Bookmark – e-Incunabla coming out of their swaddling clothes?

 

In 1774 the House of Lords declared that perpetual copyright was illegal and that the fourteen year limit established in 1710 was the law of the land. What this meant in practical terms is that anyone with a press could now print up their own editions of Chaucer, Milton, Swift, Dryden, Spencer, and others. If everyone could print the same texts, one way to differentiate your product from the inferior output of your competition was through editorial apparatus — introductions, author portraits, and notes. … I just want to call attention to one item in the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections that was sold by one of the more enterprising publishers of public domain material.Between 1777 and 1782, John Bell published a set of 109 volumes under the title Bell’s Edition. The Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill. He launched the series with Milton’s Paradise Lost in April 1777 and attempted to maintain a regular schedule of issuing one new volume each week.  Mike Kelly, Head of the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College, commenting on William St. Clair’s The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge, 2004).

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British Poetry in a Box” by Mike Kelly
Consecrated Eminence, July 13, 2012 Accessed 13 June 2018

The photo here, presumably taken by Kelly, shows two boxes, hinged and stacked on one another and shaped like a stack of four or five large folios.  Together the two boxes hold 109 small volumes, bound in Morocco leather and gilt-edged, constituting “Bell’s Edition: The Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill”  (1777-83). The Kindle of its age, as Kelly puts it.

Anyone who downloads (or ever has downloaded) the free or cheap Kindle versions of the Complete Works of [name your favorite classic author] will know how little “there” there is to differentiate the products in accuracy, quality or even typography much less editorial apparatus. Possibly a sign that we are still in the Age of e-Incunabla.

Kelly’s photos and words led me on to PhD student Jacob Halford’s related comments in “Remediation, or How Digitisation is Changing the Meaning of Texts, Part 1“.  Halford explores how digitization affects how we read texts, understand and find meaning in them.  The digital text gives the reader a whole new experience of the text as the printed book’s structure, font, layout and tangibility of the book are distorted or eliminated.  That may seem an exaggeration, but look at Halford’s photos of Galileo’s “A Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems.”  In one, he holds the book in his hands; in another it appears on a microfilm reader; in yet another it is shown on a computer screen.  The perceptual differences are stark.

In Part 2, Halford illustrates equally well how digitization alters the experience of meaning through how we locate or find the work — from its position on a shelf among related works, to its entry form on the Early English Books Online (EEBO) screen or its entry lines on a screen of search results.   As he says, “Historians when trying to understand the past need to understand the meaning of the book, to understand how it was read, what its value within society was. To forget this because of the removal of the various indications found in a physical book when it is placed in digital collections provides the risk of us distorting our interpretation of the past. We can exaggerate the value of a particular book and in that process miss out on, or undervalue, other crucial books because there is little to inform us of a book’s value and meaning when it is accessed through EEBO. So whilst EEBO gives us access to more books, in that process it loses part of a book’s history, and it is a book’s history that helps us to know its value, meaning and significance.”

This is not to raise another Gutenberg Elegy but rather to ask, What functions and features should we demand of today’s e-incunabula that will make one worth more than another and, more important, will urge them “out of the cradle”? And what affordances “in the network” do we need to understand the social history of ebooks?

Bookmark – eCodices

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From the e-codices project, here’s something the history of the book can teach us going forward.

Well designed digital work will be machine-actionable, but will also be capable of expressing its content when moved to other media, even non-digital media.  Neel Smith, College of Holy Cross, Boston, MA.

The manuscript page in the photograph above comes from a copy of Plato’s “Phaedo,” the description of Socrates’ death.  Its round humanistic script belongs to a single scribe, who identifies himself in red thus, “Marcus Speegnimbergensis scriptsit“ (fol. 75).

The attribution for the image associated with this item is Pellegrin Elisabeth, Manuscrits latins de la Bodmeriana, Cologny-Genève 1982, pp. 330-331. The item has a Digital Object Identifier: DOI: 10.5076/e-codices-cb-0137, which provides a fair bit of that metadata needed for Dr. Smith’s purposes.

