21 December 2010

What is an ebook?

A few days ago I participated in an online discussion on the nature of the ebook

Edited a bit for coherence and clarity.

Introduction

neustudio: Today we will here from @MatthewDiener, @pablod, @ebookNoir, @BookDesignGirl, @FakeBaldur.

neustudio: They are all ebook pros and frequent contributors to hour discussions

Mathew Diener

MatthewDiener: Snuck out of benefits meeting to be here for first half hour at least. Can’t miss time with my peeps. I think the most important defining characteristic of an eBook is that it is first and foremost text. It is intended to be read. But an eBook should not simply be a digital copy of the print edition. The text should be enhanced with the advantages of the form.

The text should be reflowable. It should resize to any screen & remain readable. eBooks should be readable on multiple devices. eBooks should support DAISY/text to speech. eBooks should allow access to content for readers who have difficulties w/ print text. eBooks should take advantage of linking for TOC, cross referencing, notes, & access to content & resources outside the book itself. Index, too. An index can be a great tool for readers if it is fully linked to text. eBooks should include images, audio, and video files when this content enhances the book, allowing primary source inclusion for multi-media.

pablod: @MatthewDiener so by your definition, a PDF file is not an ebook? I completely agree.

MatthewDiener: I think a PDF is a PDF. It serves a single purpose (to mirror a print edition), but it does not realize potential of eBook/digital.

MatthewDiener: Aldiko & ScrollMotion are making eBook apps, but most apps aren’t eBooks anymore.

MatthewDiener: eBooks are content containers; they need a common structure.

MatthewDiener: And that is it for my time. Who’s next?

Pablo Defendini

neustudio: @pablod is up

pablod: Hi! So, here’s a definition of an ebook: the written word, marked up and hyperlinked. This is purposefully vague and inclusive. Anything above and beyond this then gets slapped with a qualitative moniker: ‘enhanced,’ ‘picture,’ ‘interactive,’ etc. So: if an ebook is the written word, marked up, that means we use regular old markup (X/HTML) to do so, right? If an ebook is a set of HTML + CSS docs, what makes it different from a website? I don’t have an answer for this.

vyallamelli: @pablod Books are to be read, page by page website to be browsed :) Sorry for this interruption

vyallamelli: @pablod eBooks only provide portability nothing else to be different from a browser

vyallamelli: @pablod Cross book, document linking, this is something that ebooks still cant do

pablod: What do ereaders (the ‘browser’ for ebooks—iBooks, Kindle, Nook, etc) bring to the party that a regular web browser doesn’t? What could an ebook in a regular web browser do that current ebooks can’t?

tobiasbuckell: @pablod stricter adherence to standards? Don’t like sloppy code?

pablod: .@tobiasbuckell There is that, certainly. But that depends on the software maker.

pablod: That’s what I’ve got for . More questions than answers. As it should be. Let’s get it on! ;)

JulietaLionetti: @pablod I’d like an answer from the (human) reader point of view to the question of what a book can do in a regular web browser.

eBookNoir

eBookNoir: me next. eBooks are not simply reproductions of the printed book, they don’t act the same and shouldn’t be expected to. An eBook follows different rules than a print version, dont look look printed books. That’s ok, we shouldn’t focus on that as a deterrent. To define an eBook we need to think differntly than what a printed book is & realize that the future of the book as a whole is changing. eBooks are content and needed to be treated as such and could be in a variety of forms, a big question is what isn’t an eBook?

Is an App or an online platform an eBook? eBooks are ever evolving, it’s not simply text anymore, it’s audio, vid, interaction.

vyallamelli: @eBookNoir Any e-document that does not have a definite structure as a book is not an eBook

vyallamelli: @eBookNoir True! Its up to the reader to classify the eDocuments

eBookNoir: @vyallamelli -good point, but that is also being challenged all the time, by writers & everyone, a standard is only so good if followed

JulietaLionetti: @eBookNoir I’m afraid that apps have a different discursive structure than ebooks.

