I love reading. Though nowadays the few things I read seem to be emails, text messages and articles on social media.
Did you know that Singapore has quite an extensive collection of local literature?
To get people to read and explore local literature, the Singapore Book Council (SBC), in collaboration with DDB Singapore, has launched “Chatbooks“.
As its name implies, Chatbooks is a chatbot that mimics authors messaging users, to share their stories.
This comes as part of the #BuySingLit movement – an industry-led movement created to encourage people to discover and embrace Singapore literature.
Chatbot For Bookworms
Chatbooks combines a chatbot with books by local authors. The user receives text messages that leads them to the heart of the story, and allows them to participate in the story by making decisions as the story progresses.
Intrigued, I tried Chatbooks for myself.
First up, head to the BuySingLit Facebook page, click on “Send Message”, then “Get Started”.
The chatbot will prompt you to select a book to read. Currently there are 5 titles for readers to choose from. 2 in English, 1 in Mandarin, 1 in Bahasa Melayu, and 1 in Tamil.
Because I jiak kentang, I went for an English one.
I’m going to be honest.
I was a little creeped out when the first message I got after selecting a book title, was an audio clip. Thank goodness it was just an annoying audio clip of an alarm clock ringing. You know, to set the mood.
If my Macbook had started laughing like Amazon’s Alexa, I would’ve tossed it out of the window.
I don’t need a haunting. Not again.
None of the options had me sprinting out of bed to the office. And calling in sick was an option apparently.
“Hello boss? Yes I’m aware that the Merlion Alpha Delta satellite has crashed. But I’m having the runs. Going to see the doctor now.” *hangs up*
Well I wasn’t thinking of butterflies. But now I am. There are 2 options. Back to bed or go for a walk. What about the 20 messages from office and the crashed satellite?
Okay, to be fair, I thought going for a walk would lead me to office, so that the story could progress instead of having me lying in bed.
Casual existential crisis. FINALLY, I have an option to just get to work. And BAM! Dead phone.
Just get me to the office already!!!
Okay, I should’ve gone to work, since I was so eager. But I actually thought about this and decided to charge my phone because a dead phone is dead weight.
Don’t judge. I was already fully immersed and emotionally invested in this narrative. Next.
This is some Cloverfield Paradox situation that we have on our hands. I was in full white-girl-in-horror-movie mode at this point.
“OMG another me behind me? Let’s reach out and touch it!”
I honestly cannot even. It was getting good!
At the end of the experience, the bot even tells you a bit about the author, which is great. Because I need to know the person who brought my casual existential crisis to life.
Chatbooks is incredibly immersive. Prior to trying it out, I wasn’t even aware that it was a synopsis.
It almost felt like a game, given that I had control over the character’s decision-making process. Now I have to find the book by Tania De Rozario, to find out whether my character lives or dies or has a clone.
Though there are only 5 titles available currently, I hope that Chatbooks will continue adding to their library.
We need a zombie survival title for Chatbooks. That should be interesting.
(Header Image Source: DiscoverSG)