Another novel idea: GoogleMapped books

26 Nov 2008

Following up last week's news that a novelist is using t-shirts with QR codes to distribute his new mobile novel, here's another way the wireless web is transforming books: geotagged narrative.

German writer Christoph Benda has released an electronic version of his debut novel, Senghor on the Rocks, in which each page is geotagged and linked to GoogleMaps to illustrate the environment in which the story takes place with satellite images.

Florian Ledermann, a software engineer at the Vienna University of Technology, who worked with Benda on the project, told the Sydney Morning Herald that as the story takes place in a city and a country with which many people unfamiliar (the Senegalese capital of Dakar), they wanted to "add something to the story that helps readers "&brkbar; to envision the mood of the story without illustrating it."

Purists will complain, of course, about writers being encouraged to be lazy by letting GoogleMaps do the heavy lifting when describing locations. On the other hand, novelist Elmore Leonard has made a good career out "leaving out the parts that people tend to skip" and letting action and dialogue describe characters and setting.

And as books go electronic and mobile, leveraging the web to enrich the experience may be what ultimately separates the Kindle, say, from standard books. Novels and travel books embedded with maps, streaming soundtracks and Wikipedia links‾ Why not‾

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