Books in Browsers @ the Internet Archive

I’m at the Open Content Alliance‘s annual meeting, this year about Books in Browsers, hosted at the Internet Archive in SF. It’s an encouraging gathering, with a lot of the technical and social implementations lining up as people give their short presentations.

I spoke yesterday about the olpc use case of rural and offline schools (you can find my slides online on the OLPC wiki), where bookreaders and the books they can find are often all that students have in the way of a regional library. Others in the audience added that there is also often no historical division between receiving stories and creating your own, or a tradition of ‘received knowledge’ that publishers have decided is worth distributing.

A few wonderful bits of news: the Internet Archive’s bookreader, which is one of the best browser-based readers around, now works with touchscreen input (NTS: get them a 1.75 model once they’re available!; some of their sliders are too small/close to the screen edges for the XO bezel). Mary Lou brought a new Pixel Qi screen with her from Taiwan (she and John will both be @ SFSU tomorrow). And a lot of people in attendance (including many people who are building the next gen of bookreader) are working on one of the core ideas of modern collaboration — that everyone is both reader and author at different times.

My favorite quote from the event so far: “Before the writer was ‘author’, before the invention of [literary] ‘genius’, artists simply transmitted culture that preexisted: spongs, dances, text, stories, poems that didn’t ‘belong’ to anyone. And their skill was the skill to transmit, not of invention, and attributable to a [muse], not to personal genius.

I hope to see some of you tonight at 5pm at the opening party for the community summit!

Making Books Transparent

Sayamindu and I have been contributing over the course of the year to a Bookserver initiative to define how digital texts are indexed, discovered, and distributed.  The Open Content Alliance organized a conference yesterday and today in San Francisco to help us move forward with Bookserver development, improve the draft specification.  It was an inspiring event, with a lot of good working code and interfaces to share with one another.  Brewster throws a mean party, and when he announced he was hosting one last night to celebrate the launch of the Bookserver project and the Archive’s move into a beautiful new space in the Presidio, some 500 people turned up.  I was pleased to run into Mary Lou, with four laptops sporting new Pixel Qi screens – low power, and yet so very hot.

I spoke about what OLPC is doing with this new specification – Sayamindu’s modified “Get Internet Archive Books” activity was the first client application to use the developing spec and beta book servers – and we spent some time brainstorming ways to improve OPDS.  It’s an open group and process – all input is welcome. Continue reading Making Books Transparent