Wednesday, 30 September 2009

clerkenwell tales

Poet John Hegley outside the Marx Library, one stop on a walking tour around Clerkenwell this lunchtime, organised by the Arvon Foundation as part of the opening festival of the Free Word centre, of which if:book is now an associate.
cartoon by Toni Le Busque

According to the Bookseller, a survey by the Frankfurt Book Fair on how e-books should be priced has proved very inconclusive.

Here are the findings.

The price for an e-book should be:

More expensive than the printed book: 4%
As expensive as the printed book 15%
10 per cent cheaper than the printed book 11%
20 per cent cheaper 17%
30 per cent cheaper 14%
More than 30 per cent cheaper 16%
A standard price as with Amazon ($9.99) 15%
Other price model 6%

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Liz and Toni

Anna Completelynovel and Tim Moongolfer Wright

Photos by Chris Joseph from the Moors Bar event.

if:book salons bring together fascinating groups of people from either side of the web/literary divide. Whether we run more of these depends on whether there's a bigger tribe of punters who might start to make it theirs. It's a lovely bar with wi-fi, dvd screens and the potential for data projection onto walls. I envisage a cross between an Amplified discussion and a digital book group, with lots of mingling and tweeting, plus some presentations, readings and performances. If you'd like more of these or something similar but different, either in Crouch End or elsewhere...let us know.

Brown and Obama

Despite the woes of her husband, Sarah Brown's rise to prominence on Twitter (where she's now more followed than the beloved Stephen Fry) has been spectacular. Sarah has been a good friend to if:book, as she has been to Booktrust and many other charities and causes, showing considerable interest in if:book's mission and activities. A few weeks ago I sent her a message via Twitter asking if she would like to hear more about what we're doing for digital Britain. She replied, personally and positively, within five minutes.

Monday, 28 September 2009


Week two of our fictional stimulus kicks off today, and we're now selling mugs, bags and tee shirts adorned with this funky design wot I did, in a futile attempt to create new income streams for this format of publishing which we're getting VERY excited about.

And talking of exciting things, I'm pleased to see there's a free trial NickCavelite version of the impressive Bunny Munro Enhanced Edition, available now from iTunes. Mind you, at if:book we've already forked out the full fifteen quid, so it's not such good news for us.

monday beats

A wonderful essay on percussion and copyright Thanks to toni for sending me this.

Friday, 25 September 2009

remembering ian norrie

I lost my diary last week and have just realised to my horror that I missed the funeral yesterday of my first and bossiest boss, Ian Norrie. I loved working in his bookshop when I was a teenager and it gave me great pleasure to find, when I took on the job of Director of Booktrust, that Ian had written the history of the organisation in a book called SIXTY PRECARIOUS YEARS, describing a typical day of its then Director, Martyn Goff.

The High Hill in Hampstead was an amazing bookshop and Ian was an amazing man to work for. He loved arguing with his customers, an intimidatingly literary clientele, gleefully refusing to take cheques without credit cards from even the most eminent of authors. A few years he held a reunion of past employees and the turn out was impressive.

I still don't quite understand how he generated such loyalty and warmth, despite being such an impossible character, but he did. I will really miss him - and am so sorry I didn't get to his funeral which I trust involved lots of good anecdotes and gossip and tears and maybe some wine after.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

twenty four

Press Release

Something is growing in South London … Spread the Word challenges writers to write and publish a book about London in just 24 hours

In collaboration with if:book, The Society of Young Publishers and, Spread the Word has commissioned The 24 Hour Book, a groundbreaking project to challenge a group of writers to write a new story about London in just 24 hours.

The book will be written by a group of experienced writers working together using online collaboration tools around the clock between 10am on Saturday 3 October and 10am on Sunday 4 October. On the Sunday, a group of volunteer editors and publishers will move in to make the story ready for publication.

As well as making the book available to read online, will link directly to Print-onDemand printers to enable hard copies of the book to be available for its launch at 6pm on Monday 5 October.

Using digital technology, the public will also be able to follow and to contribute their ideas to the story online as it develops. Based around a group of city centre allotments, the story will explore ideas of shared and private space and the real and imaginary barriers between a range of different city characters

The lead writer for The 24 Hour Book will be Kate Pullinger and writers participating will include Sarah Butler, Aoife Mannix, Dean Atta, Cath Drake, Ben Payne, Chris Meade, Toni Le Busque, Saradha Soobrayen and Shamim Azad. The final book will be published under a Creative Commons license and available to buy on

For more information please visit or contact Ben Payne on 07974 155312,

ficstimming in fin de crouch

We had a very good evening at the Moors Bar launching the Fictional Stimulus. Thanks to Andy for inviting us, Sasha and Toni for managing to make the technology work in time, Kate, Chris, Cindy, Anna for their brilliant contributions - and Tim who came all the way from Sarf London to give a great account of Kidmapping activities. And thanks to everyone who came along, especially those who wrote us some garden stories in preparation for the 24 Hour Book more news of which very soon. The film is a sweep around those present at 10.30ish.
We'd like to do more in that venue so would love to hear from those who might attend future events there.

