The new Kindle has a lot going for it. It’s inexpensive compared to a full-featured tablet computer like the iPad; you can slip it in your back pocket, where it’s more comfortable than an old-style paperback; and it includes a Webkit browser. This last point is where folks like us start to give a hoot, whether we’re fans of epub reading or not.
The flavor of Kindle’s browser concerns us because it affords us the ability to optimize the mobile viewing experience with a single line of markup. You can see this in action in the photo at the head of this article (published and discussed on Flickr).
I made no tweaks for Kindle per se; the Kindle is simply responding to a line of markup I’ve been putting into my web pages since 2007—namely, the viewport meta element, which controls the width of the viewport, thus enabling mobile devices with a limited number of pixels to focus all available pixels on your site’s core content (instead of, for instance, wasting part of the small screen on a background color, image, or gradient). The technique is as simple as web design gets:
meta name="viewport" content="width=770"
(Obviously, the value of “width” should be adjusted to match your site’s layout.)
I learned this little trick from Craig Hockenberry’s Put Your Content in My Pocket (A List Apart, August 28, 2007), which I naturally recommend to any designer who hasn’t seen it.
Editor Michael Nolan walks writer Aarron Walter through the fine points. Photo: Ari Stiles.
All our Big Web Show interviews are personal to me and feature people who make a difference in our community, but this week’s guest is especially special. Michael J. Nolan (@mikaln) is the acquisitions editor who “discovered” me, and who has brought to light (or should I say brought to print) more web leaders with distinctive voices and visions than just about anyone out there.
Michael works as a senior editor for Pearson’s New Riders and Peachpit imprints, focusing on web design and development. His first book in the genre, David Siegel’s Creating Killer Websites, was a mega success and jump-started discussion on how to design the web. It was followed by a long list of books from a Who’s Who of digerati, including Jeffrey Veen, Clement Mok, Richard Saul Wurman, Derek Powazek, Jesse James Garrett, Christina Wodtke, Dan Cederholm, Garr Reynolds, Joshua Porter, Dan Brown, Kristina Halvorson, Marty Neumeier, and Jeffrey Zeldman (that’s me!).
Michael is proud of the positive impact books these Voices That Matter have had on the medium, which he sees as humankind’s best last chance to survive and prosper. I’m proud to know Michael and to be his friend.
As always, Big Web Show co-host Dan Benjamin will join me for this special hour of insights into how publishing really works, where it’s going, and how it will survive—plus, I hope, plenty of stories about your favorite authors and designers, and tips on how to identify talent for those who are hiring, and how present yourself as a talented and desirable catch for those who are trying to boost their visibility and career prospects.
Please join us this Thursday, July 22, at 1:00 PM Eastern for the live taping of Episode 13.
The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”) is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards (often within hours of taping) via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.
The beauty of responsive web design becomes obvious when you see your site in smart phones, tablets, and widescreen desktop browsers. It’s as if your site was redesigned to perfectly fit that specific environment. And yet there is but one actual design—a somewhat plastic design, if you will. An extensible design, if you prefer. It’s what some of us were going for with “liquid” web design back in the 1990s, only it doesn’t suck. Powered by CSS media queries, it’s the resurrection of a Dao of Web Design and a spiffy new best practice. All the kids are doing it.
Well, anyway, some of the cool ones are. See also the newly retooled-per-responsive-design Journal by Mr Hicks. Hat tip: Mr Stocks. I obviously have some work to do on this site. And you may on yours.
A Reading Heatmap: Key passages illuminated by layering all readers’ highlights for the same text.
LAST MONTH, he wowed us with Books in the Age of the iPad, a call to make digital books as beautiful as printed ones. This month, Craig Mod is back with Embracing the Digital Book, an article (or blog post if you must) that begins as a critique of iBooks and Kindle and moves on to discuss the e-reader of our dreams, complete with reasoned social features:
I’m excited about digital books for a number of reasons. Their proclivity towards multimedia is not one of them. I’m excited about digital books for their meta potential. The illumination of, in the words of Richard Nash, that commonality between two people who have read the same book.
