I have just finished reading Clive Thomspson’s WIRED artcile on the Future of Reading. The notion of unleashing the book online to prod readers into interacting with text sounds like fun and I like the idea of focusing on the reader. I look forward to all the variations and trials that publishers put forward in the coming months, but there is one aspect of books that I hope they maintain in all their experimentation…
O’Reilly Media’s Programming Scala won’t hit bookstore shelves for a long time. But the entire working manuscript has been posted to their site! Each and every paragraph, sidenote, chart and graph has a comment box underneath it. They are hoping that the community will contribute knowledgeble bits of information and ideas, which the author will vet and toss or incorporate. The idea is that this crowdsourcing filtered through their expert author will produce a more auhtoritative work.
Not too mention the marketing side of things. I guess one side could say “you’ll sell fewer books, because all of your hardcore readers have been reading while it’s been written”. Which might hold true for a few folks. But can you imagine the buzz this would build within the programming community? Or how much of a boost the book might get from folks talking about/buying a book that they were involved in producing? The system has a sign-in for commenters so that they can be credited in the final book, if their contribution is used. O’Reilly also provides RSS feeds for the various sections so that a commenter can keep up with that specific section of the text.
Obviously, this idea wouldn’t work for every type of book and the progamming community is a good place to start. It’s not the first book to be published from crwodsourced information, but it’s the first time, I’m aware of, a major publisher has added a crowdsourced component to the traditional publishing workflow. Which means that it gets checked and balanced by author and editor, which may be enough to sway a few naysayers.
I wonder what Andrew Keen would think of this community/professional mashup? Ha!
I read this post this morning and thought about students being forced to use Amazon’s new Kindle DX. While I don’t shy away from eBooks and think the Kindle DX is a step in the right direction for textbooks and newspapers, I really think this is a bad move, for one major reason. That is usability.
It’s true that the screen is bigger and as a dedicated reading device the Kindle is pretty good. But reading texts for school is a TOTALLY different type of reading and the Kindle is only going to slow students down and tick them off.
I mean have you ever tried to cross reference something between two separate works on a Kindle? It’s the worst. The device is just not made for easy navigation. Even if you have the forsite to use the bookmark feature and know exactly where the info you need is (remember no page numbers) and you are only using two books for your work, it could take you almost a full minute to close a book, navigate to the other book, find reference, make a note and navigate back and load original text. Killer!
That little flip-flop between titles would take seconds with two books open side-by-side on a desk. The Kindle is just not built with usability in mind. It’s built to deliver books and ease eye-strain. So until they fix the navigation and allow multiple texts to be loaded into the RAM all at once, I’m afraid it’s going to be slow going.
I’m all for saving the environment and spreading the eBook love, but not at the expense of time and productivity.
I just noticed this on the Alabama BookSmith website, you can buy ebooks from them.
The interwebs are all a Twitter with the new IndieBound iPhone app, but I had not read deep enough into all the news to realize that the stores had started competing in this space too.
Though they may not have many customers via the ebooks channel yet, it’s smart that they are making it an option to site visitors and store customers. Even though they’re hands are tied by the DRM publishers and distributors have on their books, I thought that the eBooks FAQ was pretty informative for the everyday newbie.