2014 abstracts

Accepted Proposals for BiB 2014
Peter Armstrong Matthew Battles Micah Bowers
Scott Cipriano & James Densmore Dave Cramer Johanna Drucker
James English Robert J. Glushko Simon Groth
John Hammersley Ivan Herman, Liza Daly, & Markus Gylling Adam Hyde
Sanders Kleinfeld Michael Kowalski John Maxwell & Haig Armen
Liisa McCloy-Kelley Hugh McGuire Ben De Meester
Peter Meyers Mitar Milutinovic Richard Nash
Nicole Ozer Leonard Richardson Derrick Schultz
Tzviya Siegman Katie Zhu


Peter Armstrong, Leanpub
Standardizing Markdown Mapping to Books and Documentation

Markdown is an amazing way of writing text that can generate HTML. At Leanpub, we realized this would also work for ebooks, and experiences over the last few years have proven this idea correct. Now the idea has spread, with both other startups and enterprises targeting a Markdown-first workflow. However, there is still no Markdown spec, and no standardized mapping of Markdown concepts to book and documentation concepts. And the process of standardizing Markdown is fraught with peril, with the recent CommonMark episode being a prime example. In this talk, I will advocate for the creation of a standard mapping from Markdown concepts to book and documentation concepts, and for a standard set of extensions to support technical books and enterprise documentation requirements. I will also explain why we’re creating Leanpub Enterprise to serve the documentation needs of the enterprise, and highlight some of the choices we are making.

Matthew Battles, metaLAB at Harvard; Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Bearing the Standard: Histories of Cooperative Innovation

From the millimeter to ASCII to USB, standards are integral to practical innovation in commerce, the sciences, and technology. But for all their uniformity and consistency, standards are the products of history–and as such, they’re never finished, but always in the making. How do standards come to be standard? Their histories connect the cutting edge to the distant past and help us to understand how our latter-day proposals fit into the long story of modernity.This talk will try to set the stage and propose a perspective for BiB’s spirited engagement with standards for digital publishing by exploring the many-colored mosaics of enterprise, expertise, and global cooperation out of which standards emerge.

Micah Bowers, Bleufire Productions
EPUB: Beyond the Ebook

EPUB has to date largely been a format used for long-form ebooks in the trade industry. Moving forward it will be used for a much wider variety of content forms and in a wide variety of both personal and enterprise use cases. In this session, we will look at some of these use cases, explore demos, and talk about the ramifications for the creators of related content, software and web services

Scott Cipriano & James Densmore, Safari
What You Will Read Next

Predictive analytics plays a crucial role in modern web applications. The next movie you watch on Netflix or song you listen to on Spotify may be the result of a recommendation algorithm driven by predictive analytics. In this talk, we’ll explain how we’re using data at Safari to suggest better content for our readers. Using predictive analytics, we can guess what a reader will want to read next based on a number of factors, including related content, time of day, geographic information, and much more. Beyond the technical implementation of a recommendation engine, we’re interested in the questions predictive analytics raises (and answers) around content consumption, curation, and creation. What makes a book or video more or less engaging? What keeps readers reading (and viewers watching)? What does a paying customer read versus a reader in a free trial period? As we find the answers to these questions and share them with our publishing partners, how will that data influence editorial strategy around the development of new content?

Scott Cipriano, Program Manager
James Densmore, Director of Business Intelligence

Dave Cramer, Hachette Book Group
From Scrolls to Flows: Books and the New CSS

We dream of a world where the art and craft of the book, which has evolved over centuries, informs and enriches what browsers can do, and what books can be. We dream of a world where the fluidity and adaptability of the web can make books even better suited for their readers.

But dreaming is not enough. We need to teach CSS about books, and teach books how to adapt to the online world, where nothing is carved in stone.

The W3C is working to bring footnotes, running heads, drop caps, and other book features to CSS. Regions, Grids, and Page Templates may make complex books more adaptable. Open type font features make fine typography possible. But much remains to be done.

