REPORT: “Whatever is to become of books?” at London Design Festival 2011. Ebook generates 15% of the revenues for some publishers, with the romance genre having a huge slice in the market share, says Angus Phillips, Director, Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University.
Although digitality has turned the publishing world upside down, Phillips stressed that it is “an exciting time for everyone” as the ebook offer so many opportunities in terms of innovations. The talk, delivered at the London Design Festival event, “Whatever is to become of books?”, at University College London on 17 September 2011, also introduced us to the new classifications in books: ebook, pbook, vanilla book, mook, byook and so on.
In this video, Phillips presented the byook – a format of ebook which is deployed on the smartphone – to the audience.
The event was supported by UCL Anthropology and co-organised by MSc Digital Anthropology students of UCL.
To find out more about the event and to get involved with the 2012 book project by Sojournposse Purpose, visit the Story of Books, the official website, at www.storyofbooks.com.
REPORT: “Whatever is to become of books?” at London Design Festival 2011. “We are not seeing the world as flat anymore. We are seeing it virtually. The hypertext makes a big difference.” Dr Aquiles Alencar Brayner, Digital Curator of The British Library presents fresh findings on our fast-evolving book reading habit at Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, University College London.
While researching for “Whatever is to become of books?”, Sojournposse asked a collective of editors from design, anthropology, journalism and photography to examine the latest sociotechnical development affecting of the artefact.
The library was the best starting point to observe the current evolution of books and how we consume them today. We discover that librarians of today play a crucial role not only in preserving archives, but also to keep on top of the latest e-book formats.
On top of that, the librarians have to consider the mode of consumption of both digital natives and digital migrants who have different preferences in their digital formats.
“Content with curation is key,” said Dr Aquiles Alencar Brayner, Digital Curator of The British Library, who opened the event, “Whatever is to become of books?”, held University College London during the London Design Festival in September 2011.
“The electronic media is changing our reading habits. Some people think that it’s bad. Some people think that it’s good. We are becoming more democratic. There are no hierarchies anymore. There are only links.”
The sales of ebooks has increased by 318% in 2010, indicating that the ebook users spend more time reading, although in a more erratic manner. A poll conducted among 1200 ebook readers shows that 40% of respondents are reading more now than before.
The trend is pointing towards hybrid books. According to The British Library, by 2020, 20% of titles will be published only in paper format, 40% of titles will be published only in electronic format and 40% of publications in the UK will appear in both formats.
Publishers’ Digital Rights Management (DRM) poses a challenge for The British Library in archiving its collection.
DRMs are choking libraries
“We are chained to the shelves. We are chained by the publishers via DRMs,” says Dr Alencar Brayner. (See video Part 2 below).
Service for accessing ebooks is still tied to print publishing model while options to access digital content are still very tight and do not take into consideration the different user groups.
To remedy this, the market must offer new access models and greater flexibility in DRM.
The British Library is currently working with with Google in the digitisation of 250,000 titles published between 1700 to 1870 (40 million pages), a project which is due to start in 2012.
The videos of the British Library presentation at The London Design Festival 2011 are published in two parts. (See videos above). We hope you will find them resourceful and that they will give a clue as to where the journey of books is taking us next.
REPORT: “Whatever is to become of books?” at London Design Festival 2011. The video presentation by Dr Ernesto Priego of the Comics Grid at our event, “Whatever is to become of books?”, last week was certainly unconventional. It took a while for us to realise that many of the effects used in this video took their references from cartoons. But behind this unconventional presentation lies an even more non-conformist concept of an open access journal based on, you guessed it, comic books.
It is a very clever idea. Those who follow the development of open source platforms for scholarly journals would have been familiar about the gripes by academics and researchers on expensive subscription fees and the one-sided relationship that academics have with journal publishers that necessitate them to publish their works for free for journals which their institutions then have to subscribe (The New York Times. “Internet ruffles pricey scholarly journals”. 18 September 2011).
The Comics Grid operates on a model that serves as a unique point of reference for an online, open access peer-reviewed journal. Comic books might seem like a very popular art form, but this concept is very much rooted in academia. The journal examines the comic books in a rigorous manner, with the contribution “reviewed and edited by those who are signed in the project”.
Dr Priego, who did his PhD in Information Studies at University College London, focusing on the media-specificity of comic books, webcomics, mobile comics apps and comic book culture, says that the Comics Grid initially started out as an invitation-only initiative. Later, the founders decided to release calls for ongoing submission from graduate students, scholars, artists, teachers, curators, librarians or any others involved in the study and practice of comics or other related forms of visual storytelling.
Submissions, original and media-specific, written for online reading with an educational or academic purpose, must be between 750 and 1200 words in length.
Articles are released every Monday. To date, The Comics Grid has 4,550 visitors and 1,015 Twitter followers. Dr Priego is considering an online open access academic model where people can work together to review comic books no matter where they are, where they do not necessarily have to be at a university where they have to pay expensive subscription fees for journals.
REPORT: “Whatever is to become of books?” at London Design Festival 2011. The office scanner is good for scanning pages, but try scanning a book using the machine and you will see how cumbersome the whole process is. Juliano Spyer and Cosimo Lupo proved that the whole process need not be that tedious, and in fact, can be done by anyone with the inclination using items available at home.
Spyer (Digital Anthropology, 2011) and Lupo (Social Anthropology, 2012) of the Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL), opened the event “Whatever is to become of books?” with their presentation of Homer, the digital book scanner that they reconstructed using everyday objects and powered by the same open source software used by Google Books.
