Thursday, 1 May 2014

Fan fiction: Internet is every fan's paradise

Have you ever felt sad after you finished your favourite book, movie, TV show etc. because it was too short and you wanted it to continue? That's when the right fans seek for the "other way" of enjoying their favourite stories.

What is fan fiction?

Ever since the Internet became popular, many fan clubs have created their own webpages to share their opinions, ask questions or simply just to get to know the other fans to enjoy their "guilty pleasures" with.
Many readers volunteer to write their own novels using the characters already created by someone else. These so called "fan fiction" novels can gain popularity quite easily, because their fan base is already there. The potential readers are already familiar with the characters and background and many of them are very excited to read some more stories from "their world".
But is this right? If someone creates the characters and original story, should someone else just take over and continue writing? Well, this is a rather difficult question. It all depends on many conditions.

Copyright issues

Is this legal? This is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you see someone writing a novel using the names and characters, whose rights belong to someone else.

The attitudes of professional writers and creators of source texts to fandom and fanworks are as varied as their understanding of copyright and Fair Use. Some are vehemently opposed to fanworks based on their texts, and some are actively supportive. Still others are fine with fanworks but believe that reading or seeing them constitutes a threat; in fact, fan works pose no greater risk to a professional author than any other artistic works, essays, or even fan mail.

So as you can see, many authors don't mind fans writing their own stories based on the original books, or even encourage this. This includes authors such as  Neil GaimanJ.K. RowlingD.J. MacHaleStephenie MeyerTerry Pratchett.

Is it worth reading?

Well, you have to ask this yourself. Some fans are keen to read everything that's out there, some are a bit hesitant and some fans avoid reading fan fiction. The main reason is, that many people think it would "spoil their experience" from the original book. This depends also on the type of fan fiction. Some may be very well written, follow all the character traits and features, some may be absolutelly off topic. You should read the reviews of the others who already read it, and then decide, if it's worth to spend time reading some amateur work. You can be surprised to find out, that some of them can be very enjoyable. 

Where to find them?

There are many online sources of the fanfiction. Many interesting stories can be found on Amazon launched a new service called Kindle Worlds, where fans can find mostly stories based on comics or TV shows they like. 
One of the most successful fan fiction work currently is a novel by G. Norman Lippert called James Potter, which is obviously telling new stories from the world of Harry Potter. You can download it in many formats for free on the official webpage and if you like it, you can make a donation and support the writer.So as you can see, internet can be an amazing place for the fans, where many new stories can find their readers and it is the best possibility to share your own works with the others.

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Digitalisation: Save the words from fading out

In my last article, I mentioned preserving the old books by digitalisation. Now, I'm going to write more about this, as it is quite an important and interesting topic. The books have also their life cycle and there are many old documents and texts, either written by hand or printed, that have survived too many years and they are starting to be impossible to read, in other words, they are no longer legible.
Every nation or community tries their best to preserve their national heritage. The most famous paintings are protected by special lights or glass, songs are digitalised from the LP records into mp3s, movies are converted from the VHS into DVD or BluRay format. Fans of the TV show Doctor Who are still looking for many old episodes that are completely lost just because BBC decided to get rid of them during the "cleaning" in archives. It works the same way with books.

Why is it important to preserve them?

Many sceptics can ask such question. Well, history repeats itself and many historians believe, that we can learn a lot from the past. While studying history, many old documents are necessary to provide us with information about the past. The use of a bad ink or paper causes the whole paragraphs of text to fade out and the information is lost. Having a non-digitalised archives has been proven to be a bad idea many times. Thing as easy as fire can cause, that countless books or documents are lost in a few minutes. 

Forgotten courage

More than nine million men and women are estimated to have served in the British armed forces during the First World War. Many of the surviving service records from this period can be found in The National Archives, and can be used for tracing an ancestor who fought in the Great War. Unfortunately, more than half of their service records were destroyed in September 1940, when a German bombing raid struck the War Office repository in Arnside Street, London. However, an estimated 2.8 million service records survived the bombing or were reconstructed from the records of the Ministry of Pensions. This means that there is a roughly 40% chance of finding the service record of a soldier who was discharged at some time between 1914 and 1920.
Read more: 
At the time, when the First World War took place, it was almost impossible to preserve the information other than in the form of archived documents. Now, the technology enables us to save everything in the "virtual" or "digital" form, so why not to use this opportunity and make sure we don't forget about the important things from the past.

