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eBook Observer – some early thoughts

September 15th, 2010 by frederiklesage

A recurring concern that has come up in the three interviews to date is the question of feedback. In all three cases I’ve presented to date, respondents told me that it was difficult to collect feedback on how the eBooks were used once they were out of their hands and into the hands of the people for whom the eBooks were designed. So lets get into this idea of feedback in a bit more detail.

I’m going to propose a first set of categories to distinguish how the eBooks are designed and used: eBooks are designed in some cases to capture knowledge and in other cases to publish information.

Publishing information with eBooks seems to involve organising bits of information – texts such as interview transcripts and project reports as well as images including pictures and logos – using one of the eBook templates. This newly designed eBook is subsequently made available to people who might be interested in the information it contains. A good example is how Gillian’s Greenhill projects involve using the eBooks as part of an “end point” to summarise her research.

The term “capturing” is used repeatedly by Proboscis and by some of the people who use the eBooks. It seems to be most often used to describe instances in which an eBook is used to codify some kind of event, experience or other tacit form of knowledge. I will therefore use “capture” to describe the cases where the eBook is designed and used as part of a process of generating information about something. A good example is when Ruth Sapsed describes how CCI uses the eBooks as part of workshops with teachers and other groups of people to see what they think about their own creative process. (Please note that some of the details of this work are not specifically detailed in the blog post presented.)

Now someone might argue that publishing is the same thing as capturing. After-all, isn’t Michelle Kasprzak codifying a captured event when she publishes her interview with a curator as an eBook? The distinction I want to make with these two categories is that capturing involves creating information whereas publishing involves recreating information.  Michelle’s interview had already been codified: for example, she may have already recorded the interview with some kind of recording device before she then transcribed the interview into a written document. By the time that she produced the eBook, the information contained within it had already been produced in at least one other iteration.

Publishing in the eBook format was a way to supplement the information it contained. In most cases, it was used to make that information more distinctive or special. It could also make that information more easily accessible as a printed document. Currently, the Bookleteer website does not seem to make a clear distinction between these two categories.

Coming back to my initial discussion of feedback using the distinction between publishing and capturing, it seems that feedback is lacking in the cases of publishing: the publishers are wondering what happens after they’ve been downloaded or printed. The capturing process is, in most cases, a process of getting feedback from respondents.

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