Category Archives: Storytelling for the Digital Age

Do E-Book Readers More than Book Readers?

Do you want to know more about the rising e-book business? Who actually uses their kindle? Check out this neat infographic to learn more about reading trends. The results may surprise you!



4-D Multimedia Storytelling with Meograph

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Meograph, a new digital storytelling tool released in beta on July 23, takes its name from its two key components: media and infographics. The concept, a hybrid of the Facebook Timeline, Google maps, photo albums, and sound files, sprung from the personal experiences of founder and CEO Misha Leybovich with multimedia storytelling and his resulting itch to improve upon those platforms and capitalize on their interactive potential.

As he told SocialTimes, the inspiration behind Meograph was threefold: “1) When I was 8, I read a book called Flatland and have been thinking about how to visualize space and time together ever since! 2) At my last job as a strategy consultant I became an expert at pairing data visualization and storytelling. 3) Over the past 7 years I’ve traveled to 70 countries and couldn’t find any way I liked to visualize my adventures. All those came together into Meograph, and once I started talking to my friends about it, the other applications (journalism, education, biography, etc.) became very clear.”

Meograph takes the Timeline concept to the next level. Users are prompted to identify important “moments” and flesh them out by providing information as to the what, where, and when of each. In addition to textual and photographic captioning, they can add audio narration, video clips, and hyperlinks to enhance personal experiences with outside perspectives. All of these media sources are set against the backdrop of a moving Google map or Google Earth street-level view matched to the event location. It’s an experience in 4-dimensional memory — a digital slideshow of your life, albeit a version that can be rewinded and fast-forwarded as desired.

Meographs can be embedded, shared, and interacted with using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr and personal blogs, and viewers are transported from moment to moment with a simple click of the play button.

Users can try out the platform and view a demo of how it all works on the Meograph site. As it is currently in beta, however, potential testers must submit their email addresses to be granted an invite to do more than that at this point. Behind the scenes, Leybovich and his team have been working to fix glitches and improve the functionality of the platform. At present, Meograph operates best with Google Chrome, and Firefox users may experience inconsistencies with audio playback. In a month’s time, Meograph plans to introduce a new graphical authoring tool that will make file uploading more intuitive. Continuing to integrate the platform with social media networks so users can easily interact with their personal data throughout the Meograph creation process is also a top priority.

The Ongoing E-Book Lawsuit: Price-Fixing in the 21st Century


Earlier this April, Time reported that the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the nation’s largest book publishers, including Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, for fixing e-book prices.

Price-fixing occurs when two or more people agree to “fix” pricing for products or services for mutual benefit. Imagine, for instance, if the foremost retailers of a given product, say a new book, agreed to set the price at suggested list, foregoing discounts and effectively eliminating price-based competition. The retailers would enjoy high margins on the book, while consumers would be forced to pay the same price everywhere. Thus, with controversial exceptions made for cartels like OPEC, price fixing is illegal in several countries, including the U.S. under antitrust law.

Apple engaged in such tactics to combat Amazon, which had been pricing new e-books at the very low cost of $9.99. As a result, there has been a strong pushback against the Department of Justice for targeting Apple and not Amazon, which critics claim forced other companies into a corner by engaging in predatory pricing.

In an op-ed published in last week’s Wall Street Journal, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that the lawsuit against Apple and the publishers should be dropped.

The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.

But the Department of Justice announced today that it will not back down. The trial is set for June 2013. The future of a burgeoning industry remains murky.

Alt-Minds: Making “Transmedia” a Reality

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It’s no secret that transmedia storytelling has become intriguingly immersive during its brief but turbulent lifespan. But what exactly is a transmedia “game”, and how does it fit into this rapidly evolving field? The French developer Lexis Numerique and telecommunications operator Orange are finding out with Alt-Minds, a game that deems itself “the very first total fiction.”

Part TV-show, part mobile app, and part mystery novel; accessible from your computer, phone, or tablet; and playable through web-based social media platforms, Alt-Minds will consist of eight episodes released once per week for two months. The first episode of the “interactive and participative story told in real time” will be free and released in November 2012.

The technological basis for the game will be a PC/tablet application that is stylistically modeled after Facebook. Upon download, the week’s mission will be revealed to the user via the mimicked “news feed” feature. In order to progress to the next level, players will need to glean information from legitimate and in-game Facebook profiles, receive clues from text messages and calls from the game’s characters, and trace their steps using Google Maps. Djamil Kemal, marketing and business development director for Lexis Numerique, explained to IGN that add-ons to the regular game can earn users extra points: “For example, the most involved players can use geolocalisation, where you go to a specific place and check it out with your phone.” Alt-Minds is set in Europe, but this element will be modified to account for the location of foreign players.

