to the rescue—throwing publishers an ebook buoy

On November 19, 2007, Jeff Bezos and his behemoth of an online bookstore launched the first generation Amazon Kindle in the United States and ultimately announced the future of electronic readers . Despite the fact that other ebook readers—Rocket eBook Reader, Gemstar, Everybook, SoftBook, Librius Millennium Reader, Sony Reader—had previously flopped (Pogue), the Kindle sold out within hours and remained out of stock for several months. The device’s popularity, success, and criticisms inspired the release of subsequent ereaders—such as the second generation Kindle, the Kindle Deluxe (DX) and the Barnes & Noble Nook—in 2009, and, in 2010, Apple raised the stakes with the introduction of the iPad and its iBooks reading app (“E-book”).

As successful as these ereaders and their respective companies have been, from the first moment of the 2007 Kindle launch until the present, book publishers have been struggling to play a game of ‘catch up’ with these titan tech companies. They have been producing ebooks as quickly as possible—adhering to the technology and guidelines dictated to them—and trying as they might to stay afloat in an unfamiliar ocean, constantly inundated with waves of new ebook formats, ereading devices, and public demands. All of which have made it difficult for publishers to create ebooks that are anything more than just digital copies of their print books, something to fill a gap in the marketplace. But with the launch of, a digital reading system that requires no allegiance to one specific ereader or company, publishers might actually have a fighting chance to reclaim ebooks as their own.

Continue reading “ to the rescue—throwing publishers an ebook buoy”

Reader at the Helm: The Active Engagement of Online Reading

Publishers have long struggled with translating print content onto the web. The perception that digital platforms should be consistent with that of the passive print format has been a persistent obstacle to gaining and keeping online readers’ attention. Token attempts to incorporate digital functions have missed the true scale of the web’s potential for content. What the web can offer, and what is seen through a few enterprising websites, is a more integrated effort to build an online community through engagement with readers in a structure designed to embrace the openness of the online world, rather than one shaped by the limiting capacity of print. Publishers need to think beyond the scope of a typical print container, and consider how their content can  best utilize the various options offered by digital technology (O’Leary, 2014). Continue reading “Reader at the Helm: The Active Engagement of Online Reading”

It’s a Metaphor Fool: How mimicry and nostalgia in design have hindered user experience


Users are obsessed with mimicry and nostalgic for the past. You can buy a cellphone case that look like a nintendo controller, or a wine glass that looks like a pint glass—but in the end you still have an iPhone and you are still drinking wine.

When it comes to technology we will do everything in our power to maintain some sort of connection to the tangible world. A screen is a window; deleted files go into a trash can; documents look like notebooks on a desk; and saving happens on a floppy disk.

Continue reading “It’s a Metaphor Fool: How mimicry and nostalgia in design have hindered user experience”

Unnatural Selection: How Social Curation Weeds Out The Wallflowers

Like most of my fellow “echo boomers”, I grew up listening to The Cure. I spent most of my high school years plotting my escape with their poignant lyrics and heart-rending melodies playing in the background. Less than a handful of songwriters can elicit that overwhelming sense of listlessness, diffidence, and romanticism better than Robert Smith, in my humble opinion. My favourite track has always been “Pictures of You” – where Smith paints the image of a long lost love that breathes new life through his remaining collection of photographs. Coincidentally, one of the first films that I remember seeing as a child was Mannequin, starring 80s heartthrob Andrew McCarthy. The ludicrous plot involves a struggling artist who takes a job as a window-dresser for a department store in Philadelphia. He becomes engrossed with his mannequin (played by Kim Cattrall) – the star and inspiration for his crowd-pleasing displays. His inanimate muse comes to life only for him, and they fall madly in love.

As bizarre as it sounds, these references came to mind when I started to think about the extensive amount of personal and social curation that we employ through web interfaces and interactions. Carefully crafted lists of our photographs, playlists, books, belongings on sale and employment history define our online personas. But have these web entities become a more dominant representation of our actual selves? Have they become our default personality? Are we most alive when we’re online? Worse yet, are our virtual lives  more attractive and exciting than our real ones? Gasp.
Continue reading “Unnatural Selection: How Social Curation Weeds Out The Wallflowers”

Copyright, Intellectual Property, and the Digital Age

In order to begin this discussion with the right context, I will preface it with two definitions, one of copyright, and the other of intellectual property.

“Copyright: The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc. (or his assignee), to print, publish, and sell copies of his original work.” OED

“Intellectual Property: chiefly Law property (such as patents, trademarks, and copyright material) which is the product of invention or creativity, and does not exist in a tangible, physical form.” OED

What is clear in both of these definitions is an emphasis on the maker, the author or other creative force. What is also clear is the way in which the language of the definition shapes a legal reality as well as a finite reality in which to place that which is intangible and immeasurable in other terms. It is also clear, that those legal realities are designed to protect the work and the author.
In order to understand the function of these terms and their application in the digital world, we will need to contextualize them, to highlight some pivotal moments and criticism of the growth of copyright and intellectual property over the past four hundred (or so) years. For you see we are in a hot mess of finite and infinite distinctions, definitions, and problematics surrounding notions of copyright, intellectual property and the digital age which all relate to the ways in which discourse has formed by the intellectual community. A hot mess which, if we go back to the roots of the terms, to the roots of the meanings and movements that gave birth to them, may not be insurmountable.
Continue reading “Copyright, Intellectual Property, and the Digital Age”

When truth is truly irrelevant

Samsung paid $1 billion in nickels to Apple.
A linebacker defends a gay classmate against a bully.
And when the superstar American basketball player LeBron James was still in high school, he met his idol Michael Jordan.

Events or news can be condensed to the size of a meme and spread quickly through social networks. Does it still matter if the story is true? Yes. And no.

