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.

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?

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.

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?

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.”

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?

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:


Decoding newquill: from literature to music and why.

I’m still finishing Jay-Z’s “Decoded” on my iPad. It’s difficult to find book reading time when you’re starting up a company. So this won’t be a “book review.” It also won’t be an “app” review. If you want to see a review of the app then check out this guy’s thoughts – he’s focused mostly on the flaws of the user experience with the app, and you can temper that with the Amazon reviews of the book to get a holistic understanding of “Decoded.”  My experience with “Decoded” has been an inspiration to take a leap of faith with our company.

We at newquill are building off of how learning is about the relationship between consumption and creation. This is the bridge we’re building. This post is a bit of a decoding itself – an explanation – for why we’re landing ourselves in the entertainment vertical with a specific focus on musicians. We’re still about learning, we’re still about literacy, we’re still about new media, but we’ve found our wedge – and we are in love with it.

“Art elevates and refines and transforms experience… [Artists] bend language, improvise, and invent new ways of speaking the truth.” – Sean Carter, aka Jay-Z

We started newquill because we want to make learning an enjoyable experience. We started building bridges between traditional learning and what students love to do. But the more time that we spent in the traditional space, the more we looked at classic literature and the more my romantic idealism for text wore off, the more we realized that it’s interaction with media – forced to happen outside of classroom – that really matters most.

The publishing conventions we went to, the education technology conferences we attended, the conversations we had with New York City teachers, taught us three very important things about 21st century learning:

1. Content isn’t the only king; connection is, also.

2. Traditional education technology companies are not interested in disruption as much as they are in solidifying market control. If change is going to happen it will have to come from the ground up.

3. Teachers love media as much as their students do – everyone learns from music, movies, and games.

So who are the real curriculum creators of the 21st century? Who are the socratic teachers of our time? The true philosophers? They are the performers, the programmers, the artists: the doers.

Music is our team’s passion. We’ve often been compared to a band based on how specific our talents are in making contributions to the creative process. Two of us have been in bands and make music. Ryan loves Animal Collective. I love Kid Cudi Remixes. Robert loves Creedence Clearwater Revival. Jackie loves David Tao.

So why not build a company around our collective passion? Why not help musicians share their stories through the convergence of art and science? Education psychologist Lev Vygotsky showed the world that learning happens through play. We’re taking his socio-cultural theory to the next level.

So, now’s the point where everyone should be holding their breath. Well, newquill, HOW are you going to do this?

Let’s just say:

We’re bringing vinyl back. And, in the process, we’re bringing sexy back. We can’t help it.

More to come.

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.

Connectivity is King

“Are we getting overwhelmed with an always connected, multi-tasking life style? And is that going to lead to less sophisticated thoughts as we move away from the slower, deeper, contemplative state of reading, for instance? Obviously, I’m a big fan of reading, but I think it’s important to remember that the great driver of scientific innovation and technological innovation has been the historic increase in connectivity, and our ability to reach out and exchange ideas with other people, and to borrow other people’s hunches, and combine them with our hunches, and turn them into something new. That really has, I think, been more than anything else, the primary engine of creativity and innovation over the last six-hundred or seven-hundred years.” – Steven Johnson


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!





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.