It’s hard not to be cynical about EA’s Dante’s Inferno. A game that scrambles its source material so hard conventional terms like reboot and recon fail to do it justice. A game with a marketing campaign which hit most of the Deadly Sins.
But when Tor released the Longfellow translation of Dante’s Inferno as a tie-in, complete with cover art based on the game, did anyone expect this?
From longtime Game Coucher Aramis:
Something amazing happened last Friday. I’m still not sure what to make of it.
I was at the library Reference Desk ready to answer questions and help people find stuff when a teenage boy came up to me looking for Catcher in the Rye. I checked the catalog for Salinger and didn’t see any hard cover copies available so I walked the kid over to the uncataloged Classic Paperbacks. His mom followed behind us and while I was browsing the S’s I overheard this incredible bit of dialog.
‘Hey, Mom! See this book?’ He grabbed a copy of Inferno, the first book in Dante Alighieri’s trilogy The Divine Comedy. ‘Remember that game you bought me? This is the book it was based on, but this book is even sicker the game! It was awesome!’
This blew my mind completely. It’s like something out of a marketer’s wet dream. A ridiculous video game induced a teenage boy of average coolness (he had a skateboard and was sporting a Bieber) to read not just a book, but a classic allegorical, epic poem written in the 14th century in which an italian poet and a dead philosopher traverse the afterlife to find the poet’s deceased girlfriend and possibly meet God in terza rima (three part rhyme).
What do you guys think? Is this a thing™ or more of a fluke? Also will “literary” games become the latest trend replacing sandbox and/or post-apocolyptic causual zombie tower defense MMORPGs? What classic book would you like to see made into a game?
See also: Score! Liz Danforth at Library Journal’s Games, Gamers, & Gaming.
“She talks about the smell of the paper and the feeling of holding it in your hands,” said Mr. de Halleux, 32, who says he thinks the substance is the same regardless of medium. He added, sounding mildly piqued, “She uses the word ‘real.’ ”
By the end of this year, 10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the United States, buying about 100 million e-books, the market research company Forrester predicts. This is up from 3.7 million e-readers and 30 million e-books sold last year.
The trend is wreaking havoc inside the publishing industry, but inside homes, the plot takes a personal twist as couples find themselves torn over the “right way” to read. At bedtime, a couple might sit side-by-side, one turning pages by lamplight and the other reading Caecilia font in E Ink on a Kindle or backlighted by the illuminated LCD screen of an iPad, each quietly judgmental.
Although there are no statistics on how widespread the battles are, the publishing industry is paying close attention, trying to figure out how to market books to households that read in different ways.
A few publishers and bookstores are testing the bundling of print books with e-books at a discount. Barnes & Noble started offering bundles in June at about 50 stores and plans to expand the program in the fall, said Mary Ellen Keating, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman.
Thomas Nelson, a publisher of religious books, offers free e-books with a print book for some titles. It is particularly good for readers who want to share books with family or friends who read in different formats, said Tod Shuttleworth, senior vice president and group publisher at Thomas Nelson. The bundles have sold well, and Thomas Nelson is considering adding more for the holiday shopping season.
Meanwhile, Amazon.com is doing its best to convince print lovers that “reading on Kindle is nothing like reading on a computer screen.” Its Web site promises a display on which “text ‘pops’ from the page, creating a reading experience most similar to reading on printed paper” because it produces neither glare in a well-lighted spot nor a glow in the dark.
Sony, which introduced a new line of e-readers Wednesday, said they were smaller and lighter than before, with clearer text and touch screens, all to make them feel more like printed books. “Consistently the No. 1 thing we heard was it needs to feel like a book, so you just forget that you have a device in your hand,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.
This straddle-the-line marketing underscores a deeper tension: the desire to keep the print business alive so as not to alienate a core market, while establishing a base for a future that publishers see as increasingly digital, said James L. McQuivey, an e-reader industry analyst with Forrester.
“There is much more emotional attachment to the paper book than there is to the CD or the DVD,” said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “It is not logical — it’s visceral.”
A print book bundled with an e-book would have been useful for Liz Aybar, 35, and Betsy Conti, 31, a Denver couple who like reading together so much that when they read “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in paperback, Ms. Conti ripped out sections of the book as she finished them so Ms. Aybar could read them.
But since Ms. Conti, a director of technology, bought an iPad, she has gone to the other side. They are both reading Ken Robinson’s “The Element,” but bought two separate copies — a print book for $15 and a $13 Kindle version for the iPad.
“I feel more connected to a book than I do through the iPad,” said Ms. Aybar, who works at an education nonprofit group.
Alexandra Ringe, an editor, and her husband, Jim Hanas, a fiction writer, both 41, fell in love over books, with one of their early dates at a used-book festival in Manhattan. They married in a SoHo bookstore and live in an apartment in the Park Slope neighborhood with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
She collects vintage yearbooks and self-help books. But he likes to read on his iPhone.
“For me, real reading is for e-books, and books have become this kind of collectors’ object,” said Mr. Hanas, who has published short stories in literary journals like McSweeney’s and is publishing his next book, “Why They Cried,” only in digital format. “It’s kind of amazing to see people still going through the stages of acceptance that books are going away, saying they like the way books feel and smell. I was there, but I’m past that now.”
For Erin and Daniel Muskat, a couple in Brooklyn, the ink-stained quarrel has disrupted the togetherness of their reading habits.
Ms. Muskat, 29, bought an iPad for her husband, 33, who works at his family’s shoe business, before their honeymoon in June, but quickly discovered that his electronic reading impinged on her old-fashioned reading.
