Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Anna The Itinerant Poetry Librarian has been travelling the world for years with her rucksacks of books and librarian costume, living by skipping and couch surfing, setting up library in cafes, streets, nightclubs and best of all within other libraries, moving around Europe, across the USA and now back to study for a PHD in London. I met her this lunchtime at the British Library... and then she was gone.

Below are some gems of wisdom from the Librarian's website
The encounter got me thinking that the Unlibrarian is even more important than the Unlibrary in creating a free, democratic space where people can explore the infinite library of the web in a heightened state in the midst of their local community. And it made me smile.  

from: Services and Procedures

The service function of the Library is to assist Members in obtaining needed or not knowingly needed information of a Lost and Forgotten poetry-like nature.

Membership of the Library is Free.

Membership of the Library is limited to all humans, vegetables, minerals and other organic forms upon successfully undergoing Joining procedures.


The Library acquires and maintains an intellectually imbalanced Collection to support the personal enrichment, education and research goals of an individual who may seek to join the Library.

FAQs ... aka ‘what are you trying to do?’ Well, we’re here to ...

  • Remind people of the importance of free public libraries
  • Subvert mainstream channels of distribution
  • Remind people that access to knowledge should be free and not dependent upon economic wealth hierarchies
  • Show people that poetry/art can provide answers to questions we ask of life
  • Experiment in existing outside of 'the market' – thereby, instead, investing in social capital, social innovation and community.

Incidental FAQs

  • Yes we carry our entire life and the library with us as we go
  • Yes, it is quite heavy
  • No, we're not mad. As the former US Poet Laureate, Charles Simic, once said, 'But what if poets are not crazy?' That's the spirit boyo!..
And there's lots more. 

rethinking university

Roundhouse Student-led Conference on Critical Theory and Education

Last Tuesday, I attended the Roundhouse Conference on Critical Theory and Education, organised by students at the University of Leeds, who runRoundhouse: A Journal of Critical Theory and Practice. It was a great, inspiring day that reminded me of what it was like to be a student1 and why students are well-placed to affect change in universities, whether it’s pressure from the outside or covertly from the inside.
Rather than simply moaning, there was some good negative critique about the role of universities with both staff and students shifting between anger, despair and inspired subversion of the neo-liberal agenda...

Read the rest on Joss Winn's blog. Oh.. but he didn't mention that my daughter Dora helped organise it.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

publishing afresh

Extracts from two good pieces about digital publishing, from Australia and Ireland.
For me this was the take-home message of Tools of Change. Many publishers were clearly just trying to keep up with the pace of change, trying to decide which formats/platforms/devices to support, or whether to develop an iPhone app, or how much to mess with their workflow, or how to price e-books. These are all now urgent decisions and I don’t envy companies who have get across all these issues and implement a business strategy while things are clearly still in flux.
But the shining examples of fresh thinking, of deep engagement with questions about what publishing is and what it is going to be, of commitment to not just toe-in-the water strategy by dive-in-fully-clothed new business models, convinced me these were the individuals and companies that would be setting the benchmark for us all to follow.
- from Electric Alphabet, blog of Kate Eltham, founder of if:book Australia
Much as we love our physical books (and let’s face it, the majority of those working in publishing NOW, are there because of a love of paper books) we cannot let that love blind us to the realities of change and the shift that digital is imposing upon us. But the industry, despite notable and impressive exceptions, is still avoiding the inevitable accommodation and embrace of the Internet AS THE PLATFORM. As a body, we are ignoring the implications of digital change and seeking short and medium-term patches at the expense of long-term success. We need to prepare for a smaller print industry (in terms of titles, publishers and staff) and a bigger digital industry — one that will exist in a multiplicity of forms beyond the e-book.
Eoin Purcell
Eoin Purcell
We all know that the e-book market as it is currently structured is not designed in the best interests of book publishers. “Why should it be?” is a common response. And they’d be right: publishers have no special right to exist. Nevertheless, publishers remain powerful forces and should at least make an effort to change the game in their favor. To do so requires deeper thinking and  better, more strategic, long-term action than they are currently exhibiting.
- Eoin Purcell, Publishing Perspectives 

if:book at london book fair

Children’s Bookfutures: Children’s Literature & Digital Imagination

Monday 19th April 2010

10:00 – 11:00

The Westminster Room, Earls Court 1
About the seminar:

This will be wide ranging discussion about new media and children’s literature.

