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The Pillars of the Earth

Starz, Penguin launch TV-book tie-up

Penguin Group is debuting what it is calling the Amplified Edition of Ken Follett’s international bestseller, The Pillars of the Earth – a multimedia e-book app offering extensive video, audio and other graphic content, created in conjunction with Starz Entertainment’s production of an original 8 hour TV-mini-series based on the book and set to broadcast beginning July 23. Designed to run on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, the amplified edition of The Pillars of the Earth will be available on July 20 and offer everything from video footage taken directly from the TV series to a behind-the-scenes multimedia diary by Follett about the creation of the mini-series.

The Pillars of the Earth Amplified Edition takes the notion of enhanced e-books to a new level, offering readers a digital version of the prose novel enriched with short video clips from the 8-part TV show as well as longer video diary entries by Follett and a “making of” short feature on the TV series. But the video content offered in the Amplified Edition at the beginning of the series will grow by the time the TV series ends, said Molly Barton, Penguin Group director of business development. Thanks to the partnership with Starz, the Amplied Edition app of The Pillars of the Earth will be updated on a weekly basis with new scenes and text-embedded video clips from the TV mini-series as each episode airs. Readers can go online and download updates immediately after each episode.

Barton said the house has been thinking about adding this kind of in-depth of rich media for awhile, but the launch of the iPad – and its high performance multimedia functionality – made the app, as well as the partnership with Starz, possible. Barton said the house will also look to create Amplified Editions around other Penguin authors, although no other projects were announced. “The Amplified Edition is the next step in Penguin Group USA’s ongoing efforts to take advantage of new technology to bring writers to readers in ways they have never experienced before”, Barton said, adding that the company believes Amplified Editions will work across a range of Tablet devices.

The Pillars of Earth Amplified Edition will be sold as an app through the App Store (and not through the iBookstore) for the iPad/iPhone/iPod for $12.99 (the regular e-book is $7.99 and the mass market edition is $9.99). It will launch with 69 videos (including 11 video clip scenes from the mini-series embedded in the text) and grow to about 88 videos by the end of the series. By the time the TV series is done the Amplified Edition will have added 6 more text-embedded video clips from the TV-show in addition to extensive video content on the making of the TV series (featuring Follett as well as the TV-series director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan and the actors), a trailer, 56 behind-the-scene video clips, 34 still photographs, 7 musical tracks (the Listening Lounge will offer music from the series) and more.

Indeed the app also features an interactive character tree that provides more information about the characters as the reader moves farther along in the book. The app will also feature a wealth of sketches and costume designs, photo stills taken during the film’s production, set sketches and voiceovers from the series. There’s even a sneak preview of Ken Follett’s next novel, Fall of Giants, due for release in the fall.

Ferrell McDonald, senior v-p, marketing for Starz, said “this application will be a model for such cross-media partnerships and is a terrific showcase for the more than 3 million iPad users in the marketplace.”

Calvin Reid, Publishers Weekly, 20 July 2010