Wednesday, 28 January 2009


"A story has a beginning, a middle, and a cleanly wrapped-up ending. Whether told around a campfire, read from a book, or played on a DVD, a story goes from point A to B and then C. It follows a trajectory, a Freytag Pyramid—perhaps the line of a human life or the stages of the hero's journey. A story is told by one person or by a creative team to an audience that is usually quiet, even receptive. Or at least that’s what a story used to be, and that’s how a story used to be told. Today, with digital networks and social media, this pattern is changing. Stories now are open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, exploratory, and unpredictable. And they are told in new ways: Web 2.0 storytelling picks up these new types of stories and runs with them, accelerating the pace of creation and participation while revealing new directions for narratives to flow."

Thanks to Bob for passing on the link to WEB 2.0 STORYTELLING: Emergence of a New Genre by Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine, a
long, detailed exploration of all kinds of digital fiction, packed with useful links.

things to do...

Ross Sutherland, part of Aisle 16 who I met in Athens, made this animated poem and has some great ideas for futurepoems too.

kolor kindle kometh...

..according to the Grauniad, but only in the USA?

I found this nice piece of book art on someone's blog and now can't retrace where it came from. Let me know if you recognise it please.

UPDATE: Thanks to Art Tamali for identifying this as Good as Gold, a sculpture by Donald Lipski at the Kansas City Public Library.

Monday, 26 January 2009


the British Council stand at Athens children's book fair

keith gray, emma hayley, sonia leong

sonia's manga workshop

I'm just back from the Athens Children's Bookfair where I was a guest of the British Council, hosted a panel on the Impact of New Media on Teenage Reading, and a round table discussion with publishers, Ministry officials and copyright agencies on the future of the book. I also got to see the Parthenon and hang out with lovely people incuding authors Kevin Brooks and Keith Gray, Manga artist and star Sonia Leong and her award winning publisher Emma Hayley of Self Made Hero, performance poetry boyband/collective Aisle 16. Thanks to all at the British Council for making it all so enjoyable.

google gabble sony secrets

"The eighteenth century imagined the Republic of Letters as a realm with no police, no boundaries, and no inequalities other than those determined by talent. Anyone could join it by exercising the two main attributes of citizenship, writing and reading. Writers formulated ideas, and readers judged them. Thanks to the power of the printed word, the judgments spread in widening circles, and the strongest arguments won.

The word also spread by written letters, for the eighteenth century was a great era of epistolary exchange. Read through the correspondence of Voltaire, Rousseau, Franklin, and Jefferson—each filling about fifty volumes—and you can watch the Republic of Letters in operation. All four writers debated all the issues of their day in a steady stream of letters, which crisscrossed Europe and America in a transatlantic information network."

- from Google & the Future of Books by Robert Darnton in the New York Review of Books, an intelligent piece which comes down against the Google deal. Read on HERE, and see O'Reilly's contrary response HERE .

And go HERE to read Sony Insider on future plans for a new kind of ereader that looks something like THIS:

Contrast - A Sony OLED Reader Concept from Sony Insider on Vimeo.

monday morning

thanks to mdash for using twitter to tell of this lovely animation: Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

reading in colour

Via Mr Furtado, news of coloured e-ink . Now, that would be the breakthrough to make on-screen reading a completely different experience, solving many of the problems raised by Naomi in her article on why the internet may be stunting our engagement with books.

ring ring

Hello? This is if:book. Can you now read books on your mobile?
Yes you can!
But is the reading habit dying?
Yes it is, according to Naomi Alderman in yesterday's Guardian.
And can we revive it?
Yes we can!

"But perhaps technology can offer solutions as well. One bright spot in my reading life recently has been the Golden Notebook Project in which I and six other women writers read and discussed Doris Lessing's novel over several weeks. The social, collaborative nature of the project encouraged me to stick with a classic which, while it is in many ways astonishing, was occasionally so infuriating that I wanted to hurl it across the room. The future of e-Readers may offer more opportunities for this kind of social reading. Or perhaps the global economic apocalypse will encourage more of us to embrace a simpler philosophy and spend our evenings at home with a good book.

But while I hate to side with the neophobes I can't help feeling a little concerned; as the loss of the ancient Greek oral culture shows, ways of thinking and using our brains can disappear for good. Reading initiatives are generally targeted at children, but I think it's time to start encouraging adults to, as it says on the back of Penguin books, Read More. The Greeks may have replaced their oral traditions with Plato and Aristotle but, though I love computer games, I don't feel that trading the reading culture for Guitar Hero is a fair swap."

