Bookmarking Book Art — Emma Taylor, updated 20140205

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The fate of the book is becoming more and more critical as digital replacements ingrain themselves deeper into our society.  To me the possibility of the end of the book is a tragic one; I appreciate books as an object as much as I enjoy the stories and knowledge which they hold.  I predominantly work with antiquarian books as they often show evidence of their own personal story, perhaps through an inscription on the cover or a drawing on a page which adds a new layer of narrative.  The theme for each sculpture may be inspired by a number of things including the title, size, shape or cover of the book.  I work with wire, wadding and strips of book pages to create the impression of the sculpture emerging from within a book.

Emma Taylor, From Within a Book

Ironic that Emma Taylor’s site has its main life on Facebook, to which one must subscribe to read the great number of comments on her bookworks.  Her Tumblr site (see link above), however, displays many, if not all, of her sculptures, and in her posting of 29 March 2013, you can find an article from the Cambridge News covering her work as displayed in the local shop Plurabelle Books.

Of course, the bookwork above (made from Poor Folk in Spain by Jan and Cora Gordon, published by Bodley Head in 1922) represents what appears to be a store clerk taking down a book but could just as easily be a housekeeper dusting the bookshelves (after all the chapter in which it appears is named “Verdolay — Housekeeping”).  Why “of course”?  Small sculpted books created “from within a book.”  Tending and caring for the physical artifact by altering the physical artifact. (A touch more irony could have been had with the addition of a tiny computer, iPad or Kindle.)

One direction Ms Taylor’s craft may take to evolve further into art would be to recognize and reflect that the fate of the book and ebook are as likely intertwined and separate in many respects as have been those of the many forms the codex has taken — from incunabula to paperback, bookkeeping to fiction or reference to textbook.

Paratextual devices such as the manicule, footnote, running heads, etc., have their “analogues” in ereaders, ebooks and books-in-browsers such as navigational icons, hyperlinks, breadcrumb trails, etc.  Through the W3C’s open annotation specification, even marginalia may be finding a place in the so-called digital replacement to the printed book.  With the insights of Matthew Kirschenbaum and others into digital forensics, the digital replacement and its “perfect” copies may yet yield the “evidence of their own personal story.”  And if “social reading” takes deep root in the individual reading experience, the reader’s relationship to the author (and vice versa) could be enriched by the reader-to-reader relationship in ways hard to articulate.  Ways that will offer the book artist new opportunities to “make it new.”

Photographs and postcards of Emma Taylor’s work can be purchased at Etsy.

View the artist’s hands at work here. 5 February 2014

Bookmark — The ABC of Bookmarking

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Detail from Harley MS 4425, Roman de la Rose
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Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum

The British Library‘s “Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts” blog is a reliable source of visual delight and provocation to think about the interplay of the print and digital worlds.  It also prompts the application of Ezra Pound’s critical technique of juxtaposing works, demonstrated so well in his The ABC of Reading.

Earlier this year, Ann Tomalak, Conservator, Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, posted “Digitising Manuscripts:  The Condition Assessment,” a wonderful essay that warrants reading alongside A Degree of Mastery by Annie Tremmel Wilcox.

I have read A Degree of Mastery from cover to cover twice.  Once in New York between 2002 and 2005 when I was teaching “Professional Book and Information Publishing” at NYU and wanted readings to help provide students with a sense of the history, art and craft of the book. The second time here and now in Windsor looking for the “right something” to include in “Books On Books.”

On both occasions ebooks and digital publishing pervaded my thoughts, but only on the second time around did these questions and observations I want to raise now shape themselves as they have.

