Next-book’s open cloud
Four basic elements of a reading ecosystem
September 16, 2019
Next-book makes every book an application. Any reader can utilize all the perks of the open web platform in its current form — both owning the documents and using the power of the network.
The reading experience is more than just seeing the lines of text. It’s also using a comfortable device, returning to a book I left unfinished or sharing notes with a friend. A broader infrastructure is required to make such interactions possible.
There are four different kinds of apps in the ecosystem:
- 💨 A book source app provides books as static web publications on a specific URL. Any hosting service using HTTPS is very close to becoming a book source.
- 🍁 A bookshelf app is a local app that manages books and serves them to a browser through HTTP, enabling the network functionality.
- 🌊 A sync server app manages reader-created data — position in a book, annotations, etc.
The book sends data only to the sync server. Source and bookshelf apps only serve books and do not collect any data.
Thanks to the book being an app, the reader can freely combine services you want to use. After adding the sync server’s web address in the book source or bookshelf app, one can sign into the sync server in any book they own. The book itself detects the provided server (by checking the CORS header) and provides a simple login interface.
One provider may choose to operate multiple apps, but the platform keeps working openly:
- A web store sells books and provides its own, pre-set sync server. You may change it in the settings or move your books elsewhere.
- A web store may provide their own branded bookshelf app with the pre-set sync server.
- A bookshelf app provides its sync server, but you can set up another in the settings.
- A mobile bookshelf app may provide in-app web view and even sync server. You may still set up a remote sync server in the config.
Thanks to being open, this infrastructure may serve as a base for a healthy ecosystem. This requires a lot of community work, but that’s no exception from any other field.
Bookshelf apps may include lists of verified sync servers that care about readers. Services can be built atop of the sync server data and readers may choose to use one or the other.
The use of synced data needs to be tightly controlled by the reader. Thanks to this, the services may go much further beyond currently existing centralized social cataloging services or networks. They may enable readers to collaborate and share experiences or allow public libraries, bookshops, and book faires to participate.
The guiding principle of next-book is to open up the possibilities of digital reading. When books move to the open web and narrow set of conventions is established, book reading may finally find a comfortable place on the web.
☎️ A call to action
It’s an early design in the process of implementation. What’s your take? Do you see some problems? Have you tried this already elsewhere? Would you like to discuss this or to work together? Any feedback is very welcome!
Also, I’m currently searching for designers, developers, and partners, with whom we may produce the first complete implementation of the concept. Before this year is over, all the essential parts should be in place — and so should be a model of sustainability (based on partnership or service provision).
Find me on twitter @ endlife and check next-book on github.
- July 11, 2019 WPUB and the future of digital publishing Wow. On Monday last week, W3C’s Publishing Working Group decided to shelve the Web Publication’s spec draft (WPUB), citing little support from publishers and browser vendors. Working Group will focus on audiobooks where some traction is present. We attempted standardization before experimentation and incubation. Clear business needs have been hard to find. — Publishing WG Telco, 2019-07-01 WPUB intended to bring publishing to the open web. I’ve been observing the drafting process over the last two years and simultaneously (re)writing a comparison between WPUB and next-book, a cute octopus-shaped project I’ve been working on.
- November 3, 2018 Next-book: browser as a natural environment for e-reading Many people have happy memories of reading their favorite book. So of course, let’s focus on that man on the right, reading on his blackberry. This talk is consciously written as an answer to a big problem. And of course, I’m kinda humbled by the size of it. But of course, I’ll tell you what I believe is the right solution. People say that e-books are in a crisis. The Guardian is running a weekly column just to repeat that fact.
- June 21, 2017 Talkin’ bout pagination and digital books When you think of a book as of an object, you may find that pagination is its nature. It defines how one interacts with a book. It becomes the central affordance of a book. [Book] came to replace the scroll thanks to several problems that limited the scroll’s function and readability. For one, scrolls were very long, sometimes as long as ten meters. This made them hard to hold open and read, a difficulty not helped by the fact that most scrolls in that era were read horizontally, instead of vertically as scrolling virtual documents are read now.
- April 12, 2017 The Next Book I have worked with Ivana Lukeš Rybanská from publishing house Nová Beseda since last year on their digital edition. Well, I finally feel like there’s enough puzzle pieces glued together to speak up about it. And yes, we glued the pieces together to form a ball. Digital books cannot be similar to printed ones as much as printed books do not resemble carved stones. Amazon and most of the EPUB crowd are trying to preserve familiar format and market.