Tagging Tom Critchlow (@TomCritchlow) and Ton Zijlstra (@ton_zylstra) for their thoughts and maybe an update on any recent experimentation.
I do wonder if StoryGraph are planning on making the ownership of your own data on your own site easier? That might be a reason for some buy-in.
Uhhh my boss just asked me for Twitter engagement numbers... Who loves books? Like if you love books, reply if you hate them— ECW Press (@ecwpress) Dec 2, 2021
In particular, I quite enjoy the micropub client IndieBookClub for posting reading updates to my WordPress site (it supports other platforms with Micropub support too.) More details: https://indieweb.org/indiebookclub. Here’s an example of how I’m tracking what I read on my own site: https://boffosocko.com/kind/read/ or if you want just the books.
If you’d like a non-WordPress hosted solution, you might take a look at Manton Reece’s excellent Micro.blog platform which has a nice book/reading UI: https://micro.blog/discover/books or https://micro.blog/discover/books/grid. (It uses IndieWeb technologies including micropub, so you can use IndieBookClub with it. You can also syndicate to it from your WordPress site if you prefer to have your own infrastructure and just join the community there for the conversation.)
I’m happy to help if you’d like further tips/pointers for any of the above.
On the Mastodon front, you might take a look at Mouse Reeve‘s Bookwyrm (GitHub) which is one of the best custom set ups in the ActivityPub space.
If you hate them, it’s not your fault.
A🧵 of annotations
What any individual infers about their hopes and dreams for an e-reader derives from their understanding of reading in the first place. You can’t have books without bookiness. Bookiness. That’s the word Glenn Fleishman, a technology writer and longtime bookmaker, uses to describe the situation. “It’s the essence that makes someone feel like they’re using a book,” he told me. Like pornography or sandwiches, you know bookiness when you see it. Or feel it? Either way, most people can’t identify what it is in the abstract. ❧
Does this only come out because there’s something that’s book-tangential or similar and it needs to exist to describe the idea of not-book, book-adjacent, or book-like on some sort of spectrum of bookishness.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:28PM
The ancient Romans sometimes connected wax tablets with leather or cords, suggesting a prototype of binding. Replacing the wax with leaves allowed many pages to be stacked atop one another, then sewn or otherwise bound together. ❧
early book prototypes
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:30PM
In other words, as far as technologies go, the book endures for very good reason. Books work. ❧
Aside from reading words to put ideas into my brain, one of the reasons I like to read digital words is that the bigger value proposition for me is an easier method to add annotations to what I’m reading and then to be able to manipulate those notes after-the-fact. I’ve transcended books and the manual methods of note taking. Until I come up with a better word for it, digital commonplacing seems to be a useful shorthand for this new pattern of reading.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:33PM
If you have a high-quality hardbound book nearby, pick it up and look at the top and bottom edges of the binding, near the spine, with the book closed. The little stripey tubes you see are called head and tail bands (one at the top, one at the bottom). They were originally invented to reinforce stitched binding, to prevent the cover from coming apart from the leaves. Today’s mass-produced hardcover books are glued rather than sewn, which makes head and tail bands purely ornamental. And yet for those who might notice, a book feels naked without such details. ❧
It is an odd circumstance that tail bands are still used on modern books that don’t need them. From a manufacturing standpoint, the decrease in cost would dictate they disappear, however they must add some level of bookiness that they’re worth that cost.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:37PM
One site of that erosion, which may help explain ebook reticence, can be found in self-published books. For people predisposed to sneer at the practice, a lack of editing or the absence of publisher endorsement and review might justify self-published works’ second-class status. That matter is debatable. More clear is the consequence of disintermediation: Nobody takes a self-published manuscript and lays it out for printing in a manner that conforms with received standards. And so you often end up with a perfect-bound Word doc instead of a book. That odd feeling of impropriety isn’t necessarily a statement about the trustworthiness of the writer or their ideas, but a sense of dissonance at the book as an object. It’s an eerie gestalt, a foreboding feeling of unbookiness. ❧
Having helped others to self-publish in the past, I definitely do spend a bit of time putting the small sort of bookiness flourishes into their texts.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:41PM
The weird way you tap or push a whole image of a page to the side—it’s the uncanny valley of page turning, not a simulation or replacement of it. ❧
This may be the first time I’ve seen uncanny valley applied to a topic other than recognizing people versus robots or related simulacra.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:44PM
The iPad’s larger screen also scales down PDF pages to fit, making the results smaller than they would be in print. It also displays simulated print margins inside the bezel margin of the device itself, a kind of mise en abyme that still can’t actually be used for the things margins are used for, such as notes or dog-ears. ❧
It would be quite nice if a digital reader would allow actual writing in the margins, or even overlaying the text itself and then allowing the looking at the two separately.
I do quite like the infinite annotation space that Hypothes.is gives me on a laptop. I wish there were UI for it on a Kindle in a more usable and forgiving way. The digital keyboard on Kindle Paperwhite is miserable. I’ve noticed that I generally prefer reading and annotating on desktop in a browser now for general ease-of-use.
Also, I don’t see enough use of mise en abyme. This is a good one.
In Western art history, mise en abyme (French pronunciation: [miz ɑ̃n‿abim]; also mise en abîme) is a formal technique of placing a copy of an image within itself, often in a way that suggests an infinitely recurring sequence. In film theory and literary theory, it refers to the technique of inserting a story within a story. The term is derived from heraldry and literally means “placed into abyss”. It was first appropriated for modern criticism by the French author André Gide.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:49PM
Ebook devices are extremely compatible with an idea of bookiness that values holding and carrying a potentially large number of books at once; that prefers direct flow from start to finish over random access; that reads for the meaning and force of the words as text first, if not primarily; and that isn’t concerned with the use of books as stores of reader-added information or as memory palaces. ❧
Intriguing reference of a book as a memory palace here.