What does the 'iPad moment' mean for children’s literature?
Is it the long anticipated death of the book or isn’t it very exciting that books are moving to the 'main stage' of our culture?

How can new media really enhance children's literature and what are the dangers?

What art and literature of the past may be relevant in thinking about new platforms?

How do we judge quality and promote literature as an experience alongside games, web and all the other media accessible digitally?


Chris Meade - if:book (Chair)
Naomi Alderman - Author
Neal Hoskins - Winged Chariot Press
Amanda Wood - Templar Publishing

Friday, 26 March 2010

noink the twitterfeed

Here's the Collected Tweets from Writing Without Ink, the salon at Somerset House this week.
Lisa did a great job minuting the event itself and the conversation before and after is a nice example of how Twitter spreads the word and gathers the community after a public happening. Oh, and it also happens to be full of people saying nice things about it!

RomeshG @LIS4G33 thanks for all your help. #noink inspired.
about 12 hours ago from web
LIS4G33 @RomeshG @ifbook Thanks very much for last night. Hugely inspiring! #noink
about 16 hours ago from web
LIS4G33 RT @SophieRochester: Weren't you looking! the very articulate @billt on impact of technology on writing (via @ifbook) #noink
about 16 hours ago from web
ifbook RT @RomeshG: Thanks to everyone who took part in #noink salon last night. Great conversation. Fantastic feedback. <-loved it
about 16 hours ago from TweetDeck
RomeshG Thanks to everyone who took part in #noink salon last night. Great conversation. Fantastic feedback. We'll do more. Big thanks to Chris.
about 16 hours ago from web
SophieRochester Weren't you looking! the very articulate @billt on impact of technology on writing (via @ifbook) #noink
about 19 hours ago from web
ifbook Somerset House #noink salon: @billt the Vogon Captain
about 19 hours ago from TweetDeck
ifbook RT @readysteadybook: an excellent event. A lot of folk afterwards expressed the wish that we could all do it all again -- I hope so.. #noink
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck
katepullinger Good discussion at #noink. Thanks! RT @peterjlaw: good to talk to you properly last night.
1 day ago from Echofon
Magnocarta Many thx to Somerset House, @ifbook @billt @katepullinger @LIS4G33 @SophieRochester and @sixtostart for fab #noink digital salon last nt
1 day ago from TweetDeck
ifbook #noink felt like a big step forward in literary engagement with how digital transforms the context of everything, even what stays the same
1 day ago from TweetDeck
readysteadybook Chris @ifbook -- an excellent event. A lot of folk afterwards expressed the wish that we could all do it all again -- I hope so... #noink
1 day ago from web
moongolfer @LIS4G33 thx 4 tweeting at #noink last night. V useful for no-show people like me. T x
1 day ago from Tweetie
ifbook thanks to brilliant speakers and tweeters at #noink - our salon at Somerset House was a blast.
1 day ago from TweetDeck
LIS4G33 @jezzzer Saw you at the back last night & wanted to come & say hello, but failed #noink
1 day ago from web
jezzzer RT @Ifbook @KatePullinger 5 Provocations on transliteracy #noink
1 day ago from web
RomeshG Follow Writing Without Ink Salon on #noink.
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 @FlossieTeacake Noink noink! Will be back at work on Norange Prize tomorrow xx
1 day ago from web
jonreed @FlossieTeacake ah yes - how could I forget #noink? just too many book events in one day. And I'm at none of them. Too busy writing one...
1 day ago from web
readysteadybook Interesting chats with some fascinating folk at #noink this evening. Back home now. And damp!
1 day ago from web
SophieRochester @adrianhon from @sixtostart on how games are successfully being used in China to teach English #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 .@sixtostart a million children are learning English in China via a computer game #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Lit strategy means teachers assess children so often, there's no scope for experimentation, imagination. Teachers fight it #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Getting students involved in flash animation design has stimulated interest in poetry for young people #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Q. In written English there are 4 nouns for every verb. In spoken lang there is 1 noun per verb. Are we going back to spoken lang? #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Mark from says once you put vids, pix etc in a novel, it isn't a novel. What limits is what defines #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Advice for those who love lit, storytelling, etc. Watch the apps store. There are ideas that could inform your lit aspirations @billt #noink
1 day ago from web
