Danah Boyd explains free version of her book

Danah Boyd is a name you probably come across if you scratch the surface of how people use the web. Danah has just released a book called Its complicated: The social lives of Networked Teens which of course i’ll read. Interestingly she has released a free PDF version at the same time and explains why in What’s Behind the Free PDF of “It’s Complicated” (no, no, not malware…).

As I have an interest in how folks make modern day books and how the web affects this ecosystem, this is like gold dust! Also i’ll admit that I was planning on waiting to buy this book as I have such a backlog and i’m a slow reader. But reading the blog post I can see why buying now helps Danah, so i’ll be heading over to grab a copy as soon as i’m done typing this.

Finally, its worth noting the cost of the ebook kindle version is slightly more expensive than the print version if you buy it from the Guardian. I can only guess that cost and value are at play here… which to buy…


Choosing the right ebook file formats

There are many types of paper and paper-size  to choose from when printing a paper book. The same myriad of choices applies to digital books except instead of texture and paper-weight, we’re concerned with what device and software the reader may choose to read your book.

If I had all the time in the world and I was producing a fairly simple digital book which didn’t require format specific features I suggest ensuring my digital book was produced in all of these formats:

  1. epub – an open format which means it will hopefully be around for years to come. An epub file will open in many ebook reader software and hardware such as an iPad or Android device. You can choose epub 2 or epub 3 depending on your target audience – stick with epub 2 for the widest support.
  2. Amazon kindle format (mobi and kf8) – because amazon rules the market it makes sense to ensure it works on both the kindle software and the kindle device
  3. Adobe PDF – Almost every device on the planet will open a PDF file so its a safe bet and is also open (see point 1). Further-more PDF is built to handle print, which could be a useful feature for some readers
  4. Apple ibook (IBA) – if I wanted to sell via the apple marketplace then i’d want to use their format.

Tip: if I was to distribute any of my own books I’d plump for giving ALL of the above to the reader in one bundle. This way they get the choice of their preferred format. I guess an issue for a small number of readers is they’ll receive a zipped bundle and have no clue what to do next. I didn’t say it was fool-proof.

Why is there more than one format I hear you cry? The market for selling ebooks is fierce and each major provider wants you to lock-in to their ecosystem, hence a fragmented market and a high number of file formats.

The key to producing our book fairly painlessly for each format is to plan early and use a workflow that doesn’t rely on any one particular format. The nerds of this world call this being ‘device agnostic’.  Essentially write the book using whatever your preferred writing tool is and then have a workflow that makes it straight forward to produce for the context and constraints you have.

If I wanted to sell my digital book and I happened to know that all my potential customers used Amazon then I would likely produce this format first. If I wanted the book to open in  say five years time I’d go for epub and PDF.

A final word on file format features

At the time of writing in early 2014, the format with the most advanced features that are implemented by a reading device is the apple ibooks format. It has some pretty impressive features for adding interactivity that may be essential for the success of our book. In which case your workflow for ibooks will split off and tackle those issues. Just be careful that you don’t go so far down that road that you can’t make a good experience for the other hobbled formats. By this i mean that readers and/or software for displaying epub, kindle and PDF don’t yet support any of the advanced feature support you’d like. Things change with each new reader software release though so the future could brighten up any day. If you need to use a feature e.g. video support, check if its supported in your primary testing kit.

Where in your organisation does social media responsibility reside?

Where in your organisation does social media responsibility reside?
And do you have other hubs for social media other than the core team?
(And what are the strategies behind?


Social media lives within the content strategy, and is the equal responsibility of all staff and volunteers at Bristol Museum Service. My role, along with 1 marketing officer is to support (highlight the opportunities, training, guidelines etc) any individual and/or team.

Anybody can contribute to the official social media channels and are encouraged to think about why, how and when to use social media to support a project or theme of activity.

Our evaluation officer then evaluates our effort and we can then use the Build, Measure, Learn loop to improve.

We then have around 5 staff spread across the service who act as ‘champions’ helping their areas and feeding back to the folks interested in digital.

The content strategy is to whisper, shout, inform, engagement, promote, listen, experiment and interact in accordance with our mission.

In 2014 I hope to have social media / digital engagement specifically highlighted in all new job descriptions.


From: Museums Computer Group [MCG@JISCMAIL.AC.UK] on behalf of Kajsa Hartig
Sent: 05 December 2013 17:33

Subject: [MCG] Where does social media reside in your organisation?



Richard Gregory lecture 2013

On 28th October 2013 the Bristol vision institute hosted the annual Richard Gregory lecture in the Wills Building, University of Bristol. The talk was titled ‘Better than being there – Being there better, How technology is shaping the future of media’.

