Category Archives: serialization

pinkwater dips his toes (and quill) into the web

The Institute is back in Los Angeles at USC, our home away from home in academe, where, for the next two days, we’re holding an introductory “boot camp” session with a small group of professors who will begin using Sophie in their classes this fall. USC is just southwest of downtown LA, right near the La Brea Tar Pits, which, incidentally, is the starting point of the latest book by one of my favorite childhood writers, Daniel Manus Pinkwater, who, I just read in Publishers Weekly, is publishing his newest book online.

pinkwater neddiad.jpg

Pinkwater, author of Lizard Music, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, the Snarkout Boys novels, and many, many others, is publishing his newest effort, The Neddiad, “a rip-roaring, foot-stomping, blood-curdling adventure, with station stops in Chicago, Flagstaff, and Hollywood, California,” free on his website as a serial.
With the blessing of his publisher, Houghton Mifflin, Pinkwater has set up a simple, very readable little site, where readers can imbibe the book, in slightly raw form, one chapter per week.

What we are presenting is the original author’s manuscript. There are some typos, and editorial corrections, and changes by me are not included. So the published book will be slightly different. I am a careful writer, and worked with a fine editor, so the differences are not great, but I thought it might be of interest for some to see what the book was like when handed in.

In many ways, this is a very PInkwater move — plugging his book into an electrical socket and watching it glow. There’s also a discussion forum, so it’s something of a networked book:

Readers are welcome to post comments, criticisms, complaints, and exchange remarks–a link will be provided, and I may periodically chime in to discuss and argue with the posters.

Pinkwater told PW:

When I was younger a circus hand showed me how they let kids sneak into the circus. If they were bold enough to try, they got to stay. I’m trying to keep that feeling for kids with this project. It lets kids sneak into the tent. We’re deliberately keeping it from looking slick; there are no ads. Of course, it’s with Houghton Mifflin’s kind permission that we can offer this, but it’s still a bit of homebrew, slightly different from the finished version. We hope that the readers who enjoy what they find online will want to buy the book, too.

If nothing else, Pinkwater has grasped an important (and counterintuitive) principle of web publishing: that giving stuff away can help sell books. It helps facilitate a discussion about that stuff, and can make readers feel better disposed toward you and your work (i.e. more likely to buy it in print). One chapter per week is a rather dribbling pace, however (recall the somewhat disingenuous serialization of Pulse by FSG), and might be a bit like Chinese water torture for Pinkwater’s ardent fans. But we’ll see.

no more shrek figures with your fries: Disney wants to digitize and serialize the happy meal giveaway

2004_08_food_happy_meal_25_box.gif A Dec 6th article in New Scientist notes that patents filed by Disney last April reveal plans to drip-feed entertainment into the handheld video players of children eating in McDonalds. The patent suggests that instead of giving out toys with Happy Meals, McDonalds might provide installments of a Disney tale: the child would only get the full story by coming back to the restaurant a number of times to collect all the installments. Here’s some text from the patent:
…the downloading of small sections or parts of content can be spread out over a long period of time, e.g., 5 days. Each time a different part of the content, such as a movie, is downloaded, until the entire movie is accumulated. Thus, as a promotional program with a venue, such as McDonald’s.RTM. restaurant, a video, video game, new character for a game, etc., can be sent to the portable media player through a wireless internet connection… as an alternative to giving out toys with Happy Meals or some other promotion. The foregoing may be accomplished each time the player is within range of a Wi Fi or other wireless access point. The reward for eating at a restaurant, for example, could be the automatic downloading of a segment of a movie or the like…
Hmm. Some small issues to be worked through here — like identifying that elusive target market of parents willing to hand their child a video ipod while he or she is eating a cheeseburger and fries. But if this is a real direction for the future, what might it portend? Will Disney tales distributed on the installment plan capture the interest of children as much as small plastic figurines representing the main characters of their latest Disney experience? And what’s ultimately better for the development of a young imagination, a small plastic Shrek or five minutes from a mini-Shrek video (the choice of “neither” is not an option here)? Can we imagine such a distribution method returning us to the nineteenth-century serialization manial prompted by Dicken’s chapter-by-chapter account of the death of Little Nell?
image: the death of little nell from Dicken’s The Old Curiosity Shop, 1840