SophieRochester @billt - saying that our children's brains are changing - brought up in front of screens - but to embrace this rather than fear it ! #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 "We don't know what the effects of this brain-change will be" @billt #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 .@billt "@KatePullinger is a new life form" #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 .@billt the very existence of laptops has made the black & white print of books quite boring #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 .@billt quotes Clay Shirky there's a side-effect to new technology: eg: Youtube has made TV boring. #noink
1 day ago from web
SophieRochester @LIS4G33 & Toby Litt on forked-path-literature: digital forums offer readers the opportunity to take paths most interesting to them #noink
1 day ago from web
moongolfer Sorry not to be at #noink in a swanky room in Somerset House. Lots of interesting people talking even if not all of it's news...
1 day ago from Tweetie
LIS4G33 Toby Litt Need more than one writer for forked-path-literature, because there's so much to do #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Toby Litt - Western literature based on the idea that people start at the beginning & go on to the end. Digital about forking paths #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 .@billt "they should be so lucky" #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Adrian @sixtostart: "The only thing people pay for these days is games. The book indust is about to go the way of the music indust" #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Adrian "There are a lot of writers here, which means that you're not motivated by money" (ironic laughter) #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Adrian runs @sixtostart #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Adrian Han Story in games often the excuse for action sequence (eg modern warfare 2) #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Adrian Han talking on games & story. Agency the key attribute of any game: plot detracts from agency? #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 "Young readers - all web users expect to be able to talk back to what they read… which opens new forms of engagement" @ifbook #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 "The printed text as the major tech for moving ideas around can be bettered - but we may never know how to use it" @billt #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Will we lose the ability to imagine if the word gives way to images & video? #noink
1 day ago from web
SophieRochester at #noink - great turn out to Somerset Hse to discuss books and technology @billt @ifbook @KatePullinger @LIS4G33 @PeterJLaw & @DigitalKati
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 Kate Barkham - but if you give me the picture I can't create it myself… #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 "Is fixed type print a historical anomaly?" @Katepullinger #noink
1 day ago from web
jezzzer Whither the book ? A salon in somerset hse #noink
1 day ago from txt
LIS4G33 "cave painting, the original Powerpoint presentation" @katepullinger #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 transliteracy provocations from @KatePullinger
1 day ago from web
DigitalKati Showing off #ifbook collaborative digital writing projects at #noink, Somerset House, London.
1 day ago from web
billt At #ifbook's #noink event with lots of cool literary types.. first up Kate Pullinger dissing the idea of the ebook as a text container
1 day ago from TweetDeck
LIS4G33 .@katepullinger ebooks are the most boring thing possible. Why replicate books when you can use sound & video etc? #noink
1 day ago from web
LIS4G33 @KatePullinger talking about what books are at @ifbook @romeshg salon #noink
1 day ago from web
Magnocarta Feeling smug and informed at the rather lovely if:book salon at Somerset House #noink
1 day ago from TweetDeck
LIS4G33 People starting to arrive at Somerset House for @romeshg & @ifbook's Writing Without Ink #noink
1 day ago from web

Thursday, 25 March 2010

of apps, games and vogons

The Salon I chaired last night at Somerset House was organized as part of Romesh Gunesekera’s residency there. Kate Pullinger (whose book Mistress of Nothing I really enjoyed by the way),
Adrian Hon of the award-wreathed Six To Start and Lisa Gee, guardian of the website of the Orange Prize for Fiction, spoke eloquently both about the creative possibilities for writers and the seismic cultural shift going on and its implications for all of us.
Even if writers carry on making work in exactly the way they always have, the changing context around it transforms things utterly.
The guest list was impressive and the conversation fascinating. Thanks to those who tweeted it – search #noink (No Ink) to read them.

