As with Jan van der Noot’s tract on the plague, EPUB available here, I have created only an EPUB version. Some formatting is lost in the conversion process to a mobi (i.e., a Kindle) version. When I figure out how to solve that problem, I will post mobi versions too.
I continue to play with EPUBs as I think about what options they offer for readers and students. One version of van der Noot’s text includes a number of notes that readers can see if they click on the links. Some notes offer definitions of difficult words, other identify contemporary books mentioned in the text, still others explain unusual or unfamiliar terms and concepts. While helpful, such annotations are rather pedestrian and only just begin to enhance the reading experience. Now that the EPUB standard adds considerable support for HTML5 and CSS3, there are many interesting and interactive possibilities. Unfortunately, not all ereaders support all HTML5 options and the Kindle is woefully inadequate in this area.
Please send me any suggestions and ideas you might have about what would enhance your reading of early modern primary sources or how I could make them more effective/useful in classes: dhayton(at)haverford.edu.
In the preface to his The Gouernance and preseruation of them that feare the Plage, Jan van der Noot thanks the King and Lord Suffolk. In 1559 England did not have a king. A recipe at the end of his text for the medicine of King Henry prompted me to suggest that he was referring in his preface to King Henry VIII. The Lord Suffolk part was less clear. There is another passage in the text that seems both to reinforce the King Henry VIII connection and makes clear the Lord Suffolk reference. There van der Noot says:
All these premisses haue I my selfe experimented and founde true, in diuers regions and countrees, as in Rome, Italie, Lumbardye, Naples, Poyelles, Calabers, Almanye, Flaunders, and likewise in Englande this .xvij. yeares. I beynge sworne vnto the noble late Frenche Quenes grace my Ladie Mary, and my Lorde of Suffolke his grace.
This passage seems to suggest that he was writing in much earlier in the century. He seems to be referring to Mary Tudor, Queen of France, who later married Charles Brandon, First Duke of Suffolk. He also suggests that he had been in England 17 years by the time he wrote this text.
Yesterday’s post on van der Noot’s The Gouernance and preseruation of them that feare the Plage also included an EPUB3 version of the text. In the hopes of making it more useful, I have added references to authors, texts, and theories van der Noot cites. Next up, notes on the various herbs and recipes in the text.
iBooks Author, released last month, officially represents Apple’s move into textbooks and offers some really promising features. Apple attracted considerable criticism for iBooks Author’s strict EULA and for its lack of support for EPUB standards. I am not interested in those debates—they certainly have merit and raise issues that should be discussed—but rather interested in how I can leverage iBooks Author and ebooks in general for teaching and outreach.
This post reflects my use of iBooks Author to produce a short ebook, what I will call an ePamphlet. The content came from courses I teach here at Haverford College. I wanted to see how easy it was to create an ePamphlet, how nice it looked, and how easily I could export it to a PDF. The goal was to think about how easy I could produce material that I could use in courses and, ideally, that I could disseminate to a broader audience of both other educators and an interested public. For this test I used material I teach on the history of the astrolabe.
I typically spend a week or two on astrolabes in my Introduction to the History of Science class (see recent courses for a description). Astrolabes allow me to get students to think about a number of issues, including technology, craft knowledge, aesthetics, use and tacit knowledge, display, theoretical knowledge, artifacts, collecting, the place of science in society, and timekeeping. I always feel like I don’t quite do justice to these issues because I spend considerable time explaining the general history of the astrolabe. An ePamphlet could cover this history and related topics and would allow me to focus on some of the other issues. At the same time, an ePamphlet would allow me to include nice illustrations (photographs in this case), to update it easily, and to distribute it using fewer resources than a paper handout.
I have to confess that iBooks Author worked wonderfully for converting my material into an ebook. It was easy. It was fast. I produced both an .ibooks and a PDF version (though I wish the PDF didn’t have “iBooks Author” emblazoned across the bottom). I posted the initial version and then a couple days later revised it and uploaded the new copy. It also allowed me to reach a much larger audience with this text. I posted it here and at the PACHS site. In just three days it has been downloaded more than 700 times. 700 times!
To be sure, iBooks Author is not perfect. For me, the biggest problem is the requirement that material distributed through the iTunes book store requires an ISBN. These not only cost money, by adding steps to the process, they are an impediment to distributing content-rich material. Perhaps there is a way that Apple could change this requirement for materials that are distributed free of charge. It would be nice if iBooks Author exported EPUB standard material, but I can use a text editor or Scrivener or Pages for that.
I look forward to future iterations of iBooks Author and other tools for creating ebooks. Apple has shown what is possible. Now it’s time other software publishers step up and produce equally easy-to-use tools.
I recently posted An Introductory History to Astrolabes over at PACHS. There seemed to be considerable interest in that post, so I expanded it a bit and converted it to an ePamphlet. Much of the material comes out of my introduction to the history of science course. The goal was to produce a convenient introduction that educators at colleges and universities as well as at museums could use. It would be wonderful if general readers would also find it useful.