The dialogue between paper and screen feels vitally important at this moment in time, particularly as our culture increasingly tilts toward online (and largely unconsidered) story space. It is an opportunity to learn from the lessons that print has taught us but then to also take this wisdom and apply it to new, exciting modes of storytelling. Considering print books have been around for over five hundred years, online publishing is still in its infancy. Much of the map remains blank.
Despite what we might think, smartphones aren’t destroying good reading habits. Rather, smartphones are enabling access to books in developing countries, according to a new study. They allow readers to find books in remote parts of the world without libraries and at a cheaper price.
On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
Seventeen years ago I wrote a book, which you can find on Amazon and Google and elsewhere online. This is unusual only because my book was never published. It’s called “Goths,” fitting for a title that has left its traces on the Internet but does not exist. The traces themselves are ghostly. Other than the title, Amazon lists only the publisher (Random House Trade), language (English) and ISBNs (one with 10 digits, the other with 13). Google goes further by giving the publication date (March 1, 1998) and promising a cover image — but it turns out to be a placeholder. And unlike Amazon, Google neglects to mention that the book is a hardcover. Google admits, “We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,” which in this case would be the planet Earth. “Be the first to review this item,” Amazon encourages, but has as yet found no takers.
In his end notes to his biography of David Foster Wallace, D.T. Max of The New Yorker, writes that “David may have been the last great letter writer in American literature” and that “with the advent of email [Wallace’s] correspondence grew terser, less ambitious.” Burn echoes the same view, observing that “the major difference probably stems from the more rigidly linear format of some of his emails. Some of the great letters look like spiderweb art: in these notes, Wallace has written over the top of the letter he’s replying to, with comments between the lines, spiralling into the margins, running up to headers and down to the footers.”
The #TwitterFiction Festival runs for four days, and while many (if not all?) of the participants appear to be pre-scheduled, that doesn’t preclude some spontaneity — and perhaps they’ve even got a few secret tricks planned. They’ve got a great and varied line-up on board, from Emma Straub to Alexander McCall-Smith, and they’ve been teasing at a variety of different approaches for weeks. Will they break any new ground? The surest way to tell is to watch your Twitter feed. All tweets may be archived forever in the Library of Congress, but if past Twitter fiction experiments are any indicator, the best way to feel a tweet’s full impact is to catch it just as your feed drops down and the notification pops up: “1 new Tweet.”
If you’re tired of only getting catalogs and bills in your mailbox, ask your friends to mail their tweets. For a month, Giles Turnbull corresponded with 15 of his Twitter followers by mail. “Tweeting by post made me appreciate the online and the offline. Brevity is a good thing, but there’s no reason we should only be brief on Twitter,” Turnbull writes for The Morning News. Pair with: Our roundup of literary Twitter’s first tweets.