Hyper vs Books...

...is an absolute illusion, especially when we're talking about e-books. Which we are.

The Hyperbooks Project seeks to introduce the aesthetic of hypertext fiction/Twine games into an established marketplace: e-books. These works exist as hypertexts (freely playable online) and as hyperbooks available for purchase in all major e-bookstores. The aim is to introduce new readers to digital fiction through the familiar environments of e-books and e-readers/e-reader apps; similarly, to develop the expectation in readers that digital fiction is a commodity that should be purchased, rather than exploited in a "free-for-all" internet culture.

Wonderbox is actively seeking more submissions of hypertexts to be published in this model. If you are a digital writer with hypertext fiction or Twine games that you would like to submit for hyperbook publication, please contact me or submit them. I can take a text-based hypertext or Twine game and publish it as an e-book in all the major e-bookstores, as well as entering it on the Interactive Fiction Database. The more hyperbooks there are, the more our market will grow. It may start small, but eventually we'll get somewhere!

Background on Wonderbox's Hyperbooks Project

Your e-books are already "hyper": the Table of Contents links to chapter headings, footnotes are actually circular hyperlinks, and the "go to..." search function is a digital method of navigation.

Hypertext fiction has been around a long time (at least since Michael Joyce published afternoon: a story in 1987). It's a cool thing. It can be experimental and avant garde, as in most of the early texts, or it can be personal and playful, like the current boom of Twine games.

For the most part, however, it has not been commercial. Eastgate publishes a small selection (with some issues with obsolescence, price, and audience reach), and some Twine games have been published on Steam and similar platforms. By and large, though, it has yet to hit the mainstream. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I'll save that for a later article.

I posit that one of the key reasons hypertexts haven't had a mainstream commercial breakthrough is the lack of a marketplace. How do you find them? More importantly, how do new hypertext readers discover them? It's a catch-22: there's not an established marketplace for hypertext fiction, so no one knows about them; likewise, it's hard to discover them when they're scattered higgeldy-piggeldy over the web.

Wonderbox has a long-term aim to become a marketplace to discover, find, and buy digital fictions. The Hyperbooks Project is an aspect of that ambition. What it seeks to do is make use of an already-existing marketplace: e-bookstores (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, etc.).

E-books, as noted, have hyperlinking functionality built into them (both internal and external). And unlike digital fiction, they have a known marketplace where consumers expect to pay for them.

A few choose-your-own-adventure books have clumsily made use of this hyperlinking functionality in their e-books. But it's only a few, and they don't approach the artistry, aesthetics, and play that hypertext fiction and Twine games have developed.

Have a look at some of the texts linked from this page, and let us know if the hyperbooks model appeals to you!


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