Ben Vershbow’s talk at today’s TOC Conference titled Books as Conversations reminds me that I need to visit The Institute for the Future of the Book more often. Ben is going through some of the fascinating, and successful, experiments being conducted there, such as Gamer Theory, The Googlization of Everything, Without Gods, and several more. Most impressive is the visualization of information and flow that they’re experimenting with, as well as the ease with which readers can comment and participate in the works. (I love Ben’s comment that through tools like these “The margins are now public,” meaning that notes in margins that used to be private are now exposed to all. Of course, many sites have done this before, including our own Safari Books Online system that included a public notes feature when we launched it in 2001.)
There are also some clever marketing and community hooks embedded within the “books,” such as the “stay in touch” feature towards the bottom of this page. Small things like this are the often overlooked but necessary features required to encourage ongoing participation.
If you’re thinking about experimenting with books online, check the above sites out.