Archives for category: ebooks

Stay tuned, this is about as publishing-geeky as we can get. You might have noticed we’ve been gradually open-sourcing parts of the BookGlutton platform as time permits. We want to share some of the tools we’ve built over the last five years to encourage development of reading systems, startup-technology, and, of course, the publishing revolution (underway now!)

Aaron Miller (@vaporbook), who built the technology running BookGlutton and ReadSocial, and who is now working with NetGalley, has open-sourced the PHP ONIX Importer we use on the BookGlutton site.

GET IT HERE
BookGlutton PHP ONIX Importer
https://github.com/Vaporbook/POI-PHP-ONIX-Importer

WHAT IS ONIX?
Most people probably haven’t heard of ONIX (ONline Information eXchange). ONIX uses XML to process metadata for book publishers. If you’re a publisher that wants to deliver all your titles and associated metadata (title, author, publishing date, price, cover image, etc.), you push it out in an ONIX feed for the retailer to pick up. There are a lot of variations on this — every publisher formats their ONIX feed differently, and they change them at will.

WHAT DOES BOOKGLUTTON’S PHP ONIX IMPORTER DO?
The PHP ONIX Importer is an easy way to import any kind of ONIX and make it available as JSON data structures. JSON interfaces well with web applications and can be served directly from Web APIs and consumed by various kinds of Web clients without depending on other libraries. It’s a small tug, but it gets publishing a bit closer to the web, so we can easily use vital metadata about book products.

WHY IS THIS GOOD?
We attended the Books in Browsers 2011 Conference at the Internet Archive and saw that people are speedily moving toward the web for reading experiences, publishing platforms, book catalogs and reading recommendations. This code will help some of those endeavors get a head start. The BookGlutton PHP ONIX Importer moves the conversation forward, because it is:

  • Based on the most widely proliferated and supported languages of web applications: PHP
  • Timely in the age of HTML 5 where JSON-interchange is replacing XML
  • Compatible with widely used CMS systems such as Drupal and WordPress
  • Battle tested in production on the BookGlutton.com site for several years

AARON MILLER’S OTHER OPEN SOURCE TOOLS
You can find some of Aaron’s other work on github under vaporbook. A lot of it has had a good workout on BookGlutton.com. He’s also involved with the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and its Standards Development for E-Book Annotation Sharing and Social Reading committee. Here’s some of Aaron Miller’s other open source code:

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[Originally posted as  a response on the Read 2.0 discussion list]

It’s fair to say that ebooks are here to stay, but it’s also pretty obvious there’s a lot of hot air floating around.

A provocative article from Wired I saw today points out the remaining painful flaws with ebooks. It got some backlash among fans.

The way I read it, the second time through, was not that the basic premise is ebooks should replicate the print world, but they should evolve from the best traits of the print world, and then add some new ones of their own.

I think all of his points are extremely valid criticisms of nagging problems with ebooks as a medium.

1.) They still feel ephemeral. E-ink does something to alleviate this. I place my Kindle on top of my stack of unfinished paperbacks. That’s my reminder there are 5 more unfinished e-books there. Placing my iPad there wouldn’t make as much sense.

2.) The first point leads nicely into the second one, which is why can’t all the lovely Epubs I read in iBooks be available on my Kindle? You have to admit, the selfish segmentation of content according to hardware and/or retailer is one of the stupidest and most annoying problems that the industry is perpetuating.

3.) The margin note problem is in turn related to device segmentation as well. Currently, even in the new Epub 3 spec, the industry is resisting the ability to connect a book to the wider universe of the social web. The ideal container is designed to restrict what we can do with the content and what other data we can bring into it.

4.) Pricing is still a valid concern, and an industry problem. I don’t think anyone on this [Read 2.0] list would dispute that.

5.) On this point, I agree with a fundamental assumption, which is that books, unlike other media, are inherently physical. And I don’t just mean covers and spines and paper. E-ink, remember, has physicality to it. It’s not just light emitted from a screen, it’s light reflecting off of particles. It’s the most natural successor to the printed page. It’s a testament that we can’t discount the value of jackets, spines, and form factors in figuring out where the ebook is headed. The question of whether consumers will continue to want pretty packages for their ebooks has not yet been resolved.

Rather than being superfluous, I think this article raises important concerns in layman’s terms, and it’s refreshing to have it as a backdrop to all the hype. We have a long way to go…

Aaron

I’ve been using the iBooks app quite a bit on my iPad, and I’ve long hoped for an update which will wipe out that annoying faux-book border around the pages. So I investigated it, and was thrilled to find an easy way to modify iBooks to use a clean white (or sepia) page with no pseudo book border around it. I’m calling this the “clean” theme, although it really just cleans up the two existing themes in iBooks – “default” and “sepia.”

Download it here:

https://github.com/Vaporbook/iBooks-Theme-Clean-Up

You’ll need the OS X desktop application called iPhone Explorer to do this. It’s very much like a Finder window that you can use on your iPad/iPhone — so you can see and change the full filesystem, and not just the media files like iTunes lets you do. Once you have it installed, hook up your iPad and follow the instructions in the README.txt file.

Note: I do include the files to modify the iPhone version as well, but I haven’t tested those. Reports are welcome.

~Aaron