Readers Take an Active Role in Interactive Fiction

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Readers Take an Active Role in Interactive Fiction

I wrote this post about interactive fiction for the Read, Watch, Play blog.

Reading fiction is generally seen as a passive activity, with the reader following a single path of the story that has been set out by the writer. However there are opportunities for readers to take a more active role in the development of a writer’s story. This is especially true in the case of interactive fiction.

In works of interactive fiction (IF) the writer presents a story, but gives the reader the option to deviate from the thread of the narrative, or direct it in a particular path at various points along the way….

Read, Watch, Play is an online reading group that focuses on a new theme every month and includes films, TV, games and music as well as books as part of the discussion.

The full post can be read here.

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Links to public libraries ebook lending review report and responses

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The independent report of ebook lending in English public libraries has now been published. The link below will take you to the report itself and the government’s response to it.
The key recommendations are:
  • The provisions in the Digital Economy Act 2010 that extend PLR to audio books and loans of on-site e-books should be enacted.
  • Further legislative changes should be made to allow PLR to take account of remote e-loans.
  • The overall PLR pot should be increased to recognise the increase in rights holders.
  • A number of pilots in 2013 using established literary events should be set up to test business models and user behaviours, and provide a transparent evidence base: all major publishers and aggregators should participate in these pilots.
  • Public libraries should offer both on-site and remote E-Lending service to their users, free at point of use.
  • The interests of publishers and booksellers must be protected by building in frictions that set 21st-century versions of the limits to supply which are inherent in the physical loans market (and where possible, opportunities for purchase should be encouraged).  These frictions include the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, that digital books could be securely removed after lending and that digital books would deteriorate after a number of loans.  The exact nature of these frictions should evolve over time to accommodate changes in technology and the market.
There have already been a number of responses to it from various individuals and  organisations (below), mostly welcoming the majority of the report’s recommendations.

I’m not going to comment on it here (please take at look at Voices for The Library response), but I did just want to highlight this section on the opportunities that could come from ebook lending:

For libraries, embracing a digital strategy could give them a better way of communication with their members, helping them to bring a larger footfall into their buildings for events and services.  For publishers, digital lending could bring them closer to the book-borrowing and book-buying public.  And for writers, the extension of PLR to the digital and audio world would allow for much more accurate financial recognition for the borrowing of their books.  If a digital sales platform is developed, as part of a library catalogue, through which local booksellers can be promoted, this may support the development and the sustainability of these retail outlets as part of the local high street.

Reblogged: Imagining the Future | RFID – Changing libraries for good?

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Imagining the Future – A Guest Post from Gary Green | RFID – Changing libraries for good?.

I put together this write-up of my presentation at the CILIP RFID in Libraries 2012 conference, and Mick Fortune kindly put on his Library RFID blog.

It was a bit of blue-sky thinking focused on how creative use of RFID in sectors beyond libraries might be translated into library use.

Shifts in Reading and Information

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I contributed to a Guardian online chat recently that focused on the question: “What does a library look like in 2013?”

During this live chat Sandy Mahal (programme manager, The Reading Agency) made this point:

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re in the middle of one of the biggest changes in reading in human history, experiencing a shift similar in magnitude to the move in Greek times from an oral to a literary culture. Our reading brains are changing, the way we share reading experiences is changing, and of course the book itself is changing dramatically. We’re being challenged to think very differently about what the reading experience is – by things like JK Rowling’s online Pottermore world, Profile’s Frankenstein app which uses reader input and non-linear text. Very little of these multi-platform, literary experiments seem to be making their way into libraries’ reader development work, and of course, there’s ebooks too…we need to take a big, bold step to create a future library service that will keep ahead of developments and cater for and inspire a generation of digital natives.”

And I responded with:

“Possibly the problem here is that libraries are still focusing more on the container of the content (the book) and not the content itself. Not only is the way we read changing, the way we access information is changing too – whether that’s a focus on infographics instead of pure statistics; using multimedia (videos; audio, etc) to provide information, etc – it all needs to be considered, not just focusing on information or even story telling as text in a book or on a page.”