I’ll talk about the current state of CSS for books, what the future might bring, and how standards are made. The CSS Working Group is one of the places where the future of books is being created. Let’s bring the knowledge and passion of our community to that process.

Johanna Drucker, UCLA
Database Narratives in Book and Online

Database and narrative are often used to define two poles of a false binarism in which modular elements in a relational structure are opposed to the synthetic continuity of a prose text. But this paper suggests they are part of a single process in which explicit organization and synthesis are complementary. Using two case studies in my own experience, a personal database memoire project and a document-based biography of a Russian futurist book artist, Ilia Zdanevich, this paper suggests ways that establishing categories and structuring relations and dependencies in a database are part of the infrastructural underpinnings of narrative. The memoir project, ALL, is designed to make use of print and online affordances to create a book that is a compendium and guide to the online version of full-manuscripts of unpublished books and projects. Iliazd will be a fully online project with a PDF output. In both the biography and the memoire, an archaeological approach to the materials keeps the productive tension in place among configured documents, organizing structures, discursive form, media specificity, and narrative accounts that guide a reader through the archive.

James English, New York Public Library
Library Simplified

NYPL and partner libraries across the country are testing innovative library policies and practices with funding from IMLS while adopting new technologies in order to create improved user experiences borrowing eBooks from Libraries.

Robert J. Glushko, UC Berkeley
Creating the Multivalent Book

Many books are designed as a core text supplemented by additional content in the form of footnotes, endnotes, references, appendices, supporting data, reviews, and so on. We have extended this idea in a book titled /The Discipline of Organizing/ by tagging supplemental content by discipline, effectively creating a family of related texts suitable for different courses and perspectives. This content architecture lends itself to implementation in ebook and browser formats. We are assembling some combinations of content and deploying them as editions targeted for a particular context, and we are also developing dynamic ebooks in which readers can decide to include, transclude, or exclude content as they read.


Simon Groth, if:book Australia
Memory Makes Us: Collaboration and the ephemeral in digital writing

Memory Makes Us is an ongoing literary experiment by if:book Australia that creates an interface between writers and readers and blurs the boundaries of each throughout the creative process. The project gathers a group of authors to write live in a public space using as their inspiration memories contributed by the audience to a theme chosen by the authors.

This presentation explores the project in detail and challenges assumptions about the book’s place within a wider body of text, the nature of collaborative writing, and the permanence of physical and digital media.

Memory Makes Us takes place simultaneously online and in a physical space. Online, readers contribute memories via a dedicated project web site or using a social media hashtag. The authors write to a publicly accessible document embedded in the project site. The live event sees the authors working in an open location within a literary festival. The audience records their memories using typewriters and notepads, hand-delivering them to the authors at work. However, the complete body of work in Memory Makes Us is the web site where writers’ and readers’ contributions are of equal significance.

Standard online collaborative writing tools define access by editing rights. Instead this project creates a role for readers as influencers and inspiration, while recognising and honouring a singular author’s vision.

All work produced for Memory Makes Us, both physical and digital, is ephemeral, with a deliberately limited lifespan. The project’s legacy will rely on the memories of its participants and readers.


John Hammersley, WriteLaTeX
Collaborative Writing

Science is changing. The widespread reach and accessibility of the internet means that more people have access to more knowledge than ever before.

This is helping science at each end of the spectrum, from young scientists learning about the latest developments from CERN or on-board the International Space Station, through to the international, multi-disciplinary collaborations which make these projects possible and use the results to discover new breakthroughs and inspire new ideas.

When we first developed writeLaTeX in 2011 it was to solve a very specific problem we had – the lack of a sensible and efficient way to collaborate when we were writing our scientific papers and presentations. This solution is now helping over 100,000 authors from over 1,000 universities and institutions across the world to write and collaborate more effectively.

What’s clear is that online collaboration shouldn’t stop at authors but should extend to the whole range of people involved in science and publishing – editors, reviewers, and readers too. Cloud-based tools and services can help make science faster, more open and more transparent by bringing the whole scientific process online, from idea to writing to review to publication.

