Re-Vinyl

Oh dear, sweet newquill. You were such an abstract, ephemeral concept for a company. But you still have strength! You still have a vision! You still have a purpose! You are still on all of our legal paperwork!!!

So, as one discovers in the world of entrepreneurship, there is a thing called a pivot. And a pivot means that even if it is ever so slightly you change the direction of your company.

At one point I thought it was a BAD thing. That pivoting was a sign of failure. Don’t be fooled. Pivoting is a sign of humility, a sign of listening. So we were humbled by the response to our first vision for the application and thought about what we all loved most. Ah, yes, of course. Music.

So we came up with the idea of Re-Vinyl – re-inventing the album for the digital age. A very specific application of newquill to the music industry. And, not surprisingly, it stuck. Big time.

So I’ll keep posting occasionally on the blog. Things are a little crazy right with the end of our time at Dreamit and all, but I’ll stay true and committed to my writing. Maybe one day we’ll grow big and strong and hire someone to write these blogs for us. Or, better yet, we’ll hire someone to do all of the other work that I’m doing right now and I’ll just write the blog. That would be great.

Here’s to change! Here’s to progress!

DISRUPTION NEEDED – WHO YA GONNA CALL?

Publishing needs to be disrupted. I don’t think that anyone is going to argue with me about that. Come to think about it – the world needs to be disrupted. It is being disrupted right now.

This is probably the most powerful cover of a New York Times I have seen in a long time. Corruption in publishing – and not just a small publishing house – but by multiple companies owned by the man who represents media: Rupert Murdoch. Two stories on the cover! Using the same picture! NYTimes needs some better page layout staff.
DISRUPTION NEEDED. 

And then we have Border’s liquidation. Print books are soon to become vinyl.  DISRUPTION NEEDED.

And let’s not forget about the US deficit: UNREAL. Can we get real here? Please? DISRUPTION NEEDED. 

And, of course, at the bottom we have an advertisement for free apps. Did you ever think companies would be advertising for free products?
DISRUPTION NEEDED. 

We live in a fascinating time of transformation. I wanted to include a music video to Michael Jackson’s “HiStory feat. Boys II Men” in this post done by a Swedish remixer that covered the most important world events of the 20th century.

This is the message I got when I followed the link from my teaching blog when I used it in the classroom: “This video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants including: SME and Sony Pictures Movies & Shows.

Sorry about that.”

The video that I felt best embodied this world’s need for disruption in media and publishing has been taken down by one of the world’s largest media and publishing companies.
DISRUPTION NEEDED.  

Physical music albums have been the same for decades now. Their contents are important, but the experience is boring. Lyrics, credits, thank yous, album art – all in print. Lady Gaga said in a WSJ interview that digital music, mp3s, are “invisible. It’s in space. If anything, I applaud a company like Amazon for equating the value of digital versus the physical copy, and giving the opportunity to everyone to buy music.” But what makes physical more valuable? That you can touch it? That you get the “extra” content through text and printed visuals? It sure costs a lot more to create. So how can digital music made to be experiential?
DISRUPTION NEEDED.  

Lady Gaga has a good point. Music consumption is now akin to getting a free high – it’s trying to be managed by studios through services like Spotify. Artists Eminem and Adele recently became the first artists ever to exceed 1,000,000 digital copies – no touch needed.

The article reminds elderly 25 years old like myself, “If you ask anyone under the age of 20 how many CDs they have, they might look at you with a blank stare,” he says. “This is completely normal and expected. Every day brings a new service or wrinkle to how people get their entertainment or music….There is more access now than there has ever been in the history of music, but there hasn’t been an ability to price that music.”
DISRUPTION NEEDED. 

Online publisher, Lulu.com, used to sell CDs and DVDs. It no longer does. DVDs have already gone digital through Netflix. So what about CDs?
DISRUPTION NEEDED.

Storytelling never was linear and static, and tablets allow us to experience stories the way they were supposed to be – dynamically. Except everything you see in the app store is second-rate and not really interactive. Until now: Morris Lessmore by Pixar designer William Joyce is everything an interactive reading experience on the iPad should be. DISRUPTION HAPPENED. 

