BeebCamp: Books – how do people do linear media?

Adrian Hon – been interested in reading for a long time. Stats seem to show that people aren’t reading so many books [although I don’t think that’s true in the US].

Anecdote, why don’t people read more books? Because books don’t bleep, they don’t demand attention. Books that people feel they should read are the ones that everyone is talking about, where you want to avoid spoilers. Book clubs, make reading more social activity. The million book clubs in the US. Publishers like Penguin and Harper Collins court book groups. Interesting thing about book groups is that people often don’t talk much about books, they tend to gossip. Adrian never felt like joining a club, didn’t think he’d find a group that would be interested in the sort of fiction that he’d enjoy.

How do you address the problem where you go to the book club, and the club wants to read a book that you really don’t want to read, and this happens quite often? People have specific tastes about fiction. So you don’t want to not go, because you lose out on the social side of things, but at the same time you don’t want to have a miserable time. Book clubs are also timed both too often, or not often enough. Weekly commitment can be hard, and if it’s a great book you want to read it faster.

Book parties. Plan three months ahead. Say you’re going to read five books, and people can then pick their books and there’ll be someone there who’s also read it.

Online book clubs, tend to use forum or blog software, difficult for addressing different sections of the book. Community management problems.

Interesting things done; Golden Notebook, got eight women to discuss the book The Golden Notebook, put the text online, split the pages up, and these women could go and discuss the pages. Was kind of interesting to see all that marginalia and discussion in the marginalia. Problem with this is that’s a closed system. If you’re a member of the public you couldn’t comment on any of the pages. It was also not always appropriate to comment on the pages, sometimes you wanted to comment on the paragraph or on the book as a whole. Used a WordPress module that was really unusable.

Adrian has been working with a friend who knows Drupal. Wanted to know how to do marginalia and annotations. First try was taking The Moonstone, Victorian thriller. Project Gutenberg. Split in into pages and put it online. Commenting on pages is not a fun way of doing things, plus no social features.

Drupal module where you can comment on individual paragraphs. Other sites can do this, so you can do this on any text you like. It’s free. You can make online margin notes, anonymously or as a registered user. Fun. Can really drill down in terms of comments. Issue is that people are still reading the book separately, not t the same time as each other. Point of a book club is to see the comments of or friends not random strangers.

Next version of this is going to weave in the friend list functionality of Drupal, so you’ll be able to filter the marginalia for your friends’ comments. Can still see everyone else’s.

So that’s nice, but if you want to read a book together you want to know a couple of things, where people are in the book so you don’t spoil it, don’t want spoilers, but also want to see comments adding to a book that you’re reading. Be nice to see comments announced via Twitter. So system will record where you are, what your latest page is, and be able to send out Tweets to you about comments left on the book by your friends, and ideally, if you’re reading the book away from the computer you can send a tweet with a hashtag and page number and itill add a comment.

The idea is to keep it really simple. All this social functionality is not going to come for a few weeks, probably longer. Probably going to put on a fun book and see how people use it.

This is just about having fun with your friends. Want to give your friends a book, want to read it together, want to talk about it, because the book doesn’t ring. This will let people read together, but not in that clunky “one page at a time” way. Will probably be at “” [laughter].


What about voice to text, get people to book mark and then do something like Spinvox to send a comment.

Drupal modules will be released for free as it’s open source.

Archive content that the BBC has, such as scripts, such as the old Dr Who scripts, being able to annotate those, read them socially with your firneds.

This isn’t a new idea, but making it easy to do and make it more social.

Bad Movie Club, everyone watch The Happening, and everyone got together at 9pm (at home) to watch it together, people went out to get it. And contributed by Twitter.

That happens with Dr Who, Election. If people are doing that with TV shows, if you can tie the tweets in time back to the original broadcast you’re annotating it.

Annotated video, Viddler, comments on timeline.

Being able to deep tag stuff, at the actual moment, something more immersive, more visual.

Putting text, audio, video comments at different parts of timeline, and make them user friendly so that it doesn’t take away from the original video.

Text annotation, GPL licence mark-up, so they made it so that you could see form the density of the colour of the annotation how many comments there were. Released now as Co-Ment.

Not true that people don’t like reading text online, they do. People read text on iPhones, awful display, when things are good enough they will read it. If you put up something that has sufficient value, social or otherwise, they will read it on the screen. Obviously books on Project Gutenberg are free, but they’re not printed, so putting them in a social system like this might encourage people to read more.

Not just about whether screen is portable etc., it’s also about typography and how things are presented.

Kindle allows people to annotate text, and they will certainly release something that allows people to share those annotation. If they don’t, someone else will.

There’s reading for pleasure, reading the paper book, but there’s the “I need to remember this”, and that’s about looking things up, not necessarily to read the whole thing.

Reason people go to book clubs is to talk. The book is a social object. So you’re linking the conversation back to the book, use the power of socialisation to get people to read books again. Is there room there for people to just chat in general.

Am sure people will leave comments and in-jokes, etc., and to be able to link to say, fan fiction version.

Could work well in education too.

Extending social tools in a better way. None of this stuff is high-tech, it’s just only now that people realise that following someone on Twitter is something people like doing. Easier to put a link to reference something.

Making it easy to put the text in, can just copy and paste from Project Gutenberg, works our paragraph tags and splits on new lines. Atm you need to know how to use Drupal. Thinking about developing an import tool. If one can get properly marked-up text, it’s very easy.

Index an entire book, e.g. if you’re listening to the audio book you want to be able to find where you are. Page numbers don’t mean anything in digital. Golden Notebook has page numbers for US and UK versions, so you have to switch between them.

Ways to tag the content. Could look up the time code, where you are in the audio and if there’s a way of reference it back.

Scenes are the building block for fiction but how would you mark that up semantically? Or even agree with it?

Wide applications for a system like this. Ways to mark up any sort of text.

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