the notebook continues

There's still time to join the Institute for the Future of the Book's online reading group, a collaboration with Apt Studio. Read this article by Graeme Allister from The Guardian to find out more, and then go to

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Doris Lessing's Golden Notebook 2.0

The Nobel laureate's classic novel is the focus of an exciting new web project.
Given that Doris Lessing used her Nobel literature prize speech to rail against the inanities of the internet, it's unexpected to find her at the centre of an intriguing online project. Her classic novel, The Golden Notebook, has been made available as part of an "open, free, worldwide re-reading of the book, lead in public by great readers and writers of the current generation".

Simply put, it's a website which offers a page of Lessing's book on one side, and some critical analysis and insight on the other. These comments come from seven "invited readers" including author Helen Oyeyemi and Guardian contributor Naomi Alderman (none of the invited are men). Their comments are by turns chatty, informative, intelligent and tangential and provide a jumping-off point for the rest of us to have our say, with discussions continuing in the website's forum. It's all pretty easy to use, with corresponding page numbers from British and American editions for those who want to physically read the book.

A unique concept, floating somewhere between Project Gutenberg and a book group, it's the brainchild of Bob Stein, director of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and brought to life by design agency Apt. If you don't know, Stein is geek royalty (or a "a pain-in-the-ass Maoist", depending who you ask) who founded Voyager, the first CD-ROM publisher, as well as the Criterion Collection, famed for its authoritative editions of classic films on DVD. He describes his Institute as a "little thinktank that tries to understand (and hopefully influence) the ways in which intellectual discourse is changing as it moves off the printed page".

This is fuelled by a passion for literature; as much as Stein wants to change how we read, he also just wants us to read and felt that a book as good as The Golden Notebook wasn't getting the attention and readership it deserved. It's often considered a difficult book, tedious and overlong, making it a good choice for this experiment (as those responsible humbly call it), in terms of both prompting discussion and aiding understanding.

Having only launched at the start of the week, it's too early to judge its success but certainly it looks promising. It combines the collaborative and social elements of web 2.0 and, though the complexity of The Golden Notebook makes it a perfect fit, it could easily be used for other books, from book club favourites to classics (the latter having the advantage of being royalty-free).

If nothing else, discussing The Golden Notebook will put you in good company; this week Barack Obama selected the novel as one of his favourites."


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