From M-novels to the Death of Paper Publishing: Part 1

by Roz Foster | A Ruelle Electrique Reprint

Part 1: The South African M-Novel Kontax

The m-novel. The mobile novel: a novel written and delivered on a cell phone.

The m-novel is typically associated with the confessional thumbs of emotionally distraught Japanese girls.  Although, the first m-novel, Deep Love (posted online in 2000), was written by a Japanese man, a tutor in his mid-thirties, who self-published his book and sold one hundred thousand copies (Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker, December 2008).

Smartly, Japanese publishers now scoop up popular m-novels and routinely sell them by the tens of thousands. The m-novel has spread into China, Taiwan, South Korea and Europe, and now it’s reached South Africa. The latest news on m-novels swirls around Kontax, an m-novel about South African youths written in English and isiXhosa (a Bantu tonal language spoken by 7.9 million people).

Behind the project is Steve Vosloo, Communications and Analytical Skills Fellow for the Shuttleworth Foundation, a South African organization interested in open source learning. Vosloo writes, “In [South Africa] there is about 10% PC-based internet connectivity, while the number of people with access to cell phones ranges from 60% to 90% (depending on which community you look at). Of those phones, a high number are WAP-enabled and can access the internet.”

With high saturation levels of internet-ready phones (and not so much personal computer saturation), the hand-held is the premiere vehicle for delivering media in South Africa. Thus, Vosloo sees the cell-phone as the perfect device with which to improve South African literacy.

Promoting literacy in developing regions using cell phones and open source technology isn’t the only scoop here. What this South African success story hints at is wide-scale transformation in the publishing industry. The success of Kontax with newly literate South African teens is a harbinger of doom for those near relics: paper books…. READ MORE.

This was a Ruelle Electrique Reprint and was originally published at Glopilot.

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