Colleen Cunningham

neustudio: @BookDesignGirl has some thoughts to share

BookDesignGirl: Hi all! Here’s my observations and opinions from my own little corner of the world… An eBook is 1) digitalized content 2) built for various eReader platforms. Can’t have one w/out the other, which makes challenging. An eBook is a contained set of content. This makes it different than a website because it’s expanded and updated less frequently. An eBook can be a PDF, ePub, or an app. Because each format affects context of content, Editorial should be involved in decisions. A PDF eBook can support audio & video embedding, bookmarking, web linking, searches…in a grid that can support complex content. eBook reminds us content is priority and format it’s presented in is secondary. How does your reader want to access your content? An eBook has a beginning, a middle, and an end like its printed counterpart, but the ordering of the content is up to debate.

Debate re: if eBooks should mimic printed books show how little we know how readers experience & digest long-form digital content. Producing an eBook is a challenging, inventive, pain-in-the-neck, exhilarating, thought-provoking, ever-evolving experience.

Baldur Bjarnason (that’s me)

neustudio: @FakeBaldur is going to bring it on home

fakebaldur: Okay. My turn. (Short version: I agree with most of the others :-)

Interactive media has a 26+ year history of creativity, design, traditions, tropes & a canon to match. Ebooks as a medium have to have an added meaning beyond interactivity. They need to be differentiated from web/flash/games. The only thing ebooks have, that the interactive media genres don’t, is a tradition of longform text. Which leads to a very simple answer to the question “What is an ebook?”: Longform text, prose or poetry, in a digital context.

It doesn’t have to be linear, but if you replace the longform text with video & twiddly knobs, it ceases to be an ebook. Text, and the presentation of the body of text, has to be the heart, spine and body of the story. But the content of an ebook could be remediated into something that is more interactive and goes beyond the ebook form.

fakebaldur: That’s my answer :-D

Discussion

neustudio: group, any comments, questions for our presenters?

vyallamelli: I think the term “eBook” has been broken up and squashed completely by self ideology

adamjury: @MatthewDiener A good PDF is better than a bad “eBook” (A term fraught with baggage, as regularly illustrates… ;-) )

adamjury: “eBook” already means so many different things to different people, I try not to use it in customer-facing communications.

MatthewDiener: @adamjury I agree. And with content like basal curriculum, PDFs may be a much stronger digital presentation format.

adamjury: @MatthewDiener Absolutely. The type of content you publish should guides format. I publish RPGs; they don’t work well as ePub, yet.

tinahender: Wow. It does appear that many of you think a picture book or art book cannot ever be an “ebook.”

vyallamelli: Any electronic form of a book other than the printed book is an ebook.

neustudio: What about children’s books, art books, comic books?

fakebaldur: @tinahender As soon as you get into a digital context, picture/art/photo books can become their own medium, and flower really

eBookNoir: @tinahender - I dont know if I’d say that. I can see the definition of an eBook changing, always.

pablod: @tinahender never said that.

vyallamelli: Its like Printed book, is hard back, paper back, hard bind, soft bind, or spiral bind, do we call it some other book

fakebaldur: .@neustudio e.g. ‘What are Digital Comics?’ - The answer to which would be a variation of: Sequential art in a digital context

pablod: @tinahender I would love to have an art ebook… on a 15-inch tablet. devices need to catch up to intentions.

jennybullough: Any electronic form is an ebook: @vyallamelli — so is the author’s Word file manuscript an eBook?

cdcasey: I’m curious, would most agree that eBooks need a separate workflow, separate from (and not tacked on to) the print design process?

vyallamelli: @jennybullough Yes it is one just that he wont sell it Copyright.

pablod: I think that art, picture, comics, etc, along with science and textbooks, will move away from traditional ‘book’ pigeonhole.

vyallamelli: @cdcasey eBooks dont need a separate workflow, just the current needs to be upgraded/migrated to add in eBooks

crych: @cdcasey re workflow: not tacked on, not separate; for pref., XML first

vyallamelli: @neustudio Yes ISBN-International Standard Book Number

eBookNoir: @cdcasey - I’d say they need to compliment each other.

fakebaldur: Re: @pablod’s Qs: The diff between browsers/websites and readers/ebooks is that browsers are hostile to reading. They don’t feature tools for highlighting, no built in notes, no cross-device synchronisation, no book-level metadata/search. It’s an User Interface/User Experience thing. Browsers are designed for info-grazing & are about as conducive to reading as a library index card system.

