Download the Unbound Book Program.

Conference Themes:

Thursday 19 May, Hogeschool van Amsterdam
Rhijnspoorplein 1
Open Publishing Tools
Digital Enclosures
E-readers in Dutch Education

Friday 20 May, Royal Library (KB), Den Haag
Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5
What is a Book?
The Unbound Book
Ascent of E-readers
Booklaunch: Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader

Saturday 21 May, Central Library (OBA), Amsterdam
Oosterdokskade 143
Future Publishing Industries
Books by Design
Horizons of Education and Authoring
Booklaunch: I Read Where I Am
Ongoing: ‘History of the (E)book’

Session Descriptions:


11.00 – 14.00 > WORKSHOP 1 >
Open Publishing Tools

A grab bag show-and-tell of the latest innovative open-source resources for digital book design, publishing, and print-on-demand techniques. Tomas Krag, founder of the booksprint, will demo his marathon-speed collaborative authoring software; John Haltiwanger and Femke Snelting of Open Source Publishing will lead us through the theories and methods behind generative typesetting and open-source typography, and Simon Worthington will give us the low down on the customized open source software driving Mute Magazine’s extensive publishing projects.

Tomas Krag
John Haltiwanger
Femke Snelting
Simon Worthington

14.00 – 17.00 > WORKSHOP 2 >
E-readers in Dutch Education

Deze workshop is geheel gewijd aan de resultaten en nog lopend onderzoek van het Amsterdam E-boekenstad project. Dit project in het kader van de Stichting Innovatie Alliantie/Raak ( ) onderzoekt de veranderingen in de boekenketen als gevolg van e-lezers met het accent op de educatieve markt.. De afgesloten deelprojecten en presentaties zijn allen te vinden op de website . Lopend onderzoek staat op onze wiki: . In de discussie met onze projectpartners en geïnteresseerden zullen wij de eerste resultaten en de lopende projecten de revue laten passeren en plannen voor de rest van het jaar bespreken. Iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in daadwerkelijke testen en inhoudelijke discussie over de keten in de educatieve markt is hartelijk welkom. De workshop is in het Nederlands. (An open session in Dutch.) Moderated by Joost Kircz.

14.00 – 17.00 > WORKSHOP 3 >
Digital Enclosures

Open or closed? Wired Magazine declared the death of the anything-goes World Wide Web and the rise of the locked-down, closed app; meanwhile clashing e-reader standards and DRM laws clamp down on digital book swapping. Too often this debate is framed as occurring between freewheeling pirates vs. big publishing and web 2.0 businesses. But managing digital data is a much more nuanced conversation involving the livelihoods of authors, open access in scientific publishing, and editors concerned with quality in financially precarious fields. This session also shows that creative alternatives to copyright and DRM are alive and kicking. The audience will engage with serious file sharers who route around locked devices, independent publishers and open-access gurus who take the publishing cycle into their own hands, and representatives from trade publishing seeking to (financially) uphold traditional value-adding editorial processes.

Moderated by Leo Waaijers

Sean Dockray
Gary Hall
Nicholas Spice
Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm
Saskia de Vries

Opening remarks by Joost Kircz

10.30 – 12.30 > SESSION 1 >
What is a Book?

Whether an occasion for private submersion, a totem of cultural credibility, or an aesthetic object, the printed book is always foreclosed between two covers and governed by a unique economy of sale. The electronic, networked book changes all this: is a book the material container for reading, a printed page or an e-reader, or is it content, an entity of externalized memory, a metaphor for knowledge? Or perhaps something else entirely –an on-going conversation space for cultural exchange? Moving from early print culture to the book utopias of Aldus Manutius and Mille Plateaux, the panelists will explore what the book means to us today. What forms of online communication operate best as linear texts, while others (the phonebook) have ceased to be books, mutating instead into databases, webpages, and blogs? How has the book as an object of social capital evolved? What transmutations of the book have succeeded and what failed to take hold…and why?
Video of Session available here.