My comment was actually answering a question in my own head, as a lead on, rather than in response to Sandy’s comments. I agree the shift is happening, but we also need to be mindful that the shift won’t just happen in how the written word is presented, as libraries aren’t just about the written word. I’m thinking around this idea from a libraries=information perspective, rather than libraries=reading, as a fair percentage of my library use has been informal learning and information finding. The shift will also happen around how information is presented (video, audio, infographics, etc) and how we interact with it.

I just wondered what other people working in libraries and information based roles thought about this?

Publishers and Public Libraries Digital Skills Sharing Event #digiskills

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The Reading Agency and Publishers Association held an event recently at Canada Water Library focusing on their Digital Skills Sharing initiative (funded by Arts Council England) which had been running for 10 months. The initiative consisted of six teams of publishers & public library services working together in an attempt to develop libraries digital marketing and communications channels with their readers. Further background details can be found here.

The event included a key-note from technology commentator and journalist Bill Thompson, a run-through of the six projects and a panel discussion in the middle of the project presentations.

Richard Mollett (Chief executive, Publishers Association) introduced the event, explaining how the initiative came about, the Publishers Association and The Reading Agency involvement in it and the projects that would be showcased during the event.

Nicky Morgan (Director of Libraries, Arts Council England) followed this up by speaking about the forthcoming publication of A.C.E. Envisioning the library of the future report in spring 2013 – a follow up to the research and consultation programme of the same name, aimed at developing A.C.E. “long-term vision for public libraries in England.” Nicky Morgan also encouraged libraries to tap into the funding streams available for libraries.

Keynote

Bill Thompson’s keynote provided an interesting perspective on libraries and the role they play in today’s society. Amongst other things, he suggested that we’re not yet at a digital age and highlighted that even though we are surrounded by digital devices and information in a digital format, the physical is still relevant to us and it is just as important in our everyday lives. He spoke about the great shifts towards screen based consumption & engagement that were happening. With this shift also comes changes in reading habits – the focus on shorter pieces of text; different methods of text communication; bite sized pieces always being updated. He asked in a screen based world which bits of our brain does the internet want to use and can we spare them when we want to use it for deep reading beyond the internet? He suggested that we should be thinking about questions like “What’s the point of reading?”, rather than “How can we get people into libraries?” He also commented that illiteracy is seen as a failure, even though our brains aren’t born literate and literacy isn’t natural to us.

Projects Showcase 1

Gloucestershire Libraries with support from Granta set up a Twitter book club focused on new authors. As well as discussions between book club members they also had Twitter interviews and a Skype event with authors whose books were being read and discussed. They also considered using Facebook and even though a greater number of people use Facebook, Twitter provides a more immediate interaction, which is useful when trying to run live and interactive sessions. They did however note that due to this immediacy Twitter needs more time dedicated to it.

Leeds and Wakefield Libraries with support from Random House were keen to develop their online presences via social media and rather than trying to build numbers of followers, they were aiming to develop the engagement they had with library users. They saw this engagement as a way to develop advocates for projects in library services – advocates will actively promote projects that interest them.

South Tyneside Libraries with support from Pan Macmillan wanted to focus on a teenage reading project & the Big Borough Read. The teenage project was built around a Facebook page setup specifically for the project – once a teenager liked the page they were given a book, read it, review it on the Facebook page, and once they reviewed it they were sent another book. The reviewing aspect wasn’t entirely successful, as some teenagers weren’t keen on posting as themselves (so required some staff intervention). The Big Borough Read also had a dedicated Twitter and Facebook page. This project focused on a single book to be read by as many people in the borough as possible. They found that Twitter was the most successful method of engagement in this instance.

Reader by h.koppdelaney/Flickr

Reader by h.koppdelaney/Flickr

Panel discussion

The panel discussion was chaired by Miranda McKearney (CEO, The Reading Agency) and included Bill Thompson as well as representatives from both the publishing industry and public libraries. Points raised during the discussion (themed “Compelling reader experiences in the library of the future”) included:

  • The library hybrid focused on service delivery via both physical and digital space will continue to be important in the future.
  • Publishers create large amounts of content around writers and it would be of benefit to everyone if they released it for use by the library community.
  • Publishers recognised that libraries are a non-commercial space.
  • Libraries are seen as trustworthy sources of information and we should be emphasizing this when competing with other services.
  • Libraries should take the opportunity to be the Google of our local areas ie the first port of call.
  • We need a UK wide online portal for libraries that can act as a single place for people to go to for their information and library needs.
  • We need a UK wide development body for libraries.
  • Librarians should be involved in the development of online services, not just wait for the next big thing to come along and follow it.

