Keitai Shousetsu: A Study of Japan's Mobile Phone Fiction

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Introduction

Context

Keitai Shousetsu: Who, What, How?

Keitai Shousetsu and Participatory Culture

Bestsellers and Crossovers

Praise and Criticism

Cell Phone Novels Outside of Japan

Reflection

Works Cited

Cell Phone Novels in North America

To date, North American endeavors to import the cell phone novel have not caught on very well. Some authors, such as journalist Matthew Richtel, have been experimenting with the "Twiller," that is, a "Twitter Thriller," while a small, but dedicated body of writers and readers have been contributing to North American sites such as Quillpill and Textnovel. So far, it appears as though the trend is not catching on as it did in Japan, and this can be attributed to the differences between North American "keyboard" culture and Japanese "keypad" culture. Why read on your phone when you have a laptop? Additionally, those long public commutes in cramped trains are not as common in automobile-dependent North America, and texting, while extremely popular, has not been around for that long, relatively speaking. Finally, at this point in time, most cell phones do not have Internet access, although this is slowly changing. From my adventures around the Internet, it seems as though most of the notable North American writers of cell phone novels are previously published authors seeking to experiment a little. We are a far cry from the prolific, amateur-based, participatory cell phone novel culture that has emerged in Japan over the last decade, but, as Grossman reflects in "Books Gone Wild," perhaps our version will be the self-publishing phenomenon that has already resulted in bestsellers like The Shack. Add to this some social networking features and self-publishing options on devices like the Kindle, and a North American version of the keitai shousetsu takeover may be in our future. I will wrap up this somewhat lengthy presentation with a list of links to some Western cell phone novels and cell phone novel websites, just in case you're now inspired to read or write your own!

Twitter Novels:

Smallplaces: A twitter novel about offices written by novelist N. L. Belardes.

140novel: A twitter novel by Molly Wood, Tom Merritt, and Jason Howell.

Good Captain: Based on Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno," this twitter novel was recently released as a print version and is available on Amazon.

Websites:

Quillpill: Previously an independent 'twitter-like' website, Quillpill is now on twitter. "Tell a little story. Quillpill is an app for drafting, editing, promoting, and publishing your fiction. Private beta, DM for an invite." Currently, there are only 183 followers. UPDATE: As of May 2010, Quillpill appears to be defunct.

Textnovel: Besides MobaMingle, this site is the most similar to cell phone novel websites in Japan. It offers interactive features and even publishing opportunities. The site seems to host a thriving little community of writers and fans, and provides free access to cell phone novels in a wide variety of genres: "Textnovel is a community of authors and readers using the Internet, cellphones, emails and text messaging to experience a new way to create, read and share fiction and other stories. Here are some unique things members can do on textnovel: Create and add to your story on the website, by email or by text. Write your story from your cellphone! Read the story on your cellphone! Get notifications as new chapters are added by your friends or favorite authors, either by email or text message or both. Make your story private or public. Use a pen name or your own name. Invite co-authors to contribute to and help you write your story. Textnovel offers cash prizes to winners and publishing opportunities" (site).

MobaMingle: A North American version of the DeNa company's Japanese cell phone novel site. Unlike the above two sites, this one appears to be targeted mainly at teens who are "first time authors with no professional writing experience" (site). The MobaStory section of the site offers templates and suggestions for writers who can create their own avatars and interact with the community of readers and writers.

South Africa's Kontax Experiment:

Finally, check out South Africa's cell phone novel experiment, Kontax. Called m-novels in South Africa, the potential of cell phone novels in the fostering of reading and writing is being explored by the Shuttleworth Foundation, who launched Kontax on September 20, 2009. The m-novel is available in both English and isiXhosa, and "aims to not only explore the potential for increased reading and writing for 21st century teens through mobile phones, but also to introduce a more interactive style of story writing and publishing that holds appeal to the participatory culture of youth" (Press Release). You can also read this article for more information about the project.

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This paper was originally written in December 2009 by Brianna Erban for LIS 585: Multimedia Literacies. This revised version was submitted to fulfill the requirements for LIS 600: Capping Exercise at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Last updated May 6, 2010.