Hacking the book – a quick overview of Book Hackday

I  went to the Book Hackday on Saturday that was supported and organised by the Creative Industries iNetElectric BookshopGeekcampidno; Free Word; and Perera. I’d been looking forward to this event, though with some trepidation.

It sounds like I took the sensible option of walking from the bus stop over to Clerkenwell but I do like walking in parts of London as you can dive off and find something unexpected in side streets. But anyhow…

Paul, Nico and Laura could not have been more welcoming when I arrived and I suspect that I sort of babbled at them. Sorry! I think I babbled quite a lot early on. Anyhow, Paul and Nico explained the format of the day and we sort of  got on with it. It sort of split into two, with talks and hacks. Given the day, I decided to do some hacking and to try and get some overdue building done.

Dan Franklin spoke about the book and the idea of enhanced books. I suppose I should be unsurprised about the analytics in apps but the notion that video is more unpopular than audio. It did spark a brief Twitter correspondence between myself and Ben Werdmuller re: this (which I thought I’d copied to Dan but muppet here got part of the Twitter name wrong). Rather than having the audio book, why not use the audio as extra notes and information to extend footnotes. Becky Hogge gave a talk about her forthcoming book and offered part of it as a download (which Nicholas Tollervey hacked into an app based around meta-tags that moved as you read it).

I began the day and working on the Open Correspondence toolkit, which has been posted on the Bookhacker‘s website and is the subject of yet another post entirely. I link to it when up. It is a set of indexes and some visualisations using Redis as a back-end and Protovis to show some statistics.

The next door table with the Electric Bookshop and Tom Abba. I’ve met Tom via email so it was good to put a face to the name. They worked on the really sound House of Story’s idea – a game style literary magazine as I understand it, that expands as the user goes through it and changes according to the stories. It looks like one to really watch.

Nicholas Tollervey, from Fluidinfo,  talked about the Semantic Bible that he’d done some work on which I sat in on part of but left through it. It was nothing to do with the talk but the fact that what he was talking about was something that I’m interested in for work and if I’d stayed I would have started hacking on it. It really got me thinking and on other days, I hang around but I needed to concentrate on the toolkit.

I also did a bit of hacking on the idea I had on Friday, the CouchDb document based store, as Laura had mentioned that Nico was interested in it. I’m currently looking at it in regards to Drupal 7 and module development but might do something else with it. Either way, I’d hope to post it on book hackers. I also had a quick poke around Node.js with regards to pushing data back out to users and Paul Squires suggested that it might also have uses deeper in the publishing process in terms of moving data between systems.

After presentations, including a sound hack from the pieces of said.fm which gave back relevant podcast for an author, Nico presented each team with a copy of “This is Not the End of the Book” by Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco before we decamped to the pub for a few minutes.

I sincerely hope that this is the first of many book hackdays and would be interested in helping out where I can. Looking at the book, the word, form and text can go, then no, this is not the end of book. Not if we (that is developers, teachers, readers, editors) carry on with these developments and ideas.

This is definitely not the end of the book…