Fact of the night (via Adrian - can this really be true?): 1% of the world’s population is currently playing Farmville on Facebook. Whenever games are mentioned at educational or literary events, patronising smiles play on people's lips. Yet the economic power of the games industry is astounding to behold.

Here are words of wisdom from the Vogon Captain, Bill Thompson.

And because I can, I'll now insert a link for buying Kate's book from Amazon:

There you go.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

tipping pointers

The Bookseller writes: The tipping point for digital reading is 18 months away and publishers should prepare by starting a parallel business to their print one, media futurist Gerd Leonhard said last week (19th March).

If they do not, then venture capital-backed start-ups "will eat your lunch. This is not going to be linear and gradual. Once people have the devices, it will flick the switch. I'm not saying that publishers will become redundant — the opposite is true! It creates more pressure, you'll need more people, but you may need fewer buildings or trucks."

I agree that the future belongs to newcomers entering this scene clear eyed and unencumbered. I'm not convinced that traditional publishers really get how things are changed by literature's arrival on the main stage of our culture. I think it's a thrilling time for literature and a frightening one for the booktrade. It's also so important that the web remains a place where anyone can put their work on the global bookshelf, and there are powerful commercial players eyeing up the iPad as an opportunity to make money. The issue of how anyone other than Apple makes money out of content is of great importance for all cultural producers, but the freedom we've all been given by the web to put our words in public must be vigorously defended.

words and pictures

More cracking book art sourced by Alain Pierrot

And I found this image of a Treated Book after a chance encounter in Birmingham with David Hart, a wonderful poet and lifelong chronicler of experimental poetic activity, whose analogue experiments with words and pictures are hugely inspirational for digital ideas. I'm hoping to talk more to David during Seize The Time time.

And Alain found this library flavoured Mac casing here

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

first seize

So what can be made for the iPad? All kinds of glossy flashiness, if you have the budget. But this article also talks about how blogs become magazines on the next generation of tablets. For literature organisations the challenge/opportunity is to make and curate websites that are pleasurable reading experiences rather than expanded leaflets.

VIV Mag Featurette: A Digital Magazine Motion Cover and Feature for the iPad from Alexx Henry on Vimeo.

Tomorrow we're holding a salon with Romesh Gunesekera in beautiful rooms at Somerset House, talking to a range of writers about the future of their art beyond ink on paper.
Yesterday Sasha and I joined Romesh at a workshop organised by First Story where pupils from five London secondary schools came together to write work inspired by a visit to the Courtauld collection.

follow the gamers

This month's issue of Wired (US) includes comments from thirteen people at various ends of the spectrum, talking about the implications of the arrival of the Tablet. Here's the extended version of the contribution made by Bob Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book

Although we date the "age of print" from 1454, more than two hundred years passed before the "novel" emerged as a recognizable form. Newspapers and magazines took even longer to arrive on the scene. Just as Gutenberg and his fellow printers started by reproducing illustrated manuscripts, contemporary publishers have been moving their printed texts to electronic screens. This shift will bring valuable benefits (searchable text, personal portable libraries, access via internet download, etc.), but this phase in the history of publishing will be transitional. Over time new media technologies will give rise to new forms of expression yet to be invented that will come to dominate the media landscape in decades and centuries to come.

Twenty-five years ago, when I founded the Criterion Collection and Voyager, my imagination reached only as far as multi-media — enabling authors to express ideas with a more complex palette that included audio, video, text and graphics. The CD-ROMs of the early nineties hinted at these possibilities. However, with the advent of the internet, particularly the web browser, it's now clear that locating works in a dynamic digital network promises even more fundamental changes.

