Kindle Highlights from and ‘The Mistress of Nothing’

26 May 2012 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

Today I came across the Kindle highlights from ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ via the US Amazon site.  I’d never noticed this before.  The highlights are bits that readers have bookmarked in the text and shared with other Kindle readers.  My plan is to write a version of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ that consists of these highlights and nothing else.

And, in fact, Omar was master of his own household, however infrequently he was able to attend to it, while I was mistress of nothing. 
Highlighted by 11 Kindle users

I was not a real person to her, not a true soul with all the potential for grace and failure that implies. 
Highlighted by 7 Kindle users

“I’m not surprised, Sally Naldrett, to find you capable of this.” At the time I heard one meaning. Now I hear another. 
Highlighted by 7 Kindle users

But while all of this is true, it is a mistake to think that the people are so preoccupied with the Nile and its inundation of the land—an inundation that destroys while at the same time rebirthing—that they will continue to labor under the sun, oblivious to the passing of the centuries. Instead, they lie in wait, like a scorpion on a rock, like a crocodile among the reeds, and from time to time they rise up and they bite. 
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

I hated her beautifully: my hatred was polished and hard and shiny and, truth be told, at times it sustained me. 
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

Sometimes now I think that perhaps the disease was more responsible than my Lady herself for what she did to me. But the fact is that I had too much at stake to be quite that forgiving. 
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

I loved Omar with an unexpected passion that opened the world, but I loved Abdullah in a way that was larger, fiercer, more complete than the world itself could ever be. 
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

I screamed the night Abdullah was born; I made more noise that one night than I had during the whole of the rest of my life put together. But after that, I fell into silence. And that silence deepened and darkened and grew heavier and thicker, until my days were as dark and silent as my nights. 
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

It did not occur to me that he might see marriage to me as useful in any way, as part of his plans for his future, an addition to his lengthy list of skills and accomplishments in life. 
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

Why is the world full of people who see fit to dispense with others as soon as it suits them? But I stop myself from having these thoughts, from thinking these things, and I get on with the task at hand. I’m very good at getting on with the task at hand: it’s what suits me. 
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

Spreadable Media - Henry Jenkins

16 May 2012 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

Last night I went to hear Henry Jenkins give a talk at the University of Westminster.  He’s doing an unusual thing - at least it was a new one on me - a tour to promote ‘Spreadable Media’, a book that won’t come out for another six months, long after this particular tour is finished.  Interestingly, Jenkins is as concerned with spreading his ideas, its seems, in advance of publication, as he is selling the book.  On the other hand, Jenkins is an academic with a full-time, probably very well paid, job, so his attitude toward book sales is likely a little different than mine.

Jenkins had many interesting things to say last night.  He began by discussing why he has rejected the term ‘viral’ to describe how media artifacts pass between viewers/readers, with its connotations of illness and disease, the ‘smallpox blanket theory of media’.  For Jenkins, ‘spreadable media’ is a much more appropriate term, and he’s happy to embrace the fact that the word ‘spreadable’ makes many people think of butter and jam (much better than H1N1 after all).  He talked distribution vs circulation, about how old media or mass media was all about controlling distribution, while networked media is about circulation; ‘circulation is the new moral economy’.  He discussed how media artifacts, like ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ or a video distributed by a group of activists, change meaning as they are passed from one viewer to the next, how meaning is affected by circulation. 

I think that for writers thinking about how to engage with participatory culture, this distinction between circulation vs distribution is very useful.  When a work is widely circulated, what new forms of meaning are acquired?  If you are circulating your work instead of distributing it, will new ways of generating income from it emerge?  Our project ‘Inanimate Alice’ has changed status via widespread circulation among educators; what started out as an entertainment title has become an education title.  My involvement with this project has resulted in my being granted all kinds of additional currency in a wide variety of spheres, including the education sector, the transmedia sector, and the games industry.

When it comes to more traditional forms of media, i.e. long-form prose fiction - the novel - the circulation vs distribution model becomes more difficult to directly translate.  Jenkins highlighted the work of Cory Doctorow in this field, and the way that Doctorow has built a large readership who buy his books by giving away electronic versions of his books online.  But, as far as I know, Doctorow remains an anomaly.  In some ways, his model has been overtaken by the indy-publishing model, those writers who manage to establish themselves via self-publishing online which then translates into big traditional book industry deals.  But these writers - Hocking, Wilkinson, Shades of Grey, etc - did not circulate their works online for free; they might have charged only 99p, but 99p is still 99p. As well as that, these indy-writers publish within the silo that is Amazon’s Kindle epub format.

A few months ago, Dan Franklin, the digital publisher at Random House UK, sent out a tweet that said ‘Sculpt the frontlist, sweat the backlist’.  When I reminded him of this the other day, he gave himself a virtual slap on the forehead and said, ‘I do talk s**t sometimes.’  However, that line, catchy as it is, has remained with me.  My own backlist is stuck in a kind bookish version of hell.  Rights are spread across a number of different territories, some editions are in print, others are out of print - the whole thing is a big mess.  For the most part, these books are accessible to readers via the secondhand market only (AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THAT!).  None of them exist as ebooks.  So, as far as the online circulation model goes, they are dead.  ‘If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead’, Jenkins says.  I need to fix this.  That backlist needs to feel the heat and do some sweating. 

In January of this year, Jenkins devoted two posts on his blog to a discussion of transmedia and education, with ‘Inanimate Alice’ as one of two highlighted works.  You can find Part One here, and Part Two here.

‘Inanimate Alice’ is Everywhere

1 May 2012 in Inanimate Alice | Comments (0)

The best thing about ‘Inanimate Alice’ is how it continues to grow and expand around the world as a pedagogical title.

A couple of weeks ago, on twitter, a teacher from St. Joseph’s College, Echuca, Victoria, Australia, posted a great photo of four students with the line, ‘Boys preparing their Inanimate Alice digital stories (cool stuff)’.  Years 5 and 6 at Redhills School in Exeter, Devon, UK, published a whole series of new episode 5s created using Photostory.  As well as that, the American social network for kids, Everloop, which has just won a Parent’s Choice Award , has included ‘Inanimate Alice’ as one of its partners; the Alice team has created a whole set of assets for Everloop, that only Everloop kids can see. 

In Australia, we are about to launch a series of digital photo-novellas, ‘Alice in Australia’.  These stories, commissioned by Education Services Australia, will chart the lives of Alice and her family during a year they spend based in Melbourne.  The stories are set in the time period between episodes one and two - so after Alice and her parents have left China, but before they move to Saudi Arabia.  All the digital assets of these stories will be available for teachers and students for mash-up and remix.  Here’s the url - but note that this will only work in Australia.  Sorry about that, rest of world. ‘Alice in Australia’ 

And, finally, at last, we have now got a timetable for the production and release of our own ‘Inanimate Alice: Episode 5’; after a long delay, this all new episode will appear before the end of 2012.  Hooray!