There’s one big question you need to ask when presented with the technological enhancement of an art form: “Is it Smell-O-Vision?” Remember Smell-O-Vision? No? Well, that’s my point. This revolution in cinema was based on the idea that the experience would be more immersive if, say, a love scene was accompanied by the scent of roses being pumped through the theatre’s air-conditioning; or that when the zombies showed up, the theatre would be alive with rotting haddock. Everyone hated it, of course. They emerged from cinemas smelling of fishy roses.

Likewise, there was a time around the middle of the last century when the world was briefly convinced 3D was the future of cinema. Red and blue spectacles, it was imagined, would be routinely employed to watch a film. Flat projection would be a historical curio. In the event, of course, the 3D craze gave us the nadir of the Jaws franchise and a short-lived comic strip called Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters.

Which brings us to Enhanced Editions, a new e-book project cooked up by Peter Collingridge of the digital design company Apt Studio, currently working in partnership with Canongate. Later this month, Nick Cave’s new novel The Death of Bunny Munro – the story of a sex-maniac travelling salesman taking his last road trip – goes to market through the iPhone App Store, in an enhanced edition that is being launched before the print version.

The Enhanced Edition does some of the things we’re now accustomed to seeing as standard in electronic texts: you can faff with fonts, change colour, bookmark it, and so on; and there’s some smart social networking stuff attached. But it also includes enhancements that could have a noticeable effect on the experience of reading. Instead of paginating the book conventionally, it’s presented as a continuous vertical scroll (one geek-pleasing trick is that you can adjust the scrolling speed with the angle of tilt of the phone), and the App includes an audiobook that syncs with the written text. Pop on the headphones, thumb the screen and Cave’s voice picks up where you left off.

This is interesting. It could be regarded as a gimmick, but if it catches on, it will subtly change the way we experience fiction. If you half-read, half-listen to a book, your experience of reading will partly be shaped by the voice of the audiobook; your memories of the text will be coloured by how you took it in, passage by passage. The other thing is that it comes with a soundtrack, composed by Cave and Warren Ellis, one of his Bad Seeds. Soundtracked novels: now that really will change the experience. Could the soundtracked novel be to fiction what song is to verse? Or could it be what Smell-O-Vision was to cinema? Inevitably, some authors – like Cave – will be more suitable for the treatment than others. I can’t see a huge market for an iPhone edition of Hotel du Lac, with Anita Brookner improvising scat jazz accompanied by a steel band.

So, some whiffs of roses and haddock. But the breadth of the package, it seems to me, is at the very least a weathervane. There’s no ignoring the fact that the e-book will, not too far from now, compete with the paperback; and the likelihood is that some readers won’t just use them to read. It’s a longstanding truism to say that every reader reads a different book. As more packages like this find their way to market, the book itself, as well as its readings, will become more plural, more blurred, and less monolithically booky. Smells good to me.

Sam Leith