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From the Director’s Desk

Editorial: Watch out for the e-pirates!

Reading the Bush

Interview: David Reiter

Walking for Peace


Focus: Chris Mansell

Out & About

Your Deal

Vol 4, No. 2 — ISSN 1442-0023

From the Editor's Keyboard

Sara A belated welcome to our second issue of enews for 02. Our tardiness only serves to demonstrate the frantic pace at IP, particularly for our Director David Reiter. When he’s not out and about across the country, spreading the IP message, he’s busy polishing his own new work, Sharpened Knife.

David is becoming something of a travelling evangelist for digital publishing but I managed to pin him down to ask some probing questions about his latest work. His answers provide fascinating reading on what he terms “literary multimedia”and his broader vision for digital publishing.

David’s growing reputation in the area has been recognised with an invitation to participate in the OZeCulture Conference in Sydney on 30 May. He will be giving a presentation on “adding value to text” in a joint session with Gus Collings from Melbourne-based Common Ground, a digital research and publishing company. We look forward to a lively follow-up in our next issue.

We focus on Chris Mansell who writes about the inspirations for her poetry and her decision to “value add” audio to her IPD publication, The Fickle Brat. We also introduce the latest Glass House Books title, Peace Comes Walking, by Victoria Rigney. Our feature by RMIT researcher Karin Geiselhart, ‘Reading the Bush’, discovers that there really is life out there on the digital publishing front beyond the latte circuit. There is a retrospective on the inaugural Shoalhaven Literary Festival. Bestlinks features The Drunken Boat, a quality literary journal and Slamming the Sonnet, a multimedia poetry site.

For now we will take a moment to bask in the sunshine of our 2002 Golden Web Award. These prestigious awards are administered through the International Association of Webmasters and Designers and are assessed by a peak group of web designers. The group describes the award as “the recognition of a commitment to the pursuit of website excellence...incorporating high standards of design, originality and content.” Truthfully, all accolades belong solely to David who built this site from scratch. I offer him a traditional Aussie salute...good on ya mate!

For those of you interested in who’s written what in this issue, SM=me; DR=David Reiter.

Sara Moss

From the Director's Desk

DR in Park I write this in a brief lull between trips south.

More and more people are becoming aware of the need to be informed about digital publishing, even if they have no immediate plans to launch themselves imaginatively — or otherwise — into cyberspace. So the past two months have seen me at e-publishing events organised by groups as diverse as Yarra-Melbourne Library, the Somerset Festival, the New South Wales Writers’ Centre and the North Sydney Girls’ School. More on all that in Out and About.

We are especially pleased that Chris Mansell’s audio + text CD/CD-ROM, The Fickle Brat, passed its technical testing phase with flying colours and that we can now declare my latest work, Sharpened Knife, ready for you to read on the Net. SK has already been archived as a work of cultural significance by the National Library. We’re taking advance orders prior to the site’s official launch in June.

Our feature this issue is a shortened version of Karin Geiselhart’s very detailed study of digital publishing in regional and rural Australia. It’s good to see the bush embracing the new technologies in a deliberate effort to keep up with their latte-sipping cousins in the city. You may well ask why IP was included as one of Karin’s case studies, but I’m sure that had something to do with our commitment to empowering regional authors and readers through the content we offer on this site and the personal contact we maintain with regional groups and individuals.

We’re about to enter our next publishing cycle that will see a bumper crop of new works launched in our Spring 2002 Season including Brett Dionysius’ Bacchanalia , Lesley Singh’s Cry Ma, Ma to the Moon, the CD version of Sharpened Knife, and a murder mystery novel set in Far North Queensland (title to be finalised soon). So it will be all hands on deck — or at least at the keyboard — after my return from my next trip South at the end of the month!

In the meantime, happy reading!

Dr David Reiter

One argument raised against publishing work in digital form is that it becomes easier to steal. Until the major software players like Adobe and Microsoft create encryption technology that makes it difficult if not impossible to “grab” someone else’s intellectual property off the Net or from a CD, these concerns will be justified — though perhaps exaggerated.

While statistics on e-piracy may be hard to compile, there are still enough examples of piracy of print material to make these concerns pale by comparison. Consider the following two recent cases.

Alan Clay’s ArtMedia site is one of Australia’s most valuable resources on e-publishing, and the literary and performing arts. But Alan is also an author in his own right and has sought to market his work globally. As he found out the hard way, putting it in print is no safer. Here’s part of what he recounted in ArtMedia’s most recent newsletter:

“In July last year I discovered a company called a1Books selling my novel Dance Sisters 'used like new' on amazon zShops for US$14.50, and not listing Artmedia as the publisher. This aroused my suspicions and I asked my US POD suppliers, Ingram, to check if a1Books was part of the Ingram supply chain, and if they were, to ask them to correct the publisher information. As soon as Ingram started making enquires, Dance Sisters came off the Amazon zshops 'used book site' run by a1Books, but it remained on the a1Books site itself, with no correction of the publisher information, and no satisfactory explanation.

