Famed science fiction author Neal Stephenson has unveiled a digital novel platform created with a cabal of interactive fiction / martial arts enthusiasts. To judge from initial glimpses of their first interactive novel, The Mongoliad, this “new” platform is more of a combination of older ideas: part interactive CD-ROM (Voyager in the 1980s), part paid subscription (the New York Times in the 1990s), and part user-generated content (Wikipedia in the 2000s). At least the authors have given up on DRM from the get-go.
“The NY Times reports that Neal Stephenson’s company Subutai has released the first installment of Stephenson’s new novel, Mongoliad, about the Mongol invasion of Europe, using what it calls the PULP platform for creating digital novels. The core of the experience is still a text novel, but authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video and there are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers. Stephenson says the material is an extension of what many science fiction and fantasy novels already offer. ‘I can remember reading Dune for the first time, and I started by reading the glossary,’ Stephenson says. ‘Any book that had that kind of extra stuff in it was always hugely fascinating to me.’ Jeremy Bornstein says Subutai is experimenting with a new model for publishing books and says the traditional model of paying for content may not hold up when the content can ‘be canned and sent around to your friends for free,’ but that people will hopefully still pay for content if ‘the experience is so much more rich, so much more involving.’”