Is Virtual Reality a Reality For Publishers?

Is virtual reality a reality for publishers?

The New York Times has taken a step into Virtual Reality, giving users a richly immersive experience. Is this the future for the publishing industry?

Virtual Reality is giving audiences the opportunity to be involved in the story instead of merely being a spectator. It’s an exciting time for The New York Times, its audience and the publishing industry as a whole.

Is virtual reality a reality for publishers?

By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard about the new world of virtual reality and augmented reality. But what usually comes to mind is video games and the more visual aspects of our lives and the hobbies that encompass them. It brings images of taking us on some hallucinogenic journey that brings our imaginations to life. What does not come to mind, though, is publishing and the written word. But what if it did? And what if it is already taking small steps to integrate into this new version of reality.

If you think about it, it makes sense that the written word would be taking these strides because in a sense, it’s already dabbled a little. Publishing and books have been slowly but surely making the switch to online and more portable methods. Examples include our beloved kindles, e-readers, newsletters via apps and email newsletters, and so much more. So the jump to virtual reality may not seem realistic at first but correlating it to already more “technologically advanced” methods of reading.

New York Times virtual reality

The biggest turnoff, though, about virtual reality and its associated advances is the equipment currently being utilised. And already a little intimidated by any technological advances that aren’t on a page made of old trees or recycled paper can be a little daunting to an author and their publishing house. Gone soon will be the days of relying solely on our imaginations and what’s inside our heads to bring the pages or screens to life. And bring in the awkward headgear with something more virtual that will actually create the life and world you want to see from the books you’re reading.

So how would this work? The most logical step, it seems, would just be to build off the ebook momentum and bring those to life. There’s been discussion about replacing textbooks with ebooks anyway so incorporating virtual reality with an etextbook just makes sense. It blends learning preferences together for those who learn better by reading and those who learn best by seeing. The biggest problem, though, will be the gawky headgear and just how comfortable it will be to wear while trying to read a book. And then there’s the issue of actually reading. Will the words appear on the screen? Will there be a microphone with a voice in your ear similar to an audio book? There are a lot of questions still needing to be answered that will only come with time and experimentation. And it’s daunting to a publisher because it also means that it will be an additional cost in marketing and creating the actual books. So how much will it cost until it becomes an effective and efficient way to utilise the author’s intentions.

But it makes sense that virtual reality is becoming more noticeably understood as a potential learning too, especially for those with a learning disability or are too distracted by the pages on a book. Publishers are slowly but surely taking this form of advances more and more seriously. And though there is still the pressure that “real books” printed with ink on paper are somehow better, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all to hook up with tech and create something real that we already do when we read. And that’s bringing the pages to life with something called imagination. It’ll be interesting to see where the creators of the industry collaborate with authors and publishers to create something that’s the most magical and effective for a beloved form of storytelling and learning that we’ve used for millennia.

Dana Zillgitt

Having loved the written word as long as she can remember, Dana has written for I Am That Girl, Man of The Hour, and more. She’s far too comfortable on the open road and in airports. And she can be found on Instagram at honey.thyme or on Twitter at hazelnuthyme. She regularly uses one and tries to keep up with the other. If she’s not buried in a book, Dana can be found at the local coffeehouse, planning her next article or book chapter.