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Why Digital Books Will Become Writable (Terry Jones)

Terry Jones is founder and CTO at Fluidinfo, where he is building  a distributed storage architecture for a new representation of information, and creating a variety of applications that will use the underlying architecture. You can find Terry on Twitter at: @terrycojones.

Historically, the ability for readers to contribute to published information has been sharply limited. Publication was considered, and very often still is, almost exclusively a one-way process in which a publisher produced information and readers consumed it. But readers have never been passive. While reading, they generate information of their own, storing it largely in their heads, marginalia or separate notes, and sharing it verbally. The subsequent publishing of reader-written letters to the editor, book reviews, errata and corrected editions, and the practice of putting laudatory quotes on the back of book covers are all examples of reader contributions to published information. The library cards in books borrowed from libraries sometimes carry annotations—occasionally social—left by other readers. Even the simple practice of inserting a bookmark into a book or dog-earring a page to remember where one is up to is a form of user contributed metadata.

The rise of digital systems—computers and networks—has allowed us to dream of and then implement systems that allow normal users to contribute and share information. This thinking can be charted over ...

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