We need to step back for a moment and stop acting purely on style. There is no style store. Retire those half-realized metaphors while they’re still young.
Instead, let’s focus on the fundamentals. Improve e-reader typography and page balance. Integrate well considered networked (social) features. Respect the rights of the reader and then — only then — will we be in a position to further explore our new canvas.
In both cases, converting your file to ePub is as easy as saving it as a PDF or Microsoft Word document—you just pick ePub from the choice of export formats and hit the button. Voilà, the ePub file appears wherever you saved it. Drag that file into iTunes, sync your iPad, and you’re finished: your book will now show up in iBooks next to any other e-books you’ve purchased. Both tools also allow you to add your own cover art, and tweak the book’s metadata (author, description, genre, and so on).
As an experiment in new new media thinking, I recently crowdsourced a new new literature version of Charles Dickens’s musty old old old lit chestnut, Great Expectations—the familiar tale of Pip, Ms Havisham, the convict Magwitch, et al.
Creative excellence and spin-worthy results required a pool of 10,000 people who had never read Great Expectations. Fortunately, I had access to 10,000 recent American college graduates, so that was no problem.
To add a dab of pseudoscience and appeal obliquely to the copyleft crowd, I remixed the new work’s leading literary themes with the top 20 Google search queries, using an algorithm I found in the mens room at Penn Station.
The result was a work of pure modern genius, coming soon to an iPad near you. (Profits from the sale will be used to support Smashing Magazine’s footer and sidebar elements.)
Gone was the fusty old title. Gone were the cobwebbed wedding cake and other dare I say emo images. It was goodbye to outdated characters like Joe the blacksmith and the beautiful Estella, farewell to the love story and the whole careful parallel between that thing and that other thing.
Gone too was the tired old indictment of the Victorian class system, and by implication of all economic and social systems that separate man from his brothers in Christ, yada yada. As more than one of my young test subjects volunteered in a follow-up survey, “Heard it.”
In place of these obsolete narrative elements, the students and the prioritized Google searches created, or dare I say curated, a tale as fresh as today’s algorithmically generated headlines.
The results are summarized in the table below.
Old Great Expectations
New Great Expectations
On Christmas Eve, Pip, an orphan being raised by his sister, encounters the convict Magwitch on the marshes.
The convict compels Pip to steal food from his sister’s table, and a file from her husband the blacksmith’s shop. Pip thereby shares the convict’s guilt and sin—but his kindness warms the convict’s heart.
Guy on girl
Pip’s sister, Mrs. Joe, abuses him. Her husband loves Pip but is unable to protect him or offer him a future beyond blacksmithing.
Girl on girl (multiple entries)
Pip meets Miss Havisham, an old woman abandoned on her wedding day, who sits in her decrepit house, wearing a yellowing wedding gown, her only companion the beautiful and mysterious girl Estella. Pip falls in love with Estella, but Miss Havisham has trained the girl to break men’s hearts.
Guy on guy
Pip visits Miss Havisham until his apprenticeship with Joe the blacksmith begins. Pip hates being a blacksmith and worries that Estella will see him as common.
Two girls, one guy
Mrs Joe suffers a heart attack that leaves her mute. A kind girl named Biddy comes to take care of Mrs Joe. After Mrs Joe’s death, Biddy and Joe will marry. Meanwhile, Pip comes into an unexpected inheritance and moves to London, where he studies with a tutor and lives with his friend Herbert.
Pip believes Miss Havisham is his benefactor and that she intends him to marry Estella, whom he still adores. Day by day, Estella grows more cruel. Pip never tells her of his love for her.
One stormy night, Pip discovers that his benefactor is not Miss Havisham but the convict Magwitch. The news crushes Pip, but he dutifully allows Magwitch to live with him—worrying, all the while, because Magwitch is a wanted man who will be hanged if discovered.
Miss Havisham repents having wasted her life and perverted Estella. She is caught in a fire. Pip heroically saves her but she later dies from her burns. Soon afterwards, Pip and Herbert try to help Magwitch escape, but Magwitch’s old enemy Compeyson—who happens to be the man who abandoned Miss Havisham at the altar—betrays Magwitch to the authorities. Magwitch and Compeyson struggle. Compeyson dies and Magwitch is taken to prison.
