Sep 8, 2009

Nick Cave's Musical E-Book

Audiobooks can be awfully boring, if they're not your "thing". And, combine that with the possibility that the publishing industry is tanking, and it frees up artists to try out new marketing tactics.

Nick Cave is one to take chances. He's never hid behind crass commercialism, and he's beloved by hipsters and "those in the know", so perhaps his e-book gamble may pay off. The Guardian UK does a good job of predicting the potential pitfalls. Sorry for the alliteration.

Later this month, Nick Cave's new novel The Death of Bunny Munro – the story of a sex-maniac travelling salesman taking his last road trip – goes to market through the iPhone App Store, in an enhanced edition that is being launched before the print version.

The Enhanced Edition does some of the things we're now accustomed to seeing as standard in electronic texts: you can faff with fonts, change colour, bookmark it, and so on; and there's some smart social networking stuff attached. But it also includes enhancements that could have a noticeable effect on the experience of reading. Instead of paginating the book conventionally, it's presented as a continuous vertical scroll (one geek-pleasing trick is that you can adjust the scrolling speed with the angle of tilt of the phone), and the App includes an audiobook that syncs with the written text. Pop on the headphones, thumb the screen and Cave's voice picks up where you left off.

To put a finer point on this, there's also another little easter egg involved with the purchase of the audiobook:

The other thing is that it comes with a soundtrack, composed by Cave and Warren Ellis, one of his Bad Seeds. Soundtracked novels: now that really will change the experience. Could the soundtracked novel be to fiction what song is to verse?

I do not want to place super high expectations on Nick Cave as some visionary savior, but it's clear that the future in publishing could be very exciting indeed. What began as a very sober time for the big industry of publishing may turn out to be an interesting one for the niche writer, as with the market shrinking, the possibilities grow. The better one is able to perform in a niche, the better off that person will be. It's akin to the chocolate and sprinkles idea Friedman pushes in 'The World is Flat', and it may cause a shift in the changing publishing world. Let's hope it is a shift toward the better.

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