Sussex crime author Peter James’s novel, The Host which was released as an electronic edition in 1993 on two floppy disks is to go on display in London’s Science Museum as the world’s first electronic novel.
In researching the novel, Peter spent considerable time with several academics and students in the Cognitive Sciences department of Sussex University. When the book came out in hardback in 1993 – published in the UK by Penguin – one of the students he had met contacted Peter and said there were some interesting platforms, such as Voyager, for producing books in electronic formats – and because of its subject matter, Host would lend itself to this.
A year later, coinciding with the paperback, the electronic version was launched on Mac and PC platforms. There was an exclusive deal with the then book chain, Dillons, for the first month, during which 12,000 copies were sold, at a higher price than the hardback.
Readers of the electronic edition had the ability to click on key words and be taken by hyperlinks to descriptions and photographs from Peter’s research.
Peter James said: “When my novel Host was published by Penguin on two floppy discs, and billed as the world’s first electronic novel, I was pilloried by the press all over the world, accused of attempting to destroy the novel! I said at the time that electronic novels would catch on when they became as nice to read as the printed page and more convenient than a printed book. That day is more or less here, and I’m pleased to see that far from killing the novel, it is thriving more than ever!”