Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Next Generation of Storytelling: Podcast Novelists, Cellphone Stylists, and the "Twiller"

It's the future, ladies and gentleman, has been for several years now, and if more proof was needed, then Shaun Farrell writing over at Strange Horizons has offered it to us in the form of podcasting novelists. "Hundreds of authors have entered the podosphere," Shaun, a podcaster himself, writes, "as an avenue to an audience and perhaps professional publication. Their audio productions feature pro-level recording quality, tantalizing vocal performances, music, sound effects, and, in some cases, accompanying PDFs, images, and videos." Listenership is in the thousands for these novels, 4,000 in fact, tuned in for the initial installment of Mur Lafferty's, Playing for Keeps. For comparison sakes, in 2004, of the nearly million books tracked by Nielson Bookscan, only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Publishers have taken an interest, of course, in authors with such built-in audiences, and whether or not podcast novelists can become successful in the print market, is the major question of Shaun's article. It's fascinating stuff, full of fun new words like podiobooks and cool acronyms like ARG (Alternate Reality Games). Check it out.

Reading Shaun's article, got me to thinking about how technology changes the way we tell stories. In Japan, for instance, cellphone novels, called "keitai shousetsu," continue to rack up big sales. Originally texted in chapters of around 70 characters or less, these novels, republished in book form, accounted for 5 of the top ten bestselling books in Japan in 2007. Twitter, a microblogging application, of which yes I'm a part, has also become a distribution format for fiction. While readwriteweb wrote an article earlier in September saying they weren't, as of yet, big success stories, they still acknowledged that considering the success of such textual endeavors in Japan, and the growing popularity of Twitter, it's possible such fictional forms may catch on here. Something Matt Richtel must be counting on, considering he's twittering his latest thriller in real time: a twiller, as it were.

Welcome to the future, readers.

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