In about three weeks time we will be making a fundamental change to bookleteer by enabling public sharing of eBooks and StoryCubes. What does this mean?
users will be able to share their eBooks & StoryCubes direct from bookleteer
users will be able to add tags to their publications
users will have a personal page listing their shared publications and will be able to add links to their own website, blog, twitter and facebook pages
each publication will have its own page which can be linked to and shared with the public via popular social media platforms
all shared publications will be listed in a public library page on bookleteer for the public to browse through without needing to sign up and be logged in
bookreader web-readable versions will be shareable for all users (currently limited to Guest, Pro & Alpha Club members)
The new public sharing and library pages are part of a series of changes we are doing this year to make bookleteer even better and they pave the way for the Periodical. Each month we will crowdsource an eBook made and shared on bookleteer to be printed out and posted to subscribers. We will seek out the most beautiful, experimental, thought-provoking and inspirational eBooks made with bookleteer – and once a month subscribers will have 1 or more eBooks delivered to their door.
We’ll be following these updates with other new features over the coming months – stay tuned for further announcements.
An eccentric monthly publication for an era of eclectic exploration
More and more beautiful, thought-provoking and inspiring eBooks are being created with bookleteer all the time so, with a nod to such illustrious forebears as William Hogarth, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne and Charles Dickens we’re creating the Periodical, a regular monthly publication to share some of the best examples – from the most beautifully designed, illustrated and written to the most experimental uses of bookleteer, its API and what can be done with the format. Update : check out the new bookleteer Library page to browse what people have made.
For a small monthly or one-off annual subscription (see below), you can receive by post a different printed eBook each month crowdsourced from bookleteer. Our target is to launch the Periodical with at least 100 subscribers in October 2012, selecting and printing a new eBook each month for distribution. Whilst we build up the subscriptions we’ll be sending subscribers a choice eBook every month selected from among those we’ve previously printed for projects such as Professor Starling’s Expedition, Material Conditions, City As Material, As It Comes, Agencies of Engagement and others.
What Will Subscribers Receive? The Periodical will be a monthly delight landing on your doorstep – you can expect consistent eccentricity and eclecticism in our choices. We will be seeking out the most extraordinary and unusual eBooks created and shared on bookleteer. Some will be selected by us at Proboscis, others will selected by invited curators and from time to time we’ll invite subscribers to vote for their favourite eBook to be printed and sent out as the monthly periodical. Anyone who wants to take part can contribute a book for consideration for the Periodical by signing up to bookleteer, then making and sharing an eBook. Each month we’ll post on the blog about what we’ve chosen and why – but only after we’ve sent it out, so the subscribers have the pleasure of an unexpected arrival landing on their doorstep.
To kickstart the Periodical we’re inviting a number of our friends, colleagues, fellow travellers and others whom we admire to explore using bookleteer themselves and to create some new publications with it that will seed the initial pool of publications from which we choose the first few issues. We’ll announce more about these soon.
To complement the crowdsourced eBooks, we are also seeking sponsors to help us commission new experimental and imaginative publications using bookleteer. These will be printed and distributed to subscribers as well as shared digitally on bookleteer for all. We’re looking for sponsors who see the opportunity that bookleteer and the Periodical offer for commissioning exciting new experiments in publishing – sharing new ideas, new knowledge and experiences in multiple ways to people all over the world. They might be themed series in themselves (following on from our previous series such as Material Conditions, City As Material, Transformations, Short Work, Liquid Geography, Species of Spaces, Performance Notations) or simply a one-off commission. *** Please contact me for details of sponsorship opportunities.
Subscribing to the Periodical
You don’t need to use bookleteer or be signed up to subscribe and subscriptions from organisations and institutions are very welcome (email us with a purchase order to subscribe). The Periodical will be a great way to tap into the creativity generated with bookleteer, having some of its best creations delivered to your door.
Subscribers will also receive a 10% discount on any Short Run printing orders of their own (recouping their subscription by just ordering a minimum 25 copies each of 4 of their own eBooks).
More recently we’ve had some time and space to think about what else bookleteer could do and how we might make some adjustments to improve its usefulness. Over the past month or so, these ideas have been gestating into actual plans, scenarios, requirements and site maps for our next round of upgrades and improvements. And these themselves follow the price drop for Short Run printing of A6 books, as well the new minimum eBook print run of just 25 copies, which we recently announced.
