Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (10)

1994: Net book

In 1994 the Netherlands was under the spell of internet. It was something new. It had been introduced in the Netherlands as a free net for discussion on the municipal elections. The project was called De Digitale Stad, abbreviated as DDS (Digital City). It was the bootstrap of the internet for consumers. And as every technology wave, it was accompanied by many conferences. I was involved at that time in the Multi Media Research Institute, an organisation for conferences, workshops and publications.

At a conference in December 1994 I met Marcel Bullinga. He was very involved in internet and the public space. Besides his political interests he was busy exploring all new things on internet. In 1993 Marcel published his novel Roes der zinnen (Flush of senses). Most probably he was the first author to use the Internet to distribute his virtual novel. He also published the novel on a floppy disc (see photograph). The reception of the novel was not very enthusiastic as the Dutch weekly De Groene characterised the novel as a “real monstrosity’.

The novel is not a hypertext book like the Voyager books at that time. No non-linear tricks were used and no contributions from readers. The Roes van zinnen is a linear novel with two threads, which could be read separately; this was easier on the web than on paper...

Two years after publication, he just had received payment for downloading the novel. Asked why he did not publish a print version of the novel, he answered that it was a virtual novel and should stay that way. He wanted to cut out the publisher, printer and book seller. He even cut out the reviewers for newspapers and magazines. They would call him up and ask for a free copy as they get a free copy from print publishers. But he preferred to have paying readers tell him, whether they liked the book and why.

In 1995 he wrote that this internet book had come too early. He wanted a virtual book, which utilised all the internet opportunities: distribution through the net by download, marketing on the net, electronic payment and readers through the net. The book would go directly from author to reader, avoiding the full cycle of publisher, printer and book seller. But he granted that he was 5 years too early. Online payment had to wait for another year and it is only since last year that you can pay for a book directly by the I-Deal payment system in the Netherlands. He worked together with the developers of the E-Cash system, which never came from the drawing table.

Interesting was his prediction that in 5 years from 1995 you would be able to take a screen to be. This screen would be as flexible and readable as paper and it would be linked to the PC or TV by infrared. Looking back immediately the iLiad springs to mind. By 2000 e-Ink had developed a prototype. It would take till 2006 for digital paper to reach the market. And the infrared connection to the PC or TV had become a wifi link to the net.

Blog Posting Number: 822


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