Although we grew up with images of the solitary reader curled up in a chair or under a tree and the writer alone in her garret, the most important thing my colleagues and I have learned s from a series of experiments with “networked books” is that as discourse moves off the page onto the networked screen, the social aspects of reading and writing move from background to foreground. This transition has profound implications for readers, writers, and publishers, as traditional hierarchies flatten and online communities proliferate. A book is on its way to becoming a "place" where readers congregate, sometimes with authors. Lest this sound far-fetched, Motoko Rich, who covers the book industry for the New York Times, took note of this trend on January 24th, writing that "Reading might well have been among the last remaining private activities, but it is now a relentlessly social pursuit."

The arrival of the Apple, Android and Nokia tablets ups the ante for publishers. Simply moving printed texts to the tablets (as they have with the Kindle) will be of value, but within five to ten years the most successful publishers will have enthusiastically embraced new multimedia-based forms. More importantly, they will have figured out how to structure these works as vibrant communities of interest.

My sense is that this time around it's not going to take humanity two hundred years to come up with the equivalent of the novel, i.e. a dominant new form. Not only do digital hardware and software combine into an endlessly flexible shapeshifter, but now we have gaming culture which, unlike publishing, has no legacy product or thinking to hold it back. Multimedia is already its language, and game-makers are making brilliant advances in the building of thriving, million-player communities. As conventional publishers prayerfully port their print to tablets, game-makers will jump on the immense promise of these shiny, intimate, networked devices.

Monday, 22 March 2010

free or free

At the London College of Communications' Publishing Innovation conference with Henry Volans,of Faber & Faber, Frances Pinter of Bloomsbury, and Duncan Campbell, Wiley-Blackwell - a  very enjoyable event.

april is SEIZE THE TIME time

if:book / ifsoflo

if:book has been arguing for some time that THE LITERATURE SECTOR, with its experience of curating projects, festivals, publications and relationships between readers and writers, is better placed to create innovative models for the future of literature in the digital age than conventional publishers. 

Is all that just guff or are we going to SEIZE THE TIME?

With the arrival of the iPad imminent, bookshops closing and all kinds of digital experiments appearing from conventional publishers, the future of the book is happening now. 

With an election looming and cuts promised by all parties, it's a key moment to take stock and think ahead. 

It's time to act quickly but think deeply about how our culture is changing as industries converge - and what the future role of your organisation can be. 

IFSOFLO has designated April 2010 as time to SEIZE THE TIME.  Chris is providing a limited number of FREE SURGERIES and setting aside time individual meetings, group discussions, training events, skype chats... whatever you  think (within reason!) might help you to develop plans for your organisation's digital future. 

At the same time we'll be talking to key people in publishing, literature, new media, broadcasting... infact to anyone whose knowledge and opinions seems relevant to this work, and disseminating what they say via the blog, Twitter (@ifbook)  and the community.  

if:book has a pool of associates and allies whose experience we can draw on to tackle the issues you face. 

Do you feel you know how you want to develop your work in the digital sphere?
What are the blockages to progressing your plan? 
They may include lack of technology, lack of information or imagination, resistance from your board, your staff or your users... 

The world of books urgently needs the ideas and vision of those practitioners, writers, teachers and readers who may be too unconfident about new technology to spot the possibilities it offers to do what they've always most wanted to do.

Tell us what's worrying you, what you need to know, how best we can help.
We can come to you, or meet you at the Free Word in Farringdon, where we are associates. 

All the best


Friday, 19 March 2010

the even more open library

Here's news of the new look Internet Archive. George Oates is the genius who started gathering those images of people sleeping in libraries, gawd bless her. I really hope if:book can make a project with this lot someday!


The Internet Archive is thrilled to announce the soft launch of Open Library (our born again version) under the direction of George Oates (formerly of Flickr!) and a team of IA engineers and staff.

