Random House is expanding the Vintage digital Brain Shots imprint, releasing five further titles as the 'Summer of Unrest' series this summer.
Speaking at the inaugural Futurebook Innovation Workshop, held in London Bridge, digital editor Dan Franklin announced that five 10,000 word e-books would be released on 28th July, priced £2.99, with Franklin saying the books, and the imprint, will be aiming to fill the space for long-form journalism left as traditional media contracts.
The specially-commissioned titles, all written by journalists, will be: Kettled Youth by Dan Hancox; The Debt Delusion by Mehdi Hassan; The Revolution Road by Peter Beaumont; Digital Activism or Slack-tivism? by Tom Chatfield, and Nariman Youssef's Tahrir: 18 Days of Grace. Speaking to The Bookseller, Franklin said: "The books all look at key themes behind revolution and unrest in genreal but all focus in on a specific area. All the authors have a strong online presence and a parent media organisation that they can market through, and we will be backing that too."
He said the titles had taken a couple of months to commission, and were a reaction to what Franklin was seeing online of people being engaged with the issues of today. He said the market for the series would be those who enjoy reading quality narrative non-fiction, in magazines such as Granta and the New Yorker, as well as younger readers attracted by the shorter length.
Franklin added that there would be another new Brain Shots series in the new year. He also said that Chatto had a non-fiction series called Counterblasts in the 1990s, and RH may be "looking at reinvigorating that too". Franklin said the aim was to make Brain Shots the "pre-eminent high quality non-fiction imprint in the digital space".
Speaking at Workshop, Franklin said: "We need to be proactive rather than reactive in this space." He also said that, though some initiatives and digital ideas would not be successful, failure should not be embraced as part of the process. He said: "We shouldn't be gleeful in that. Failure is not your friend; it is your enemy."
Meanwhile, Profile Books digital publishing director Michael Bhaskar presented a Serpent's Tail cross-platform project, to be released in late August. Far South is a fictional narrative, presented as a case book about missing theatre director Gerardo Fischer, and the book will contain QR codes for the reader to jump to content on Youtube, the wider internet and a dedicated site with additional content. Bhaskar said part of the idea had been around "helping independent booksellers" get more involved in selling interactive and digital products, as this is still a physical book that can be sold in a conventional way.
The packed event was attended by 200 delegates, with speakers also including Hachette head of digital George Walkley, Harlequin Mills & Boon digital and marketing director Tim Cooper and Rebecca Ikin, Pan Macmillan marketing director. Among the other speakers were Matt Miller and Marcus Woxneryd of digital design studio ustwo, who presented their Nursery Rhymes with Storytime app, and urged publishers to experiment with digital technologies.
Speakers from Walkley to Ikin, and Penguin's marketing manager Ruth Spencer, stressed the importance of collaboration and openness when working on digital products, with Faber head of digital publishing Henry Volans and Max Whitby of Touch Press also emphasising the need to development "partnerships", rather than treating contributors as clients.