Neal Stephenson creates DVD-like special features for books

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

Neal Stephenson has always loved playing around with the format of books. He most notably created the fictional interactive tome A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer in The Diamond Age, and he also built the Metaweb in the real world, a wiki site (since discontinued) where he annotated ideas from his novel Quicksilver.

Now he's gone out and actually created a new platform for publishing interactive books, called PULP, as part of a new startup company. It lets writers add special features to their books, sort of like DVD extras, and layers in social networking functions as well. Here's what Venturebeat has to say about it:

"Author Neal Stephenson has been credited for inspiring today's virtual world startups with his novel Snow Crash. Now he's launching a startup himself: Subutai, where he is co-founder and chairman.

The company, based in Seattle and San Francisco, has developed what it calls the PULP platform for creating digital novels. The core of the experience is still a text novel, but authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video. There are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers.

Stephenson said in an interview that this material is an extension of what many science fiction and fantasy novels already offer.

"I can remember reading Dune for the first time, and I started by reading the glossary," he said. "Any book that had that kind of extra stuff in it was always hugely fascinating to me."

Subutai is launching its inaugural product today, a serialized story called The Mongoliad about the Mongol invasion of Europe. The company promises to release a new chapter a week. Readers can pay $5.99 for a six-month subscription fee or $9.99 for a year."

And this bit is especially interesting:

"Stephenson isn't writing the book alone. There's a team led by a writer Mark Teppo; it also includes Greg Bear, author of Blood Music and other science fiction novels. Stephenson compared the experience to writing a TV show, and not just because it's a team of writers. The Mongoliad will have an ending, but there's room for sequels and other stories set in the world, so it's kind of like season one of a show."

You can check it out on the Mongoliad site.