With 1.8 million scientific papers published every year, and with most of the world’s technical and medical innovations beginning with a scientific paper, there is an ever growing demand for efficient and effective ways to create and collaborate on scientific papers. This coming year looks set to be a transformational period for academic publishing – and for the science behind it.

Ivan Herman, World Wide Web Consortium, Liza Daly, Safari, & Markus Gylling, International Digital Publishing Forum
Bridging the Web and Digital Publishing

Although using advanced Web technologies at their core, e-books represent a parallel universe to everyday Web documents. Their production workflows, user interfaces, their security, access, or privacy models, etc, are all distinct. There is a lack of a vision on how to unify Digital Publishing and the Web. Conceptually, what is important is the *content* for Web documents that should be unique. Whether that content is portable (offline) or online should merely be a particular *state* at a point it time and it should be easy for the user to provide a portable state of the same document, synchronize it with the online version when possible, etc. To achieve this vision the community has to define a general, portable Web document format based on current Web technologies. EPUB3 has already made a huge step in this direction. But technical challenges remain. This includes the usage of a general packaging format both to Web browsers and ebooks; unification of security, privacy, and access control models; general and portable annotation systems; defining general linking and anchoring structures.

This presentation will outline the vision and address some of the relevant technical issues: the goal is to set a direction for a work that the overall Web and publishing community has to solve jointly.

Adam Hyde, PLOS
Open Access and Standards

Standards, html source, and publishing of science.

Sanders Kleinfeld, O’Reilly Media, Inc.
The Ebook Avant-Garde

From Sterne to Joyce to Pynchon, there’s a long tradition of authors turning to the avant-garde, experimenting with both the written word and the physical book itself to push the boundaries of literature. But as books go digital, what does the next wave of avant-garde literature look like? In this session, I’ll develop a theory of the “ebook avant-garde” and explore several key areas where contemporary content creators are using digital media to challenge our notions of literature and the “book”: anxiety surrounding the book simulacrum, exploitation of faux tactility, and pliability of narrative. I’ll show these principles in practice via an exploration of avant-garde digital texts like “Yellow Submarine,” “The Fifty Year Sword,” and “DEVICE 6.” Finally, I’ll demo some open source EPUB widgets that I’m currently developing, which are designed to encourage and facilitate a journey into the ebook avant-garde.

Michael Kowalski, Contentment
Designing for Intimacy

Our technology has become more intimate over recent decades, shifting from big boxes in distant server centres to small screens in our hands, even wearables. This shift has brought new design constraints and triggered new behaviours. The design lead has been taken by apps (single purpose; strong user focus; lacking navigational cruft; always on). This talk looks at the implications for books, and how the web and apps can be fruitfully cross fertilized.

Warning: contains little to no fiction.

John Maxwell & Haig Armen, Simon Frasier University
Digital Fiction on the Open Web Platform

The Open Web Platform provides, for perhaps the first time in the history of publishing, a common platform and software ecosystem that is free and open to all. An alternative to the specialized, expensive toolsets that have dominated publishing (Linotype, InDesign), the open web lets the finely tuned skills and sensibilities of authors, designers, and producers be decoupled from the exclusivity of proprietary tools. But is not enough to have an open EPUB standard that allows the ‘book’ (traditionally conceived) to be built on open web standards; the ‘book’ is only one form of expression; our horizons need to be broader.

This spring, we ran a week-long experimental workshop on collaborative writing, design and production of a work of digital fiction; a little like a Booksprint, but aiming at a multi-modal piece of onscreen fiction rather than a book. We gathered 15 people and a set of open web technologies in a room: wikis, markup (and down) languages, CSS3, jQuery — the same building blocks used to create all sorts of other reading experiences, from books to blogs — and over the space of a week came together on a storyline, a script, imagery, animation, audio. The work was produced entirely using free open web technologies, from the common set of tools and techniques of web publishing. This talk is about what we were able to achieve, what we weren’t, and where we think we need to go next.

