Archive for the ‘Literature’ category

We tell stories

April 30, 2008

I mentioned in my last post that Bit Torrent was awash with eBooks among the music and videos. Authors have dabbled with the Web as a medium for their work before – Stephen King famously released a book one chapter at a time and even that was pirated.

We hear repeatedly how the music industry must add value to digital product to make it attractive to buy rather than download. Well enter Penguin with an example of how to add value to books in the form of digital fiction. Experimental maybe, but a bold move nonetheless.

The Penguin experiment, called We Tell Stories, involved six authors writing a work inspired by a classic piece of literature and the work being delivered to the reader via the Web. All six stories were constructed differently and the result was a bold staarting point for these new evolutions for narrative.

The 21 Steps was written as short bursts of text with the action unfolding over a Google map. The writing was not great but the map was a nice idea and I liked the sense of motion it induced. WHen I read it there were a few technical issues like the map not displaying for some areads but you could get a sense of the possiblity or representing environment and movement.

I really enjoyed Slice. It was short, mysterious and very well executed. I was drawn in quickly by the authenticity of the child’s blog. The flickr photos were a nice touch and more spooky cos I live in one of the areas depicted. Simple, short and sweet.

Fairy Tales was a perhaps the weakest idea. It reminded me of then books we had  at school which allowed the reader to choose routes through the story – e.g. If you want to fight the dragon turn to page 30, if you want to run away turn to page 45.

Your place and mine was simple enough in form but with a nice twist at the end. I wish I had read it as it was being written at 6:30 each evening. It would have added a vibrancy to a narrative I found compelling even reading it after the event.

I thought Hard Times was a bit more of a literary joke than anything with it’s endless lists of facts, like those so beloved of the character in the Dickens novel. Strickingly presented but not memorable.

The (former) General was suggestive of potential – again in the form of offering the user the option to do this or that. With more depth it might have convinvced me. The writing was in places evocative and engaging but the narrative didn’t really go anywhere – perhaps I made poor user choices.

Anyway the reason I write about this is because in addition to questions of new narrative form you can also see some of the potential open to publishers/writers to counter the piracy of literature. A worthy experiment and I will be looking out for more.