Editor’s Note [18.1]
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As regular readers may recall, last year The Journal of Electronic Publishing was fortunate to partner with the annual Books in Browsers conference to bring the conference proceedings, a mix of videos, transcripts, slide sets and written papers, together online. A happy effect of this was that this editor was able to attend the conference, observe the consistently compelling and informative presentations, engage in the thought provoking conversations that happened in the pockets of time and corners of space around the main program, and return to enthusiastically report upon the event.
We are happy to once again bring you the proceedings of the, now, 2014 Books in Browsers conference. Due to the exigencies of professional life I could not personally attend this time, thus necessitating grumpiness and frequent checking of the live stream during the conference days. In the months (three of them) since the event, as we brought the proceedings together and collected slide sets and abstracts, I have browsed the program, dipped in an out of the presentation videos and had some illuminating email exchanges with presenters. From this perspective, I note that the conference was different this year in that it was in a new venue, now in the Mission district of San Francisco rather than at the Internet Archive building, and that it was different in having a higher representation from the trade publishing industry, a phenomena that I see as indicative of the publishing profession’s sense of need for reinvention and response to the ever burgeoning possibilities and affordances of digital technology and the network.
While there are a few changes, what remains is the mission of the conference and the consistently high quality of its programming. As Peter Brantley, the driving force behind Books in Browsers, notes, the conference intends to and does “explore how rapidly evolving open web standards can support advanced digital publishing, and in turn how the frontiers of digital publishing design, supporting highly customized authorial intentions, push on our understanding of the nature and corpus of web standards.”
Not being present this year, I cannot report upon the themes that ran throughout many presentations and the surrounding conversations, but from my examination of the materials at hand I do note a frequent and striking attention to the notion of interaction. This comes out both in explorations of how books online should work and reports on how people collaborate in the reading and writing of digital books; we are constantly evolving new and richer ways of interacting with both texts and each other.
This year, as last, we offered presenters the option of submitting a post presentation written article that captures and expands upon the work presented live. Two presenters took advantage of this offer: Ben De Meester, et al with Interlinking Books with the World: Using the Semantic Web to Create Books as Reliable, Machine-Understandable Information Service Providers and Haig Armen, John Maxwell, and Kate Pullinger's Where the Wild Things Are: Seeking Improvistation on the Open Web Platform. I urge you to read these, on their own merits as articulate and thought provoking investigations of, respectively, the potential of the semantic web and of collaborative story telling, and because when read in tandem with the videos of the original presentations they present interesting cases in different kinds of story telling and how media conveys and shapes message.
We here at The Journal of Electronic Publishing and the organizers of Books in Browsers hope that this presentation of the proceedings will offer you ample opportunity to learn about and reflect upon the state and possibilities of digital publishing and both the achievements and challenges of that work. As you review the issue, please keep in mind that all of our content can be annotated and commented upon through Hypothes.is. I look forward to our conversation carrying on.