Frankenstein app includes original handwritten manuscript, plus 1,300 other things

The New York Public Library just released Frankenstein, its second free Biblion installment, and like last year’s World Fair app this one comes loaded with enough primary source material and new content to keep you occupied for a month.

Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley’s original handwritten manuscript is just one of its primary source treasures. You’ll also find scans from a scrapbook started in 1795, a journal of early poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, Nelson Mandela’s first official African National Congress statement, and various 19th century engravings. Oh, and the 1831 edition of Frankenstein in case you’d like to just read it (you fetishist).

There’s so much Frankenstein-related content — about 50 articles, interviews, comics and slideshows, plus a couple dozen polls and discussion forums — that it’s hard to describe the app without resorting to a features list, which I sort of just did. In that sense it certainly feels like the kind of app a library would produce, because it offers a little something for everyone, and the longer you poke around the more interesting things you find. Continue reading

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I’m at BookExpo America this week

I’m not posting much here this week because I’m attending BookExpo America through Thursday. (All those other weeks I didn’t post, I was obviously in training for BookExpo America.) I’m not a big lover of trade shows, but it’s interesting to see how BEA has improved its digital focus since I last attended in 2009.

For the next few days I’ll be posting the occasional BEA update over at The Digital Reader, so be sure to check it out this week if you’re interested in this topic.

Here’s what I posted yesterday, which was sort of the pre-show day when the International Digital Publishing Forum presented a bunch of e-related talks for BEA attendees.

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Jennifer Egan publishes short story on Twitter

I haven’t been entirely won over by the idea of Twittered fiction yet, but I’m glad to know that good writers are still experimenting with it. Starting today and extending for the next 10 days, The New Yorker will serialize Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan’s new short story, written specifically for the Twitter format, at its fiction department account @NYerFiction. (The story in its entirety will be published in an upcoming issue of the magazine.)

Egan, who has explored how format can affect narrative before — one chapter in A Visit from the Goon Squad is “written” entirely in PowerPoint slides — writes that the Twitter project brought together several of her interests:

One involves fiction that takes the form of lists; stories that appear to be told inadvertently, using a narrator’s notes to him or herself. My working title for this story was “Lessons Learned,” and my hope was to tell a story whose shape would emerge from the lessons the narrator derived from each step in the action, rather than from descriptions of the action itself. […] I’d also been wondering about how to write fiction whose structure would lend itself to serialization on Twitter. This is not a new idea, of course, but it’s a rich one—because of the intimacy of reaching people through their phones, and because of the odd poetry that can happen in a hundred and forty characters.

I like that the Twitter element isn’t just a publishing stunt. From the beginning, Egan wrote the story in bite-sized “bulletins” using storyboard style boxes to create a sort of analog Twitter interface. She adds that it took her about a year to condense the manuscript into its present form, which doesn’t surprise me; sometimes it takes me that long just to compose a single tweet, thanks to that 140 character limit.

[Via Quill & Quire]

(Photo: The New Yorker)

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Barnes & Noble’s digital stumbling block: customer service

In the past few years that I’ve been writing about digital publishing, I’ve always been able to count on the blog An American Editor to be pro-Sony or pro-Nook — or at the very least to always present a non-Kindle point of view. So I was surprised last week to read his post “And Then There Was One”, although not surprised by the story he shares in it.

The one paragraph summary is that Barnes & Noble hasn’t been delivering his daily digital issue of The New York Times early each morning — you know, the time period when most people who traditionally subscribe to a daily paper expect to get it. On good days it arrives at an acceptable if not ideal time, while on other days it arrives around noon or even later. Despite selling the subscription to their own customers and accepting their money, Barnes & Noble won’t take responsibility for the problem or provide any refunds; B&N’s customer service reps say it’s the newspaper’s fault. Continue reading

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Kobo’s new web app is good for Kobo, but not for readers

Kobo’s new web app, released earlier this week, is a great first move at breaking free from Apple’s App Store extortion. Good for Kobo, I say. Unfortunately, it keeps the same design and user experience as the official Kobo app, which means it’s designed to be a storefront first, and a reading app second. Unless you’re stuck with Kobo, there are better options out there.

Like Amazon’s Kindle web app from last August, the Kobo web app is really a website that can store data on your device even when you’re offline. This means you can download and read ebooks without a live connection. [Edit: My description here is badly worded and confusing. To clarify, you have to be online to download anything. Once you’ve done that, then you can access those downloaded files in the future regardless of whether you’ve got an active wireless connection.] It also means Kobo can offer it to (for example) iPad and iPhone users directly, instead of having to request Apple’s permission first. Continue reading

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Next Issue Media brings the Netflix model to magazines

All Things D has an interesting article about the preliminary launch of Next Issue Media, a magazine service for tablet owners that’s modeled after all-you-can-view movie/TV services like Netflix and Hulu.

First, the good news…

Like Hulu, Next Issue Media is owned by several big media companies, and at launch they’ve made nearly three dozen titles available. The service’s pricing plans are simple: $10 a month for access to 27 monthly titles, or $15 a month for those plus 5 more weekly titles. Paying $120 to $180 a year for virtual magazine subscriptions isn’t a trivial matter, but the more magazines you like to read regularly, the better the deal gets; you’d pay about the same for individual print subscriptions to just the five weekly titles. Continue reading

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Harry Potter series finally available as (legit) ebooks

Katniss might be the biggest teenager in fiction this year, but never underestimate the lasting influence of The Boy Who Refuses To Die, who is making news once again today. Starting immediately, you can visit and buy all seven Harry Potter books as ebooks. Audiobooks are available, too, although if you’re looking for enhanced ebook editions you’re going to have to wait a while longer. Continue reading

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Three new EPUB readers for OS X

The Mac Observer recently reviewed three different EPUB readers for OS X, and even put together a handy chart so you can compare features.

I’m happy to see some new EPUB solutions hitting the marketplace. If you use a Mac, you probably already know that EPUB readers have been scarce around these parts. Sure, there’s the EPUBReader plugin if you use Firefox, but Chrome and Safari don’t have anything as good. There’s also the built-in reader from Calibre, but it is only a reader of last resort. Otherwise you’re stuck with overbuilt solutions like Adobe Digital Editions or B&N’s Nook app (which requires a B&N account even if you’re just using it for personal EPUB files).

I’ve tried two of these new apps, and in my opinion they’re not bringing enough quality to warrant a purchase price just yet. But at least they’re trying! The first app that can offer deep customization, broad EPUB compatibility, and sophisticated annotation tools will find itself at the head of a pretty empty market segment, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement in the coming months. For now, this is a great start.

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