PLAYBACK: The Age of The E-Book? How Digital Technologies Are Changing Storytelling, Research and Publishing

Filed in: Media Literacy, Schools

Filed by Sarah Jackson


Photo by Daniel Sancho.

7.22.11 | How e-reading may be affecting writing; Harry Potter goes Google; the future of textbooks, chain bookstores; and humanities scholars discuss their digital future, all in this week’s playback.

Digital Lit: Are digital technologies changing the way we tell stories and the way writers write? The Toronto Globe and Mail talks with authors and publishers about what effect e-reading is having on writing and what the new digital literature may look like in the future.

Kate Taylor does a good job of framing the debate around whether e-readers should be trying to reproduce the traditional reading experience as closely as possible or instead focus on encouraging real multimedia experimentation.

“E-books as we know them are electronic replicas of books, it’s paper under glass,” author Kate Pullinger, told the Globe and Mail. “If you are going to put a work of fiction on a computer, why would you not use the multimedia components a computer has to offer you – image and sound and interactive games?”

Pullinger is the author of “Inanimate Alice” a multimedia book that uses text, sound, images and games to tell the story of Alice and her imaginary digital friend Brad. [For more on Alice read Heather Chaplin’s story on the future of the book].

Also fascinating was Taylor’s discussion of authorial control. Publishers are struggling with how to get serious writers to experiment with interactive technology and games while still using literary text to draw in readers.

”You get these interactive projects – it’s such a novelty, the first 20 minutes the person is just learning the interface,” says Alex Jansen, the owner of Pop Sandbox, a small digital publisher that produced The Next Day and will turn to fiction with a forthcoming photo novella based on a short story by Toronto writer and Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith. “By the time they are done clicking, they have taken the narrative into the middle of nowhere. You do still need a storyteller.”

Publishers on the cutting edge hope to get writers to take the lead in shaping technology, rather than just accepting the technology that developers offer. Read the full story here.

Plus: Over at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Zachary Levine describes a new research effort in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science. Researchers are examining how reading books on the iPad affects parent-child conversation and interaction among children ages 3 to 5 and their caregivers. The Cooney Center has been investigating how digital technology is changing family life and how intergenerational play can help children learn. We look forward to hearing their results.

Harry Potter Goes Google: Several weeks back we covered author J.K. Rowling’s announcement that she would be releasing digital versions of all of the Harry Potter novels on a new website, Pottermore. This week Google announced they are teaming up with Pottermore to make the novels available on Google’s e-Books platform and offer support through a number of other Google products and APIs.

Read Write Web covers what could happen “when the magic of Harry Potter meets the magic of electronic literature.”  Read more about transmedia storytelling at Spotlight.

The Future of the Bookstore: The Wall Street Journal had several interesting pieces this week in their “future of the book” series about how the largest US bookstore chains are and are not adapting to digital technologies.

This week Borders announced it will close all of its stores in the coming months after declaring bankruptcy in February, while Barnes and Noble is changing its focus under a new CEO to be “a seller of book downloads, reading devices and apps.” The chain owns 705 consumer bookstores, which stock up to 200,000 titles, and 636 college bookstores, according to the Journal. They currently claim as much as 27% of the e-book market. Read on here.

Digital Learners Need Digital Textbooks: Amazon announced this week an e-textbook rental program that would allow students to treat textbooks like online subscriptions. Writing at the Chronicle of Higher Education Jie Jenny Zou explains:

Students can now download temporary copies of textbooks on Amazon’s Web site for reading on a Kindle e-book reader or on a computer, tablet, or smartphone running free Kindle software. The system lets customers specify rental periods lasting anywhere from a month to a year. Amazon argues that the digital rentals can save students up to 80 percent compared with traditional print textbooks.

For example, one textbook, Intermediate Accounting, which retails at $197 in print and $109 as an e-book, would cost $57 to rent from Amazon for three months. Students have the option to purchase the e-book during or after a rental period, and can extend rental period in daily increments.

The program builds on a model already being used by CourseSmart, a digital-textbook seller started by major textbook publishers.

Scholars Talk Digital Communication: At the final session of the Scholarly Communication Institute (an initiative started by the Andrew Mellon Foundation to advance the humanities through the use of innovative technologies) this week academics in the humanities fields were busy discussing what the future of scholarly communication will look like.  I wrote about this last week when we covered Press Forward, a new publishing platform that aims to gain attention for academic work, published on the web.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

Participants talked about the growing push to get tenure-and-promotion committees to recognize and give credit for projects that don’t look like traditional monographs or journal articles. They agreed that they wanted to see more attention paid to non-tenure-track and alternative academic, or “alt-ac,” careers that combine scholarly, publishing, and technological skills. They pushed for scholarly societies to take a bigger role as “hubs of change” and how that could benefit not just scholars but also the societies themselves. And they discussed how university presses and libraries might adapt to publish and archive evolving forms of scholarship.

“I think we still have a tendency to fight against the Web and its way of doing things and to try to adapt the Web to our way of working,” Tom Scheinfeldt, the managing director of George Mason’s Rosenzweig Center said. Scheinfeldt told the Chronicle the most successful online projects “are the ones that do it the Web way, that follow the Web’s native capabilities and cultures, and don’t try to shove old modes into the new ways of working.”

Plus, Does Digital Publishing Need Peer Review?: Cathy Davidson goes in depth into some of these issues in a post over at HASTAC. Davidson says peer review is necessary in a collaborative world to drive innovation. She asks “Why, then, in so many discussions of digital scholarship and digital humanities is ‘peer review’ implicitly or explicitly posed as the ‘opposite’ of digital scholarship?” Read the entire post here. Davidson’s forthcoming book “Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn” will be published next month.


Leave a comment

Comments are moderated to ensure topic relevance and generally will be posted quickly.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.