Tuesday, 15 July 2008

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.

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