When Fiction Becomes Reality

Over the holidays I caught up on some of my recreational reading and read Ender’s Game, the scifi classic written by Orson Scott Card and published by TOR in 1985. It only took me ten years to get to it–I first heard about the book in high school when my friend Dash gave a book report on it in Freshman English. Light years ago, right?

What surprised me most about the book, though, was how accurately Card predicted future technologies: all the recruits have desks (touchscreen laptops), when they’re not studying or practicing they have time for free play (video games), the school has a system the students can send messages through (email), and back on Earth people communicate across the globe on the nets (the internet).

If anyone still doubts the power of Twitter and the blogosphere, this passage from the book, where Ender’s siblings back on Earth, Patrick and Valentine, take up the personas of Demosthenes and Locke on the nets in order to amass political influence, reads almost as prophecy:

With false names, on the right nets, [Patrick and Valentine] could be anybody. Old men, middle-aged women, anybody, as long as they were careful about the way they wrote. All that anyone would see were their words, their ideas. Every citizen started equal, on the nets.

Of course they were not invited to take part in the great national and international political forums–they could only be audiences there until they were invited or elected to take part. But they signed on and watched, reading some of the essays published by the great names, witnessing the debates that played across their desks.

And in the lesser conferences, where common people commented about the great debates, they began to insert their comments. At first Peter insisted that they be deliberately inflammatory.

The responses that got posted were vinegar; the responses that were sent as mail, for Peter and Valentine to read privately, were poisonous. But they did learn what attributes of their writing were seized upon as childish and immature. And they got better.

Peter took careful note of their most memorable phrases and then did searches from time to time to find those phrases cropping up in other places. Not all of them did, but most of them were repeated here and there, and some of them even showed up in the major debates on the prestige nets. “We’re being read,” Peter said. “The ideas are seeping out.”

In an age when Ashton Kutcher has more followers on Twitter than CNN, this scenario couldn’t ring more true.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Why This Sony Commercial Makes Me Want To Cry

Can someone please explain the thinking behind this commercial? Pay a celebrity like Justin Timberlake to sit on a fake panel, consisting of other celebrities (like quarterback Peyton Manning) who marvel at the fact that hundreds of books can be read on a Sony Reader. “I just did” says Howard Berg, the infamous speed-reader.

“I did too” says Timberlake. And then, a pause: “No I didn’t” Timberlake says, chuckling. Huh? I don’t get it. The message is.. a Sony Reader is a cool looking device…for people who pretend to read? I’ll take Hodgman any day over that.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

The Issue with Augmented Reality

Esquire magazine, December 2009 issueNext Monday I’ll be stopping at the Hudson Newsstand in Port Authority to pick up the December issue of Esquire, and not because I need to read up on cummerbunds and weekend watches. As a twenty-one-year-old female, I’m hardly Esquire’s target demographic, but they’ve caught my eye with their upcoming issue featuring augmented reality. And, well, Robert Downey Jr. on the cover also helps. But I want to see augmented reality in action, because it sure looks cool in the videos.

After Esquire announced the new feature last week, posts quickly popped up reviewing the magazine’s execution and asking questions. December will surely see a boost in sales due to people like me buying the magazine for the novelty of the experience, but is this something that will go on to save the print industry? Will people be able to appreciate the need for a webcam to read something in print? Will the cost of AR technology ever be completely offset by ad sales and thus a sustainable feature? Are we creating a future for AR?

It’s important to remember that, while you may be adding a medium, you might not necessarily be adding value. In an OpEd for AgencySpy, Jack Benoff criticized Esquire for using AR as a self-proclaimed gimmick instead of adding any value beyond what could be accomplished online. As far as we can tell, the interactive feature is mostly entertainment based, but Benoff offers one way to take AR to the next, necessary level:

Of course it’s easy to sit here and rip on someone else’s work without providing any real value, so here’s an idea: what if Esquire’s “fashion spread” allowed people to overlay images of an article of clothing on themselves ( for example ties) so that they could match (or in my case, learn how to match) them with their existing wardrobe. Editorial content could provide tips, tricks and insights. Now, that might provide some real value to consumers looking to make a purchase (not to mention the brands that sell those articles of clothing) and would be an execution that could be updated and utilized all year long (that is, Esquire could sell the space to various retailers each and every season).

