DOUGLAS ADAMS ON GETTING THE BOOK INVENTED PROPERLY

10 March 2012

By Sophie Rochester

douglas-adams1

douglas-adams1-300x300Earlier this year we announced the International Douglas Adams Animation Competition on The Literary Platform. In 1993, the author of cult-classic The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy recorded a short piece of audio for his then US publisher, Bob Stein of ebook house Voyager Expanded Books. Now, nearly two decades on, a play of the recording ­– entitled Getting the Book Invented Properly – reveals its remarkable prescience. Adams, with his characteristic wit, charts the evolution of the book from the ‘hardware problems’ of writing on rocks, to scrolls, to the bound book and finally the silicon chip:

‘All the things anybody liked about previous types of books – pictures, text, scrolling, page turning – could be modelled in software and you could take as many books as you wanted, anywhere you liked.’

Douglas Adams, who died in 2001, didn’t live to see this vision realized on the grand scale, as it is today, but during his lifetime he was hugely passionate about the potential of new technology.

He wrote and spoke eloquently and prolifically on the subject; the posthumously published The Salmon of Doubt collects together many of his technology essays. He was besotted with his Mac (the first person in Europe to buy one, no less) and an early adopter of email too.

Building the International Douglas Adams Animation Competition around Getting the Book Invented Properly seemed an apt tribute for a man who did so much for both books and technology. The recording was kindly donated to the Literary Platform by Bob Stein and animation was the obvious way to give Adams’ words new life.

The Literary Platform is currently inviting entries to the competition, which is international and open to all. Entrants are invited to use part, or all, of the Douglas Adams recording to create an animation that best illustrates his words.

The competition will be judged by the actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry, who was a close friend of Douglas Adams (and the second person in Europe to buy a Mac); Bob Stein, Adams’ publisher at Voyager Expanded Books and the founder of the Institute for the Future Book and SocialBook; Ranjit Dhaliwal, guardian.co.uk Picture Editor and animation enthusiast; and Merlin Nation and Chris Angelkov of the ATYP studio.

Entrants are asked to upload their animation by 11 April to Launchpad7, a new user-generated competition platform, where the public will be able to vote for their favourite animation to help the judges get down to a longlist of candidates.

The judges’ chosen winner will be announced on Towel Day, the annual celebration of Douglas Adams on 25 May when fans carry a towel in his honour. The winner will receive an iPad2 loaded with Douglas Adams books and apps, and a Don’t Panic towel to carry on Towel Day. Selected entrants will also see their work hosted on The Literary Platform and exhibited at an event to tie in with Towel Day celebrations.

You can visit The Literary Platform website to listen to the Getting the Book Invented Properly recording and for more information on the International Douglas Adams Animation Competition.

Competition entries are starting to go up now but do look at the site in April to see all the entries.