The verso/recto and top/middle/bottom is a piece of digital books that I do miss from the physical versions as it serves as a mnemonic journey for me to be able to remember what was where.
I wonder if Ian Bogost uses the method of loci?
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:53PM
So do all manner of other peculiarities of form, including notations of editions on the verso (the flip side) of the full title page and the running headers all throughout that rename the book you are already reading. ❧
I do dislike the running headers of digital copies of books as most annotation tools want to capture those headers in the annotation. It would be nice if they were marked up in an Aria-like method so that annotation software would semantically know to ignore them.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:56PM
Skimming through pages, the foremost feature of the codex, remains impossible in digital books. ❧
This is related to an idea that Tom Critchlow was trying to get at a bit the other day. It would definitely be interesting in this sort of setting.
(Why yes I am procrastinating my to-do list. You?)
— Tom Critchlow (@tomcritchlow) September 17, 2021
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 01:03PM
“We’ve been thoughtful,” Amazon continued, “about adding only features and experiences that preserve and enhance the reading experience.” The question of whose experience doesn’t seem to come up. ❧
They’re definitely not catering to my reading, annotating, and writing experience.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 01:04PM
h-book is an experimental microformat at best.
I might recommend for minimizing the vocabulary that one might use the existing
h-product instead and allow parsers to find an ISBN, Library of Congress book number, ASIN, UPC, or other product code to determine “bookness”.
Annotated on August 01, 2021 at 09:13AM
The writing I enjoy doing most, every year, is marginalia: spontaneous bursts of pure, private response to whatever book happens to be in front of me. It’s the most intimate, complete, and honest form of criticism possible — not the big wide-angle aerial shot you get from an official review essay, but a moment-by-moment record of what a book actually feels like to the actively reading brain. ❧
This is an online commonplace book for Whitney Trettien. You're welcome to use these notes and reading lists to guide you in your own studies.
Bonus points that Whitney calls it a Whiki! 🙂
Harry Houdini (1874-1926), master magician and escape artist, wrote in A Magician Among the Sprits, (1924) that he had "accumulated one of the largest libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, magic, witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some of the material going back as far as 1489." In 1927, through Houdini's bequest, the Library received 3,988 volumes from his collection. While strongest in nineteenth and twentieth century publications on spiritualism- Houdini doubted "if any one in the world has so complete a library on modern Spiritualism: - the Houdini Collection contains a number of magic books inscribed or annotated by well-known magicians. Leonard N. Beck. discusses significant items in "Things Magical in the Collections of the Rare Book Division," QJLC, v. 31, October 1974, p. 208-234. Also in the collection are prints, playbills, printed ephemera, periodicals, and many volumes of pamphlets on such topics as card tricks, mediums, hypnotism, handcuff escape methods, and chalk-talking. Of special note are over one hundred unannotated scrapbooks containing theatre notices and news clippings on subjects of personal interest. Houdini's theatrical collection was sold after his death to Messmore Kendall and later donated to the University of Texas.
A world beyond Amazon
A nice overview of what’s happening in some of the online book space lately. Missing some of the most bleeding edge projects, but it catches most of the interesting released material in the past year.
Directed by D.W. Young. With Parker Posey, Fran Lebowitz, Gay Talese, Susan Benne. A behind-the-scenes look at the New York rare book world.
Independent booksellers are desperate for customers to return, and not just for an online reading.
Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., sends personalized URLs to customers with a list of handpicked recommendations. ❧
Perhaps if they went the step further to set up domains for their customers, they could ostensibly use them not only as book blogs, but also to replace their social media habits?
An IndieWeb friendly platform run by your local bookseller might be out of their wheelhouse, but it could potentially help solve their proximal problem while also solving one of society’s problems all while helping to build community.
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:51PM
Take Vroman’s Bookstore, a 126-year-old institution in Pasadena, Calif. It has more than 200 employees, 20,000 square feet of space and the rent to go along with it. In a normal year, it hosts anywhere from 300 to 400 events, bringing in authors for readings and signings, along with customers who buy books and maybe a glass of wine from the bar. But none of that is happening this year. ❧
Coincidentally I bought two books at Vroman’s yesterday and it looked reasonably busy for mid-day. (Maybe because of this article?)
It’s a bit disingenuous to mention wine at their bar as their wine bar was only finally open for a minute before the pandemic shut everything down.
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:54PM
Like many other stores, Vroman’s is hosting online events to promote new books, which can attract attendees from all over the country but generally bring in almost no money. ❧
Maybe they need a book paywall for admission into those events? Buy a book to get the zoom code to get into the event?
David Dylan Thomas essentially did this for his recent book launch.
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:55PM
In the best of times, the margins at a bookstore are paper thin — traditionally, a successful shop hopes to make 2 percent in profits — but operating during a pandemic is even more expensive. ❧
Yes—they said paper thin…
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:57PM
Helped a customer ship some books to a person in prison & I don’t know if folks who don’t work in bookstores/don’t have incarcerated friends/family are familiar with how difficult prisons make this process. So for Independent Bookstore Day, let’s walk through it.— liz (@eafreem) August 29, 2020
As readers, we love books. We also recognize that books are about more than the author’s name on the front cover. Books wouldn’t exist without authors, but so much goes into publishing your favorite titles. From publicity to copyediting and book design, the publishing world is vast and varied. Have you ever wondered how to find the editor of a book? It’s actually super easy most of the time.