Henry Volans

The Electric Bookshop, the October edition

November 18th, 2012 by Verena Bauer | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Electric Bookshop, the October edition
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After hearing in class about the Electric Bookshop, the 10th of October saw me heading to Edinburgh, excited about the new digital developments I was going to be introduced to.

The first guest of the night was writer Gavin Inglis, who is known for his work with Writers’ Bloc and who now presented to us his new interactive game which is called Eerie Estate Agent. We were first introduced to his childhood memories that had inspired him for his latest work – adventure books like Sugarcane Island and The Black Dragon that gave the reader the possibility to make their own choices, leading to different endings instead of a linear story. This idea was later followed by role-playing games such as “Dungeons & Dragons”. Adventure books and games were usually branded as being made exclusively for children, while there were only parodies available for adults – a situation that displeased Inglis. In the 1980s, video games like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy appeared as the forerunner of today’s games and apps – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has recently been published as an interactive app that includes the original text but also introduces reader’s choices. This led Inglis to write his own interactive fiction, focusing on the reader’s decisions that “have to be meaningful” and have to matter as an integral part of his Eerie Estate Agent game. The app is very trendy as several adventure series have recently been reissued. Customers can play a trial chapter before buying the app on www.choiceofgames.com.

The next guests of the night were Henry Volans, Head of Digital Publishing at Faber and Faber, and Max Whitby from Touch Press (via Skype). They introduced T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which they published as an app, allowing the reader not only to access the text but also the original manuscript, often with notes by Ezra Pound, as well as notes on references and historical allusions. The highlight, however, is the option to watch a video performance of the poem or listen to six different audio readings. The speakers’ next collaboration (together with Illuminations and The Arden Shakespeare) was on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which is for them a new and “better way to present literature than the e-book market.” It is thus not just an enhanced e-book, but an app that contains all the 154 sonnets, in the modern edition as well as in a facsimile of the 1609 Quarto edition; a commentary by Don Paterson; and the Arden notes on language, historical facts, and vocabulary, synchronized with the lines you are reading. In addition to that, you can take your own notes or watch the sonnets being performed by one of 42 people, such as Sir Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, or Fiona Shaw. It even has a sharing function for social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

As several of the guests remarked, the app is quite expensive at the price of £9.99; a further drawback is that it can only be used on iPads. However, as a graduate of English Literature, I would love to get the app (if only I was one of the proud owners of an iPad) and I am sure it is very useful to students and academics.

The 8th Electric Bookshop introduced me to exciting new developments and interesting people, so I can only recommend to everyone to go to their next session in January 2013 – I definitely will!