BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assoc.) Meeting, 1/9/10 - An innovative approach to EBooks

At this month's meeting of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Assoc, we were given a special treat: a power point presentation by E.M. Ginger of 42-Line. 42-Line is a publishing company specializing in converting rare manuscripts into digital books.

What I loved most about this presentation was the innovative use of digital media and eBooks. There are lots of eBooks out there, but let's face it: nothing beats the smell and feel of a real book. But 42-Line realizes there are in fact a lot of rare books out there that can'tbe held and touched and smelled by the common public--books like the Guttenberg Bible, of which there are only 3 in the world. 42-Line makes rare and special books available to common public though digital media. A rare book that carries a price tag of $143,000 can be purchased as a digital book for anywhere from $20 - $80 from 42-Line.

42-Line gained access to the Library of Congress, where they used specialized equipment to photograph every page of rare books such as the Guttenberg Bible. They use the highest resolution available, so that buyers of their ebooks can zoom in on rare illustrations found inside the books. They also take high-res photos of the book covers, so the details can be enjoyed by bibliophiles.

The photographs of the books and all the interior pages are only one facet of 42-Line's digital books. Each eBook is designed so reader can print the entire content. They also include translations. They even embed a search engine into the eBook, so readers can search for special passages. This isn't as easy as it sounds. The eBook software can't scan the pictures of the text. Instead, every word of the books has to be manually embedded into the software for the search engine.

To produce these digital formats of rare books, 42-Line employed designers, photographers, typographers, writers, translators, etc. -- everything you would need to produce a print book, and in some cases, more.

And where does the name of the company, "42-Line," come from? Apparently, the Guttenburg Bible is famous for having 42 lines of text on each page. From what I understood from Ginger's presentation, this was the first time 42 lines of text was made standard.

I've seen a lot of great presentations at the monthly BAIPA meetings, but this one was by far the most exciting. I love to see how other publishers are distinguishing themselves through creative innovation.