Borges,GAM3R 7H30RY and The Changing Writer/Reader Relationship

Jeff Jarvis's "The Book is dead. Long live the book" post last week has generated quite a conversation, including this follow-up post and a set of comments on the Guardian's site. Ben Vershbow, of the Institute for the Future of the Book, added some comments on "the shifting role of the author."

I'm going to tell him to have a look at [McKenzie Wark's] GAM3R 7H30RY…The text, previously undisturbed except by the author's hand, is suddenly clamorous with other voices. McKenzie finds himself thrust into the role of moderator, collaborating with the reader on the development of the book. The reader, in turn, is no longer a solitary explorer but a potential partner in a dialogue, with the author or with fellow readers….

Eventually, if selections from the comments are integrated in a subsequent version — either directly in the text or in some sort of appending critical section — Ken could find himself performing the role of editor, or curator. A curator of discussion…

Or perhaps that will be our job, the Institute. The shifting role of the editor/publisher.

 Ben adds more in his Publishers Weekly piece, "The book is reading you"

Imagine an online Harry Potter in which readers can keep personal blogs, engage in live chats in the margins, annotate the text collectively, compose alternate endings and contribute to communal glossaries and repositories of lore. Or an electronic Moby-Dick that allows teachers to create a virtual seminar around the text while connecting students to a vast library of scholarly resources. Or a new kind of book, native to the network, that we have not yet conceived—one that employs multiple media forms, and grows and changes over time.

In each of these cases, what is significant is not how many copies of the book are sold, but how many and what sorts of people are present and active in that online space. The book in the network is not a static object but a little network of its own…Jorge Luis Borges, a great spinner of metaphors for the information age, once said, "A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships." Publishers have an opportunity to reinvent their industry by plugging books fully into the new environment. They can let Google and Amazon do it for them, or they can take matters into their own hands.



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