Tag Archives: Tools

Push Pop Press – significantly extending ‘the book’

Software developer Mike Matas demos a full-length interactive book for the iPad — with clever, swipeable video and graphics and some very cool data visualizations to play with. The book is “Our Choice,” Al Gore’s sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Watch this 5 minute TED talk to get the full picture.

In brief, this is technology for book publishers, and what you will see is:

  • a full-length interactive book ‘Our Choice’ authored by Al Gore
  • moving images, web links
  • chapter browsing by chapter cover image, or, scrolling through page images
  • all images expanded to full screen size
  • audio tracks to accompany an opened image
  • map links to check geographic location of photo
  • embedded documentary footage (that continues to play while you browse elsewhere)
  • interactive (by touch) infographics – see new information presented as you move your finger across a map
  • interactive (by blowing from your mouth!) images – the reader can blow the windmill to see the energy flow to batteries and lighting.

It only works on the iPad or iPhone, but is still a terrific demonstration of how the ‘long-form’ book functionality will continue to be extended.


Learning Management Systems – the ‘location’ for educational book businesses

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are fast becoming the centre of the ‘learning experience’ for all tertiary students. School education environments are showing early signs of following this trend.

About five years ago we were given access to over 2,000 undergraduate student essay bibliographies. Less than half of the references used were conventional book or journal sources. Using non-‘published’ resources for acquiring new knowledge is both a product of students’ appetite for Google-ease and of lecturers’ need to use resources that are more current and timely than what publishers can often provide.

Whether a student is enrolled for on-campus or online courses, they are increasingly being provided course guides plus essential and non-essential reading materials (or links to them), plus a variety of other learning tools such as online tutorials and work groups, via the LMS.  In this environment, lecturers and students are strongly tempted to limit or even avoid using traditional book business products, because of various complexities it involves.

Blackboard is the clear leader in the Australian tertiary LMS market. Having one major vendor would seem to present a good opportunity for there to be an industry-wide approach for businesses to become involved in the LMS environment. Educational publishers, campus (and other specialist) book-sellers, campus (and nearby) printeries, all could benefit by developing ways to ‘locate’ their services within the LMS environment. University Libraries, who are usually managing the user interface of the LMS, also may benefit by facilitating a more seamless user experience.

Libraries are budget constrained and tend to steer away from activities that involve ‘selling’. Therefore, what better way for bookshops to pick up unmet demand where libraries do not have the materials readily available online to meet student demand, in either print or electronic formats. Publishers might try to sell direct to students in this environment also, and for smaller publishers this might be viable. But for the larger publishers, who need to still protect their printed textbook sales volumes, it would make more sense to work with the campus book-seller for this opportunity. And printers stand to pick up considerable on-demand printing opportunities if they can work with LMS vendors and managers to embed links to POD local solutions.

Here are a couple of industry-wide approaches that might be considered (or re-considered) on a national basis, to help make the LMS ‘location’ more accessible and viable for all book businesses. The second idea is not new and was part of the COLIS project that was discontinued around 2005.

1.     A national LMS strategic plan for all educational institutions.

This would provide guidelines for the management of the LMS environment and how businesses might provision relevant products and services such as:

  • Ebooks and electronic journal content
  • non-book or journal learning tools and resources
  • access to printed books and journals to purchase or borrow
  • print on demand services for materials copied under Part VB of the Copyright Act, and for materials to be made available commercially (e.g. custom publications complied by the lecturer or student)

2.     A national approach to the standards (that follow trends in international best practice) for handling online activities such as:

  • Learning object identification, importing, and use
  • Ecommerce in an education environment
  • Product information, price and availability
  • Print job ticketing

It might be argued that the LMS environment as we know it today will not exist in a few years time. Whatever is on the horizon, it is clear that students will be interacting with their lecturers, their institutions, their class-mates, their learning resources, through one ‘portal’-type environment. And they will be doing it on their iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and a multitude of other devices, including print products. The more educational book businesses are embedded there now, the better chance they have of being a profitable partner in the business associated with that location in the future. 2011 is the year to start seriously negotiating what that ‘location’ means.

Shared Scholarly Publishing Infrastructure – a sure way to promote Australia’s research excellence

Academics form one of the most prolific online user communities throughout the world. They are also amongst the most well-defined groups of ‘users’ that act simultaneously as both authors and readers.  The online environment has enabled geographically dispersed academics to be more closely and actively connected around their core fields of research. However, research outputs in print or electronic book form are still hampered by relatively high costs of production that require better economies of scale to overcome.

In recent years the Australian federal government has invested heavily in digital repositories to provide some of the necessary infrastructure for storing and accessing the great wealth of our academic research output. ‘Open Access’ has also been openly advocated by Minister Carr throughout his term as being a logical approach to sharing publically funded research.

However, electronic means for packaging (ebooks/digital books/bits of books, for web/mobile device/print on demand) and distributing (via wholesale, retail, and library networks) are also needed, in addition to storage and access, to achieve a substantially higher level of exposure for Australian academics both here and overseas, even if ‘open access’ models are adopted.

A collaborative approach to packaging and distribution would be a logical development alongside the various collaborations invested in for storage and access.  These include the Australasian Digital Theses Program and the National Collaborative Research Strategy into eResearch.

At least seven universities (ANU, Monash, RMIT, Uni of Melb, Uni of Syd, UNSW, UQ) have been developing different but complementary approaches to electronic publishing in recent years. These efforts could be analysed to identify what common infrastructure would best serve the further development of e-publishing  models for academic research outputs from all universities in Australia.

A shared scholarly publishing infrastructure used by each university with its own identity and secure space, perhaps under an Application Service Provider (ASP) model, could offer a range of functions, including the following:

1.     Manuscript submission – tools for authors to submit works for review by editors or editorial committees.

2.     Peer review – a place where reports are administered, submitted and stored.

3.     Design and layout tools – a toolkit for converting manuscripts (prepared in pre-defined templates) into files ready for print and electronic packaging.

4.     Book packaging tools – a set of tools for preparing files for specific book products types such printed formats, standard and large print, various ebook formats, including ePub, HTML, and PDF.

5.     Print on Demand services – an integrated print service (perhaps tendered on an annual or other basis) for all university publishers to access bulk rates and high standards of quality service.

6.     Marketing – a set of tools for generating relevant information for lodging with international databases for marketing and distribution purposes.

7.     Distribution – an electronic platform for lodging new titles with international distribution channels to book-sellers, and libraries. Whether they are free-of-charge or for-charge materials, this function could be established to provide a gateway for content subject to the terms established by each publisher, and for each work.

There are many more aspects of book production and distribution that a shared platform might provision. However, those mentioned above are probably the core components that might attract sufficient interest from those willing and able to invest in a collaborative venture.

The federal government’s support would provide necessary impetus for this important foundation to be established, to support the greater and enhanced dissemination of Australia’s excellence in academic research.

(This is an extract from Enakt’s recent submission to the Australian Federal Government’s Book Industry Strategy Group)