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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Well Played- Penguin UK’s “We Tell Stories”

As an avid reader, I’m always on the look out for that next great book to lose myself in. While many authors have embraced social media and have incorporated blogs and personal websites into their marketing strategy, I had often felt that there was a lot of untapped potential for social media to really captivate potential readers and connect them to new stories. I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon We Tell Stories, an initiative by the UK division of Penguin Books.

The premise is this:

Over six weeks, Penguin enlisted critically acclaimed authors to create stories that are made specifically for the internet to promote these six  Penguin classics.

The 39 Steps
by John Buchan
The Haunted Dolls House
by M R James
Fairy Tales
by Hans Christian Andersen
Thérèse Raquin
by Émile Zola
Hard Times
by Charles Dickens
Tales from the 1001 Nights
The results have been really cool.

21 Steps

The 21 Steps was inspired by The 39 Steps and uses a Google Maps Mashup to tell the story of a man who finds himself embroiled in a murder. Readers follow his journey around the city as he tries to put the pieces together to figure out what was going on. This was a really cool use of map mashup technology as it gave a unique perspective of the character running all around town.


Slice by Toby Litt, tells the story of an American girl named Lisa (aka Slice) who moves in to a creepy old house in London with her parents. Strange occurrences lead her to believe the house might be haunted, and she decides to investigate. You can connect with Slice and her parents by reading their respective blogs or following them on twitter. It’s a new take on The Haunted Dolls House.

Read Slice’s blog

A teenage girl, a haunted house, a ghost story for digital natives

Read Ray and Lynn’s blog

Slice’s parents, Ray and Lynn, find that an ordinary home exchange can lead to extraordinary discoveries

Follow Ray and Lynn on Twitter

  • If anything it’ll put my mind to rest. Wish us luck. God bless. xxx

  • @mbhulo I’ll show Ray Lisa’s journal when we get back. We’re going to look in the hole at the bottom of the garden.

  • Ray’s back. He’s got the batteries. I told him about the hare and he’s right, I’m overwrought with worry.

Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales (a tribute to the Hans Christian Andersen Tome) is an interactive choose-you-own-adventure type story where readers get to pick out the elements that shape the plot.

Your Place and Mine

In Your place and mine, authors Nicci Gerrard and Sean French wrote their story in real time. For a one week, they spent an hour each day writing the story in real time. Readers could watch the story unfold, as each sentence was created before their eyes. (A tribute to Therese Raquin by Emile Zola)

Hard Times

Matt Mason’s Hard Times is told via online slide presentation, it’s a wonderfully visual interpretation of Charles Dickens’ book of the same name.

The (former) General

The (Former) General let’s you choose the direction of the story literally – by choosing which way you want to either left or right. This one is an ode to 1001 Nights, the famous Arabian tale.

My Two Cents

I loved going through these stories as it showed the evolution of story telling blended with technology. As we continue to get more digital in our every day lives I am eager to see the direction in which interactivity will shape new content. My thirst for stories is never ending, and while I will always love curling up with a good book, these digital experiments captured my imagination in a new way, by putting a technological spin on an old classic.
I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. I should also add that I found this experiment to be successful as I ordered three of the books off of Amazon.

Comments: 1

  • adam montandon

    October 2, 2008

    Hey, the stories are SO cool! I love 21 steps!

    We are working with Puffin Childrens books at the moment promoting them online with a series of topical games and activities that link in to real world stuff.

    I think now book publishers are really going “beyond the page” in the way that movies and TV shows have been doing for many years.

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