Monday, 19 January 2009


Nicola Woolcock in the Times today writes:

Schools are failing to make the most of the internet to teach pupils online, according to Ofsted.

The education regulator said that pupils wanted to use computers to access lessons around the clock — even in the middle of the night and on Christmas Day — in its first ever evaluation of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs).

But most schools and colleges are failing to set up comprehensive interactive websites, which can revolutionise education by allowing pupils to catch up on missed classes or giving parents the chance to see what homework has been set.

Read the rest HERE.

i do i have i am

It was great to meet Cory Doctorow again at Bookcamp this saturday. Here's a recent find of his for Boing Boing , part walkman, part audio book, part coat hanger.

A recent picture of my mum, uncle, son and I at son Joe's exhibition Out of The Fold, latest venture of Pat and Trevor. Uncle John introduced me to the work of Saul Steinberg many years ago in New York and I've loved it ever since, so I was delighted that Joe was keen we went together to see the current retrospective of Steinberg's astoundingly inventive fine art doodles, playful visual meditations on identity, journeys, art galleries and much more. The exhibition features a desk as sculpture including hand drawn pencils and a library of wooden books.

nwww mofohob bett floddledob diddlebeed

While I'm documenting recent events, here's a couple of snaps on my new camera from last week's excellent if:book workshop with schools for the New Ways With Words project, all extremely useful and inspiring and much more of which soon. I also spent Friday in the maelstrom of the BETT Exhibition at Olympia where I managed to see a giant walking memory stick and a demo of Microsoft's Surface, a very beautiful cross between an iTouch and a table.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


Pictures from Saturday's BookCamp, a thoroughly enjoyable gathering of booky people geeky people and booky geeky publishy people. I talked too much but learnt lots and met and re-met some fascinating people.

It'll be blogged and documented widely I'm sure but here are some pictures and thoughts from the sessions I attended.

Children's Publishing
Penguin Book Design
Sociable Books
Making a new kind of writing centre for London children
The New Orality

Sessions tended to leap from the specific to the cosmic:
how can public libraries best display and distribute digital fiction - and what is a library for when every laptop offers access to a world of knowledge?
What's the potential for digital children's books - and don't we need a whole new way of measuring the literacy needs of children that includes all media, print and screen, oral and written? Penguin books are producing beautiful print books, collectable art objects - which got me thinking more about other kinds of art objects that could act as souvenirs of reading experiences.

The session on how to design the sociable book was peculiarly inspiring; struggling to find ways to create printed books that replicated the benefits of online reading only led us to realise how many benefits there are. Oh, and the idea of setting up a writing space for children in London, based on Dave Eggar's work in the States, is brilliant. More of all of this soon, meanwhile thanks to James and Jeremy for making Bookcamp happen.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

channeling imagination

At NESTA this morning I heard Andy Duncan, CEO of Channel 4, give what was heralded as a major speech on the creative economy, his attempt to influence the forthcoming Government paper on Digital Britain. I'm not attuned to TV-executive-speak, and there may have been radical messages hidden in his plea for investment in broadband and his resistance to being merged with Channel Five or, even worse, the BBC (commercial and public bodies being, he feels, "like oil and water"), but nothing leapt out at me.

He did talk, of course, about the importance of the creative industries to our national future, citing the excellent Slumdog Millionaire as a current global hit made by Britain in India. He didn't mention that it's based on a novel, and his broad vision of the sector failed to mention our writers and publishers whose produce is often the inspiration for further products in more commercially rewarding media.

We need an Imagination Strategy for the UK which goes beyond territorial battles ad the obsession with platforms before content, and starts with the individual citizen's need for entertainment, education, inspiration and vision, then looks at what's needed to generate the creative stuff that can give them this, and then at the industries, traditional, converging and newly emerging, that we need to support and amplify that work in a global and digital world.

The digitial divide which Andy talked about is as much to do with attitudes as kit.
With or without wireless broadband, how many of which generation and class are confident in using new technology to further their work and play? What mix of education and infrastructure helps our creative minds think freely and playfully across different media platforms to come up with the brilliant ideas that are the real income generators of the future?

