As I wrote last week, most current eBooks are linear books — Generally fiction, with some narrative non-fiction. As I was reading about that, I came across the BioBooks project, well-described in the title of the article on it that’s excerpted below: “Reinventing the College Textbook: A digital textbook project that uses a non-linear approach to learning.”

The BioBooks project is being done at Wake Forest University, by physicist Jed Macosko and biologist Dan Johnson. Macosko is interviewed by Campus Technology writer Bridget McCrea (boldface added):

Macosko: We tested out the idea of using an iPad as a textbook and then went further by making the information non-linear. Instead of going from chapter to chapter, students get to choose their own “adventure.” That’s how the BioBook was born.

McCrea: What’s the significance of non-linear books?

Macosko: Dan has spent a lot of time studying learning theory and is a neurologist himself. He understands the way the brain works. It has been shown that humans learn best when they can put facts into the order that makes the best sense to them. (more)

I’ve written before about other types of books that don’t fit into the current linear model of eBooks — Reference books and childrens’ books, as discussed by Dominique Raccah; and cookbooks, travel guides, and encyclopedias, discussed by Jakob Nielsen and Paul Biba. To that list, then, textbooks are another addition, and one whose lucrative market is likely to bring much BioBooks-like experimentation soon. As with BioBooks, much of this future development will certainly be on iPads or other tablets.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Interesting thoughts from Dominique Raccah, at Sourcebooks publishing, on what makes a successful eBook. In the current market, with the current technology, she says it’s mostly fiction, and some narrataive non-fiction:

What’s selling in ebooks? It’s primarily narrative … Stories seem to be at the heart of eBooks right now. Even the successful non-fiction eBooks we’re seeing skew to narrative – memoirs and biography and history. They’re all stories – and they’re all linear reading experiences. [more]

And, from Raccah’s experience at Sourcebooks, what doesn’t work in eBooks is Reference and Childrens’ books, which are notably non-linear reading experiences:

Reference is the biggest category of non-fiction and our experience at Sourcebooks is that reference is … the hardest category to get right in eBooks. At Sourcebooks, reference is highly formatted: lots of subsections, sidebars, pictures, diagrams, pull-quotes, etc. It’s highly “browseable,” “dippable,” not necessarily a linear reading experience. All the things that we put in to make the book more experiential as a printed book are the very things that are harder to replicate as an experience in an eBook. And there are so many different kinds of reference books.

The other difficult transformation area right now is children’s books (as distinct from young adult books). E-tailers’ bestsellers lists, publisher-reported data, and our own data are not suggesting strong conversion to eBooks yet for juvenile books, outside of cross-over YA. [more]

Raccah’s comments echo the ideas of Jakob Nielsen and Paul Biba, who also decry the domination of eBooks by the linear book metaphor. They note particularly the poor fit of the linear book model for cookbooks, travel guides, and encyclopedias.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

An article by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post caught my attention because Klein has caught on to the elegance of the Kindle app, especially its synched uploading of highlights and notes, that I’ve written about. I have found few other people who are talking about what a game-changing capability this is, so Klein’s giving it such an important place in his discussion of the potential of eBooks stands out (boldface added):

I don’t think we have any clear concept of how good eBooks are going to become. I wasn’t at all impressed with the first generation of eBooks, or eBook readers. When asked to review the first-generation Kindle, I reviewed it poorly and sold my device as soon as I’d finished the article. But now? I have the Kindle application on my home computer, my work computer, my iPad, and my phone. Wherever I am, my books are there, too. My place is always saved. My highlights and notes are automatically uploaded to a central Amazon server that I can access from any internet connection. I get more out of my books now, can read them in more places, can search back through them with more ease, can integrate them into my job with less hassle.

Klein doesn’t mention the Amazon tablet that’s been widely predicted to be coming out sometime in the next several months. Amazon’s dominance of eBook content combined with a strong tablet rival to Apple’s iPad, and leadership in “The Cloud” would put Amazon in a strong place in the eBook market.

Surprisingly, in the talk I’ve seen about the presumed Amazon tablet, it hasn’t been connected to the existing Kindle app. But the elegant tricks that Amazon has bundled with the Kindle app will certainly be carried over to the tablet. So if you want to see the future of eBooks, try out the Kindle App on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android Phone.

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

When I wrote last Fall about iPad interest in different areas, libraries were far behind, and they still are, as shown in the chart at left. The blue columns are from Sept and red columns are from now, March 2011. The red numbers above the red columns are for March; for Sept numbers see the previous article.

The notable jump for “medical” in the chart since Sept is not surprising to anyone who has been following news and commentary — The iPad is proving to be very popular for doctors, hospitals and medical education.

The decline for “magazines” and “newspapers” is also not surprising — The highly-anticipated iPad boost for those media has not happened, and interest has sagged.

