Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

A walk through The Waste Land

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Daniel sent the link to this YouTube video, A walk through The Waste Land, that shows an iPad edition of The Waste Land developed by Touch Press. The version has the text, audio readings by various people, a video of a performance, the manuscripts, notes and photos. I was struck by how this extends to the iPad the experiments of the late 1980s and 1990s that exploded with the availability of HyperCard, Macromedia Director and CD-ROM. The most active publisher was Voyager that remediated books and documentaries to create interactive works like Poetry in Motion (Vimeo demo of CD) or the expanded book series, but all sorts of educational materials were also being created that never got published. As a parent I was especially aware of the availability of titles as I was buying them for my kids (who, frankly, ignored them.) Dr. Seuss ABC was one of the more effective remediations. Kids (and parents) could click on anything on the screen and entertaining animations would reinforce the alphabet.


INKE Research Foundations For Understanding Books And Reading In A Digital Age Text And Beyond

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Today I was at the INKE Birds Of a Feather conference here in Kyoto. I wrote a conference report at, INKE Research Foundations For Understanding Books And Reading In A Digital Age Text And Beyond. It was a great day with lots of discussion thanks to the BOF format where papers were distributed beforehand so we could only talk for 5 minutes.

Web literature in China

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

From a story in the Guardian I discovered that online reading is taking off in China. According to China Daily story, Web literature turns a page with profitable storyline a large percentage of Chinese web users are reading long serialized novels for a 30-50 cents per 100,000 words (which is about a dollar for every 600-1000 pages!) The Guardian story Has China found the future of publishing? suggests that the convenience, the price, the type of serialized literature, the economic model (of independent authors and commercial sites), and the proliferation of e-readers has made it a viable business. I’m guessing that serialization is a way of discouraging pirates – people who want the next chapter will pay to get it as soon as possible.

Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory Launch

Thursday, September 29th, 2011


I am at the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC) launch. CWRC is building a collaborative editing environment that will allow editorial projects to manage the editing of electronic scholarly editions. Among other things CWRC is developing an online XML editor, a editorial workflow management tools, and integrated repository.

The keynote speakers for the event include Shawna Lemay and Aritha Van Herk.

The Fight Over the Future of Digital Books

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Dan Cohen has written a good summary of the latest fuss over electronic books, The Fight Over the Future of Digital Books. He explains the latest suit by the Authors Guild against the HathiTrust. This suit is the companion to the suit by the Authors Guild of Google that has still not been resolved.

LOGICOMIX: philosophical comics

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Sean lent me LOGICOMIX (Doxiadis, Apostolos, et al. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and logic. The comic novel has a series of frames, the outer of which is a discussion between the real authors about logic and passion. They end up going to see Orestes and the novel ends with Athena’s judgement that brings the fates (passion and revenge) together with reason into wisdom in a city (Athens) through justice.

This frame echoes the main internal story which is Russell’s struggle to found math in logic. Much of the novel is a tour through the history of logic and important paradoxes. This tour runs in parallel with a biography of Russell. At all levels the novel seems to argue that you have to balance passion with reason. Russell tried to do it in his life, logicians discovered there was no logical foundation with paradoxes, and the graphic novel uses comic art to illustrate the story of logic (hence “logicomix”.) There is dog called “Manga” (which apparently in Greek means “cool dude”) who chases the owl (of reason.)

Distractions in the Shallows

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I’ve was slowly reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows when I came across this passage,

By combining many different kinds of information on a single screen, the multimedia Net further fragments content an disrupts our concentration. (p. 91)

As often happens when reading, questions disrupted my concentration. I couldn’t help thinking that Carr’s gaze was limited by the screen. How many distractions are there beyond the book and screen. I grabbed my iPhone and took a panoramic shot of the visual space from where I sat on the living room couch. Rooms are the problem – they are filled with multimedia and interactive distractions starting with the couch (which invites me to put down the book and snooze.) Here is my annotated “multimedia” space (click to enlarge):

Amazon and Waterstones report downloads eclipsing printed book sales

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

So, ebooks are finally taking off! The Guardian reports that Amazon and Waterstones report downloads eclipsing printed book sales . This doesn’t mean that the value of print sales has been surpassed, but it is still indicative that ebooks are here to stay.

Now, can we redesign the book for the ereader? The current crop of ebook readers are page turners that don’t use the medium. Instead the medium has been made to work like the book and perhaps that is right, but I would still like to see something more interesting. Here are some ideas:

  • e-audio-books – ebooks that come with either voice synthesis or synchronized audio so that you can listen or read them.
  • An API for reading apps so that you could buy apps that work with all your ebooks. The apps might allow you to search across books or visualize books. There might be apps that quiz you with random quotes or help you pull linked data out of a book.
  • A standardized way of citing passages in an ebook.

The File On H.: Ismail Kadare

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I’ve been meaning for years to blog about Ismail Kadare’s The File On H.. This short book is, I believe, Kadare’s response to the naive views about orality and primitive societies of people like Lord and Parry. Kadare apparently met them at a conference and there is no doubt that the book is some sort of literary response to their study of oral storytelling in the Balkans. The authors of the Wikipedia entry on the book seem to feel that Kadare was trying to alert us to the Albanian oral traditions that Lord and Parry ignored for the Serbo-Croatian ones. I think he was making fun of American academics trying to recover some noble and original orality and also trying to show that there is a continuity between oral storytelling and the constant spying on people of a police state.

<Spoiler Alert>Technology, this time magnetic tape recording, plays an important part in the plot. The two academics bring this new type of machine to Albania to record the local rhapsodes. A jealous Serbian monk stirs up trouble and the recordings get shredded. Ironically, while the two academics have nothing to left when they leave Albania, one of them has caught the bug and been infected with orality. They may not have recordings, but they have learned to do it. Which is the more useful?

Making Books : Encyclopaedia Britannica Films : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

On Boing Boing I cam across a reference to this Encyclopedia Britannica short video on Making Books (Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, 1947). It is remarkable how many specialized machines there were for printing books. Nicely reminds us of a moment in the history of information technology.