The blog of James Bridle: literature, technology and the network, since 2006.

    Recent Blog Posts:

  • Everything is the same only different
    A talk from Books in Browsers on augmentation over enhancement.
  • The New Value of Text
    There is an increasingly pervasive notion that other forms of media are additive to literature, that they somehow improve it. Because, you know, books are just telling stories, right?
  • Publishing Next: India
    A brief report on ebooks and the future of publishing in the subcontinent.
  • Secret Servers
    The architecture, aesthetics and perception of datacenters.
  • The System of the World: Rorschmap Redux
    On the insistence of the network.
  • Won’t somebody think of the children?
    On Laptops & Looms, and generations.
  • Readmill Beta Invites
    The social reading service evolves.
  • Rorschmap
    Here be strange shapes and shadows on the land.
  • Items received by post
    A number of book-shaped things I have recently received.
  • Where the F**k Was I? (A Book)
    I made another book; an atlas written by robots.
  • Robot Flâneur
    On seeing the city through other eyes.
  • Open Bookmarks II
    What is social reading?
  • Regarding the library with envious eyes
    On the machines that read the books.
  • Dear Publishing
    ... Read the rest of this post →
  • The Silence Before, The Context Now
    On online communication, its past and its weight.
  • London Book Fair 2011
    A debate and a panel, on Monday 11th.
  • The Author of Everything
    A story about digitisation.
  • #wikileakspaper
    On printing things out.
  • The House of Wisdom
    On the transmission of the classics, then and now.
  • An Elixir of Reminding
    Borges and Sharing; Instagram and Death.
  • Stop Lying About What You Do
    Pretending will not save us.
  • Starpunk
    Hollowing out spaces of possibility.
  • Hauntological Futures
    On the attempts to rehabilitate nostalgia.
  • HG Wells on Newspapers
    Writing about technologies.
  • Publishing Experiences
    Excerpted from my talk from Tools Of Change, on why publishers should reconsider what they do.
  • Profanity in Art Criticism
    Waxing lyrical about Caravaggio in Milan.
  • Really Interesting
    On joining the Really Interesting Group.
  • Oblique Reading: a Tutorial
    Strategies for exploring books.
  • Interview at The Age of Glass
    On Italy, ebooks and Open Bookmarks
  • Electronic idiocy: VAT and ebooks (and art and libraries)
  • 2010: The Booktwo/STML Yearnotes
  • The City and the Sea
    Art, design and inspiration.
  • The beauty of engineers: Google Books.app
  • Selfish vs Social: Open Bookmarks and Casual Strategies
  • Samuel Pepys and the POD Diary
    Phil Gyford, who amongst many other things curates the excellent and veritable http://www.pepysdiary.com/, is rightfully annoyed at HarperCollins for pulling a bait-and-switch with their print-on-demand reissues: The new volume, again on the right, is much whiter. It’s only when you compare standard books with really white paper that you realise they’re usually a bit yellow, slightly textured. You might think that having whiter, smoother paper is an improvement. It’s cleaner, brighter, more contrasty, but… it feels cheap. The paper is smooth and crisp, like the kind of paper you buy in reams to feed through your temperamental inkjet printer. ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Romance has lived too long upon this river: A London Companion
    I’ve been playing with glanceables and synecdoches for a while now, until I came up with something that had to be got out of my head, and into the world. So here it is: Romance has lived too long upon this river; a single-serving web page that tells you how high the tide is at London Bridge: explicitly close up, but also, roughly, at a glance. (It works very well on the iPad (although better if it were wrapped in an app), OK on the iPhone, and it works particularly well on big screens, particularly if you use a ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Two Things (Gibson TTS and Fictional Memory Palaces)
    BBC7 is currently doing Gibson’s Pattern Recognition as this week’s Sci-Fi serial. If you’re in the UK you can listen via iPlayer. It’s being read by Lorelei King, “one of the most successful and accomplished American actresses working in the UK today.” She’s good at voices but (and, Lorelei, this is no criticism if you’re idly googling yourself) her standard one has a strange, disembodied quality, which makes it sound like Text-to-Speech. As David pointed out, it feels like there should be a choice for voices for a text like this, and there’s some assemblage possible via ... Read the rest of this post →
  • The Kindle as Tiny Pony: eBooks in India
