By agreeing to write a post-event blog posting, I was able to wrangle a seat at a recent book signing in Second Life. First, some background.
A few years ago Julian Dibbell spent a year earning money as a trader inside of Ultima Online. He wrote a book, Play Money, about his experience doing so. I’ve got the book and have skimmed parts of it. It is currenty queued up behind Synthetic Worlds (you can tell where my brain’s been at lately).
In a wholly appropriate move given the subject of the book, a decision was made to conduct a book signing event inside of Second Life, and also to sell virtual copies of the book. Here are some pictures.
I arrived a bit late (a lot late, actually) and people were already standing in line to get their books autographed:
Things looked a bit chaotic, and it wasn’t clear what was going on:
Some people were reading their new books (this was mind-warping):
At this point you are probably thinking that they are pretending to read a pretend book. You would be wrong — the book is real and tangible, and it can be read with ease.
The in-world book contains the entire text of the physical edition and is eminently readable onscreen. Let’s zoom in for a closer look:
I hope that you can read it; I certainly was able to read it on my laptop screen during the event. The 3D nature of the Second Life world makes zooming in a natural and very helpful gesture in situations like this. In fact, you can start to think of the world as having an irregular resolution, since you can zoom in at any point to see more, and the things that you most want to see are quite often stored at a very high resolution.
The book was created by a gentleman by the name of Falk Bergman. This is the second book that he’s done, and I hope that is is not the last. He doesn’t have a blog, but I told him that he should.
I have three important points to make here, and then I have to scamper off to a meeting: 1. You can make real money inside of a virtual world. 2. Events inside of Second Life can be compelling. 3. Virtual books can and do actually work.
Feel free to challenge any of these, especially the last one. At this point I am not suggesting that we are all going to start reading 3D books projected onto a 2D screen. However, thing of that virtual book as a proxy for a Word document or a PDF, perhaps stored in Amazon S3. By handing someone the virtual book you are giving them the address at which they can find the real document. What if it was report, or a briefing, or a specification? If environments like Second Life are going to be used to create a more compelling environment for real-world collaboration across vast distances (and I am 200% certain that they will), then why the heck shouldn’t the shared knowledge space for the project be accessible from within the space? Shouldn’t there be a library chock full of these documents available for reading and for checkout? Seems to me that there should, and that there will.