Pip now realizes that Magwitch is a decent man and tries to make Magwitch’s last years happy ones. He also discovers that Magwitch is Estella’s father. Magwitch dies in prison shortly before he was to be executed. Pip tells the dying Magwitch of his love for Estella.
Pip becomes ill and is nursed back to health by Joe, whom Pip recognizes as a good man in spite of his lack of education and “class.” Pip goes into business overseas with Herbert. Eventually he returns to England and visits Joe, who has married Biddy. They have a child named Pip. As the book ends, the middle-aged Pip makes one last visit to Miss Havisham’s house, where he discovers an older and wiser Estella. There is the implication that Pip and Estella may finally be together.
P Is for Publishing. And publishing, as you’ve heard, is dying. … But “the printed word will be around long after many of our digital creations are gone,” Zeldman says, “either because books don’t require monthly hosting and blogs and websites do … or because the languages and platforms for which a particular digital creation was published will become obsolete.”
…[Jason,] Mandy and I are about to launch a printed book series, called A Book Apart, which derives much of its thinking and some of its formatting from what we’ve learned about PDFs in the past 10 years,” says Zeldman. The Mandy he mentions is Mandy Brown, creative director of Etsy and former creative director at W.W. Norton & Co.; she’s also one of the people speaking on the New Publishing and Web Content panel that Zeldman’s organizing for this year’s Interactive Fest, along with Happy Cog’s Erin Kissane, Harper’s Magazine editor (and Harper’s website creator) Paul Ford, and Lisa Holton, founder of new-media company Fourth Story Media.
…Everyone on the panel is committed to the digital future,” Zeldman says. “But we are also all committed to the book.” And how will their—how will our—relationships to books change, and how will those relationships remain the same, as the digitization of printed matter proceeds faster than most chain saws can spin? “How,” asks Zeldman, “can we be truthful and wise as editors, publishers, writers, journalists, and marketers straddling this scary yet exhilarating new divide?
“Content with form—Definite Content—is almost totally the opposite of Formless Content. Most texts composed with images, charts, graphs or poetry fall under this umbrella. It may be reflowable, but depending on how it’s reflowed, inherent meaning and quality of the text may shift.”
John Sundman is looking for your financial support so he can finish writing and publish his new novel, Creation Science, “a technothriller about scary science—like designer DNA, brain hacking & mind control, computer viruses and biological viruses.”
Sundman is the author of three previous novels: Acts of the Apostles, Cheap Complex Devices, and The Pains.
Apostles is a personal favorite of mine: a thriller only a geek could write (Sundman has decades of experience in computer programming), with real characters, frenetic action and suspense, salty dialog, and serious ideas behind the hot cyber action. If Dan Brown read Sundman, he would understand that thrillers about ideas don’t have to be claustrophobic, one-dimensional, and absurd. If he took Sundman to heart, he would write better books, although they would sell fewer copies.
Which brings it back to you. Sundman is a brilliant author who, for political, intellectual, or other reasons shuns mainstream publishing and success. If we are to keep enjoying his works, we need to help him realize them. I was proud to contribute to Designing Obama and equally delighted to do likewise by Creation Science. If you enjoy good writing and modern independent fiction, I urge you to support this book.
Our classic orange avatar has turned blue to celebrate the release of Designing With Web Standards 3rd Edition by Jeffrey Zeldman with Ethan Marcotte. This substantial revision to the foundational web standards text will be in bookstores across the U.S. on October 19, 2009, with international stores to follow. Save 37% off the list price when you buy it from Amazon.com.
Designed by Happy Cog and launched today, The Amanda Project is a social media network, creative writing project, interactive game, and book series combined:
The Amanda Project is the story of Amanda Valentino, told through an interactive website and book series for readers aged 13 & up. On the website, readers are invited to become a part of the story as they help the main characters search for Amanda.
