A year ago, I opened started a publishing company and we came out with our first book Amerikan Krazy in late February. The author has a small backcatalogue that’s out of print, so in conjunction with his book launch, we’ve been slowly releasing ebook versions of his old titles. Coincidentally one of them was a fantastic little book about Ali entitled Muhammad Ali Retrospective, so I dropped everything I was doing to get it finished up and out as a quick way of honoring his passing.
But while I was working on some of the minutiae, I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind about the ideas of marginalia, commonplace books, and Amazon’s siloed community of highlights and notes. Is there a decentralized web-based way of creating a construct similar to webmention that will allow all readers worldwide to highlight, mark up and comment across electronic versions of texts so that they can share them in an open manner while still owning all of their own data? And possibly a way to aggregate them at the top for big data studies in the vein of corpus linguistics?
I think there is…
However it’ll take some effort, but effort that could have a worthwhile impact.
I have a few potential architectures in mind, but also want to keep online versions of books in the loop as well as potentially efforts like hypothes.is or even the academic portions of Genius.com which do web-based annotation.
If anyone in the IndieWeb, books, or online marginalia worlds has thought about this as well, I’d love to chat.
12 thoughts on “Webmention + Books = BookMention”
I use Kobo as my ereader and I can mark up booked and share page specific comments. Not sure whether I retain ownership or what the platform is.
I’ll have to look into how Kobo does it. On most platforms (and particularly Kindle), you get to “keep” your notes and files in a file that’s associated to the ebook, but generally they don’t make it easy/simple to export your commentary for other use. (Twitter and Facebook let you export your data, but again it’s usually as a massive blob that’s not easily usable by the average public.)
I have worked a bit on combining webmention and annotations/marginalia. You might be interested in the post about it: https://kartikprabhu.com/articles/marginalia
I reckon this can be extended to work with ebooks which have some canonical URL as well —- or just a URL which accepts webmentions.
Google Books exports highlights and marginalia to a Google Doc titled Notes from “Book Title.” The document includes the highlighted text or the note and a hyperlinked page number. Because it’s in this format, I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to extract the data via copy paste or maybe even downloading the doc as HTML. I expect the CSS would need some massaging, and obviously this is still a siloed start, but it’s something.