Penguin Re-Classicizes

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Following its modern cover makeovers of titles in its Classics line, Penguin Books continues to court cool and new audiences by latching onto the nascent alternate reality game movement, in its "We Tell Stories" campaign. Penguin solicited six different authors to write contemporary re-imaginings of classics and then worked with U.K. developers SixtoStart to present each as online interactive experiences. "Working with a client like Penguin is to take what we've learned from the games we designed and make them accessible to a larger audience," says SixtoStart CEO Dan Hon. "What we're doing with each of the [Penguin] stories is bringing readers up to date to draw attention to the vast, long tail of content that Penguin has. We thought that getting contemporary authors who were able to offer fresh takes on those stories would get people interested in the Penguin brand. It's a great experiment in digital storytelling and it's a wonderful way to engage the content creators with the internet in a way they might not have thought about."

The stories include Charles Cumming's 21 Steps, inspired by The 39 Steps written by John Buchan. To tell Cummings' adventure tale about the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time, SixtoStart used Google Maps to lead readers on a dizzying U.K. journey—each new page and chapter drags visitors through city streets to different locations. The campaign also includes interpretations of work from authors like Toby Litt, Nicci French and Mohsin Hahmid, the last of which will post on April 22nd. Meanwhile, Hon says that an additional seventh story is unfolding (on a tiny "rabbit" icon on the homepage) that will loosely tie together each of the previous six via puzzles and other forms of content. "The seventh story will provide connecting tissue and is the most alternate reality game-like element, but we're very careful not to call this an alternate reality game because it can be cliché, though it's a very early genre. This is an exercise where there are these six great stories up there with some special, hidden content. It's like Easter egg content on a DVD."
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