read:write - an autumn provocation

READ:WRITE, if:book's research report for Arts Council England into the digital possibilities for literature suggests that those organisations funded to promote books and reading need to seize the time now that so many digital means arise to reach out to new writers and readers.

Literature development agencies came into existence to open up access to books for those who felt excluded from them. Now the web opens up extraordinary opportunities to reach new communities and encourage participation. Meanwhile too many still think of their website as a static electronic leaflet for their 'real' work, assume new media is something only of interest to 'yoof', a means to cajole those who don't like books at all really to at least take a peek at them, and are not aware enough of the explosion of web-based activity which intersects with theirs. Having in the past sought public subsidy to open up the canon to new readers and writers, new arguments are needed to secure future funding now that everyone can publish their words and download the (out of copyright) classics for free from their laptops.

Meanwhile those who work for literature organisations have the skills potentially to be fantastic curators, bringing together makers and consumers of literature and recording their conversations in ways that are compelling and inspiring. Festivals, writers' residencies and community projects can capture their work and the activity around it to create new kinds of artworks for digital times.

READ:WRITE includes plenty of exciting examples of good things going on, but poses challenging questions too. if:book believes this urgently needs debate, wants to see a flexible and effective means to provide training, and a strong network to give support and advice to organisations grappling with the practical, technical and personal issues that arise as organisations try to embed the web at the heart of their practice. Tell us what you think.


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