Projects Showcase 2

Kensington & Chelsea Libraries with support from Little Brown set up an online reading group “Text Tribe”. The target audience were users who might not be able to get to the library to join a conventional reading group. They used a WordPress blog, backed up by Twitter, Facebook and publishers channels. As part of this the publisher donated 120 books for those involved in the reading group. Even though WordPress was the main focus for the reading group it didn’t work perfectly for book discussions.

Nottinghamshire Libraries with support from Penguin & Hot Key Books ran a competition to promote a teenage book title, with the winning entries to be created and used on the libraries digital signage screens. This project illustrated how difficult it is to encourage involvement from library users, as they only had 2 entries (8 once they got a school involved). However, the publisher illustrated that it’s not just an issue for libraries, as they have had equally low numbers of responses to their own competitions.

North West Libraries with support from Faber and Faber wanted to reach families who were willing to share their love of reading via digital media. This included using Pinterest for the Reading-Families project. Here families were invited to contribute to reviews etc. It was interesting to note that the families recruited via Facebook were the most active users, possibly because they were already used to having an online presence.

Following on from the presentations and panel discussion Miranda McKearney closed the event, emphasizing that even though this was billed as a wrap-up event a number of the projects would be continuing and the libraries involved were starting to expand on their use of social media and digital reader engagement. The Reading Agency are currently building a resource to continue their support of this theme at http://readingagency.org.uk/digitalskills and are keen to receive feedback on developing this.

It was an interesting event and (even though my library service already uses social media) it was really useful to hear how libraries with the support of publishers had made use of it to engage with readers in different ways. The projects also helped illustrate the need to think carefully about which social media tools libraries should use for engagement and that there isn’t necessarily a “one tool fits all” scenario. For example, South Tyneside found that Twitter was more engaging for their Big Borough Read project, but Facebook was a better fit for their teenage reading group. Many of the projects echoed earlier comments around the importance of the physical as well as online interaction – it appears as if the face-to-face sessions in these digital projects were just as important as the online engagement with readers. It also seemed to be a great way to build the dialogue between libraries and publishers – helping develop links and understanding between both sectors, enabling each other to support our work and our audiences’ love of reading.

Books From My Childhood

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I’m thinking about all the books I remember from my childhood… Books that I enjoyed and stuck in my mind. They were books that I either owned or were read to me at primary school.

I still have a few of them now and open them up once in a while to read a story or two to myself.

Little Pete Stories

I had a couple of Mr Men books – “Mr Greedy” & “Mr Tickle“; “Tales of Joe and Timothy“; “Jacko the monkey” (I think it was called this and I think this is the book on Worldcat!); “Little Pete Stories“; “Teddy Robinson” (this is the one I remember being read out at school, although I think Little Pete was too); “Children of Cherry Tree Farm“; “The Demon Bike Rider” – which contained the classic innuendo “the bike on Barker’s Bonk.” NB: Being the naive soul I am, I have just this minute (honestly after 30 years) realised that this is more of an innuendo than I first thought! It was probably due to the innuendo this raised amongst my school friends that this was the turning point in my reading choice… Into more grown up stuff. Nope, I’m not talking about dirty magazines. I’m talking about The Hardy Boys, which to be honest, I thought were really dull. Maybe that’s why I go back to the books from my earlier years for a bit of nostalgic reading – far more interesting, in my opinion.

One of the things I could never work out with these books, except “The Demon Bike Rider”, is when they were set… All in the 20th century some time, but it’s difficult to gauge.

No matter, I suppose… they made sense to me, I could relate to them and I imagine children now still can, even though we are living in a time where the world contains so much technology. There isn’t any technology in these books, but the fun of childhood is still there.