Then last month, I discovered a1Books selling my new book, Believers in Love, both 'used' and 'new' through amazon, and by this stage Dance Sisters was selling on the a1Books site for US$11.75, totally blowing any suggestion that they could be doing it within the wholesale discount margin, as they admit themselves below. We were about to go to press last month with this story, when a1Books sent us an email saying they would comply with our Notice of Demand, and remove my books from their site, which they duly did, only to have them reappear again this week at the US list price of $16.95.

How is it possible that a bug in their software fails to update the publisher information for my books over ten months of repeated requests, demands, promises, and back tracks? And it is still incorrect, at time of writing.”

And Canberra-based author SK Kelen noted at the recent Shoalhaven Festival that pirated versions of his most recent book were appearing on the streets of Viet Nam even before his AsiaLink residency had concluded there. He had given permission to a Viet Nam publisher for an edition to be produced, but he’s not seen any royalties from the unauthorised copies that appeared subsequently at every street corner.

Kelen’s attitude toward this breach is probably more generous than most of us would adopt. He seems flattered that his work would generate such an interest — however commercially dodgey — in a foreign place, and empathised with the wish of the disadvantaged to gain access to exotic cultural material. Besides, who would he sue for infringement?

Publishing in digital form certainly carries its risks, but no more so than publishing in print forms. With the advances in print on demand technology, print works are even more vulnerable to piracy. And digital publication also has some inherent protection. Search engines make it more feasible to uncover unauthorised versions when infringement is suspected.

Certain legal experts also argue that infringement is easier to prove in law. In the past it was difficult to prove that the accused had access to the material in question. However the Internet is ubiquitous, thereby weakening lack of access as a defence. It also allows wide exposure for exposes such as Clay’s. How many of you would trust your work to a1books?

In the final analysis it’s not the form of publication that lessens safeguards for intellectual property but the morality of those who gain access to it. The Internet may be viewed by some as anarchic in this respect, but the gains to be had from publishing in cyberspace far outweigh the risks.


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[We asked Chris Mansell, author of The Fickle Brat, for some insight to the inspirations for her poetry and why she chose to publish this work on CD with text and audio.]

I originally wrote poems because it was a way of explaining the world to myself. I had no idea about what a poem might mean in a cultural or artistic sense, had no idea of communicating to anyone else via poems (which was probably just as well given the dreadful poems I wrote as a teenager).

This is a deeply naive way to write —and to read — poems but I did not know better at the time. If the context in which I write has changed, my preoccupations have not. More sex maybe.

Brat_covI still write to understand the world, but my sense of what 'the world' is has changed, I am more aware of the experience of others and the ways other people express themselves, and more aware of the life and death struggles that ordinary people undergo everyday.

The fickle brat herself represents that struggle with death and the big questions. In the poem in which she appears ‘I’ am speaking from the point of view of a younger version of myself: angry, intolerant of the facts of life and death, irascible and unreasonable ... all of which is commonly experienced when we are rendered powerless. But there's humour too — because humour is part of it, and more subtly associated with poetry than with any other art form.

While it’s good to have people read your work as text where they can choose their own paths through the work, it’s also good to have the opportunity to have your voice on the poems, not as the sole and finally
definitive way that the poem should be read but for the intimacy that reading aloud gives them.

Radio has always been good for this, and there are plenty of good tapes around, but very few CDs — especially with text. I like the flexibility of the audio + text format — it seems a very civilised way of reading. Often poems make more sense when you can hear the poet's voice, her intonations and breaks (which won’t always attend to the careful visual line breaks), her cadences and stresses.

There are two poems really, the potential poem which is the written version and the aural version of the poem which brings with it the particular prejudices and intimate knowledge of the reader. The poet knows the poem in a different way to all other readers — not better than all other readers, but differently. The poem that you have written yourself carries with it all the drafts and circumstances that it had and shed along the way. This enriches the reading.

This is part of what I mean by what a poem might 'mean' in a broader artistic sense. I like poems to be cheeky — somewhat disrespectful of clean modern manners and more able to break the shell of the polite, to call attention to the contingent: to be fickle brats themselves I suppose.

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Glass House Book’s latest title is Peace Comes Walking: a Biography of Donald Groom, Quaker Peace Worker. The book is really as much a history of the Quakers and the global peace movement throughout the 20th-Century as it is a biography.

The author, Victoria Rigney, wrote the book with the support of a grant from the Donald Groom Foundation and Arts Tasmania. In it she presents the passionate idealism, spiritual strength and unexpected tragedy of this movement. Through an engaging narrative and Groom’s very revealing letters, she traces his experiences in Spain during the Civil War, in India before and after partition and Australia during the Vietnam War.

PCW_CovGroom lived in collaboration and friendship with visionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave and Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, but this not a portrait of a saint. This ‘Hindu Quaker’ undertook his own walk in the wilderness, as he struggled to find personal and global peace.

Peace Comes Walking is available for immediate order from our online store.

