unbound reader 10.29.2007, 11:04 AM
posted by ben vershbow
CommentPress, be it remembered, is a blog hack. A fairly robust one to be sure, and one which we expect to get significant near-term mileage out of, but still an adaptation of a relatively brittle publishing architecture. BookGlutton - ?a new community reading site that goes public beta next month - ?takes a shot at building social reading tools from scratch, and the first glimpses look promising. I'm still awaiting my beta tester account so it's hard to say how well this actually works (and whether it's Flash-based or Ajax-driven etc.), but a demo on their development blog walks through most of the social features of their browser-based "Unbound Reader." They seem to have gotten a lot right, but I'm still curious to see how, if at all, they handle multimedia and interlinking between and within books. We'll be watching this one closely.....Also, below the video, check out some explanatory material by BookGlutton's creators, Aaron Miller and Travis Alber, that was forwarded to us the other day.
The first, the main BookGlutton website, is a catalog and community where users can upload work or select a piece of public domain writing, create reading groups and tag literature. The second part of the site - its centerpiece - is the Unbound Reader. It has a web-based format where users can read and discuss the book right inside the text. The Unbound Reader uses "proximity chat," which allows users to discuss the book with other readers close to them in the text (thus focusing discussion, and, as an added benefit, keeping people from hearing about the end). It also has shared annotations, so people can leave a comment on any paragraph and other readers can respond. By encouraging users to talk in a context-specific way about what they're reading, Bookglutton hopes to help those who want to talk about books (or original writing) with their friends (across cities, for example), students who want to discuss classic works (perhaps for a class), or writers who want to get feedback on their own pieces. Naturally, when the conversation becomes distracting, a user can close off the discussion without exiting the Reader.
Additionally, BookGlutton is working to facilitate adoption of on-line reading. Book design is an important aspect of the reader, and it incorporates design elements, like dynamic dropcaps. Moreover, the works presented in the catalog are standards-based (BookGlutton is an early adopter of the International Digital Publishing Forum's .epub format for ebooks), and allows users to download a copy of anything they upload in this format for use elsewhere.