Sunday, 7 June 2009

Guest Post: Google Wave, by David H Burton

David H Burton writes about a number of things, but focuses primarily on writing and technology, with some leftward politics and other fun stuff thrown in for good measure. My thanks to him for this contribution, which originally appeared on his own blog. I've not been able to check out all the links he includes, as I only have dial-up: so please tell me about them in the comments section!

google_wave_logoWhile those in the writing world were focusing on BEA in New York last weekend, the Google I/O Developer Conference was taking place on the opposite end of the country in San Francisco. These are rather unrelated events, unless you pay attention to what Google Wave will offer when it is released later this year.

"What is Google Wave?", you ask. I'll let their own presentation speak for itself. See below, but heed the warning, it's 1 hour and 20 minutes long. There's also a great post over at Mashable that's worth reading.

If you're not likely to watch the whole thing, let me give you some highlights.

  1. Live translation in 40 languages, as you type.
  2. Search, including Twitter search
  3. Document Sharing/Word processing
  4. E-mail
  5. Instant messaging
  6. Twitter
  7. Embedding into blogs
  8. Social Networks (i.e. Facebook)


It's basically a conglomeration of all of your favorite web applications, but on steroids.

So what does this translate to for the publishing industry?

This is where it gets interesting.

Wave will allow people (authors) to collaborate on documents/emails/blogs/microblogging and keep it organized. You break it apart, mash it with other waves, and readers can replay the course of events if they've come in late in the game and want to see what has occurred over time. With the move to an electronic medium for books, novels can now become living documents that authors can update at will.

So what would this book look like?

In electronic form, it could do the following

  • It gives authors and readers a direct line of communication. Readers can give feedback/comments on any part of the book. Do they want to know more about a character? Do they absolutely hate how that character died?
  • Authors can comment on particular sections and/or links/content of interest. And {gasp} authors could make changes to the novel.
  • Imagine downloading a Wave-based novel onto your Sony Reader or your Kindle (or any other device) and instantly getting those comments/changes seamlessly. NOTE: this also integrates with Android, Google's operating system for mobile devices. And imagine providing your own comments as you read. (Just think of what reviewers and editors could do with this.)

  • You can insert elements into the Wave. For nonfiction, this has huge implications since authors can update their books as new information/research becomes available. For fiction works, you can draw the readers in with images, videos, links, or for those SF/F fans, games! As an author, if you sell the gaming rights later, you can insert the links or the games themselves into the Wave at a later date without having to be concerned.
  • Imagine opening yourself up, as a writer, to writing/editing LIVE! an hour a week for your readers to see the process. And you can let them give you feedback as you do it.

Does this seem a little overwhelming? Perhaps there will be a new role for publishers as the Digital Concierge for authors, so they can focus on content.

I don't know about you, but I believe there are big changes coming for publishing. I watched a video of Mike Shatzkin speaking at BEA 2009 and I think the man is brilliant and bang on.

So brace yourself, the Wave is coming. It's going to bring together two worlds that I love in new and exciting ways: books and technology. And I intend to surf it for all it's worth.


Megan Burke said...

Very interesting post!
Def going to check it out.

Congrats too on 1st birthday Jane!

Jane Smith said...

As I can't watch the various films you've linked to, David, I find this whole thing slightly eerie: it's a bit like a science fiction movie only in the real world.

Mind you, I felt the same way about the internet when I first heard about it. I soon got over it. Thank you for this!

David H. Burton said...

Thanks! I was just at Book Camp Toronto and the folks at were very interested in this as they think along the same lines. I think that the book as we know it is going to change significantly. It's an exciting journey we are about to embark on.

Dan Holloway said...

David, this is SOO exciting. I've been writing The man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes as an interactive novel, and doing it on Facebook for instant feedback, whilst hunting around for wiki-sites that will let me do it as a proper open source document. Google Wave seems to be exactly what I want - something that will allow my readers to tell me what's wrong the moment I make the mistake, and rewrite straightaway.

One question - how much does it allow for background info that's outsid ethe book? One thing I like about writing on Facebook is there's a large static component as well that I can link out to - so I can incude large chunks of back story without intruding on the text. Is this possible on GW?

Do e-mail me if you'd like to chat -