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[This issue’s feature provides excerpts from Karin Geiselhart’s more detailed research report into the world of digital publishing in regional and rural Australia. Karin works at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in the School of Business Information Technology. IP is included as a case study, for reasons we’ll let her explain below. We have retained Karin’s case study numbers even when we have deleted certain of the case studies here. — DR]

Within Australia there is conflict between the dominance of metropolitan ways of life, the fast paced, high spending 'latte' set, and slower more measured and personal approaches.

Or at least, those are the stereotypes that find their way into our thinking. The reality is more complex. Rural and regional Australia has cultures that are both national and local. As well as a collective sense of being non-urban, many areas also have differentiated sub-cultures associated with their history, geography, local industries and migration patterns.

Perhaps more important for digital book production is the globalised model of development which tends to filter down to every level of social organisation. This model emphasises growth and capital investment, often at the expense of social and environmental sustainability. Big begets bigger. This can lead to 'rural bleed', as Ron Ipsen has vividly described it. First big city companies and then multinationals can move in with better, faster services that the smaller regional areas cannot compete with.

But this is not the only model for rural Australia. New forms of highly interactive information, provided in cost-effective and convenient forms, can create a 'virtuous circle' that fosters local and appropriate agenda setting, discussion, and solutions. The case studies below demonstrate this potential. In particular they demonstrate diverse business models, which some consider a sign of economic and social vitality (Mintzberg 1996, Tisdell 1996). Thus, while many of the projects described here were walking, rather than running towards a digital publishing future, a number of them were actively involved with determining where the race might be taking them and their communities.

The decentralised nature of the Internet provides tools for influencing from within, as well as accepting from without. Rural publishers can, and are, selling to the rest of the world. In some cases, they are using Australian content as a special selling point, rather than hiding it under a bushel. Ebooks can free readers from the need to travel to a bookstore, and free bookstores from holding extensive stocks. Print on demand combined with electronic commerce can give the best of both worlds, and allow shorter print runs that give new or non-mainstream authors the old Australian 'go'.

The convergence of technologies also helps to bring together diverse resources and people: digital publishing requires at least design, editing, creative, financial, marketing and computing skills and input. It must blend with existing modes of communication and publishing, while distinguishing its extra features.

Just as the project which has commissioned this research is part of a wider series of 'books about books', so digital publishing presents opportunities for communities to use technology to talk about their technology: what they want for themselves, their communities, and their futures. This wider context of globalisation, local and regional autonomy is the context for the following brief survey of digital publishing in rural Australia.


This survey is based on a sampling of small publishers and several community based groups. The intention was to scan for possiblities and patterns. The focus was on publishers either based in a rural area or who have (or could have) significant rural content or customers. The case studies were based on those who are not just selling books online, but rather those who were taking the next step and making them available electronically or printing on demand.

Case Study 1: Rural Educational Publisher
Applying Knowledge Pty Ltd.

This company based in Albury, NSW provides consultancy services in tertiary and primary curriculum development and online education. The company has been operating for 3 years, and has developed from the interests and skills of the directors, Dr Peter Tylee and Dr Jenny Tylee, who have extensive experience as academics and professionals in health, education and information technology.

They have two tertiary texts in online format. Present interactivity includes auto-correcting self-tests using client sided programming to enable timely and effective student feedback, control of dynamic models and illustrations, navigation systems within the materials and controls to set font type and size.

They see the future in not just producing electronic versions of paper documents, but in the value-added capacity of a digital curriculum to engage readers as active learners through meaningful and intelligent interactivity.

They do not perceive their rural location as a disadvantage, as their market is global. Although they see significant potential in ebooks and online learning materials for rural and regional audiences, they also recognise that both the skills base and the access to infrastructure can be limiting factors. They also see potential in the tertiary market, although universities differ greatly in their stages of development and willingness to invest.

Case Study 2: A Community Network
North East Online Network

This cooperatively structured community network is an example of a broad-based approach to development of a local information technology infrastructure, skills base and content. Digital publishing is being planned as just one aspect of an approach that seeks to engage the local community from a range of perspectives.

NEON’s executive officer, Peter Jamieson, recognises the potential for NEON to assist local development through advanced infrastructure, training and a participatory approach. This includes public access via a local network, links to community groups, and software that will eventually facilitate self-publication.
An essential ingredient in this approach is the use of open source software. Jamieson compares the 'dot com' approach with NEON's 'dot co-op' philosophy. Whereas the first is driven by proprietory products and services, and focussed primarily on profit generation, the co-op paradigm emphasises shared ownership and control, open source technologies and sustainable community development.

Their You Are Not Alone community site is aimed at young people. It features song lyrics, stories, photos, and video scripts, with clear potential for multi-media expansion and skills development. Clearly, there are possibilities for synergies that benefit the region both socially and economically.