Project Gutenberg

This is an unbelievably old project established in 1971. Its main purpose is to archive cultural works and national heritage. It now consists of over 45 000 items and it is all the effort of volunteers that keeps this project going. This is the main source for the LibriVox team, already mentioned in my other article.
There are no copyright issues Project Gutenberg should worry about, as all of these books are on the public domain, which means that its intellectual property rights have already expired in the US. 

Our ebooks are free in the United States because their copyright has expired. They may not be free of copyright in other countries. Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright laws of their countries before downloading or redistributing our ebooks. We also have a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.
Read more:

Google Books

This is another service provided by Google Inc. It was founded in 2004 and Google uses its own scanners to digitalise a large amount of books (mainly textbooks for educational purposes). A great advantage of this service is the Optical Character Recognition that converts all the documents into text, which makes it easier to navigate on the page, copy the text or find key words through Google Search. However, not all the books are available for free to everyone, many books are available only partially.

Digital media enable us to preserve what we can and the digital archives create infinitely large libraries with the counless amount of information. It depends only on us, if we fully use these opportunities.

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Textbooks online: Learning something new

Paper vs. computer

Reading books is not always just a leisure activity. We often use textbooks at school or academic sources at the university to learn something new. Sometimes it takes a lot of searching and browsing in order to find exactly what we are looking for. The text that we read printed on the paper seems somewhat more reliable than the facts we find online and therefore the printed books are still the primary source students use. On the other hand, as the technology advances, more and more people start to realise all the advantages "digital studying" has, and therefore its popularity is expected to rise.
Avoiding technology is not an option anymore, and the question now is how to use these tools in a way that can be effective for education. Educators and scholars should consider not only the affordances of technology, but also the theories and practices to be used to improve educational contexts and technology use.
Source: Orey, M., 2013. Educational media and technology yearbook. Volume 37. Springer. Available through RGU Library <> [Accessed 1 May 2014]

There are many webpages such as Google Books, that are trying to build an archive of digitalised books and bring them all together. This is very useful mainly for students, who are looking for a specific information. It would take them countless hours to look for a word they are trying to find, while the "search button" does it all for them in second. Everyone has now access to many more books than in the past. Not every library has all the books you need and many old books are in a really terrible condition. With e-books you no longer have to worry about missing pages, or illegible text. The problem with pages like these is the fact, that they lack the full licence and therefore it is impossible to find a website that has e
verything you are looking for and is free of charge.

A machine used to digitalise books

Testing your knowledge

Oxford University Press

Digital media have many more advantages, for example, interactive features. I'm going to use an example of students studying EU law. This seems to be a rather difficult subject and even if you think you know the whole content of the textbook, you may be surprised how much you actually forgot.
If law students use a digital version of the textbook online, after they have read it, they can use an online test to check their knowledge and find out if their studies were satisfactory. This is an official textbook published by Oxford University Press and the webpage dedicated to it features number of Multiple Choice Questions from every chapter of the book. If you are interested to find out more, check the EU Law Concentrate on this link

Katarina Stiglincova, a student of International Law in the Hague
Our lecturers recommended this online textbook to us and I really liked the possibilities it has. I own the original book, but it is really hard to check if my studying was effective and how much I actually remember from it. Therefore I appreciated this possibility and I would be glad if more textbooks were made available in this form, too. 

Saving time on every word

Can you imagine learning a new language without a computer? One of the most necessary things you need when studying a new langage is a dictionary. You have to learn every word and you often come across the new one that you have to look up. Digital media are helpful here, as well. Pages like Thesaurus, Cambridge Dictionaries Online, or even Google Translate are just digitalised books, even though we don't realise that. Their biggest advantage is, that it is a lot faster to search for word online then to manually browse the whole dictionary. Can you imagine how much time you can save when studying new language if you have an online dictionary? Moreover, the advanced functions enable you to save the words you didn't know, so that you can confortably come back to them later and revise.

