If you follow the ebook publishing world, you know that Amazon is working on its next-generation ebook format. They call it Kindle Format 8 (KF8) and have based it heavily on HTML5. HTML5 is the latest Web markup language able to structure webpages (or ebook pages in this case), draw shapes and animations (without the need for Flash or Silverlight), and present audio and video without plugins.
There are a handful of ebook standards which are being adopted by publishers and ebook vendors. There is Adobe’s ubiquitous PDF. Barnes & Noble offer ebooks in EPUB (and the new EPUB 3) standard. Amazon has its own proprietary Kindle format (AZW) not compatible with non-Kindle devices and supports Mobipocket’s MOBI format. Amazon’s KF8 is the latest format developed to offer rich content. Amazon hasn’t yet released it, but some bloggers are suggesting that the Kindle Fire may already support it.
Google just released a newsreader app called Google Currents. Available for Android and Apple iOS phones and tablets, the app lets you read magazines, blogs, and news articles nicely formatted for your device. Watch the video to see how it works.
As the “Big Six” publishers decide how they’re going to publish and sell their normal text-based ebooks, some smaller publishers are moving on with ebook innovation. One such company, Chafie Press, has create its first “transmedia” novel. The publisher is being very careful to stay true to the reading experience while also incorporating interactive elements.
The Survivors by Amanda Havard was intended to be a transmedia novel from its inception. To access the ebook one needs an Apple iPad or iPhone app called Immersedition. From the Apple App Store description of the contents:
The Survivors Immersedition is the pilot launch of Chafie Creative’s revolutionary Immersedition interactive book concept. In this edition, what was a 283-page book becomes an eBook with over 300 touchpoints and over 500 frames of additional information—from the history behind the witch trials, historical documents, interactive maps of book locations, or even runway images of character style, the Immersedition will bring you into the world of The Survivors. From inside the pages of what still feels like a book, guided by watermark icons that tell what kinds of interaction a certain touchpoint elicits, readers can learn the history behind the story, can connect the story world in a way they’ve never been able to before, and they can even talk to the characters on Twitter and Facebook—since the characters have their own accounts—all without leaving the app.
While publishers, bookstores, and libraries are still struggling to develop, market, sell, and lend ebooks, yet another electronic book format enters the fray. This new format is the book app. Not to be confused with an ebook reader app, the book app is the book, usually including multimedia content.
Last month Publishers Weekly announced that Hachette released a David Sedaris app:
Humorous essayist David Sedaris now has an app. His publisher, Hachette, has unveiled the $1.99 David’s Diary app, for sale on iTunes and in the Android Marketplace, which features six animated shorts inspired by his diary entries. Illustrator Laurie Rosenwald, whose work has been in The New Yorker (among other places), provided the graphics and Sedaris narrates each clip.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica has long been available online, and now is available as an iPad app. Users can subscribe for $2 per month or $24 for a year. You can read more about the app at The Wall Street Journal or All Things D.
Children’s books are also moving into apps. Two recent iPad releases are Dr. Seuss’s There’s No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System and the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The examples above beg the question: How will libraries offer access to these popular nonfiction, reference, and children’s apps? Like ebooks, could the apps be offered as a limited-time checkout, after which they would stop functioning? Could libraries lend iPads and Android tablets with pre-installed content? Or will libraries simply be shut out of book apps altogether?
ALA TechSource recently held two workshops on tablet computers and their uses in libraries. Part 1 gives some background history on the tablet computer and some current tablet models with specifications. Reasons the presenters give for using tablets in libraries:
As assistive technologies
Providing new services
Delivering new content
Part 1 also gives some examples of libraries that have implemented tablet lending.
Part 2 gives more practical examples as well as a brief overview of apps with many screenshots of useful ones.
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