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LitNet

Online interactive lit server
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This is something I've been thinking about for a couple of years. The discussion on the HB lately about things literary and whatnot makes me think that there could really be potential for it.

The basis of the idea is to start with a giant database of books online. Already exists, you say, in multiple forms, in multiple languages. Indeed. What I'd like to add to it is the ability for users to add comments and annotations inline to the text. The comments would appear as footnotes that other users could click on, read, respond to, etc. There could be, in a sidebar or something, options for "View all comments on sentence/paragraph/chapter," "View all threads," and various search options. There would also be pre-defined threads that discuss the work as a whole, the ending specifically, and other key plot points. There could be guest essays from lit critics, which people could also respond to.

The database would cover all types of literature, not just Shakespeare and James and Steinbeck and such. Sci-Fi, whodunits, Westerns, everything is included.

It would be nice if it could be moderated in some way (arguments about literature can get pretty nasty). Maybe comments or threads should expire after a set time, say two years, or maybe people can vote to eliminate particular comments (along the lines of the "Did you find this review helpful?" function on amazon.com - "Do you feel this comment is offensive and/or nontopical?").

Books that are out of copyright would present no legal problems, but it would also be cool to include new books. Maybe publishers could charge a certain amount, say $8, whatever works, for people to have access to the online comment-able text. Record companies are starting to see the light on online distribution, maybe book publishers can, too. I'm sure it would not be too difficult to develop an online publishing format that can reasonably protect their copyrights. The format would let users print out parts of the text and/or save them to their computer, but not transfer them to a third party.
kevindimie, Jun 30 2003

[link]






       The serious drawback to this is that any work of literature will soon be completely swamped with the annotations. How will you be able to filter out just those that are interesting or relevant to you?
DrCurry, Jun 30 2003
  

       Yes, that's the big problem. I haven't quite figured that out, other than the thought of having comments expire after a while. Perhaps when you place the comment, you would have to check off themes and topics from a checklist designed specifically for that work. You could then search for comments that have to do with, for example, "witches" and "murder" if you're looking at Macbeth.
kevindimie, Jun 30 2003
  

       Oops, [Dr Curry], I accidentally hit "delete" instead of "annotate" - could you repost that last comment? sorry..
kevindimie, Jun 30 2003
  

       He's going to mark you for deletion now, in revenge. Muhahahaha!
bungston, Jun 30 2003
  

       Slashdot's engine would probably work pretty well for this.   

       +
rapid transit, Jun 30 2003
  

       I've read books full of notes in the margins and it does make it interesting. Writing a commentary track would be fun too. I think I'd still read the book first in paper, then use your website afterwards, though I guess I'd be paying for the book twice that way...
wasted_mips, Jun 30 2003
  

       I thought of the double-charge problem, too, [mips]. One option would be to include a unique password or code key with the purchase of the book that gives you access to that book's particular site. The book would have to be sold sealed so that people couldn't just steal the password.
kevindimie, Jul 01 2003
  

       kd: um, forgotten what it was...something about online book clubs, where members would only see the annotations of a group of people they were familiar with?
DrCurry, Jul 01 2003
  

       I don't like reading from a monitor for any extended amount of time. It makes my eyes go funny. Otherwise, this could be good.
snarfyguy, Jul 01 2003
  

       [Curry] Oh right, clubs. Not a bad idea.
[snarfy] Me neither. That's why I think that having the site be accessible through a password given out with the purchase of the physical book would be good. I know that means extra work - reading the book, then going online and finding the spot you want to comment on (the online pages could correspond to the print pages to simplify that). I think a lot of people would be willing to do that with individual books.
kevindimie, Jul 01 2003
  

       snarfy: "I don't like reading from a monitor for any extended amount of time. It makes my eyes go funny." - it's not the monitor, duh! Don't you remember what your mother told you?
DrCurry, Jul 01 2003
  

       This is a lot like the E-books, but more fun and would protect people from extortion a la Steven King and the Plant. The idea of annotations is also intriguing. The multi-language compatibility would make the system more accessible to all uses. [DrCurry], the online book clubs idea has value.   

       Maybe someone will bake this someday.
dm01, Sep 04 2004
  
      
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