So while I’ll be picking up the issue to marvel at the AR magic, I would love to see magazines (or even books!) take on augmented reality to engage with the reader and provide valuable interaction.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Legless Man Builds $10 Ebook Reader

More about Kevin Michael Connolly’s upcoming memoir, Double Take, can be found here.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Inherent Publicity

Novelist Thomas Pynchon is perhaps as well-known for his uber-reclusive tendencies as for his sprawling, byzantine books, such as V., Gravity’s Rainbow, and Mason & Dixon. This week, his new novel Inherent Vice hit the shelves, and Penguin Press has cleverly created some publicity for a man who has spent his career trying to avoid it. Instead of dragging him out from hiding, Penguin has crafted this coy little promotional video. It’s already generated all kinds of talk as to whether or not the video is being narrated by Pynchon himself. (As for Penguin, when GalleyCat asked to confirm or deny they would say only, “No comment.”) Well, if it isn’t Pynchon, whoever was responsible was cunning enough to hire a voice actor that sounded remarkably like Pynchon did during his voice-cameo on The Simpsons. Then again, who knows if that was really him, anyway? At any rate, it’s an interesting example of publicity generated not in spite of, but because of, an author’s wish to be left alone.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Kindle

Amazon's KindleAmazon isn’t giving out much info, but informal sources are reporting that the snowballing growth of e-book reading is made up primarily of commercial fiction. My own experience bears this out; over the past few weeks I have read more suspense fiction electronically than I have ever read before in print. It’s not just the price, either. There’s something irresistible about the popcorn-eating effect of finishing one novel and starting the next one without even getting up off the couch. My previous experience was that sometimes I’d be reading a book, but there would often be downtime before I got around to choosing a next one. Now there are simply no barriers to non-stop reading, and without having bought a physical book, I don’t feel like I’m being somehow overindulgent as I move from one to the next.

So after finishing George Dawes Green‘s terrific new novel, Ravens, I immediately ordered his first one, The Caveman’s Valentine, a brilliant book that fully deserved its Edgar Award.

If my experience is any indicator, the downward pressure on price from e-books might very well be counter-balanced by something we can all feel good about, and hopefully find a way to make money from: a newly voracious appetite for page-turners (or page-clickers, as I guess we’ll now need to say).

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM

Comments Off


 

The Future of Le Livre?

Leave it to the French to give us such a civilized vision of how the physical book and electronic book might someday coexist. While today we are being asked to choose between e-books we download online and physical books we might buy after a delightful conversation with our local bookseller, perhaps the future will marry the two experiences, n’est-ce pas? Check out this short film, recommended by The Tattered Cover’s Joyce Meskis:

Editis Film

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Quote of the Day

Cory Doctorow, taken by Paula Mariel Salischiker/pausal.co.uk

“I really feel like my problem isn’t piracy.  It’s obscurity.” – Cory Doctorow

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

HTML, The New “60 WPM”

HTMLBack in the day…my day :) that is…when you applied for an entry level position in Book Publishing, you had to take a typing test and type at least 60 words per minute to even be considered. I am not kidding.

Now, basic knowledge of HTML is the new requirement for membership. At least according to me. Seriously, Kathryn, our Rotational Associate, came to us with HTML skills, and it comes in handy every single day — to the point where I realized I needed to learn 101 HTML skills to stay ahead of the curve.

Cut to a few weeks ago when I got an email from Maggie Hilliard at DailyLit telling me that their newly formed Digital Publishing Group was offering up a “free,” basic HTML class (I say this very quietly for fear that everyone’s going to realize what I already know — which is to say that this group is a gift to publishing and I’m afraid there won’t be room for me if I miss the email and don’t RSVP fast enough). To make this offer even more insanely appealing, the class was being taught by DailyLit founder Susan Danziger‘s husband, Albert Wenger, a partner at Union Square Ventures. Check out their portfolio and you’ll know why I placed such high value on this offering.

Space was limited. First RSVP, first serve.

To say I hit the “Reply YES” button so fast your head would spin, would be an understatement.

The class took place last night. I’d say there were about 25 people there — seemed to be a mix of age and gender (though mostly women, and mostly younger!) — and I’m proud to say there were 5 HarperCollins peeps in the crowd (woo hoo @DominicanPie — I should have known you’d be there. I knew as soon as I met you that you get it.).

It was the most potent, amazing, useful, 2.5 hours I’ve spent in a long, long, time.

THANK YOU ALBERT! And thank you Susan Danizger and Maggie Hilliard for bringing this group together. You guys are amazing, and Book Publishing is lucky to have you.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Choosing the Baby or the Bathwater

netflixThe Wall Street Journal had a fascinating article about Netflix on Tuesday (“Netflix Boss Plots Life After the DVD“). It’s instructive to anyone trying to adapt to changing technology, including book publishers. Netflix’s ceo, Reed Hastings, has great business lending out DVDs, but it’s a business he predicts will begin to die off as early as four years from now. How should he make the move to online distribution without hastening his own core business’s demise? And what does this imply for book publishers who want to build an e-book business without destroying their print revenues any sooner than they have to?

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 
Next »