Moderated by Adriaan van der Weel

Alan Liu
“This is Not a Book: Long Forms of Shared Attention in the Digital Age”
A common response to an online book is that, while it may be better or worse than a book, “this is not a book.” But the new digital media also has a defamiliarizing effect that makes us realize that physical books were themselves never truly books–if by “book” we mean a long form of attention designed for the permanent, standard, and authoritative (that is, socially repeatable and valued) communication of human thought or experience. This is also the conclusion of recent scholarship in the history of the book and history of reading fields as they have evolved into parallel forms of media theory. After looking at the not-book of _Agrippa (a book of the dead)_–a codex of 1992 that was transitional between physical and online books–this talk outlines methods for discovering and tracking socially repeatable and valued “long forms of attention,” whether past or present. The talk concludes with a look at the RoSE (Research-oriented Social Environment) created by the Transliteracies Project at the University of California.

Arianne Baggerman
The Unbound Reader of the Future
Which of books’ qualities are so essential that we must ensure their survival into the future? Is it possible to enrich new media – digital texts – with these older functions? This discussion often lacks a distinction between two forms of reading/readers who have no interconnection at all: ‘real’ readers and researchers. To quote Virginia Woolf: ‘The learned man is a solitary enthusiast, who searches through books to discover some particular grain of truth upon which he has set his heart’. Those restless seekers for snippets of information – scientists, librarians or professional writers – dominate the debate and the future policy and vision on the history of reading as well. The canon of historical readers, with its inclination towards negative comments on former communication revolutions, is mainly formed by those ‘learned men’. In this paper I will go into the significance of books for historical readers who do not belong to the usual canon. Research into egodocuments of common 19th and 20th century readers reveals the relevant aspects of their books that are irreplaceable by digital texts: The book as a haven of rest and tranquility, as a tool for the development of empathical skills and the book in its full materiality – taste, place, smell, weight, signs of former readers – as a memory palace.

Miha Kovac
End of Private Reading and Birth of Book Singles: New Media Brings New Messages
The paper will discuss two different aspects of e-books and p-books. First, p-books and e-books will be compared as two different technologies that are supposed to perform a similar task: to distribute book content and allow access to it. It will be shown that e-book sales started to grow when e-books as technology outperformed p-books in a variety of aspects such as storage and speed of delivery of book content. On the other hand, some aspects of p-books such as stability and reliability of the format still remain important for a variety of readers. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that at least for a while, publishers, booksellers and readers will live in two different economic realities. Second, it will be shown that reading practices in e-book environment differ from the ones in p-book environment as private reading seems to be disappearing. Additionally, the relation between the medium and the message will be discussed. It will be shown that with e- books, book content started to appear in formats that didn’t exist in analog world.

13.30 – 15.30 > SESSION 2 >
The Unbound Book

Rumors of the death of the book are a specter of the Internet age. But with the rise of e-readers and text markup, electronic books persist even while transcending the limits of traditional forms. Online the book becomes part of a vast, interactive network of footnotes, endnotes, hyperlinks, social tags, geo-location search capabilities, animations, video and sound. It becomes an occasion for social annotations and collaborative communities of readers and authors. If connected to other information, is the book still a book? Do we herald the death of the individual author with the rise of collaborative writing? What role will editorial and technical standards play? While the printed book seems finite, is there room in our Order of the Book for works that never achieve closure, that remain in an unfolding state?

Video of Session available here.

Moderated by Geert Lovink

Bob Stein
Social Reading is No Longer an Oxymoron
Marx and McLuhan were right. Technology has a significant and determining effect on how humans organize their societies and how they express ideas and communicate with each other. Certain developments — the discovery of fire, the invention of print or the shift from analog to digital — are so profound that they usher in wholesale changes in the fabric of human consciousness and existence. Reading and writing are thought to be among the most solitary of behaviors; however as we shift from page to networked screen the fundamentally social nature of these activities is being revealed with startling clarity and giving rise to an entirely new ecosystem of publishing that will comprise new kinds of works and new modes of creation, distribution and consumption. If print ushered in the ‘age of enlightenment’ with its focus on the individual, digital networks provide the basis for us to discard the shackles of individualism, one of the key pillars of capitalism, and move toward a society based on collaboration. Sadly, this is a possible, not an inevitable outcome; there are also perfectly plausible dystopian models which must be considered.

