Monday, 31 May 2010

things i'd like to sell in the future of the bookshop

Brilliant picture books for iPhone and iPad by

Buy these here

Thanks to Hattie at for passing me the link to this chinagraph pencil meets short story.

And here's another link to that lovely book blanket from students of the RSA

Photo from

And thanks to Kate Eltham's blog ELECTRIC ALPHABET where I found this:

Friday, 28 May 2010


Shiryn Burns-Hill's zoomy documentary on e-reading

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

the book arcade

Dale Campisi is publisher of a stunning little book called Chasing The Rainbow by Lisa Lang, the story of bookseller, entrepreneur and eccentric E.W.Cole, an inspiration if ever there was one for booksellers of the future. Read about it HERE. I interviewed him at the Emerging Writers Festival.

Monday, 24 May 2010

souvenirs of australia

I'm just back from Australia after a wonderful trip.
Here's an interview with me by Caroline Hamilton, made by Lisa Dempster, Director of the Emerging Writers Festival at their Page Parlour market of zines and small presses at Melbourne's Federation Square yesterday.
It would have been more interesting to hear from Caroline who is researching business models for independent publishing. She has spent a lot of time with the McSweeney outfit and had lots to say - but sadly not on film - about the thriving Australian small press scene. I'll post an interview with Del of Arcade Press shortly. Caroline is visiting London later this summer and I'm hoping to catch up with her then; her blog, Readers' Digress, is HERE.

And here's my interview of Lisa.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

emerging returning

My last day in Australia and I've been doing the Bloggers' Brunch for the wonderful Emerging Writers festival in Melbourne and am now sitting in the wi-fi rich sunshine of Federation Square after visiting their Zine Fair, which includes some very beautiful publications including a handwritten paperbag called The Scribbler, costing one dollar.
The conversation on line was excellent - read it all HERE please do.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

G'day Geekcamp

Here's a short piece to camera made as a message to Geekcamp today, which is happening at the Free Word Centre, but I'll be missing because I'm lucky enough to be in Melbourne with Kate Eltham of if:book australia, CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre.

In my filmette  I forgot to mention one of the artists I've met: Leah Barclay, astoundingly talented young composer, musician and NeoGeoGrapher who divides her time between India where she is studying percussion, and the Sunshine Coast - when she's not touring.

Maker of artists books in reality and Second Life Judy Barrass can be found at
Please watch this piece and then, if you haven't already, listen to the interview with Kate Eltham below.

We're looking forward to some awesome future collaborations.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

This photo was taken at my talk to students at Queensland University of Technology.
We're now on our way to Melbourne for an event at the Wheeler Centre - and to  be a living book at the Emerging Writers Festival.

Friday, 14 May 2010


I'm in residence with poet Jason Nelson this weekend at The Edge  in Brisbane and we're working together on a digital poem-y thing, which Jason just described as a 'strange interactive poetic brochure', which sounds good to me. 

We're also talking about how the worlds of digital literature and.. literatureliterature? analogue literature? Anyway, you know what I mean... how those worlds are beginning to intermingle.  

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

I received this friendly email from local resident John Jennings after my talk in Noosa Library on the Sunshine Coast. His friend John Hartley produced Countdown, the hugely popular Australian equivalent of Top of the Pops. Also in the audience was a woman in her 80s who said she found new technology baffling these days and didn't think she would be using as iPad, even though she worked on Australia's first computer - by which I think she meant this:
My friend, John Hartley, ex-ABC producer, enjoyed and was stimulated by your talk at Noosa yesterday after I encouraged him to attend.

I have completed 50 years in journalism, starting with hot metal on a Victorian country newspaper (e.g a newspaper in country Victoria!) so I am only one step removed from Caxton - in fact in 1959 we actually used wooden type faces for setting up our hand-cranked posters. Some of our journalists thought one of our posters RECORD SALT HARVEST rather over stated economic reality!

I have been asked to give a talk to the local writers' group on how to prepare a Media Release and I will be demonstrating the wonderful list of items which can come from the one basic release - direct mail, leaflet, brochure, speech - the list goes for ever. The simplicity of Copy a Document on Word is the key! No more key striking.