Channel 4 are thinking outside some of their boxes, launching their 4iP fund for new media projects and changing the parameters of what TV channels do in a converging world. Can the literature sector open up channels to engage with them about how we promote and inspire the best possible words in the best possible order?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

poetry prizes

Just staggered back from a drunken evening with old friends in Poetryland at the T.S.Eiot prize, won by Shetland-based and Cheshire born Jen Hadfield who was given a cheque for £15,000 for her book Nigh-No-Place. A popular winner, but on the day of saddest news of Mick Imlah who died today of motor neurone disease, critic, once editor of Poetry Review, and a hugely talented poet.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

e-reads i-Wash

Post date 04.01.2008, 2:33 AM

posted by chris meade

The announcement this morning of the launch in the UK of a new waterproof laptop looks like another nail in the coffin of the traditional paper book, as the new device at last makes it possible to read a downloaded electronic fiction while relaxing in a hot bath.

The manufacturers claim that the latest in e-ink technology makes concentrating on a complex text 21% easier on the electronic device than with a conventional paperback. Users can switch between reading on screen (with font-size increasing automatically to aid understanding of complex sentences), listening to an audio recording, and utilising a revolutionary new facility called 'skimread mode' which provides a spoken précis of the gist of more tedious passages from literary classics.

The device is the size of a large paperback, can be read in landscape or portrait format, with or without back-lighting, is fully recyclable and light as a sponge. The i-Wash is launched in the UK on April 1st and will be available in the USA as soon as the economy picks up."

This post appeared on the last year and fooled a few.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

social notworking

A witty if chilling article from The Daily Beast identifies the new social trend of Social Notworking: redundant executives pretending they haven't lost their jobs by keeping up a stream of breathless tweets and blogposts about hectic schedules and proposals in the pipeline. That may be better than taking the train to work then sitting in the park, like they did in the 1980s.


Read Book Oven on good design for the e-book, and Brave New World on the literary forms most likely to thrive and evolve in digital form.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

rounding up golden

The Digitalist includes The Golden Notebook in its round up of good things in 2008 and Bob tells how much the readers enjoyed themselves on the if:book blog usa.

modest proposals

So, here we are in 2009 when gawd knows what will happen to the world, but we can all have a guess.

On the bookfuture front, I reckon that the e-Reader will not yet thrive in credit crushed Britain, but has played a vital role already in convincing the book buying public that reading off screens isn't the end of civilisation as we know it. Trad readers loved the Sony Reader in its moleskine-like leatherette cover, but soon complained about the lack of a back light - having complained about back-lit screen reading till then. The iTouch or one of the new netbook, mini-laptops or even a tablet sized iPhoneything will be what we'll mostly be taking to bed with us to read downloaded books on, which must surely come down in price if reading habits are going to be shifted substantially.

All of which looks good for the multimedia experimentation we're interested in at if:book London where our task is to find some and stimulate more winning examples of new work which exploits new media rather than replicates text in digital form.

I'm still optimistic about the potential for selling such stuff and associated souvenirs of reading on line, though don't anticipate fortunes being made inthecurrentclimate.

And I'm also excited about how the network can be used to help us all through this recession, by providing free or cheap information and imagination to the cash strapped, and keeping channels of communication open to those otherwise disenfranchised by unemployment and the general pressures of scraping a living.

I'd like to float the idea of a designated day, working title Glad Day, where all are encouraged to spend their time in as pleasurable a way as possible while spending no more money than they usually would. It's the antidote to Christmas when we buy others overpriced things they don't quite want. On Glad Day you would cook your favourite food, re-read your favourite novel, re-watch a treasured DVD,stay in bed if that's what you like doing or take a hike with good friends if that's more to your taste. No guilt, no greed, just an emphasis on pleasing yourself, and a celebration also of how the web can help us to find and exchange cheap means to fulfil ourselves.

It ought to take place at the end of Jan when experts tell us the country is at its most depressed. But any otherwise depressing day would do.


Thanks to Sarah Weinman, another Twitterer who passes on a stream of interesting book related articles via tweets and her blog, for pointing out this modest proposal by Julian Gough to remove toxic books from the US reading chain.

"We must implement these new programs with a strategy that allows us to adapt to changing circumstances, and attract the private inspiration which has always made our cultural system so resilient and innovative.

"In these difficult times, leadership — and sacrifice — must start at the top. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and I are agreed it is imperative we take the bad books out of the system, and slowly work our way through these toxic assets. Yes, it will be painful; it will be difficult; but at times like this, the government must step in and perform its duty, as reader of last resort."