    There it is, just sitting on a shelf, in a little electronics store in the corner of Khan Market, in New Delhi. Like it’s a totally normal thing. An ebook reader. In a shop. In India. It’s only a little over four years since I wrote Birth pangs of a new literature. Publishing then didn’t believe in eBooks (or a number of other things mentioned therein, like Amazon becoming a publisher, but there you go.) Four years. And there’s an ereader in a shop in a market in New Delhi. … Which is not to make any sort ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Other possible futures: India and its young people
    Back from India. It was amazing, as ever. Couple of things to talk about. First: If we’ve ever talked about India and books, you’ll know I’m slightly obsessed with One Night @ The Call Center by Chetan Bhagat. I first read it and wrote about it when I was in India last year, and it’s stayed in my head ever since. One Night @ The Call Center is about a bunch of young, over-educated kids working in a call center in Gurgaon (which is, trying desperately not to deviate, the new Chiba). Over the course of a single night, they ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Open Bookmarks: The Beginning
    I’ve just launched a blog and a wiki over at Open Bookmarks – if you missed the original post about the project, it’s here. The blog’s for keeping up to date with the project: subscribe to the RSS to keep up-to-date. The wiki is where the discussion will happen. At the moment, it’s read-only, but it will be opened up to registered users at the end of November. In the mean time, it contains some short pieces of introduction: Project aims Project terminology Basic use cases First challenges Partners Please have a read if you’re interested in contributing to ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Mappings
    I’ve noticed some really nice Google Earth / maps things recently. Starting with today’s Big Picture, on Florida developments and the Human-made landscape: There’s these satellite prints by Jenny Odell, such as: Approximately 1,326 Grain Silos, Water Towers, and Other Cylindrical-Industrial Buildings and Empty Carparks: You’ve probably seen Globe Genie, it’s been around for a bit, but it’s lovely (we haven’t seen even the beginning of what’s possible with Street View. Although that Arcade Fire video was a nice idea): Meanwhile, Google Earth just released a whole bunch of new historical layers, including the bombed-out ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Network Realism: William Gibson and new forms of Fiction
    I recently spoke at Web Directions South in Sydney, which was a lot of fun. I was invited to talk about the future of the book, and I did… sort of. In this post, I want to expand on some of the thoughts in that talk, which tied together a common thread from several previous discussions, and see if I can do some old-fashioned lit crit too. It’s going to be a bit hand-wavey, but I wanted to put something out there. Here goes. Link to original talk at the end. I recently read William Gibson’s new novel Zero History... Read the rest of this post →
  • Fiction Uncovered
    Today sees the launch of Fiction Uncovered, a new UK literary promotion for writers who deserve recognition but have yet to receive a major literary prize or media attention, or be picked for retailer promotions. The brainchild of Sophie Rochester, who is also behind the excellent Literary Platform site, Fiction Uncovered places itself squarely where it can be of most help to writers and readers: at the intersection of publishers and retailers, encouraging the former to promote their lesser-known authors and titles, and giving the latter a strong incentive to support and promote them. I was pleased to ... Read the rest of this post →
  • PaperCamp 2: The Briefs
    Saturday was the second Papercamp. There are some write-ups appearing online already, such as these from Ben and Roo, as well as photos on Flickr. I couldn’t make it unfortunately, but Matt suggested I create some briefs to get people going, and so I did. Apparently, there weren’t many formal responses to them (with this glorious exception), which is all to the good, but I hope they added something to character of the day, and might inspire some more responses… 5 Briefs for Papercamp ONE: FOLDING Create a new fold or codex type. A new way ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Walter Benjamin’s Aura: Open Bookmarks and the future eBook
