Publishing News: HTML5 will be the future of publishing

Content is best served in browsers, indie booksellers sue Amazon and Big Six, and ASU reimagines libraries as startup incubators.

MIT Technology Review publisher, UC Berkley students bet on HTML5

At a recent executive retreat, Beet.TV sat down with MIT Technology Review editor and publisher Jason Pontin, who said that HTML5 will be the future of publishing. In a video interview (embedded below), Pontin says the basic content publishers produce — text and video — “can be much more easily offered as scripts, as processes, inside an HTML5 wrapper inside a browser application … A publisher can do almost everything they want to do on the web for multiple platforms with the same code — why make your life harder?”

Students at UC Berkeley’s School of Information agree. Yvonne Ng reports at The Daily Californian that the students are collaborating on a project “to enhance the efficiency of e-books in the hopes of revolutionizing the accessibility of information among researchers and the general public.” The student team, Ng reports, plans “to harness a web-based platform, using the standardized web language of HTML5, to create e-books as an alternative to private proprietary formats like Kindle and iBook.”

Master of Information Management and Systems (MIMS) student Jacob Hartnell, a member of the project team, told Ng, “The power of standards really solves the challenge for publishers of, ‘How do we make the content work on all sorts of different devices?'” Other members of the team highlighted other possible results from the project, including a collaborative author platform and the ability to create interactive textbooks that would allow annotations, endnotes and highlighting. You can read Ng’s full report at The Daily Californian.

Indie booksellers sue Amazon and Big Six, trip over technical terms

In headline news this week, indie booksellers from Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Posman Book and Fiction Addiction have filed a class action antitrust lawsuit against Amazon and Big Six publishers Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Hachette.

Leslie Kaufman reports at the New York Times that “at the heart of the lawsuit is the idea that the top publishers signed secret contracts with Amazon that allowed them to code their e-books in such a way that the books could only be read on an Amazon Kindle device or a device with a Kindle app.” The booksellers, Kaufman reports, want “open-source coding” so consumers could buy ebooks from anywhere and read them on any device.

Alyson Decker, lead counsel for the bookstores, told Andrew Losowsky at the Huffington Post that DRM is “a problem that affects many independent bookstores” and that the complainants “are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic ereaders.”

Cory Doctorow read the complaint and notes in a post a Boing Boing that “what they mean by ‘open source’ has nothing to do with open source,” that what they’re really trying to say is “standardized” or “interoperable” — in other words, he says, they’re not after DRM-free books; “they just want them locked up using a DRM that the booksellers can also use.”

Libraries come full circle, serve again as startup incubators

Emily Badger at The Atlantic took a look at bringing an old idea in to revitalize the modern struggling library: co-working spaces, turning libraries into startup incubators. “One of the world’s first and most famous libraries, in Alexandria, Egypt,” Badger writes, “was frequently home some 2,000 years ago to the self-starters and self-employed of that era.”

Arizona State University, Badger reports, is planning to implement that very idea — over the next few months, the school will be rolling out the Alexandria Network, installing startup incubators inside the local public libraries, beginning with the Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. Libraries in the program not only will provide a familiar, comfortable space for entrepreneurs, but also will offer classes and mentoring using the university’s startup resources. “Public libraries long ago democratized access to knowledge,” Badger notes. “Now they could do the same in a startup economy.”

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