As for the plot of the game itself, it will certainly appeal to crime-show addicts and mystery buffs. The story revolves around a group of five scientific researchers from the University of Belgrade who disappear mysteriously in the Ukraine. The clandestine foundation to which the researchers are tied launches its own private investigation, calling on internet users to aid in its quest–and the user is one of those enlisted. The player will be provided with pieces of information through video clips and personal messages and delegated tasks by fictional team members to aid in the recovery mission. Though designed to be a one-player game, users can collaborate and share clues with real-world friends and can receive optional additional codes from participation in geolocalisation assignments.

Get a taste for the immersion experience Alt-Minds will provide to its players by checking out its trailer on IGN.

In Defense of Free Fiction

Jen Doll at The Atlantic explores how much of a role pay should play in the “business” of writing. Throughout the piece, Doll refers frequently to Harper Perennial editor Carl Morgan’s experimental blog 52 Stories, which published a new short story each week by a writer who worked for free. Morgan said he received an astounding number of submissions–a sign, he claims, of how the creative impetus for writing does not need to be sparked by money. Picking from the stories he had received, Morgan recently published a collection, titled Forty Stories, that showcases some of the best his blog had to offer. It is available here as a PDF.

Forty Stories contributor Ben Greenman perhaps sums our thoughts up best:

“For the same reason musicians donate songs to tribute albums or actors work for scale on projects that interest them. I’m writing stories, and I like for them to find homes, sometimes for profit, sometimes not–art isn’t money, at its root, and when the two line up felicitously, fine, but if they diverge, that’s fine, too.”

Ford Introduces All-New Fusion with Groundbreaking Transmedia Campaign – MarketWatch

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Is “transmedia storytelling” a great new career option for English majors of the 21st century?

Ford has collaborated with transmedia storytelling leader 42 Entertainment and partnered with radio and television personality Ryan Seacrest to introduce its all-new Ford Fusion through a multifaceted transmedia promotional campaign, “Random Acts of Fusion”, which will run through the debut of the Fusion in late October.

Says Jim Farley, Ford group VP of Marketing, Sales & Service: “We are taking a completely unique approach to introduce the new Fusion with a transmedia program, launching this transformational vehicle that over-delivers with its distinctive blend of style, intelligence and technology . . . Combining social media, entertainment and unexpected consumer experiences will allow us to connect with audiences through every type of media, making Fusion’s profile larger than ever.”

The “Random Acts of Fusion” campaign will feature several celebrities throughout its cross-country run, designed to introduce the Fusion to consumers before it hits showrooms this fall. The program will unravel over the course of several months through a story arc created via interactive media channels, including radio, broadcast, and social networks. As a result, its title is not intended to be entirely clear from the start, as consumers will gain a better understanding of the name and its relation to the car as they “unlock” elements of the Fusion’s transformative story through these channels.

A more personal aspect of the campaign involves Ford’s plan to loan 100 of the new Fusions for a short period of time to 1,000 people, selected based on submissions of personal stories. These participants may follow the lead of past Ford “influencers” who blogged about their experiences and became brand ambassadors prior to the debut of the 2010 Fiesta. The Fusion’s launch campaign involves several more platforms than its precedent, and kicked off just last week with a video featuring instructions from Seacrest. The video must reach the 1,000 view mark before progressing to the next level of the story, and a series of codes allows viewers to participate in some way at each step.

To get a jump start at putting the story together, you can visit the Ford Fusion on Facebook at and view Seacrest’s first video and follow the campaign on Twitter via the #RandomActs hashtag.

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Mad Twitter story of the year | The New Digital Storytelling

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1,046 tweets compose the story of fictional Harlod, shared with Twitter followers of @Henderzones in regular 140-character plot bites from January to June 2012 in the most extravagant internet literary epic to date. Crafted by LA-based web-designer Cameron McBride, the tale continues the story of the Bigfoot family from the 1987 film “Harry and the Hendersons” from the perspective of an unnamed narrator suffering from a head injury that causes him to type in mangled English.

Humor, character development, and tragedy were all critical parts of the writing process behind McBride’s Henderzones endeavor. “In one “chapter,” Harlod hears movement in the basement of the Henderson home, and his protective instincts kick in. The intruder turns out to be an inspector from the gas company, but by the time the poor guy asserts his innocence, Harlod has already unleashed his unstoppable violence: “Harlod removal of the mans arms which he use to beat the man to quiet repose of eternal slumber,” the narrator explains. Later, after Harlod leaves the Hendersons—or what’s left of them, in the wake of his rampages—behind, he squares off against an antagonist (the mysterious “Grey Man,” who captures the beast for nefarious purposes) and hooks up with a sprightly gang of benevolent forest creatures, at which point the tale’s tone pivots from nightmare bleakness to guarded optimism. When the tweeted parts come together as a novelistic whole, the result is a complete—and surprisingly profound—work of gonzo comic fiction,” reports Brian Wolowitz of Mother Board.