The first change we plan to implement will be to allow users to publicly share their eBooks and StoryCubes direct from bookleteer. Members of the public will, for the first time, be able to browse (without needing an account) library pages containing links to eBooks and StoryCubes which users have shared. We also hope to build in simple social media links to enable these pages to be tweeted or shared on Facebook. And sharing via bookreader will also be available to all members. In addition to this, and reflecting our own practice of publishing series of eBooks and StoryCubes, we plan to create Collections – a new way to organise own eBooks or StoryCubes into named and distinct series.
Making bookleteer Economically Sustainable
To keep bookleteer going we need to encourage more people to use the Short Run Printing Service service to print their eBooks and StoryCubes. Other than donations to the Alpha Club this is the only source of income to pay for our hosting, bandwidth, development and maintenance costs. As you may have heard, Proboscis no longer receives funding from Arts Council England so we are having to find sustainable sources of income for projects like bookleteer. If we can significantly drive uptake of the Short Run printing service, then we hope to sustain bookleteer as a platform indefinitely. To help people with ordering we’re already working on building in pricing estimation direct into the ordering page. This should make it much simpler to see print estimates when you are considering using the Short Run Printing service.
Pledge For Print
This leads on to the biggest and most exciting aspect of what we’re planning. A couple of years back I wrote a post speculating on how a crowdfunding marketplace within bookleteer could transform the way people create, print and share their publications. We have been working on a model for such a concept – allowing users to offer Collections of eBooks or StoryCubes for others to “Pledge For Print“. We won’t be handling financial transactions to begin with, simply creating a mechanism for users who want to print an edition of 1 more more eBooks or StoryCubes (in a Collection) to know that there are people out there who will pledge to buy a copy from them once its printed. Ultimately we would aim to build in a full crowdfunding-type system, accepting pledges and automating the process of collecting donations once the pledge target has been reached to trigger the print run & shipping. Its a huge project for us – but we think it will transform bookleteer and publishing on demand in the process.
Community Support is Vital
To fund the development we’re hoping to entice more friends, fellow travellers and supporters to donate and join the Alpha Club and take an active part in the developing ‘community’ of bookleteers. We’re also aiming to attract a main sponsor for bookleteer – a company or organisation which shares our values and ethos of creating Public Goods and enabling people to make and share hybrid physical/digital stuff. If you also think what we’re planning could be the next best thing since sliced bread – please donate today!
And do please get in touch with your feedback, comments and suggestions.
Project 18, a collaboration between Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service and MAP, looked at what it’s like to be 18 now, and what it was like to be 18 in the past. This eBook, uploaded earlier this week to Diffusion, is a collection of stories gathered by young people from some of the older participants involved, alongside images of relevant objects from the Museum’s collection, as well as feedback from those who took part in the workshops and other activities.
Designed with comic book style panels for each story and vivid colours throughout (which look great contrasted with the monochrome photographs and historic objects), Project 18 provides snapshots of lives from what must seem to be another world for most younger people these days, in a format they’ll most likely be familiar with and enjoy. No doubt they’ll also find many similarities in the sentiments expressed and antics undertaken by their elders, proving how core human experiences persist through generations.
Download, print and make for yourself on Diffusion here.
A collection of 36 short stories by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro), each an individual eBook, the tales in Beasts and Super-Beastsdeal mainly with “the presence or role of an animal and its relationship to the humans in the narrative, acutely dissecting their foibles and pretensions” (an exquisite summary by Giles there). They’re in a similar vein to Aesop’s Fables, albeit shifting the focus from the characteristics of animals as analogies for the noble ways people should behave, to the sharp satire of existing human behavior. First published in 1914, two years before Saki’s death, they can now be freely published, re-printed and read due to the expiration of copyright – generally 70 years after the author’s death in the United Kingdom. In this manner, older texts that might otherwise remain undiscovered by contemporary readers, can be openly enjoyed and shared through modern distribution models and publishing platforms like bookleteer and Diffusion.
A recently published Diffusion Highlight, The Thetford Travelling Menagerie by Lisa Hirmer and Andrew Hunter of Dodolab, is one of the few eBooks so far to use the A5 landscape format, the end result being particularly striking and accomplished. It stands out amongst the Proboscis bookshelves, aided in part, by the lovely illustration on its cover – a procession of silhouetted creatures in all manner of shapes and sizes.