It's a work under on-going improvement, but check out the new features, detailed in the blog post:

1. Works
The previous version of Open Library was only aware of editions of books, or “manifestations” in FRBR-speak. We’re excited to release Works, which helps catch all editions of the same book and collect them all under this one umbrella. Each work also has its own URI too – we’re hoping these propagate.


2. Subject pages
We wanted to find a way to help people browse the catalog rather than having to know what they’re looking for before they start. So, we’ve gone through a process of breaking down and reconstructing the subject headings on our records, giving each heading a URL, and displaying a whole bunch of data about each heading: works about that subject, publishing history, related subjects, authors who write about it, and publishers who publish in that subject area.

3. Revamped search
We’ve rewritten search from scratch and upgraded to SOLR 1.4. Our ranking is very basic for now, so “relevance” doesn’t mean a lot yet. We can’t wait to improve on it, and in the meantime, you can also sort your searches by the number of editions, when things were published, or filter using facets.

4. UI Improvements
The whole site’s had an overhaul in terms of the user interface. All the major operations (editing, searching, adding covers etc) have been redesigned. Even changing the size and position of the Edit button will hopefully make it clearer that these records are open to correction. We’ll be blogging over the coming weeks with specifics about the user interface enhancements.

5. Links, link, links
Another major component of the redesign is to begin the process of connecting our records to other references out there on the interwebs. If you get to an Edit Edition page, you’ll notice that you can add different identifiers from a variety of systems to the Edition record, and even add a new type of identifier to the system. The more IDs we can collect, the more connections there’ll be into and out of Open Library.

reading in bed

Thanks to Alain Pierrot who sends me links to the very best examples of book related art and stuff.
This, from
Actually I saw these rivetingly readable sheets at the Royal College of Art end of year show last year, but didn't have a camera on me at the time - it's good to see them again.
"This Weird blanket is from a SLEEPLESS project collaberated between The Great Eastern Hotel and fourteen students from the Royal College of Art’s acclaimed Design Products department led by Professor Ron Arad. This blanket has some traditional bedtime story on it.Plus, it has several sheet just like a real book."

Thursday, 18 March 2010

hotbook launch vid

This film of the HOTBOOK launch was made by Sasha Hoare.
Membership of the Hotbook ning is growing steadily and our amazing resource for secondary schools is free to download there.
We've also launched our Continuing Professional Development training package for teachers and are running a day in Aylesbury in June. Chris and Sasha led last Saturday's conference on the future of the book for the London Association of Teachers of English (LATE).
This week we're having a wonderful time piloting what's become Project Wonda, with Year 5 Primary school classes - more on this soon.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


HOTBOOK, our digital resource for secondary schools, is now available to download from

Here's what Geraldine Brennan wrote about it in the TES:

"Some schools have managed to bring in cutting-edge technology with no financial outlay at all. According to Besa, two-thirds of schools make significant use of the internet for free downloads of online curriculum content.

English teachers, for example, can now access a digital literature resource pack called HOTbook, which offers classroom activities for Years 8 and 9. The programme is supported by the Institute for the Future of the Book (if:book) and funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

HOTbook draws on social networking to engage pupils in reading and writing in response to an anthology of poems and extracts from plays, novels and non-fiction texts (including Barack Obama’s inauguration speech) presented as short films, Flash animations, podcasts and HTML web pages.

The 40 pieces include classic texts such as Macbeth’s “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech, William Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger”, Chaucer’s Prologue from The Canterbury Tales and Shelley’s Ozymandias sonnet. There are also contemporary contributions, including poems by Roger McGough and Benjamin Zephaniah and specially commissioned works.

The HOTbook activities are framed within “messages from the future” (the year 3010), where the curator of the museum of the history of the book needs help to select the most significant pieces of writing from the past for display. The curator’s non-standard English is another opportunity for pupils to explore how language is developed, and they are encouraged to post comments on them as they would on a social networking site. The project can run in as little as an hour a week.

Ellie Clark, head of English at Queensbridge School in Birmingham, says the role-play aspect of the project attracted her to investing time in piloting it. “We were very pleased with the reading and writing work the activities generated and the pupils were very positive about it, especially boys and lower-ability pupils.”