It's Day Two in the Fictional Stimulus and the conversation is developing. Over 100 housemates and rising.

Today I spoke at one of the Guardian's regular Reading for Pleasure conferences for teachers.

We were asked (unexpectedly) for 3 TOP TIPS from our workshop. Ours were:

1) Don't obsess about how to work the technology, but get to grips with what it makes possible. If you know what you want to do with it, you can find someone to help you.

2) Shake off old habits and go back to first principles about what you think really matters about books and reading

3) Talk to your students about all this - they know more about how to make the web work, and you need to understand how they access information and approach the world in a digital way.

The session and contacts made there were really useful for me as we plan the launch of our education project, The Hotbook, for next January, and we work to create a network of champions for it in schools. My worry is that many schools will like the idea, think they ought to use the free digital resources we're producing and then not quite get round to using them! All advice on this very welcome.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

can buy me love

I bought a Beatles album this week. It took me ages to find a shop that sold CDs. Borders on Charing Cross Road, a bookshop with music too, had run out of all copies.
HMV on Oxford Street was the first place I found where the remastered Beatles were on sale - which felt like going to Selfridges for a pint of milk.

Buying things from real places can be very thrilling, and I think the most exciting purchases of my life were certain records of my youth. The Small Faces' Ogden Nutgone Flake purchased in Golders Green in its cover of linked circles, designed like a tobacco tin; Uncle Meat by Frank Zappa, Tubular Bells and, before that, the Monkees, all bought from a shop on the Finchley Road whose name escapes me... each purchase promising hours of listening and all kinds of new style tips. A Beatles record was the ultimate, a opening a whole new chapter in youth culture, the baroque psychedelia of Sergeant Pepper bleached out by the cool spaciousness of the White Album.

Buying online has its pleasures too, but there are profound changes hitting our highstreets and I'm worried that too many interesting shops are closing.
We neeed public places to go to for cultural products, and we need the thrill of purchasing stuff that really matters to us. I'm quite impressed by the remastered album, but being able to re-live the immensity of owning it is the best bit.

Friday, 18 September 2009

flippin eck

Using the latest in digital "flip" camera technology, if:book's mighty marketing machine goes into operation to promote next Tuesday's Crouch End bash

roll up roll up for the mystery tour

Our first fictional stimulus is launched on Tuesday - we've already got a mass of interesting people from all over the world signed up. It's an experiment for us in a method of publishing which we want to develop. For the time being we're using a Ning, a simple means to build a small social network; it does what we want within a fixed format and is fine for our purposes, but punters need to sign up to Ning before they get into the site. The Stimulus is aimed primarily at book readers who may be less confident on-line, so we don't want this to put them off. One friend on Facebook said she wanted more of an explanation before signing up, so here is the text they'll also find on the front page once they're logged in at

Can this package of poems and stories in digital form boost global confidence in literature's future?

Fictional Stimulus is a reading experience for people who like books and are curious about the future of literature in the digital world.

It's an introductory taster for those new to reading online, and its form is inspired by the bookgroup where everyone reads the same material then gets together to discuss it at the end.

Fictional Stimulus starts on 22 September 2009, when we will email you a link to your first batch of literary stimuli. The experience will run for four weeks, over which time you’ll be sent twelve emails, each taking you to a concise selection of material including new work and commentary, plus links to a few other sites you might be interested to look at.

Fictional Stimulus culminates in a live chat with Kate Pullinger and the if:book team on 13 October when you’ll have a chance to ask questions and join the debate on the future of the book. The complete Stimulus will still be available to read here after that date.

As well as reading the new content on the site as it is posted, you can if you want to start and join discussions in the forum, post information about yourself on your profile page, chat live to other participants online and leave comments on each piece.

Fictional Stimulus is free to access, so do invite your friends to come and join in.

Fictional Stimulus is produced by if:book, the London-based think and do tank exploring the future of the book in the digital age. It includes material funded by Arts Council England and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

We hope you enjoy the experience. It's an experiment for us all.

The if:book team


And for those based in London, there's a launch event at the Moors Bar, Crouch End on Tuesday 22nd September and a final if:book salon and online chat on Tuesday October 13th at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon.

Email chris at futureofthebook dot org dot uk for more information or go to the Future of the Book group on Facebook.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009


Nearness from timo on Vimeo.

covers shelves sex

I met up with George Oates of the Open Library yesterday and we discussed how we might collaborate. George was responsible for creating the Flickr Commons ( and was the award-winning lead designer of Flickr itself. Tim Regan sends this link to their debate re the tagging of book covers:

AND Alain Pierrot sends another lovely link to this erotic bookshelf (found via @silviae). CLICK HERE

tablets and tunes

More i-rumours of i-tablets HERE.