JulietaLionetti: @fakebaldur Brilliant definition of reading on browsers. Thanks.

pablod: @vyallamelli actually I think print needs to be ‘tacked on’ to e-production, in fact (no matter what Adobe would prefer). @cdcasey.

BookDesignGirl: @cdcasey XML ideal but corporate here struggles w/ that - can we do it, can we afford it, no … not in the budget this year.

jennybullough: I disagree @vyallamelli an electronic file does not = an ebook. Just like my handwritten journal does not equal a book. ISBN = book

vyallamelli: @pablod Absolutely, digital content production makes life is easy for print producton. I do it day in day out

ritchielee: 2,500 line nested NCX amended; glad that’s over #thedoubletruthruth

cdcasey: @pablod interesting view. I agree they need to be complimentary, but one shouldn’t inhibit the other

pablod: @fakebaldur can’t say I disagree, but some of those limitations can probably be eliminated in the document’s presentation layer

vyallamelli: @jennybullough Its the perspective why would any book be called an eBook?

cdcasey: @BookDesignGirl I think the XML TLA scares some people ;-)

neustudio: Taking the easy way out: Let’s make really cool things and then figure out what to call them.

BookDesignGirl: @cdcasey re: XML TLA scares some people | Yes, it’s “change”! so for us eBook after pBook b/c correx entered at pBook correx stage.

vyallamelli: When Guttenberg project brought 100s of books in text format for easy portaibility and called it ebooks no one objected why?

neustudio: @cdcasey: @BookDesignGirl What is TLA?

cdcasey: @neustudio Three Letter Acronym

fakebaldur: @pablod Then the browser becomes little more than an app platform for implementing an ebook reader like @ibisreader .

MatthewDiener: Have to go to a meeting, but this was/is a fun Hour. I can’t wait to read the conversation that follows.

pablod: Taking a long view here: I think ePub/ereading systems etc are a transitional stage for the written word. Almost a ghetto created by corporate, technical, or marketing needs.

cdcasey: @fakebaldur or iBooks

adamjury: @jennybullough Is a limited-edition title sold only directly and thus with no ISBN assigned not actually a book?

pablod: @fakebaldur BINGO.

vyallamelli: No one told, Are Gutenberg text files eBooks or just text files.

pablod: THIS—> “Taking the easy way out: Let’s make really cool things and then figure out what to call them. ” via @neustudio.

crych: @pablod So do you see a gradual melding of ereading systems and browsers?

cdcasey: I’m not sure I would call an original Word file an eBook any more than I would call an original typed manuscript a printed book.

tinahender: I think it helps, when we are discussing ebooks, to consider we aren’t all working w/ same type of books. But they are all books.

pablod: @crych yes I do as a matter of fact. This is actually already the case. Look at iBooks: it’s essentially a simple version of Webkit.

jennybullough: Good questions @vyallamelli and @adamjury ! What I think we need to avoid is assigning ISBNs to every e-file.

tinahender: @pablod “15-inch tablet” Art book epub on iPad can look pretty good.

eBookNoir: what is an eBook is always going to change, will always be in flux. As long as the tech continues to change, so will eBooks.

pablod: @jennybullough Too late! (I hate that too.)

jennybullough: Agree! @cdcasey not sure I would call an orig Word file an eBook any more than I would call an orig typed manuscript a print book.

