The INTRE:FACE Digital Conference (06.02.2016-07.02.2016), organized by Katharina Deloglu and Tom Bresemann, hosted by Andreas Bülhoff, tackled many important questions regarding digital literature. In a series of articles we bring you the speeches and discussions held at the INTRE:FACE Digital Conference, dealing with problems regarding digital literature and different tools used to construct it, for example how can digital tools be used to offer new approaches to production, what digital tools already exist and how are they structured, to more applied problems, such as how can literary activists use digital means to connect with one another, how we can make most of digital material and many other interesting topics.
Malte Abraham and Sven Schaub talked about their reading series, Kabeljau & Dorsch, created in the summer of 2013. The idea behind the series was to create an easy way for writers to have a platform to share their texts. Every two months, 5 authors would gather to read their texts in front of an audience in Neukölln. The editors (Malte Abraham, Sven Schaub and Chris Möller) would choose the texts for the evening, and these would range from anything from drama, poetry, prose etc. In all, over 100 authors read for the series. After one and a half years, it was decided that the project should take a new direction, so the editors decided to work on an anthology of works read during the series.
As they wanted to be the main voices in the decision making process, the editors decided they did not want to collaborate with a publishing house. Equally, however, it seemed that a self-published anthology would not be possible as each copy would have had to be priced between 15 and 20 euros. They decided therefore that an e-book would be the most cost-effective way to produce the anthology as it doesn’t need to be printed.
This opened up the possibility to do things than cannot be done with a printed book. The authors were put in contact with other artists who would then adapt their texts to produce a multimedia e-book anthology. The end result included video portraits, photographic work, illustration, audioplays, art film, comic adaptations… and many other transformations, turning the text to something else.
Did the artists get to meet the writers and work together with them?
Malte Abraham: It depended on the writer. Some had specific wishes for their texts, some wanted to direct the adaptation, while others let the artists do what they wanted. For example in Hildesheim we made a film with the author Maruan Paschen and the critic Florian Kessler.
Where can the e-book anthology be read?
Malte Abraham: Laptop, tablet and PC.
Nikola Richter: That must mean it is in the format of epub3. Multimedia publications can often be costly. Epub files get really big because of the multimedia content. This might be better as an app. At the moment, you can put the content easily on a website, but as soon as you want it to be used offline, it needs to be downloaded.
Max Höfler: I see that this anthology has potential. You can cut out the middleman of a publisher. You can create a really novel communication structure and reader. How do you relate to the traditional structures, Malte and Sven? And to you Nikola, how do you deal with traditional structures of publishing, such as ways of distribution, selection, publishing profiles…
Nikola Richter: There is still the question of money. As soon as you create a cost, there is immediately a barrier. Kabeljau & Dorsch is an independent publishing project, whereas mikrotext was always a genuine publishing house, even if it was not always acknowledged as such. As an editor, I create my own structures – traditional structures don’t understand much about Internet rights, printing rights etc.
Max Höfler: As an author, it is very interesting to bypass the distribution costs, because then you could get more money, increase your wage… New ways of publishing that try to do that, as well as mixing up the relationship between the writer and reader could put more power in the writers’ hands.
Tobias Koch: What I like about the mikrotext subscription, in terms of untraditional publishing structures, is that you only pay once, but you get sent a Dropbox link and have unlimited access to it. If you would forward the link to other people, it would surely pose a problem.
Sven Schaub: We kept the anthology somewhat traditional as we chose to make an e-book and not a website – we wanted a product, something more tangible.
Tom Bresemann: A lot of the thought processes going on in e-publication draw on traditional book publishing thinking. We are children of the 20th century, meaning we are centered on the product. We are thinking about who the potential costumer is, what they want to consume… The question we will pose later on will be regarding the difference between digital and digitized literature and so for example with the anthology I wouldn’t really classify it as digital literature, but rather as a digitized performance.