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Audio Books: An amazing option for lazy readers

Are you one of the people who enjoy stories, but are too lazy to read a book? Well, here is a solution for you - audio books. It's nothing new, but thanks to the digital media, it is now even easier to access most of the popular new books in audio format. Most of the books are read by professional actors, which makes the experience even more enjoyable.
Before the audiobooks were published online, you had to look for casettes or CDs with audio recording. Now, it takes just a few seconds to purchase any audio book right into your smartphone and you can start listening right away.
In this article, I will mention some of the possibilities you have in order to enjoy your time by listening to the stories you like.


This is probably the most popular possibility. This online store belongs to Amazon since this company bought it for 300 million dollars in March 2008. It features over 150 000 audio recordings and all of them are available to download right into your mobile device or personal computer, which makes it really easy to use. Audible also produces some of the recordings and it includes also podcasts, political speeches and a wide variety of ebooks and journals. If you are interested in this possibility, you can join for a free 30 days trial on

Apple iTunes Audiobooks

For iPhone or iPad users, this would probably be the best possibility. Search for your favourite audiobooks using the iTunes Store. The catalogue can be found in the Books section. The price may vary according to the type of book you want to download.


This is the right option for the fans of "free books". At first, I need to assure you, that this is nothing illegal, no torrents or anything you could consider as piracy. A very nice idea connects the fans of audio books and using online forums, people volunteer to record the books themselves and post it online for free. None of these people get actually paid for it, but in spite of this, a large number of volunteers are very active on this webpage. It is necessary to mention, that all of the books recorded are on the public domain. This means that all the books on this webpage are old enough not to be protected by copyright, so you don't have to worry about piracy. This information is mentioned in the beginning of every librivox recording together with the information about the possibility to volunteer. Check out this amazing project! On the main page you can choose if you want to read or listen. There is also an official app for iOS and Android, which makes this webpage even easier to use.

Good night!

Judging fom personal experience I can say, that listening to audiobooks is a great solution for people who have troubles falling asleep. Just put your smartphone near your bed, turn on your favourite book and relax. Just like children like listening to bedtime stories before falling asleep, you will enjoy this just as much. Moreover, the smartphone apps have also a special "timer function", which makes sure, that the audiobook is turned off after a certain time after you fall asleep. 

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Pottermore: Magical online world of Harry Potter

The beginnings

In  this article, I am going to write about a very special example on the digital media influence on books. You probably heard about the webpage At first, it looks like a regular fanpage, but it's not. This is the official webpage founded by Sony and J.K. Rowling in order to publish the Harry Potter books online. However, they decided to do this in a very extraordinary way.
In April 2009, Pottermore was created, but it has been in a development for two years. Afterwards, the webpage started to roll out for the first million users in July 2011 and then, it was officially open in April 2012 to everyone free of charge.
Digital media allowed them to include also many special features to improve the reader experience and to attract many fans. The fact, that the webpage is official and created by the author of the series makes it very popular and the unpublished content attracts even more readers.

Pottermore isn’t a game: it’s a series of illustrated environments, themed around “moments” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (material from the other novels will be added with time). The primary attraction for Potterphiles is access to arcana Rowling’s been squirreling away in her attic.
Read more:
This is the official video advert published on YouTube to promote the webpage. It describes the special features and the main purpose of the webpage:

Magical bookshop

This is the official source of Harry Potter ebooks and therefore they can be found nowhere else. If you want to buy it from Amazon, the webpage trasfers you into Pottermore shop that claims to be the "only place to buy the Harry Potter eBooks for your Amazon Kindle." The prices of the books vary, every one costs around 5 pounds, and there is a possibility of buying a collection for a reduced price. The ebooks that are available can be read on computer, are compatible with all e-readers and thanks to the free Kindle App everyone can use their smartphones to read, as well.

User experience

The opinions of the fans vary. The fans are quite demanding and expect a lot from the official webpage created by J.K.Rowling. Therefore negative feedback can be found quite often. But there is still a huge fan base happy with the webpage, that keeps it going.
Here are a couple of users' opinions:

Maryia Ivanova:
I love Harry Potter and so naturally, I was very excited when I first heard about Pottermore. I am still using it and enjoy it very much. I like the fact that they have picked a few moments of each chapter and illustrated them, also adding interactive games and sometimes excerpts of the audio books. You can also brew potions, which I liked as well.

