Thursday, July 14, 2011

The shape of books to come

An image from Raghava KK's Pop It on iPad
















New media and the book of the future

Once upon a time, there was the oral tradition, stories passed down through the generations, adapted by the storyteller. Then, stories were written, illustrated and bound by hand. In 1439, along came Gutenberg. For more than 500 years since, the printing press has defined the format of books, influenced the way we write and read -- and how we conceive the story.

Now the story becomes malleable again. I was fascinated to read a couple of recent articles on how technology is influencing the way stories are written and envisioned. Given the adaptable nature of digital technology, why be confined to the parameters of conventional books? For instance, now writers can easily develop multiple endings, inviting the reader to take control of the story, as discussed in this great article from the Books section of Canada's Globe and Mail.

On even more boundary pushing, here's an article from Mashable about Pop It, a new children's book for the iPad by the ingenious artist Raghava KK. The narrative can be adapted by the child reader, who can change the character line-up with a quick shake -- for example -- choosing whether the parents in the story are heterosexual or homosexual, male or female.

I love the notion of a new range of freedom for a story concept to go in any direction.

As a writer --  or reader -- how do you feel about using new technology to adapt, push or change the arc of the story?

Coming up later this month, an interview with Joanna Philbin, author of the YA series, The Daughters. I recently read the first three books in her series, and am delighted to have the opportunity to interview her. She was also kind enough to provide a signed copy of, The Daughters Take the Stage, for a book giveaway.

Tuesdays in August, I'll be featuring a series of guest articles by students and graduates of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program on writing for children. Please check back...

16 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Wow. Kids can choose the parents? Fun... and scary!

Lisa Gail Green said...

I love that we can use our creativity to mold the technology to our benefit! Those sound like cool examples.

Barbara Watson said...

Ohhhh. Wow. I don't know; I'm so traditional when it comes to books. And, as a writer, thinking in multiple endings or various character paths throughout the story? Eek. I guess it's sort of like writing the 'what if this instead of that' had happened. But still, I'm traditional. It's gonna be tough for me.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

If it gets me published, I'll write on a neutrino.
Sincerely,
Physics Impaired

Rod said...

If each story is a journey, it should have a beginning, middle and end. The vehicle is irrelevant, although it may dictate the format. In delivering a story to a reader, don't mistake show for substance.

Cindy Marcus said...

I loved the ap that you can shake and see another way of being. What an incredible idea. Wow. I fear for the written page cause it is a medium all its own and I hope will never be lost. Thanks for sharing.

rilla jaggia said...

"In delivering a story..., don't mistake show for substance."
I agree with Rod. I've always loved technology and having the ability to personalize any interactive experience. I welcome new formats for storytelling. But at the end of the day, no matter what the format, the better the story, the longer you will keep your audience's attention.

Julie Musil said...

I love the idea of incorporating technology into future books. Kids are now born with an iPod in their hands, so we might as well use that to our advantage!

Ms. Yingling said...

This is a really interesting topic. I have been thinking more about how nonfiction will be available in e-formats-- it's really hard to read a lot of it now, which makes me wonder about e textbooks. Hadn't thought about fiction, though.

Amber Keyser said...

I just joined a team embarking on transmedia storytelling - interwoven stories told through film, comics, blogs, gaming, and a novel. I'm the YA novelist. It's a totally different way to look at story delivery, but I think it has the potential to be really exciting. Not the death of the book but instead a way for readers/fans to becoming participants in the story. You can check it out at AngelPunk.co (not .com).

iza said...

Lately, I feel so bombarded with technology that all I want to do is crawl into a hole with a nice, old-fashined bound book. That's enough for me. I have to agree with Barbara, that it will be tough to accept.

Pauline said...

Multiple endings, choosing characters - isn't that what a video game is? There will always be room for both kinds of stories - multi-branched and single path. People want both. Don't be afraid!

Megan Frances said...

Thanks for commenting, everybody. I agree, the possibilities are fun and scary at the same time. But no matter which directions technology goes, I think there will always be a place for traditional narrative structure.

As for Physics Impaired, if you could figure out how to write on a neutrino, you probably wouldn't care about getting published. (I didn't even know what a neutrino is -- I had to look it up. That's how physics impaired I am.)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I think it will be very sad if the printed book goes away completely. I have books that are from the 1800's. They can't be deleted. I understand how having an ereader is a better use of natural resources, but I'm pretty tradtional. I love books. I can't imagine snuggling up with my little one (if she were still little) with my ereader to read bedtime stories.

the.s.s. said...

The problem with techie games and fashions is the loss of solid fodder for the heart, mind and soul.
The race of humans to come - bleep, blip, blurb, blab, blub, bewildered !

Jule said...

I prefer a conventional book. I don't want to work at the story. I want the story to come to me. I don't think it will feel like a story if I get to choose where it goes. Interesting concept though.