Liisa McCloy-Kelley, Penguin Random House
Thinking About “Books” in More Than Two Dimensions

For thousands of years, we have worked to structure information to be displayed on paper. Often on two printed pages that make up a spread, that are printed in signatures and are bound between covers. We have optimized our editing and design to take advantage of the features of this form factor.

Now there is a new craft arising as we are able to present and share information in a more three dimensional way as we develop books for digital consumption. It is challenging the way we think about information, the way we think about editing and designing for these new platforms and is enabling us to create more involved experiences for readers. Charts no longer need be just charts- or should they be charts and something else? Pictures can be both small and detailed and large at the same time. It just takes retraining our minds to step out of our familiar boundaries and explore.

Yet every day, the explorers who are looking to develop this new craft bump up against the boundaries that the current technologies have unknowingly set around us. “”Could we do that?”” “”Yes, but…” is a conversation I have every day.

Come with us to explore real examples of the potential of digital books and the limitations in both technology and thinking that stand in the way of making this a bigger reality.

Hugh McGuire, Pressbooks / LibriVox
Vision, Strategy, Architecture: Where is the new publishing ecosystem?

Those of us who love technology and books got pretty excited when books went digital (for real) seven years ago. We saw opportunities for new interactions, new models of bookish information exchange, new visions of how publishing might work. And yet, seven years after the launch of both the Kindle and the iPhone, book publishing models look a lot like they did in 2007. Why are we still here, and what will it take to get beyond “paper under glass?”

Ben De Meester, Ghent University – iMinds – Multimedia Lab, Belgium
Interlinking books with the world: Using the Semantic Web to create books as reliable, machine-understandable information service providers

What does it mean to query a book? Currently, this can mean looking up the location of words inside a book, e.g., find all occurrences of the word ‘Martini.’ This needs to be done completely manually, and the user needs to define for himself what information might be useful. Using specialized web services (e.g., the Book Genome Project), books can be indexed, and certain characteristics can be published to be queried, e.g., find all thrillers published in the year 1953. However, this way, books and their metadata are separated, and the (digital) book itself remains a silo of knowledge, hard to crack open.
Using semantic annotations in HTML5 (e.g., RDFa), fine and coarse grained semantic information can be stored inside an EPUB 3 publication. Books can then be published on the web as Linked Data. Every published book can hence become a linked database, and machines can query these books (and reason about their contained knowledge) for the users. This way, books become auto-discoverable and interlinked with the rest of the web. It enables the creation of web services that no longer need to index a book to get information out of it, but can query the Web of books, e.g., ‘give me all cocktail recipes that are described in thrillers in 1953’.

Peter Meyers, Citia
Skim, Grok, Master: Multi-scale Reading and the Zoomable Book

How can we help readers who are interested in some, but not all, of a book?

The value in most books is distributed unevenly. Because we don’t always need all of what an author has to say, we often pick other media forms that deliver their payload more concisely. Giving readers new ways to “info triage” individual books, as well as larger collections, can help increase the attention long-form publications receive.

My talk is about a new document design pattern that facilitates high velocity, modularized, multi-scale reading. Called “skim/grok/master” it:

–services modern reading habits;
–preserves the high value of an author’s sustained thinking; and
–injects a measure of non-disruptive delight into the book reading experience

The system imposes no fundamental re-architecting of a traditional book’s compositional units or overall structure. Instead it uses a lightweight addition of some indexical annotation, paired with some new presentation viewports, to enable a new kind of reading. The open web, and BiB V’s focus on evolving standards, is an ideal venue to showcase different skim/grok/master implementation models, given the design freedom HTML5 offers in comparison to proprietary e-reading systems.

Mitar Milutinovic
Making a library a digital one

Digital libraries today are in most cases just repositories. What is needed to make a library a really digital one and not bring just books but also communities online? What can we learn from other successful online communities and why is so hard to create a new online community reading books today, while it was relatively easy to create a reading club in the past? Based on this question I will offer few suggestions how publishers can help creating thriving online reading communities and how those communities can help publishers.

