Coliloquy, a Palo Alto-based startup launching today exclusively on Amazon Kindle E-Ink devices, has a new take on digital publishing. Explained simply, it’s an e-book-age version on choose-your-own-adventure, allowing readers to make choices within a book that affect its outcome; in some cases, with continuing serial novels, those choices can actually be sent back to the writer to consider as he or she is writing the next chapters of the book. Coliloquy founders Lisa Rutherford and Waynn Lue call it “Active Fiction,” and it’s an outgrowth of the Kindle Developer Program for Active Content (mostly used to develop games for Kindle devices), though Coliloquy is the first company to develop books within the program. Coliloquy’s books are, in fact, apps, enabling them to do wholly un-book-like things.
Rutherford, former president of the virtual currency company Twofish, and Lue, who worked as a Google engineer, are both Silicon Valley veterans who’ve worked with other startups before. Rutherford is focusing on the editorial side of Coliloquy, seeking experienced authors whose work might be suited to the company’s choice-based platoform, while Lue is more focused on the technical side.
Coliloquy launches with four titles, all genre-based fiction, that take advantage of the Coliloquy platform in different ways. Witches Brew by Heidi R. Kling is a YA series about a young witch; Arcania, Trial by Fire #1 by Liz Maverick is a YA fantasy about a young woman with genetic gifts; Dead Letter Office is a southern gothic mystery hinged on a set of letters offering clues and choices for the reader; finally Getting Dumped (see below for the PW Review) is a romance serial in which readers get to decide how the protagonists responds to the touch choices in her romantic life.
Each title costs $4.99. Coliloquy books are currently available only for Amazon’s E-Ink Kindles, not the Kindle smartphone apps, but the company has plans to bring the platform to the Kindle Fire. The company will add titles by three new authors in 2012. Coliloquy has acquired only e-book rights to the books.
Here's the PWreview of one of the Coliloquy launch titles, Getting Dumped by Tawna Fenske:
Tawna Fenske Coliloquy, $4.99 e-book / Kindle Active Content
Choose your own adventure books from our youth have grown up and gone digital. This is an "interactive" e-book, with choice points where the reader decides what happens next. After reading a certain amount of the book, the reader must "subscribe" to the title to receive the remainder of the story, which has been customized to reflect the decisions that have been made. This story’s protagonist JJ Shultz is a savvy public relations professional who gets reassigned to the sanitation department when her boss retires. To her delight, the new job entails her operating heavy machinery to compact and crush garbage, just as she'd always wanted, but her boyfriend, who comes off as a jerk despite being a great kisser, is outraged. At the dump, JJ meets two attractive colleagues and stumbles upon a mystery. From the review copy PW saw, it’s difficult to tell whether this intriguing mystery and potential love scenes with three men take full advantage of the potential of the Coliloquy format, but it's certainly an enticing mechanic to deliver to the reader a customized ending.