Digital publishing is just one of the plans for NEON. They are deploying ZOPE (Z Object Publishing Environment), from, an open source web application server. This will be database driven, via ZOPE and Apache servers. Building an infrastructure based on sophisticated open source software satisfies their commitment to non-corporate solutions, while providing the potential for building in advanced electronic commerce applications.
While their digital publishing efforts are still in the early stages, the high levels of interactivity and presentation of many of the NEON community sites have great potential for local and multimedia explorations.

Case Study 3: Rural Publisher
The Writer's Exchange E-Publishing

This is an electronic publishing site edited by Sandy Cummins from Atherton, a small regional centre in northern Queensland. It carries titles in many genres, including romance, self-help, parenting, humour, science fiction, westerns, Christian, humour, children and young adults, parenting, and some free books. Some of their editors and illustrators are based in the US.

They produce full edited books, and also assist with self-publication. Their writers are predominantly Americans but there are a range of nationalities in their 'upcoming' authors. Their site includes a good deal of information about the authors.

Publisher Sandy Cummins believes that standardisation of formats, preferably so that they can be independent of the technology used to view them, would encourage the development of e-books. She notes that in the US a variety of readers are available, but Australia only has the ebookman. These readers are now being advertised via mainstream media in the US, which indicates they are gaining acceptance with the general public.

Case Study 5: Regional Children's Publisher
Bandicoot Books

Steve and Marion Isham are a husband and wife team who write, illustrate, publish and promote their titles. The books are inspired by Tasmania but designed to be enjoyed anywhere in the world.

They usually produce one book per year, typically 5000 copies, using an off-set printer in Singapore. They are not currently planning on producing e-books or printing on demand. The costs of full colour reproduction make print on demand unattractive for books with many illustrations. A recent Bandicoot Books title has specially written songs on an accompanying CD. They distribute through a US seller, and Steve spends some time each year promoting the books by speaking about writing at schools in the US (and Australia).

Case Study 6: Rural General Publisher

Based in Wagga, this is a true ebook publishing operation with a rural Australian focus. The books are available in a variety of formats, including PDF, Palm Pilots and MS Reader. They can also be ordered as paper books, through a POD arrangement with a printer in South Australia.

The publisher, Bobby Graham, has 24 years experience in book publishing, mostly in South Africa. She seeks to bring the professionalism of editorial input and design to the new media, and also to establish a business that is transportable. Bob-e-books is committed to assisting local authors and agencies to get their words out, and their titles are mostly Australian authors.

The site also features details on the authors, and extensive information about the service, the security arrangements, and the basics about hand-held devices, etc. This is very helpful for people who are uncertain about ebooks or how they work. There is an online newsletter that readers can subscribe to receive as email, with links to media articles and comments from viewers.

Although the business is not yet providing substantial returns, it has identified POD as suitable for rural publishing. Aside from the obvious advantages, POD offer the potential to reach an audience beyond those who can physically visit a shop on busy trips into town; and a contribution to local culture and history.

Case Study 8: Government Department
Queensland Department of Primary Industries (DPI) shop online

The Queensland DPI is trialing Electronic books (eBooks). They offer a number of titles of interest to farmers and gardeners, including Barramundi Farming, Fruits in the Home Garden, Introduction to the Bush Foods Industry and Water it Right. They link to the site to download Microsoft Reader software, and also point to a text-to-speech package. To download the ebooks, they take you through an electronic commerce 'add to trolley' process, and note that you will not be charged. The DPIShop On-line was a finalist in the 2001 Asia-Pacific Queensland IT&T Awards, and offers many other publications online.

Case Study 9: A community group
Maroochy Landcare Group Inc.

This is a non-profit community group of primary producers, who offer free ebooks for convenience, and to save on costs. Their website is hosted by the State Library Queensland as a community web publishing project. They have technical and administration staff who convert their documents to both Acrobat and ebook formats in addition to preparing our publications, including commissioning artists, for printing They also run an Arcview Geographic Information System (GIS). Their databases are publicly accessible, and the Shire Council uses their wildlife sightings GIS layer in their assessment of development applications. Their intention is to act 'as an information conduit' to help with the integration of practical and effective landcare projects. They see this access to practical ecological interaction as essential for the success of landcare funding schemes. Their sub-groups also have interests in rural culture and history, and their contributors, including rural women, find it 'empowering' to see their work as an ebook on the web.

Case Study 10: A Literary Publisher
Interactive Publications Pty Ltd

Although based in suburban Brisbane, IP is included because of its advanced approach to digital publishing, and its commitment to publishing quality literature and new authors. This is a sophisticated example of a company publishing via off-set and digital print technologies, but with a strong development into digital titles. Clearly, this business could be based anywhere, as much of their communication with authors is done 'virtually.' Some titles are from rural authors, or about rural life.