JulietaLionetti: @tinahender Maybe, we should start thinking without the book in the centre. Books are not all the same good.

adamjury: @jennybullough Agreed. I don’t assign ISBNs to any of our electronic books: PDF, ePub, Kindle. Can do without. (maybe not forever)

pablod: @tinahender it can and it does, but try looking at, say, a big Taschen book on there. Relatively low res screen, small viewport.

eBookNoir: @jennybullough @vyallamelli @adamjury isbns are a whole other discussion within itself for eBook creation. It’s all metadata.

jennybullough: @adamjury Can a book be sold without an ISBN, even in limited direct-only quantities? I thought ISBN was tied to royalty/sales

emilyw00: @Poliorcetes cosas interesantes acerca de #booksinbrowsers si sigues @pablod y hoy.

pablod: @tinahender Want: 15 inch iPad with Retina-class display. The stay-at-home, coffee table iPad.

cdcasey: @jennybullough depends on the vendor

cdcasey: @jennybullough Apple requires a separate ISBN, while Amazon doesn’t require one at all

vyallamelli: @eBookNoir Agree!

tinahender: @pablod But higher-res iPad is coming, don’t you think?

pablod: @adamjury unfortunately, best practices dictate that you should… for now, at least. @jennybullough.

adamjury: @jennybullough Of course it can. I don’t need to assign an ISBN to something to be able to track sales. :-)

pablod: @tinahender maybe, maybe not. That Retina display is GPU intensive at bigger sizes.

jennybullough: Blank journals are called “books”, are sold as goods, yet these have no ISBN. Does content = book? (channelling Yoda over here)

aramanc: Been in concall. “XML TLA scares some people” - Implementing XML needs to be driven by Business reasons, not just because it’s XML

vyallamelli: @jennybullough Not all content is book

pablod: @tinahender A retina display on current iPad would need a resolution of 4096×3072 O.o

jennybullough: .@pablod @adamjury @cdcasey So it seems best practices are not always practiced… and the standard, isn’t :) Confused yet? I am!

tinahender: @pablod I don’t actually think the 15” is necessary. Just Retina display.

vyallamelli: @aramanc The best business reason -> XML = Cost effective and powerful Workflow :)

BookDesignGirl: @MichelVrana Yes! U following the discussion now? So many interesting thoughts on that re: ebooks could be so much more than print.

pablod: (I hope my math is correct. I suck at math)

vyallamelli: @pablod Its ok everyone does at some point in life!

fakebaldur: Not all print book genres/forms will end up as analogous ebook genres/forms. e.g. Comics are going off on their own on digital

vyallamelli: Do not compare pbooks with ebooks or ebooks with ebooks, waste of energy is evolving everyday :)

adamjury: @pablod I’m gonna ignore “Best practice” for now, in this case. Certainly until I buy our next block of ISBNs. ;P

neustudio: How did this format work for the peeps?

pablod: To me, the interesting thing is going to be the ‘hyperlinked’ bit. Concept linking, doc linking, comment linking, social reading

vyallamelli: @neustudio Great! Wonderful!

cdcasey: @neustudio certainly spurred a good discussion

JulietaLionetti: RT @pablod: To me, the interesting thing is going to be the ‘hyperlinked’ bit. Concept linking, doc linking, comment linking, social reading

BookDesignGirl: @vyallamelli re: do not compare pbooks w/ ebooks or ebooks w/ ebooks | Hard not to do when considering how to reach our readers!

JulietaLionetti: @neustudio Liked it!

vyallamelli: I think 10 years from now we all be back to pBook reading

ecodedoce: RT @pablod: To me, the interesting thing is going to be the ‘hyperlinked’ bit. Concept linking, doc linking, comment linking, social reading

pablod: For that to really take off, we need to leave the silos/ghettos of ereader platforms. See @booksquare’s latest post

vyallamelli: @BookDesignGirl Its like an ever changing menu, tastes change, But at the end food at home is the best:)

BookDesignGirl: @neustudio This was fun - the discussion this generated could go on forever. Let’s try this again.

neustudio: @MoriahJovan deserves credit too, but couldn’t join us today.

vyallamelli: @aramanc Thats why powerful

pablod: @vyallamelli I think 10 years from now, I will have never left pbook reading in the first place.

cdcasey: @aramanc I think the advantage of XML is supposed to be that it can be transformed into something for any platform

vyallamelli: I am a big fan of MoJo RT @neustudio: @MoriahJovan deserves credit too, but couldn’t join us today.

fakebaldur: @neustudio That was fun. :-)

aramanc: @neustudio Great, but only saw the end , now have some reading to do to catchup, but looks like a very spirited discussion