The event, organised by Sojournposse Multimedia and Digital Anthropology students with the support of the Department of Anthropology, University College London, discussed the future of the books in the digital age. The event, held on 17 September 2011 for The London Design Festival, also discusses the sociotechnological solutions that could shape the direction of book publishing and the digital storytelling.
The presentation by Spyer and Lupo drove home the point that preservation of information in books can be captured digitally at home using available objects, in this instance, a camera, a laptop, a lamp, a piece of glass and a recycled box. To prove their hypothesis, the duo scanned the authorised version of the King James I bible, lent by the UCL Library’s Special Collection division. This was also to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the completion of the authorised version in 1611 (see the video viral).
The open source software used in Homer went ‘one up’ from Google Books in terms of its application: this version allows the scanned text to be rendered not only as image but also as editable text. This means that the text, when saved as a PDF, can be searched and also copied and edited. Users are invited to download the software, developed by Lupo for both Windows and Mac OS, and build the prototype by following the set of instructions available on the Homer wiki page http://bookscanner.pbworks.com/w/page/40965440/FrontPage
Spyer told Sojournposse that the prototype was inspired by Homer, the Greek philosopher and orator. It is also a tribute to the character made famous by The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening.
One of the speakers at the event, Dr Aquiles Alencar-Brayner, Digital Curator, The British Library, found the concept intriguing. “This can have a big impact on communities, especially in relation to works done for small libraries and and in the community,” he commented. “The idea of the digitisation using a certain kind of – I wouldn’t say rustic – but very creative objects, and digitising the documents and putting it online in a very simple way is absolutely genius. I’m really keen to learn more about the project.”
Appropriation and bricolage are two of the concepts widely discussed during the seminars for the MSc Digital Anthropology, a programme aimed at helping researchers to look at how sociality is organised around the digital artefact.
For more information on MSc Digital Anthropology, go to www.ucl.ac.uk/anthro/digital-anthropology. More multimedia reports on the presentations at “Whatever is to become of books?” will be published on www.sojournposse.com throughout The London Design Festival week. The event was developed and curated by Sojournposse Multimedia, and moderated by Zarina Holmes and Kevin Biderman.
Five Minutes Interview at London Design Festival: “How we store and regulate information plays a huge role in what kind of society we wish to live in”. Kevin Biderman, lecturer and film maker, once told us that it took two centuries for the book to arrive in its final form, and it is likely that the ebook will take time to ‘settle’ on a definite format. Biderman is also researching on the e-book for his MSc in Digital Anthropology at University College London.
I don’t think its possible for anyone to say what will become of books. History has shown us that useful mediums rarely vanish from sight completely. One could make the comparison with vinyl and physical books and claim that soon printed books will become a niche item of a particular subculture. However the book really isn’t just one thing. There are photobooks, novels, school books, coffeetable books, medical books – all of these serve an extremely different purpose. We may read some books for entertainment and use some for work or learning. We may use some to read text and others to view images. The ebook market seems to separate these uses clearly. No one would claim the Kindle should be used for viewing a photobook and so far very few people really use the ipad to read novels.
I definitely think digitized text makes researching much easier, however I can’t see that the ebook will every fully replace the photo or artist book. I also think that there’s a whole realm of signed books and first editions that can’t be digitized and that certain people like showing off physical items in their homes.
Most importantly, though, I think how we store and regulate information plays a huge role in what kind of society we wish to live in. At a time when education is becoming highly commercialized and driven by economics we need to think about what information we wish to pass down for free and how. Some publishers are refusing to sell ebooks to libraries and others are only doing so with tight regulations. If libraries are the last place in which information can be freely obtained then what becomes of books and ebooks has massive political consequences.
Q. What will audience learn from the event?
The audience will get to hear a variety of creative producers kick around a number of questions, such as: How one can define a ‘book’ and how does this change with the immaterial nature of the ebook? How has storytelling changed with the introduction of digital formats? What new and exciting ways can stories be told? What opportunities are there for creative producers to communicate through new means? What controls are put on digital files which regulate their use? How far can you ‘own’ an ebook?
Q. What is your favourite book? By author/photographer, design or publisher?
When I was five I used to blabber on about nothing for hours on end (not much has changed there). But one day my dad decided to write what I was saying and have me illustrate it with my own drawings. I still have the book now and it’s a crazy, surrealist story about spaceships, giant toothbrushes and people marrying their toes. In and of itself I would not claim its any work of Shakespeare, but to me it symbolizes the creative play that my parents allowed me to have and a time when my mind wasn’t limited by the preconceived ideas of adulthood. When I leaf through it I see the spaghetti stains left from younger years and the strong and definite lines made by a child’s hand. I guess it’s not really about the story or the crafting but about the memories it brings up.
Q. What was the last book you read? Or published!
I was in Wales a week ago and the house I was staying in had a copy of Barack Obama’s book “Dreams of my Father”. I probably would never have read it otherwise as the hype of best sellers often puts me off. However, it really was an excellent musing on race, class and the American Dream. Too bad then these kind of issues can never be fully discussed in his present position.
Q. Finally: Kindle, PDF, HTML – or print?
Kindle for travel
PDF for work
HTML for wide spread communication
Print for when the solar flares knock out all the electricity
On 17 September 2011, Sojournposse will be presenting a new event for The London Design Festival 2011, “Whatever is to become of books?” at the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, UCL Main Campus, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT. Tubes: Euston. Euston Square. Warren Street. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. £1 of each ticket sale from this non-profit event will go towards a photobook app project which supports the Japan Red Cross tsunami drive. Please follow our updates on Twitter at @sojournposseF8, following the hashtags #LDF11 and #storyofbooks. We are also on Facebook and Google+.
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