Elin Nilsson:
It's very nice but it doesn't live out to its full potential. I'm using it sometimes, but I'm now very far behind. I think that it could be so much better... I would appreciate if it was a little bit more interactive and if there were more forums.

Veronika Hribova:
As a fan of Harry Potter, I expected very much from this website. I was looking forward to it for quite a long time, but it didnt really keep me interested for more than a week. On the other hand, I liked the Sorting hat, that sorted me into the faculty. It was like a small test of my personality. I enjoyed this part very much.

Dominika Slusna:
The admins of the webpage often ask children to draw pictures, which is very creative and supports other interests other than sitting in front of the computer. There are often competitions for the School Cup, where everyone has to gain points in order to win. That supports team work and co-operation. It's interesting to see children teaming up and fighting for the mutual goal, helping each other in the game.

As you can see, the opinions of people are both negative and positive. There are many possibilities how to improve the webpage, but it is important to say, that the idea of how to connect digital media with one of the most favourite books of the last years is amazing.

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Authors online

Letters from the fans

Many fans from all over the world admire the authors of their favourite books so much, that they want to contact them and share their appreciation. However, this is not the only reason. Some of the fans want to just express their opinions about their favourite books, ask questions or simply find out more about the ordinary life of the writers.
In the past, this was more difficult, as the only possibility was basically the ability to write a letter and then wait, if the author will have enough time or will to reply. Some writers, for example L. Frank Baum (author of the children series The Wizard of Oz) were kind enough to care about their fans, listen to their feedback and even reply to them. Baum appreciated this very much, often including an extra introduction in his books thanking children for their letters and answering their frequently asked questions.

Authors heading online

Nowadays, digital media made the communication between the authors and fans a lot easier. Probably the most preferable tool for this is Twitter, where you can find many celebrities sharing information about their lives with their fans. It enables ordinary people to write something on their profile page and then simply wait for an answer. Some of the authors not only write about their everyday life, but include some additional information about the books they written or about the ones that are just in the process of writing. How cool is that? Don’t you feel that it brings you closer to the writers and in some way connects you with them?


Well, let’s use some of the examples to illustrate how authors can communicate with their fans.

Veronica Roth, author of famous “Divergent” series:

George R.R. Martin, author of the "Game of Thrones" posts mainly jokes about his books on his Twitter account:
J.K. Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" series:

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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Goodreads: What to read next?

What is

This is a very interesting webpage, that is certainly worth your attention. It is neccessary to note, that it is not a social network, nor a book store. The official category it falls into is called "social cataloguing" site. You probably know the Internet Movie Database. So you can consider this to be the IMDb's friend, who is interested more in books, than in movies. was launched in January 2007 and by now, their user base has grown up to 20 million users. Because of its great functionality and popularity, it was acquired by Amazon in 2013, which directly incorporated this webpage into their new Kindle Paperwhite model.


How does it work?

It is very simple. You register and create your own profile. Goodreads asks you about the books you have already read. After you finish your own personal list of books that you already read, the webpage recommends some other stories you are likely to enjoy. This is based on the similarity of the books or on the other people, who read similar novels than you. This can be very useful. You can discover many interesting books that you enjoy and you therefore no longer need to search the bookshop and read every book's description to find something interesting to read next.

Rating system

You are asked to review every book that you've read. It is not obligatory, but user feedback helps to find out, how the general public views every book. 5 star rating can help you recognise the quality of the book and what you can expect from it. Reading the comments can be sometimes helpful, but sometimes absolutely useless, because a lot of negative feedback is based on the subjective opinion of the reader, which doesn't have to correspond with your own. 

Updating your status

This webpage has some of the features that are similar to the ones of social networks. You can update your progress, even the webpage you are on. You can add friends, who can then see which books you read, which you are planning to read , and which you are currently reading. This is particularly useful, because if you find out, that some of your friends is reading a book you were planing to read, you can read their review and ask them about their opinion.

The social media were always used in order to connect people. Goodreads does just that. Connects you with your friends - through books. Maybe next time it will motivate you to engage in conversation with someone about your favourite book.

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