The key advantages of the HTML5 platform for authors and publishers
In the past six years, the rise of the ebook has ushered in three successive revolutions that have roiled and reshaped the traditional publishing industry.
Revolution #1 began in November in 2007, when Amazon released its first-generation eInk Kindle. As the first ereader to achieve broad adoption by consumers, the Kindle fundamentally changed our answer to the question, “How do you read a book?” On paper? Sure. But also maybe on a handheld screen!
Revolution #2 began in January of 2010, when Apple released its first-generation iPad. As the first tablet computer to achieve a critical mass of popularity, the iPad fundamentally changed our conceptions about what those handheld ereader screens could and should do, and as a result, it raised a deeper metaphysical question: “What is a book?” An immutable stream of text and pictures? Sure. But also maybe audio, video, and elements like 3-D models, games, and quizzes that respond and adapt to human interaction!
Breaking up with MakerBot
I’ll never forget the day I first met MakerBot. It was August 1, 2012 when he*—a bright, shiny first-generation Replicator—arrived at our Cambridge, MA, office, greeted by screams of delight by a throng of fans. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated and star-struck: MakerBot’s reputation preceded him. He was a rockstar in the DIY community, a true maverick of a machine, ushering in the “Wild West of 3D printing” among our sedate sea of MacBook Air laptops running Adobe InDesign. All we had ever made here before were PDF files, but with MakerBot humming cheerfully in the lounge next to the kitchen, that had all changed. We were now maker-magicians, spinning ABS thread into gold.
At first, it was hard to get any quality time with MakerBot. I’d come into the office in the morning, and he’d already be surrounded by three or four groupies, who were browsing the catalog at Thingiverse, selecting a fresh set of STL models to print: from Mario and Batman to Mayan Robot.
But MakerBot didn’t just allow me and my coworkers to print out other people’s models; he offered us the promise of designing our own plastic masterpieces. He came packaged with the open source software ReplicatorG, which provides a nice GUI for doing simple modifications on existing models (scaling, rotating, etc.). ReplicatorG isn’t a tool for constructing models from scratch, however, so I also started experimenting with other 3D rendering applications like Blender, MeshLab, and OpenSCAD.
I was interested in the possibilities in transforming 2D photos into 3D models that MakerBot could print, so I started experimenting with a Python tool called img2scad, which can convert a JPEG image file into a .scad file (convertible to a compatible STL file with OpenSCAD) by transforming each pixel in the image to a rectangular prism whose height is directly proportional to how dark/light the pixel is. When this SCAD model is printed, the output is a photograph embossed into a sheet of plastic. Pretty cool—although, in practice, the results were somewhat lackluster since much of the detail captured in the subtle shading differences among pixels in the source JPEG didn’t get preserved in the conversion to prisms.