Interactive Publications has three imprints: Interactive Press, its literary flagship; Glass House Books (GHB) and IP Digital (IPD). Interactive Press has an Emerging Authors Series as well as an Established Authors Series. GHB and IPD offer, as well as royalty and subsidy publication, assistance with self-publication. IP produces downloadable ebooks and PDF texts on CDs, as well as short-run print jobs (from 300 copies) via docutech (high resolution laser printing) . They are expanding into multimedia, with one 'literary multimedia' work, The Gallery, (, already released, and three others scheduled for release in 2002. The Gallery has been commercially successful, even though, at 500mb, it is rather large for those who don't have broadband access.

The IP web site offers a limited electronic commerce facility, and mini-sites on most titles link to more information about the authors and up to date reviews, samples from the work, and even audio files of readings. These mini-sites can be used the way academics use their web sites: as introductions to their work. This is a thriving business run by Dr. David Reiter, an internationally known poet and fiction writer. He sees audience development, promotion and distribution as key elements for success, along with innovative professional and contractual relationships with authors. While continuing to publish via off-set, they see digital titles as a way to trial work that 'mainstream' publishers reject as non-commercial. This approach has great potential to foster diversity in literary offerings.

IP builds on many strengths, and sees an integrated approach as essential. Their main sales come from print, because this form remains dominant. This stability allows them to experiment with projects such as The Gallery, which test the waters on what readers (and listeners) want from new media. They believe a mix of print and digital is important in these early stages of the new technologies, and their expertise in publishing means they are adding value to all authors. They have also made a substantial and thoughtful investment in a high quality web site. This saves time, for example, on sending out their detailed guidelines to prospective authors. Other strengths are realistic assessment of their costs, as publishers, and a good ability to promote authors appropriately.

Analysis and Conclusions

Rural people and businesses are at least as much in tune with technological advances as their urban counterparts. Non-metropolitan communities do not take basic facilities such as telephone and electricity for granted, and are quick to make use of their potential. Not surprisingly, a key limiting factor was access to good online connectivity at sufficient bandwidth and affordable cost. This inhibits the wider explorations with multi-media, and even pushes the balance in favour of CDs. Without the equalisation of online access, rural digital publishing cannot realise its full potential.

If equality of access could be provided, regional and rural areas might actually demonstrate some advantages over city publishers. Their other overheads, such as housing and office space, are more affordable. The additional complexities and distractions of city life, observable even when comparing Canberra and Melbourne, can also be a drain on creative energy and business focus. Creative people are well-represented in the bush and relish the lifestyle. One rural NSW case study that was not pursued identified a number of people who might have an interest in digital publishing, including someone involved with a rural technology centre, a poet with five published books, a local historian who has a gardening show, a music teacher on the local arts council, an academic editing a research magazine, and an economic development project. These were all in a town of just a few thousand.

In a curious inversion of economies of scale, locally based publishers may be more likely to meet the information and communications needs of regional audiences. Their business models give them more scope to explore local opportunities. These might include chance meetings with local authors, or tourism groups that might be interested in a book about the area. It might mean collecting the stories of the places and events in the region that visitors and residents might want to learn about, or producing an industry e-zine. These partnerships point the way to development that is economically and socially useful. Every thriving e-business encourages information technology and demand, in the bush as elsewhere.

Digital publishing has not yet reached critical mass in the bush, but this will happen as pockets spread, and through wider 'bootstrapping' projects that take a holistic approach. Most of the publishers surveyed have a strong sense of local identity and a genuine desire to contribute to their region's presentation and viability. The kinds of collaboration and creativity that these digital publishers and community groups offer is an important element for a thriving rural economy and culture.

Notes: The full title of the report is: ‘A Research Project Investigating Future Technologies, Future Markets and Future Skills in the Book Production and Publishing Supply Chain’.

It was a Joint Project of RMIT University and Common Ground Publishing, funded by the Infrastructure and Industry Growth Fund (IIGF), Book Production Enhanced Printing Industry Competitiveness Scheme (EPICS) Grants, Commonwealth Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources.
Web site: <>

The book in which Karin's work is a chapter, is Value Chain Clustering in Regional Publishing Services Markets, edited by Bill Cope and Rod Brown. It is available now from

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[The prolific David Reiter has just released Kiss and Tell, a collection of selected and new poetry in print and will soon be releasing Sharpened Knife, his second work of what he terms Literary Multimedia. I asked David about the inspirations for this latest work, how it differs from his first CD, The Gallery, and how he handles the risks of writing and publishing with multimedia.]

SM: Without giving too much away, can you give us a brief synopsis of your latest work of fiction Sharpened Knife?

DR: I describe it as a multimedia murder mystery set in the steamy reaches of Far North Queensland. Glen, a freelance photo-journalist witnesses one too many atrocities on assignment and decides to take some time off. What better place than in a cabin on a mountain in the Atherton Tablelands? Trouble is, the cabin has no power, so his host, an ex-pat Brit who dabbles in motor mechanics and poetry, has to set him up with a crusty farmer nearby who’s agreed to let him recharge his laptop overnight.

knife_covThe farmer’s not around the first day, so his wife, an attractive Filipino half his age, goes well beyond the call of hospitality. Her attraction to Glen – and the farmer’s jealousy – make for an explosive mix, which leads to the farmer’s untimely end on the mountain in the middle of the night. But who’s responsible? And is he or she still out there, waiting to strike again?

