[IAEP] Please review E-Book Enlightenment

Maria Droujkova droujkova at gmail.com
Sat Jul 2 08:41:57 EDT 2011


Thank you very much for your work. It is very useful for my current
projects. I put my notes on my blog:
Here is what I wrote.

Book review: “E-Book Enlightenment” by James Simmons


James Simmons set out to write about One Laptop Per Child e-books, but
decided to go more general. I appreciate the clear and concise categories of
information by chapters and within the chapters – it’s a big service to the
reader, and it takes a lot of thought and work for the writer. Moreover,
each piece of data tells a story with a strong exegesis in the area of open
and free – meaning, it’s interesting to read, at least for someone who
cares. I thought I would skip the first chapters, on finding e-books, but I
learned much I did not know – for example, the story of this touching

*The Rural Design Collective (@rdcHQ <http://twitter.com/rdcHQ>)* is a
not-for-profit professional mentoring organization which furthers the
education and experience of residents of rural Southern Coastal Oregon who
are interested in working with web and/or media technology by involving them
in real development projects. They devote a portion of their program to
continued exploration of technology surrounding digital books. In 2009, they
built an interface for approximately 2000 digital books using a subset from
the *Internet Archive Children’s Library*.

It was easy for me to skim the chapter comparing different formats, because
of the clear structure, but the tone is human and personal (“Advantages: I
can’t think of any.” on RTF).

The Sugar activities and architecture for discovering and sharing books
looks like something all children’s environments should be adopting (I am
looking at you, Club Penguin). My daughter is probably older than the
intended audience – she uses Shellfari for the purpose.  I don’t know if
there are tools like this beyond Sugar, for young kids. With one click, you
can share books with a person or your neighborhood. And, it has text to
speech. Remember the lovely Living Books from the 90s, with text-to-speech
(and animations) done via recordings, rather than generated? That was hugely
useful for literacy, but not sustainable, and only a few were made.

James describes wiki-software for making books, called
I am looking at it for next book projects of Math Future (we are using
Google Docs at the moment). I think I will wait for versions beyond alpha;
meanwhile, James’ adventures with collaborating are illuminating, and echo
my experiences:

Starting a book from nothing is intimidating.  However, once the book
reaches a critical mass and there is no doubt that there *will* be a
finished book you’ll find that getting help and feedback is easier, almost
inevitable …If we didn’t start with the awful machine translated version we
would never have gotten the good one.

 The first thing is that there are good reasons to collaborate and not so
good.  A good one is that your collaborator can bring expertise to the book
that you don’t have.  A bad one is that you think there will be less work
for you if you have a collaborator.  There are many human activities where
“Many hands make light labor”.  Writing a book isn’t one of them.

Mokurai’s Replacing Textbook project involves several Math Future people
such Don “The Mathman” Cohen, and uses
which James mentions. My materials about fractions may go there, as well. An
obligatory Russian proverb: “The world isn’t small, but the stratum is
thin.” I would appreciate if the book compared booki with Google Docs,
rather than Microsoft Word (which isn’t a wiki technology).

For scanning books, I may consider building a *Simmons Home Book Scanner
Mark I*. It looks quite easy and the name is fun to say. However, my new
flatbed scanner is fast enough, and I have kid interns who think it’s fun to
scan – at least a few pages at a time. James recommend the batch image
editor Image Magic <http://www.imagemagick.org/script/index.php>, which can
apply the same operation to multiple images. This will save me a lot of time
when I next scan a book! And for Windows, the mass
renamer<http://www.albert.nu/programs/renamer/main.htm>for files will
come in handy. And looks like Scan
Tailor <http://scantailor.sourceforge.net/> software is even more powerful,
so I will give it a try as well.

Sigil <http://code.google.com/p/sigil/> is the free EPUB editor James
recommends. And calibre <http://calibre-ebook.com/> is the software for
managing and distributing collections of e-books.

Overall, the Publishing section of “E-Book Enlightenment” deals with the
technical side of making the book available, and not with the social aspects
of “making the book public” (Doctorow). I would like to see a chapter on how
to connect creators with readers, post-production.

I will go back to “E-Book Enlightenment” for step-by-step guides to software
and hardware for making books. Screenshots and photos of key steps make
guides quick and easy to use. Thank you, James!

Maria Droujkova

Make math your own, to make your own math.

On Fri, Jul 1, 2011 at 11:05 AM, James Simmons <nicestep at gmail.com> wrote:

> I think I have the book "E-Book Enlightenment" in a pretty good place
> to think about publishing it on the Internet Archive and on the Kindle
> Store.
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