    I spoke earlier today at Tools of Change in Frankfurt. The short version is that many of the things we think about ebooks are wrong: but they are very interesting. The future of the book lies in its aura not in its copies, and that’s why I’m launching Open Bookmarks. For the longer version, read on… (As ever, far more was said on stage than these notes, but there you go). 4 things: introductions and what I do; the form of the ebook; bookmarks etc.; and an announcement. Regular readers will know my history. CompSci / AI degree, into ... Read the rest of this post →
  • To Frankfurt, and Australia
    A quick reminder that I’m speaking at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair next week. I’m looking forward to seeing some of you there. Worth noting that the talk description cited on the website is bobbins. I’ll be talking about the challenges, limits, and possibilities of ebooks, particularly when it comes to bookmarks and annotations, and making an announcement. Do come. The week after, by some miracle, I’ll be in Sydney, talking at Web Directions South, on not dissimilar but less industry-focussed topics. Looking forward to that.... Read the rest of this post →
  • On Book Guilt
    We need to talk about something. It’s quite serious. It affects a lot of people. And I genuinely believe it costs the book industry millions of dollarpounds every year, in addition to incalculable personal misery. We need to talk about book guilt. When I created bkkeepr, it had (still does) three commands: start, finish and bookmark. I assumed a happy, linear model of reading. You start a book; you finish a book. Simple, right? But almost immediately I started getting feature requests: with one, overwhelmingly popular one: abandon. The problem was that when you started a book, ... Read the rest of this post →
  • iBooks and Kindle: Bookkake and Artist’s eBooks
    I’m very pleased to announce that all five Bookkake titles are now available direct from Apple’s iBookstore, and several are available on the Kindle. In addition, all Artists’ eBooks titles are also available free in the iBookstore. This has not been the simplest process, but I think it’s really important to make ebooks available in as wide a number of ways as possible, and in particular in ways that make it easy for people to find them—an issue I recently addressed in the discussion of Tony Blair’s multiformat memoir. Initially, I made ebook editions of all Bookkake ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Maps for Birds: London at 300 feet
    Ever since I took the above photo from a boardroom high above the Euston Road, I’ve had this image in my head of what London looks like at 300 feet (~ 100 metres). So, as usual, I got it out of my head by making something, while also using it as an excuse to have a play with Polymaps. So, this is what Docklands looks like at 300 feet: And this is the City: You can explore the map at shorttermmemoryloss.com/maps/300ft/. Usual disclaimers apply. (Ben, does this count?)... Read the rest of this post →
  • Bus-Tops: London, screens and the Olympics
    Back in January, I was approached by Art Public and asked to build an application and website as part of their Bus-Tops project. This has just gone live over at http://bus-tops.com/shelters/, so it seems like a good time to talk about the project. Bus-Tops is part of the Cultural Olympiad, and benefited from a grant from Artists Taking The Lead, a nationwide series of arts projects sponsored by the Arts Council and London 2012. In short, we’re putting screens on the top of bus stops across London, and we’re going to let people play with them. One part ... Read the rest of this post →
  • On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony, and Historiography
    On Friday, I spoke at dConstruct in Brighton. Huge thanks to everyone at Clearleft, and everyone who came, for a really great time. I talked about a number of things. I started out talking about Geocities, and how it was a very real thing, a place that I grew up in, and how it was lost too easily. This, despite efforts like the Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive (which, incidentally, is kept in a shipping container). William Gibson spoke recently at BEA. He said this: “If you’re fifteen or so, today, I suspect that you ... Read the rest of this post →
  • A journey through formats: Blair, Hardbacks and Ebooks
    I won’t get into the politics here, because this isn’t the venue, but since the lying, warmongering scum former Prime Minister Tony Blair is all over the news today, I thought I’d look around to see where and how his book is available. A Journey is officially released in hardback today, with the RRP of £25 in the UK. you can order it direct from the publisher Random House’s ecommerce site rbooks.co.uk for £22.50. You don’t want to though, because Amazon’s doing it for £12.50, as is Waterstone’s online, while WH Smith’s are offering on the high street ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Five Things
