Melville House Goes Hybrid with Novellas by Chekov, Conrad

Indie publisher Melville House announced today that it is publishing what it’s calling HybridBooks, “an innovative publishing program that gives print books the features of enhanced eBooks.”

The idea is that users can aim their magic phones at one of those barcode thingies (known as a Quick Response or QR) on the back of a print book to access supplemental material that the publisher is calling “illuminations.” Purchasers of the electronic books will have access to the extras within their digital copies.

“For example, The Illumination for the HybridBook version of Anton Chekhov’s The Duel contains an essay on dueling by Thomas Paine, poems by Lord Byron, philosophy by Nietzsche, an anti-dueling church sermon, an argument in favor of dueling by a U.S. Senator, and the rules to the game of vint—a game that plays a role in the plot,” said Dennis Johnson, the publisher of Melville House, in a statement. “In the Illumination for Giacomo Casanova’s The Duel you’ll find a comic essay by Mark Twain on French dueling and an account of a famous duel fought from hot air balloons. And there’s so much more—maps, cartoons, recipes, photographs, paintings—to enhance the reader’s experience.”

They are launching the project with a series called The Duels X5, which includes five different novellas entitled The Duel by Anton Chekhov, Joseph Conrad, Giacomo Casanova, Heinrich von Kleist and Alexander Kuprin. More books will follow in the future, including the bestselling title in Melville House’s Art of the Novella Series, Bartleby the Scrivener, by the publisher’s namesake. Bartleby will include letters Melville wrote about what philosophy he was reading, a critical review of the novella by Alexis de Tocqueville, maps of Wall Street from that time and even a recipe for ginger nuts (which turned out to be a way for bakers to use their moldy scrap material by covering everything with the flavor of ginger.)

“One of our employees was really inspired and brought all this material together,” said Mr. Johnson. “I’m very lucky I have several geniuses working for me right now.”

Melville House has also started offering indie bookstores a QR program so that if a customer is in a bookstore and wants the electronic version of a book, they will be able to purchase it directly from the bookstore by scanning with their phones.

Welcome to the future! Melville House Goes Hybrid with Novellas by Chekov, Conrad