Monday, February 25, 2013

Mining for eBooks

In February 2013, the W3C, in partnership with IDPF and BISG, organized a workshop on eBooks, in conjunction with O'Reilly's TOC. I was invited to speak about AP's and IPTC's experience with implementing permissions and restrictions with machine readable rights. (ePub lets you include DRM statements; it seems that some publishers are using ODRL v1; IPTC have selected ODRL v2 for the foundation of RightsML). It was a great experience being on the panel and I got a lot of thoughtful and interesting questions.
eBook Readers Galore by libraryman
eBook Newbie
I'm a bit of a eBook neophyte. However, I learnt a lot from hearing the other publishers talking about their experience, hopes and frustrations with this digital publishing mechanism. And it struck me how similar the news industry is to the book industry. In his opening keynote, Bill McCoy talked about the three main ways that publisher deliver books these days: files, apps and websites. Of course, these are also the three main ways that news is delivered, today, too (not to mention dead trees in both cases for non digital publishing). As various other speakers presented at the workshop, they repeatedly used examples from newspapers and magazines (although, sometimes, as illustrations of what *not* to do). And, it has to be said, both book publishers and news publishers are in the same boat of trying to figure out their digital futures.

For more about both the eBook workshop and TOC, I recommend Ivan Herman's reflections.
Evolution of Readers by jblyberg

Mining for eBooks
Given how easy it is to create and publish an eBook, it would seem that mining a news archive could yield some interesting books. Some news publishers are already conducting experiments with ebooks in this way. For example, the UK's Guardian have a series of Guardian Shorts. (Martin Belam wrote some quite interesting articles about how he worked with the Guardian archive to create ebooks on the Internet and the Olympics). Similarly, Vanity Fair have also started to play with ebooks.

Of course, ebooks aren't the only way to make use of a rich news archive. The New York Times recently launched their TimesMachine which lets you see browse back issues between 1851 and 1922 (“all the news which was fit to print”).

As software continues to eat the world, it will be interesting to see how formerly different kinds of publishers converge and diverge in their attempts to make their digital ways.