Hypothes.is’s Dan Whaley and EPUB.js lead developer Fred Chasen envision a future where consumers can participate in ongoing and real-time discussions within the ebooks they’re reading.
“The typical experience with digital books these days is pretty terrible,” said Dan Whaley, CEO of Hypothes.is, during the opening remarks of an IDPF DigiCon session on Wednesday. “We can read books on a Kindle, tablet, and online and that’s great, but our ability to collaborate with other people while doing that is essentially nonexistent.”
Ebook annotations would change that, said Whaley during a discussion titled, “Annotating All Books: How Web Annotations Will Transform Reading.” Ebook annotations add a layer of conversation on top of book content, allowing readers to discuss that book with other readers in real-time. And annotations are very close to becoming a permanent part of both the EPUB standard and the open web publishing standard, thanks to a partnership between Hypothes.is, EPUB.js, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Annotations span a number of use cases, said Whaley, including copy-editing, collaborative research, pre-publication peer review, use in book clubs, citation, and more. There are applications for every facet of book publishing, said Whaley, from trade to scholarly segments. The goal is to create a way for readers to discuss a book digitally, in real-time, and on any platform or device.
Hypothes.is has partnered with the developers of EPUB.js, an open standard for publishing books online, and the W3C to make annotation a permanent feature of EPUB and the open web. Fred Chasen, lead developer of EPUB.js, says that ebooks are especially ripe for annotation because unlike websites, they have multiple identifiers, like the ISBN, book title, author, publish date, and language. “All of this information allows us to anchor annotations to certain instances of the book,” explained Chasen. “It gives us something more than a single URL when we’re trying to anchor annotations, which is great.”