literature | October 23, 2012

Still Ahead of the Curve: Margaret Atwood Writes an eBook Serial

Judging by her massive Twitter following (over 350,000 followers) and her newly released serial book series (which is only being released in E-book form), it's safe to say that Margaret Atwood has a penchant for anything cutting edge. It's no surprise, then, that the L.A.Times says that she is "ahead of the curve."  As she describes in the Times video interview (or, more accurately, the Google+ hangout between Atwood and the Times writer, which, is another testament to Atwood's digital savvy), the serial novel is nothing new. Charles Dickens, for example, used to write his stories in sections, distribute them to the public in increments and then rely on reader feedback to shape the upcoming installments. Atwood's new book series Positron is leveraging this age-old practice with the power of the digital space; abandoning traditional print methods of publication and focusing solely on digital.

She is also taking a similar approach with The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home: a collaborative venture released on the interactive story sharing application Wattpad, chapter by chapter. Set in Toronto, the story follows the lives of survivors in a cannibalistic world, and Atwood welcomes feedback from readers and other writers alike. This type of publication model—short snippets of content being released over time—is indicative of the way that readers' now  consume content in different ways than before. The mobile phone, as Atwood mentions in the video, is becoming larger both in size and storage capacity to accommodate the consumer's desire to read on a more portable everyday device. Allen Lau CEO of Wattpad notes that Atwood is an ideal fit for this new storytelling method because she, "understands the new patterns of engagement that are happening around serially published stories...[and that] the chapter-by-chapter model is something that is helping many writers connect with readers."

Proving time and again that she is a master at anticipating trends, the literary legend is never content to rest on her past successes. Despite having a laundry list of accomplishments, international acclaim and respect, the gifted storyteller will keep you on your toes—both in print, in person and in the digital space.