Among the heaps of roses and chocolates, the fizz and finery, Tim O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference yesterday brought to the world’s attention two very intriguing ventures in e-publishing applications. The first is Inkling, specifically oriented toward constructing iPad textbooks. It looks powerful, fascinating, shiny, and very strongly oriented toward non-verbal instruction — indeed, their publicity suggests that iBooks Author is a good thing, a great app, but not sufficiently oriented toward the ‘born digital’ approach to textbook construction that Inkling aims at. They have an impressive partner — O’Reilly Media — and if the project looks good to Tim O’Reilly, only a very unwise person would bet against it. I signed up for a look at the beta, but they’re screening beta-testers with a view to selecting people who will actually be producing their kind of textbook, so I don’t count on seeing Inkling at work until it’s open for all.
[Side note: Among the patrons who might back the kind of disruptive innovation that I yearn for in academic theological publishing, wouldn’t Tim O’Reilly be a natural? When I gave my pitch for this at Ars Electronica 2008 I addressed my plea to (the absent) George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, and Bill Gates, but Tim O’Reilly would be perfect.]
The other app unveiled yesterday was Booktype, a comprehensive OS package for authoring, collaborating, editing, and publishing ebooks to a variety of platforms. It’s free, it looks very useable, it handles a number of the vital aspects of a project like the F/OS/OT/NT/T, its OS ethos complements that of the textbook project. Booktype seems to be structurally open for multimedia elements, but it’s much more directly focused on verbal media. Suw has looked it over, and she thinks it’s promising. I’m actually eager to set up an installation and kick its tyres.
I hope both Inkling and Booktype flourish — that would betoken a strong environment for digital publishing across the board. Since Booktype is available now, and is open source, and is oriented toward distributed collaborative projects, I’d favour it for the FOSOTNTT — pending, of course, consensus from colleagues.