BookDesignGirl: @pablod @vyallamelli I just finished reading my first eBook on my Sony eReader. Liked it. Back to my stack of pBooks.

adamjury: It ain’t a print vs. ebook world. It’s a print and ebook vs. ignorance world. ;-)

vyallamelli: @pablod In the industry for 11 years never read a book even as a PDF :( sad isnt it

cdcasey: @pablod pbooks will exist for as long as we have trees :)

neustudio: Thanks, @adamjury @tinahender @vyallamelli @cdcasey @jennybullough @JulietaLionetti @aramanc @emilyw00 for a lively discussion

neustudio: Thanks especially to panelists @MatthewDiener, @pablod, @ebookNoir, @BookDesignGirl, @FakeBaldur.

MoriahJovan: @neustudio Oh, well, it’s just I have nothing prepared. I’ll participate in the convo. @vyallamelli .

vyallamelli: @MoriahJovan Its fine! We know you are among the best :)

tinahender: Thanks @neustudio, presenters, and everyone for lively and interesting discussion. Off to produce more p-books! :)

crych: Thanks to everyone and thanks to @neustudio for organising and chairing. I thought format worked well. We’ll have to do it again.

jennybullough: Thanks for a great discussion @neustudio @adamjury @tinahender @vyallamelli @cdcasey @pablod.

aramanc: @cdcasey Its certainly one of the main ones, was trying to catchup on the speed of conversation.

vyallamelli: @jennybullough You are most welcome!

vyallamelli: Bye All! at will catch up sometime later!

stephenTiano: Re: do not compare pbooks w/ ebooks or ebooks w/ books - Why? Seems downright odd NOT to make such a natural comparison.

MoriahJovan: Crap. I DID miss it. I was…um…formatting. LOL

neustudio: I’m off to work on pbook myself! Bye group!

fakebaldur: That was a blast. Thanks all. :-) @JulietaLionetti @crych @neustudio @MatthewDiener @pablod @ebookNoir @BookDesignGirl.

vyallamelli: @StephenTiano Thats what leads to no complete understanding of anything

MoriahJovan: @JulietaLionetti CRAP!!! headdesk I even had it on my calendar!!! WAh!!!

MoriahJovan: At least I’m not going to get fired for missing the meeting.

crych: @pablod: re diff epub & website: still like Jon Noring’s Internal Ref (browser) vs Doc. Org. template (epub) http://twurl.nl/ulve8l.

tinahender: @jennybullough @vyallamelli I’m totally converted to ebook reading, too. At least for straight-text books. It’s the convenience!

MoriahJovan: @pablod Actually, I am starting to reverse the order: digitize, then design for print. So much more efficient.

CoverMonkey: RT @adamjury: It ain’t a print vs. ebook world. It’s a print and ebook vs. ignorance world. ;-)

crych: @MoriahJovan Well, you know, If it would make you feel better we could always give you a whole session to yourself.

JulietaLionetti: YES RT @crych: @MoriahJovan Well, you know, If it would make you feel better we could always give you a whole session to yourself.

BookDesignGirl: Thanks @neustudio @crych @MatthewDiener @pablod @ebookNoir @fakebaldur and all for another great Hour. Be safe out there.

MoriahJovan: @crych Didn’t we do that once? O_o @julietalionetti.

MichelVrana: So, how do we replace page numbers in ebooks in order to refer to passages. Chapter & paragraph numbers perhaps?

MoriahJovan: Did we do a “why ebooks have to reflow” session yet?

ritchielee: @MoriahJovan a LOT of people are selling them as that, and it’s a crime #apdfdoesnotanebookmake

pablod: @MoriahJovan exactly.

MoriahJovan: Aarrgh I HATE that. RT @ritchielee: @MoriahJovan a LOT of people are selling them as that, and it’s a crime #apdfdoesnotanebookmake

crych: @pablod: though one wonders how much existence of <spine> in epub owes to tradition of print publication

JulietaLionetti: RT @MichelVrana There’s a great post by @tina on ebook referencing pages and passages. Can’t find the link right now. :(

adamjury: FWIW, although I love PDFs and sell them more than any other format, I think calling them “ebooks” just muddies waters.

epersonae: interesting crossflow of tweets: @RepoRat at #idcc10 & @fakebaldur with .