Lesson? It might be a good idea for every book and ebook to have a DOI, but then the International DOI Foundation and its registration agencies would need to find a sustainable business model to provide easily accessed DOI-generators for everyone seeking to publish those items.

Smith’s comments on the Fondation Martin Bodmer Collection at Cologny also imply a tangential and harder question, In the absence of some persistent unique identifier like the DOI and well-provided and maintained metadata associate with it, what are the digital (but technology-agnostic) forensic tools with which we will uncover our ebooks’ “Marcus Speegnimbergensis” and the evidence of the social contexts and creative tools with which “our Marcus” worked? That’s a “poser” for the likes of Matthew Kirschenbaum and webliographic scholars to come.

Bookmark – Iain Pears, Arcadia. The Future of Narrative? The Future of Exposition?

Arcadia, Iain Pears
Arcadia, Iain Pears

In “The Scholarly Kitchen“, Joseph Esposito writes: “I suspect that the multiple narratives of Pears’s fiction will someday find an analogue in expository writing that enables intersections of one theme or thread with another, which would provide, as it were, a new form of discovery.”

Perhaps that “analogue” is already here for the scholarly article in Elsevier’s “Article of the Future” and Wiley’s “Anywhere Article“. In scholarly expository writing, the intersections are often those of “conversations” among articles, for which the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) has performed and continues to perform an innovatory spark. Consider the activity and ten aims of the Linked Content Coalition.

All of this has been a long time coming. The DOI has its roots in the Handle System, whose roots weave back beyond the Web to the Internet Protocol (IP) itself. Esposito notes Iain Pears’s print antecedents in the experimental ’60s fiction of John Barth and the creator of Scheherazade, and he could have added the 1987 digital precursor Afternoon, A Story by Michael Joyce.

A long time coming, and to the kids in the backseat reading Pears’s Arcadia on their iPads, “No, we’re not there yet … keep reading!”

Bookmark – The PhysiDigi Bookmark

If the pen can be mightier than the sword, can a bookmark be mightier than Amazon? Bow Software Ltd in the UK thinks so.  Using NFC technology, Charlotte Quickenden’s firm has committed “digital metonymy”:  a bookmark that delivers the book.

A PhysiDigi Bookmark is a physical form which acts as a digital trigger to download an ebook.  A PhysiDigi Bookmark has value, the value of the ebook that it opens for you to read. Therefore if you want to buy it, you purchase the ebook just as you would any other book by exchanging money with the vendor be that bookshop, venue or exhibition. The ebook is then yours. You own it, this is not an ebook lease controlled by DRM. If it’s a good ebook you can lend it, or,  if it was a present you can wrap it and gift it.  This physical digital thing is tactile, it has visual appeal, and through the act of acquiring it you will naturally have a closer connection to it than a box that you tapped ‘install’.  Charlotte Quickenden, MD, Bow Software Ltd., via Bookshops of the Future: Where Physical and Digital Co-exist.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is the wireless transmission of data from a hardware device to another physical object within 10 centimeters of the device.

  Both must have embedded NFC chips and antennas.  Quickenden hopes that her bookmarks with embedded NFC chips and antennas will level the playing field for bookstores, which for some publishers have fallen to less than 10% as a source of sales.   Listen to Quickenden describe the PhysiDigi bookmark and watch it in action.

 

Bookmark – Fast.co interview with Henrik Berggren, Readmill

Michael Grothaus interviews Henrik Berggren about the Readmill app and the future of reading.  E-Books Could Be The Future Of Social Media ⚙ Co.Labs ⚙ code + community.

Henrik Berggren, Readmill
Henrik Berggren, Readmill

Berggren says he never believed that single-purpose devices like the original Kindle would become widespread, a prediction that seems to be playing out. But he did believe that multi-purpose tablets like the iPad would become most people’s primary e-reading devices, not phones. According to Readmill’s data, however, phones are not only the most popular e-reading device, they’re the best at keeping readers engaged, too.