Matthew Postgate has the job of shaping and leading research and development for the BBC. His talk covered the approach the BBC is taking to embracing emerging technologies, practices and coping with the challenges that brings for a global organisation. Here are my notes:

  • Evaluation of tools to educate and entertain which is the mission of the BBC
  • Broadcast is considered a system of creation, delivery and consumption which hasn’t changed much since 1922
  • Key theme of change is now we are in the information age
  • IP end to end
  • Data centric
  • New devices and new interfaces
  • This has led to a change in how we create media to deal with the shift
  • The new broadcast system is split between create, deliver, consume and the BBC have four themes as a framework: immersive, pervasive, data rich and interactive (personal and adaptive)
  • IMMERSIVE: trying to get to the halo deck from star trek
  • 2012 Olympics used super hi vision
  • 8k cameras which are 16 times quality of current HD and uses 22 surround sound – sound not only left to right but also up and down
  • Showed an example of using the oculus rift VR headset and a 360 camera to film music practice
  • PERVASIVE: Ability to be everywhere and showing live events on mobile to complement
  • Designing for four screens: TV, desktop/Laptop, tablets and mobile are considered for all design
  • Hewlett Packard say ‘information as a utility’
  • We expect to arrive and be able to use and consume immediately
  • Wallpaper thin television using tablet control is coming in the next 20 years
  • Friends and family can join you from their location to watch things remotely together
  • Different surfaces emerging
  • Media will become more contextual as there is already more media than we can possibly consume
  • Media will begin to seek you out based on what systems know you consume using software agents
  • DATA RICH: no longer sealed, more akin to datasets
  • Will be commonplace to overlay data to your screen, even during live events
  • You’ll be able to zoom into the screen
  • Interactive to become personal
  • Adaptive abilities enabling previously fixed programmes to change, such as using your location to alter the activity live, such as using your local weather during a radio show
  • We shouldn’t lose sight of the storytelling
  • If we can take the traditional broadcast skills and add new science and then combine we’ll have even better broadcasting
  • We should be brave in re-inventing broadcasting
  • The use of contextual media will mean that your device knows your activity and will deliver the right type and length of content based on expected location, calendar entries etc



ARLIS Conference: Self-publishing in education

Yesterday I was invited to speak at the Arts and Library Society annual conference. I spoke for 40mins about how staff and students have been self-publishing and the need for libraries to add ‘self-publishing’ to their long list of topics requiring support.

I see self-publishing as an opportunity for libraries to really shine in their support for staff in particular. To quote Craig Mod:

The way books are written has changed.
The canvas for books has changed.
The post-published life of a book has changed.

I enjoyed the talk and hope that my hopping around style of delivery still gave a sense of the topic.

I was lucky to also see a few of the other talks and it really opened my eyes to publishing in the arts and museum arena. I think i’ll be hanging around some of the museum curators to see if I can get my hands stuck into a new pet project!

The slides can be found on Google Docs (the PPT is busted) below and if anybody needs me to add some context just get in touch.

David Hopkins

David Hopkins @hopkinsdavid is a learning technologist, biker, and popular blogger. When you want to know about something about e-learning, check David’s blog first – don’t waste your time. We talk about David’s new book, QR Codes in Education, the writing process, making ebooks, and our lofty dream to make more books to which end the score is David 1 – 0 Zak.

Length: 42mins

[soundcloud params=”auto_play=false&show_comments=false”]https://soundcloud.com/zakmensah/002-david-hopkins[/soundcloud]

Show notes

http://www.guykawasaki.com/ape/ is a great beginners guide to self-publishing and covers many of the issues around the current ecosystem and pricing.

http://craigmod.com/journal/post_artifact/ Craig Mod produced this must read essay about the new ecosystem for authoring. Start with this essay then read every other essay too!

http://calibre-ebook.com/ The first tool that many of us will use to make an ebook. Use it and ensure you test widely.

http://www.zakmensah.co.uk/2012/10/02/ebook-testing-kit/ My testing tips and tools for ensuring a good reader experience.

Hayley Atkinson

Zak and Hayley Atkinson talk about self-publishing students and the challenges of making your own books.


[soundcloud params=”auto_play=false&show_comments=false”]https://soundcloud.com/zakmensah/001-hayley-atkinson[/soundcloud]

Show notes and links

The blog that Hayley uses to showcase some of the recent projects at Leeds on using ebooks with students.

The best way to get in touch with Hayley is via her twitter account.

Hayley and the students are using Apple ibooks author to self-publishing their own books.

For non Apple users, Calibre is probably the best tool to get you started with making your own books.

If using the epub format make sure you check it validates as this is required by many of the ebook online shops and helps reduce the chances of errors for the reader.

Using Creative Commons licensed materials is a free and legal way to use third-party text, images, video and audio. Always link back to the source so that others can also share the material and why not consider sharing some of your own materials using a Creative Commons license.

The Guardian has packed its bags and is moving to a new home

Today in Going global on our digital journey The Guardian announced it will soon move from its current .co.uk web address to guardian.com.

The interesting part is that only 1/3 of the visitors are from the uk and it ‘s a bold move to now address this global opportunity. If a service realises their core audience has changed, many would just bury their head in the sand with that news. It is great to see The Guardian draw a line in the sand and hop over it.