Publishers open up their digital portals

When it comes to video marketing and connecting with readers online, innovation takes myriad forms. Here's what some publishers and booksellers are rolling out:

At Random House, publishers produced four "webisodes" telling an original, live-action story that bridges the time from the end of one Dean Koontz "Odd Thomas" book to the next. More such videos are planned, possibly for other, less well-known authors.

Penguin joined forces with media mogul Michael Eisner to produce a 50-episode online "prequel" to promote sales of Robin Cook's new medical thriller "Foreign Body."

The publisher is also issuing e-book versions of classic novels that will include added, interactive features -- like scholarly commentaries and illustrated essays, similar to a special edition DVD.

Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest book chain, has created an online "studio" with more than 1,000 author videos, making it one of the largest such online sites. The goal is to link the ambience of a bookstore -- including author appearances, musical performances and other events -- with desktops and mobile devices.

Simon & Schuster and Ball State University in Indiana have launched a "Virtual Author" series, bringing the publisher's authors into more than 30,000 schools through live, interactive Web broadcasts with students and teachers.

The publisher is also partnering with CBS Outernet to broadcast author videos on a network reaching groceries, pharmacies and doctors' waiting rooms.

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