“It is not only that they are spending more time reading the books because the screen is smaller. Even taking into account screen size, smartphone users read more often, they finish more books in general, they start more books, they share more quotes, and they write more comments,” says Berggren. “This paints a very clear picture that the people that are most engaged with their books are the people who read on their phones.”

Bookmark for your browser or ereader? | Anniversary Update

Book with florentine paper bookmark.
Book with florentine paper bookmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Publishing and editorial folk who wish to educate themselves in the changing craft of the book should track this ongoing discussion on the merits of browsers versus apps/devices –even if at times it becomes finely technical.

Books On Books logged several articles on this last year when Jason Pontin declared MIT Technology Review’s colors (decidedly HTML5).  Here is another worth a quick read:   5 Myths About Mobile Web Performance | Blog | Sencha.  A quick read?  Yes, publishers and editors need not be HTML jockeys or Java connoisseurs, but they need to have a business-like grasp of what they are choosing to ride or drink.

Understanding why to publish an ebook through an app or in a browser-friendly format — or both — and what the implications are for crafting finds its rough print analogs in selecting the primary channel and form of  publication (trade or academic, hardback or paperback) as well as  the structure of the work (design, layout and organization) and working out the financial case for deciding whether to publish and how.

Bookmark – Education for the Future of Publishing

The Elements, Theodore Gray
The Elements, Theodore Gray

When it comes to acquiring skills and professional training in book publishing, from the early days of the printing press onwards, learning by doing has been book publishing’s order of the day.  Consider the following interview exchange between Mac Slocum (Tools of Change) and Theodore Gray (The Elements):

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MS: What skills — or people with those skills — must be incorporated into the editorial process to produce something like the iPad/iPhone editions?

TG: Specifically in the case of “The Elements,” the skills required were writing, commercial-style stills photography, Objective-C programming, and a whole, whole lot of Mathematica programming to create the design and layout tool and image processing software we used to create all the media assets that went into the ebook.

Other ebooks might well require different skills. My next one, for example, is going to include a lot more video, so we’re gearing up to produce high-grade stereo 3D video. That’s one of the challenges in producing interesting ebooks: You need a wider range of skills than to produce a conventional print book.

Starting out in book publishing late in the last century, a novice would have consulted Marshall Lee’s Bookmaking and the Chicago Manual of Style to learn the basics of design, editorial and production.  If it were Trade publishing that beckoned, a familiarity with A. Scott Berg’s biography of Maxwell Perkins (“Editor of Genius”) would have been likely.

Maxwell Perkins, half-length portrait, seated ...
Maxwell Perkins, half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing slightly right / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If scholarly book publishing, then Harman’s The Thesis and the Book, Turabian’s A Manual for Writers and maybe Bailey’s The Art & Science of Book Publishing.

But as with the acquisition of print publishing skills through learning by commissioning, designing, editing, printing, marketing and selling, the acquisition of the skills required for ebook publishing could use a hand up from appropriate resources.   People like Joshua Tallent, Joel Friedlander, Liz Castro, Craig Mod, Matthew Diener are those resources — either by example or authoring — and novices today would do well to start bookmarking their output.

For notes on the availability of formal training and career conditions in publishing, see Thad McIlroy’s The Future of Publishing.

