The Frankfurt Book Fair has broadened its roster of activities this year with the inclusion of Sprint Beyond the Book, “a real-time collaboration among on-site authors and a global network of contributors to write, edit and publish a digital book in just 72 hours.”
The project is sponsored by Intel Corporation, and the event could be taken as a form of advertising. “The book will be created in a prototype application that demonstrates the potential of a collaborative multimedia platform for publishing,” notes the project’s materials.
“The reason we call this Sprint Beyond the Book is because we realize we’re spending an incredible amount of effort trying to recreate the print experience online,” remarked Ed Finn, Director of Arizona State University’s innovative Center for Science and the Imagination. “And I think that’s a terrible mistake.”
Although I’d be slow to dismiss Project Gutenberg, Amazon, and the entire ebook/online text ecosystem as “a terrible mistake,” Sprint Beyond the Book’s approach does sound interesting – and a challenge to the production schedules of traditional publishing operators. As the project outlines, “Frankfurt Book Fair attendees and online followers can track the book’s progress as it is conceptualized, written and assembled over the course of 72 hours by a small team using simple technological tools – upending the publishing industry’s traditional time– and resource-intensive models for writing and publication.”
This isn’t the first time that anyone has attempted such a sprint – some of them with far more radically short timelines even than Sprint Beyond the Book. Last December, a team of Romanian writers put together “Santa Claus & Co. The world’s fastest novel” in a claimed 5 hours and 35 minutes for a record-breaking attempt. And even literary greats have managed impressive track times: Jack Kerouac’s On The Road allegedly took only three weeks to write. But this project is more to do with changing publishing procedures than authors’ workflows. All the collaborators are actually contributing texts on publishing and the future of the book.