Gary Hall
Thanks to open access and the likes of and Issuu, it’s possible to publish a book today in a matter of minutes. What’s interesting about electronic publishing, however, is not so much the way bringing out a book is becoming more like blogging, with certification provided by the times a text is downloaded, linked to, tagged or ‘liked’ as much as by traditional means of quality control. It’s that certain developments in electronic publishing contain the potential to conceive of books as not being fixed and unified, with clear material edges, but as liquid and living: open to being continually revised, refreshed and reimagined. Yet as examples such as the Bible and Shakespeare’s First Folio show, books have always been liquid and living – and, throughout modernity, have always been subject to forces striving to repress this fact. Electronic publishing has simply helped to make us aware of it.

Bernhard Rieder
81,498 words: the book as data object
Even without having to change form or support, the contemporary (printed) book is increasingly meshed into digital structures. Written and typeset on a computer, rated and sold online, catalogued, scanned, and distributed through file-sharing sites – every book now seems to exist as part of a database, in one way or another. Companies like Amazon and Google lead they way in treating books as full-text data objects that can be put into relation with other titles, but also with external data pools and representations of user behavior. Search tools and personalized navigation based on different algorithmic techniques create a variable geometry between users, books, and concepts: complex ecosystems that become practical resources in a wide array of everyday practices. How can we begin to understand this emerging situation? What are the larger ramifications of a book culture edging closer to an apparently insatiable data culture?

Florian Cramer
An unbound book is bound ex negativo. Looking at the history and the structure of the book, we can see how the binding is the only element that literally holds it together. This has rendered experiments from experimental artists’ books to the early electronic ‘expanded books’ exceptions proving the rule. Robert Coover’s 1990s scenario of an ‘end of books’ through digital hypermedia did not come true. On the contrary,the field of media-experimental electronic literature and e-poetry has become more marginal than twenty years ago. The Kindle and epub have, all the while, established a notion of e-books that is even more rigid and conventional than paper books, leaving much less room for artistic design experimentation. There are sound reasons to believe that, with the Internet as an unstable publishing medium, the function of the book is, more than ever, that of a stable medium.

16.00 – 17.30 > SESSION 3 >
Ascent of E-readers

Futurists and cultural critics claim that too much time online numbs our mind and thins our attention. This panel looks at the latest research on how our reading technologies change the way we read, think, and teach. What effects will digital textbooks have for human cognition and pedagogy? What will happen to sustained reading in an environment amenable to browsing and instant gratification? Or are cynical predictions about the dumbing-down of digital devices just another form of techno-determinism? When can short-formats – blogs, wikis, listserves, cell-phone novels – promote radical opportunities for lively discussion and self-expression without reducing sustained argument? In other words, how much ‘e’ vs ‘p’ do educators, libraries, and readers want or need?

Video of session available here.

Moderated by Joost Kircz

Anne Mangen
Why bother with print? Some reflections on the role of fixity, linearity and structure for sustained reading
In discussions on the future of reading, a frequent claim is that the medium of print can be easily dismissed – indeed, that it should be discarded and replaced by digital equivalents – e.g., e-books. Whether it is e-books of the Kindle type, based on electronic ink, or the heavily promoted touch screen iPad, a common view is that e-books add to and enhance the experience and skill of reading, by replacing the fixity and the static (and, by implication, limiting) linearity of print by adding multimedia features, interactivity, hyperstructure and virtually limitless possibilities for non-verbal, interactive, reading and communication for the reader. This talk will reflect on the claimed virtues of such features, in the light of what we know about reading as a cognitive process, in particular sustained reading of longer, verbal texts. What do empirical studies say about the potential educational values of such features? In what ways, and why, might it matter if we replace paper with iPad in reading instruction, for instance in supporting reading comprehension of complex texts?

