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 hes not out and about across
the country, spreading the IP message, hes 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 multimediaand his broader vision
for digital publishing.
Davids 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
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
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 whos written
what in this issue, SM=me; DR=David Reiter.
the Director's Desk
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 Mansells 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. Were
taking advance orders
prior to the sites official launch in June.
Our feature this issue is a shortened version of Karin Geiselharts
very detailed study of digital publishing in regional and rural Australia.
Its 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 Karins
case studies, but Im 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.
Were 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 Singhs 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 elses 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 Clays ArtMedia
site is one of Australias 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. Heres
part of what he recounted in ArtMedias most recent newsletter:
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
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.
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 hes not seen any royalties from the unauthorised
copies that appeared subsequently at every street corner.
Kelens 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 Clays. How many of
you would trust your work to a1books?
In the final analysis its 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.
[We asked Chris Mansell, author of
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.
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 its good to have people read your work as text where they
can choose their own paths through the work, its also good to
have the opportunity to have your voice on the poems, not as the sole
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 wont
always attend to the careful visual line breaks), her cadences and
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
Glass House Books 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 Grooms
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.
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
[This issues feature provides
excerpts from Karin Geiselharts 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 well let her explain below. We have retained
Karins 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
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
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.
NEONs 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 zope.org, 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
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
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
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
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
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,
(http://www.interpr.com.au/titles/GY.htm), 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
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: http://www.commongroundgroup.com/Research/c2cproject/ <http://www.commongroundgroup.com/Research/c2cproject/>
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 http://c2cproject.publisher-site.com/ProductShop/
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
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 whos
agreed to let him recharge his laptop overnight.
farmers 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 farmers jealousy make
for an explosive mix, which leads to the farmers untimely end
on the mountain in the middle of the night. But whos responsible?
And is he or she still out there, waiting to strike again?
SM: What provided the inspiration for the story itself?
DR: Ive 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. Im pretty much
a sceptic about phenomena like that, unless the proof stares me in
Well, one night, alone in that cabin without the benefit of power
and a phone, I had such an experience, but I wont detail it
here because its important to the story. Youll 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.
Ive 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.
What is it about this story that suits it to digital publishing with
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
SM: You have one successful multimedia CD publication under your belt
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 youre drafting
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 Im 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 Im 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. Its possible that
these people will come to the work first because theyre 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
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: Ive already spoken of my views as
an author, so let me look at the issue from the publishers 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
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. Theres 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 youre
just authoring daytime drama.
SM: You have just released Kiss
and Tell, a collection
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 were quite excited about.
Chris Mansells 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.
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
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 IPs 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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Theres considerable interest in
literary multimedia in Sydney, too, if the turnout to Davids
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 youd 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
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 Mansells audio + text CD/CD-ROM The
Fickle Brat not to mention a sneak preview of his latest work
In his spare time he visited several other Melbourne libraries to
impress them with IPs 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 wasnt the best, so that will have to
wait until next trip.
Theres 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
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
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 wont be surprised to see him in more schools before too long,
not to mention professional development sessions for teachers!
Last but not least, the first-ever Shoalhaven
Co-directed by IPs newest author Chris Mansell, the Festival
happened in Nowra, a pleasant coastal city about two hours south of
Sydney. One of Australias major rivers, the Shoalhaven flows
through Nowra, after passing the property of Arthur Boyd, one of Australias
key visual arts. Quite appropriately then, the final event was a brunch
cruise and a reading within a stones throw of one of Boyds
most famous paintings.
Events included a launch of Davids 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!
to come in May will be Davids 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
Digitals innovative use of multimedia is setting the agenda
for the creation of new artforms combining text, video, audio, visuals
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 youre 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!
[For this issue, we feature American
site The Drunken Boat and Gold Coast multimedia artist Jayne Fenton-Keanes
award winning Slamming the Sonnet site.]
Those looking for quality reading online cant 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.
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,
will your spirits depart to? and what will they, perhaps already wakened
by us, sing in / the moonlight
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
was mine, with which I could not stop,
then as now,
the death of another,
which is also mine.
A website with its roots closer to home but also with international
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 dont forget to turn your sound UP!
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[We want to reward our readers, in
the best possible way with good deals on our titles! Heres
the deal for this issue.]
Did you miss out on last issues
Deal? Not to worry.
lovers of print versions, heres a deal you wont 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). Thats 50% the RRP!
Theres plenty to choose from, so why not click over to our online
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.