, a broad boulevard with two lanes in either direction and sidewalks thronged with people. Bluthe Street was over seven hundred yards long, originally constructed in the late nineteenth century as part of irrepressible (and some say corrupt) Mayor Dubarry Skent’s efforts to expand the city towards his brother’s landholdings to the South¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

Hmmm, now I didn’t expect that! Okay, one more click on the ¨ and I’m done, I swear:

“Moments later, Houlihan barrelled around the corner after the hoodlum, and found himself on Bluthe Street, a broad boulevard with two lanes in either direction and sidewalks thronged with people. Bluthe Street was over seven hundred yards long, originally constructed in the late nineteenth century as part of irrepressible (and some say corrupt) Mayor Dubarry Skent’s efforts to expand the city towards his brother’s landholdings to the South. The street itself was named for Mayor Skent’s mistress, Lila Bluthe, a young beauty who was later found dead in the Grand Hotel in suspicious circumstances¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

“Suspicious circumstances”?! Well now, can’t expect me not to read more…

“Moments later, Houlihan barrelled around the corner after the hoodlum, and found himself on Bluthe Street, a broad boulevard with two lanes in either direction and sidewalks thronged with people. Bluthe Street was over seven hundred yards long, originally constructed in the late nineteenth century as part of irrepressible (and some say corrupt) Mayor Dubarry Skent’s efforts to expand the city towards his brother’s landholdings to the South. The street itself was named for Mayor Skent’s mistress, Lila Bluthe, who was later found dead in the Grand Hotel in suspicious circumstances. She was found in the bath, and a bellboy reported seeing the notorious Claude Fink leave the hotel in a hurry around that time¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

Claude Fink?! Who the hell is he?!

“Moments later, Houlihan barrelled around the corner after the hoodlum, and found himself on Bluthe Street, a broad boulevard with two lanes in either direction and sidewalks thronged with people. Bluthe Street was over seven hundred yards long, originally constructed in the late nineteenth century as part of irrepressible (and some say corrupt) Mayor Dubarry Skent’s efforts to expand the city towards his brother’s landholdings to the South. The street itself was named for Mayor Skent’s mistress, Lila Bluthe, who was later found dead in the Grand Hotel in suspicious circumstances. She was found in the bath, and a bellboy reported seeing the notorious Claude Fink leave the hotel in a hurry around that time. Fink was, of course, Skent’s henchman, dispatched to do his dirty work: the suspected murder of Lila Bluthe could be added to the Sewley Twins Disappearance, the explosion at Darley Dancehall, and the infamous Cub Scout Club Clubbing¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

Of course! I just knew he’d be tied up with the nefarious Mayor Skent. By now, we don’t really care about Houlihan and the Petty Crimes Unit… or do we? Maybe if there were more of those fascinating diaereses in his story…

“Moments later¨, Houlihan¨ barrelled around the corner¨ after the hoodlum¨, and found himself¨ on Bluthe Street, a broad boulevard with two lanes in either direction and sidewalks thronged with people. Bluthe Street was over seven hundred yards long, originally constructed in the late nineteenth century as part of irrepressible (and some say corrupt) Mayor Dubarry Skent’s efforts to expand the city towards his brother’s landholdings to the South. The street itself was named for Mayor Skent’s mistress, Lila Bluthe, who was later found dead in the Grand Hotel in suspicious circumstances. She was found in the bath, and a bellboy reported seeing the notorious Claude Fink leave the hotel in a hurry around that time. Fink was, of course, Skent’s henchman, dispatched to do his dirty work: the suspected murder of Lila Bluthe could be added to the Sewley Twins Disappearance, the explosion at Darley Dancehall, and the infamous Cub Scout Club Clubbing¨. Skidding to a halt, Houlihan looked¨ to left and right, but the young criminal had vanished.”

Within the fabric of this one paragraph (perhaps the explosive opening one of the novel), everything can be explained… but only if you want it: Houlihan’s upbringing, his childhood, his guardian angel, the battle to overcome his demons, what are demons, why do demons exist in a world created by a benevolent deity, what motivates Houlihan’s new hardass boss Huckabee, and why does she give him such a hard time.


In fact, in a perfect world, the story could blossom out from a single-line story. One click on our new friend Mr Diaeresis and it’s a cliffhanger paragraph, with loose threads all over the place. Then a synopsis, then an extended one, then a bare-bones thriller, then a doorstopper, then an encyclopaedic tome of a world you never knew existed.

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