Like William Joyce, we want to bring disruption. We’re like the ghostbusters. Four dudes in New York with some crazy technology that want to bring some order to a chaotic world even if it requires a bit of craziness to do it. And so that’s what we’re going to do.

So here’s our HQ in NYC – just like the Ghostbusters.

And here’s what we’re going to bust in the publishing world:

The 21st Century Album

With Apple’s announcement of iCloud last month, recorded music seems poised to enter a new phase of its Ovidian metamorphosis from physical object to digital file. iCloud, and similar services announced by Amazon and Google, will enable any purchased song to become available on all of a user’s devices through a call to a remote server. In effect, what these services will provide is a further dematerialization of music, another step away from the physicality of the album, with its attendant liner notes, lyric sheets, and cover art.

Curiously, however, at the exact moment when music appears ready to disappear into the ether, Björk is preparing a multimedia experience around her next album, Biophilia. Each song on the album will be accompanied by a smartphone app containing conventional and invented music notation, games, and explorations of natural phenomena. Björk has explained these apps as a new way to mediate between objects and sound: “It seems like every couple of decades this takes a somersault, and I enjoy the fresh point of view, like the honeymoon of the new format where you can really have an effect on the overall direction… I would like to feel the apps are equal to the song in the same way I have always aimed for the music video to be equal to the song: the 1+1 is 3 thing.” Björk is not alone in thinking that Biophilia is pushing toward a new form of artistic expression; some critics have even compared the process surrounding the album to the birth of opera.

Whether or not the “app album” takes off as a format, Biophilia does point toward a potential route for musicians interested in maintaining the album as a focused artistic statement rather than a collection of sound files. The ubiquity of new media, including apps, means that songs can be readily paired with other art forms and experienced as a kind of 21st century Gesamtkunstwerk, complete with YouTube videos, Flickr streams, and blog posts. All that is needed is a media format to encompass these disparate elements.

In the case of Biophilia, Björk has hinted at a “mother app” that will act as a central galaxy in which the other apps appear as constellations. While perfectly illustrative of Björk’s vision for the album, such a model is not scalable, not least because it relies on a small subset of devices for consumption (the iPad and the iPhone).

.ePub, on the other hand (at last the reason for the digression becomes clear!), is uniquely equipped to handle this mix of new media. The file type allows for HTML5 embeds of audio, video, links, editable text areas, and, yes, even games. Anything viewable in a web browser can theoretically be incorporated into an .ePub document. As such, .ePub is the perfect example of an agnostic file format: it is essentially mutable, able to be molded into the artist’s vision. Furthermore, because .ePub is the standard eBook format, an .ePub document has the potential to reach far more people than a device-specific app. Anyone with an eReader will be able to experience an .ePub album as a unified whole. And that is a beautiful thing in an age where recorded music threatens to evaporate into the cloud.

Bjork performing Biophilia at the Manchester International Festival in England.

ePub Does Not Mean eBook

I am a designer. I am an artist. I am an aspiring actor. But I am not tech savvy. Learning new computer programs is a challenge to say the least, yet by an odd turn of events I have found myself in New York City starting a tech company through DreamiT ventures and Startl. This opportunity has required me, in all of my incompetence, to learn ePub development. I read through all the blogs and books you’re supposed to, written by the two master’s of .ePub for the masses – Liza Daley and Liz Castro – but even then I still needed to learn through experience. Though there have been many struggles and are bound to be many more, I am beginning to understand the potential of ePub, functionality that has too long been handicapped by its association with the book. For those of you who haven’t the faintest idea of what an ePub is, hang-on, we are about to establish a new school of thought.

epubBlog defines ePubs as “an electronic book format that has become the industry standard, allowing eBooks that use this format to be read on a wide variety of eReaders.”

If that doesn’t make you jump up and down with excitement than I don’t know what will. If I have learned anything about selling people on an idea in these last two months, it is that language is everything. ePub is actually a really cool format, but if we continue to contextualize it as an eBook, the promise of this format will be constrained.

An ePub is not a book. It is the love child of html and pdf, allowing the functionality of html5 with the ubiquity of pdf. Basically, ePub is the file format that will allow you to embed Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, Charlie Bit My Finger, and the Mona Lisa into that screenplay that you have been waiting to produce. That is pretty freaking cool. We may not realize it, but this is something we have all been waiting for. It is the next logical step in content management and is about to blow up. As great as books are, ePub is something else; a new art form perhaps.