ICT investment is no longer about laying out for a cutting-edge system that takes months to install and few people understand. Smaller, ad hoc investments can also produce amazing results."


Thursday, 4 March 2010

Inaugural Intergalactic Future of The Book Day Tomorrow

I've just announced tomorrow to be Future of the Book Day, following National Book Day today.
Now I need to decide how I'd encourage the nation to celebrate it.

Ok - so, today think about the books you've loved to read,
tomorrow imagine the ones you'd love to read in the future.

Today love your bookshelves
Tomorrow imagine what even wonderful things might replace them.

Today go to the library
Tomorrow imagine the Unlibrary

Today lend a book to a friend
Tomorrow invent a new story for that friend and tell it to them in a new way.

Today love books
Tomorrow let go of your obsession with paper and think about how what you love about literature and reading can be replicated and improved and set free by new technology.

Any other ideas?

I'll be here speaking and celebrating.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

when the night has come dadadadadadum and the la-and is dark

A fantastic global rendition of my favourite song. I remember hearing years back about a club which anyone could join by submitting a tape of their own version of this song which was then circulated to all members. And that was in the days of cassette players n all.

Thanks to Toni for spotting this.

revolutionary road

Publishing: The Revolutionary Future

By Jason Epstein

The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends. Meanwhile, for quite different reasons, the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler's unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don't recoup their costs, and the simultaneous deterioration of backlist...

Thanks to Dora and Ricardo for pointing this out. Read on HERE-->

books versus cars

a site intervention of 800 illuminated books was installed under the brooklyn bridge
in water street, new york. armed with the intention that literature should seize the streets
and overtake public spaces, spanish designers luzinterruptus randomly placed these literary
objects in such a way so that people were able to walk among them easily, stop to look
at them and even read them. 

More great book art, recommended by Alain Pierrot. See more at

Monday, 1 March 2010

tha trooth erbowt t'internet

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

Thanks to John Warren for pointing this out on Read 2.0.

writer without residence

What happens when a writer falls asleep at her laptop in mid story?
Our primary school project is taking shape.

And the HOTBOOK will be available to download AS SOON AS POSSIBLE - apologies once again for the delay.

the readers' voice

Here are details of an event at which I'm speaking.
Hope to see you there!

The Readers' Voice
Second Convention for Readers and Reading Groups

to be held at Jesus College, Oxford on 27 March, 2010.

See our website

Whatever your taste in books,
this is an opportunity to network with other readers,
meet experts in the book world and
be inspired by reading group projects at work in the community.

Talks, debates and hands-on workshops where
you can hear about the reading technologies of the future or
take tuition in performance reading or
learn how literature reflects the big issues of our day.

Morning coffee and biscuits, afternoon tea and cakes included. Lunch not provided. (See website for details of lunch options.)

Tickets for whole-day programme: £37 B4 Mar 10, £40 after,
concessions £35 (retired and students)

Box Office (from 5 February) @ Tickets Oxford*

Oxford Playhouse,
Beaumont Street,
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cultivating candide


Hello! I wanted to spread the word about an exciting new project I just launched at the New York Public Library, Candide 2.0, a digital reading experiment produced in conjunction with a wonderful exhibition currently on at the central library celebrating the 250th anniversary of Voltaire's Candide.

As some of you will see, this project builds directly on the "networked book" experiments I developed with Bob Stein and others at the Institute for the Future of the Book, and also builds upon the Golden Notebook project Bob led with the support of HarperCollins and Arts Council England.

We've put an entire public domain edition of the book up online using a WordPress plugin, based on the Institute's CommentPress, which enables paragraph-level commenting the margins of a text.

