Mobile Phone Novel

Underground Mainstream


Up to today there are hardly any studies on European mobile phone novels, neither from a scientific point of view, be it by the media, the literary or linguistic sciences, nor by economic science or information management, and even European literature on Japanese mobile phone novels is hard to find.  

Previous Studies

One of  the most comprehensive scientific works in German on mobile phone novels is probably a thesis from 2009 by Johanna Mauermann, "Das Phänomen Handyroman in der zeitgenössischen japanischen Literatur" ("The Phenomenon of Mobile Phone Novels in Contemporary Japanese Literature"). Her results were condensed into a book with the title "Handyromane" ("Mobile Phone Novels") (2011), including an overview of the international development. As the title of the thesis implies, she, being a student of Japanese Studies, first of all spends her time on Japanese tradition, respecting scientific literature of different countries and languages. Contrary to the Korean scientist Kim Yoni she writes: "The statements are held too general, and defining mobile phone novels as a specifically Japanese phenomenon is simply wrong, as it is proven by the existing mobile phone novels from other Asian countries or the German mobile phone novel 'Lucy Luder'." (Own translation)

Also in 2009 the linguist Julia Ricart Brede published an article titled "Handybücher: Literatur von und für die Daumen-Generation" ("Mobile Phone Books: Literature by and for the Thumb Generation") in the German magazine "Literatur im Unterricht" ("Literature for Classes"). Ricart Brede primarily considers the phenomenon of mobile phone novels, and subsequently focuses on the mobile phone novels by Oliver Bendel, especially on the series about Lucy Luder as well as the youth novel "lonelyboy18". She analyzes the texts from a literary and linguistic point of view, and considers – not at least because of her being a research assistant at a university for pedagogics – didactical matters.

The fourth edition of the standard work of literary sciences "Die Struktur der modernen Literatur" ("The structure of Modern Literature") by Mario Andreotti, published in 2009, is dedicated to the European mobile phone novels, it quotes from the novel "Lucy Luder und die Hand des Professors" and comes to the conclusion: "The mobile phone novel, that has been particularly popular especially in Japan for years, without a doubt also has a future in German-speaking countries, not at least due to the countless users of mobile phones. Mobile literature for modern globetrotters seems to be a necessity. Furthermore mobile phone novels allow for experiments (such as the development of different multimedia forms), thus giving new impulses to literature, especially modern literature." (Own translation)

Future Research

Future scientific studies will have to take the technological environment into account that allows for a development of mobile phone novels, that supports and influences and controls their distribution, such as internet services, online platforms, social software platforms, entertainment offers, premium text message services, portals of mobile businesses, satellite systems, radio chips as well as 2D and 3D codes. Furthermore the cultural and social environments matter, e.g. the cultural characteristics in Japan and the differences between Japanese habits and habits regarding consumer behavior and adoption in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Beyond that mobile technologies and devices can be described. The focus is on – in contrast to the general phenomenon of electronic books – mobile phones, smartphones and PDAs. It is not only about operating and application systems, Java and internet compatibility, but also about hardware features such as size and quality of the display, storage capacity and battery life as well as factors such as manageability and usability.

As to digital contents the emphasis could possibly be placed on characteristics typical for this genre and this kind of language, or textual features. Especially textual structure and syntax are worth a closer look, as well as multimedia features (embedding pictures, videos, sound) and interactivity (controlling and manipulating elements on mobile devices). The manufacturing process should also be taken into account, provided that it has effects on the digital contents. Mobile phone novels can, for example, be produced collaboratively on Web 2.0 platforms and mobile portals, or in so-called "writing factories", e.g. along the lines of Alexandre Dumas.

Crucial for a success of mobile phone novels are the business models of the diverse players. A study could examine the distribution by means of web platforms and premium text message services, present the respective payment methods and describe options such as single downloads or subscription, and a reader feedback liable for costs to control the stories as well as approaches regarding product placement and a commercially motivated intertextuality.

Not at least the possibilities and offers of bookshops and libraries have to be described and investigated, in case customers can "browse through", buy or lend mobile phone novels. The meta data of the books also play an important part; identification data such as the ISBN and standardized recording and descriptions often disappear. Furthermore projects to promote reading could be initialized in cooperation with libraries, thus leading to more publications. In Japan mobile phone novels seem to have considerably (re-)vitalized the habit of reading among youngsters.