Bookmark or Webmark?

Hugh McGuire’s article in Contents Magazine is a useful recapitulation of the argument for “Books in the Browser,” a concept that has its own conference.   McGuire appears in an outstanding list of speakers for the conference on 24-26 October 2012.  Take a look:

Kat Meyer (O’Reilly Media), Peter Brantley (Internet Archive). Introduction and Welcome.

Craig Mod – Why aren’t you publishing on Facebook?
Brian O’Leary (Magellan Media Partners) – The library within us.

Adam Witwer (O’Reilly Media) – We’ve got the tools. Let’s start using them.
John Maxwell (Simon Fraser Univ.) – The Webby Future of Structured Markup: Not Your Father’s XML.
Laura Dawson (Bowker) – When a book is not a book.

Ricky Wong, Feng Hu (MobNotate) – Enabling Discovery through linking
Hugh McGuire (Pressbooks) – Authoring for Discoverability.
Kassia Krozser (Booksquare) – What Do Readers Want? Books! How Do They Want Them? Every Way Possible!.

Michael Tamblyn (Kobo Books) – /data lessons/
Chris Conley (ACLU) – Digital Books and dotRights.

Anna Lewis (ValoBox) – Books in browsers … what next?
Henrik Berggren (Readmill) – Learnings from a year of building a service for readers.
Peter Collingridge (Enhanced Editions) – Failure is an option.

Stefanie Syman (The Atavist) – The Reader Experience.
Pablo Defendini (Safari Books Online) – Reading on the big screen.

Mary Lou Jepson (Pixel Qi). Overworked Eyes: How can screens be easier on the eyes?

Liza Daly and Keith Fahlgren (Safari Books Online) – The self-publishing book.
Maureen Evans and Blaine Cook ( – Dear Editor: conversation in an electronic age.

Bill McCoy (IDPF) – Teaching the browser EPUB 3 (and learning on the way).
Havi Hoffman (Mozilla) – PDF in the browser.
Liz Castro (Pgs, Gourds, & Wikis) – Zen* and the art of the modular book.

Nancy Ruenzel (Peachpit Press) – Lessons from the ebook foundry.
Ron Hogan (Beatrice) – Beatrice: My foray into self-publishing.
Kate Pullinger (author) – Having My Cake.

Matt MacInnis (Inkling) – The Death of the Ten Dollar Text File
Masaaki Hagino (Voyager Japan) – Enhancement of the Book.
Ron Martinez (Aerbook) – Books in Clouds.

Adam Hyde (FLOSS Manuals) – Social Book Production.
Tobias Green (Playlab London) – The Written World.

Matthew Cavnar (Vook) – Across devices.
Miral Sattar (BiblioCrunch) – You’ve picked an authoring plaform. Now what?
Kevin Franco (Enthrill) – Endpaper Engine.

Bookmark – The Future of Reading?

Cover reproduced courtesy of the author, Bill Hill.

Michael Kozlowski sums up two of the more interesting features in the new Kindle devices:  Immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice.  Immersion Reading synchronizes your ebook with your audiobook.   This prompted some browsing to find out what science has to say about simultaneous visual and aural reading.  What can the physiology, neuropsychology and sociology of reading tell us about ourselves?

Quite a bit about the location in the brain of a “supramodal language system,” but nothing easily found to tell us whether the reading experience is better, worse or the same if we read silently to ourselves while being read to.

Will cognitive scientists be lining up to recruit the new Kindle Fire purchasers to study the effects of reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” visually and aurally at the same time?  A possibly new degree of sensory overload to be discovered?

In 1999, Microsoft employed a canny Scot (is there another kind?), named Bill Hill, to study the experience of reading and provide feedback for its development of the Microsoft Reader platform, and from that came a small book called The Magic of Reading.  Nothing  like a peek into the past to clarify the present or kindle an interest in typography.

Ten years on from Bill Hill’s book there is Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain for those with a burning interest in cognitive science.   No tabula rasa here.

Before Hill or Dehaene, Walter J. Ong wrote, “More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness.” (Orality and Literacy, p.76).  Perhaps that should have been “reading and writing.”

Will the rejoining of silent and aural reading fire the next transformation?

For further reading (silently or aloud):

Vinall-Cox, Joan. Moving From Paper to E-Book Reading.  eLearn Magazine. March 2012.  Retrieved September 8, 2012.

Rollins, H.A. Jr., Hendricks, R.  Processing of words presented simultaneously to eye and ear.  J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 1980 Feb; 6(1): 99-109. Retrieved September 8, 2012.

British Association for the Advancement of Science (2007, September 11). Reading Process Is Surprisingly Different Than Previously Thought, Technology Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 8, 2012.

Association for Psychological Science (2010, August 30).  Eye movements reveal readers’ wandering minds.  ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 8, 2012.

Florida State University (2012, February 14). How Do Children Learn to Read Silently?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 8, 2012.

Undefining the book

“By accident of history, we have applied the same word to pop-up illustrations for children, lavish art and architecture hardcovers, compendiums of home cooking recipes, telephone directories, multi-volume encyclopaedias, historically significant works of literature and poetry, and fun and exciting works of entertainment and pop culture. What we call a ‘book’ has always been loosely inclusive. The only common element to these kinds of content is the object through which they’re distributed: paper, ink, thread, glue.”

So writes Simon Groth, “writer, editor, and reader of both pixels and ink,” who leads if:book Australia,  a think-tank that is part of the Queensland Writers Centre and linked with an international fellowship of organisations exploring book futures, including the Institute for the Future of the Book in New York,  if:book London, and if:lire in Paris.

Willow Pattern by Angela Slatter and others, written as part of if:book’s experimental publishing project, the 24-Hour Book, gives Groth the opportunity to introduce yet another collision in this long accident of history.   The online publishing platform Angela Slatter used to write Willow Pattern is called Pressbooks.   It retains and timestamps the complete text of every saved version of the story.   As Groth puts it, this book “is not just the completed volume, it’s also the entire publishing process, the nuts and bolts and the broad range of information that went into creating it.”  The common element of paper, ink, thread, glue is optional.   What we have is a database offering other options:  the online text with comments, data to explore “to find new threads between stories within the book,” and more.  For Slatter’s thoughts on the experience, click here.

The if:book enterprise has a record of throwing down challenging bookmarks for the evolution of the book.  This looks like another.