Taking inspiration from the famous last line of Candide, "let us cultivate our garden," we have invited authors, scholars, curators and playwrights to work as "gardeners" in the text, sowing seeds of commentary and preparing the ground for a fertile public conversation. So far we've covered six chapters (of 30) and will be working our way through the text over the next two months. Chapters 4-6 were just annotated by acclaimed satirist and science fiction author James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder and The Philosopher's Apprentice — amazing stuff, which is already picking up a lot of responses from other readers (including another famed sf writer, Joe Halderman). Earlier chapters have been glossed by Oxford Voltaire scholar Nicholas Cronk, playwright Stanton Wood, plus others.

This is definitely a first for NYPL, which is of course eager to explore how reading is changing in the digital age and to experiment with new ways of building community through literature and the web. Our "networked edition" of Candide is both radically new in its incorporation of social media and blog-based conversation, and yet reassuringly timeless is its echoes of the age-old practice of margin annotation, a key practice of Enlightenment philosophes like Voltaire.

Whereas in the past, the page margin was a private zone for the reader to jot down notes, this page margin is a public square, a way of having an open discussion about the book in intimate proximity to the text. Were Voltaire alive today, he would no doubt be doing something similar: debating on blogs, deploying acid-dipped barbs of satire via Twitter, scribbling digital commentaries in the margins of networked books.

We're also tracking the experiment and opening up a wider conversation on a blog on the newly revamped NYPL website called "All Possible Worlds."

There, invited authors and NYPL librarians will be posting various commentaries on Candide, and Alice Boone, curator of the Voltaire exhibition and editor of Candide 2.0, will be posting regular digests of the commenting activity in the book. Her fascinating recap of James Morrow's contributions was posted earlier today:

I hope you'll come on over and take a look at this exciting experiment in public reading. We'd also greatly appreciate it if you could help spread the word. This is a rough first stab at what could potentially become a more common occurrence at the Library. Feedback welcome!


Ben Vershbow

Digital Producer, New York Public Library, Strategic Planning
188 Madison Ave., 4th fl., New York, NY 10016-4314
*** Explore Candide 2.0! ***

listening group

Last friday I went to the first meeting of an Album Group set up by my friend Rick Walters. He'd picked two albums, one old one new, for us to listen to in advance of the meeting and talk about. He prepared food and put out the chairs. I arrived in some trepidation, not sure what I'd have to say about two records (discs? CDs? downloads? What do we call them?) neither of which were quite my kind of thing.
And would a level of musical knowledge be expected that would make me feel stupid?

It was a very enjoyable and stimulating evening. We talked about Scott 4, the last of Scott Walker's so-called masterpieces of the Sixties, and the first album by Cate Le Bon, a young Welsh singer songwriter who veers from pretty folk to angry heaviness and has been compared to Nico.

We'd all been listening to these albums free using Spotify, so were all fed up with hearing the same advert for British Gas being played over and over there. One of our number felt so bad about not paying that she felt duty bound to listen to the adverts instead of cutting the volume. We discussed the merits of this amazing new service and its implications.

We talked about our listening habits. I tend to play a limited selection of favourite tracks over and over, at work, out walking, in the car. Others listened for shorter periods of time but more often to new music. Whether these albums had been hear on tinny laptops, in the intense inner world of the iPod, or an a hi-fi system in the front room had an impact on how we'd heard and responded to them.

Afterwards I bought a few favourite tracks on iTunes as a permanent musical momento, and also found I wanted to download there the next album we're going to discuss before I'd heard it. I'm excited to find a new reason to listen hard to new music.

We found plenty to say about the music too, and enjoyed hearing tracks again, even the ones we didn't like at all. I still find Walker's sound an uncomfortable mix of schmolz and earnestness. Le Bon's songs reference lots of others, and feel like they sprang from sampling and mingling all kinds of sounds on computer more than strumming away in folk clubs.

And now I feel like the digital equivalent of the sermonising vicar whose Sunday anecdote always at arrives back at 'Jesus Christ Our Lord', for lo, see how digital culture changeth the way we listen and the place of music in our lives. And verily it changeth also the sounds we hear. Hear endeth the lesson, complete with clickable buy now buttons which I've just tried installing and which link through to Amazon Almighty.