Annie Tremmel Wilcox weaves a memoir of her apprenticeship under the renowned bookbinder and conservator William Anthony.  She weaves it with her diary entries, excerpts from an exhibit brochure “Saving Our Books and Words: The Conservation and Preservation of Books,” newspaper articles, correspondence, passages from “Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use” by Toshio Odate, step by step descriptions of mending torn pages and crumbling leather spines and plainspoken observation of fellow workers, conference attendees, librarians, government officials posing with restored documents, children making “books” from striped computer paper with wallpaper sewn on for covers and, of course, Bill Anthony, the “Johnny Appleseed of bookbinding.”

“Weaves” is the precise word for the structure of her book’s narrative, and it would be the right word for her ebook, if there were one.  As I re-read it, this game of word substitution yielded questions that make this memoir a useful means to bookmark the evolution of the book.

Writing about some of the tools she learns to use — lifting knives, translucent bone folders, the spokeshave and others — she says of Anthony’s, “His tools were smarter than mine. They knew the correct way to cut paper or pare leather. By using them I could feel in my hands how the tools were supposed to work.” (48)  For Wilcox and her reader, Bill Anthony is the master “shokunin,” craftsman or artisan.  And when she quotes from Odate “For the ‘shokunin,’ utility and appearance must be enhanced by the tool’s ‘presence,’ that is its refinement and dignity….,” this reader asks,

What are the tools of the ebook maker? From whence comes their refinement and dignity — their “presence” — with which the “shokunin” imbues his creation as a result of his commitment to his craft?  In what tools of the ebookmaker does “the spirit of the tool that records the ‘shokunin’s’ ability through the years to face the uncertainties of life, to overcome them, and to master the art of living” reside?

Too Zen? Perhaps.

An English grad student, Wilcox relished handling the University of Iowa‘s Sir Walter Scott Collection, its Leigh Hunt Collection and The Works of Rudyard Kipling.  Confronted with earlier slapdash and botched work on certain volumes of the Kipling, she writes, “Certainly these volumes of Kipling are found on the shelves of numerous libraries across the country, but the integrity of ‘these’ volumes as a complete set has been lost.” (179)  What constitutes the “integrity” of an ebook or its constituents? Are ebooks so “immaterial” that such a question is nonsensical?

The author’s apprenticeship included collaboration on the exhibit “Saving Our Books and Words.”  In addition to coauthoring the exhibit’s brochure, Wilcox contributed to completing Anthony’s special project of developing for the exhibit a unique collection of models demonstrating “the evolution of the codex – the form of the book as we know it.”(181)  In the brochure she touches on the immateriality and materiality of the Center’s work: “Simply defined, preservation is the attempt to save the intellectual content of books while conservation is the attempt to save both the intellectual content and its vehicle — the covers, paper, endbands, etc. The former is concerned with saving what the human record contains without regard to the forms it winds up in. The latter focuses on the artifact itself, attempts to save this book, this sheet.” (192)

What is the “form” of the ebook as we know it? Is the ebook as much “vehicle” as “content”?  What are its equivalencies to the page or to what “binds” the “text block”?  What does it mean to “conserve” an ebook?  Of a digital copy, what are the materials; what is the artifact to be conserved?

Wilcox ends her memoir with the completion of her “masterpiece,” the restoration of the incunabulum that Bill Anthony assigned her before his death and which she completed after it with the help of “The Restoration of Leather Bindings” by Bernard Middleton, author of the standard text “A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique.”  The work assigned was Pope Pius II’s “Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum,” printed by Johannes De Colonia and Johannes Manthen in Venice in 1477, which when restored was “not a deluxe edition, but … had great integrity.”  In the year 2547, of what will the preservation and conservation of today’s e-incunabula consist?  Will some apprentice conservator understand the “form” of these ebooks “in the cradle” and, master of smart tools, restore them to their integrity?

With Ann Tomalak’s essay, perhaps we can see that future through her present lense on the past.  Give it a read.

