Take a look at this video: Future of the Book | American Libraries Magazine
The only concerns I have with Nelson and Coupland are minor and nitpicky. Overall, I would love to have either. Alice is the one that irks me…
Regarding Alice, I’m worried that the technorati will use this method of writing as proof that the book, as we know it, is dead. Then again, these are the people who claimed that Avatar marked the end of film as we know it, yet conveniently forgot (1) that the vast majority of films are not big-budget, effects-driven sci-fi/fantasy films, and (2) the 1950s. This analogy is useful…
First, consider the vast majority of literature. Do we really need non-linear rewrites of Faulkner? Of course not, but that isn’t the real issue. The issue is whether non-linear, interactive writing is even applicable to most story-telling. Sure, some stories will benefit, but there is more than one way to tell a story, and most writing will remain as it is. Alice adds another method to the author’s repertoire, just as Avatar added a new method of directing, but neither constitute a paradigm shift. Another analogy could be made to the advent of the motion picture. Sure, film created an entirely new art form, but I don’t think photography is dead. Moreover, painting is alive and thriving. There are multiple ways to create visual art, and multiple ways to write, and none need take precedence.
Second, consider the originality of this style of writing. Non-linear narratives are fine and dandy but they are nothing new. Cortazar’s Rayuela comes to mind as a prime example, though more prosaic versions can be found elsewhere. Hell, there is very little difference between Alice-formatted texts and some video games. You want chapter 20? Turn the e-reader upside down. Want to find the magic boots? Type “get boots”? Want to read Molly Bloom’s soliloquy? Walk to within 100 yards of No. 7, Eccles Street, Dublin, Ireland. Want find out how to defeat the evil Ganondorf? Look for the silver arrows in the Death Mountain dungeon. For reward X, complete task Y. In sum, the materials available in Alice are no different than the text-based video games and non-linear stories that have been around for quite some time.
Just as 3-D has no application in the majority of the film world, Alice-style interactivity has no place in most literature: both are really cool niche formats, but niche formats all the same. Just as 3-D films have been around since the 1950s (and stagecraft, the ultimate 3-D, has been around for millennia), nonlinear storytelling has been around the block, too.