slate publishes a networked book 03.14.2006, 12:53 PM
posted by ben vershbow
Always full of surprises, Slate Magazine has launched an interesting literary experiment: a serial novel by Walter Kirn called (appropriately for a networked book) The Unbinding, to be published twice weekly, exclusively online, through June. From the original announcement:
On Monday, March 13, Slate will launch an exciting new publishing venture: an online novel written in real time, by award-winning novelist Walter Kirn. Installments of the novel, titled The Unbinding, will appear in Slate roughly twice a week from March through June. While novels have been serialized in mainstream online publications before, this is the first time a prominent novelist has published a genuine Net Novel--one that takes advantage of, and draws inspiration from, the capacities of the Internet. The Unbinding, a dark comedy set in the near future, is a compilation of "found documents"--online diary entries, e-mails, surveillance reports, etc. It will make use of the Internet's unique capacity to respond to events as they happen, linking to documents and other Web sites. In other words, The Unbinding is conceived for the Web, rather than adapted to it.
Its publication also marks the debut of Slate's fiction section. Over the past decade, there has been much discussion of the lack of literature being written on the Web. When Stephen King experimented with the medium in the year 2000, publishing a novel online called The Plant, readers were hampered by dial-up access. But the prevalence of broadband and increasing comfort with online reading makes the publication of a novel like The Unbinding possible.
The Unbinding seems to be straight-up serial fiction, mounted in Flash with downloadable PDFs available. There doesn't appear to be anything set up for reader feedback. All in all, a rather conservative effort toward a networked book: not a great deal of attention paid to design, not playing much with medium, although the integration of other web genres in its narrative -- the "found documents" -- could be interesting (House of Leaves?). Still, considering the diminishing space for fiction in mainstream magazines, and the high visibility of this experiment, this is most welcome. The first installment is up: let's take a look.
Sally Northmore on March 14, 2006 2:45 PM:
Conceived for the internet -- that's excellent.
Although, in terms of intertextuality and native web-ness, are the ad banners at the bottom of the chapter necessary?
Bob Stein on March 14, 2006 10:04 PM:
serious question. is anyone else bothered by the white san-serifed text on a black background? i can hardly imagine a design choice which would render the text less pleasing to the eye and difficult to read.
Daniel Anderson on March 14, 2006 10:52 PM:
Yes, the reading experience did not feel that great. It's also a pretty small bite of text. I think I'd rather have it audio-booked and listen to it than simply read the book on screen. Kind of scary that I didn't even notice the ad on first read; must either be a good consumer, or already immune.
Alex on March 15, 2006 2:07 PM:
I hate hate hate the design of it. So much so I was compelled to write a long and obnoxious response to it.