Monthly Archives: January 2012

Apache ODF toolkit

The Apache Software Foundation has made its first release of the ODF Toolkit. This version is called 0.5-incubating, so I imagine it still has rough edges. Officially, “incubating” means that “the project has yet to be fully endorsed by the ASF.”

This could be useful to software that validates or extracts metadata from Open Document Format files. It includes ODFDOM 0.8.7, which has been around for about a year. Anyone want to write a module for JHOVE or JHOVE2?

Possible malware

My filter has been catching spam comments promoting seoplugins dot org (I don’t want WordPress turning that into a link). A web search discloses that their spam has slipped past the filters at quite a number of sites.

Software promoted by spam comments is almost never legitimate and is often malicious. SEO is “search engine optimization” and is a favorite field for unsavory characters preying on site owners’ desperation for more hits. I suggest giving these people a wide berth.

Concerns with Apple’s iBooks Author

Apple’s iBooks textbooks for iPad stakes a position against openness in e-book publishing.

The format of the books is not a standard EPub format. The only tool that can create this format is Apple’s iBooks Author, and the only application that can view it is iBooks. An article on Ars Technica reports that it uses “ePub 2 along with certain HTML5 and JavaScript-based extensions that Apple uses to enable multimedia and interactive features. Those interactive features will only work with Apple’s iBooks app, not with other e-reader software or hardware, because only Apple supports those extensions.”

A post on Glazblog (the author says he’s “Co-chairman of the W3C CSS Working Group”; it would be nice if he gave his name) gives technical details. It uses XML namespaces that aren’t publicly documented, a nonstandard MIME type, and a private CSS extension.

This means you can’t view the books on anything but iOS. If Apple ever drops support for the format, it’s obsolete and impossible to support.

On top of this, the EULA for iBooks Author restricts sale of books created with it to the Apple Store. You can give away your books by any channel you like, but if you sell them, you must use the Apple Store. This means that if Apple doesn’t accept your book for publication, you can’t sell it in that format. (Except maybe in France, as Glazblog amusingly notes.) This is like having a compiler that lets you create software which you may sell only through Petitmol, or a video application that forbids you from selling your movies through anyone but FooTube. I can’t think of a precedent for this.

Authors normally would like to be able to take a book to a different publisher if their previous one loses interest. With books created with iBooks Author, you can’t do that, for both technical and legal reasons. The format isn’t under DRM, though, and the exclusivity applies to the format, not the content. As far as I can tell, you should be able to extract most of the content and republish it in a different format.

Apple’s restrictions make iBooks textbooks unsuitable for assignment to classes, unless the school is willing to give every student an iPad. Those who use other devices would be left out in the cold.

Apart from the restrictions, does Apple’s new format offer anything exciting? My own reaction, from briefly looking at a few sample books on a co-worker’s iPad, is that the interactive graphics are attention-getting, but the most important form of “interactivity” with a textbook is trying things out on your own — playing with the equations, writing sentences in the language, whatever. The best accessory for that is still a pencil and paper.

Correcting Harvard Library rumors

In spite of rumors that have shown up in the #hlth feed on Twitter, no one at the Harvard Library was laid off yesterday, let alone “everybody.” We were told, however, that there will be cutbacks.

We were told that we should all fill out “employee profiles” online to aid in determining what future career we’d have, if any, at Harvard. An official pronouncement quoted in Library Journal has denied that we will all have to “reapply” for our positions, but many of us find the distinction subtle even if it’s technically true.

Take a look at this post for a good summmary.

Further update: Here’s a transcript of yesterday’s presentation at Harvard. There is one significant discrepancy between the transcript and what I and others recall: Helen Shenton did not say at the 9 AM meeting that the deadline for employee profiles was February 29. The deadline was initially earlier — mid-February, I think — and was changed to February 29 by the end of the meeting, following numerous expressions of concern from the audience. (She may have said February 29 at the later meetings.)

PDF/A post on FTL

Today on Files That Last I have a post on “PDF/A for the long haul.” It’s directed at the end user or administrator, not at the formats geek or preservation specialist, but might be useful to link to when you’re explaining what PDF/A is good for.

Article on formats and protocols

Here’s an interesting and thoughtful article on “textuality” in formats and protocols.

Thanks to Andy Jackson’s Twitter feed.

IPRES proceedings

The IPRES proceedings for 2011 are now available.

IPRES 2012 will be in Toronto, making it the most convenient one for Americans in years. It will be September 30 to October 5 (which is when I was planning to be in Germany … just can’t win),