By January 13, 2009 3 Comments Read More →

Of Wovels and P-Books

On NPR, Rick Kleffel talks to Victoria Blake of Underland Press about a new form of fiction: the “wovel” (“The Wovel: Literary Alternative to Browsing Blogs“). Basically, it’s a serial novel with a Choose Your Own Adventure twist at the end of each installment–the readers vote on what should happen next.

Voting is open from Monday to Thursday, the author writes the chapter from Thursday to Sunday, and Underland Press posts the installment on Sunday night. She says it’s a combination of “…the technical functionality of Web 2.0, the creativity of fiction and the pace of print journalism.”

A new twist, I’ll admit, but–must we? Must we give a cutesy name for the Web equivalent of everything? Wovel is spectacularly bad, leading me to believe that the thing in question is either some creature from Star Wars or Barbara Walter’s attempt to pronounce hovel.

E-book is okay, because you need to know what format you’re getting–it’s really hard to jam a hardcover copy of Against the Day inside a Kindle. But now this naming trend is starting to work in reverse: in the press release for their “enhanced digital book,” Country Music: The Masters, Sourcebooks tried to differentiate between formats by referring to “the p-book (physical book)”–the first time I’ve seen that.

I know we haven’t seen the end of wovels. But can we at least agree that the p-book is simply “the book”? Just as an “album” can be an LP, a CD, or a folder full of MP3s, let’s let that word define the artistic product, not the format. If we need to clarify that the thing is printed on paper, there are the old standbys hardcover and paperback.

You won’t hear me using p-book, anyway. Except, perhaps, in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

3 Comments on "Of Wovels and P-Books"

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  1. This was really interesting. Thank you for pointing it out. The terms “p-book” has actually been used for a long time. I was trying to remember when I first heard it and who first used it but couldn’t. So I did what we do these days, I put “p-book” into google and found the earliest definition seemed to be about 2000. And yes, we will happily refer to the book as a book. I think the point we were trying to make was separating our enhanced digital book from an ebook. (For me) an ebook is an electronic exact duplicate of the book and our enhanced digital books have embedded audio and video which really changes the experience (and is meant to enhance the experience hence the languange).

    Thanks for the sarcasm (dripping and all). Point taken.

    Dominique

  2. Keir says:

    Thanks for commenting, Dominique. I’m surprised I hadn’t encountered “p-book” before. Your point about differentiating between an e-book and an enhanced digital book makes perfect sense–I agree that “e-book” wouldn’t convey the full extent of what you’re doing.

    Regarding the “p-book,” I think my saracasm comes from my worries about the future of books printed on paper. Anything, even vocabulary, that relegates something so wonderful to just another form of content delivery makes me a little touchy. That said, I hold no grudges against either e-books or enhanced digital books!

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