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Reinventing the eBook

In an age where new eBook software and readers are materializing at an astonishing rate (Kindle, iPad and Nook among others). In a world where audible versions of fiction and non-fiction are being produced and  distributed via Audible and iTunes to numerous portable MP3 players. At a time when animated book graphics are decorating “apps” for the Apple iPad and mobile Smartphones, making books more interactive, tactile and motion-picture like. In the new world of publishing, what are the conceptual changes that have come to the kernel of the literary form itself?

Stephen King experimented with a serial novel via Seattle’s Amazon.com to mixed results, (some would argue too soon), and now Seattle visionary Neal Stephenson, <http://www.nealstephenson.com/> has produced an epic literary effort on what is dubbed the PULP platform for creating digital novels under a “novel” subscription model. The core of the experience is still a text novel, but authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video. There are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers.

The prototype for the project is a serialized novel called The Mongoliad, co-written by Stephenson and Greg Bear.

The novel’s content promises a story of the medieval Mongolian horde’s near successful invasion of Europe. Or maybe their actual invasion of Europe. According to the Mongoliad site:

Foreworld is the name of the shared universe created by the rest of the [writers of Mongoliad]. Foreworld is almost like the world we live in. It could even be the world we live in, perhaps.

Just as intriguiing is the business model. A $6 subscription gives you six months of access to Mongoliod and all its social networking extras, with one new chapter promised every week. $10 gets you a year’s worth.

Stephenson’s books tend to have elaborate, inventive plots drawing on numerous technological and sociological ideas at the same time. This distinguishes him from other mainstream science fiction authors who tend to focus on a few technological or social changes in isolation from others.

The discursive nature of his writing, together with significant plot and character complexity and an abundance of detail suggests a baroque writing style, which Stephenson brought fully to bear in the three-volume Baroque Cycle.[9] His book The Diamond Age follows a simpler plot, but features “neo-Victorian” characters and employs Victorian-era literary conceits.

In keeping with the baroque style, Stephenson’s books have become longer as he has gained recognition. (At least one printing of Cryptonomicon is well over one thousand pages long and the novel contains various digressions, including a lengthy erotic story about antique furniture and stockings.)

Parent company Subutai hopes that the interactive community-based elements of the service and the modest price point will convince people to sign up. Enter the world of The Mongoliad at http://mongoliad.com/ [24×7]

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