Neil Gaiman’s latest book, Fortunately The Milk is a rollocking tale of high adventure, time travel and milk. The enhanced iBooks edition is even better, and proves that you can get eBooks incredibly right. Note: No spoilers ahead. I’m being good with this one.
Fortunately The Milk Enhanced Edition: On the plus side
I really, seriously don’t want to spoil Fortunately The Milk. I’m reliably informed that when milk goes off, it smells bad, but that aside, Neil Gaiman’s latest tome — which, strictly speaking is a young person’s book, but then I’m something of a child at heart — is full of surprises, jokes and an awful lot of just being plain silly.
Also it contains milk, but I’d better stop there or I will spoil something. I’d hate to do that.
What I will talk about is what Gaiman (and publishers Bloomsbury) have done with the iBooks edition. Electronic versions of books often get a bad rap for being poor value; sometimes they’re not well laid out, often they’re identically priced to physical versions of books despite having less in the way of ownership rights… and so on.
It may not be fair — there are some costs involved in a digital book, although whether they’re identical to print is a tricky argument — but it’s undeniably a common complaint.
Fortunately The Milk Enhanced Edition beautifully sidesteps those kinds of limitations by making the eBook edition significantly richer, taking advantage of what you can do in an eBook that simply isn’t possible in print.
I was fortunate enough to attend a talk Neil gave at the Sydney Writer’s Festival earlier this year where he read the opening sections of Fortunately The Milk, but he’s gone one better here, reading the whole thing. So what you get is essentially the book — plus the audiobook to boot.
It doesn’t stop there. There are also video sections that show Gaiman reading, or artist Chris Riddell’s drawing the legendary NAME REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS to enjoy.
I love print with a passion, but you can’t embed video into print without delivering terribly heavy books that require batteries. We already have those — they’re called tablets.
The line art is particularly silly and wonderful, and being able to zoom in and out of it is genuinely enjoyable.
Fortunately The Milk Enhanced Edition: On the minus side
There’s this one bit where…
I will not spoil this book. Honestly, as well, I’m making it up; there’s really very little to complain about. I guess I should point out that it’s not terribly long, so if you were expecting American Gods 2, you’ll whip through it no time flat. But you’ll have lots of fun doing so.
There doesn’t seem to be an Android version that I can spot just yet; is that a techy enough complaint to make?
Fortunately The Milk Enhanced Edition: Pricing
Fortunately The Milk Enhanced Edition costs $14.99, which means it’s on par (or slightly cheaper) than the print edition, depending on where you might order it from.
Fortunately The Milk Enhanced Edition: Fat Duck Verdict
You can see this one coming, right? Buy it. Buy it because it’s good clean silly fun, but moreover, buy it because it’s exactly what should be happening with eBooks.
You might not get the crinkle of pages — and in all honesty the odds that I’ll buy a print edition of this particular book are exceptionally high — but you get a lot of additional content that enhances the experience in just the right way.