Behind The Tweetbook: An Interview With James Bridle

Filed as Interviews on March 18, 2009 4:20 am

I wrote about the tweetbook a couple of days ago, James Bridle’s publishing experiment involving two years worth of tweets in a book printed by print-on-demand service Lulu. Since I find both Twitter in particular and publishing in general interesting, I got in touch with James to find out more about the project.

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. You’re in publishing, right?

Yes. I used to be an editor, and I’m now a consultant advising clients such as HarperCollins, Random House, Hachette and Granta on web and new media projects. I also run Bookkake, a small publisher using new technologies to create a new model for publishing, and write about literature and technology at booktwo.org.

What was the purpose of your Tweetbook? Do you hope to sell it?

No, I’ve no intention of selling it. I was interested in archiving my tweets in an interesting way, and testing out some ideas around XML-based publishing, design, layout and internet-enabled print-on-demand. I like playing with the notions of permanence and transience, and the prejudices towards these that the internet and books engender. I thought it would provoke some good debate too, and it has.

James BridleWhat did you learn from the project?

That you can do pretty much anything you like with books and the web if you know a bit of PHP and a bit of InDesign. And that the NYRB will notice if you “pay homage” to their classics titles. Luckily, they got it.

Would you say Twitter (and similar microblogging and status posting services) is changing publishing? If so, how?

Not in any particularly obvious ways. I think much of the discussion of Twitter – which has reached fever pitch in the last couple of months – focuses far too much on what Twitter is, rather than what it enables. As much as it can be said to have “done” anything, it has made publishing folk think a bit more about new media – but the same can be said of blogs, and the wider internet. One definite benefit is that folk in different publishing silos – editing, marketing, design – are hearing more from one another, and people at different publishers are talking to each other more. It seems to break down the barriers a bit between different areas of publishing, which is A Good Thing – but that could have been achieved by any number of technologies. Facebook is doing it too: Twitter is just a good implementation that came along at the right time.

Spinning off blogs into books isn’t all that uncommon. As an editor in this industry, what do you think bloggers should consider when moving down that route?

I’m not a huge fan of blogs as books – which this isn’t. I think writers should think very carefully about what makes a good blog and what makes a good book: unless you have a particular style and a particular story to tell, it’s unlikely that the same content will work in both formats. That said, I think blogs are a great way for writers to hone their style and learn what their audience like – and what they like writing about.

I’d like to thank James Bridle for taking the time to do this short interview. Check Bookkake and booktwo.org for more.

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