Moving the bookmark on apps vs epub vs pdf

altmetricexplore comment

 

 

 


Last year, BOB bookmarked the following blog entries:

JMax (http://www.ccsp.sfu.ca/2012/11/books-in-browsers-2012-a-watershed/)  “Books in Browsers is a “future-of-publishing” conference. It is arguably the future-of-publishing conference right now. As the name suggests, it is loosely arranged around the idea that the future of the book is wrapped up in the future of the (Web) browser.”

Jason Pontin (http://www.technologyreview.com/news/427785/why-publishers-dont-like-apps/) “Last fall, in version 3.0 of our apps, we moved the editorial content, including the magazine, into simple RSS feeds in “rivers of news.” We dumped the digital replica altogether. Now we’re redesigning TechnologyReview.com, which we have made free to use, and we’ll follow the Financial Times in using HTML5, so that our Web pages will look great on a laptop or desktop, tablet, or smart phone. Then we’ll kill our apps, too. Now we just need to discover how to make the Web pay.”

Anna Lewis (http://www.futurebook.net/content/cruising-browsing-experience) “should publishers be putting the browser at the centre of their digital strategy, or focusing on files and apps?”

Nellie McKesson (http://toc.oreilly.com/2013/01/pdf-is-still-better.html) “… our popular eBook formats (EPUB and .mobi) and the eReaders built to read them also currently attempt to mirror the print structure, and limit how publishers are “allowed” to format their content. The EPUB 3 standard promises HTML5 support, but the various eReaders have been slow to adopt the new standard, and even when they do, they’ll likely still offer very limited support for just a subset of the spec. This means we’ll need to find platforms both to create and to distribute these new digitally-redefined eBook products. We’ll also need to train production teams to work with these new technologies, and find authors and editors who can think in the context of the screen.”

But while JMax, Jason Pontin, Anna Lewis and Nellie McKesson argued the case for HTML5 and designing for the screen, the browser developers were embracing PDF.

Utopiadocs (http://utopiadocs.com/index.php), “combining the convenience and reliability of the PDF with the flexibility and power of the web.”

Michael Kozlowski (http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/firefox-update-makes-e-reading-easy-with-new-pdf-viewer/)  “Mozilla issued a statement that said ‘Today, the PDF.js project clearly shows that HTML5 and JavaScript are now powerful enough to create applications that could previously have only been created as native applications. Not only do most PDF’s load and render quickly, they run securely and have an interface that feels at home in the browser. As an added benefit of using standard HTML5 API’s, the PDF viewer is capable of running on many platforms (PC’s, tablet, mobile) and even different browsers. Last, performance will only get better as JavaScript engines and rendering performance continue to improve in browsers.'”

(A general indifference?) Towards the Digital Divide

How might we explain the ascent, pervasiveness and popular appeal of digital art?

A few months ago, Greg Smith, a  Toronto-based artist, reviewed Claire Bishop’s “Digital Divide” (Art Forum, September 2012).  The review and Bishop’s article touch on a recurrent theme in Books On Books:  the materiality and immateriality of books.

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2204574815/expanded-artists-books-envisioning-the-future-of-the-book

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2540958720/a-bookmark-for-letters-outside-themselves

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2276808444/ebooks-do-we-really-want-our-literature-to-last-for-ever

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2204732117/bookmarking-a-forthcoming-title

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2213422701/the-bookless-library-and-what-will-become-of-the-paper-book

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2173038714/and-there-you-have-it-the-kindle-of-the-late-eighteenth-century-mike-kelly-amherst-college

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2182994587/this-is-for-you-in-support-of-libraries-books-words-ideas

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2123229496/to-see-a-world-in-a-grain-of-sand-or-tobacco-leaf

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2082258113/post-artifact-books-and-publishing

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2079452417/the-making-unmaking-and-remaking-of-books-guy-laramee-s-book-art