Related sources:

“Joshua Tallent of Ebook Architects on the State of Digital Publishing,” Bill Crawford, Publishing Perspectives

“Understanding Fonts & Typography,” Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer

html, xhtml, and css: 6th edition, Elizabeth Castro

“Our Future Book,” Craig Mod

“Resources,” Matthew Diener, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion, ePUBSecrets

The Chicago Manual of Style Online

English: Image of the cover of the 1906, 1st E...
English: Image of the cover of the 1906, 1st Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bookmark — The evolution of bookselling

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Nate Hofhelder, The Digital Reader

No good history of the book in the late 20th and early 21st century will overlook this part of the book’s value chain.  In covering the earlier eras, the outstanding historians — Chartier, Davenport, Eisenstein, Johns,  Lefèbvre and Martin,  McMurtrie,  Pettegree, Pollard, and Suarez — touch on distribution and retail to varying degrees.  When it comes to our era though, the effect on the book itself of the distribution/retail roles played by Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, Apple, Google, OverDrive and a host of other smaller key players such as Project Gutenberg will loom larger.  (So will that of self-publishing if we consider BookStats‘ report that self-published ebooks represented 30% of ebook sales in 2012.  What the effect will be, though, is harder to say.)

Around since 1986, OverDrive has its roots in the production end of the industry, providing publishers with conversion and formatting services from diskettes to CDs to ebooks.  Its owner, Steve Potash, set the foundations of its contribution to distribution and retail in 1999-2000 with his participation in the Open eBook Forum, now the International Digital Publishing Forum, and his creation of Overdrive’s Content Reserve.   As of this writing, Content Reserve contains over a million ebooks; it is the “overdriver” behind the firm’s library distribution service and the OverDrive Retail Kiosk.

If the OverDrive Retail Kiosk becomes a key to unlocking the way back for book retail in the “real world,” it will by its own definition contribute to the evolution from the printed book to the ebook.   Anyplace — in the mall, the main street or high street, the coffee shop, canteen or library — can become an outlet for the purchase of ebooks, which will feed back into the supply and value chains.

No doubt, historians will note that OverDrive required no physical ereader of its own, no Kindle, no iPad, etc., to reach this point in the evolutionary path but rather, it was its dual focus on finding an effective way to rationalize the delivery of multiple formats while pursuing a standard (EPUB) and on meeting the distribution needs of libraries then retail that put OverDrive in its current position. That position is symbiotic with both “closed garden” ereaders and apps as well as books-in-browser solutions.

Just as the Gutenberg press would not have taken off without the regular supply of a more relatively standardized form of paper, the digital book has had to await — is still awaiting — a more standardized format and mechanism of delivery.  In reinventing themselves and these parts of the book industry’s DNA, OverDrive and others contribute to the evolution of the book.

 

Overdrive Digital Bookmobile
Overdrive Digital Bookmobile (Photo credit: Librarian In Black)

 

Bookmarking Book Art – Franziska, a typeface

The Fine Press Book Association’s inaugural Student Type Design Competition sprang from the hope that by building bridges between printers and young type designers we might end up creating new material resources for the fine press community.

A PDF document called the Making of Franziska – a hybrid text-face between slab and serif is available for downloading.  This document is quite well put together and provides a kind of tutorial on type design.

franziska-font_runge_03_text_04_freundliche-versalien

Bookmarking the Objectification of the Book

The book as object is not new.  Think of Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojéda
January

What might be remarkable — or book-markable — is whether the surge in objectifying the book through sumptuous illumination, miniaturization or the creation of book art occurs at definitive moments of shifting media.  One-off illuminated manuscripts preceded the invention of moveable type, but was there a definable surge of them in the decades either side of 1450?

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The Audubon double elephant folio books appeared in 1820 about the time of Frederick Koenig‘s invention of the steam-driven letterpress.

Are William Morris’s fine editions from Kelmscott Press in 1890 a datum in a surge of book objectification either side of Mergenthaler‘s invention of linotype in 1884?

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mergenthaler_linotype

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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fedexEither side of September 1999 (the release of the Open eBook Publication Structure 1.0), we have the Miniature Book Society, founded in 1983 and, in 2003,  Michael Hawley’s Bhutan:

A Visual Odyssey across the Last Himalayan Kingdomthe world’s largest book according to Guinness.

Last week, the New York Times ran an article about Neale Albert‘s collection of miniature books.  Is this popular interest in unreadable books and the surge in altered and sculpted books an anxious reflection of another shift in media?