Books for Second Life (part 2)

October 14, 2006

I recently went exploring in Second Life, and it didn’t take long to find bibliophiles. Over at the Coelacanth Books & News Store in Changmi, I met the proprietor Coelacanth Seurat (pictured, in front of her store, below), who is exploring the possibilities of text in the 3D virtual world. The store stocks Second Life-themed magazines, which are distributed via notecards (the texts of SL), SL-authored books, and a monthly selection of recommended books with links to buy them from Amazon.

Seurat sees her mission thus:

“In RL a bookstore is a place to browse and buy books & magazines. But in SL I think the definition has to be expanded a bit: compensating authors as they desire, but focusing on aggregating SL text-based content and providing a portal to information on books in general. This bookstore is an ongoing “thought experiment,” and I welcome all comments.”

A different approach is taken at the virtual (although unaffiliated) branch of Shakespeare & Company, over in Mill Pond (thanks to owner Micala Lumiere for the link). In homage to the original on Paris’ Left Bank, Grace McDunnough hosts weekly poetry readings on an agreed theme – poets can read aloud, or circulate their works via notecard.

Such an approach is one more easily comprehended by authors and publishers: a virtual meeting space for book groups, discussions and author appearances (I’d be particularly interested in hearing about any SL Book Groups). Just as several bands have made live appearances in SL (the evergreen Duran Duran and U2 among them), so authors have started to give talks too – unsurprisingly, Wired editor Chris Anderson was among the first, discussing his widely-read future commerce tome, The Long Tail.

Books themselves are making an appearance too. Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher at Penguin UK (and known inworld as Jeremy Neumann), was kind enough to give me a couple. The first, a reading copy of Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, appears as an object clutched in your avatar’s hand, and is certainly legible, even if the experience is disconcertingly like reading over one’s own shoulder (see below).

Penguin’s own effort, a sampler for Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, the book credited with inspiring Second Life itself and so understandably popular with residents, is more successful – although slow to load, it appears full-screen and, on a large enough monitor, much better simulates the actual experience of reading (again, below).

None of these are available outside Second Life however, and the real goal for publishers must be to sell real-world books (and ebooks) through Second Life frontages – something no one has yet figured out how to do. The long-awaited arrival of HTML inworld looks like it will rectify this, however, and there are certainly plenty waiting for the opportunity. In the meantime, there’s plenty of publicity to be gained, something the book industry, at least, rarely wants to miss.


  1. Actually, nearly all of the SL magazines and books in my store, Coelacanth Books, are distributed as either in-world animated books or shell out to pdf files. Notecards are provided for information on RL books. Unfortunately the notecard format as it exists now is not amenable for reading long texts, nor can it contain graphics.

    Comment by Coelacanth Seurat — October 23, 2006 @ 2:35 am

  2. There are several reading groups run through the Info Island libraries. Offhand I know of a mystery group, a sci-fi group, and a “Readers Garden” group where books are suggested and voted on through a Second Life garden. Information about upcoming meetings of these groups and others can be found on the weekly “Info Island this week” post at

    Comment by Beth — April 15, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

  3. Also a good shop for books all written and published in second life.
    slguides run by me, hosts books that exist in second life only written and published in a format based around the physical book.

    Comment by madddyyy schnook — April 18, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

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