Notes in the Margin

On the intersection of web apps, digital content and social media

What’s the Difference Between a Book and a Web Site?

Today’s post by O’Reilly’s Hugh McGuire is a real head-turner. In it he makes the following observation:

“(W)hat is a book, after all, but a collection of data (text + images), with a defined structure (chapters, headings, captions), meta data (title, author, ISBN), and prettied up with some presentation design? In other words, what is a book, but a website that happens to be written on paper and not connected to the web?”

He goes on to discuss the EPUB standard as a format that is, essentially, a web site container poised to look to consumers and publishers like a self-contained publication. In other words, the platform is already in place as a standard to deploy books as web sites (or portions thereof).

This augurs a convergence that is natural (but terrifying to publishers), in which the content encapsulated in a “book” becomes liberated to be a full participant in the free exchange of information on the web. Clearly Google Books is pushing this convergence, though it always seemed like a lossy integration, with the Google Book content not a full citizen in the life of the web, but some form of  shadow of the actual content. The GBooks’ content can be searched, but not deep linked nor copied and pasted, etc.

This evolution is another inexorable step to the point where content producers – authors, musicians, analysts, software developers – will find their content become part of the public domain, and they will be left in a new business model in which they have to perform for pay, by applying their “intellectual property” to specific times, places and circumstances.

The line between book and Internet will disappear – OReilly Radar.


Written by tstaley

September 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm

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