Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Mongoliad

Now here’s a really interesting idea — from Neal Stephenson and others — for a book . . . or rather an app . . . or a service . . . sort of a wiki or a game . . . oh heck, just read it:

The Mongoliad stand out as a possible way forward for post-print publishing. PULP makes this book into something that's truly the product of our collective imaginations. When you're reading a chapter of the book, you always have the option to pull up a an interactive discussion window and leave a note or enter a discussion about the book. You can write your own additional storyline. Or add to the pedia to explain more about the historical setting. You can also rate every aspect of the book, rating any page on a scale of one to five stars.

The Mongoliad isn't just a story; it's a platform for collaborative worldbuilding. The question is, how do you prevent such an endeavor from degenerating into chaos? "We have the concept of canonicity – if we like it we'll tag it as canon," Bornstein says. "We'll have ways of reflecting people's community standing in our forums. So some people will be able to help curate the canon, and we'll be the ultimate arbiters." The book will become a thicket of fanfic, but there will be a clear, canonical path marked through it by the creators of the story.

So how will you buy The Mongoliad? It won't be like getting a traditional ebook, which is usually wrapped in some kind of format or digital restriction management software designed to prevent people from sharing it. Subutai is devoted to selling this book without DRM. You'll get it in an app store, and you'll pay what Bornstein calls "a relatively low price" for it as a six-month service, where you get new content every week. At the end of those six months you can renew for "a lower price." Bornstein hinted that the book will eventually contain "a few games too."

I have to say, this sounds really interesting — except I don't like the idea of having the experience locked in to the iPhone/Pod/Pad world. That wouldn't be the venue I’d choose anyway.

(Thanks to Adam Keiper for the link.)

3 comments:

  • Dear Alan,

    The link doesn't work; can you fix it? Thanks!

    Chris

  • Sorry about that — thanks for letting me know.

  • Michael Straight said...

    I don't understand why people (not you, Alan, but the article) bill these new ideas as if they might be replacements for books (or even ebooks). Movies and video games didn't replace books, they're just a different thing.

    And I like this from the comments section: "Want to buy a subscription to my moderated fan-fiction website?"

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