Friday, April 24, 2009

LiveInk Experiment at Smashwords

A couple years back, while Smashwords was still incubating in my head, I attended the May, 2007 IDPF Digital Book conference in New York.

I heard a presentation from Randall Walker, the creator of a new online reading format called LiveInk. By arranging text differently on screen, Walker found he could increase reading speed and comprehension. I was so excited about the concept I wrote up a story for VentureBeat that caused quite a stir among tech geeks.

Here's an excerpt

Did you know our primitive brains weren’t wired very well to read this paragraph?

Scientific research conducted by Walker Reading Technologies, a small Minnesota startup that has been studying our ability to read for the last ten years, has concluded that the natural field of focus for our eyes is circular, so our eyes view the printed page as if we’re peering through a straw.

And a very bad-behaving straw at that, because not only do our eyes feed our brain the words we’re reading, they’re also uploading characters and words from the two sentences above and below the line we’re reading.

Every time we read block text, we’re forcing our brain to a wage a constant subconscious battle with itself to filter and discard the superfluous inputs. This mental tug of war slows reading speed and diminishes comprehension.

When our ancestors first invented written language about 5,000 years ago, they unfortunately didn’t have armies of neuroscientists standing by to tell them block type was the wrong way to format their papyrus rolls. But fret not. Help is on the way.

Walker Reading Technologies’ CEO and co-founder, Randall Walker MD, believes he and his team have developed a solution with a product called Live Ink that allows online publishers to improve reading speed and comprehension. Live Ink works by analyzing written language for meaning and language structure, and then applies algorithms that reformat the text into a series of short, cascading phrases. It breaks complex syntax into simpler syntax, which makes it easier for the brain to absorb the material.

.....Read the rest of the story at VentureBeat

Fast forward to today, and I'm surprised more publishers aren't using LiveInk for online reading.

With the generous assistance of Adam Gordon at LiveInk, I created a LiveInk version of my own novel, Boob Tube, to showcase on Smashwords as an experiment. He provided me a LiveInk-formatted HTML document, which I opened in Word, saved as a .doc file, then uploaded to Smashwords.

I set the price to free so folks can play with it. I think the best way to read it it is via the "Plain Text (view) (viewable as web page)" format, and then use your down arrow to scroll continuously through the text.

I see in Stanza on the iPhone, the indents aren't preserved. Maybe because my source file broke the rules of my own Smashwords Style Guide. Will continue experimenting.

You can find it here:

What do you think of LiveInk?

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