But the review and Bishop’s article resonate with some more recent and popular seismic tremors in the world of ebooks.  With all but Macmillan caving into the US Justice Department, we are still left wondering where and when the consumer benefits in cheaper ebooks will be handed out.  The prices on e-reading devices have plummeted, but in the world of ebooks, a slight unease about the inevitability of e-readers is creeping in as tablets and mini-tablets seize the imaginations of some with the loudest digital megaphones.  “Are e-reading devices doomed?”  And by extension – given that tablets are far more than ebook devices — “Is the trajectory for ebooks leveling off?”   While the post-Xmas sales analysis will be more assiduously examined for the “evidence” than the equally predictive gizzards of our Xmas fowls,  as Greg Smith paraphrases Julian Oliver, “the New Aesthetician”:   material or immaterial, “we should all just keep focused on making stuff.”

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.

Bookmark for your browser or your ereader? | Updating the debate — the cloud gathers

The original posting (20120815) begins beneath the image.  The updates are flagged below.

 

 

Somewhat similar to the discussion kicked off by Jason Pontin in Technology Review, this collection of viewpoints pulled together by Anna Lewis of ValoBox for The Bookseller‘s digital blog FutureBook puts the case for HTML5 over the app/device.

“. . . HTML5 has laid down a new marker in browser standards. Not only does it enable offline capability through caching of content, it also lets you create websites that feel like native apps. The browser is certainly becoming a very different beast. So, does this mean publishers should rethink their approach to the browser, and see it as a way to deliver content, not just discover it?”

How the answers to this question play out affects the evolution of the book.   Bookmark the concept if not this web page.

Other books in browsers covered include 24symbols, Padify and the Internet Archive.  Follow these up on Lewis’s FutureBook posting.  Offline, commentators have suggested Amazon’s Cloud Reader and Firefox’s EPUB Reader as well.   

Also a three-part series of postings by Bill McCoy, Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has begun at Tools of Change today (20120816).  The first in the series articulates a key point about the book as content,

“. . . over time there will continue to be an increasing ability to conveniently publish directly to the cloud, as well as increasing acceptance by end users of cloud-based consumption. Perhaps someday the idea of a “file” will even become obsolete. But, at a minimum for many years to come – and possibly forever – it seems obvious that there will continue to be a significant role for reified content objects [italics added], particularly portable documents.”

Books On Books will add links to the second and third of McCoy’s postings by as they occur.  The concept of the book as a reified content object (techy as the phrase may be) has its bibliographic and critical forerunners (in the work of McKerrow, Benjamin, Barthes, Ong and others) and its contemporaries (in the work of Illich, Hayles, Michael Joyce and others).

On its surface, the debate in which HTML5, EPUB 3, iOS apps, the ebook, the cloud are swimming seems to be a competition of technical approaches and tools.  Beneath its surface, however, stirs something vital to the future of the book.

Updated bookmark begins here (20120817) . . .

Before Bill McCoy’s next posting (see above for the first), Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World (DBW) usefully flagged a timely collection of postings supporting “the cloud trumps the future” perspective on ebooks:  Hachette’s return on its investment in the cloud, the State Department backing off its Kindle deal in order to research other options (cloud-based being the implication), the major textbook publishers’ adaptation to Virtual Learning Systems and MOOCs (massive open online courses), etc.

The “cloud” view, however, recalls an apt caution Michael Joyce made in his Adam Helms lecture in Stockholm in 2001:

    Digital culture reels and swaggers like a drunken plowman who dreams of taking flight, relieved of mortal weight and presence. . . . an old dream, perhaps the oldest of human culture . . . . Much is made of how the digital escapes fixedness, . . . from electrons hurtling along copper corridors, upward to switched registers of transient values, and ultimately to brilliant phosphor letterforms which disappear like fireflies in a billion recurring twilights of a nanosecond’s duration.

    However we situate ourselves in place and time alike.  Cyberspace is not exempt from the mortal and moral geometry wherein we place our hope and find out future.

This from one of the pioneers of the ebook.  What is ironic here and now is that Joyce made these comments while comparing ebooks to print books, yet today they are equally applicable when comparing ebooks in ereaders to ebooks in the cloud.  As the ebook in the ereader stands with the printed book as a “reified content object,” the cloud gathers.

