Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Kindle singles

More on the e-book theme: Amazon have just announced a shorter document format called 'Kindle Singles'. In essence it's a digital pamphlet format, and basically, as a reflowable format it makes reading short form documents, currently almost universally distributed as pdf's easier on a kindle.

It's been my experience that working with pdf's on an e-reader is a pain - pdf's are designed to display as per the printed page, which is not necessarily what you want on an e-reader - at its simplest you want the document as a single column, not a two column format.

And while the linearity implicit in e-readers is an irritation, it's probably less with short form documents, where it's possible to hold the document in one's mind as a whole.

TNW is probably correct when they suggest that the short form Kindle publication is a play for the college market - it would open up the e-reader for things such as electronic reading bricks, and if journal publishers were to adopt a reflowable format, make possible the easy reading of research papers on an e-reader.

This has of course implications for digital archiving. At the moment most self archived scholarly articles are in pdf - we should really be treating pdf as a derived format and using something such as TEI to faithfully represent the document as published and then provide options to have it as pdf for later printing, epub for reading on an e-reader etc etc ...

[Update: one of the other nice features about using TEI or some other super format for contents storage as opposed to content delivery is that it makes content delivery in alternative formats a simpler problem, allowing the simple on-demand production of books in alternate formats such as DAISY for use by the visually disabled.

It would also allow the text to be fed into a typsetter (or an espresso book machine) to allow the on demand printing of texts in bookstores for these people who still need a printed a copy. Doing this gets round the delayed gratification problem of ordering books from online retailers and then waiting n days for the postal service to deliver your book]

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