Learning, Freedom
& the Web

Ebook Design, Research collaboration with Mozilla Foundation, 2011

This collaboration with Mozilla was focused on their work in support of the open web; in particular, we worked on the ebook design for their publication Learning, Freedom and the Web, a book written by Anya Kamenetz (of Fast Company and DIYU) that is part catalogue and part manifesto and that tackles crucial questions about the future of learning.

“How can the ideas of the open source movement help foster learning? What are the most effective ways to bring learning to everyone? How does openness help the spread of knowledge?”

These questions were the starting point to think about the publishing possibilities beyond the conventional codex. The book needed to reflect in both form and distribution the new paradigms and implications of digital technology and open learning. And so it became imperative to create not only a print book, but also a freely distributed ebook that could be read and experienced on a variety of devices including iPad and Android tablets, desktop computers and smartphones.

The Emily Carr team on this project included Jonathan Aitken and myself, along with SIM Director Alexandra Samuel, and four undergraduates: Briana Garelli, Justin Alm, Amy Wang and Danielle Hall. We consulted with Vancouver-based development company Steamclock Software, and we concluded the most appropriate approach was to build the book in HTML5, Javascript and CSS.

We took inspiration from the print book design by Chris Appleton, and created a digital text that related to the look and feel of the print version while developing a navigation system that made the text both easy to browse and easy to search. Student researchers created animated illustrations, embedded videos, and did the majority of the hands-on coding to bring the book to life.

The resulting book went online in late 2011, and was officially launched on January 25th 2012. This represented one of the very first ebook design projects taking place at the SIM Centre and a starting point for me on a research focus and body of work related to ebook design. For Mozilla, the project represented a new channel for supporting their work on an open Internet, and a demonstration of the potential for tablet publishing with open standards.