MacGuffin: "Jukebox for Literature" | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

MacGuffin: “Jukebox for Literature”

Ellie Patten reviews MacGuffin, a new website and app where anyone can publish fiction, non-fiction and poetry, but with a twist.

With sites like Fanfiction and Fictionpress, digital publishing is on the rise. Amateur writers are turning to the internet to upload their writing and gain feedback, without having to go through a lengthy process, or convince a publisher. Of course, unlike being a professional author, you won't make a living from sites like these, but publishing work online can provide valuable feedback for any aspiring writers out there who want to free their writing from the confines of their notebooks and into the heads of readers. Now, award-winning independent publisher, Comma Press, are hoping to revolutionise digital publishing even further, with their new website and app, MacGuffin.

Currently in its beta testing stage (the full version is due to go live on June 30th) MacGuffin comes across as a strong new contender in digital publishing, providing unique features that make it more accessible to readers, and therefore helping writers to gain popularity. Although the content might follow in the footsteps of other digital publishing platforms, consisting of stories and poems by unpublished writers, which can be accessed and uploaded for free, this website and app has a few twists, making it stand out against the competition.


Everything on the website is available as both text and audio
The stand-out feature of Comma Press’ latest service is that it gives the reader the choice of reading a story as text, or listening to it, just like an audiobook or podcast, appealing to those who love stories, but would rather listen than read. Every piece on the website is recorded in audio format in addition to text format, and while this might make it slightly harder work for writers hoping to publish their work on the site, it gives readers a wider range of options of how to experience a story; rather than reading, they can kick back and relax, while the story is read to them, giving their eyes a break from the computer screen. No specialist equipment is needed to record a story: writers can simply use their smartphone to record themself reading their work, or even ask someone else to read it for them, using the website's forum.


This is what the MacGuffin app will look like.

This is what the iOS version of MacGuffin will look like.

For me, the deal-clincher is MacGuffin’s use of hash-tags. While “hash-tagging” itself is no longer particularly innovative, with the feature appearing all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, this is one of the only sites of this type to incorporate this into their search function. Other sites allow readers to search for stories by text, or to filter by genre, but by using hash-tags, MacGuffin allows readers’ options to be narrowed down further, even if you’re not entirely sure exactly what you want yet. You can even search for things like #5minutereads when you’re a little pushed for time, or can even generate a random story if you want to be surprised. This makes MacGuffin incredibly easy for readers to use, more so than other similar websites, where the hash-tag feature is not incorporated. By doing this, MacGuffin offers writers a helping hand, to showcase their work, making it much easier for them to attract the audience they are looking for.


Another pleasing and unusual feature of MacGuffin is that it tells writers at which point people have stopped reading or listening to your work, pinpointing the exact moment they decided to leave the page. While this might be unnerving, and even a little soul-destroying at times, particularly if they leave a few sentences in, this can help writers to self-edit, allowing them to quickly pick up on where they're going wrong and how they can improve their work. In addition to this, a 5-star rating system, and a detailed analytics page showing how popular a particular story or poem is, provide further feedback.

Visually, the site layout is modern, minimalistic and easy to use, with the beta version showcasing various hashtags and a search bar as the main homepage, making navigating the site quick and easy. An app by the name "MacGuffin Stories" will also be made available on iOS and Android, perfect for reading one of those #5minutereads on the go. MacGuffin shows a lot of promise, and is worth a look for any writers interested in gaining some feedback on their writing without baring their soul to all their friends and family. This is definitely a new direction in digital publishing, with some excellent features to help writers to get their work noticed, and for readers to discover stories they love, whether they prefer to read, or to listen.

MacGuffin will go live here on June 30th, and for now, the beta version can be accessed via the same link.

Biochemistry student and blogger. Particularly interested in science and technology, gaming and TV. (@elliempatten)


27th June 2015 at 2:00 pm

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