Ray Siemens
Sturm und Drang, Sound and Fury? E-Reading Essentials in a Time of Change and unFixity
The advent of the e-book has made the book, itself, visible to us as an object of study in new ways that have, in turn, metaphorically and analogically fertilized and fomented our understanding of new forms of e-reader book-ishness and e-reading. As a powerful metaphor for textual forms of communication, the notion of the book as knowledge environment spurs development of e-readers in the direction of emerging universal electronic libraries; from perspectives of its physical artifactual nature, and its formal components, book elements and features are mimicked, augmented, and enhanced as they are prototyped and deployed in electronic reading environments. This paper explores e-readers and e-reading in such a context: noting just how much we have yet to understand about ‘reading’ in the new context of its electronic correlative acts and, perhaps, in pre-electronic times; urging that the dizzyingly rapid cycle of development, deployment, and adoption of e-reading devices has the positive effect of providing a technological disruption with the potential to benefit our understanding of the core, essential activities that our reading devices have always facilitated, electronic and otherwise; and arguing that it is an understanding of these activities that will allow us best to anticipate the long-term developmental trajectories of our ascending e-readers.

Robert Max Steenkist
Emancipation and New Media: Some Effects of the Digital Era on the Latin American Countries.
Latin America is a continent of contrasts. Countries in this part of the world are home to many individuals who are globally renowned for their mounting fortunes. At the same time, the same countries have been so far incapable of abolishing socio-economic misery. Even though Latin America has presented many authors to the world that have been celebrated, indicators about cultural consumption keep showing that books and cultural goods are not common concerns for the vast majority of people. Inequality seems to be an important obstacle for the development of Latina American countries. Does new media help narrow the gap between the rich and the poor? My talk focuses on three fields where technology and innovation have had significant impact: business models of the private sector that take advantage of new media and find ways to break traditional limitations of the publishing business; government projects that include new media in education policies for the enhancement of readership; and poetry as an exemplary niche that has been able to adapt its form and dynamics to the digital era. These examples will show how (and how not) new media has played as emancipator of a society oppressed by surreal difficulties for entrepreneurs, lack of efficient educational policies, and the general isolation of the authors regionally.


18.00 – 20.00 > SESSION 3 >
Reception at the Meermanno Museum


10.30 – 12.30 > SESSION 4 >
Future Publishing Industries

This panel will focus on the affordances and political economies of the publishing industry and libraries. If the book has no paper-based bindings, how will publishers package and monetize content? How will libraries organize and distribute information? Will publishing cycles radically change, due to cheap reproduction and storage costs? Publishing has decentralized beyond the traditional domain of professional houses to include Amazon, Google, Apple, and even libraries. How will these new players influence the field? What new economies will e-readers and e-books develop? How will print-on-demand change all these institutions? This panel will provide perspectives from the scholarly and popular book trade, authors, and libraries.

Moderated by Bas Savenije

James Bridle
Suzanne Holtzer
Nicholas Spice
Simon Worthington
Liz McGettigan

13.30 – 15.30 > SESSION 5 >
Books by Design

This panel explores the book as an object, as an addiction, a romantic form. What is the digital equivalent of the book as aesthetic object? The panelists will explore the pleasures and pains of online reading. How will software, e-ink, and browsers determine the readability and malleability of digital text? How do digital native books translate into the physical, printed realm (POD), and vice versa? What have designers lost, now that they no longer control the tactility of the reading hardware, and what have they gained, such as multi-media and interactivity? How does text interact with the aesthetics of code and with dynamic, process-oriented information? Can we promote open-source design practices and new grammars of typography?
Video of session available here.