Bookmark for your browser or your ereader? | Updating the debate — the cloud gathers

The original posting (20120815) begins beneath the image.  The updates are flagged below.

 

 

Somewhat similar to the discussion kicked off by Jason Pontin in Technology Review, this collection of viewpoints pulled together by Anna Lewis of ValoBox for The Bookseller‘s digital blog FutureBook puts the case for HTML5 over the app/device.

“. . . HTML5 has laid down a new marker in browser standards. Not only does it enable offline capability through caching of content, it also lets you create websites that feel like native apps. The browser is certainly becoming a very different beast. So, does this mean publishers should rethink their approach to the browser, and see it as a way to deliver content, not just discover it?”

How the answers to this question play out affects the evolution of the book.   Bookmark the concept if not this web page.

Other books in browsers covered include 24symbols, Padify and the Internet Archive.  Follow these up on Lewis’s FutureBook posting.  Offline, commentators have suggested Amazon’s Cloud Reader and Firefox’s EPUB Reader as well.   

Also a three-part series of postings by Bill McCoy, Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has begun at Tools of Change today (20120816).  The first in the series articulates a key point about the book as content,

“. . . over time there will continue to be an increasing ability to conveniently publish directly to the cloud, as well as increasing acceptance by end users of cloud-based consumption. Perhaps someday the idea of a “file” will even become obsolete. But, at a minimum for many years to come – and possibly forever – it seems obvious that there will continue to be a significant role for reified content objects [italics added], particularly portable documents.”

Books On Books will add links to the second and third of McCoy’s postings by as they occur.  The concept of the book as a reified content object (techy as the phrase may be) has its bibliographic and critical forerunners (in the work of McKerrow, Benjamin, Barthes, Ong and others) and its contemporaries (in the work of Illich, Hayles, Michael Joyce and others).

On its surface, the debate in which HTML5, EPUB 3, iOS apps, the ebook, the cloud are swimming seems to be a competition of technical approaches and tools.  Beneath its surface, however, stirs something vital to the future of the book.

Updated bookmark begins here (20120817) . . .

Before Bill McCoy’s next posting (see above for the first), Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World (DBW) usefully flagged a timely collection of postings supporting “the cloud trumps the future” perspective on ebooks:  Hachette’s return on its investment in the cloud, the State Department backing off its Kindle deal in order to research other options (cloud-based being the implication), the major textbook publishers’ adaptation to Virtual Learning Systems and MOOCs (massive open online courses), etc.

The “cloud” view, however, recalls an apt caution Michael Joyce made in his Adam Helms lecture in Stockholm in 2001:

    Digital culture reels and swaggers like a drunken plowman who dreams of taking flight, relieved of mortal weight and presence. . . . an old dream, perhaps the oldest of human culture . . . . Much is made of how the digital escapes fixedness, . . . from electrons hurtling along copper corridors, upward to switched registers of transient values, and ultimately to brilliant phosphor letterforms which disappear like fireflies in a billion recurring twilights of a nanosecond’s duration.

    However we situate ourselves in place and time alike.  Cyberspace is not exempt from the mortal and moral geometry wherein we place our hope and find out future.

This from one of the pioneers of the ebook.  What is ironic here and now is that Joyce made these comments while comparing ebooks to print books, yet today they are equally applicable when comparing ebooks in ereaders to ebooks in the cloud.  As the ebook in the ereader stands with the printed book as a “reified content object,” the cloud gathers.

