It’s safe to say that we’d never published anything like it. I’m not sure who in the world had. So when GDS made our first exploration of digital publishing in 2011, with edition number 31, we had very little to go on. Digital publishing just meant awkwardly cramming books onto primitive e-readers, or calling your Blogspot page a magazine. We thought we could do more remarkable things in the train of technology’s relentless onward march.

Going Down Swinging No. 34 is the culmination of that urge. It’s our second all-digital edition after that first exploration, with the same aim of opening up to work we could never publish on paper. Suddenly sound, image, and interactivity can be plaited. No. 31 showed the potential: think a Dorothy Porter poem translated into a cello duet, played for the listener, then broken down by way of a critical essay that played each component as it was discussed. No. 34 carries on that inventiveness, at a far more sophisticated technical level.

Lachlan Plain sets out to solve the historical mystery of one of Australia’s earliest explorers, presenting his written reconstruction alongside original primary sources and documentary film. Eddie Sharp’s short story becomes a comic, Mike Baylis’ comics begin to move.

Michael Lee Johnson rasps of harmonicas and riverboats in a voice so Illinois it makes Sufjan feel inadequate. Holly Childs’ HTML-inspired poetry is brought to manic life by Vanessa Hughes’ coding.

Robbie Coburn plays text, speech and video off against each other, while Laura Jean McKay tells stories for eye and ear. Kieron Byatt details the conflict of being a uni-graduate battle rapper, while you listen to the music he dissects.

The joint chapter ‘A Piss-Poor Chain of Hotels’ gives three perspectives on the prison system: Joan Thornton’s story of teaching art on death row sits alongside an extraordinary painting by former inmate Peter Dunn, and B N Oakman’s account of a Texas execution. Meanwhile, Zoe Norton Lodge employs Foley effects to adequately convey the horror of playing French horn in the Sydney Olympic marching band.

There is of course more, the collection hanging together both in terms of content and within the structure of Vanessa Hughes’ truly exceptional design. Content aside, rarely have I found looking at and using any web creation to be such a pleasure.

GDS’s other guiding aim was that digital publishing needn’t be fragmented. Throughout the months of its construction, we always thought of No. 34 as a book. It retains some of the essential qualities thereof – it is something entire, discrete, a collection that forms a sequence. Yet it’s versatile; you can follow the sequence we set, or make your own depending what forms most interest you.

Whatever the approach, No. 34 is ready to be explored. It’s safe to say it’s like nothing you’ve ever read. But it shouldn’t stay that way for long.


Screenshot of iPad app      Start page of iPhone app

Get No. 34 here

Find out about the big warehouse launch party here

Buy launch tickets here