At yesterday’s (23 November) Internal Research Seminar, Elena Pierazzo and Miguel Vieira presented Tablet apps, or the future of Digital Scholarly Editions, a preview of the paper that they will give tomorrow at the study-day “The Future of the Book“.
The paper discussed those opportunities that tablet device could offer for the digital publication of scholarly editions. This work stemmed from Patricia Searl’s MA dissertation, who completed her Digital Humanities MA at DDH last year.
The main issue arises from the apparent lack of use of digital scholarly editions published on the web. The speakers found particularly worrying the fact that these editions are never part of undergraduate syllabi, even though they usually offer high quality scholarly texts with free, open access.
Tablet devices are user-friendly, portable and create a stronger sense of ownership compared to websites. This makes for an experience closer to reading from a book, but would it be true for digital scholarly editions? Would it work for editions that need sophisticated ways of presenting historical evidence and editorial work? The presenters believe that the eBook model would probably not be sufficient, but the “App” paradigm might.
Enhanced eBooks already exploit this idea by introducing a highly interactive, almost ludic component to the digital edition. Nonetheless, none of these apps have been connected to scholarly work so far. The speakers noticed, for example, how it is impossible to find an editor of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land enhanced eBook (see image).
Finally, the paper also discussed those issues that would be familiar to any smartphone or tablet user, such as cross-device compatibility, keeping up-to-date with new OSs and heavily controlled app “markets”. These issues influence the true user reach, but first of all complicate development quite substantially (even more than, for example, dealing with cross-browser issues).
The paper was followed by a lively discussion. There was general agreement that scholarly editing should get involved in tablet computing; the best way of doing so, however, is yet to be fully understood and provides fertile ground for an exciting new research area.
The DDH Internal Research Seminar series aims at giving a space to DDH staff to present their research and discuss them in an informal environment.