“I brought a book with me and I barely read it,” said Ms. Muskat, a media consultant. “We used to go to the beach and we’d both take out books, but he had an iPad, and it was almost distracting because it didn’t feel like he was reading with me.”
For Mr. de Halleux, a video game executive, the battle over reading tastes has skipped to a new generation. He and his wife both read to their 3-year-old son, Tristan. He reads Winnie the Pooh to the child on a screen. She reads it in old-fashioned paperback form.
Mr. de Halleux said he was confident the boy would eventually favor the digitized version. “He really likes it because you can zoom in on things,” he said.
And he said the discussion in his household had brought in his parents, too. His own father favors paperbacks, arguing they can be more easily shared, while his mother goes for the e-reader, which she says is easier on faltering eyesight as people get older.
“The argument is more heated by the day,” Mr. de Halleux said. “It’s a topic of intense scrutiny at the moment.”
Literature is full of imaginary books. Given the choice, which one would you read?
Imaginary books seem to be nearly as numerous as the real ones, and that's even when you don't count all those bestselling thrillers people believe they'll write someday if only they can find the time to write the damn thing down. Nonexistent books certainly have some devoted fans, such as the proprietor of the ever-diverting Beachcomber's Bizarre History Blog, who is making bold moves to expand the collection known as the Invisible Library.
"The Invisible Library" has, for at least a decade or so, referred to those books that exist only within works of fiction. A man named Brian Quinette founded a website by that name in the late 1990s, presenting it as a catalog of "imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished and unfound."
The original Invisible Library disappeared from the Web in the mid-2000s (though you can still find snapshots of it in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine), and since then other pseudobibliophiles have opened their own "branches," although these too have a tendency to end up abandoned. The novelists Ed Park and Levi Stahl created a catalog of imaginary titles that inspired an interactive exhibition at a London art gallery, but they have only occasionally updated it since 2008. Loss of interest is, perhaps, inevitable, since when you maintain such a list, tiresome people are constantly proclaiming their disappointed astonishment that their particular obscure favorite isn't listed.
The pseudonymous Dr. Beachcomber would like to expand the Invisible Library to include fake books -- that is, titles that don't even exist in a fictional universe. They appear only on the spines of sham bookshelves used to disguise secret doors in exceptionally interesting houses. Charles Dickens had just such a door installed in his own study in London, with fake titles of his own devising, including "Socrates on Wedlock."
Most such titles are jokes ("Cat's Lives" in nine volumes, etc.), but then so are many of the celebrated holdings in the Invisible Library proper; if there's one thing authors relish, it's a chance to make fun of other authors. Hence, such immortal imaginary works as "Only a Factory Girl," by Rosie M. Banks, a popular sentimental love story that often crops up in the fiction of P.G. Wodehouse; "The Industrious Muse: Narrativity and Contradiction in the Industrial Novel," by Robin Penrose, in David Lodge's academic satire, "Nice Work;" and "My Big Ol' Feets Gon' Stomp Dat Evil Down" by Isshee Ayam from Trey Ellis' send-up of 1980 multiculturalism, "Platitudes."
Who'd want to slog through those -- let alone tackle another of Dickens' japes, "History of a Short Chancery Suit" in 21 volumes? The vast majority of the Invisible Library is, let's face it, better off not existing. The world does not need "Feeling GREAT," by Ashley Tralpis, M.D., Ph.D. (from Jonathan Franzen's "Corrections"). And if a reader learns anything from the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, it's to stay well away from the "Necronomicon" of Abdul Alhazred, perhaps the most famous -- and certainly the most infamous -- imaginary book of all time.
Which raises an intriguing question: If allowed to choose only one, which volume in the Invisible Library would you most want to read?
Assuming that "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" counts as an imaginary book (seeing as it's also a real book, by Douglas Adams), then it would surely have the longest list of patrons waiting to check it out at the Invisible Library's front desk. Fans of the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño might opt for a masterpiece by Benno von Archimboldi, whose works captivate the characters in "2666." Others would surely select something from the extensive imaginary works invented by Jorge Luis Borges -- "The Garden of Forking Paths" by Ts'ui Pên, perhaps?
For myself, the choice is easy. I'd take "The Higher Common Sense" by the Abbé Fausse-Maigre, the indispensable philosophical handbook of Flora Poste, heroine of Stella Gibbons' great comic novel, "Cold Comfort Farm" (1932). Flora, an admirer of Jane Austen, goes to live with the Starkadders, relations in the Sussex countryside, and finds herself plunged into a doom-laden agricultural milieu familiar to readers of the rural gothics popular at the time, overwrought "earthy" novels written in imitation of Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence.
Armed with the insights of the Abbé (I like to think of him as a more avuncular version of Montaigne), Flora tidies up the seemingly intractable messes at Cold Comfort Farm, from dispatching the hellfire-and-brimstone paterfamilias on a missionary road trip to shipping her oversexed cousin Seth off to Hollywood and imparting romantic and contraceptive advice to the local girls. At every turn, "The Higher Common Sense" provides her with a sound footing to tackle any challenge, including the most formidable of all -- Aunt Ada Doom, who refuses to leave her room on account of the shock she incurred as a girl upon witnessing "something nasty in the woodshed."
In times of trial and confusion, one can't help but long for a copy of this invaluable imaginary volume. Readers who'd make a different choice if offered a single checkout from the Invisible Library are invited to leave their thoughts in the comments thread.