Lets break down “the book” for a moment. Books are comprised of chapters, chapters of sentences, and sentences of words that are signifiers of an author’s ideas. When one reads they are consenting to think with the author in a prescribed manner. There can be no doubt that this format works; however, it is only one of many languages for the translation of ideas (which can take a number of forms). Video, audio, and images serve the same purpose, but the advent of the Internet allows us to consume all in the same space. That is what ePub is.

Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Visualization

Today marks the end of June, and the end of our focus on new media literacies; the beginning of July, and a focus on the two core pillars of newquill as envisioned by our mentor and friend, Arnold Waldstein:

Publishing and Education

newquill aims to redefine the art of storytelling and learning while reifying individual expression and collective consciousness.

Visit the blog daily to take part in a continual discussion about disruption and transformation in the traditionally controlled silos of publishing and academia. We will attempt to share the insights we’ve gleaned while dedicating our lives to the understanding and hacking of tablet technology, the mystical .ePub format, and developing new cultures of learning accessible through internet access and digital information.

Please comment and tell us what you’d like to learn, any questions you have, and what you think the future has in store for teachers, learners, authors, and creators.

Let the change begin.

Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Judgment

Today’s Supreme Court decision about video game violence will go down in history as a judgment about media literacy that will pave the way for an entirely new concept of reading, learning, and literacy.

The 7-2 Supreme Court ruling released today in EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. ENTERTAIN-
MENT MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION ET AL. cites that “All literature is interactive. [T]he better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.”

This statement is integral to the future of reading, learning, and cements newquill’s place as an ultimate enabler for creating 21st century literature.

Justice Scalia [a real badass] speaking for the majority, also says,

“Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And “the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary” with a new and different communication medium.”

This solidifies the legitimacy of new media forms of communication and bestows upon them the same importance as the written word by the highest court of the land. This judgment can be used by students defending their use of newquill in turning in media rich essays in public schools, or teachers using quilled works as textbooks for their classes.

This is only the beginning of a supreme literary revolution.

But that is not the only reason why this decision is important.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito [a nice guy] fills up his writing with links to video game websites to give examples of violent video games. And why is this important? Because it shows that a Supreme Court Justice requires the use of media to express his opinion on a monumental legal issue. Here are the websites that he linked to IN his opinion:

The Ten Most Violent Video Games of All Time

Top Ten Most Violent Video Games

Fifteen Most Violent Video Games That Made You Puke

Here are images and video from these sites that SHOULD be directly embedded into his opinion. However, since the Supreme Court uses .pdf – the best that can be done are links that 90% of readers won’t follow. But imagine how much stronger Alito’s opinion would be if the reader could see the media right alongside his words? That is what the power of .ePub 3 and newquill will allow.

 

 

 

              FINISH HIM!

 

 

 

BLOOD SPATTER UH-OH

This judgment ushers in a new era of thinking about literacy, reading, and writing. newquill is ready to give any user the tools to become explorers, excavators, in the frontiers of new media.

ONWARD!

IDPF (Or as I like to call it – IDKY)

Yesterday I spent the entire day at the annual IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) conference. I sat for eight hours in a conference room with publishers, authors, programmers, and tech people from all over the world listening to the best of the best from each field try to explain to one another what a book is now. And the verdict is in: no one knows. So I’d like to call the conference IDKY (I Don’t Know Yet).

One of the most lucid individuals on stage was Richard Nash who said things like, “Enhanced eBooks are a unit price preservation mechanism. We add doo dads – it’s a producer driven impulse, not an artist driven impulse. Until artists come along with transformative uses we are going to leave publishers to aping video game companies. I know I’m not good enough to do truly enhanced work. I’m waiting for someone who is. Then we’ll have a model.”

This couldn’t have been said better. Nothing I’ve seen on the market thus far counts as a book of the future. They are all just doo dads and sparkles – Merlin’s magic. I want a book with a full soundtrack that takes me deeper into the narrative. A book where you can hear the author’s thoughts outside of the text. Full length videos that tell transmedia stories. Game engines built into the book to advance the story. Character choices controlled by the reader. Fully collaborative story creation processes. I want books to mimic the power of thought without the textual constraints. That hope, for me, is in newquill.

