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The Best Bits of 2013

As we prepare to unleash our 2014 program on your senses, Simon and Emily have taken a moment to compile their favourite if:book Australia posts from 2013. Reacquaint yourself with some of our amazing essayists or discover something you might have missed first time around. Enjoy!

Simon’s Choices

  • All Your Pods Are Belong To Us: This interview with Kate Pullinger was conducted on a phone in a cafe and yet sounds kind of half decent. A great discussion over some pretty good food. We should do more podcasts in cafes. Plus the finished product features Moonshine Kate, one of my favourite musical discoveries from the year. 
  • I Will Say This Only Once: I loved all the Willow Patterns remixes, but I probably spent more time with Pascalle Burton’s than the others. The video upload was an ordeal in transcoding and choked bandwidth, but the result was worth it. Trust me, listening to (and watching) this piece over and over again unlocks its depth. I’m yet to listen to it without hearing something I hadn’t noticed before.
  • Memory Makes Us, the short-term team: The original conception for reader contributions to Memory Makes Us was split into two stream: long-term and short-term memories. The generosity of our readers in providing their memories was overwhelming and the result was beautiful, if a bit voyeuristic. Sometimes overlooked though was the short-term memory team, a gang of intrepid postgrad students wandering the streets and gardens of Brisbane collecting moments. En masse like this, the result is bizarre and intriguing. A day documented.
  • Collabor-bake: Can a cake be a remix of a book? Shut up. It’s cake.
  • Cn u rd ths?: I told myself I could only select one N00bz essay for this list and it appears last here because I still can’t make up my mind. I’m deeply grateful to all our brave n00bz as they battled with coding, closing, drawing, making, scribbling and procrastinating. But Ben was one of the first writers to agree to this ridiculous pitch with his own idea of learning shorthand. From the distance of an editor’s desk, I assured Ben that not being a champion shorthander by then end of the experiment was still a valid result and the essay would still turn out great.

Emily’s Choices

  • Memory Makes Us, The Short-Term Team: Memory Makes us was a grand experiment. While it was wonderful to have Kate Pullinger in Australia and writing this amazing piece, I found the thoughts and moments captured by the short-term team on Twitter to be the most beautiful product of the day. For those of you who completely missed it, we collected all the thought provoking tweets into one post. : )
  • To Sleep No More (Perchance To Write): This Noobz essay was awesome, and not just because I like human experimentation (whoops, did I say that out loud?). It was a wonderfully light and engaging read on Sean Williams experience with sleep experiments. This essay confirms to me how cheeky writers truly are.
  • Robots with 808s: Don’t let the horrible synth music at the beginning turn you off, this podcast was one of my most favourite interviews of the year, with the delightful Noah Rosenberg, founder and editor in chief of Narratively. In fact we liked it so much we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut the original hour interview down to one twenty minute segment, so we split the interview over two podcasts. It covers all my favourite things like crowdfunding, and mixing media to tell a story the right way.
  • The Leak: Though I’m not one for poetry, Nathan Curnow’s cento poem has to be one of my favourite remixes of the Willow Patterns data. I love the fact that the whole thing was stitched together using phrases from the book which then created an entirely new story. Most of all, I loved seeing what part of the poem came from which original author (and not only because I wanted to see which author Nathan had a literary crush more…).
  • Dazzled by the Undoable: Another Noobz essay to finish the list, you can’t go past this very funny essay. Who can pass up an opening line like this: Hello. My name is Ronnie and this is the story of how I failed to draw a comic.
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New edition of Hand Made High Tech

blackHiOur collected essays from 2011, Hand Made High Tech, has been included in the latest ebook bundle from our friends at indie online store Tomely.

Like Willow Pattern in the previous bundle, our book becomes available as a social media bonus. Tweet or post to Facebook about your purchase and the book is yours.

Hand Made High Tech features essays from John Birmingham, Jackie Ryan, Paul Callaghan, and Christy Dena and more. For Tomely, we have created a brand new edition with an updated introduction and a new section of ‘Bonus Remix’ essays (not actually remixes, but more recent essays from the if:book vault).

Check it out.

 

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Willow Patterns, plural

willow patternsThe 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.

 

 

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Why iPad?

choose your ownThe recent official launch for The City We Build, the amplified ebook made between if:book and the Queensland Poetry Festival, has highlighted some of the challenges faced by authors, publishers, and readers when designing digital books that take advantage of their capabilities.

Regardless of how well designed or how beautiful its content, The City We Build is unlikely to ever reach some readers. This is because it has been designed for one digital platform alone.

Writers and publishers alike want their content accessible and available to as many readers as possible, but in the digital world this means taking into account a wide variety of devices. Some have high colour screens that can handle video and other content. Some have more simple ‘eink’ black and white screens that are simply not fast enough to handle anything other than page turns (and even those are too slow for some readers). Some devices are connected to the internet and handle much more than just reading; others are largely unaware of anything on the web other than their own bookstore. Some devices use highly response touch-sensitive surfaces, others opt for physical buttons.

Some devices are available in Australia, others are not.

It’s entirely appropriate there should be no one-size-fits-all reading device. But, for creators of content, this incredible diversity of devices presents a challenge of first principle.

What kind of book are we making here?

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TOC wraps up: Thrillbent and Brain Pickings

The final in this series of live dispatches by if:book’s own Meg Vann from the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference in New York City.

Last session from TOC 2013!

