Multimedia ebooks (THATCamp SE session idea)

A group of us at the Emory Library are deep in the throes of organizing THATCamp Southeast, an “unconference” on technology and the humanities. It’ll be on March 4, 5, and 6, and we’re expecting about a hundred people. At THATCamps, everyone posts session ideas in advance. Then, on the day of the camp, we all decide together which sessions will actually be held. Here’s the idea I posted:

As part of my job, I speak to a lot of grad students about what tech projects they’d like to see happen. Increasingly, students are describing something like this: “I work with a text that I know better than anyone else. I’d like the ability to add video, text, and audio annotation to the text — like a multimedia annotated edition.”

The technology to make this happen does exist. A recent Chronicle article describes something similar, and this company is working on “books” that are perhaps even more advanced than my students are imagining.

The problem is, as far as I can tell, creating these multimedia ebooks requires comfort with XML. Much as I’d like for every grad student to possess this knowledge, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

So in this session, I’d love to hear ideas for ways to create multimedia ebooks that might be accessible to the tech-curious grad student who is nonetheless not prepared to invest the time in learning XML. Perhaps these techniques already exist, or perhaps we need to build them ourselves.

Some notes:

  • Adobe InDesign is (purportedly) one way to create multimedia epubs, but my experience with it suggests that learning to create epubs in InDesign is little easier than learning XML
  • The Anthologize plugin for WordPress seems to offer intriguing possibilities. WP is a CMS that many students are already comfortable using, and they’re comfortable embedding video in posts. Perhaps Anthologize could be extended to handle video and audio.
  • I asked a question on this topic over at DH Answers and got some really good responses.
  • I found the Wikipedia article on epub helpful in understanding the standard