Open Web Projects

Every day there seems to be yet another exciting open library/book project announced on the web.  Here are just a few recent ones that I think are interesting.

LibraryBox Project

Jason' Griffey's LibraryBox

cc (BY-NC-SA) licensed flickr photo by The Shifted Librarian

LibraryBox is a project that not only lets you carry around a whole library of public domain books in your pocket, it also lets you make those books available to anyone else in the immediate vicinity via the wifi capabilities of the box.  Public domain books are not the only thing that you can serve up as the box can also be used for providing access to all sorts of information – Open Educational Resources (OER), Health Care resources, clues for a scavenger hunt, etc.  One big advantage of LibraryBox is that it can be used in situations where there is restricted or no internet access as it is its own self-contained network.

Photo of a Pirate Box

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

LibraryBox is a project derived from David Darts’s PirateBox.  There are hundreds of examples of how PirateBox has been used.  One interesting project was undertaken by Cogdog who took a PirateBox on a four month road trip in 2011 and collected stories by allowing people to upload them to the StoryBox along the way.  You can read about this on Cogdog’s blog, StoryBox.

You can create your own PirateBox or LibraryBox.  From what I understand, the main difference between the two projects is that the Pirate Box allows uploading of data whereas the LibraryBox is an anonymous server of resources.  The creator of LibraryBox, Jason Griffey, says that if you can bake a cake, you can create a LibraryBox.  I have baked lots of cakes, so now might be the time to create a LibraryBox.  PirateBox instructions are also available. is a Kickstarter-like project for digital books.  At any one time has campaigns to crowd-source funding for a selection of titles.  If a campaign is successful, the funds raised are used to pay the author and create a digital copy of the title which is licensed under Creative Commons.  The book is then free for anyone to read.  This is interesting as it turns the whole publishing model on its head.  The project has started slowly with four books already unglued and two more currently looking for funding this month (May 2013) including:

Feeding the City Unglue It Campaign

Feeding the City by Sara Roncaglia

There are a variety of ways to contribute to this project – help fund a book, make suggestions for books to be unglued, and libraries can even help with creating cataloguing records.

DPLA – Digital Public Library of America

The DPLA was launched in April this year and has lofty ambitions to “bring together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world”.  It plans to be a portal to deliver information, an advocate for an open intellectual landscape and to be a platform for new and transformative uses of its assets.  Check out some of the apps have already been created to interface with the date in the DPLA:

Screenshot of OpenPic

Screenshot of OpenPic showing Share button

  • DPLA Map which renders a map based on your current location that includes location pins for resources in the DPLA database related to your location.
  • Culture Collage which lets you view a cascade of images from the DPLA related to your keyword search.
  • OpenPics, an iOS app, that lets you search for images across multiple collections from the DPLA and share the resulting images.  Just now it looks like it is searching only the New York Public Library, but the capacity for more collections is there.  The OpenPics software itself is open source and you can even see realtime usage statistics.

The DPLA is a actively seeking partner institutions with digital collections to share, but it is also looking for other types of contribution as outlined on its “Getting Involved” page.

Book as API

I recently attended a conference session entitled “Book as API” which was presented by Hugh McGuire of PressBooks and Alistair Croll,  Solve for Interesting. The idea behind the presentation was that books would be much more useful if they were opened up via APIs so that the content could be accessed and used in different ways.   This caused considerable consternation amongst many of the publishers in the room, but I think it is a really interesting idea.  One way of doing this would be to create “smart” indexes.  Index entries could be coded with classes to indicate if the entries were people, places, events, etc.  This would allow machines to then use that information to create something else.

Dracula Dissected by Chris Hughes is an example of what can be done when a book is opened up, broken down into small pieces and rebuilt. This site lets you experience the book in a variety of different ways – by interactively looking at the journeys taken in the book, by viewing the letters independently from the rest of the text, by chronology or just by looking at background material.

Anyone interested in dissecting a book?



2 thoughts on “Open Web Projects

  1. Great collection of open, I bricked a router the last time I tried a piratebox, going to try again soon.
    The DPLA is wonderful, really fascinating results from search.
    And an API for books, ripe for remix and analysis, going over my head but setting it a buzz with possibilities.
    Many thanks for sharing.

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