Posted by if:book on Jun 11, 2013 in News
The countdown has again ended. Exactly twelve months ago today, if:book Australia gathered together nine authors, ten editors and a mighty support team on two continents. Their goal was to write, edit, and publish a complete book from scratch in just twenty-four hours.
You know how it went down.
Featuring work from Nick Earls, Steven Amsterdam, and Krissy Kneen and others, the 24-Hour Book proved a great success, but the project generated much more than just 142 pages of finished text. Every edit, annotation and interaction with the online audience was time-stamped, captured and stored in an online database.
This is where Willow Patterns comes in. This project opens the book’s complete database, creating a web site that will let you browse through every version of every story. It’s fascinating stuff. Already I’ve spent hours trawling through page after page, scrolling through the numbers, inferring what happened when, watching word counts rise and, sometimes, fall. The data tells its own stories about how our writers worked, about their style, about the choices the editors made and the consequences of those choices.
This is Willow Patterns.
Those of you who know your way around databases and coding can download the raw data and create your own applications, visualisations and animations. We have already created a simple graph on the site that chronicles the book’s total word count. We’re also presenting the complete data as a one-off multi-volume printed work: the book behind the book, if you like. Later this year, the project will hear from artists, poets, and others responding and remixing the book to create new works in both digital and physical forms.
Want to get involved? Let us know.
All books—all stories—are made from data. Usually we see only a fraction of the data that goes into the finished product. The idea behind Willow Patterns is to lift the veil, explore the book’s hidden machinations before exploding it into myriad works and responses that will inspire visitors to step outside of ‘the book’ and consider a future where anyone can engage with stories on their own terms.
Check it out.
Posted by Romy Ash on Jun 3, 2013 in The N00bz
A photo tweeted April 18, 2013: plume of smoke, stylized as a ’50s nuclear test bomb blast, billowing above the red and yellow lights of a service station. Fuck, this is happening now, near Waco Texas in the USA. It’s a beautiful shot. When I see it later, on the front of the newspaper, it looks anemic, in print it’s bleached of colour, like that quick, it’s faded from prominence. In the paper it’s yesterday’s news. It’s obviously taken on a phone, in the early evening, with an Instagram filter. The yellow lights of the service station are blurred into soft warm moons. The following tweets hit like a punch to the belly, ‘Death toll in Texas fertiliser explosion is at 14, mayor says’.
It’s a highlight, a headline, and there’s a link to the full story. But when I read Twitter, I rarely click any of the links, I just look at the pictures and clock the headlines, one after another, like that’s all I need to know.
‘Four rhino heads stolen from the National Museum of Ireland by gang who overpower security guard’.
‘At least 27 people are dead and dozens more wounded after suicide bomber targets Baghdad café’.
If I had a real job, it’d be all I’d need for a water cooler convo. It’s an incredibly superficial way of reading the news, and my Twitter feed is definitely skewed towards news. It’s news, peppered with writer friends’ jokes/selfagrandisingpromotionaltweets, of which my tweets mostly fall under, #urgh. I’m ashamed of my superficiality, my inability to just click one-step further and actually read the news.
Posted by Greg Field on May 13, 2013 in The N00bz
An author slaves for countless hours on a manuscript for the same reason a bookseller slaves for countless hours in their shop. The author hones their text in an attempt to write something both entertaining and meaningful. The bookseller wants to hand sell the fruit of that writer’s work to a reader of schlock fiction. There is a sense of higher purpose that I feel is absent in the current self-publishing/digital publishing milieu.
Being a likely (n00b) self-published digital author myself in the near future I will inevitably have to sell my product on Amazon. As a recently retired independent bookseller I’m not entirely comfortable with the paradox that presents.
Closing my bookshop hurt like hell and it was sad to leave without another owner taking over – but who’s buying bookshops these days? When I closed, customers were shocked. People expressed grief, they bemoaned the internet as the purveyor of death and destruction. It’s not really like that. Traditional publishing was riding for a fall.
Here are three business strategies – which one is more effective?
‘Sell ’em what they want for as much as you can charge.’ – Standard model
‘Sell ’em what they want as cheap as you can till you own the game. Then charge what you like.’ – Amazon model
‘Sell ’em enough of what they want to stay in business but try and publish something “good” while you’re at it.’ – Publishing model
Darth Bezos saw this fatal weakness in publishing and exploited it. Digital disruption of retail is a fact of life and traditional publishers were ripe for disruption.
The skills required to own and run a bookshop become more demanding as the digital disruption increases. Successful independent booksellers have to be masterful sales people and great at marketing and PR. More and more they are relying on their skills as event managers too. Booksellers also have to be hard-headed business people with the ability to project cash flows, manage tax issues, negotiate leases and get the best possible deal from suppliers. They have to be HR managers as well. Given the nature of the organised and ruthless competition, is it any wonder we are losing our local bookshops?
Posted by if:book on Apr 29, 2013 in Memory Makes Us
Memory Makes Us is a new project from if:book Australia that explores the role of memory in writing and reading and highlights the frequently transient nature of books, whether on paper or screen.