Ebook Timeline Updated: 20140201

ebook-evolution

Ebook Timeline Updated – 20140201

Here’s a previously missed infographic for the evolution of the book – a bit skeletal but with the elegance of the format. And while we are at it, let’s add some bibliographic and webographic “evolution” entries:

Chris Armstrong’s article “Books in a Virtual World: The evolution of the e-book and its lexicon“, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 40/3, September 2008

Andy Greenberg’s 2007 pictorial look at ebook readers, article “In Pictures: The Evolution of E-Books“, Forbes, 12 March 2007

Frederic Kilgour’s solid little hardback entitled The Evolution of the BookNew York, Oxford University Press, 1998

I.T. Strategies’s research commissioned by Ricoh entitled The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers, Hanover, MA, 2013

Feel free to suggest new additions to the timeline!

Ebook Timeline Updated – 20120812

Yesterday, the 11th of August 2012 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hypercard.  Alerted by Matthew Lasar in Ars Technica in May, gurus lined up to comment on Bill Atkinson‘s contribution in the 80s to Apple and the basics of hyperlinking techniques we now take for granted.

David Weinberger and Roy Tennant celebrated the anniversary with engaging and personal posts linked from their names here.

With the publication of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Weinberger became one of the Web’s leading light-shedders (gurus) and provocateurs.  Most important in this context, he was in the audience when Bill Atkinson presented Apple’s Hypercard to the MacWorld conference in 1987.  Weinberger writes, “HyperCard was a groundbreaking, beautiful, and even thrilling app.  Ahead of its time for sure. But the time it was ahead of seems to me to be not so much the Age of the Web as the Age of the App.  I don’t know why there isn’t now an app development environment that gives us what HyperCard did. Apparently HyperCard is still ahead of its time.”

Tennant, too, has written several books and a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and currently works at OCLC.  Most important, he “was there” as an early user of the Hypercard system and HyperTalk programming language on which it is based.  As Tennant puts it, “HyperCard was where I learned how to DO the Web.  It was where I learned the importance of screen real estate. It was where I learned the law of 7, plus or minus 2.  It was where I learned how important graphics are in creating an engaging site. It was where I cut my teeth on interactivity.”

Apps, screen real estate, Miller’s law, graphics and “cutting teeth” on interactivity — all are part of the new toolkit for making books.

Timelines are, of course, for looking further back as well as forward.   Earlier this year, April 2012 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of

Liane Lefaivre’s, Leon Battista Alberti’s Hypnerotomachia PoliphiliRe-Configuring the Architectural Body in the Early Italian Renaissance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997).

and the online publication of short but extensively hyperlinked extracts from the print book as well as the online publication of The Electronic Hypnerotomachia, which contains the facsimile text and illustrations.   The online publication of extracts from Lefaivre’s book illustrates the linking prefigured by the “card stack” approach of HyperCard.  What MIT Press and TU Delft,  Lefaivre’s affiliation, host on their servers are not ebooks or even e-incunabula of the sort we experience today, but they are clearly forerunners to them.

In twenty-eight more months, December 2014, we will see the 515th anniversary of the original work’s publication by Aldine Press (Venice, December 1499).   The founder Aldus Manutius did not normally publish heavily illustrated books.  The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili was the exception and the only commissioned work that Manutius undertook.   The exception reflects favorably on the overall success of his business and supports the view that Venice had become the capital of printing and publishing very shortly after the invention of printing by moveable type.

The book unveils an inscrutable, almost comic-book-illustrated story, glittering with made-up words in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic (including proto-Greek, -Hebrew and -Arabic fonts).  In addition to the page displays sculpted into shapes such as goblets, this one volume displayed the technological mastery of and improvement on the new Roman (as opposed to the heavy Gothic) typeface Bembo.  According to Norma Levarie in The Art & History of Books (New York, 1968), this singular volume revolutionized typography in France in less than twenty-five years.

Somewhat like software releases, though, the 1499 edition came with bugs.  The colophon to the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili falls at the end of a full page of errata.

“Venice Month December. 1499. in the house of Aldus Manutius, most accurately done.”

Feel free to suggest new additions to the timeline!

Added 20120812.

