Wednesday, January 07, 2009

BETT background

Long ago there used to be general purpose computer shows. In the UK these were often at Olympia. Part of the attraction of BETT is to recover some memories of Olympia at capacity with computer conversation. My friend Gary may remember the names of the previous events so more on this later, after Thursday or Friday, possible days to meet up.

In the USA the show was called COMDEX but is now about Consumer Electronics or else only one survived. From the UK we only get the search results anyway but it seems that consumer electronics set the pace.

Slightly off topic- Last time I was at Lancaster University I had hoped to check out Waterstones and ask about the Sony Reader, implications for literary culture, resource planning for teaching and learning etc. But it turned out that the Sony Reader was only in stock at the Waterstones in central Lancaster. The traditional university has deep links with the print industry so it is slightly surprising that the latest publishing technology is not launched from campus. But maybe the reasoning around this will become clearer.

Heading back on topic but cannot find the blog from around the time of Adobe MAX when there was discussion about Adobe changing their stock symbol to "FLSH" in the same way Sun changed to "JAVA". I like this idea as it clarifies a change and leaves Adobe Classic as a way to describe what I am more familiar with. Relevant to BETT Adobe(FLSH) covers video on mobiles, animated websites and other stuff that students use at home or when moving about while Adobe Classic covers books, academic journals, basic word processing as most schools require.

I don't mind watching video but it is the Adobe Classic area where I think there could be some immediate progress. As Adobe have lost interest in this sort of thing there may be lower prices for software quite soon. Open source alternatives are pretty good for document creation. Open Office has the features most people use. Also I think the people who write open source code are as likley as anyone to make the connections between open document formats, XML, and ePUB or other formats for e-books and mobile devices. Vista is still not established despite the large Microsoft stand at BETT. So the XML paper spec is not really doing that well. Adobe do almost nothing to promote PDFXML so my impression is that the current PDF format is likely to continue. It turns out that the PDFXML Inspector works just as well with ePUB so ePUB has potential as a way to publish from XML-friendly sources.

The ePUB format has some wide support. The Sony Reader and the Digital Editions Reader from Adobe. However it is not that easy to create. Should be possible from InDesign but it is hard to find much about this. Will Microsoft offer "export as ePUB" in Word? More likely they are worried about Silverlight and video. A couple of years ago they announced Grava and the news link is still from 2007. Probably they will concentrate in this area, not just text.

I have discovered the eCub EPUB creator by doing some searches between paragraphs. See the blog from Julian Smart. Not tested yet. On the TeleRead blog David Rothman has invited the open source community to develop an ePubWriter as part of Open Office. At the moment I am not sure how this will work out but open source and XML have grown together so far.

XML is also the basis for JDF, a way to describe print requirements. the printing industry has yet to find a way of promoting this to print buyers. But it may be that a combination of PDF and JDF is the only way for print media to respond to e-books for speed and cost.

BETT is not advertised as a show about publishing and e-books. But the issues will turn up somewhere.

Open source promotion at BETT will be in the gallery. Moodle for knowledge management or document storage or whatever term fits best is at N2 with Synergy Learning. Open Forum Europe is at SW104 with links to most open source software.

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