BY David Zax
In late October of 2009, the freelance journalist Evan Ratliff invited his editor at Wired, Nick Thompson, over to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game at Ratliff’s Brooklyn apartment. The two got to talking over what fun they had had working on a two-article series about what it takes to disappear in an age of ubiquitous digital traces. Ratliff had actually attempted to vanish himself, goading his readers into a digital manhunt, and Ratliff chronicled the story in a feature that Wired permitted to run considerably longer than the typical 4,000-word fare constrained by magazine page counts.
“I brought up the idea,” Ratliff tells Fast Company, “that you have a digital medium that should allow you to do things at any length you want.” Magazine space-constraints limit the feature well; while the economic demands of the publishing-industry all but rule out the short book (people want their $25 worth, when buying a hardback). E-readers, though, should upend this logic, opening a whole new province of novella-length non-fiction. What’s more, the digital medium would allow a suite of multimedia extras to enhance the story. Thompson got excited about the idea, and looped in a designer named Jeff Rabb, who had designed the website for Thompson’s book, The Hawk and the Dove. In that moment, The Atavist–which launches next week across several e-reading devices–was conceived….read more