Are Book Apps the New Gutenberg press?

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Call me old-fashioned but I like books. Like Graham Linehan in Black Books, I am the sort of person to appear in a bookstore at ten o’clock and say, “I just want to buy a book!”

At least I used to be.

I’ve noticed something freaky of late and that is I’m not reading as much and neither is anyone else. The first point I can explain away because kids + writing. (For those not on the meme*, that translates to “Any spare time I have after raising and minding the children goes to working on my own stories.” *FYI, ‘because’ is officially now a preposition and not just a conjunction.)

And because Twitter. Have to put my hand up there. The spare seconds between tasks invariably goes to checking the latest Tweets. Sorry, Facebook, I’m not friends with you the same way any more.

Once I used to have my nose perpetually in a book. Even walking. (This is genetic: my mother did this as a girl too although happily I have never walked into a lamp-post as she did.) Now I have the bloody iPhone out, thumbing through screens, precious few of which contain more written material than 140-character posts.

Stories need to be told but I’m convinced the way we are telling them is going to change. Videogames are beginning to rival movies as mass-media and the ones with compelling narratives bind players attention in the same way: you have to get to the end to find out what happened. So when the local library put on an author visit with a forthcoming work built on the intriguing premise of a multimedia ebook, I was there.

The author is Annabel Smith and her book is The Ark. (It isn’t out yet. I’ll let you know when it is.) Annabel is actually doing something I asked a digital publisher about a couple of months ago: she is ‘producing’ a story that is also contextualised through an app. Well, sort of an app. Just like VHS vs Betamax and Blu-Ray vs HD DVD there is a war between iOS and Android with HTML5 the no-man’s-land in-between. Annabel is wisely opting for the latter: something that can be used on either system without undue catastrophic consequences (namely to the bank balance: the alternative is paying to have two apps made that do the same thing).

In Annabel’s words:

“The story is told through a series of documents, including newspaper articles, memos, letters, emails, and medical and psychological reports, to gradually reveal a picture of the Ark and its inhabitants. Without a consistent point of view the reader’s perspective shifts as new documents come to light, creating a sense of mystery…” –
See more at: http://annabelsmith.tumblr.com/theark

Annabel very awesomely won an Australian Council Creative Australia Fellowship for Emerging Artists grant to do this. As someone who briefly managed a Process Innovation unit, I can tell you she is going about it in an exemplary fashion and I am well impressed with the complexity and scope of what she’s aiming for.

It’s a brave new world and she’s one courageous lady. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next!

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Showing 4 comments

  • Louise Allan
    Reply

    I’m intrigued, too, and can’t wait to see the finished product. And I think you’re right — this is the new wave. It’s still telling stories, just not in the traditional, linear, chronological fashion. I’m sure Annabel is onto something with this …

    • Karina
      Reply

      It’s very exciting to see a pioneer in action!

  • Loretta Hill
    Reply

    Wow! How interesting Karina. I’ve never heard of anyone telling a story through an App before but am not surprised it’s happening. You can do just about anything on your phone these days. Pretty soon, it’ll clean your house for you. Well, just quietly, that’s what I’m hoping. Somebody design an App for that!!!! Great Blog btw.

    • Karina
      Reply

      Thanks Loretta. I’d sign up straightaway for a house cleaning app too….

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