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Collaborative editing options
Amazon.com has once again shaken up the world of book publishing with a new feature called Upgrade that lets users highlight text, add comments and bookmarks, and print individual pages. Montague Institute founder Jean Graef is intrigued but doesn't want to be forced to buy books from Amazon to get the benefits. In this POV, she describes other software products that offer similar features. See also Adobe Acrobat 5: The Swiss Army Knife of Knowledge Base Publishing.
Article in focus:
About the author. Nancy Kho is a freelance writer.
About the publisher. eContent magazine is one of a group of publications owned by Information Today. Its primary audiences are librarians and commercial publishers.
Article summary. Amazon.com has expanded its popular Search the Book feature to include the ability to annotate, bookmark, and print individual pages. The new feature, called Upgrade, is available only if you've purchased a book in the new format and paid an additional fee. Participating publishers include McGraw-Hill, Wiley, Springer, Oxford University Press, Pearson, and Elsevier. According to the author, Amazon's Upgrade represents an effort to provide a more publisher-friendly way of digitizing books than Google Print Library, the controversial program perceived as a "digitize first, ask permission later" approach.
Although the Upgrade program is currently geared to individual book buyers, Amazon's director of digital media says that members of a corporate work team who have all purchased the same physical book through Amazon could share their notes and highlights by making them public over the Web.
The first technology that comes to mind is Adobe Acrobat — not the ubiquitous, free Acrobat Reader, but the extra cost Acrobat that lets you not only read but create PDF files. We've been using this version for several years to create secure electronic documents from a page layout program and to annotate Web pages we find in the course of our research.
Since we first acquired it, Acrobat has split into two version: Standard and Professional. With the new professional version (retail $499), you can indeed create a book with all the features of Amazon's Upgrade service — and more.
Adobe Acrobat 7 Professional vs
Once the reader accesses the PDF file as an e-mail attachment or Web page, he or she can search it, add a comment or note, highlight and copy text, add a stamp (e.g. Approved), add a graphic, and print one or more pages. In Acrobat, bookmarks are added by the creator — not the reviewer — but the reviewer can indicate through a comment or graphic that a new bookmark should be created.
Once all reviewers have added their comments and sent the edited version back to the creator, Acrobat will merge all their comments and changes into the original PDF version.
Blogs and wikis offer a more free-wheeling editorial environment. In a blog, readers are invited to submit comments on a special Web form. The blog owner can then choose to display them on his/her Web site. Blog software tracks the comments and allows users to search them, but direct editing of blog content is not allowed. An important feature of blogs is syndication — the ability to create an electronic copy of the content that users can subscribe to.
Wikis are similar to blogs in that the software makes it easy for users to contribute pages, and link them together. The big difference is that in a wiki, users can directly edit the pages that others submit as well as submit their comments on a Web form.
Collaboration software, blogs, and wikis give authors a quick, easy way to publish their ideas and get quick feedback, but unlike Amazon's Upgrade and Adobe Acrobat, they don't preserve the printed format. In many cases, that's OK, but for many commercial publishers it's a critical limitation.
The bottom line
Since we have a centralized editorial process and need to preserve the fidelity of the printed page, we'll upgrade our version of Acrobat. Thank you Amazon for giving me the incentive to take another look at it.Created on March 13, 2006 l Updated on August 14, 2012