Book Clubs

I’ve noticed a rising trend: online book clubs. My first real sight of it was Infinite Summer, a website dedicated to spending the breadth of the US summer reading the 1000-odd pages of Infinite Jest, by the late great David Foster Wallace. They followed that up with reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and that’s just wound up too. Anyone across the world who wants to join in can, reading a set amount of pages each day, supplemented by commentary, blogging, forum discussion and a huge, collaborative, social-media-fuelled exploration of the texts as everyone else reads along. The very idea of it pushes my booknerdy buttons.

Now there’s The Cork-Lined Room, a similar project but for reading Marcel Proust’s utterly enormous (3000 pages or so?) In Search of Lost Time. I think I’ll leave that one for a while, until I’ve finished War and Peace, Ulysses, Finnegan’s Wake and Moby Dick first. But heck, even one of the dudes from that hip young folk band Mumford and Sons has started a book club on the band’s website, with the first month dedicated to Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Despite some people’s fears that the internet distracts people from reading books, the two mediums can coexist and, clearly, complement each other.

I was keen to undertake Infinite Summer (well, it would have been a winter for me), but it was far too tricky in the middle of Uni. I’m thinking I might attempt it this summer, or soon at least. Or maybe I’ll wait around for Infinite Summer’s next project, the also enormous 2666, by Roberto Bolaño.

But while I know I’ll be glad to finally have more freedom to plough into my own books soon, I’d also be keen to be part of a real life, face-to-face, genuine book club. I’m not sure how hard it would be to agree on a book or find enough people, but I’m keen. Anyone in Melbourne keen?

ACMI is Awesome

My girlfriend and I went to ACMI at Federation Square recently and their new Screen Worlds exhibition is not just fantastic, it’s free. And it’s a permanent exhibition, but I feel you should waste no time in checking in out.

The exhibition is all about the myriad forms the moving image takes, from cinema, to animation, to video games and beyond! Besides the free video games, some stunning displays, and futuristic-looking interactive exhibits, there’s a little thing called the Timeslice. You walk into a booth , press a button, and after a few beeps, a series of cameras films you from every angle as you throw yourself into action. Then, you watch the movie back: it’s like having your own Matrix bullet-time film shoot! And then you can have the video emailed to you! My girlfriend and I had several goes at it and this video was among the best. Yes, it does take a while for it to load, but I reckon it’s entirely worth it. It’s fun doing it too; I could go do this on a weekly basis, I’m not kidding.

Also, upstairs is ACMI’s other new thing, The Australian Mediatheque. There’s several viewing booths with comfy seats, high-quality headphones (though the cords were not quite long enough ) and wide-screen TVs. From their digital database you can choose to view a huge array of Australian movies, cartoons, TV episodes and more. Or, if you call ahead a few days, you can order in just about any piece of pre-2006 Australian moving image material, sourced from archives around the country. And again, for free! Mey friends and I watched the movies The Black Balloon and Home Song Stories, both recommended and enjoyed by us all!

And the cafe at ACMI sells off all of their delicious broken choc-tops for $1 each.

Yup, I’m a ACMI acolyte now.

‘Freemium’ and Free Verse

Thought I’d share two things I’ve read recently. Both demonstrate how there’s great possibilities for authors, poets and all varieties of writers and creatives to get their work out there, all using the free-flowing intertubes, while still making money.

 

First, via a post in Spike – the Meanjin blog, I’ve learnt that uber-nerd and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow is conducting an experiment for his new book, With a Little Help. He’ll be releasing the book in myriad ways: from free Creative Commons-licensed digital copies, to a premium special-edition book valued at $10,000, and all sorts of stuff in between. Hence, the term ‘freemium’. This is somewhat similar to what Nine Inch Nails did with their music recently, but in a broader and more openly experimental way. This is all to explore what you can do when you give stuff away for free, but also self-publish and sell stuff via print-on-demand, or offer other freelance services. A big ol’ mixture. Check out his Publishers Weekly Column for even more detail. I’ll be reading his regular updates on the process with interest.

 

Cory Doctorow: experimenting with 'Freemium' for his new book

  

Second, PoetrySpeaks is a new website and a new business model, kind of like iTunes for poetry, or Facebook for poets. What’s especially cool about it is that it offers a combination of free and paid material from ‘classic’ or established poets, as well as both curated and user-driven spaces for less well-known poets to get their stuff out there, and even get paid for it. While the site still needs a lot of building up and a broader international diversity, it’s promising to see that the works of both established and emerging artists can stand side by side, giving everyone opportunities to spread their words and ideas and maybe make a little moolah.

 

So whether you write books or poetry, or whatever you create, it’s worth exploring the possibilities of the internet. Sometimes giving stuff away for free online can end up being very rewarding.