Being brought up on broadsheet newspaper, that habit dies hard so all the up-coming electronics such as e-books, e-tablets and so on do not excite me but I note our son, 40, has never picked up a newspaper in his life, but uses TV, net and magazines for his info.

That said, my word processor and Google are like Gold to me. Also, being a journalist, filing comes hard, so the use of my computer to place everything in an orderly system for instant recovery any time exceeds Heaven.

I am pictured sitting at a linotype in our local museum.

Best wishes during your stay in Australia.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

sunshiny day

We are having an absolutely amazing time in Australia, not just basking in sun, sea and scenery, but also meeting the fascinating group of writers and artists working together here on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland as NeoGeographers,  and getting to know the wonderful Kate Eltham, CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre and soon to launch if:book australia.
There's so much to show and tell, but here's a first interview with Kate - filmed at the Cooroy Butter Factory gallery in the midst of a noisy hail storm - and a glimpse of the Neos.

Next I'm going to Brisbane and looking forward greatly to collaborating with poet Jason Nelson at The Edge.  More soon!

roots of reading

Thanks to Alain for finding this HERE
He also sends us:

"About binding… a beautiful set from Claire Egalon @ConstantinoplE" 


Sunday, 9 May 2010

I Dreamt a Dream ! What Does it Mean

Sophie Rochester's new Literary Platform site is a great digest of the best digital literary happenings, and I'm delighted she asked me for a piece on Blake and bloggery. Here it is, but explore the whole site too.

At the end of the eighteenth century, prints, caricatures and political cartoons were posted in print-shop windows for passing gawpers. The more affluent might buy individual prints but others hired portfolios for the evening to read in their favourite coffee shop. Vic Gatrell’s book City of Laughter (Atlantic Books) describes some interesting precursors of freemium and subscription-based business models for art and satire that were alive and kicking in London back then.

At the same time the visionary William Blake was producing poems which he engraved and coloured by hand, sang aloud to those who would listen, and attempted to sell in the form of books, the contents of which changed through time as poems were added and re-ordered. This multimedia artist and radical ran a business as an engraver, found his inspiration in psychogeographical walks around London, campaigned against child labour and exploitation, and saw angels in the trees of Peckham. His printing process was eccentric, taught to him by his dead brother in a dream.

In Songs of Imagination & Digitisation, Tim Heath, Chair of the William Blake Society writes:
“Blake was always using new technologies, often abusing technologies, not for the sake of an interest in the technology per se, but what he could use it for. He believed that, rather like learning a language… if you speak a different language maybe you ask different questions. And the language of the digital age is one that Blake would have pursued.”

If:book’s main aim is to help writers and publishers learn enough about technological change to see beyond it to the creative work that can be made with the extended palette of digital culture. We need artists like Blake who will grapple with the technology they can lay their hands on, not primarily as a means to look cool or make a quick buck, but to better communicate their burning visions.

Only if there’s a genuinely original literary practice flourishing online is there any reason to create a business model to sell it.

At a recent salon on new media literature, Romesh Gunesekera, writer in residence at Somerset House, talked about how fine art changed as paint technology improved and wondered what will happen next as writers create on the Internet.

Literary minds are in the early days of exploring the extra keys on their typewriters that let them insert sound, moving image and two-way conversations with readers into their narratives, and there’s a fascinating role emerging for curators of these new kinds of reading experiences.

Where others saw the sun as a yellow disc in the sky, Blake saw ‘an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host’. What would he see in an iPad?