Richard Nash
The True Quantified Self: Give Users their own damn reading data

Most discussion around reading data focuses on how it can be used by producers to fine tune a written product. In a number of areas, especially instructional and pedagogical, this is a sensible priority. However for expressive writing (literature, journaling), producers have little practical need of or use for reading data. Moreover avoiding confirmation bias around reading data may be tremendously difficult for the producers, and consumers may not like sharing reading data with producers. I believe that for expressive writing, reading data is best used by reader rather than writer and that it may represent the most culturally powerful expression of reading data technology. This talk represents a call to developers to offer readers a deeper understanding of their own reading experience, to provide feedback loops, ways to visualize and abstract the tacit processes of reading. Tools like Jawbone Up and Fitbit in exercise, and RescueTime in productivity, are the crude first efforts in what could be called self-nudging, tools to allow us to coax ourselves to do things that reward us in the long run, when otherwise we’d succumb to instant gratification.

Nicole Ozer, ACLU

Leonard Richardson, New York Public Library
Project Gutenberg books are real books

Although Project Gutenberg provides a good amount of RDF metadata for each of its publications, the metadata most necessary to grab a modern reader’s attention–a summary and a nice-looking cover–is almost always missing. Without putting restrictions on Project Gutenberg, which is extraordinarily successful at what it does, how can we present its results in a way that appeals to our patrons and customers?

Derrick Schultz, Atavist Books, Creatavist
As Goes the Web, so Goes Books on the Web

This talk isn’t about how to make better books for the web, it’s about how to use the web to make better books (for all book formats). It’s about tools and processes publishers can use today, and things we could make tomorrow with the current web infrastructure to improve the quality of digital books almost overnight.

While the EPUB spec has improved dramatically in a few short years, it still lags behind the knowledge and tools available to modern web developers. In this talk, parallels will be drawn between current modern web projects and how to use these ideas to alter how digital books are made. Tools and ideas like GitHub, http://www.caniuse.com, pattern libraries, Responsive Web Design, Create-Once-Publish-Everywhere CMSes, and testing/performance suites have obvious benefits to book publishers with only small tweaks. As a book designer turned web developer turned book designer/developer, I’ll show a few projects I’m involved in, and propose a few more that I hope others in the digital publishing community will adopt.

Tzviya Siegman, Wiley
The Inadvertent Accessible Content Architect

Building internal specifications for EPUB and HTML while working on industry standards groups forces one to ask what the purpose of each tag and attribute is, especially when working on aspirational specifications. Often, the only immediate application is Accessibility. While I can imagine other implementations of magical specifications, it will take the publishing industry using them in force and a little help from user agents and reading systems to see these ideas in play. This forces a hyper-awareness of content structure, apart from just a description of content, apart from style, leading us to become inadvertent champions of accessibility. Along the way, I have discovered, that, as the accessible community has been telling us all along, this makes sense. Building accessible content is actually a better way to approach content architecture.

Katie Zhu, Medium
I made you a mixtape

We currently have this idea of an article as a content primitive on the web. This was pretty much re-purposed directly from print. We have articles, which are mostly connected by topics or tags – an adaptation of newspaper sections. And books on the web follow this same pattern – we took our existing notion of the book in its print form, wrote up an EPUB spec that reflects this idea, and called them ebooks.

What if we never had Gutenberg’s printing press? How would we define publishing on the web without the legacy of written text?

The web is a vast collection of linked documents, and the way we approach content on the web needs to stay flexible. In our world of overwhelming, endless streams of information, curation plays an increasingly important role because it gives readers a finite constraint on what you’re trying to consume.

Let’s explore the idea of mixtapes in publishing. Intentional selection and ordering of existing content can create something that is greater than the sum of its individual articles. If we take the mixtape metaphor as a new type of content primitive on the web, that opens up exciting new possibilities for publishers to link content together in a cohesive package, while adding a layer of editorial voice or compiler commentary on top.

Assembling a mixtape also provides a clear consumption path for a reader. Printed books had their paths encoded in the table of contents, but imagine if you could assemble a mixtape of various book chapters on a given subject, and provide some insight on why you’re including each chapter.