“The goal of The Thetford Travelling Menagerie is to use stories and images of local animals (past and present, real and imagined) to inspire people in the community to share their perceptions of Thetford today. Our stories and images of animals are offered to trigger memories and tales, a menagerie of beasts to conjure up stories of Thetford, its history of change and its current state of flux. What belongs, what’s been lost, what keeps people away, and what draws them in? What can we learn and share about migration, displacement, settlement and change from the creatures and natural world around us?”
It would be great to see more eBooks taking advantage of this larger format – it allows for greater design and really lends the publication a sense of value. It’s perfect for landscape photography, perhaps even for mini coffee table books if using high quality paper and a capable printer, or the Publish and Print On Demand service.
A report by Julie Anderson, British Museum
In January, I returned from Sudan where my co-author Salah Mohamed and I distributed the eBook we produced last autumn. Frederik Lesage has previously written about the development of our eBook, which deals with the archaeological excavations conducted in Dangeil, Sudan, as a case study for eBook usage, in this blog.
Salah and I have been excavating in Dangeil for more than 10 years. Over this period, we have lived in the community and have come to know our neighbours well. Every year many work with us in the excavations. The archaeological site is situated in the centre of the village and an increasing number of tourists, both Sudanese and foreigners, are visiting the ruins. There is also a large primary school situated along the northern edge of the site. Students cross the site daily on their way to and from classes. As a means of engaging further with the local community, school children and site visitors, we decided to create a resource which would help them to better understand the excavations, the ancient temple and its importance, and to place Dangeil in its historical context. We were also driven by a need to explain what we were doing and why, in an accessible fashion. The key was communication and the end result was the eBook.
So, what sort of reaction did the eBook receive? Simply put, its reception, both in Khartoum and in the rural farming village of Dangeil, exceeded expectations. We produced 500 English copies and 500 in Arabic, the local language. We ran out of the latter. In retrospect, we should have produced a greater number of copies in Arabic. Copies were given to the local school and arrangements were made so that every household in the village received a copy.
Following the distribution of the eBook, teenagers began coming to our door in the village to ask questions about the site / archaeology / their own Sudanese history. In the past, usually they had wanted to have photographs taken, but now instead were connecting with their history as made possible through the booklet. It was astonishing. More surprising was the reaction people had upon receiving a copy. In virtually every single case, they engaged with the eBook immediately and began to read it or look through it. This occurred regardless of location or other business being conducted. Many of our workmen looked for images of things they themselves had helped to excavate and of people they knew, though the latter was true for almost everyone seeing the eBook.
Although our eBook takes the form of a more traditional and perhaps somewhat static publication, its impact cannot be underestimated. The Dangeil villagers, and indeed university students and antiquities staff in Khartoum, viewed the publication as written for them, about them, and in their own language. The eBook has served not only as an educational tool, but has empowered the local community and created a sense of pride and proprietary ownership of the ruins and their history.
Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum
Last Friday we held our second Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event on the topic of River. We met at Hermitage Moorings in Wapping (where one of the participants is a founder member) and spent a short time introducing ourselves and our interests in the topic. Taking part were Anne Lydiat, Aleaxandra McGlynn, Aurelia McGlynn-Richon, Ben Eastop, Martin Fidler, Fred Garnett and myself. I had prepared a map with a possible route for us to take from our point of origin back to Proboscis’ studio and this served as a useful conversation point about the nature of the river as a channel for transportation, habitation, pleasure, boundary, margin and about the city’s push/pull relationship with it.
Whilst sitting in the Hermitage Pier House, then on Anne’s boat in the river the conversation flowed across these issues of liminality and tension – about how the city has slowly encroached on the river, fixing artificial banks where it previously had a wide flood plain, such that we are now concerned about that flood plain being at risk with rising sea levels. Ben, who also lives on the river, spoke of how his home is different every day, changing position with the tide and weather; he also talked of the enormous variation that the sky, light and weather has on the character of the water and its constantly changing surface.
From Hermitage we then walked west along the Thames Path via St Katherine Dock, the Tower of London, Customs House, Old Billingsgate to Queenhithe, where we turned north and cut through the City, St Pauls, St Barts and Smithfield to arrive at the studio.
We talked about how the city so often seems to turn its back on the river, to build buildings that look inward to the city, and how its is only recently, with the shift in the Port of London to Tilbury that Londoners have at last begun to reclaim access to the river from what were previously commercial wharves and stairs. As it was low tide at 12.30pm we were able to include some beachcombing/ mudlarking with our walk – finding the ubiquitous clay pipe stems and pottery shards from earlier centuries, as well as the ever present animal bones, tiles and chalk. we shared stories and bits of knowledge about these stairs, their uses, the hidden rivers flowing out into the Thames.
