Rethinking the Reality of Storytelling

Rethinking the Reality of Storytelling
By Becky Garrison
 

The origin for the name Small Demons comes from Argentinian writer Borges. He describes the history of the universe as the handwriting of a god to communicate with a small demon. From this literary riff they envisioned the idea of a universal interconnected online library with a mythical almost meta-fictional way of looking at the world. In the Small Demons’ storyverse, the stories are sometimes more real than reality itself.
 
On their website, they describe themselves as a company that believes powerful and interesting things can happen when you connect all the details of books. Since this site focuses on story and not just technology, the majority of their 15 member staff is in Los Angeles, the capital for movie making, with two people based in Seattle, home to technology giants such as Amazon.com, and Richard Nash in New York, the hub for traditional publishing.
 
Instead of just reading a book, readers can enter into the world of the book. Using Zemanta software that suggest links for bloggers when they write a blog post, Small Demons employs this same underlying technology to follow entire books. Upon entering their storyverse, book lovers can pick a person, place or thing that intrigues them. If that item is in their expanding database, they will connect the viewer to any data that’s available. From there, readers create their own storyboards.  

 
Want to explore, say, Roger William? Well then, Small Demons can pull up whatever books, people pages and things that relate to this historical figure. So instead of perusing through the bestseller lists to see what publishers and marketers deem to be “hot reads,” they’ve created an online discovery environment whereby one can search for those books that interest them.
 
Because Small Demons focuses on content rather than the sales statistics, this site presents a means for authors and publishers to connect their books with audiences interested in similar ideas to those presented in a given book. Along those lines, they will put some topics on Twitter or Facebook to see what piques readers’ curiosities.
 
After the website went live in the summer of 2012, they added 7,500 books to the site with a goal of having many more books featured. Initially, they focused on adding the libraries from larger existing publishers as they have the largest book collections. But they are now including independent presses and public domain material. Over time, they will interact with librarians and users to solicit their suggestions for additional inventory they might have missed.
 
Right now, users can favorite items to their personal storyboard and then share them over social media. Their next phase will allow people to see each other’s storyboards. Like any other kind of large-scale enterprises, they need to rely on a broad range of people to develop this venture. So they hope to enlist volunteer curators to assist them in ensuring they have accurate metadata listed on the site.
 
Unlike some sites devoted to book promotion, Small Demons does not solicit funding from publishers looking for venues to promote their favorite authors. Instead, publishers give them books electronically free of charge and then Small Demons gives them the curated files as they develop. When asked if they profit from having books listed on their site, Richard Nash points out that while they are a capitalist company, their aim is not just about selling books or making better data. “The way we think we’ll make money is affiliate linking on site but also licensing data to libraries and other retailers so we can find ways to help people browse more deeply.”
 
Those looking to connect with Small Demons can log onto their website at www.smalldemons.com.

 
Becky Garrison contributes to a range of outlets including The Washington Post‘s On Faith column, The GuardianThe RevealerBelieve Out Loud, and American Atheist. Her seven books include Roger Williams’ Little Book of Virtues (forthcoming), and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church

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