Firstly, a big congrats to the Startup Showcase winners:

Keynotes from Mark Waid: Thrillbent

‘It’s Valentines Day, and this is is my love letter to comics.’

Mark writes comics and graphic novels, and addresses the challenges they face going into digital media:

  • Format leading the eye down the page in portrait style doesn’t work in landscape style ie on screens
  • You don’t get the canvass as it was intended, nor is it taking advantage of the things digital can do – akin to reading a book or watching a movie through a cardboard tube
  • Motion comics are the devil – mini things with voiceover, but not comics – cheap animiation that leads you by the nose through the story

The north star philiosophy about what makes comcs comics and graphic novels a unique reading experience is that you are in charge of the pace of reading.

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TOC: Creators and Tech Converging

A series of live dispatches by if:book’s own Meg Vann from the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference in New York City.

One of the great features of TOC 2013 is a stronger emphasis on the tools of change that relate to the creative development space, like the panel on Creators and Technology Converging: When Tech Becomes Part of the Story.

Here’s a couple of quick snips from the panel:

Kate Pullinger

Started writing what she termed digital fiction ten years ago – collaborative multimedia projects where text is primary – literary works, new hybrid forms of literature.

Definition of digital fiction: works that combine text with images, videos, animation, games and all the other elements that digitl platforms allow.

Flight Paths:

  • Began the research phase of a novel by opening it up online – 100 particpants in conversation and created 6 stories for Flight Paths
  • Next iteration of project – novel called Landing Gear – Flight aths is the digital prologue – novel will exist in 2014
  • Multimedia epilogue: Duel (in collaboration with Andy Campbell of Dreaming Methods, fusing writing and new media eg. parallax views and 3D)

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TOC Keynotes: Evan Williams and Douglas Rushkoff

A series of live dispatches by if:book’s own Meg Vann from the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference in New York City.

Notes from Douglas Rushkoff 

Present Shock – a free sample of Rushkoff’s new book is available here.

What is it like to be a human that evolved within time to now live in a world that is outside time, or that is only interested in the present moment? You’re trying to catch up on your twitter feed while your twitter feed is trying to catch up with you.

Presentism:

  • for 1000 years society leaned towards the future
  • now, the Mayans got it right – not the end of Time, but the end of time.

Text created lineality: the oldest text we have is contracts, an agreement to do something later – text creates a story to move forward with, and produced goal-oriented gods in place of chaotic, random ancient gods– be good now, get to heaven later.

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Dandelions, steampunk and the future of content

A series of live dispatches by if:book’s own Meg Vann from the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference in New York City.

Henry Jenkins (HJ) in conversation with Cory Doctorow (CD) and Brian David Johnson (BDJ)

HJ

What happens when computing becomes so widespread we begin to wonder why we need it. Same question for publishing.

How do we think about the choices for different media – should content be film, book, etc?

Spreadable Media – rapid circulation – people have the capacity to pass content along – how we make those decisions?

New project: comics and graphic novels – visually dense and complex – colour and shifts in scale – 9 essays each published separately and serially – it at the end of the project it will be bundled and sold – all digital, never a print book.

CD

What we need to do pedagogy through literature is keywords – you need search words and also literacy about how to parse out the search results. Words in novels that have “just Google it” implied with it:

  • The first inkling of what a 21st century novel looks like – always assuming there’s access to a search engine
  • The old fear that using a calculator would make children’s brains lazy – now, good contemporary maths teaching always assumes there’s a calculator handy
  • Movies that weren’t just a stage play, that weren’t just a play with a camera pointed at it

BDJ

The Vintage Tomorrow project is done, now there’s an opportunity to expand and continue as an ebook.

How can we have these conversations about the future? Goal: to get as many people having these conversations as possible – through conferences, sci fi, non fi, videos etc, moving from fiction to non-fiction to video and so on.

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TOC Keynotes: Brian David Johnson

A series of live dispatches by if:book’s own Meg Vann from the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference in New York City.

Brian David Johnson is a futurist with Intel Corporation, and a self-confessed ‘giant geek’ and ‘huge nerd’. He’s also a science fiction writer who loves steam punk (and therefore likely to be really quite awesome).

How to Change the Future

We can use science fiction to foresee the human impact of what we’re building – use science fiction to talk about science fact.

Steam punk is about technology – steam punk is playing with the past – so steam punk is all about how technology affects the past.

This is the history we want to be from – and this is the history we don’t want to be from.

Project: Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian And A Futurist Journey Through Steampunk Into The Future of Technology

The future is made every day, by people – so how do we do it? How do we change the story that people tell themselves about the future they are going to live in? That’s what publishers do. Narrative matters, stories matter, opinions matter, and we need to get those opinions out there.

We will be able to turn anything into a device to tell people about the future, even our bodies. The ‘what’, the device, doesn’t matter anymore. It’s about being good at changing those narratives, reaching people, changing the future.

 

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TOC Keynotes: Tim O’Reilly

A series of live dispatches by if:book’s own Meg Vann from the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference in New York City.

Day 2 of the 7th edition at TOC. My jetlaggy night’s sleep somehow allowed my brain to distill yesterday’s Author (R)evolution. In the age of content abundance that is now upon us, it’s all about the 3Ds:

  • Development
  • Distribution
  • Discovery

And authors need to start thinking about all 3Ds from the beginning of each project and across the lifespan of their writing career.

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This is the future of the book, but not the one you were expecting.