Arriving back at the studio we began collating the drawings, objects, ideas, writings and photographs that had been created along the way and started to sketch out the structure of the collaborative publication – Ebb and Flow – which is now available. There is also a City As Material group on Flickr, and a Twitter hashtags – #cityasmaterial – to continue the discussions.
bookleteer has collaborated with writer Tony White a number of times on workshops and publications, however, I only became aware of his publishing venture – Piece of Paper Press – this week despite the fact that it’s been running for 16 years! In this time, 25 publications have been released, the latest one being Atomanotes by Liliane Lijn which was launched just this week.
Each Piece of Paper Press publication is a run of 150 books and each book is made from a double-side-printed sheet of A4 paper, folded three times and cut and stapled to create a 16-page A7-size book. Once printed the books are given away to people who attend the publication launch, to participants and to supporters of Piece of Paper Press. Despite the technological developments that have occurred in the 16 years since Piece of Paper Press began the production process is the same as it was at the beginning and Tony believes that it’s simplicity and low cost are the reasons why he has continued putting out these books for such a long time.
In a fascinating post on The Literary Platform, Tony writes that he feels the flipside to these methods of production and distribution is that “producing something this ephemeral in such relatively small quantities seems to go against the grain.” I would argue that Piece of Paper Press’s methods of making and sharing are actually adding value to their books in ways that digital accessibility is often unable to do. Printing only 150 copies gives a rarity to the books that will only increase with time and touches on ideas in this post on 3 Ways to Share.
In the same post Tony describes the process of physically making the books as a simple, repetitive and social occasion.
“for the past 16 years once or twice a year I’ve sat down for a morning or an afternoon with a pile of printed A4 paper, a stapler and a Stanley knife. With me more often than not will have been an artist or a writer who will have spent a year or more producing a literary or graphic work that is suitable for a 16 page, A7 book. A few cups of tea and some conversation form the backdrop to a task that is a by definition repetitive, but which is also very social and above all is simple and functional.”
With only 25 publications in 16 years very few people will have had the chance to sit down with Tony and enjoy this time and these conversations and it seems to me that these social aspects of Piece of Paper Press publications have a value in terms of the relationship between author and publisher and book and reader that may not be as easy to achieve with digital books despite being able to reach a wider audience.
Visual description of how bookcrossing works from www.bookcrossing.com
Label. Share. Follow. That’s how bookcrossing.com describes the process of setting your book free to go out and explore the world while you follow it’s adventures, the places it goes and the people it meets from the comfort of your home. According to the Book Crossing website almost seven million books have been registered by over 850,000 active BookCrossers and are traveling around 130 countries as I write.
The way it works is that each book is tagged with a label recording its unique Book Crossing ID (BCID) and starting location. The books are then shared, either being passed onto a friend or stranger, mailed to a Book Crossing reader who’s advertised for that title, or released ‘into the wild’, for example, on a park bench, a café table or at the train station. They can also be taken to Official Book Crossing Zones where books are regularly caught and released.
When your labeled book is ‘caught’ the finder enters its BCID into bookcrossing.com to find out who released the book and where it’s previously been. The finder can then record a journal entry telling the next stage of the book’s story. In this way you can find out where your book is, who’s reading it now, and follow where it goes next. Leave your book at an airport and it could cross continents!
Of course, theory is all very well but practice is what counts so I set out to catch a bookcrossing book. I chose my quarry carefully, discounting books that had been released on the tube or park benches as I couldn’t believe they would last more than a few hours in these locations. Eventually I settled on hunting down a book at the Camel and Artichoke pub behind Waterloo station where 89 books were listed – suggesting that I had a good chance of finding one!
I entered the pub and casually browsed around as if I was looking for a friend. And there, at the top of the stairs was my target. Four book shelves all stuffed with books. They were even spilling onto the floor. There was a wide variety of authors, topics, even languages (Simone de Beauvoir in German anyone?) but I finally settled for revisiting my childhood with The Silver Chair by CS Lewis.
My caught book
Returning home and entering its BCID into bookcrossing.com I discover that Lydiasbooks left it in the Camel and Artichoke as she had a duplicate copy. It’s been there about a month and I am the first person to pick it up.
My plan was to complete my bookcrossing experience before writing this post by releasing my book back into the wild. However, I kind of feel like re-reading The Silver Chair now. Perhaps this is how bookcrossing works. Serendipitous and random sharing leads to serendipitous and random reading..