The OpenReader concept isn’t just attractive to major e-book sellers. It also willl be a great solution for demanding readers of critical text editions. After all, it will eventually offer such capabilities as precise interbook links that the “external” authors could locate. You could write a new book, in other words, and in your footnotes point directly to the exact sentences in already-written books or articles. Not surprisingly, academics are increasingly interested. See Terje Hillesund’s eBook Community post and Jill Walker’s summary of his comments at a conference in Norway. In fact, below, I’ll reproduce the summary in full.

[notes from digital textuality seminar in Bergen (day 2)]

Today’s seminar includes a talk by Terje Hillesund on e-books and open access (“Web browsers are designed for browsing, not for reading!”), Claire Bélisle about how the materiality of books affects our conception of text and reading, and looking at how we can think about reading digital documents and Ludovic Frobert and Serge Heiden talking about their annotated, critical, online edition of a newspaper published by factory workers in 1831.
Terje Hillesund: Do we need open e-book readers?

Demonstrates Adobe reader (really for print), Microsoft Reader (can change font size, for instance, which then also changes page numbers — made for reading on small screen.

E-book situation: very low sales, few investments. Little use of free ebooks in libraries. Some problems are ergonomic – eyestrain, poor screens. Another problem: software not optimised for screen reading. Most readers actually developed for print or for text creation rather than for reading. Web browsers are for browsing, not for reading. Also a chaos of different non-compatible formats. At least 20 different formats, all proprietory, usually connected to one OS or reading device. Also very strong copy protection systems, can’t read your book on a different device, can’t lend or give away ebooks.

Preservation formats (txt, xml/tei, (pdf) and presentation formats (txt, doc, pdf, html, lit, (xml/tei) — among these, lit is the only reading format.

Writing became digital (word processing) first, then desktop publishing, but always for print. Web appeared but still stuck in print mindset. Even HTML made on principle of print (though (X)HTML/CSS separates content from presentation the way that is necessary for reading on screen).

Open eBook Forum: 90s, aim to develop open ebook standards. Unfortunately leaders are Adobe, Microsoft etc. They developed a fairly decent thing, based on XHTML and CSS; using DTDs, but Microsoft, for instance, while kind of using the system, then “build ebook” in their publishing system wraps all hte open stuff up in proprietory Microsoft codes leaving you with an opaque result that can’t be read on any system but Microsoft’s. Back to the beginning.

How to make it really open? Forget about print. Use XML. Software that’s meant for reading, not browsing or production of text. Also need adaptability, accessability, can present international glyphs. etc.

–> The open ebook forum didn’t fulfill their promise, but a new consortium, the Open Reader Consortium, and maybe — hopefully — they will succeed.

Related: NabaTech on Fiction ebooks. We greatly appreciate Naba Barkakati‘s formal endorsement of OpenReader.


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