Goldsmiths Prize launches app

Goldsmiths Prize launches app

Goldsmiths Press has released an app for The Goldsmiths Prize ahead of the latest winner, due to be announced today (9th November).

The app, free to download, for iPad and iPhone, was created by Aimer Media (shortlisted for the Futurebook Award: Best Children’s Digital Book 2016) in collaboration with prize director Tim Parnell. It is designed to celebrate the Goldsmith Prize’s winners and shortlists as well as to explore "the broader tradition of exuberantly inventive fiction in which writers make full use of he novel genre’s near limitless resources and possibilities”. It aims to demonstrate the prize’s mission: to do "unusual things", expand discussion of what the novel can be and to take serious discussion of the art of fiction beyond the pages of learned journals.

The app acts as an information hub for the prize, including descriptions and judges' comments for all shortlisted titles for the prize since it was founded in 2013, plus profiles on judges and shortlisted authors. Beyond this, it additionally includes profiles for hypothetical “fantasy prize” titles that “would have been” worthy winners, and includes video clips of authors reading from their novels, such as Anakana Schofield, Rachel Cusk, Mike McCormack and Deborah Levy. 

The most innovative content for the app works to expand the worlds of its prizewinning titles, according to Goldsmiths. It provides insights into the genesis of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Faber & Faber) by Eimear McBride through access to two early drafts of the novel which are then compared, through annotation, with the published book to reveal “intriguing verbal echoes and parallel passages”, illuminating the editing process. It also shows the fresco by Francesco del Cossa in the “Room of Months” in the Palazzo Schiifanoia, Ferrara, Italy, that inspired Ali Smith’s How to Be Both (Harvill Secker). Users can click on an image in the fresco that will then link to passages in the novel. Different page numbers are provided for the two versions of the novels.

Parnell, director of the Goldsmiths Prize, said the current version of the app was “only the beginning”, with plans to populate it with a lot more content by working with publishers. Parnell told The Bookseller, “We’ve got more we want to add to it. It’s partly what they [the authors] want to do and that’s what they alighted on. The greater variety of material the better. The idea is to just get people to engage with the books, particularly those - not Ali and Eimear’s - that are perceived to be difficult access, trying to open that up to as many people as possible to say, ‘this stuff is approachable and readable, seen from certain angles’."

He added, “The key is to read the books, and the material [in the app] is a way of generating interest around the books. At the end of it, what I want them to do is to engage with the texts themselves. There are author interviews and fragments of text and features. It’s just a way of doing what the prize aims to do – to draw attention to what we see as a slightly marginalised area of the novel."

Adrian Driscoll, co-founder and director at Aimer Media, said the app could also be used in teaching to open up discussions as well as to promote the prize. In time he said it may even be monetised. “We’re really pleased with it,” he said. "The idea is it’s a starting point and we’ve discussed with publishers there may even be ways we can, in the longterm, sell things through the app, to turn it into a revenue generating strategy. Everything’s on the table at the moment."

He added: “It’s such a nice thing because it expresses Goldsmiths, it expresses what the press is trying to do and it expresses what the prize is trying to do. It’s not assuming this is the path. The prize was created because they felt this area of literature was being neglected. The idea of the app is to say, ‘here’s another way of drawing attention to the prize and the tradition it’s from’, and to give us a way to find other opportunities, as well as the prize, to talk about literature and show what’s interesting in it."

A formal launch for the app, hoping to involve today's prizewinner, will take place in early December.

Goldsmiths Press, a new university press from Goldsmiths, University of London, was founded last summer on the premise it would be a green open access, digital-first publisher, with aims to "revive and regenerate the traditions and values of university press publishing through the innovative use of print and digital media".