Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Time for the Sony Reader, which can be pre-ordered from Waterstones from this week. Much as I'm keen to get my hands on one, it's hard to get too excited about a thing that's only like the drabbest paperback book but lighter. I want sound, colour, links, movies to intermingle with the text, and the means to comment on what I read. I gather full colour e-ink is on its way. The breakthrough is that these devices may convince readers that there's no reason why literature should be wedded to paper, and will open the way to more exciting interminglings to come.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Shift Happens

I heard good reports of the Shift Happens conference in York in July, which looked at the impact of web-2.0-type-stuff on all kinds of arts organisations.
Its namesake is this Social Media for Beginners channel, which encapsulates some essential Web 2.0 messages with just a bit of glibness.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

song book

I'd forgotten about it until I came across this classic Costello song, but at a conference on literature promotion a year or so ago, we had a late night session in the bar wracking our brains for pop songs containing book references.
It seemed surprising that lyricists so seldom refer to literature, let alone engaged in cross art, transliterate creative projects.

For the rest of the event we swapped titles day and night. As I try to encourage more readers to this blog and more readers of this blog to leave comments, let me put out a request for more of these:

"Kind of like Verlaine and Rimbaud" - Bob Dylan, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome
"Who (who) who wrote the book of love?"
"Please sir or madam will you read my book, it took me years to write won't you take a look." - Beatles, Paperback Writer
""Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov" - The Police, Don't Stand so Close to Me.
"He's reading Balzac, knocking back prozac" - Blur, Country House
and of course "Everyday I Write the Book" - Elvis Costello
"Oh, Heathcliff!" - Kate Bush, Wuthering Heights

Thanks to Prof Ronald Soetaert, Michael Cross and others for these.
Any more? Extra points given for digital book references.

iTouched eStoried eNcouraged

I was lying in bed at 5 am this morning playing with my iTouch (as you do), downloaded a new tuner application (because you can now) and found myself listening to the BBC World Service, which then turned into KQED Radio, coming to me live from the West Coast of the USA, which by chance was holding a phone in on the decline in sales of short stories and their cultural importance, with guests including the editor of Narrative magazine. Topics covered included writing on the web and Kindle-like devices.

Yesterday saw the announcement of the winner of the BBC Short Story Award, set up with Booktrust a few years ago and linked to the Story campaign to promote short fiction in general, with coverage again linked to its status as an endangered species of literature.

Short fiction should have a great future in the age of digital plenty and attention scarcity, but research shows most readers want big books not little fictions when they do get stuck into reading. Will this change when readers can order up their own personalised anthologies to download to their e-reader or get printed on demand?

I also discovered this morning that Apple have fixed a glitch that makes an experiment of mine in online storytelling work on the iTouch too, where you can pinch, pull and skate your way across a text, putting tactility into screenreading.

At the Tim Berners-Lee event, the CEO of NESTA quoted the wonderful story of the memo sent to Surtim by his then boss when he first floated the idea that became the World Wide Web. The memo said: "Vague but interesting", whereas if it had said, "Interesting but vague", the idea could have been dead in the water.

It's an excellent example of the difference between organisations that encourage risk taking and creativity, and those that like to think they do.

This September I'm appearing at the excellent and risk taking Small Wonder festival in Charleston, East Sussex, to discuss such matters with Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan and novelists Kate Pullinger and Naomi Alderman.

Friday, 11 July 2008

giants of the web

I went to hear Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, at NESTA this week. It was amazing to be in the presence of genius, and so close to the presence of Bill Thompson, pundit of the BBC's Digital Planet, sat in front of me.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

golden notebook

In October 2008, we are launching a world-wide, interactive reading group for Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook.

We will be presenting the book, in its entirety, online, and inviting the web to read it. A group of selected readers will annotate the text as they go, and everybody will be invited to join the discussion in our forums.

To keep in touch with this project, a collaboration with Apt Studio and Arts Council England,
register here.

futurewrite at the arvon foundation

Collaborate on scripting a piece of new media literature – interactive, multimedia, transliterate – and a riveting read. We'll look at blogs, podcasts, games and animations, see the best of what's creative on the web, clear our heads of technophobia and make something special together.

Tutors: Kate Pullinger & Chris Meade
Sepcial guest: Chris Joseph

Start Date:
Monday, 17th November 2008

End Date:
Saturday, 22nd November 2008

At: Lumb Bank - The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre
Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge
West Yorkshire

To book a place go to