You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2008.

Last year I read Spook Country by William Gibson. It was, as usual, a great pleasure. I remember Gibson saying in an interview at the time that “every text today has a kind of spectral quasi-hypertext surrounding it… all of the Googled information that found its way into the book but which isn’t available to the reader as a literal hypertext unless you’re willing to be the animator of the hypertext process and Google each term that’s distinctive and new.”

“It’s curious. When I published ‘Pattern Recognition’ ” — his previous book, which was also set in the recent past and achieved mainstream success — “within a few months there was someone who started a Web site. People were compiling Googled references to every term and every place in the book. It has photographs of just about every locale in the book — a massive site that was compiled by volunteer effort. But it took a couple of years to come together. With ‘Spook Country,’ the same thing was up on the Web before the book was published.” Somebody got an advance reader copy, and instantly put up a site for his fictional Node magazine.

Blogs and social media are already making this spectral hypertext less quasi and more actual. But as Gibson predicted, other text was destined to follow.

Today, Harlequin US launched Enriched Edition e-books, acknowledging that books are (and always have been) extensible. The text of enriched edtions will be embedded with links to additional information about the content. (As a cute aside, you’ve gotta love Harlequin’s quaint usage of terms like ‘interactive buttons’ and ‘hyperlinks’ in their media release)

The launch title, UNMASKED by Nicola Cornick, a Regency-set historical available from www.eBooks.eHarlequin.com, has been enriched with interactive buttons that hyperlink to Web sites containing photos, historical commentaries, illustrations, sound effects, maps, articles and more, bringing the world of the novel to life without the reader having to leave the computer or the current screen page. The interactive buttons have been designed to be unobtrusive, so if one prefers not to access the bonus material, the reading experience remains uninterrupted. Link

Bookseller.com reports the new Warwick Prize for Writing.

The Warwick Prize for Writing will be awarded biennially for a piece of 
writing in the English language. Genres and form can range from the
 traditional book to blogs, graphic novels or scientific theses. Organisers
 aim to make it an international award, with a different theme every year. 
Next year’s will be “complexity”.

Very cool, not least because the marvellous China Mieville is heading up the judging panel. I look forward to seeing what the first round of nominations yields.

Whenever futurists or commentators talk about the future of books and the publishing industry they tend to focus on publishers, and how their industry is changing. Naturally, I’m more interested in writers and how the landscape is being changed around and by them.

There always seems to be a bullish optimism about future opportunities for writers, especially those who can adapt the way they think and act about storytelling. I share this optimism, but I’ve yet to see any tangible, viable suggestions for how such storytellers will be able to support themselves financially via the marketplace. I’m confident business models will emerge – they always do – but I’m impatient and I don’t have anything other than Yoda-like assurances to offer my members when they ask me how authors are going to get paid in the future.

Patrick Tucker doesn’t provide the answer in his article The 21st Century Writer. Nevertheless, his analysis and historical perspective is incisive and explains why authors should be engaged and proactive.

For people who make their living selling words to readers—and indeed for readers themselves—these are times of upheaval. The information technology revolution has led to an explosion in textual content. More people are engaging in more conversations, sharing more opinions, learning more, and learning faster than anyone could have imagined just a few decades ago. The site Blogherald.com counted more than 100 million blogs as of October 2005. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 93% of U.S. teens aged 12–17 used the Internet in 2006; among them, 64% have created content, up from 57% in 2004. We’ve entered an era where the acts of thinking, writing, and to a certain extent publishing are indistinguishable, and where charging money for editorial content is becoming an ever trickier proposition.

This is the best article I’ve read so far this year. Hands down.

Hey neato! I was just on the Tools of Change blog and realised that they’ve now released a series of DVDs aimed at publishers needing to develop knoweldge and understanding of the future of publishing.

The set includes four DVDs covering:

  • digitising your backlist
  • making mobile work
  • XML for publishers
  • search engine optimisation for publishers

They’re a little pricey for me to get the whole set but then I’m not really the target audience. However, I’d love to see some additional topics covered, particularly marketing and promotion (the DVD on search would delve into this a little bit). I also wonder how a similar offering might be targeted at authors and self-publishers.