Category Archives: multimedia

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Me and books

When I get into a book

When I hate the ending

How I turn the page

What I think

End result

Building Books

As December rolls around, the perpetual question of “What would you like from Santa” is to be found in e-mails from supremely organized family members.  Just as well, then, that a compendium of “Best of 2012” lists abounds, and over the last few days I have been taking a gander at these lists, most obviously the lists for best books.

One of the ubiquitous occupants of these lists is the “book” BUILDING STORIES by Chris Ware. Although, in one review I read, calling Ware’s work a book, would be doing the book a disservice. BUILDING STORIES comes in a box and is compiled of fourteen pamphlets that readers are free to read in whichever order they choose. Readers are then able to re-order the sequence in which they read the materials again and again. In a sense, where is the last page of this book?

Or does there necessarily have to be one? Ware’s book in a box certainly grabs your attention through its inventiveness, but should we be at all surprised? With the expanding array of reading devices, the way we read books is growing ever more diverse, and what we read is becoming ever more multifaceted in the digital world. Books such as HISTORY OF A PLEASURE SEEKER have grown to become an interactive nest of audio, pictures, archives and art.

With these new forms of storytelling, where do you stand as an author? Is Ware an author in the traditional sense, or more of a compiler of artifacts? What do you think of multimedia being a part of your reading material? Is the digital reader set to become a digital explorer?

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Video Games + Books = ?

The New York Times wrote up a new Scholastic children’s book series today: Infinity Ring. What is interesting to me about this series isn’t that it is written by several different authors, some of which we represent, or that it is (according to the New York Times, anyway) supposed to be the successor to the Harry Potter throne. What I find interesting is that there is a tie-in video game, and that it is being called a multi-media property.

Video games are certainly one of the most interesting story telling mediums today, mostly because it hasn’t quite figured out how to best tell a story. Role Playing Games, like the recently released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, have an expansive history of elaborate backstory and narrative driven gameplay. Action and Shooter games, on the other hand, have put significantly less emphasis on story, but some games, like the Assassin’s Creed series and the Uncharted series, are looking to change that. Meanwhile, there are those games that put story absolutely up front and center, like 2010’s Alan Wake, but those tend to fall flat on gameplay to the point of being totally boring. Of course, being an interactive medium, video games should be focusing more on player interaction than story. The greatest game I’ve ever played, Shadow of the Colossus (please play the ps3 version), has a story so bare bones and minimal it almost isn’t there. I call it the greatest game I’ve ever played because every time I play it, without fail, my palms sweat, my heartbeat triples, and I get this feeling of utter fragility in my limbs. That is what video games excel at – getting the player completely physically and emotionally involved in the game. You would imagine that video games that tie-in to other properties would do this exceptionally well, as the story and characters have already been laid out for the game designers and they need to just focus on the gameplay – like Shadow of the Colossus does.

An example of a truly great tie-in/multi-media project is Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire: the novel was really gripping, the comic was fun as hell, and the video game was absolutely amazing (I still play it). More importantly, each medium offered stories and aspects of the project unique and well-suited to that specific format. To the point where not only did each of the three work well as a standalone entity, but you couldn’t really consider any one of them to be the principal focus of the overall story. All three worked together in concert.

I have high hopes for Infinity Ring. There are really great authors behind it,  Scholastic is an exceptional publisher, and I think the timing is perfect for something new to sweep in and steal the hearts and minds of our youth. I really, really hope to see is a truly multi-media project in which all the different mediums being used are used to their full potential. It could be revolutionary, to the likes of which we haven’t seen before, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

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The Uses of Pudding

From the always innovative Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull Press and Red Lemonade, comes an interesting new project called Small Demons. Media bistro covers it here, and Quill and Quire here.  I’m not 100 percent sure that I grasp its  implications, but Small Demons catalogs and compiles details within books, so presumably I could find what fictional characters also listen to Bach’s double concerto or the Stone Roses, both particular favorites of mine, or reproduce a cocktail menu from Brideshead Revisited for an equally fictional party I might throw. The computer can find links across books—resonances, repetitions, relationships–but maybe I’m being too literal and utilitarian when I claim I don’t yet see what it’s for.  What do you think?

Actually, scratch that. I can spy a use for Small Demons, and the site may prove a blessing or curse to lit graduate students, and many a dissertation has been based around this sort of quirky detective work. So whether The Use of Pudding in the Victorian Novel will remain an appropriate field for academic inquiry now that a website can investigate it in seconds is anybody’s guess. However, I’m planning to try it out, and you can too can give it a whirl in its beta site here.

Would you buy a book before it’s written?

Joëlle Anthony, one of my lovely clients, pointed me to this article about a new crowd-funded book project, Unbound. Much like Kickstarter, but only for books and only in the UK, the site allows you to make contributions to a project that’s been conceived but yet begun. There are several levels of support, starting at merely £10, which gets your name in the back of the book plus a free e-book, up to £250, which gets you two tickets to lunch with the author, tickets to the launch party, goodie bags, signed books, e-books, etc. Not a bad deal, if you ask me. In addition to all of this, readers also get access to what they’re calling the author’s “shed,” where the author will post updates on the book, interviews, and even material from the work in progress.

What makes this even better is that the authors that they’re working with have, for the most part, already been published. There’s already an audience for their work. This could be an ideal set up for an author who is trying to branch out, say a novelist who decides to write nonfiction, or vice versa. It could work when a publisher says to an author, “You know we love your writing, but there’s no audience for this idea.” It’s a safer way to test the waters, even for the author, who won’t be committing to writing the book until the funding is secured.

I don’t think this is a system that would be appropriate for every author or every book, but I know I’ve been in situations with clients in the past where I wish this had been a possibility. Anyone out there going to crowd fund (oh, how I hate buzz words!) their next book? Or has anyone supported an author in this way?

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A viral video about PUBLISHING?!

by Michael


I was really impressed by this video from DK in the UK.  It was designed for use in-house, but it was so popular that they decided to share the love.  And, in my experience talking to teen readers at events, this video is right on!  (Make sure to watch it all the way through–you’ll miss the point if you don’t!)


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Possibilities

by Michael

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that I’m a bit of a gadget nerd, especially when it comes to mobile tech. It’s bad enough that I should probably go to early-adopters-anonymous. I was in line for the iPhone 3G and would have been for the original but I was on a trip to Italy. And despite its shortcomings, I’m pretty jazzed about the iPad.

I also used to be a big magazine reader—huge. I think I’ve subscribed to just about everything at one point or another: from my Nintendo Power days as a kid, through my Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Movieline period, through the New Yorker and Wired more recently. I do still get Wired, but for someone who used to subscribe to 5 or 6 magazines at once, my consumption has definitely gravitated online.

So I was pretty excited when I saw this video, which combines the shininess of mobile tech with the glossiness of magazines. With active content and ads, and with fantastic design and layouts, I could see myself sitting with this for extended periods of time. And I wouldn’t mind paying a fee for it, either. When the content is interesting and delivered beautifully, I’m happy to pay.

This got me thinking about books, of course, and how this kind of approach might affect them. I’d love to see this kind of format used for a new sort of Choose Your Own Adventure, with clickable links that take you to different strands of the story. Or it could even be used for something nonlinear, a more experimental approach to story. There could be wacky children’s books, where turning the page requires some task–finding Waldo, maybe? How-to books could include video or short animations. I think the possibilities are pretty darn exciting.