In the first stage of Memory Makes Us, we need your help. We’re looking for long-term memories: the moments, thoughts, objects and feelings that stay with you. They might be significant, funny, strange or simply mundane: if it’s yours and you’re willing to share, then we want to see it.
What we’re looking for:
- Short texts (about a paragraph long)
- Photos or images
- Videos (something you’ve captured or just talk to the camera)
We’re putting together an online repository of memories which will contain many of the submissions to this site. Take a look. We’re posting new work to the repository manually, so please be aware your work won’t appear there instantly. Also please note that the work you submit must be your own. If you use any copyrighted material (images or songs in particular), we won’t be able to use it for the project.
Submit your memory here.
You can post your memories to the if:book web site from now until early July.
On 9th July, celebrated author Kate Pullinger will write a new work live and in public at the State Library of Queensland. Your collected memories will form Kate’s source material.
On the day, you will able to read her work online as it develops or you can drop in to the library if you’re in town. We will post more details about this even as the time draws nearer.
More details about Memory Makes Us.
Posted by Simon Groth on Apr 22, 2013 in The N00bz
I fed the paper through the roller, flicked the bar down and sat, staring at it. It flashed its metallic grin back at me. Starting has always been the hardest part. A blank screen and the rhythmic blink of the cursor has long been a kind of nemesis of mine: …come…on…come…on. But this was different. The page was just as blank as the screen, but there was no cursor. No prompt.
I sat before a 1969 Underwood 310 manual typewriter. Made in Spain by Olivetti, these portable devices were once ubiquitous: the notebook computers of their age. This one was a donation to the Queensland Writers Centre, courtesy of a member who wanted to be rid of it. It was the first one I had seen in a while. My parents had a similar model at home when I was a kid; they even dug it out of a shed and brought over for me to try, dried out ribbon and all. So, though I suddenly had access to two machines, only the Underwood was up to the task.
A moment passed between the machine and me and I was given to wonder why I had volunteered for this in the first place. Why would anyone willingly eschew their still new MacBook Air and commence writing on this antiquated piece of kit in 2013?
Posted by Carmel Bird on Apr 2, 2013 in The N00bz
For my seventeenth birthday I got a typewriter. It was an Olivetti letter-writer, bright red. I planned to be a novelist. So in the university vacation, when I was not working in the ice-cream factory, or as a waitress, I taught myself to type. I still have the Pitman’s guide to typing, with its thick grey cardboard cover and lovely round pastel-coloured typewriter keys. Today I am typing on a MacBook Pro, and between this and the Olivetti there have been many other machines. I am learning to make an ebook.
One day in 1987 I had lunch in Fitzroy with Diana Gribble, my publisher at McPhee Gribble. As we crossed busy Brunswick Street on our way back to the McPhee Gribble office, Diana said she thought it would be a good idea if I were to write a book on how to write fiction. This moment has remained with me, vivid in my memory, an illumination in heavy traffic. Diana died in 2011, and at her funeral the thought of that instant in Brunswick Street kept flashing into my mind.
This happened in the days before writing courses had come into being in Australian universities; there were no such things as writers’ centres. However there were some initiatives from state governments in the area of the arts, and I was involved in a program of manuscript assessment. I was Assessor Number Eight. I was anonymous and so were the writers whose work I assessed. I had been writing letters to the authors – yes, I typed them out and put them in the mail. I wonder now which designs were on the postage stamps. The letters went to people I referred to as ‘Dear Writer’. I kept copies of these letters – possibly some of them still exist in my files – and I realised I already had the core of my book on writing.
So in 1988, Dear Writer was published. I licensed it to McPhee Gribble, which in 1989 became an imprint of Penguin. The book was published by Virago in London. By the time the licence came up for renewal in 1995 my publisher was Random House and so I licensed it to them, and wrote a revised version of the text. Between the end of the Penguin licence and the beginning of the Random one, I had a request from a university for fifty copies. There were not fifty copies in existence so I printed a limited edition of a hundred copies in a plain cover with Wild and Woolley, a Sydney publisher who specialised in producing small fast print runs. In 2010, Random decided not to renew the licence and the book went out of print. Since then I have had many requests from universities for copies of Dear Writer. It occurred to me that perhaps the time had come to see it as an ebook.
Posted by if:book on Feb 26, 2013 in Publishing Futures
An episode of CBC radio show Ideas with Paul Kennedy called ‘Opening the Book’ chats with if:book friends and associates Kylie Mirmohamadi, Hugh McGuire, and Bob Stein alongside Sue Martin and James Bridle. A few random quotables hastily jotted down while listening:
What is an ebook? Well, we don’t know yet. We don’t know how to talk about the future of the book without constantly referring to past models of the book. – Kylie Mirmohamadi
I’d rather redefine what a book is than try to come up with another word for this strange experimental pond that we’re working in. – Bob Stein
The media of the future will flow, it will always be in process. – Bob Stein
The social part [of book annotation] is secondary to the desire we have as a reader to be marking up, underlining, dogearing…that’s the impulse, our own desire to interact with that information in a deeper and more active way. – Hugh McGuire
The future is not necessarily being designed in there space where I come from. – Bob Stein.
Follow this link to listen to the show.