Our country has lost sight of its communities. The influence of the media makes us so afraid of one another (is my next door neighbor a terrorist?); the funnel economy of consumer goods keeps us from supporting local creation (Costco is twenty times cheaper than the farmer’s market!); and the competition instilled in our children through testing at such a young age (99th percentile is the only way I’ll get to that swanky high school which is the only way to get into that swanky college which is the only way to get that swanky job – that means I’ve got to step on 99 percent of the heads I see!) That’s bad. We need one another. We can’t create anything if we don’t have community. Kickstarter has shown that when you have a community that helps each other out you get really cool things made. That needs to happen more.

The moderator of one of the sessions asked, “What is the future of libraries in the next few years?” Statistics show that 64,000,000 Americans read – a lot. But Richard Nash was more interested in another statistic: “18,000,000 Americans engaged in creative writing last year.”

So he thinks that “the future of libraries in particular is to conceive of themselves as supporters of that intensive level of creativity.” I agree with him. Libraries, traditional community spaces, will help people discover writing tools and one another. Libraries will become production studios. They will provide help and advice for how to self-publish. And they will need a tool kit to do it.

The future of business is in paying for an experience. There is nothing new anymore, everything is a remix of a remix of a remix. Businesses must ask the user, “How do we make your experience better? How do we help you connect with the old product in a new way?” Focusing on reader experience is the opportunity of this new era of publishing. Reading is about a personal/private experience, but it’s main motivation is almost always social. Why pretend anymore? Reading, and writing, can now be openly social.

Another impressive individual (impressive enough to make me follow her on Twitter) was Liza Daly of ThreePress.org who opened up her talk by charting out the next generation of storytelling – a highly interactive, gaming world that is highly accessible. Recent studies about gaming habits with children show that practically 100% of kids ages 8-18 play video games. 1 out of 6 of those kids writes about video games. Games have tremendous plot and narrative power and are immersive worlds to the young people today in the same way books were for the baby boomers. And, even with the generational divide, the baby boomers still play “Angry Birds.” We’re finding common ground.

The last sweet human I’ll talk about is Bill McCoy, the director of the IDPF. His talk highlighted that ePub is important because it brings the world together. It also helps to advance global web standards by allowing new thought and experiment within eReaders which are, essentially, just web browsers. ePub brings people of different languages, abilities, learning styles, and generations together to learn and imagine. Bill is totally committed to the unification process, but he is also willing to admit that he doesn’t know what it will look like.

“We need support from the open source world and guerilla tools. We need to get a tool kit out there. You won’t always have to use something like InDesign. We need more.”

newquill wants to be the innovation tool kit that helps others to create the future of the digital book. We want to support ePub3 in moving ahead as a universal standard. Then we want to build a community for the authors and artistic innovators of the globe, the storytellers of the world, to participate in connecting, creating, collaborating, and circulating their stories – the books of the future.

In order to do that, though, we must first be humble and willing to say, “We don’t know what the book of the future is.”

Which is why we need you to help us find out.

HTML5 and ePub3- Non-Standardized Standards

Much of the last week was spent researching the new HTML and ePub standards that will make newquill possible. We discovered a dizzying array of websites, documents, and protocols describing new features of both HTML5 and ePub3. The process was a bit disconcerting- it turns out that HTML5 displays differently in all the major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer) and that although ePub3 allows scripting, there is no guarantee that the scripting will function similarly on the major eBook Readers (iBooks, Kindle, NOOK, and Sony Reader). A moment of sanity was found, however, at threepress.org, an eBook consulting group that has posted a number of informative videos about the current state of interactivity in ePub documents. While the group allows that eBook standards are not solidified as yet, it seems reasonably confident that eBook technology is on the verge of a major breakthrough- the kind of breakthrough that will redefine what it means to engage with a text.

This weekend I stumbled across an electronic copy of a very beautiful book written in 1913, La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France by Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars, which was one of the first collaborative “artists’ books.” How cool would it be if multimedia artists could interact in a similar manner within the space of an eBook!