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iPad Publishing: is A Singing Whale the first of many?

Written by The Reader, 27th July 2010

At the beginning of July, Ryu Murakami announced that he would be publishing his new book, A Singing Whale, with Apple as an exclusive iPad download. This is not 'just an eBook' either: with video content and a soundtrack by Oscar-winning Ryuichi Sakamoto (who has collaborated with one of my favourite contemporary artists, Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto), this book will be unlike anything else we've 'read' before and I'll certainly be adding to my reading list to give it a go (not that I have an iPad. Yet).

However, as technology progresses and we are offered new and innovative forms of reading, what does this mean for the publishing industry? As  intriguing and exciting as Ryu Murakami's deal with Apple is, he has left his publisher in the dust and gone straight to the technology giant to get his new book to readers. Not so bad if it's just him, perhaps, but what if there are many authors that follow hot on his heels (and I think there will probably be a fair few)? It's a worrying thought but, just maybe, we'll see the world of reading develop more fully from a beleif that only one form of publishing can exist to realising that there are different markets and that both eBooks (especially those that are complemented by audio and visual elements) and proper books (if I dare call them that) can exist together, each offering different things: we'll have eBooks and paper books, not one or the other; the sphere of reading may open up, particularly if technology is able to engage with different readers and bring them to the world of literature by new means. I don't think that my desire to read A Singing Whale will in any way change the fact that I love to read a good novel with pages.

Maybe this won't signal the beginning of the end but rather the beginning of a new beginning for reading, one that encompasses technology and tradition, and alongside that, if we can continue to encourage more people to be sharing their reading in groups, the reading revolution may be kicking off very differently. Or maybe I'm just hoping for the best of both worlds and in reality, that's just not possible. Time will tell. And during that time, what will I really spend more time on, reading books or thinking of ways in which I can make money to buy an iPad? One guess.

2 thoughts on “iPad Publishing: is A Singing Whale the first of many?

Damian says:

Humm. All this talk of being able to listen to the soundtrack of a book while I read it, or view video that is somehow built into the text makes me wince a bit.

Do you really need all that if the story/writing is any good?

Excuse me if I sound a bit pompous for a moment, but surely it is the job of a writer to create the music within a text, rather than just having it piped in. And as for video, I think I would go to the cinema or turn on the telly if I wanted to watch something happen, not “turn on” a book.

I suppose it could be argued that the video element is just an extension of the illustrations that have accompanied text for hundreds of years, but it still feels like a step too far (or maybe just a step into the dark?)

I am of course yet to experience this book in its full glory, so perhaps I should reserve my judgement until then – but I do wonder what is being left to the imagination when the reader is being presented with so much more than just the words on the page.

I would like to think that enough will still be put into the text, and that it won’t suffer as a result of good writing and story telling being substituted for fancy audio and video content.

Bah humbug.

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