Books in Browsers on Hiatus for 2015

From Peter Brantley, conference chair of Books in Browsers:

Since 2010, I’ve helped to organize a small but wonderful conference in publishing, Books in Browsers. BiB has sought to provide a neutral “safe place” where the leading edge of designers and developers could wrangle about the evolution of publishing on the web. In many ways, the world has long outgrown BiB’s titular references — it’s not just about books, nor about browsers.

Today, with my colleagues at Frankfurt Book Fair, we’ve decided that 2014’s BiB will be the last of its run. We’re calling a hiatus for this year, and we’re going to take some time to figure out what kind of gathering should come next for publishing — or whatever this odd and peculiar drive to communicate is becoming — and consider our restart for 2016.

We’re making this transition for good reasons. In the last six years, the concept of reading books online has spread from a wide-eyed fantasy to the point where browser-based software libraries are common. Early online publishing systems are moving beyond hybrid forms into a new generation of Internet-powered platforms supporting complex but easily customizable business processes. With growing inevitability, we are abandoning highly integrated, tightly structured workflows in favor of a suite of individual services that operate as peers, messaging each other when they need invocation: writing, editing, review, and distribution can iterate, called into being when needed rather than chained together in a waterfall. This framework, built on the open web, was one reason that the W3C recently became a sponsor of BiB.

The tension of this shift was apparent when I drafted the call for papers for BiB this year:

“With rapidly increasing fluency in digital design, book authors and storytelling artists are exploring new ways of presenting information and inserting multi-threaded narratives into a diverse range of interfaces.” This focus is on mobile interface design, immersion, pwned tools for sharing, and multi-threaded narratives that could be contextually informed by sensed data. This is a shift away from the original community that BiB addressed, and we need to reconsider our mission and goals. So we shall.

In any community-supported project, there are always too many people to thank. The impetus for the meeting rose from Brewster Kahle’s vision of openness and the right for all people to have free and unencumbered access to information. O’Reilly Media was our first partner, and Kat Meyer was my unflagging co-organizer and enthusiastic colleague. My employers, the Internet Archive, Hypothes.is, and NYPL, gave their assistance with grace and patience. My colleagues at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Thomas Minkus, Hannah Johnson, and Grace Moss (who held the whole thing together), have grown to become close friends. I look forward to continuing to work with them.

We were also blessed with generous sponsors, including Safari Books Online, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was excited enough about BiB to support the conference for several years running.

Most important of all, thanks to everyone who attended, often repeatedly, and those of you who contributed your thoughts and dreams as speakers. Through these gifts, you made the conference your own. The best gatherings are those that burn brightly with the memories of glorious company and shared discoveries, and if the ones we have are any indication, we’ve done alright.

With apologies to Thoreau, We’ll be back.