Archives for posts with tag: ebook
Feedback Tab - Open

Feedback Tab - Open

We’ve added a feedback tab to the BookGlutton site – it’s something we’ve been meaning to do for some time, so it feels good to get it out there.

The Feedback tab just hangs out there on the right side of the screen. Act on impulse! Tell us if you run into problems on the site, right from that page. Share your suggestions for improvement. You can even automatically attach a screenshot of the page you’re on.

Every bug you track down, every recommendation you make, improves BookGlutton. Thanks for contributing to the experience.

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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:

[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

Photo Attribution: Will Clayton

Happy Birthday, BookGlutton! You were but a glimmer in our eye in Fall of 2006. A few months later, when the two of us started working on you full time (Jan 07), we knew we were doing something exciting – after all, who had heard of social reading then? In the last four years we’ve built a lot. We’ve seen the industry change right before our eyes. We were in private beta when the Kindle came out. The iPhone was brand new. We were early.

Looking at things from a startup perspective, early isn’t always positive. In truth, we would have done better to build less and start later – but then we wouldn’t have experimented as much. We spent a lot of time building for laptops, wishing tablets would finally happen. We had to build our own social network from the ground up because Facebook didn’t have an API (and then pivot when it did). And we had very little to base our interface on…so we made most of the user experience up as we went along.

What we built at BookGlutton includes:

BookGlutton grew to become a huge system, and has given us plenty of opportunities to geek out. Our initial plan was clear: we just set out to build a reading system with social features. As we moved through the process we found that, to do this, we needed to build a social network to use it…and then a publisher’s system, a content repository, etc. Not everything we built has been a resounding success, but we have learned about all the different aspects of digital publishing and where it intersects with the web in unique ways. Buy us a beer sometime…we can talk about it for hours!

    Over the years we’ve seen some cool uses of the site:

  • People in Iceland embedding Dracula with BookGlutton’s widget and reading it together.
  • Teachers in Phoenix using BookGlutton to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • Japanese classrooms using it to read Jane Austen.
  • Grandparents forming groups with grandkids and leaving them notes.
  • NYU students logging on at midnight to meet as a class to prepare for class.
  • Authors embedding the BookGlutton widget on their websites and leaving comments inside for their readers.
  • Soldiers using it to read with people back home.

It’s been a good ride. We recently launched a new user-funnel with some social gaming aspects and tight Facebook integration (yes, I should send a newsletter out about it). With ebooks taking off, more people are starting to see things our way. We’re excited to see where that leads us next. Aaron and I have launched a separate endeavor, ReadSocial, which brings what we’ve learned about social reading to other reading systems. BookGlutton still has great things in store…

Thanks to all the people who’ve used and supported BookGlutton over the years!

-Travis
travis at bookglutton dot com

Aaron’s presentation at Books in Browsers had 3 fundamental points, and 2 product announcements, so I’d say he pulled his weight among the heavies of publishing present at the Internet Archive last week. It was an impressive guest list, and in truth we were honored to be presenting. His presentation, The World Wide Web (of Books?), is embedded below. I felt these were the three most important concepts:

  • The future requires a new kind of publisher, the Cloud Publisher, who asks “What else can we charge for?” This is a common way for people with web-development backgrounds to approach new markets – what can we create a market for using new technology? Think Foursquare. Think Twitter. It particularly makes sense when facing the Gorgon of online publishing and distribution.
  • Communities are different than Audiences. The ideal community for a book may not align with its current audience. This explains why some retail chains can’t make the jump to community, and why communities are best built from the ground up. This will be a blog post in itself, but it’s worth mentioning here.
  • There are many layers that will live on top of social books, including the metadata layer, hyperlinked layer, and, you guessed it, the social layer.

-Travis Alber

As a designer, you conceive your design with the core values of a project in mind; you strive to reflect the ideas and feelings behind it. Contrary to that, the first lesson in web development is always separate your design from your code. It’s important that projects be flexible. A myriad number of screen sizes and devices mean the “presentation layer” should be designed to change, particularly when you use web technology. Moreover, partnerships will impact your design.

Aaron and I have been making websites for 15 years, so we get that. Most people don’t know it, but what we’ve built at BookGlutton is flexible in many ways. Easiest to change is the look and feel. Over the years we’ve had a number of conversations about offering our “BookClub in a Can,” the ability to export the social experience to other sites, so they can curate their own book clubs. Business considerations and content deals ultimately kept these projects from launching, and BookGlutton remained a destination site. But it’s fascinating to see how associating the reading experience with a different brand affects your relationship to it.

ANSWERBAG

ANSWERBAG

GOODREADS

Skinning the Reader takes almost no time at all. However, it changes the experience significantly. The Reader takes on the trappings of that community.

TOR

ELLE

All the mockups listed here preserved the buttons and layout, but even that can change. It makes for interesting consideration. Sometimes these mockups were presented in meetings; sometimes the discussion ended prematurely. See more skins, as well as the original BookGlutton design on Flickr.

This week Mashable posted an article “Social Experience is the Future of Online Content

What really stands out is the phrase “Content acquisition alone can’t be the final answer.” This is true, and something you’ll hear us saying frequently at BookGlutton. Don’t get me wrong, we spend quite a lot of time in meetings acquiring content for our readers – it’s important to have the right books. But that will never be a major differentiating factor. Publishers want to sell through multiple channels in order to reach the maximum number of users.

For free books this is already obvious. You can download Winnie the Pooh from almost any online reading system or bookstore (it even comes pre-packaged with Apple’s iBookstore). No one seeks out the store that has this specific book. As time goes on no one will be going to a particular store to get Random House books or Penguin Classics just because that’s the only place to get them. Instead they’ll be available almost anywhere, and you’ll be going for the experience. The user interface, the animation, the ability to connect with others and share your thoughts, will be what really matters.

That said, I have to caution: don’t confuse experience with features. In many reading systems, features can be the equivalent of Photoshop filters, cool to play with but only really used on occasion. Many reviewers like to tally up features, as if the program with the most wins (one only needs to look at the success of Apple’s software to see simplicity and alignment with user needs can win out). After all, the ability to make your font purple is nice, but most users are more about utility and connection than customization. I know there are some that may disagree – I have a friend who would read everything in Adobe Jenson Pro if he could (though I often wonder if he would bother to change every application he installs to do so). But in the end the most successful tools in life are ones that fit in with how you live your life. And that’s something we’ve believed in for some time.