SM: What provided the inspiration for the story itself?

DR: I’ve spent time in retreat on the Tablelands twice now and met some people who gave rise to the characters in the work. But it was the rainforest setting that demanded a story be told.

Rainforest has always evoked a sense of mystery in me, and this particular one even more so. The locals reckon there are Yowie out there, as well as a few relations of the otherwise extinct Tasmanian Tiger, and they speak of them quite matter-of-factly. I’m pretty much a sceptic about phenomena like that, unless the proof stares me in the face.

Well, one night, alone in that cabin without the benefit of power and a phone, I had such an experience, but I won’t detail it here because it’s important to the story. You’ll just have to read it for yourself!

SM: Have you always held an interest in the genre of murder mystery?

DR: Yes – though I prefer to see it on the screen rather than read it. There are so many fine cinematic productions that begin with the basic formula and then apply their own special twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing. All fiction benefits from a sense of uncertainty, suspense and surprise, but this genre depends on it.

I’ve never written in this form before, so I took it as a personal challenge. Did I adapt the form successfully to my own purposes? You be the judge.

SM: What is it about this story that suits it to digital publishing with multimedia?

DR: The story works on the page, but I actually wanted to go beyond the genre to enlarge its scope and reference. Not actually to poke fun at the form and the seriousness with which authors generally approach it, but something post-modern along those lines, exploring thematic implications that digress from the main story line. The story becomes a springboard for other texts, images and video clips that create a sphere of meaning rather than a linear progression.

SM: You have one successful multimedia CD publication under your belt with The Gallery. How does this work differ?

DR: The Gallery is an adaptation of my fifth book of poems, Letters We Never Sent. I used multimedia to provide a non-linear presentation of a series of voices from the poetry book. The multimedia elements come into play in 110 “galleries”, and viewers are free to find their own pathway through the work. Again the experience is spatial rather than linear, and the gaming structure I used encourages viewers to follow their own interests and find their own meaning.

Sharpened Knife is more conventional in a way because it contains a complete short novel, but I composed it with multimedia in mind from the start. I drafted out the work between my two visits to the Tablelands, then, on my second visit, I took the photographs and shot the video I expected to need for that side of the project.

I must confess that my original concept was much less ambitious than the work has turned out to be. I had planned to use just a few multimedia enhancements and maybe some hypertext in the final version. However, once I got into it, the multimedia elements took on a life of their own – very much as characters can do when you’re drafting a novel.

Soon I had decided on the current structure, which has much more multimedia. There are more than a hundred Flash movies, Flash text and animations, as well as images and audio/video clips, not to mention poems and micro-prose pieces that take off at a slant from the story line. I also use a number of links to external web sites to provide dynamic content that prompts viewers to explore further on their own. You get at these elements via “hot” buttons on the right side of the screen, while the story occupies the left. So you have a choice whether to view them along with the story or later on.

SM: Do you think you run the risk of distracting readers from the text itself with the multimedia?

DR: Yes, and I’m acutely aware of the risks. We need to differentiate between multimedia here and what I call literary multimedia. “Multimedia” has of course been around for much longer, and when artists began to tinker with including text in such works they often used it more as a graphic embellishment than a vehicle for meaning and conveyor of theme. But I’m interested in literature first, and multimedia second, so I try to design my work so that the reader will remain more interested in the text than the special effects.

At the same time, I think this new artform has the potential to enlarge the audience for literary work, including people who seldom pick up a book any more but who want more than the usual pap served up on television and in our cinemas these days. It’s possible that these people will come to the work first because they’re curious about how the multimedia works, but then I hope the text will be engaging enough to “hook” them and keep them reading. So multimedia becomes just another tool in the arsenal of the author, not an end in itself.

SM: Literary purists might snub multimedia as so many "bells and whistles" designed to make a text "more entertaining", at the risk of detracting from the literature itself. As an author and publisher, how do you handle these perceptions and potential criticisms?

DR: I’ve already spoken of my views as an author, so let me look at the issue from the publisher’s perspective. IP has always been committed to the printed book, and we will continue to be so. But as a niche publisher of literary work, we are also mindful of changing tastes. The “purists” have circled the wagons in defence of the book, just as the French Academy did to keep French uncontaminated by other languages. But the book – and the nature of literary expression – will continue to evolve, with or without the purists.

We spend far more time in front of a screen these days than our parents did, and our children are spending more time with the instruments of technology than we do. There’s little to be gained from bemoaning the fact. Publishers ignore these developments at their peril.

SM: One of the greatest risks with multimedia seems to be duplicating the text in images and sound resulting in a lack of challenge for the reader. How do you ensure you are adding and not detracting from reader experience when you design your multimedia elements?

