If I had any doubts that the Books in Browsers conference in San Francisco last week was going to be an unforgettable pow-wow of book people, they were quickly erased at the very outset of the first presentation, Allen Noren’s keynote on Thursday morning, in which he gave an introduction to the themes of the conference.
Noren (@allennoren), the Director of Online Marketing at O’Reilly Media, talked about Web experiences he’s had recently that hint at the changing role of traditional books as they relate to the Web. His first example was the About this Book page in Google Book Search. Using the example of Moby Dick (at left), he noted that this contains a wealth of information about book titles, and commented that he was surprised that hardly anyone seems to notice it and talk about its value — The first time that day that what I heard GRABBED MY ATTENTION, since I wrote in much the same vein two years ago around the subject of the unheeded goodies on the GBS About this Book page (although I was emphasizing its value for seeing thumbnails of pictures).
So, yes, Noren has FOUND THE GOLD! And, why, indeed, has the GBS About this Book gotten so little attention? It’s true, as I discussed with Noren after his presentation, that Google itself doesn’t feature the About this Book page, with Google searches generally linking to the Front Cover view, which is probably seen as being more appealing to the general public. But librarians and other meta-ish people should certainly appreciate its value, a sort of Web-enhanced “card-catalog” view of a book, as I observed in my earlier article.
So, I tuck Noren’s words away for further processing later … on with the day’s engrossing talks … The last keynote of the day — Context First, by Brian O’Leary (@brianoleary) — certainly grabbed everyone’s attention (by my count, at the end of the first day, it was tweeted about five times more than any other talk). In eloquent words accompanied by superb graphics, O’Leary contrasted the “container view” of the traditional print book and the “context view,” that’s made possible by digital books — So, another great talk, much to consider, but on to the evening’s equally riveting activities. …
It wasn’t until later, on my red-eye flight home, in mulling things over — I see — YES — Noren and O’Leary are talking about the same thing! — The GBS About this Book page is a prime example of Giving Context to Digital Books — Putting [meta] data from the text of the book together with data from the Web to give insights about how the book fits into context of the Web and the world beyond the “container of the book” — Giving life to the Salman Rushdie-ish Streams of Story, as O’Leary suggests in his conclusion, and as I’ve blogged about.
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey