James Patterson on his new Facebook Messenger digital book: 'You've never seen anything like it'

  • Best-selling author James Patterson looks to modernize the reading experience with a new digital book, "The Chef," on Facebook Messenger.
  • The prolific writer says he combined film, photography, and text in an effort to give a fresh feel to literature.
  • Publishers need to "experiment and do things that are unusual" to adapt to the tech-focused world, he says.

James Patterson, the prolific writer who holds a record for the most No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, says "you've never seen anything like" the new book he has released for free via Facebook Messenger.

"It's just so different," he said on "Squawk Box" Tuesday morning.

Conceding that "people don't read like they used to," Patterson is making a pitch to bring more attention to books and publishing in a world where booksellers like Borders have closed down and Barnes & Noble look to "rebound" in a tech-focused world.

"I love the idea of combining film and photography and books and text. And we went to Facebook and they said, 'Yeah, we're in,'" Patterson said. "I think they need content, so here we are."

With the digital release of "The Chef" on Tuesday, Patterson takes a stab at modernizing storytelling by adapting to a text- or instant-message format on Facebook Messenger.

The new story, a murder mystery set in New Orleans, offers an "enhanced" novel experience by delivering readers short messages peppered with multi-media including photos, video and audio clips, maps and other interactive content. The additional content is optional for the reader to engage.

"You're reading text then all of the sudden you see film of what you were reading about," much like an online news article accompanied by photos and videos, Patterson said.

Patterson hopes the new digital storytelling format will counter a retail industry that is "in flux because so much is done online."

While the Facebook Messenger version of "The Chef" will be shortened and adapted into a three-hour experience, the 400-page will be released in the traditional print format in February.

"Twenty years from now, who knows, maybe it will all be done online, but for the moment, in this country, we need literature and that can't be done online right now," Patterson said. "So right now, we need publishers that are willing to experiment and do things that are unusual."