Science Museum to display James novel

Science Museum to display James novel

An electronic version of Peter James’ 1993 novel Host, which was published on two floppy discs, is to go on display in London’s Science Museum as the world’s first electronic novel.

Penguin published Host, about a computer scientist who believes he can cheat death by having the contents of his brain downloaded into a computer and then having his body frozen, in traditional print formats as well as electronically.

In researching the novel, James spent time with academics and students in the Cognitive Sciences department of Sussex University. When the book came out in hardback one of the students contacted James and said there were some interesting platforms, such as Voyaguer, for producing books in electronic formats.

A year later, coinciding with the paperback, the electronic version was launched on Mac and PC platforms.

Among the technology in the electronic version was the ability to click on keywords and be taken to descriptions and photographs from James’ research, as well as an author photograph that “came alive” when it was clicked on.

James, now published by Pan Macmillan, said: "When my novel Host was published by Penguin on two floppy discs, and billed as the world's first electronic novel, I was pilloried by the press all over the world, accused of attempting to destroy the novel.

"I said at the time that electronic novels would catch on when they became as nice to read as the printed page and more convenient than a printed book. That day is more or less here, and I'm pleased to see that far from killing the novel, it is thriving more than ever.”

An exclusive deal with the then book chain Dillons saw 12,000 electronic copies of Host sold in the first month of release.

It has not yet been confirmed when or where in the museum Host will go on display.