DR: I design my works so that the multimedia elements seldom cover precisely the same ground as the text. The test is in asking how the multimedia extends the experience and makes the viewing more dynamic and interactive. The risk in text alone is that the author talks to him/herself, excluding the reader; at the other end of the continuum, the multimedia artist duplicates, stifling viewer involvement.

In beta 1 of Sharpened Knife, I changed several elements that seemed to be only marginally different from the text and cut several others. You have to be prepared to do that; otherwise you’re just authoring daytime drama.

SM: You have just released
Kiss and Tell, a KT_covcollection of Selected and New poetry in print, I guess this means you are not abandoning the traditional methods of publishing in favour of the new? However, this does beg the question, why choose the cumbersome process of print publication for this book and not publish it on CD?

DR: Kiss and Tell had to have a print life in the first instance because I have had many requests for my earlier works that are now out-of-print. And like most authors I still respect the printed book and know that most readers, given the choice between text on CD and in a physical book, will choose the latter. So this seemed the best way to celebrate a selection of my best over the past 15 years.

It also gave me a chance to publish in print some of the poetry that appears in Sharpened Knife and in my upcoming multimedia project, The Planets. Call it cross-promotion between forms – if you see it in print first, you might be curious enough to see how it works on screen to buy the multimedia, too!

That said, Kiss and Tell, like most of Interactive Press’ titles, will have a digital life eventually, possibly as part of our new audio + text CD series, which we’re quite excited about. Chris Mansell’s The Fickle Brat was the first, with audio anthologies that play on computers or portable CD players, as well as providing the full text of her work.

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— SM

David has heeded the call South several times over the last few months.

He gave a brief talk on e-publishing to the Friends of Byron Bay Library, followed by a full day workshop for the Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre on composing for the new media. While few people at either event had much experience with e-publishing there were lots of questions from the floor. So many, in the case of the workshop, that David abandoned his Powerpoint presentation and spent most of the time responding off-the-cuff!

In mid-March, he was a featured speaker at the Somerset Festival on the Gold Coast, with a special session on multimedia for Grade 10-12 students as well as a panel on e-publishing for a large crowd of adults. This was IP’s first invitation to participate at Somerset, and David was duly impressed by the excellent organisation and support by the Festival staff, who had everything timed down to the minute, even the rain, which came midway through Nick Earls’ roasting of the guests (outdoors, of course!)

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There’s considerable interest in literary multimedia in Sydney, too, if the turnout to David’s workshop there for the New South Wales Writers’ Centre is any indication. The workshop was “sold out” three days after the Centre advertised it via email circular, and the responses to it were very positive.

The Centre plans to invite David down again in mid-October for two repeat workshops, so if you plan to be in Sydney during the Carnivale Festival you’d better keep a watch for the ads!

We are also working with the Centre on plans to hold an intermediate workshop that would be more “hands-on” with the software. David would walk participants through the process of creating elements like Flash movies, optimising video clips, etc, with hopefully enough time left over for exercises. If such a workshop appeals to you, by all means let us know.

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Not to be outdone by Sydney, the Yarra-Melbourne Regional Library sponsored an e-publishing evening in mid-April. David gave demos of The Gallery and Chris Mansell’s audio + text CD/CD-ROM The Fickle Brat not to mention a sneak preview of his latest work Sharpened Knife.

In his spare time he visited several other Melbourne libraries to impress them with IP’s very impressive new list of print as well as digital titles.

He had hoped to do something for the Victorian Writers’ Centre as well, but the timing wasn’t the best, so that will have to wait until next trip.

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There’s great potential for working with multimedia in the schools, so we were quite delighted to be approached by North Sydney Girls’ School for David to direct his roadshow there.

The NSW Education Department now includes multimedia as an option for students in their HSC project, a move we applaud, but more than a few teachers wonder at their own readiness to advise students electing to undertake such projects, not to mention how best to assess the completed work.

So David gave a presentation to a group comprising interested students and (wary?) teachers that talked about how multimedia can be used as an instructional tool as well as one for composing literary work.

We won’t be surprised to see him in more schools before too long, not to mention professional development sessions for teachers!

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Last but not least, the first-ever Shoalhaven Festival!

Co-directed by IP’s newest author Chris Mansell, the Festival happened in Nowra, a pleasant coastal city about two hours south of Sydney. One of Australia’s major rivers, the Shoalhaven flows through Nowra, after passing the property of Arthur Boyd, one of Australia’s key visual arts. Quite appropriately then, the final event was a brunch cruise and a reading within a stone’s throw of one of Boyd’s most famous paintings.

Events included a launch of David’s Kiss and Tell and Chris’ The Fickle Brat, as well as readings by luminaries like SK Kelen, Tim Thorne, Les Wicks and Jennifer Compton.

Judging by the turn-outs for the major events — 100+ for the evening readings — the Festival is certain to become an annual event. Chris had dubbed it a “DIY” (do-it-yourself) festival, and the buckets for gold coins were very much in evidence throughout, but hopefully funding agencies will come to the party next year!

