Saturday, September 11, 2004
Cellphone Novel Hits China with a Big Buzz
The mobile phone novel, a concept already popular with Japanese commuters, has emerged in China, where it's creating a huge buzz, not only in media and technology news sources, but it immediately hit everything from the front page of the New York Times to a news site in Zambia, which immediately picked up the Xinhua release.
"Out of the Fortress" is a story of a forbidden love by acclaimed Chinese novelist, Qian Fuzhang. Consisting of 60 chapters totalling 4,200 Chinese characters, it was described by the N.Y. Times as "like a marriage of haiku and Hemingway." It will be auctioned this week to SMS subscription services. The author has already received an advance worth over $20,000 USD. from a Chinese website offering mobile phone downloads and was offered an even higher amount by a Taiwanese company for publishing rights there. (Xinhua curiously omits that detail in its story.) Two chapters will be transmitted to subscribers every day.
With 300 million cellphone users, most of whom prefer text messaging (SMS-Small Messaging Service) to voice calls because of the enormous difference in cost, China will prove to be a huge market for authors, poets, columnists and, of course, crackpots.
Is this a wakeup call for beleagured authors faced with diminishing opportunities in a struggling book market? Or a sign of the times, where readers who don't have time for books are intrigued with getting a literary fix through other technology? For someone who not only loves writing but still indulges in the pleasure of curling up with a book--but also loves technology--I admit to having mixed feelings about it. Nonetheless, the cellphone, now a camera, an internet access terminal, delivering sports stats, stock quotes, horoscopes and news has definitely come of age as a literary outlet.
Read more about it at textually.org which also has a link about the huge success of a Japanese author sending his novel over cellphones. Textually.org has a fascinating section on SMS and literature that should be required reading for every contemporary author or aspirant.
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.
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