McBride is not alone in his capitalization of Twitter as a medium for narration. Dan Sinker, a Chicago professor of journalism, has also used the site to web a Twitter tale about a fake Rahm Emanuel, and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan recently published a short story through several tweet installments.

Serial stories such as this can be created using Chirpstory, a site that provides a Twitter version of content curation aimed at the creation of story. Chirpstory loads the tweets from your feed and selected hashtags, and from there you can drag and drop them into your story timeline. You can personalize the timeline by adding photos, videos, and other media, as well as decorate the tweets themselves using a variety of colors and fonts, before sharing the story timeline through embedding in other social media sites.

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You Don’t Read Your E-Book, Your E-Book Reads You

The Wall Street Journal reports that publishing companies have unprecedented access to people’s personal reading preferences, thanks to innovations in technology and the rise of the E-Book. For example, they know that the most “highlighted” line in any novel comes from The Hunger Games. The second most-cited line is Pride & Prejudice’s opening.

With this access inevitably comes legal questions regarding privacy:

Some privacy watchdogs argue that e-book users should be protected from having their digital reading habits recorded. “There’s a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else’s business,” says Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for consumer rights and privacy. “Right now, there’s no way for you to tell Amazon, I want to buy your books, but I don’t want you to track what I’m reading.”

In addition, many writers are skeptical about how the data gathered from E-Books will be put to use. Will creative risks be challenged because they are not marketable enough? Will new novels, more than ever before, have to appeal to certain demographics? Essentially, will the independence of the author be questioned?

Others worry that a data-driven approach could hinder the kinds of creative risks that produce great literature. “The thing about a book is that it can be eccentric, it can be the length it needs to be, and that is something the reader shouldn’t have anything to do with,” says Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “We’re not going to shorten ‘War and Peace’ because someone didn’t finish it.”

Yet some authors may find satisfaction in seeing what exactly readers like about their work, as the data becomes increasingly sophisticated and precise, to the point where a writer may see how certain passages or pages moved readers or even turned them off from finishing the piece. As publishing becomes increasingly accessible, this will undoubtedly become an even more pressing issue in the literary world.

Here’s an Idea: Let’s Turn Pinterest Into a Massive Graphic Novel – Betabeat

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For most of us, Pinterest is an “ooh!” and “aah!” sort of social media platform. We see something that makes us squeal due to its cuteness/usefulness/applicability (but mostly cuteness) and repin it onto one of our boards in a process that can continue for quite some time before we manage to tear ourselves away and reemerge into real-world society. But BeActive, a transmedia publisher, sees Pinterest as having great potential in the storytelling world, and is taking the novel Beat Girl by Jasmina Kallay and sharing its story by means of a Pinterest profile.

Through boards such as “Music Speaks to Me” and “My Big Dream“, the profile:

“tells the story of fictional DJ Heather Jennings in a method that’s not quite TV show, not quite in-person character sketch, and not quite graphic novel. With 160 pins and counting, viewers can catch new glimpses of Jennings’ life added daily. The interactive drama is presented as a prequel to an upcoming multi-platform video series.”

Pinterest is now the third most popular online social network, and Beat Girl The Web Series has already accrued some 3200 followers. BeActive founder and CEO Nuno Bernardo explains:

“We wanted to bring back the popular Photonovels of the 60s to the new digital generation. The tools and functionalities introduced by Pinterest allowed us to release the content the way we envisioned. As a world’s first we expect that in the future more and more stories will be told on this network using photos and still images.”

Young Writers Use New Media to Publish Their Novels

Over the past five years, print-on-demand technology and a growing number of self-publishing companies whose books can be sold online have inspired writers of all ages to bypass the traditional gatekeeping system for determining who can call himself a ‘published author.’

They include hundreds of children and teenagers who are self-publishing books each year — a growing corner of the book world that raises as many questions about parenting as it does about publishing.

The mothers and fathers who foot the bill say they are simply trying to encourage their children, in the same way that other parents buy gear for a promising lacrosse player or ship a Broadway aspirant off to theater camp.

But others see the blurring of the line between publishing and self-publishing as a lost opportunity to teach children about adversity and perseverance.”

The New York Times wonders how new technology and self-publishing techniques have changed the literary world. Should pre-teens really be published authors? Is this a natural result of democratizing art and increasing its accessibility–or just mom and dad getting carried away with their child’s work?