Continue reading “When truth is truly irrelevant”

Streamlining Our Lives

“No moment in technology history has ever been more exciting or dangerous than now. The Internet is like a new computer running a flashy, exciting demo. We have been entranced by this demo for fifteen years. But now it is time to get to work, and make the Internet do what we want it to.” – David Gelernter, “Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously.” The Edge. (2010).

Continue reading “Streamlining Our Lives”

Out of Quantity comes Quality (or what Publishers can offer Self-Publishers)

As the volume of self-published works continues to grow exponentially, research by book data analysts at Bowker suggest that the number of self-published titles has increased by 422% since 2007, and as the tools to do so increase in popularity and ability, with platforms from Amazon and Smashword providing full self-publishing services, publishers are increasingly being called into question to defend not just their position, but their existence. In a world where the number of books is increasing exponentially, I argue that the traditional publishing house will become an identifier for quality.

Continue reading “Out of Quantity comes Quality (or what Publishers can offer Self-Publishers)”

Redefining the Publisher: Why We Need Our Gatekeepers

What is a publisher? There are many definitions, both online and off, specific to music, books, other media, and more generally speaking. In the Oxford English Dictionary a publisher is defined as, “a person who makes something generally known; a person who declares or proclaims something publicly”, a definition with usage from 1453 through 1995. This is also a definition that is particularly pertinent to this discussion. More on that shortly, for there are also more nuanced definitions. Definitions that exist in a more ephemeral sense and that understand the term “publisher” in broader terms, connected to a reputation, whether like Harlequin or Del Rey as publishers of certain types of work, or like Penguin & Random House as big presses that publish and republish countless texts, or like small presses whose publics define them in a much more immediate way. In each case, the sense of “publisher” is one that involves an awareness of what to expect as a reader and has, therefore, an awareness of some kind of quality control. The OED definition of publisher above is one that does a wonderful job reflecting the commonly held notion of the digital age, that “everyone’s a publisher” in today’s networked landscape. However, it is lacking in the nuances and connotations that, I think make the need for a publisher even more important to the publics of the current landscape than ever before, a landscape that not only inhibits but seems to reject the very idea of the publisher. Take for example, Clay Shirky, who argues that, “Publishing is not evolving” and that, “Publishing is going away….[that] There’s a button that says ‘publish,’ and when you press it, it’s done.”
Continue reading “Redefining the Publisher: Why We Need Our Gatekeepers”

Undead Print Publishing: Layar and the Future of Augmented Reality

Zombies eat brains, so I am sure you, dear publisher, will be A-Okay during this time of the apocalypse. In this life of print after the declaration of its death, it is much too easy to get nostalgic and believe we are beginning another Renaissance in publishing. wow. much potential. very scared. It is my opinion that we, the publishers of tomorrow, should stop looking for (or God forbid, try to invent) “the next printing press.” Let us discard notions of square pegs trying to fit in round holes (does no one see anything Freudian about this phrase?) and instead, let’s take a stab at anticipating what our readers want from their future reading experiences, and just give it to them. Continue reading “Undead Print Publishing: Layar and the Future of Augmented Reality”

for the love of bot, end already!

My initial plan was to actually write the whole remix/adaptation/whatever you want to call it implied by the title of James Bridle’s “We Fell in Love in a Coded Space” presentation, with links going out from lyrics to other articles dealing with things like code in semiotics and expanding on the theory of code/space and other like things.

But I didn’t understand it well enough to actually do that, so I decided to just awkwardly reference a bunch of stuff at the beginning of my post and let you wade through them, or not, as you were inclined.

Job done.

Except for the point-making part, I mean. Continue reading “for the love of bot, end already!”

The Social Life of Links: Network Influence and the New Economy of Discourse

The Hyperlink, Contained

There was a time when “hypertext” was a thing that people talked about. It was a novel discursive adventure to create and explore documents with multiple access points. The form bred another term we rarely hear today: “hyperlink.” The word “link” no longer requires a qualifier. It is a fundamental part of our daily digital lives that has been imbued with cultural significance. Through a gradual evolution it has become an essential component of discourse on the web, taking on its own rhetorical function. In the social world of blogs and tumblogs (Kottke) a link signifies any number of things beyond a single author’s original intent.

Continue reading “The Social Life of Links: Network Influence and the New Economy of Discourse”

The Meaning of ‘Quality’

The imagined communities of FanFiction.Net don’t care what you think is good writing—they have their own stipulations for ‘quality’

Tori Elliott

Quality writing—it’s what all writers strive to produce and all editors hope to acquire.  It helps authors get published, compels readers to comment, and persuades juries to hand out awards. But what is ‘quality’? As a writer, I can tell you that there is no concrete answer to that question. Quality can be determined based on personal preference, popular opinion, or prescribed conditions. It is an elusive concept and, as John Maxwell has stated, it is entirely relative.

Continue reading “The Meaning of ‘Quality’”

Governing the Internet: Why Publishers Need Net Neutrality

Open access to the Internet presents a sense of online freedom for both users and content providers, but a recent legal ruling could mean the end of that. Since 2011, the FCC has adopted a set of Open Internet regulations to ensure fair access to all web content. However, in January 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit ruled against the regulations set forth by the FCC, creating a potential future where net neutrality will cease to exist (Roberts, 2014). Aside from the threat against net neutrality, one takeaway from this case is that the parameters for net neutrality need to be clearly and carefully expressed in order to ensure that the Internet remains a public democratic space. Though the ramifications of the 2014 ruling will not be immediate, an Internet without net neutrality means a damaging influence on how users and content providers, including publishers, engage with the online world. Continue reading “Governing the Internet: Why Publishers Need Net Neutrality”