Whither libraries? — As I said in the Sept article, it continues to be surprising that libraries have not caught the iPad interest, since books and eBooks are so popular. With the great iPad interest in medicine, maybe medical libraries are just the ones to lead the pack in generating iPad interest in the library world.

The new data (red columns) is the average of counts done in Twitter searches on Feb 25 and March 31. The launch of the iPad 2 on March 2 had a notable effect on the these counts — The number of tweets was significantly higher on March 31 for most areas, except “libraries” and “newspapers,” for which it actually declined.

For more on methods used in this informal study, see the previous article.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In January I wrote articles about the wonderful way Amazon’s Kindle app works on non-Kindle devices to allow cross-platform reading of Kindle eBooks. Using the Kindle apps on other devices (iPad and iPhone have been especially popular) has advantages over using the Kindle device, such as easy highlighting and note-taking. It was ironic. then, that it was just a week after I wrote that news came out that Apple would be putting restrictions on the use of the Kindle app on the the iPad and iPhone. While it’s not clear how much this will restrict use of the app on Apple devices, it seems likely to diminish their use.

With a relatively small number of titles available on the iBookStore, Apple is not in the business of providing content, unlike Amazon, with its KindleStore, and Google, with the Google eBookStore. So, with so few books of  its own, it’s surprising that Apple is putting restrictions on Kindle app users, instead of encouraging them — Hey, Apple, it seems like Amazon is helping you out!

Kindle apps on the iPad have been immensely popular, as described in my previous article, and the reaction to the new Apple policy has been strongly negative. A tweet by @fienen on Feb 15 highlights this (boldface added):

The content wars continue. Apple may have played the wrong card here. Big time. Official: Apple locks down the Kindle app http://ow.ly/3WVcP

On the same day as this tweet, an article in CNNMoney reported recent remarks by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he called Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app the best business decision of the past decade, which made Amazon “‘the poster child’ of the cloud computing movement” — I don’t know about that, but I’d say the Kindle app certainly showed Amazon’s astuteness about the eBook cloud environment.

I think the future of eBooks is going to belong to the one who can bring together the devices & computers with the best collection of books. Right now, Apple has the devices and Amazon has the most books. So get with it, Apple — Amazon has opened up it’s books to play with your devices, so how about reciprocating?

What will Google do?

Looming over the spat between Apple and Amazon, of course, is … Google. As I said in concluding my previous article about the Kindle app ecosystem, “imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks” — Bringing together the devices (Android tablets) and the books (Google eBookstore) in Google’s one big house.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I wrote in my last article about using Kindle apps to capture highlighted text on a web page so it can be pasted to other applications. This seems like a major advance in eBook reading to me. Surprisingly, I’ve found few other people who have given this the importance that I do, with one notable exception — After discovering that I could use the Kindle app to capture text, as I described in the previous article, I finally did discover an article that I’m excerpting here by education writer Will Richardson, in which he describes having the same Aha! experience with the Kindle annotation capture that I did.

The only comment I have about Richardson’s narrative is that he writes of his experience with the Kindle app on an iPad, and doesn’t mention being able to do the same thing on the Kindle PC and Mac apps. I don’t have an iPad, and I imagine he didn’t try using the PC and Mac apps, as I’ve done, but from what he describes, it certainly sounds like the Kindle app works equally well on all of them. Here are Richardson’s words (boldface added):

Last year, I put the Kindle app on my iPhone and downloaded a couple of books to read. … But non-fiction wasn’t so great. If you look at most of the non-fiction books in my library, you’ll see they’re totally marked up, underlined, annotated and messy … On the Kindle, I could highlight, and take a note, but it just wasn’t as useful. The notes were hard to find, and the highlights just weren’t feeling as sticky. I wasn’t impressed; in fact, it was frustrating.

Last week, when I downloaded my first book to my shiny new iPad, things improved. The larger screen made a big difference, creating highlights and typing in reflective notes was a breeze, but I was still feeling the same frustration with the limitations; …  I kept searching for a way to copy and paste sections of the book out into Evernote … My searches didn’t come up with anything, and I finally turned to Twitter and asked the question there. Ted Bongiovanni (@teddyb109) came to the rescue:

@willrich45 – re: iPad Kindle cut and paste, sort of. You can highlight, and then grab them from kindle.amazon.com #iPad #kindle

Turns out my iPad Kindle app syncs up all of my highlights and notes to my Amazon account. Who knew? When I finally got to the page Ted pointed me to in my own account, the page that listed every highlight and every note that I had taken on my Kindle version of John Seely Brown’s new book Pull, I could only think two words:

Game. Changer.

All of a sudden, by reading the book electronically as opposed to in print, I now have:

  • All of the most relevant, thought-provoking passages from the book listed on one web page, as in my own condensed version of just the best pieces
  • All of my notes and reflections attached to those individual notes
  • The ability to copy and paste all of those notes and highlights into Evernote which makes them searchable, editable, organizable, connectable and remixable
  • The ability to access my book notes and highlights from anywhere I have an Internet connection.

