When books, the web and video collide

People have been trying to get books to work online for a while. There are a variety of book social media sites, such as the Amazon-owned Shelfari, goodreads and Bookrabbit, to name just three. 

We also have the much-heralded arrival of the Kindle (Amazon again), numerous other e-readers and even iPhone apps, such as Stanza.

Then there are the TV adverts created specifically to look like a movie trailer, when they are actually a book plug – namely those of uber-author James Patterson.

There are also some authors, such as Jasper Fforde, who have tried to provide the equivalent of DVD extras, by getting readers to enter a password that’s hidden in books which then unlocks extra content around the specific title. 

But now there’s a new kid and new idea on the block. It comes in the form of mini-videos within a book that both complement and enhance your enjoyment of the material. 

Dark Origins has been created by Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the phenomenon that is CSI. Ostensibly a gruesome crime thriller about a serial killer, what raises this above the norm is the aforementioned additional material. 

To dovetail nicely with Zuiker’s own site Level 26 – a nod to the categorisation of the most heinous serial killers of all – every 26 pages, the reader is prompted to visit the site and enter a special code, which then leads directly to a relevant 3-5 minute video that ties in with the plot at that point. 

Naturally, coming from the creator of CSI, these short clips are extremely expertly and stylishly shot. They wouldn’t look out of place on CSI itself and I wouldn't mind betting that the amount of money spent on video is more than the actual book. 

Will it work? Well, it makes a book more interesting and definitely raises it above the everyday thriller, but a lot depends on how good the writing is. I’m only a short way into Dark Origins currently and the jury is out, as far as I'm concerned. 

The other issue for me still comes down to whether want to stop reading in the middle of a book to watch a video and also want someone else to show them what certain characters look like. 

One of the joys of reading a novel before it’s ever come close to the big or small screen is that you get to create your own idea of what certain characters look like. 

Even though he's been played by both John Hannah and Ken Stott, neither of them match up to my own picture of Iain Rankin's Rebus, so strong is he lodged in my imagination. 

Fair play to Zuiker for trying something different – he's got the clout and cash to do it, but I fear it will remain a gimmick, rather than become the norm.

Posted via email from Rob’s stream of web

Why it pays to have a quiet week on Twitter

spawn-of-the-devilIn spite of the furore over Nick Griffin’s appearance on last night’s Question Time and the running commentary provided by almost everyone I know during the show’s broadcast, it’s been a quiet week on Twitter.

Quiet, that is, when you compare it to last week. There has been acres of web space devoted to the double whammy of Twitter-power in the previous 7 days.

First, there was the now infamous Twitter campaign to embarrass lawyers Carter Ruck and their client Trafigura to lift the quite bewildering gag order on reporting in the House Of Commons.

Being part of the constant Twitterthon on Tuesday felt rather special. It was like going on a student demo without leaving the comfort of your own living room. Populace action using the web in a way that had previously been unimaginable.

And the Twitter community had only just recovered, when the second huge ‘scandal’ of the week erupted. Namely, the now equally infamous Daily Mail article, penned by Jan Moir about the ‘strange, lonely and troubling death’ of Stephen Gately.

My partner read it very early on Friday morning and said, rather presciently, ‘That’s going to cause a bit of a stink’. Too right – a stench that Jan Moir herself and the Daily Mail could never have imagined.

In an even greater show of strength than the earlier Trafigura moment, the Twitterverse went into meltdown. The level of astonishment at the column’s content was quite something to behold.

When a friend of mine tweeted that Moir had quite rightly breached the PCC code and forwarded the message to Derren Brown, the die was cast. His retweet flooded Twitter and the PCC was deluged with complaints – in itself a delicious irony given the relentless Daily Mail campaign against Ross and Brand last year – a number that currently stands at around 25,000.

Every development was noted. When the article headline changed and the ads were removed, tweets went round everywhere. When Charlie Brooker published his comment on the whole sorry saga, a link to his article achieved almost equal saturation.

But all good things come to an end. At lunch the other day with some friends, we noted how quiet it had been on Twitter this week, in comparison to the fire and brimstone of the previous seven days.

And we all agreed that actually a quiet week was actually really important. A sense of order and decorum has returned. Changing the world, or at least a couple of small parts of it, takes energy and emotion that cannot be continuously maintained.

Twitter needs time to gather itself before the next assault on freedom of speech and the erosion of liberal values. Let us get our breath back!

Twitterature is here: Literary classics through tweets

TwitteratureThe World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter, aka Twitterature, hit our doormat earlier this week.

A clever, yet bizarre little tome in which some of the most revered pieces of literature are cut up into 140-character chunks and spewed out at speed.

Thus, if you’ve never read, say Dante’s Inferno, you ‘may’ be able to work out what the plot is through tweets like this…

‘I’m being attacked by three theoretical beasts! I don’t think I’m in Italy any more!’

Other greats retold include Beowulf, Romeo & Juliet, Crime and Punishment and Metamorphosis