    This Five Things thing. Various people have been doing it. So here goes. Five things I’m thinking about: The future of the book That may seem a little obvious. And vague: let’s talk about novels. The novel is a historical accident, it’s different to everything else, and it’s not dead yet. It’s only been around for a very short while: its roots lie in medieval and early modern epics and romances, but it only really gained its present form in the 18th Century. It has, crucially, always been enabled by technological and social development. And with that in mind the ... Read the rest of this post →
  • One Year
    A year ago this week, I went freelance. So this seems like a good time for a recap. In the last year I’ve been extremely lucky to work with clients including Hachette UK, Bonnier, Art Public, Six To Start, Airlock, Newspaper Club, Proboscis, Dennis Publishing, and a number of others. I’m continuing to work with clients large and small on a range of projects within publishing and in the wider spheres of art and technology, which I’ll talk about here when I can. I’ve also spoken at Playful, SXSWi, Port ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Blog all Dog-Eared Pages: Benjamin & Montaigne
    I’m just returned from Scotland, where I swam in lochs and rivers and partook of nature. This was good. I also read: novels aside, I was immersed in Walter Benjamin and Montaigne’s Essays. Of the former, this was my first experience of reading on the iPad, and a very good one indeed. The highlight function in iBooks is addictive; the lack of an export function criminal, but there you go. Copying out, as we shall see, has its own rewards. Both writers are prodigious, generous and, in their own way, quite funny, which makes them ideal holiday companions. I ... Read the rest of this post →
  • On covers
    I’ve been thinking about covers for a while now. One of the many great debates around the ephemeralisation of music has been the lamentations for the loss of cover art: now, we are reaching the same point with books. I say ephemeralisation rather than digitisation because it’s not just a physical transformation we’re going through, it’s a cognitive one. I’ve been repeating Walter Pater’s famous quote in my head a lot: “all art aspires to the condition of music”. Pater argued that “For while in all other works of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, ... Read the rest of this post →
  • At Port Eliot
    A quick note to say that I’ll be at the Port Eliot festival this weekend, and MENACE and I will be appearing in the Round Room at 2pm on Saturday, alongside Keith Albarn and David McCandless (of Information is Beautiful) as part of the World of Wonders. Say hello if you’re about, and any tips for other things to see gratefully received.... Read the rest of this post →
  • On waves
    “The French Revolution aroused and then disappointed Wordsworth, causing him to seek consolation in universal nature; it made Byron a rebel, and Southey a laureate; but it gave birth to Shelley. And the chief effect of the revolution on English life and thought is to be sought in literature rather than in politics. The great wave that broke over Europe in the roar of the Napoleonic wars spent its strength in vain on the political structure of these islands, but the air was long salt with its spray. And the poems of Shelley, if it be not too fanciful to ... Read the rest of this post →
  • dConstruct 2010
    In September, I’ll be speaking at dConstruct, in Brighton. The theme of the day is design, which I don’t know very much about, and I wouldn’t put much stock by my talk description. Nevertheless, I will be talking about books, I expect, and attempting to close the circle on recent explorations of the book as designed object in time and space, and recent obsessions with loss and destruction in the works of Borges, Sebald, Bevan, Baez and others. And Geocities. You should buy a ticket. Some of the other folk look really good. ... Read the rest of this post →
  • Of gays and griots: sexuality, technology and story-telling
    This post is going to talk about sex quite a lot. I’m going to assume you’re all OK with that. For me, technology, literature and sex are all bound up together, and this entanglement can be traced back to a single book: JC Herz’s Surfing on the Internet (Little, Brown; 1994). An exploration of the early net, a travelogue, an explicator of MUDs and MOOs, of chatrooms and founding memes; what was still, then, the Information Superhighway. I read the book in, I think, 1995. Within a month, I had a 28.8 modem and a Compuserve account. It’s probably impossible ... Read the rest of this post →

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