A FEW weeks ago, my colleague The Bluffer drew your attention to A Million Penguins, Penguin's wiki-based online collaborative novel that can be written, altered and read by anyone. "Can a community write a novel? Let's find out," said Jeremy Ettinghausen, Penguin's digital publisher.That's the whole bit of the article, but here's the link to the Scotsman for those interested.
Well, having reached an astonishing 10 hits per second, the project has now metastasised into three different novels, as the "community" went Lord Of The Flies and split into separate factions. In a way, I'm unsurprised. If you advertise an arena to display the unedited scribblings of every wannabe with a broadband connection, you can't be too taken aback when it descends into an attention-seeking tug of war.
Although Penguin maintains that it's not a talent contest, it must realise that any slightly ajar door will soon be jam-packed with hopeful toes. It reminds me of the wonderful retort that the late Giles Gordon gave to an aspiring author who asked how to get published: "Write a good book."
Despite - as predicted by Penguin itself - descending into alphabetti spaghetti fairly quickly, A Million Penguins might have some afterlife as a curiosity. But at least it shows that publishers are taking the opportunities of the internet seriously, and not wringing their hands over the often heralded Death of the Book.
An Update on the Wikinovel...
It seems things are not going well.