Digital Distribution? Video Games? Marvel Illustrated? The iWhat?

In my Salinger post a few days ago, I made a quick jab towards the end about the video game-ization (I coined it here first, folks) of novels. So in case you haven’t heard the news, the 14th century Divine Comedy is being converted into a video game by EA, the same company responsible for this. Numerous sites have already lamented the transformation of Dante’s words into a corpse-littered action game, so I won’t belabor the subject. What’s interesting to me is what’s next. Take, for example, Penny Arcade’s take on where this could go in  the future:

This is obvious farce, but it does bear the question of what shapes literary fiction will be made to fit in the future. Are we that far away from an Old Man and the Sea game? Maybe something that fleshes out the conquering back story of Othello? And what happens when we throw other forms of media in the mix? For years now, Marvel Comics has been adapting great literary works that have fallen into the public domain into graphic novels. That’s all one branch of their publishing house, Marvel Illustrated, works on. Check out their takes on Pride and Prejudice, The Odyssey, and yes, a deluxe, hardcover edition of the aforementioned Moby Dick.

So how will literary fiction be represented in the future? Writers are already bemoaning the fact that they have to keep up blogs and concoct elaborate viral videos even as major publishing houses slash their advertising budgets or focus everything on a few mega-blockbusters. What will happen when the release of a new novel must coincide with a tie-in video game and comic book? Will the actual work on the page suffer? Improve? Stay the same?

Obviously, e-readers like the Kindle are one way this whole digital distribution thing may shake out, but perhaps you’ve heard of Apple’s iPad, a project so long in development you can find cave paintings about its impending arrival. The iPad has promised to revolutionize the print industry through iBook, a digital distribution system/eReader. With the iPad and a wifi connection, users will be able to download books, order magazine subscriptions and even purchase comics without ever leaving their home. And the best part is that everything’s in color and the text can be displayed in two appealing ways: horizontally and vertically. It doesn’t resemble the monochromatic Kindle that looks suspiciously like my Gameboy circa 1989. It doesn’t matter if you think eReaders are the worst thing to happen to literature since Dan Brown. If the iPad has even a fraction of the impact on the book market that the original iPod had on the music industry, then we’re on the precipice of a major turning point for how the publishing industry will operate. There’s no point in commiserating. 

And if all this news about the digital is too much for you to handle, I suggest you take a deep breath, relax, and check this out.  It’s the Angry Video Game Nerd reading the novelization of Mega Man 2 in its 90 minute entirety. Enjoy.