time seized

Here's the piece wot i rote for Bookbrunch
Friday, 07 May 2010 00:47
Chris Meade suggests that the digital communities growing up across the literary spectrum need curatorial attention and pruning
"There will always be the need for our editing, marketing and design skills in the digital age," the big cheeses of publishing proclaim from conference platforms. Well, yes, maybe, but the future surely belongs to those most clear-sighted in stripping away their habits and assumptions to focus on the vital qualities of what matters to them. So many traditional industries are bogged down in turning round their liners, disentangling the future from the flotsam of the past. Meanwhile newcomers arrive, take a quick look at what’s happening, and get stuck into making something of it now.
When I set up the think and do tank if:book three years ago, it was because I believed that the "literature sector" - that network of Arts Council-funded development organizations that promote creative reading and writing - had exactly the skills and experience to seize the opportunities that digital platforms offered to broaden access to literary culture.
Bodies like Booktrust , the Poetry Society and the network of literature development agencies round the UK exist to help the art form thrive, to widen access beyond the boundaries of normal marketing, and to curate the kinds of conversation between readers and writers which are all the rage in digital debate.
Often overlooked and misunderstood by writers, publishers and PR agencies focused on the bottom line of commerce, this sector is surely ripe to be brought to the fore. Their mixed economy of grant aid and ticket sales should free them up to make the most radical experiments in networked books, multimedia and multiplatform narratives, to try out new business models for selling combinations of event, object and download. There’s so much to learn from their history of festivals, book groups, residencies, workshops, literary public art and community commissions.
Now cometh the iPad moment, when literature finds its place back on the main stage, in a media-rich environment and in the midst of the rest of our digital culture. Whereas people have defined themselves as book-lovers or film buffs, from now on they’ll seek out genres and styles of cultural product without much noticing whether they end up watching, listening, reading - or a mixture of all three.
Big commercial forces hover, prepared to pounce on an opportunity to sell glossy reading experiences online. But I’m not convinced they "get" what it means to curate the networked book. If:book designated this April as time to "Seize the Time", and I’ve been offering free surgeries to interested parties looking at how we can make the running instead of playing catch up with the corporates.
I’ve already met the Itinerant Poetry Librarian who travels the globe with a backpack of books, embodying the ideals behind librarianism which are so important in the age of information abundance. I’ve been to Leeds, where ex-bookseller Wes Brown has founded a community of young writers and readers around his online magazine His publishing plans blend page, screen and live events in a thoroughly networked way.
I’ve been talking to students creating online journals and communities for student-led discussion, and to agencies like Writing West Midlands whose experience seems so relevant to digital publishing, though their core audience are late adopters of new technology, still tending to see books in opposition to web.
Too many imaginative literary minds don’t get it either, and balk at engaging seriously with digital culture because they don’t get on with computers, and so fail to see how their heartfelt ideals and literary ideas can be furthered online. We need their skills to ensure that, whatever else changes, literary quality survives and thrives.
At a gratifyingly packed Children's Bookfutures discussion at this year's LBF, a gasp was heard as publisher Neal Hoskens produced his iPad and showed us books with falling snow and whizzing bikes. Naomi Alderman introduced her new story/game To some authors these new platforms and playgrounds evoke panic, but more are beginning to feel tingles of excitement. Amanda Wood of Templar reminded us that children's books had been enhanced for years. She showed a book with glove puppet attached, a pop-up Big Ben with electronic chimes, and a baby book fused with an activity centre. There's inspiration here for adult publishing perhaps: Austen with finger puppets? Scratch and sniff McEwan?
At a salon last month at Somerset House, writers Romesh Gunesekera, Lisa Gee and Kate Pullinger expressed their enthusiasm for new media experimentation, Adrian Hon of Six to Start bemoaned the lack of good writers involved in the burgeoning art and industry of gaming, while English teachers expressed concern that schools were failing to help their students to explore the changing landscape of our culture. There’s so much to be done.
As books develop digital communities around them, networks of readers commenting in the margins on new work, there’s a need for reading gardeners to seed, grow and prune the resulting conversations. Authors may love or loathe tweeting and blogging, but properly mediated this literary community-building pays dividends both in terms of sales and creative energy.
This curatorial role isn’t marketing or editorial, it involves serious engagement with the work and the conversations to be had around it – and it’s what we literature development people have been doing for years.

At if:book, we’ve already made resources for schools curated reading experiences, producedilluminated digital texts and held debates at festivals, conferences and our own salons. Recently, we’ve been talking to lots of people about new kinds of public spaces for books and new kinds of enterprise around the word – now it’s time to make them happen.