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Charles Dickens of the electronic era writes -

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Charles Dickens of the electronic era writes a book on Twitter

Lisa Millar reported this story on Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:43:50

PETER CAVE: And now to the Charles Dickens of the electronic age - an American author is using
Twitter to serialise his novel, 140 characters at a time.

Dickens used to maximise his returns by publishing many of his novels a chapter at a time, but the
aspiring tweeter says although he will not make any money on Twitter, he's hoping it might be
enough of a tease to attract a publisher.

But social media commentators aren't so sure the mini-blogging site is the best place for someone
to be reading a full size book.

North America correspondent Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLER: This is the last thing San Francisco author Matt Stewart wrote on his Twitter site.

EXCERPT FROM MATT STEWART'S TWITTER (voiceover): Twine and tissue paper and scotch tape locking
down the box lid to find her favourite dessert in the whole.

LISA MILLER: If you'd logged on just 12 minutes earlier you would have read this.

EXCERPT FROM MATT STEWART'S TWITTER (voiceover): Her birthday after all, Ezzie dug her
sapphire-encrusted scissors out from the giant wool bag and snipped the.

LISA MILLER: They're lines from his novel - The French Revolution - and he's putting the entire
thing on the online messaging service Twitter, 140 characters at a time. He's doing it for free
because he couldn't find a publisher.

MATT STEWART: I actually was at a conference a few weeks ago where Twitter, for the first time,
made itself really useful. People would be giving presentations but almost more interesting was be
kind of the back-channel discussion going on about the presentation, so that was a really valuable
moment for me.

But the answer really came to me, you know, where all great ideas come, and that's in the shower.

LISA MILLER: How are you going to earn any money?

MATT STEWART: Great question! Well you know, I believe that if I develop an audience for what I am
doing, the money will come. It may not be on this one, but it may be somewhere else.

I've been actually recently been catching up with the Ricky Gervais podcast, which I highly
recommend. It's kind of old but I was slow to that one. You know, they gave away the first season
for free. They put out a really terrific product and then they were able to charge for it later.

So I have no idea how I'm going to monetise completely but I think there's room for it when you
build a market and an audience that, you know, when they come to like it, they'll pay for it.

LISA MILLER: Now it's a bit tricky to read I must confess. I went on and had a look and is that one
of the problems for people do you think?

MATT STEWART: Yeah I agree. I mean I wouldn't want to sit down and read a novel backwards, it's not
really fun, or at 140 characters, but I do think Twitter's really effective at getting people's
attention quickly.

LISA MILLER: JoAnn Peach is a social media consultant with Fluid Focus communications.

JO ANN PEACH: I don't think that it's the most ideal place to read a book but it's certainly
attention getting. And so when the market for novelists is saturated, such as this, and there's a
lot of people getting laid off and they think, I'm going to write the next great American novel,
right, because I have all this time, it certainly gives him a little bit better edge than people
who are not socialising their book around.

LISA MILLER: Twitter might be growing in popularity but it has major media executives mystified -
there's no profit being made and no sign of a business model to suggest that will happen anytime
fast. It's something most of the new media sites like Facebook and YouTube have in common.

JD Lasica is the founder of the consultancy Socialmedia.biz.

JD LASICA: Twitter is about conversation, it's not about a publishing or distribution platform so
much, but I did some back-of-the-napkin math and a 100,000 word novel came out to over 5,000
tweets, so that's not the sort of thing I'd like to see in my Twitter inbox every day, another
several hundred tweets about a particular chapter of a novel.

Some forms of media are just meant to remain the way they are so a book is best read as a book, you
can read it online, you can read it on your iPhone or on your Blackberry but in a Twitter stream it
just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me.

LISA MILLER: The new media, the actual companies, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or YouTube,
aren't making any money are they?

JD LASICA: Well they're not quite yet. I think Twitter is going to make money because it's becoming
indispensible to a lot of people.

They may not make it through advertising or through subscriptions but I think they'll find a way to
make it through the fact that people are sharing some really interesting information about
themselves, their personal habits or buying habits, with trusted friends online and it's all
public, it's all out there. People don't even think about the fact that they're putting stuff out
there in the public arena that marketers can use and monetise in some way.

PETER CAVE: The founder of the consultancy Socialmedia.biz, JD Lasica. Our reporter there was Lisa
Miller.