Story time for digital publishers

Simon ApplebyThis a guest post from Simon Appleby, who runs Bookswarm, a digital agency specialising in delivering projects for authors, agents and publishers. Simon has 15 years’ experience of scoping, pitching, architecting and delivering digital projects. He has worked for a number of digital agencies, and more recently has worked client-side at Octopus Publishing Group (a division of Hachette UK), where he ran the e-book conversion programme and worked on a number of iPhone and iPad apps. His first course at the Publishing Training Centre runs at the start of October with co-tutor Zelda Rhiando.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Human beings love stories. Narrative is central to how we make sense of the world around us. It explains religions, superstition, myths and legends, and it’s core to our culture. In fact, in one of my favourite popular science books, The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, the authors, Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, devote themselves to the importance of narrative (or narrativium, as they would have it) to the world, and suggest that instead of Homo Sapiens, a better name for the human species would be Pans Narrans – the Storytelling Ape.

This is important to publishers, of course, because it means that, whatever changes lie in store for publishing in the years to come, people will still want wonderfully told stories, with all that that entails in terms of authoring, design and editorial work. It’s important to me too – people respond to stories, learn from them, absorb them – so when I was asked to put together a new course for the Publishing Training Centre, I was struck by the idea of making narrative central to the way we taught people about how to develop digital products, whether that be apps, enhanced eBooks, websites or social media widgets.

Think about it – the tales that you tell your mates in the pub or over coffee about the highs and lows of your life are probably the ones that have some kind of strong narrative to them: victory snatched from the jaws of defeat (or vice versa), goodies and baddie,  a clear beginning, a middle and an end (perhaps with a twist?).

People remember stories – so delegates to our course will be told the story of how digital products come to be, from the germ of an idea to their launch out into the world. Don’t worry, we won’t make them dress up or anything, and knowledge of the plot of Lord of the Rings is strictly optional – but we do hope that following the story will help them remember where be dragons and just what the treasure on offer for successful developers is.

Story time’s over now children – sleep tight, and dream of all the beautiful, user-centred digital products you could create.

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