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OZeCulture_logoStill to come in May will be David’s presentation at the second OZeCulture Conference on 30 May (the conference runs from the 28th through the 30th). A major event, sponsored by the Federal Department of Communication, Culture and Recreation, the conference is expected to attract hundreds of artists, cultural managers and interested individuals from across the country as well as overseas.

David will talk on Adding Value to Literary Texts, showing how IP Digital’s innovative use of multimedia is setting the agenda for the creation of new artforms combining text, video, audio, visuals and animation.

Often, conferences like this provide more benefit outside the formal sessions, where people from a variety of disciplines get together to talk shop — and yes socialise a bit. So if you’re interested in the state of the art[s] and happen to be in Sydney that week, take a break from the Sydney Writers’ Festival and drop by to NETWORK!


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[For this issue, we feature American site The Drunken Boat and Gold Coast multimedia artist Jayne Fenton-Keane’s award winning Slamming the Sonnet site.]

The Drunken Boat

Those looking for quality reading online can’t go past The Drunken Boat. This journal featuring poetry, essays, reviews translation and artwork, seeds from the US but is truly international in terms of reach and content.

The Drunken Boat is edited in chief by award winning poet and translator Rebecca Seiferle based in New Mexico. She is assisted by a panel of international contributing editors, including Queensland author Liz Hall-Downs, who made her debut with the spring issue.

drunkenboat_logoIssues follow the Northern Hemisphere seasons. When I began writing this feature, the Winter 2002 issue was online with poetry from Montreal, Lithuania, Australia, Europe and the US.

Translations from around the globe bring exceptional writing in other languages to readers in English, a particularly delightful element of the site. These words from Lithuanian poet Bloze in that issue:

“only the white eyes of the clocks will remain open and will stare at us and keep watch / above all, who share the same fate, all, who awaken perhaps against their will, who / are called out to sing / about you and your ships coming back burned, where
will your spirits depart to? and what will they, perhaps already wakened by us, sing in / the moonlight”

— from Musa Domestica by Vytautas P. Bloze translated by Jonas Zdanys.

There was Australian content too from Alison Croggon writing on poetry and the erotic, Louis Armand and Liz Hall-Downs.

The spring issue is now online with literature from Australia, Canada, Israel, Europe South America and the US. Liz Hall-Downs has compiled a feature on poets from Queensland, with IP author Sara Moss and IP Picks 2002 winner, Brett Dionysius among those selected. David Reiter also contributes a poem from Kiss and Tell and an article on Interactive Publications.

Hall-Downs not only introduces the Queensland segments, but also provides an article on performance poetry and a selection from her work My Arthritic Heart, in which she writes about the challenge and importance of voicing the illness experience.

The selection of poetry from Israel is timely and moving. These lines from “The day of Blood for hilmi shusha” by Sharron Hass, translated from Hebrew by Lisa Katz. The poem is dedicated to a Palestinian boy murdered by a Jewish Settler.

You are moving toward me now, your arms blue with   the effort
to grab my hair — look I am turning
toward you and all my years rebel, look a naked girl   rises
from the hedges, look I present you with the body I   didn't know
was mine, with which I could not stop,
then as now,
the death of another,
which is also mine.

Read the full text of the poem online.

The Drunken Boat is a valuable resource with extensive links to other literary and artistic sites. Back issues are online, so you can catch up and find out what you've been missing.

So jump aboard now but don’t lose your footing when the seas get choppy. Remember the starfish takes you to the top and the mermaid brings you home.

Slamming the Sonnet: Stalking Tongue Volume 2

A website with its roots closer to home but also with international content.

Featuring poetry in text, sound and interactive image, this impressive work of multimedia is the brainchild of well known Queensland author Jayne Fenton-Keane. Fenton-Keane recently won the Mayne award for Multimedia for "poetry in a flash" featured on The Stalking Tongue Volume 1, which can also be accessed at this address.

This second volume is even stronger, featuring work from authors within Australia and overseas. There is an anthology of featured poets, an open mic section with sound, an interactive poetry “slam” page where online readers get to judge the contest for themselves — all within an interface that has to be experienced to be believed.

Please be patient if your connection to the site is a bit slow. It is well worth a few minutes wait. You will need Flash Player and don’t forget to turn your sound UP!

— SM

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[We want to reward our readers, in the best possible way — with good deals on our titles! Here’s the deal for this issue.]

Did you miss out on last issue’s Deal? Not to worry.

TRI+covFor lovers of print versions, here’s a deal you won’t want to pass up: order any IP book by email or via our orders page before 30 June 2002 and receive David Reiter's award-winning short fiction collection, Triangles, for only AU$11 (AU$10 for export). That’s 50% the RRP!

There’s plenty to choose from, so why not click over to our online Store right now?

The Small Print: the title must be from our Interactive Press or Glass House Books range. Individual orders only. If you order by email you must specify YD2.02 as your Subject; via the orders page, list Triangles in the supplemental order field.

For postage and handling add $6.60 in Australia. Overseas postal charge will depend on destination.

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