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Has the Interactive Book Really Arrived?

Although the idea of an interactive book has been around since the dawn of the computer age, and those of us who grew up in the 80’s may remember books that allowed you to make decisions for the characters and therefore take the story in one of several ways, now it seems this idea’s day has really come. A new company called Subutai, led by Seattle-based sci-Fi writer Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and others, has built an ebook that the company calls “… something of an experiment in post-book publishing and storytelling.”

The Mongoliad is an app written for mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. The story is set during the Mongol invasions of Europe and seems to have inspired the name of the company, as Subutai was one of Genghis Khan’s leading generals.

The collaborative software behind the story is termed by Subutai as a “personal ubiquitous literature platform,” or PULP. The interactive elements include an interactive discussion window, where people can leave a note or enter into a discussion, ability to add to the book and write one’s own additional storyline or rate pages, chapters or the whole book. The App will be offered as a six month service, with new content being added each week.

What we seeing here is the continued convergence of different technologies and sectors. Collaborative writing has been around in the business world for quite a while, as global companies work on projects and proposal documents in several locations and time zones. For example I am working with people in Dublin, Belfast and Scotland on one such project at the moment. But bringing this element into the ‘book’ (loosely called), and allowing for almost a social media element, shows that the level of innovation in traditional sectors such as publishing is starting to flourish.

The team gave the world a peek at an alpha version of The Mongoliad as part of the San Francisco ”App Show’ that was held last week.

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