Adam Hyde

Adam is the project lead of Booktype, and Open Source book production and publishing platform. He is also the founder of FLOSS Manuals (http://www.flossmanuals.net) and the Book Sprint methodology (http://www.booksprints.net).

When paper fails

The results affect creators, content, ownership, and trust in radically transformative ways

When all the activities and practices that we now call “publishing” exist in a networked environment, something radical changes – affecting creators, content, ownership, and trust. That might sound like the end of publishing as it is now but it also sounds like the beginning of something exciting. And of course, it is argued that this future is already here, but, to paraphrase William Gibson, perhaps a little unevenly distributed. Responses to these new challenges are already partly in motion inside the industry (e.g., the work Safari Books is doing with bibliographies connected to their ‘cloud library’) and outside (too many to mention but one example is the very interesting Open Oil* book project) and as we move forward I firmly believe these futures will become increasingly present and their economics more mature.

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Visualizing book production

Applying data viz techniques to study how a project evolves over time

Data visualization is one of the hot topics of the last year or two. So what does this offer publishing and book production?

Open data activists in particular have been lobbying governments for access to databases which they use to create infographics and visualisations for campaigns. It’s not a new science of course, it was here long before the net (for some background on contemporary practice see the wonderful books by Edward Tufte) but the net is made of data and a good mechanism for transporting it. The net is a good medium for scraping and re-presenting data in more palatable forms. Read more…

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Zero to book in three days

Think contributors and facilitators, not authors and editors

One of the burdens of book creation is the enormous time periods involved. Ask any publisher for a timeline for producing a book and you will be surprised if you get back an answer this side of 12 months. In this day however that timeline is looking increasingly glacial. How can we accelerate book production? How fast could it get?

How does three days sound? Enter Book Sprints.

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Forking the book

How long will it be before the book becomes "unstable" again?

As one of the first mass produced industrial artifacts the book remains a solid cultural signifier of stability. That aura is pretty strong and attractive and makes it pretty hard to think about books as being anything other than static and stable. It appears to be part of their DNA.

While we continue to refer to ebooks as ‘books’ stability seems to be carried on as part of the currency. We don’t really even challenge it. EPUBs and mobi (etc.) with their ‘self -contained’ exactly reproducible nature also appear to reinforce the static nature of things.

Books are stable. Websites are not. That seems to be a delimiter that’s ‘in the air’.

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Are we over-thinking EPUB?

The future of the book is inherently linked to the browser

One common misnomer I have come across is that EPUB3 is ‘a technology’ – something in and of itself. I believe this category mistake is largely a result of the the IDPF’s (the organisation that maintains EPUB3) success in promoting EPUB as a ‘standalone’ technology to the publishing world.

While all content is trending towards CSS and JavaScript, the core technologies of the browser, it seems a little weird to position EPUB as being a collection of things that do something different from what browsers do. The nuance might not be clear so here goes…

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Changing the culture of production

What role does collaboration play?

Collaboration on a book is the ultimate unnatural act.
—Tom Clancy

The emergence of online book production tools is of course bringing writers online. Authoring books online seems to bring two apparently opposing dynamics into play – the social web and the author. The production in the context of the increasingly noisy, social web seems at odds with the typical conception of solitary writer and the juxtaposition simultaneously brings into focus the potential for collaboration or ‘social production’ together with questions of authorship.

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WYSIWYG vs WYSI

WYSI editors enable a whole new level of interaction

Since HTML is the new paper and the new path to paper online editing environments are becoming much more important for publishing. Dominant until now has been the WYSIWYG editor we all know and…err…love? However the current WYSIWYG paradigm has been inadequate for a long time and we need to update and replace it. Producing text with a WYSIWYG editor feels like trying to write a letter while it’s still in the envelope. Let’s face it…these kinds of online text editors are not an extension of yourself, they are a cumbersome hindrance to getting a job done.

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Math typesetting

Why are we leaving such an important issue to under-resourced volunteers and small organisations?

Typesetting math in HTML was for a long time one of those ‘I can’t believe that hasn’t been solved by now!’ issues. It seemed a bit wrong – wasn’t the Internet more or less invented by math geeks? Did they give up using the web back in 1996 because it didn’t support math? (That would explain the aesthetic of many ‘home pages’ for math professors.)

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InDesign vs. CSS

Any typesetting engine without Javascript support is going to lose

The explosion in web typesetting has been largely unnoticed by everyone except the typography geeks. One of the first posts that raised my awareness of this phenomenon was From Print to Web: Creating Print-Quality Typography in the Browser by Joshua Gross.

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Open API: The Blanche DuBois economy

Doing business by relying on the kindness of strangers

‘Open API’ is a well-known term that seldom gets challenged. It passes in conversation as an agreed-upon good. However it should be recognised that there is no such thing as an Open API – it is a euphemism for a specific kind of technical service offered with no contractual agreement to secure those services.

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