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Things to do
- GIYF:"open source ebook creator"
- Apple's iBooks Author
- What platforms can you write on?
- What platforms can you read on? IOS only.
- Treesaver - can we make an app or just them? Once loaded offline reading ok?
- Flatworld - Who controls the cost structure, author or publisher?
- Duke's tool, what's the name/URL?
E.O. Wilson's Book
- There is a significant difference in layout depending on the orientation of the iPad:
- The horizontal orientation has a layout that prominently features the images and video, and sliding a finger across changes the entire frame, like turning a page in a book.
- The vertical orientation places visual emphasis on the text, and the images are small thumbnails that must be clicked on to be viewed properly. Also it has a scrolling rather than a page turning effect.
- This difference might allow users to interact with the book in the way that they prefer -- some might want fewer visual distractions, while others might find large blocks of text boring.
- Menu in horizontal orientation lets you choose pages by topical section or by a thumbnail image of the page.
- I like the combination of text and audio-visual stuff. I think that this book fails to take full advantage of the possibilities such a combination offers. I know that I learn material most effectively when it is repeated to me through several mediums -- for example, I read information in a textbook, hear a lecture about it in class, and then discuss questions with a professor or fellow students. The videos in this textbook could potentially repeat more of the information given in the text, and also provide much more visual explanation of the concepts. Having Wilson talk is nice, but SHOWING the information with infographics would be another useful way of repeating the information.
- There is one fairly successful interactive that explains DNA levels of organization. It makes fullest use of the possibilities offered by the touch screen of any of the media in the book. Cool!!
- I also like the places where there are photo galleries instead of single photos. I think this enriches the viewing experience. There are a few places where a gallery sort of makes use of what Tufte talks about as "small multiples." That is, having a bunch of pictures in the same spot allows you to make comparisons between them easily and learn through difference. (Although it's not exactly like Tufte's examples.)
- It would be nice if it was possible to make notes on the videos and images the same way it is possible to do so on the text portions.
- Section 1 of Chapter 2: there is a video called "what is an ecosystem?" that I found somewhat painful to watch. They've superimposed graphics over the image, in a way that is cool in theory but unsuccessful in this instance of practice.
- In a lot of textbooks, the end of each section has a summary and a set of review questions to help the reader test their comprehension. I often skip the questions because I hate flipping to the back of the book to check the answers. What about including interactive quizes at the ends of the sections in an etextbook like this one? Maybe multiple choice or short answer questions that could be easily determined right or wrong. The correct anwsers would be right there with no annoying flipping around of pages.
- I had a thought: In Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, he talks about how the rise and spread of print capitalism, and particularly the rise of the novel, effected the way people think about time. We consider time to be a single, all-encompassing unit through which individuals move and during which events take place. A narrative has a beginning, middle, and end as we turn the pages. I wonder how electronic textual media might reshape our perceptions of time as it changes the ways we can interact with text, information, and narratives.
Experimenting with Visualizations
Map of the United States with Movie Screens per 10,000 people by state
Some brief notes on things I realized from doing the visualization:
- Many Eyes (by IBM) is a nifty tool that will help you jump to the fancy stuff without having to figure out how to do it all yourself.
- Open source tools that can do the same things probably exist?
- Having lots of fancy options is not always the most user friendly. Simple, clean, and obvious is usually the way to go.
- It is a lot easier to look at a visualization that is already made and decide what is good and bad about it than it is to start with data and end with a good visualization - at least at this stage of the learning curve.
- Grabbing data and then messing around with it to see what might be a good way to visualize it is not as fruitful as deciding what information you want to see and how, then getting the data to help you get there.
- There are useful visualizations and silly ones - a map that shows that Texas and California have to most movie theaters (duh) doesn't tell you anything your didn't already know. A map that says Wyoming has the most movie theater screens per capita in the nation is interesting because it shows something you couldn't already guess.
The Apple iBooks Author Question
- Looks like you can only download the iBooks app on iOS, however, you can read nonDRM iBooks with an ePub add-on in Firefox. 
- I'll be trying this next - must download Firefox.
- If it is possible to view books downloaded from iTunes in Firefox, Life on Earth is not one of the ones you can do this with. Haven't found one you can yet.
- Despite all theoretical claims that free ibooks can be read in other places, practical enquiry ha yielded no success.
- The iBooks Author EULA is very clear that any products that you charge money for can only be distributed through Apple. (So free products can be provided some other way?) There seem to be concerns that a EULA that restricts what a person can do with the output of a piece of software after that software is put away is over reaching. 
- You can embed entire other apps in an ibook. There is some tech-speak in this article that I don't entirely understand, but seems important. Dashcode and Dashboard widgets in iOS? 
Open Source eBook Creator?
- Profs at Duke University have created one that so far only works on iPad, but they have hopes to make it work on android tablets and eventually even PCs. It doesn't have as many of the slick features as ones from closed-source publishers, but it has the advantage that updates and changes can be implemented instantly. The article on Wired: 
- If FLOW is publicly available, it is not by any straightforward google search I have tried. Worth contacting some people to try it out?
- A list of open source educational resources (fruitful ones discussed below): 
- College Open Textbooks is an organization that promotes the use of open textbooks in COMMUNITY colleges. They promote awareness and peer review. 
- Flat World Knowledge: Textbook publisher allows you to read textbooks for free online, or download as a PDF or epub for about 30$ (you can buy printed versions as well for steeper prices). They only have a few textbooks in the sciences so far, but almost 100 altogether. According to wikipedia: . Authors sign with Flat World publishing, which distributes works under a Creative Commons License. 
- Transform web content into PDF for Kindle/iPad: 
- eCub, Treesaver, Kindle Direct Publishing... 
- Treesaver is web based, compatible with any device that can use the internet, and allows for interactive aspects because of that. Sounds like you can make updates instantly. They are big fans of HTML5