UC and Google Books

August 2nd, 2006 by Hugh

The Exbiblio system is, of course, about closely integrating print on paper with online texts. One of the obstacles that needs to be overcome is the fact that the majority of written texts do not yet exist in digital form. The Google Books Project aims to change that, but it faces quite a struggle against copyright holders, many of whom hate the idea of their property being propagated over the internet. Personally, I think they are wrong. The existence of digital texts does not discourage me from buying a nice paper copy of classical books such as War and Peace, but that’s by the by.

The LA Times reports that The University of California is in talks with Google to digitize 34 million volumes from its 100 libraries on 10 campuses. It’s said to be the largest academic library in the world:

Daniel Greenstein, UC’s associate vice provost for scholarly information, said that joining the Google Books Library Project — with its ability to search for terms inside texts, not only in catalog listings — would help “create access like we’ve never had before to our cultural heritage and scholarly memory. It’s a whole new paradigm.”

Greenstein mentioned the fear that a natural disaster might destroy this body of knowledge for ever. He was no doubt thinking of the fire at the Library of Alexandria where many of the great texts of the ancient world were lost, possibly during the war between Egypt’s royal family and Julius Caesar in AD 48. Incidentally, Stanford University has just recovered some lost works from the Greek scientist Archimedes who in the 3rd Century BC jumped out of his bath an shouted “Eureka!” – “I have found”.

More about the UC talks with Google can be found on Tim O’Reilly’s blog.

How to Make an Interactive Book

July 24th, 2006 by Adam

Welcome to the future of book technology! In this blog entry we will show hackers like yourself how to build your very own interactive book using supplies that are probably already in your home or office. Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Upgrading an Existing Book

Because interactive books are a cutting edge technology, books published with interactivity built in can be very hard to find at your local book store. However, this fact will not discourage the enterprising hacker from upgrading their own books (also known as “modding” a book).

First, find a black permanent pen (Sharpies are a hacker favorite). Then write “Interactive Book” on the cover of the book you would like to upgrade.

Warning: Be careful to use proper penmanship and spelling as the pen you are using is PERMANENT!

Interactive Book

That’s it! Now your book is interactive! To make the best use of your interactive book you will want to gather some useful accessories including:

  • Highlighter Pen
  • Comfortable writing utensil.
  • Small pad of paper (Post-Its work too).

Interactive Book

When your kit is assembled, you are ready to begin interacting with your book.

Step 2 – Select Some Text

Start by reading the book. When you come across a phrase that you would like to make interactive, highlighting the phrase.

Interactive Book

If you have more than one interactive phrase on a page, use a pen to write a unique number next to the phrase. These numbers only need to be unique to the page, because the page number can also help identify a phrase (for example: page 42, #1)

Interactive Book

Step 3 – Adding Annotations

To add an annotation or comment, simply write your text in the margin of the page. If the margin does not leave enough room or you would like to attach multimedia content (like a photo), add your comment to a separate piece of paper and staple or paperclip your annotation to the page, as shown below.

Interactive Book

Write your initials, date, and page number on all annotations. This will give important context to all future readers.

QUICK TIP: Good annotations will be useful to all future readers. For example, related URLs, insightful comments, or questions are all useful annotations.

As your book gathers more meta-data, it may be full of clippings and marks. Do not worry, this is a sign that your book is becoming more valuable! If the interactive elements make it difficult to read the original text, you may want to purchase a non-interactive book to use in parallel with the interactive version.

Step 4 – Publishing your Annotations

The most important capability of any interactive book is its use as a collaborative medium. Good annotations will breed other good annotations and fruitful discussions may be a positive side effect of well considered questions. To publish your interactive book, hand deliver or mail the book to other readers. It may be helpful to send them a link to this tutorial as a primer if this is their first foray into interactive literature.

QUICK TIP: Choose carefully who you send your valuable book to. A good collaborator will add great value to the book, a bad one won’t read your book, and might not even return it! However, no great reward was ever gained without great risk. Go ahead and send you book to friends, family, strangers you meet on the bus and people you admire (authors may be good collaborators).

Finally, remember to affix the correct postage to your interactive book!

Interactive Book

Step 5 – Hacking the Hack

For those who are not afraid of living on the cutting edge. There are even more daring experiments that haven’t been tried yet. You are encouraged to think of your own variations, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Are books obsolete?

July 21st, 2006 by Adam

People ask me all the time if books will ever become obsolete. I don’t think so. There is something unique and personal about a book that it’s digitization can never duplicate. Our culture still values whats original and unique. And books are some of the most unique creations of civilization. They are little mind bombs set to go off in your head when you least expect it.

I found this nice quote on the Booklad blog, where Dan Poynter discusses some interesting statistics on book reading. Check it out.

Jeff Jarvis also links to the Booklad post and provides some additional book stats (like 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year).