The design for the Moby Blook is beginning to take shape. It doesn’t quite work for a short story, though: the little running headers at the top of each page now just repeat the title of the story, but in a novel they’ll give chapter numbers and titles. The first page in each chapter will have a big heading, like the first post in the Bartleby Blog. Make sense?
I’m still seeking volunteers to turn my whale white. Also, obviously the navigation area in the right hand column will have to improve, and I’ll need to do something about the situation that occurs when the browser window is stretched wider than 800 pixels.
There’s been a good deal of confusion in the comments about the purpose of the Moby Blook, probably mostly because I have a better idea in my head of what this is all about than I’ve ever expressed here.
Let me see if I can lay out my thinking about the blook in a little more organized fashion. I’ve spent a lot of time here at Word Munger musing about e-books. I’ve suggested that the computer monitor doesn’t quite have the resolution necessary, that computers aren’t portable enough, that most of the portable devices so far devised to present e-books have serious interface problems.
Then it hit me: I probably spend at least 2 or 3 hours a day reading blogs, on the very same computer monitor I’m complaining about so ceaselessly. Blogs have solved many of the navigation problems that plague, say, PDF readers. So why not use a blog format to present an e-book?
Several commenters have pointed out that blogs are already being used to host books, most notably the Samuel Pepys Diary and Dracula. Though these are admirable efforts, they still are basically just applying twenty-first-century technology to an ancient tradition: the journal format.
What I’m trying to do is somewhat different — I’m conducting an experiment to see if the blog form can be easily adapted by someone with rather modest technical and design skills (me!) into a superior interface for navigating e-books. And not just journals, but any book designed to be read from front to back (or in any other order).
I’m not attempting to create the definitive Moby Dick e-text, or any sort of concordance to the book, but just seeing if I can create a simple but usable interface for grappling with a serious text.
Some side benefits of the project could be that others will read the blook along with me, and add their own comments alongside my own. Another potential benefit might be the development of a teaching tool: I could distribute a “clean” copy of the blook, when complete, so teachers could use it in class and have an untrammeled forum for their students to comment on and discuss.
But mainly I want to develop a template that anyone could use to create their own blooks, for any number of possible uses. Any other ideas?