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LCC Conference Considers Design and the E-Book
Total Print Expo postponed
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2009-11-09 09:09 (KST)   
The e-book has arrived as part of communication but may still not be the same as a printed book.

Last year at the LCC Futures Conference there were reservations about the e-book but it was seen as inevitable.

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This year James Fraser spoke about book design, emphasizing the tradition and potential for print, but he pointed out that e-books are widely used in publishing for storing the text of several titles at once.

Chris Linford claimed it was the illustrations and graphic aspects of books that gives them value and encourages sharing. Ian Lacey suggested that new e-book readers should have a screen for the cover graphic so that people knew what was being read.

James Fraser - book designer
©2009 William Pollard

This year the conference was held at the LCC base in Elephant and Castle. Previously the Futures Conference has been in Earl's Court as part of the Total Print Expo.

This has concentrated on digital print but expanded to include short run litho from Heidelberg and other companies. See the previous OhmyNews story.

Total Print Expo was postponed this year possibly because of pressures on the economy and the printing industry in particular. Declines in newspaper circulation have been linked to the growth in free news online.

The e-book appears to be a talking point for the position of print even though books are not the whole of the print market. The London College of Communication (LCC) was previously the London College of Printing and connections with print continue to be strong.

The Futures Conference has a mix of speakers from companies in the communications industry and recent graduates, some working freelance. It seems to me that the staff intend to balance this with some challenging views on the benefits of technology and the likely pace of change.

The recent graduates can be reasonably enthusiastic about the places they now work and the industry speakers have few reservations about their products. Paolo Barone from Microsoft was predictably upbeat about Windows 7 though he recognized the issues about designing web pages for the variety of browsers that currently exist.

Ian Lacey in a keynote criticized the e-book because when web connected it allowed too many chances to link to something else so lacked the structure of a printed book, essential to education. The author has a similar role to a course designer or lecturer and the structure is essential for deep understanding. Chris Linford objected to the current devices because they are like the early web, without the social networking and the associated potential for learning.

However these are early days for the e-book. It is possible to use the content tabs as structure. Outside the USA the Kindle is still rare and most Sony readers are not web connected, meaning students can use them in a similar way to a book. There may be more scope for color design later.

But it seems to me that most chances for creativity are in the associated promotion, online and in other media. It can all connect with book titles, both hard copy and digital. Collections of text from various online sources could be combined in printed books as short runs. At Blackwells on Charing Cross Road there is now an instant book press that includes paperback binding.

It is the case that current dedicated devices lack the social networking features of modern websites but this can change as more text extracts are online. During the conference it was suggested on several occasions that books are social as people can lend them to each other and discuss content that has been widely read.

However, there are also recent suggestions online that objects of content can be part of a learning network. I came across this and Cloudworks through Grainne Conole on Twitter. I am beginning to understand why Cloudworks is effective and how it has been designed. Here is an extract slightly edited from Conole, G., & Culver, J. The design of Cloudworks: Applying social networking practice to foster the exchange of learning and teaching ideas and designs. Computers & Education (2009),

Cloudworks has been developed building on two theoretical perspectives: the notion of social objects and the concept of 'design for sociality.' There is not space in this paper to go into detail, Conole and Culver (in press) provide a more detailed description on the theoretical underpinnings for the Cloudworks site; key aspects of this are summarised here. Engestrom (2005, 2007), drawing on the work of Knorr-Cetina (see for example Knorr-Cetina in Schatzki, 2001), argues for the need to adopt an approach to social networking based on 'object orientated sociality' and defines the notion of social objects: The term 'social networking' makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone...

He contends that the definition of a social network as 'a map of the relationships between people' is inadequate. The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people.

They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.

He argues that this distinction can be used as a basis for understanding why some social networks are successful whilst others fail. Successful social networking sites built around social objects include Flickr (photos), del.icio.us (bookmarks/urls), YouTube (video clips) and Slideshare (presentations).

He puts forward object-orientated sociality as a mechanism for helping us to identify new objects that might be used as the basis for developing new social networking services. He argues that in education the primary social object is content and that the educational value is not in the content itself but the social interaction that occurs around the content.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2001). Objectual practice. In T. Schatzki (Ed.), The practice turn in contemporary theory. London: Routledge.

Something similar could happen with books or documents through sites such a Scribd or Mendeley. Scribd recently added several new social networking features. As reported on the WATblog "Scribd hopes to change reading from a solitary experience to something which the community can participate in together by sharing views, ideas etc in real time and from all over the world."

Mendeley limits the sharing of actual content but is building a community around academic references. Books are not as advanced as music or video but this idea of "object orientated sociality" is helpful in thinking about how books can develop online. Some of the problems from the LCC conference may seem to have been addressed in a year or so.
More information in the IPEX 2002 blog - http://ipex2002.blogspot.com
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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