As I mentioned earlier, McKenzie Wark is including contributions of people who has commented on his Future of the Book ‘Thinking Out Loud’ publication of Gam3r 7h3ory. Thinking Out Loud is described as follows:
Using existing social software and web-based tools, the Institute is hosting a series of networked publishing experiments designed to bring authors and readers into conversation around works in progress. Though each of these experiments will culminate in a printed book, we hope to explore what might happen along the way while the work is still in flux.
We’ve also seen many books being developed publically, with active invites to discuss, over the past few years. Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail blog is one. Anderson spend two years blogging his writing of the book, actively engaging with commenters. He gave review copies to every blogger who requested one (you should also invited bloggers and podcasters to launches!), crowd sourced the cover art, and threw MeetUps rather than bookstore signings (Rebecca Lieb). Now that the book is published, his blog continues, he provides a free chapter online and some updates on the book now that it is published. Seth Godin’s latest book ‘Small is the New Big’ is basically a publication of his blog posts. Mark Pesce’s blog hyperpeople is a development of what started as a blog of a book writing project:
hyperpeople:what happens after we’re all connected? started out as a book project. But it grew and evolved. Although there are two completed books that have grown out of it, The World Is My Hard Drive, and The Telephone Repair Handbook, much of what has to be covered in hyperpeople is best handled in blog format. Hence, this site.
There have been plenty online versions of books that provide summaries of the book, a multi-modal version and extensions. Notable ones include Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality and the more recent The Virtual Window by Anne Friedberg or Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams’ Game Development. There are also plenty of PhD candidates that blog their research. This blog (CME) started as a research blog. But I don’t blog about my PhD anymore. My research will be coming out through academic publications this year onwards. Some academics create interactive, reconceptualising of their essays, or visualisations that are the theory. I will be doing that too. There are also plenty of fictional stories in blogs, books that are delivered in the blog format, blogs that tell a story using a personal blog style, character blogs and so on. Darth Vader has a blog, and so does Julius Caesar. You can read some more blogfiction at my delicious (and I’ve got a couple of wikifictions too). I too use blogs for creating characters in transmedia fictions.
I really like this approach to writing and marketing books. Working up a fanbase through a blog, through blogging about a book makes sense. Seth Godin spoke at this at the recent Google UnBound: Advancing Book Publishing in the Digital World:
Godin cited Scott Adams’ success with his Dilbert books, based on the comic character. Adams began to include his e-mail address in the syndicated strip. Fans wrote, so he launched a newsletter. “So he delivers a book to Harpers, e-mails his list, and it’s the #1 bestseller,” Seth explained. “How long did it take to make it a best seller, one day? No. Seven years. He built an asset.” (review by Rebecca Lieb)
As an advisor to the Australian Literature Board, I discuss approaches such as they ones I’ve cited and others. I really like the creativity that is emerging. I’m disappointed, however, that it is all coming from the authors and not many publishers. There are some enlightened ones, such as the efforts of Penguin UK, and others I’ll mention here over the next few months. But mostly the drive is coming from authors. The reason being that many publishers just don’t see the need for using the web (I know, I know), and that they don’t see any money in providing digital versions (free copies) or that not many writers or books are suitable for this. The latter is not entirely true, every book needs online marketing; but not all books are appropriate for a collaborative development process. As for fear of losing control and money when digital versions (such as pdfs) are out there. Well, this is where I recommend cross-media bundling. One fee and you get the printed book and a digital version. I’ll be posting about this more soon, but for now, it is interesting to note that a fairy told me Amazon will be bringing this out in a big way. Very cool.