Image

“The Book Industry Study Group (BISG), a leading U.S.-based trade association representing the entire book supply chain, announced today the publication of a new Policy Statement endorsing EPUB 3 as the accepted and preferred standard for  representing, packaging, and encoding structured and semantically enhanced Web content — including XHTML, CSS, SVG, images, and other resources — for distribution in a single-file format.”

For the record and from the Library of Congress:

“The Open eBook Publication Structure or “OEB,” originally produced in 1999, was the precursor to EPUB.  Version 1.0 of the Publication Structure was created in the winter, spring, and summer of 1999 by the Open eBook Authoring Group.  Following the release of OEBPS 1.0, the Open eBook Forum (OeBF) was formally incorporated in January 2000.  OEBPS Version 1.0.1 [OEBPS_1_0], a maintenance release, was brought out in July 2001.  OEBPS Version 1.2 [OEBPS_1_2], incorporating new support for control by content providers over presentation along with other corrections and improvements, was released as a Recommended Specification in August 2002.   EPUB 2 was initially standardized in 2007. EPUB 2.0.1 was approved in 2010.   EPUB, Version 3, was approved as an IDPF Recommendation in October 2011.  It is substantially different from EPUB, Version 2, both in using only a single form for textual content and in having support for audio, video, and scripted interactivity (through Javascript).  No longer supported are the EPUB_2 formats for text content, one based on the Digital Talking Book [DTB_2005] format and a second form based on XHTML 1.1 compatible with OEBPS_1_2.   A single new encoding for textual Content Documents is based on HTML5/XHTML and CSS3, despite the fact that both of these W3C standards are still works in progress. SVG is supported for graphics and it is possible to have an EPUB_3 document whose “pages” consists [sic] only of graphics, for example for a graphic novel.  Several legacy features are deprecated.  Some legacy structures may be included for compatibility of EPUB_3 documents with existing EPUB_2 readers.  EPUB_3 readers are expected to render publications using version 2 and version 3.”

Coincidentally, Amazon UK reported today that it is now selling 114 Kindle ebooks for every 100 print books it sells.

The EPUB format is not natively readable on the Kindle device or in the Kindle application.  Customers can add conversion apps easily to their devices to make EPUB readable on a Kindle, but as consumers seek the advantages of an industry standard, how will Amazon respond?

Feel free to suggest new additions to the timeline!

Added 20120806.

Ebook Timeline Updated – 20120725

As we are still in the Age of e-Incunabula, what better than a trip half way around the world to Japan to see one of the world’s largest collections of Western incunabula — and an excellent site to bookmark?

The National Diet Library’s site refers to itself as an exhibition based on the book “Inkyunabura no Sekai” (The World of Incunabula) / written by Hiroharu Orita, compiled by the Library Research Institute of the National Diet Library. Tokyo: Japan Library Association, July 2000 (in Japanese).

The exhibition provides a timeline of incunabula from the second half of the 4th century when the shift to the codex occurred to 1980 when the British Library began entering data on its collection of incunabula into the ISTC. The site provides much more than this chronology.

Images from the collection, statistics on the type fonts used, coverage of design and how the quires (sheets of paper folded, forerunner of book signatures and files in EPUB!) were arranged, and the binding process — all are covered straightforwardly and often in entertaining detail.  Look on this site and consider how far we have to go with our ebooks and apps!

Added 20120725.

Ebook Timeline Updated – 20120719

Not as interactive as the Counterspace timeline for typography below, but certainly as densely informative, and it extends to typography online.

Added 20120719.

Ebook Timeline Updated – 20120717

Another timeline, this one focused on bookbinding. Is .zip the binding for an ebook?

Added 20120717.

Ebook Timeline Updated – 20120710

On the heels of the question above comes an outstanding interactive infographic on a critical element of the book and ebook: typography.

Added 20120710.

