A couple of US students have been signed up by Penguin to write a book which will turn classics from writers such as Shakespeare and James Joyce into no more than twenty 140 character tweets. Aside from the fact that people younger than me are getting book deals (always a sore point), it’s caused quite the stir in the media, with the Telegraph and the Guardian covering it.
The pair of culture wreckers/trend setters/whatevers said they wanted to “capture the grandest ventures of their generation that best expressed the soul of 21st century America”. Meaning they wanted to make a lot of money out of other people’s ideas.
Making great works accessible to the masses or the epitome of the dumbing down of culture? Personally, I won’t be shelling out for a book of extended blurbs. However, there in lies the book’s potential. 20 x 140 characters is 2800 characters, twice the number used in this description of Ulysses. This tome of shortened great works could become a catalogue of extended product descriptions, something that publishers already produce as part of their sales and marketing collateral to tempt booksellers. Co-incidentally, Penguin does a nice line in modern classics (I’m currently reading one myself).
Perhaps this is the future of publishing. Producing books of twitterature, the publishers would be charging the consumer to view a catalogue of relevant work. Said consumer, if intrigued by what they’ve read, could then toddle off down the bookstore/login to Amazon, buy relevant book, and the publisher gets more money. This isn’t the end of high culture and the written word, this is the publishing industry making sure they get ROI from their marketing collateral.