Saturday, February 03, 2007

Oh Those Clever Little Penguins!

The Guardian carried news yesterday that Penguin plans a wiki-novel in collaboration with Britain's De Montford University:
Based on the principles of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, the novel, called A Million Penguins, is open to anyone to join in, write and edit. None of the words, characters or plot twists will be attributed to any individual and - and this is the element of the project most likely to bruise delicate egos - participants are free to edit, chop and change other writers' work.
The big question is whether those who participate will be willing to check in their writerly egos at the door. But certainly the announcement has caused a stir: the A Million Penguins website and blog are already getting 10 hits a second!

Penguin have also apparently taken up residence in Second Life. (For the unititiated, a social community in an online 3D world.) I'd better go check it out.

(Incidentally, if you bump into a young lady with spiky blue hair, wearing microminishorts and displaying a great deal of cleavage ... you'll recognise me at once, of course. I haven't managed to find anything bookish going on in Second Life yet, maybe because I seem to spend most of my visits to the site at the bottom of the sea. CW has promised to take me on a tour of the library and when the internet connection is better, will take her up on that.)

I wanted to blog earlier in the week about another very interesting innovation from Penguin, and I even had the heading ready: Penguin Draws a Blank.

I was browsing the fiction section of Kinokuniya the other day when this cover (left) caught my eye. This is the latest packaging for classic novels, and you only know which title you're picking up from a wee sticker on the plastic wrap. The tag line for the My Penguin series is:
Books by the Greats, Covers by You

Because you see, the idea is that YOU design the cover image for the book. And then, if you want, scan and submit it to Penguin for possible display in their online gallery.

Yes, yes, Penguin are very innovative, very clever indeed. But I can go one better, if someone wants to go into business with me.

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and sell readers books with both the cover and the pages blank so that they can write their own classics. That's one Penguin haven't thought of yet!


Jordan said...

My wife ended up at the bottom of the sea too, and she never went back to the game after that (she blames a slow Internet connection). I imagine there must be quite a crowd down there at the bottom of the sea. Perhaps they can all start their own little sub-culture or something.

bibliobibuli said...

the glug-glug club?

Sufian said...

Actually someone has thought of that - blank books. A few years back, you can even buy the book at MPH.

Ruhayat X said...

Useful tool for publicity, I guess, this million-writer thing. Bit juvenile, though, the idea... I might expect Elarti to come up with something like that but Penguin?

As a PR exercise and a hype machine it's pretty innovative. Will it boost sales? Maybe, though I doubt it.

But what I wouldn't hold my breath for is for something actually sensible to come out. Eg, what if a Murakami school of prose fan goes and rewrites everything that a Rushdie fan has written?

Ruhayat X said...

Democracy (or rather, democratisation), as I like to say, doesn't work. Ask the people to tell you what they would like to see (read, in this case) and you'll get a camel with a hundred eyes. Which can be fun, if not useful.

Benevolent dictatorships are the way forward.

Madcap Machinist said...

plenty of other stuff happening in SL too. But screamyx is just too slow for it :(

(I'm the goth that floats around and goes by the name of Red)

Will be interesting to see how the wikinovel experiment works out. So far, in addition to the overwhelming response, they've had problems with spammers and vandals. But it's an editorial challenge more than anything and by its nature it's editorial by committee... how does that work in the real world?

Great publicity for DMU's online MA in any case (you remember I mentioned it the other day...)

Penguin should give a coupon so we can download a cover from the gallery and print it on our blank books... but then, who's saying nobody can't start their own little business out of it.

Madcap Machinist said...

Chekhov's Mistress' observations...

bibliobibuli said...

sufian - ah no ... really? how on earth could someone else have come up with the same idea. i even had a name for it - a high-tech one. i was going to name it 'notebook' after my computer.

ruhayat x - are you applying for a job as benovolent dictator? can think of worse ...

machinist - please reassure me it isn't just my screamyx ... am in bloggers hell right now

the de montford course ... i had forgotten you mentioned it but now recall ... i read the blurb and thought hey, i'd love to do that course

but my next stop has to be a PhD, and i think i want to do one in publishing

but will i ever be rich enough to finance it?

thanks for the link to chekopv's mistress - v. good comment

i don't think this is a project i'd want to participate in but some will have fun

Miao said...

Then isn't it the same as selling blank notebooks?

bibliobibuli said...

miao - haha. you're fast! but confess, you did hesitate for a moment ...

Ruhayat X said...

One does not apply for the job of dictator, Sharon, one merely takes it. Ah, but you knew that already.

Ruhayat X said...

Uh, and perhaps I misread, but... the content of the books themselves are not blank (being filled with classic tales), only the cover is left to the reader's imagination?

So they're not blank books, just faceless, correct?

bibliobibuli said...

i'll write you a reference for the job if you like, ruhayat. but then i don't suppose dictators really need 'em.

yes, just faceless

Ruhayat X said...

If I'm selected (teeheehee) as dictator I will force all bookshops to sell blank books and television stations to broadcast only white noise. You can be the sole distirbutor, our Sharon.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks ruhayat, would like that