Evocative literature transports readers to another world, to another time. As they flip pages, the mind conjures the sights and sounds contained within. Readers of And the Mountains Echoed from Khaled Hosseini, however, are given an aural and visual assist with “The Echo Project.” Created for Penguin Books, the experience is an interactive companion to the book, offering video, audio and photographic content for every page of the book based on suggestions from fans.
Rather than focusing simply on the launch, creative agency Dare suggested a longer play. “We recommended that Penguin focus on the soft copy launch,” says André Louis, director of planning at Dare. The strategy was to get Hosseini fans to influence those who buy a few books a year. “In essence, we’ve created a value exchange: avids get to co-create and live a more immersive book experience; casual readers get the ‘DVDextras’ that go along with the paperback.”
With 402 pages of potential content, Dare had to build something that could handle unexpected suggestions from readers. “ We read and re-read to understand its themes, and recurring imagery,” says Craig Ferguson, art director at Dare, noting it was built in HTML5 so that it could be supported on tablet, desktop and mobile devices. “For some pages, we could feel Hosseini’s intent with a dramatic line or vivid scene. Other times we would have a collective question mark about a piece of Persian culture, geography or mythology that we felt others might have and that would dictate our direction.”
Ian Barr, Dare’s VP social and innovation, says the project was also a way to keep the book fresh in the months before the paperback was released. After the hard copy came out, celebrity contributors—which included CBC personalities Jian Ghomeshi (Q) and author Will Ferguson (419, Happiness)—made their page suggestions.
“With each new influencer and as key milestones are hit, it gives Penguin a reason to communicate with the media and its channel partners. Our execution has turned what would normally have been a two month launch into a year’s worth of topical, and interesting content connections.”
FLEXIBILITY WAS KEY
Most of the pages were created by Dare with reader suggestions receive4d through the Echo Project site. “We weren’t sure what type of content our external contributors would want to bring to life,” says Chris Obergfell, associate CD at Dare. “Some had very specific ideas about what the page should be or what they saw in their minds, and some chose a page but left it completely open for us to develop on their behalf,” adds Ferguson. “In a few extraordinary cases, a contributor gave us a finished, interactive page, built to spec, ready to be dropped in place.”