 Ebook Timeline Updated – 20120706

Yet another ebook timeline, and this one is broken down into interpretive categories, “The Age of Writing” and “The Network Era,” which is thought-provoking.  Are we in “The Age of the Tablet”?

Added 20120706.

Start of the Ebook Timeline

In 1936, “Chronology of Books & Printing” appeared in its revised edition, published by Macmillan in New York. In 1996, Cor Knops picked up the torch and started a Book History Timeline from Sumerian clay tablets (he could have started with the caves at Lascaux!) through to 1997 with the first issue of “Biblio Magazine” but with little acknowledgment of ebooks.

Now in 2012, looking back to 2002, we find this journalistic stab at a timeline for ebooks.

Forged together, the chronologies would have to include “As we may think” by Vannevar Bush in 1945, Ted Nelson’s coining of “hypertext” in 1963-65, the Apple Newton in 1993 (how many publishers and authors have kept track of the free downloads of their Newton ebooks?) and much more.

Another extension of the ebook timeline appears in this book by Marie Lebert, which fills in important gaps, misses others and offers more than a few overemphasized continental developments. Her timeline takes us through 2009, which means that the signal events in 2011/12 of ebook sales’ outstripping those of print in some markets are still to be added.

Bookmarking the Footnote

Liz Castro’s blog “Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis” performs a stellar service to the evolution of the book by focusing the spotlight on how EPUB 3 supports footnotes in ebooks (with a snippet from Dave Cramer‘s EPUB 3 version of Moby Dick) and providing many other insights into the making of books.

Pop-up footnote in Dave Cramer’s version of Moby Dick. Image from Castro’s blog.

Castro’s post should remind us of Anthony Grafton’s book The Footnote: A Curious History, which delves entertainingly into the origin of this historical nonlinearity of the page.  Several of his other books are noteworthy for making us think about the “text.”

If only Harvard University Press would spring for an EPUB 3 version of The Footnote, the trufflers of the history and future of the book could be in pig heaven!

An E-Reader Annotation Mini-Manifesto

Teleread and an employee of Readmill have begun a bookmarkable conversation about an important feature of books that must translate into the digital world:  shareable annotations.

To share annotations in a print book, you have to lend the book or photocopy the relevant pages.  Currently, our e-incunabula thrash about in the barbwire of a three-way no-man’s land: between publishers and librarians, between anti-DRMists and pro-DRMists and between the ebook as a licensed good and the ebook as a sold good to which the “first sale” doctrine applies. We haven’t brought sustainable peace to any one of those fronts yet, although there are fleeting signs of olive branches on the battlefield.

Penguin experiments with the New York Public Libraries, Bilbary has pulled together a collection of over 400,000 works (including Random House ebooks) to make available to US and UK public libraries, the Douglas County Library in Colorado continues its purchase-only effort.

Small and large publishers have been and are going DRM-free or nearly so.  In 2009,  Liza Daly of Threepress Consulting started a list of DRM-free publishers and stores.  Today, she can add among others Springer, Tor/Forge and Pottermore (with effects addressed in interesting detail by Mike Shatzkin).

As Matthew Bostock argues,

“Translating the act of annotating physical books to the digital experience is all good and well, but isn’t there more we could do? Isn’t there more we could dream about? We’re talking about e-readers here—small devices that are connected to something that has the potential to truly evolve the entire concept of digital reading. I’m referring, of course, to the web. … If we share what we highlight with other people, and bring a discussion right into the margin of a book, what do we have, and what have we done? We have added value to the digital reading experience. And looking at annotation in this way, there’s a clear reason why we should give it a little more thought.”

See Matthew’s mini-manifesto on annotations on Teleread:

No doubt known to Matthew, but there are forces at work to nudge us toward his vision.  The standards world has not been sitting on its hands: the W3C and NISO both have initiatives underway to address the minimum required technical specifications for a standard on shareable annotations.

The book evolves.

For more about Readmill, see the post of 26 July 2012 below.