And Apt's Enhanced Editions version of Nick Cave's novel The Death of Bunny Munro is now available from the iTunes store, and featured on the front page - wow!
It looks like an impressively designed multimedia format for new content which naturally fits such a treatment, what with the author being a popstar and all.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

An anthropological introduction to youtube by Mike Wesch versus crass yuck and wow by Susan Greenfield

Thursday, 10 September 2009

events events

The next if:book event is the launch of our FICTIONAL STIMULUS at THE MOORS BAR in Crouch End on Tuesday 22nd September from 7.30 - 11.00 which has big screens and wi-fi, serves drinks, cocktails and excellent food. Entry is £3 or £2 for concessions.

Come and see animated poems, readings of future fictions including extracts from new work by Cory Doctorow, Naomi Alderman, Kate Pullinger, join the debate about where the book goes next. Bring your laptop if you want, to tweet, surf, chat and write together, then join our online reading experience. The evening will be hosted by Chris Meade and Toni Le Busque.

Do come along if you live nearby, and wherever you are in the world, go to and sign up to partake of if:book's fictional stimulus, a month-long introduction to digital reading, hosted by Kate Pullinger, designed and curated by Toni Le Busque, Chris Meade and Sasha Hoare.

You can let us know if you're coming via the Future of the Book Facebook Group HERE

ON TUESDAY 13TH OCTOBER at 7.30pm in the BETSEY TROTWOOD Pub, Farringdon, we're holding an IF:BOOK SALON and LIVE ONLINE CHAT with Kate Pullinger (who will actually be there!) and participants in the Fictional Stimulus. Free entry.
To confirm you're coming, please book at


We are delighted that if:book has received a grant from Arts Council England to co-ordinate a network for all those interested in digital possibilities for literature, in particular ACE funded literature organisations plus publishers, booksellers, social networkers, web designers, teachers, writers and all kinds of creative readers. IFSOFLO was launched by if:book in May with a highly successful Unconference in London. We'll be running similar events around the UK over the coming months and years.

Please do join the IFSOFLO network at if you'd like to be kept up to date with new digital developments in literature, and once you're a member, please contribute to the conversation there. We'll regularly be giving away special prizes for the best contributions made to the site.

At if:book we've been busy. As well as piloting the Motfothotbook, our project for secondary schools to be launched next year, we held a lively debate with Bill Thompson at the Latitude Festival, finished our Annual Report, and held meetings with some exciting future collaborators. This autumn we'll be running an Instant Novel project with Kate Pullinger, Spread the Word and, speaking at the Guadalajara Bookfair in Mexico, and at The Guardian's Reading for Pleasure seminar for teachers on the morning of Wed 23 September. We'll be publishing an article on the BECTA website, planning a workshop as part of the Amplified Leicester project... and much more. We're also moving even closer to the heart of things by becoming associates of the new Free Word Centre in Farringdon, and the arts organisation Proboscis has kindly offered us some workspace at their offices nearby.

Friday, 4 September 2009

new dan brown out soon

A good excuse to recycle this useful message found in North London:
"Don't read the Da Vinci Code in Starbucks!"


"The proposed settlement between Google and US publishers must be resisted, argues Bill Thompson

if:book associate Bill Thompson (pictured above at the if:book event at the Latitude Festival) has been speaking out about the begooglification of literature in his BBC column.

He writes:

"Google is in the middle of a massive project to scan and digitise every book it can get its hands on, whether old or new, and if it gets its way then the US courts will soon endorse an agreement between the search engine giant and the US book industry that will allow it to do this without fear of prosecution for copyright infringement.

Authors and publishers will get some money in return, and we will all benefit from the improved access to digitised books that Google will provide.

The deal sounds like a good one, but not everyone is happy with it. The Department of Justice in the US has begun an investigation to see if it is anti-competitive, and last month a number of library associations got together with Amazon, Yahoo! and Microsoft to form the Open Book Alliance which argues that it should not go forward."

Read more HERE

Meanwhile at BOOKBRUNCH Google gets it for the messiness of their metadata.

"Books published in 1899, according to Google's data, include Raymond Chandler's Killer in the Rain, The Portable Dorothy Parker, Andre Malraux's La Condition Humaine, Stephen King's Christine, The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf, Raymond Williams's Culture and Society 1780-1950, and Robert Shelton's biography of Bob Dylan. H L Mencken's The American Language is classified as Family and Relationships. A French edition of Hamlet and a Japanese edition of Madame Bovary are classified as Antiques and Collectibles; an edition of Moby-Dick is labelled Computers; The Cat Lover's Book of Fascinating Facts falls under Technology and Engineering."