Game. Changer.

I keep thinking, what if I had every note and highlight that I had ever taken in a paper book available to search through, to connect with other similar ideas from other books, to synthesize electronically? … Others might not find this earth shattering, but this is a pretty heady shift for me right now, one that is definitely disrupting my worldview.

As I mention in the previous article, Amazon doesn’t quite have the process perfected, but when they do, I think this will, indeed, be a Game Changer for scholarly study … And imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks …

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I don’t have a Kindle device, but I’ve recently started reading Kindle books with Kindle apps. The thing I like most about this is being able to capture highlights and notes as text. As I discuss below, Amazon doesn’t quite have this process fully perfected, but it works well enough that it gives an exciting glimpse of the future of eBooks.

Several other eReading platforms support highlighting and note-making, so I suspect doing it on Kindle doesn’t seem like such an outstanding feature to many users. But I think many are not aware that all highlighted text and notes are synced and put on a web page in the user’s account, where it can be copy/pasted anywhere — Voila! Instant saving of highlighted text and notes!

Most of my reading is non-fiction, and I’ve done a lot of hand-annotating — underlining, highlighting and note-taking — in my print books over the years, so capturing these kinds of annotations in an ebook seems like a great advance. Having all highlighted text instantly copied on to a web page, from where it can be pasted as text to another application, is especially valuable.

The screenshots here show the steps in reading, annotating, and capturing text. I usually read on the iPod Touch, with the Kindle app, which works fine for highlighting, as shown in the screenshot. The app also allows the addition of notes (indicated by the little blue box after “1855), but I usually save note-taking for the desktop app.

I’ve used the Kindle app for PC (shown below) and for Mac. These both support highlighting and more flexible note-taking than the iTouch app, so I do most of my note-writing here. Both the PC and Mac Kindle apps are notable for their elegant, smooth interfaces, with an option for two-column display and flowing text wrap — Maybe a foreshadowing of HTML 5 tricks that will soon become common in eReaders.

And, finally (below) the account-specific “Your Highlights” page at kindle.amazon.com that brings all highlights and notes together, and allows them to be copy/pasted to other applications.

As I mentioned above, the process I describe above is not quite perfected by Amazon, and that may be why they haven’t publicized it more — The process does work as described, but the syncing is not always timely. Sometimes it takes a day or two for annotations done on one of the apps to appear on the “Your Highlights” web page.

Another, more basic, hurdle in the “text capture” process, that Amazon doesn’t say much about, is the whole question of copyright implications — How much text can be highlighted and copied from a book? I haven’t found any general statement about this from Amazon. I’ve heard/seen that it’s generally 10% of the book’s text, but I’ve also heard that some publishers allow up to 40%. Before the process can be widely publicized and encouraged, Amazon and publishers will have to be more up-front about this.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I don’t have a Kindle device, but I’ve recently been learning about the advantages of using the Kindle apps for PC, Mac, and iPod Touch. A great weakness of the Kindle device is that it doesn’t display color, so color pictures on the Kindle apps open up a whole new world.

All Kindle books have a free sample that can be downloaded to the device and to the apps. I’ve downloaded samples for several books that seemed likely to have pictures, and have found that the sample is often from a portion of the book that has only text. I’ve found some cases, however, in which the sample does have pictures, in the list below. To look at these free samples, sign in with an Amazon account, download the appropriate Kindle app, follow the links below, and view samples.

Kindle Books with Color Pictures:

In searching for books with color pictures, I found some that have only black and white. Here are a few for comparison …

Kindle Books with black & white pictures:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

At his demo of the IA BookReader at the recent Books in Browsers conference, Mike Ang said about the new BookReader thumbnail view — “We think this is one example where the digital book has some advantages over the printed one.” Mike was talking particularly about the ability of  the thumbnail view to give a unique overview of a book’s contents. I came across an example that shows the usefulness of this, described below.

On the top frame of the graphic at left is a shot from the personal copy of a book by Isaac Newton that has his own personal annotations in the margins, that’s described in IA staffer George Oates’s blog article — This sounded interesting when I read it, but the article didn’t have a link or page number where the annotation in the example appeared in the book. So I searched for the book in IA, and I was able to visually scan through it quickly to find the annotation, using the thumbnail view, as shown in the bottom frame at left.

This simple little example fits in nicely with the idea I’ve discussed in several articles on this blog, that thumbnails are invaluable especially in books that contain non-textual material — In the examples I’ve blogged about previously, this has been illustrations, but marginalia also fits nicely into this category.

A few more details on the Newton example — The close-up of the text (top frame) is from a set of Oates’ slides (#24) about the project; it’s also in her article linked above. As mentioned, although these sources have nice detail about the unusual Newton treasure, neither has a specific link to the occurrence or page number of the annotation shown. The IA record for the book has a note saying “Includes Issac Newton’s handwritten notations,” but doesn’t say exactly where they occur. It turns out that the annotation is on page 73.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey