Novelists go mobile

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

In November we ran our series of stories on cellphones, and the multitude of tasks people were turning to them for, everything from location-based services to medical applications to mobile payment tools.

And though we've known for a while that some people are more comfortable typing on a Blackberry than they are on a keyboard, this latest piece of news caught us by surprise: Half of Japan's top 10 bestselling novels in the first six months of 2007 were written using the mobile phone.

That according to a story from the Sydney Morning Herald (which we read by way of Techmeme and Techcrunch). As a 21-year old woman - and best-selling author - who goes by the nom de plume "Rin" explains:

"I started writing novels on my mobile when I was in junior high school and I got really quick with my thumbs, so after a while it didn't take so long. I never planned to be a novelist, if that's what you'd call me, so I'm still quite shocked at how successful it's turned out."

The article is a fascinating read, perhaps mostly because the medium appears to be shaping not only the kind of authors it attracts, but also the way stories are told.

As the Morning Herald explains:

The stories traverse teen romance, sex, drugs and other adolescent terrain in a succession of clipped one-liners, emoticons and spaces (used to show that a character is thinking), all of which can be read easily on a mobile phone interface. Scene and character development are notably missing.

Japan has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to reading novels, or serials of novels, using a mobile phone. But actually using the phone as the tool for both the writer and the reader is a very information-age type of leap: It would be like reading a typewriter or viewing a painting on the brush. Or looking at a camera to see a photograph ... oh wait, we do that already.