The writing-focused social media network is designed and written as if by characters from the Amanda novels, and encourages readers to enter the novel’s world by joining the search for Amanda, following clues and reading passages that exist only online, and ultimately helping to shape the course of the Amanda narrative across eight novels. (The first Amanda novel—Invisible I, written by Melissa Kantor—comes out 22 September.)
The site developed over a year of intense creative collaboration between Happy Cog and Fourth Story Media, a book publisher and new media company spearheaded by publishing whiz Lisa Holton. Prior to starting Fourth Story, Lisa was was President, Scholastic Trade Publishing and Book Fairs; managed the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; and oversaw development of The 39 Clues. Before that she spent nearly a decade developing numerous bestselling, franchise-launching series at Disney.
Happy Cog‘s New York office developed this project. The team:
Equally vital to the project’s success were Fourth Story’s leaders and partners, including:
Lorraine Shanley, Principal Advisor
Ariel Aberg-Riger (website, Twitter), Creative Development & Marketing Manager
JillEllyn Riley, Editorial Director
Dale Robbins, Creative Director
David Stack, Director, Digital Partnerships
Melissa Kantor, Writer
Peter Silsbee, Writer
Polly Kanevsky, Art Director
Sam Gerstenzang, Technology Consultant
Today’s launch is not the end of our relationship with Fourth Story Media. The Amanda Project will continue to evolve, and Happy Cog will remain an active partner in its direction and growth. We thank our brilliant collaborators and congratulate them on today’s milestone.
I wrote this book in 2001 for print designers whose clients want websites, print art directors who’d like to move into full–time web and interaction design, homepage creators who are ready to turn pro, and professionals who seek to deepen their web skills and understanding.
Here we are in 2009, and print designers and art directors are scrambling to move into web and interaction design.
The dot-com crash killed this book. Now it lives again. While browser references and modem speeds may reek of 2001, much of the advice about transitioning to the web still holds true.
Once more, Coudal Partners has handicapped the Fifth Annual Morning News Tournament of Books. “Place your $20 bet and help us buy a truckload of new books for underprivileged kids.”
Each bet costs $20 and all the money bet will go to First Book, “a nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.” Last year we bought 5076 new books for kids and we want to smash that record this year.
Happy Cog, Crush + Lovely, Metafilter, 37signals, and Field Notes are proud matching sponsors. Shouldn’t your super-cool company be on this list?
Almost everyone I know who is serious about the internet and has spent more than a few years working on web stuff has read John R. Sundman’s novel, Acts of the Apostles, your everyday story of bioengineering, Gulf War Syndrome, Trojan Horses, and millennium cultists. (If you haven’t yet read this classic underground thriller cum paranoid fantasy, do yourself a favor; it’s pretty great.)
Now Sundman has come out with a new book, The Pains, with illustrations by Cheeseburger Brown. Sundman’s third novel owes its genesis to a single sentence written in his online diary: “I woke up this morning with a pain in my body that felt like it might be a soul gone bad.” Through a process that makes sense to writers, that sentence turned into this book:
The Pains is a story of faith in a world that appears to be falling apart. It tells the story of Norman Lux, a 24-year-old novitiate in a religious order, who becomes afflicted with something akin to stigmata.
Early tomorrow, I leave for San Francisco. Headed into my laptop bag, along with my MacBook, are…
An iPod Classic containing 8624 “songs” (I like music) and 46 “movies.” Sample titles: A Mighty Wind, A Night at the Opera, Helvetica, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Lost in Translation, North by Northwest, Rushmore, Spirited Away, Stardust Memories, Stranger Than Paradise, Swing Time. The iPod also provides two days of interstitial music for the conference.
Power and stage adapters for all gear.
The latest issue of Macworld.
One or more novels (haven’t decided which; I always travel with at least one great book I’ve read before, and it’s always a new experience).
In my carry-on bag, in place of the usual dress shoes and gym shoes, I’m packing Crocs. It’s not my normal travel or presentation attire, but my foot (although much better) is still a bit out of whack, and you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
See some of you in San Francisco and the rest of you here and there.