BookDesignGirl: @adamjury re: calling PDF “ebooks” just muddies waters | OMG, we’re gonna have to take this outside, aren’t we ;0)

crych: @MoriahJovan: Did we do… “why ebooks have to reflow”… yet? Not as such & clearly contentious. Send me note: crych at telus dot net

adamjury: @BookDesignGirl Reliable sources say that if I jab my hair in your eye, you lose. ;-)

JulietaLionetti: Must go now. Thank you again for a wonderful hour.

samldanach: Preach it! RT @adamjury: It ain’t a print vs. ebook world. It’s a print and ebook vs. ignorance world. ;-)

adamjury: @alizasherman Too complicated for Twitter, as we just spent ages “arguing” about “What is an ebook?” in hour.

tinahender: @JulietaLionetti @MichelVrana “referencing pages and passages” Not me, but @MoriahJovan. I don’t have link handy either.

MoriahJovan: @julietalionetti I’m the one pounding the line-and-verse hobby horse. Here: http://is.gd/i34F5 and http://is.gd/i34IB @tinahender.

MoriahJovan: @BookDesignGirl No. IMO, a PDF is a print book on screen. An ebook that doesn’t reflow isn’t an ebook, IMO. @pablod @ritchielee.

JulietaLionetti: @MoriahJovan See how I am? All confused. :(

zumayabooks: @StephenTiano If p-books=ebooks, then all the technos telling publishers they need to do all kinds of stuff would be out of work.

MoriahJovan: @ritchielee Now you’re getting into lay nomenclature. http://is.gd/h8RaE @pablod @bookdesigngirl.

MoriahJovan: @pablod Unfortunately, Kindle’s version of MOBI doesn’t. It honors very little.

MoriahJovan: @pablod Or I should say, less than straight MOBI does.

MoriahJovan: Is there a difference between an ebook (XHTML/CSS) and a web page? Not if you do it right.

MoriahJovan: @BookDesignGirl Oh, yes, what @pablod said about formatting, too.

ritchielee: @MoriahJovan @BookDesignGirl @pablod It’s also about being fit for purpose; supplying PDF as your digital version is plain lazy

MoriahJovan: @ritchielee Or simple ignorance. Or simply hanging onto tradition as much as possible. @bookdesigngirl @pablod.

ritchielee: @MoriahJovan if only we did just epub!

adamjury: @ritchielee @MoriahJovan @BookDesignGirl @pablod Or it’s the right tool for the title, and appropriate for the budget/market.

MoriahJovan: @ritchielee That’s what I mean. Pub ppl might insist PDF IS an ebook & offer only that b/c they don’t really know better.

MoriahJovan: @adamjury I’ve turned down work I don’t believe should be in E.

MoriahJovan: Yes, and in that case, I don’t like it at all. RT @ritchielee: @MoriahJovan A lot of people will just make do.

MoriahJovan: @adamjury Agree again. Did you see this? http://is.gd/h8RaE The analogy holds w/ other labels across the digital landscape.

adamjury: @MoriahJovan Ayup. Client ignorance is nothing new, the topic just keeps changing… ;-)

MoriahJovan: @adamjury And since they pay the bills… LOL

jctremblay: Back from the gym and snow shoveling. I missed the discussion, but thanks everyone for today talk. I’ll catch it using

thDigitalReader: @tinahender I don’t think an art book would work well on anything other than the iPad, so no.

adamjury: @thDigitalReader If open/compatability is req. to be an “ebook,” is anything sold on a closed platform (Kindle, iBooks) an “ebook”?

thDigitalReader: @adamjury My objection was practical, not philosophical. I just don’t think they’ll work.

adamjury: @thDigitalReader WRT practicality - if you make something optimized for 1 device/platform/software, it should be advertised as such

adamjury: @thDigitalReader And that’s why we sell “PDFs” and “ePubs” and “titles on the Kindle store” but not “ebooks”. ;-)

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