Melbourne Writers Fest

This being my first year living in Melbourne, studying and internshipping and engaging with all things writing, editing and publishing, you’d think I’d be all over the Melbourne Writers Festival.  But nope, not exactly. I’ve been busy and thus far my participation has been solely digital. I’ve been attending vicariously, via those fortunate enough to attend all sorts of festival events from free to fancy. My online pseudo-participation has come mostly from the varied musings on the MWF Blog and the festival diary of Miss LiteraryMinded. It’s not the same as the real thing, but it’s great to get a look at all the things I can’t attend, just for a slice of what’s on offer.

Luckily the festival still has a few days left (until the 31st) and I should be able to make it to some free events closer to the weekend. Maybe I’ll even find some spare change for some of the pricier events, if they aren’t booked out.

Anyone else attending anything/planning to/wanting to/um, not wanting to?

Ooh, and here’s the MWF trailer, which I think is pretty rad for an ad:

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The future of books?

Don’t worry if e-readers take over, those chunky old hardbacks will still serve a purpose: as a case for your Kindle.

It’s interesting how this website is starting a little craft enterprise out of this idea. They do it for other models, and even for iPhone. Not sure if they’re the first to have done it for e-readers, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

It’s a perversely intriguing idea. You can keep the tactile sense of a real book in your hands, the smell of it, and the ability to show off the book you might be reading on the tram (although it could be just one of the thousands you really have stored inside). But I guess it’s going to make the original book a little hard to read.

Still, all in all, a cute idea. I wonder if they’ll ever design an e-reader that actually looks like a book, with a genuine textured display screen cover showing the title of whatever you’re reading, genuine page-rustling noise when clicking the turn pages button and a smell dispenser for that genuine old book scent! Why, it’ll be the best of both worlds! …Or not?

Plugs

What good is a blog if you can’t use it plug stuff? And it’s even relevant!

I’m currently doing an internship with The Lifted Brow, the one and only biannual attack journal of arts, letters and sciences. They have a great (and big – 200+ pages!) mix of material: short stories, creative non-fiction, poetry, art and more! The last issue came with a double CD of great music from artists like The Lucksmiths to Neil Gaiman (yup), and the current issue includes a cd-length epic journey of science-fiction, rhyming couplets and radness. That’s not to mention the new maths column, which comes with a free piece of string!

I heartily recommend that you check it out, buy a copy, subscribe and tell them what you think!

Second, have a look at Blemish Books. This is my friend from Canberra’s new publishing venture and it looks like he’ll be doing some great stuff. If you’re inclined to write poetry or creative essays and see them published in real books (none of this digital publishing which is surely just a passing fad, like fridges), then send them your best stuff! Hey, there’s a reviews section on the website too, so I guess you can stay digital.

I wonder sometimes if independent publishers like the above will eventually migrate into ebooks, or if they will continue to produce works of quality and beauty in print. Zines have persisted as a viable format, even with the rise of blogs. Likewise, maybe ebooks and books will coexist, with each playing a role that is unique to the medium. I’m excited about the possibilities of ebooks, but surely there are some things that make print worthwhile: the tactile, the collectable and maybe more. And you can’t download a piece of string for an ebook!

Litblogs

After reading a post on the Overland blog, I’ve been thinking about literature and the avenues for conversation surrounding it. Many people read books as part of a diverse media diet that also consists of television, radio, magazines, newspapers and, yep, the internet. But only a certain number of people might call themselves book lovers and an even smaller number are the ones who (like me) frequent litblogs (LiteraryMinded is a good local example). These might be people who are interested in literary journals, book launches, the latest small press publications and the like. But while litblogs do skirt the mainstream, occasionally reviewing Dan Brown novels, Booker prize winners and the like, they may need to do even more for a general readership soon.

In the past, people interested in all things literary (be they writers, those in the publishing industry or just dedicated bibliophiles), might have kept up-to-date via weekly or monthly literary supplements in the newspaper. But the general public would also flip through this section. Maybe something would catch their eye, they’d decide to read a few stories or interviews and engage with the literary culture. But on the internet, you never need to even browse past topics you’re not immediately interested in. Your blog reader or your bookmarks exclude anything outside your personalised niche interests.

So the decline of print newspapers (especially if Australia follows the trend in the USA) may mean the decline of literary pages and thus the decline of the literary community engaging with the general public. Of course, if  you want your literary fix, you can just go online where myriad litbloggers or alternative websites post news, reviews and interviews daily. But who’s going to go out of their way to find this stuff besides bibliophiles? Does the world of literature afficionados becomes a clique that just talks to itself? Or maybe it was always like this?

One of the great things about the internet is that you can easily find anything you’re interested in and stay updated. But does this mean people aren’t challenged enough; that they never even find out about different points of view if they don’t want to? The internet can be a browser window to the world, but it can also keep us locked in our own little bubble, if people don’t make efforts otherwise.

How does the literary community reach the mainstream? I guess it’s the age-old question for any niche or subculture looking for broader appeal.

Will The Age‘s Saturday literary supplement soon be gone? Or the monthly literary supplement in The Australian? Will litblogs continue  to serve the bookish community’s niche interests or will they go beyond to claim the place of established newspaper sections?  Or will the literary supplements flourish in a new form online, funded by the monetisation of online news services?

As with all things, I think it’s good to be informed and on top of whats going on, but this ponderous ramble boils down to: we’ll see!

It begins…

Hello and welcome to DuncanWritingEditingPublishing (DWEP?), a blog named not just for its overall theme, but for the process that goes towards it appearing before your very eyes! Incredible!

In keeping with this theme (or at least the P part), I’ve been pretty interested in where publishing is going, especially seeing as how it’s a field I’m looking to work in. But in the world of digital/online/‘new’ media, it seems most of us with access to the interwebs are already into it via self-publishing: uploading music to MySpace, tortured poetry onto LiveJournal or, hey!, blogs like this.

Anyway, as far as traditional book publishing goes, I’ve been exploring the issues surrounding the, well, not-so-traditional ebooks and the future of books in general. In particular, one of the main players at the moment seems to be Amazon’s Kindle.

From a few of the articles and blog posts that I’ve been reading, there are both  potential benefits and downsides to reading books on the Kindle, but even the more thoughtful articles seem to have skepticism mixed with enthusiasm. The Kindle may be more environmentally friendly, but it can be creepy in a doubly Orwellian way. Many say to forget the Kindle, using the iPhone is far superior for reading many ebooks.

I’m really keen to try out both the Kindle and the iPhone’s ebook capabilities for myself. But I have the feeling that neither of the devices have got it quite right yet. Maybe in the next round of fancy-schmancy electronic devices, something will come along that really makes ebooks work and brings them into the mainstream.

For now, I’m happy exploring blogs on my big old desktop computer, reading scribbles on smooshed up tree pulp and watching the latest round of The Book vs. The Kindle.