Moderator: Sophie Krier

Dirk van Weelden
In a world where print culture was dominant, the book generated the illusion of a world of interacting, infinitely crossbreeding text (the library of Borges). Now a text, in printed or digital form will be written and read as part of a ‘sign-consumption‘: it has become data, always part of a multi media sequence. In my mind designers do best to focus on the the actual reading practices of different people for different types of text, to be able to find forms and assemblages of media that counter the dominant forms of commercial efficiency. Types of reading: passive, informational reading (like watching TV) or performative reading (like listening to the radio or playing music from sheet). The relative autonomy of a text, its discrete, stable character; what cultural value or strength does that have in communications-culture? Looking for the correction/critique of digital naiveté?

Otmar Hoefer
Habits of Easy (E)Reading
Four hundred years of typography taught us that ‘easy reading’ strongly demands clear presentation. Different substrates induce changing lettering and lay-out, and every different message requires a unique typographic style, whether letter cut for hot type, letters for off-set paper printing, or pixel screens. Linotype furthers the century old tradition of making text legible, as every representation technology demands its own approach. This presentation will be about the transition of our habits to digital reading, and how books are used – or intended to be used – if an e-book is the real solution for this.

Femke Snelting
*Imposition (a romance of many dimensions)*
Imposition plays a key-role in a pre-press workflow. Multiple pages are mapped onto a virtual surface before they are printed, folded, gathered and bound into the correct order. Working with the constraints of paper size, creep and standard folding plans, imposing is also an act of imagination, a fantasy about the potential of a digital object to become physical. With the Project Gutenberg edition of J. Abott’s novel Flatland as point of departure, I will look into open source tools such as podofoimpose, laidout and psnup to explore design strategies that engage with the many dimensions of the book.

Roosje Klap
The unbound book that we now find on e-readers such as the Kindle, iPads and the like, seems to offer something greater than normal books: their digital quality makes the book richer with video and other interactive elements – not to forget that media-experimental technology adds an incredible amount of speed to publishing and encourages easy indy self-publishing. Even the purchase of a digital book happens more quickly. However, the unbound book at this moment doesn’t seem able to close the gap on certain empathetic elements that we add with form and design in normal bookmaking – physical elements like volume, size and even smell. Therefore e-books seem to rely on design more heavily than before, not just design of pages but also of the device itself. If we are able to add more empathy by design within ebooks and e-readers, we are probably able to put aside the nostalgia and fetish of ink and paper within the next generation or two – giving the ‘old fashioned’ paper book an exclusive superhero status.

16.00 – 17.30 > SESSION 6 >
Horizons of Education and Authoring

This panel considers new computational possibilities that the digital book lends to scholarly research, authoring, and teaching. Panelists will ask if collaborative p2p and multimedia textbooks will become prominent classroom and publishing tools. How might e-readers increase literacy and access to information in poor areas of the world? How do digital books’ algorithmically driven semantics give us new ways to facilitate scholarly practices and collaborations? We will look at ‘distant reading,’ as books can reveal patterns across space and time. This panel also explores modular documents in scientific publishing that allow readers to present and access multimedia text in different ways.

Video of session available here.

Moderated by Heleen van Loon

August Hans den Boef
‘What are the new possibilities of a text in the digital ages?’
In this paper we deal with the fascinating issue of changes in authoring and editing due to evolving substrates. Unbounding the book, in the sense of breaking loose of the linear essay 
type of narrative, is particularly useful in the educational and 
scientific realm, where we witness readers with different needs. Here I will concentrate however on the new medium’s effect on storytelling. Literary and educational text in the printing stage developed a modular system, a kind of hypertext on paper, but the possibilities of a digital hypertext are nearly borderless. The digital approach includes paper-based modular operations, plus can offer variations of a text (translations), its allusions through hyperlinks (to movies, comic books, operas and other sources), as well as all the works that allude to our text, and the movies, operas, musicals, comic books and games that adapt it. But is there more than a ‘digital library’ around a certain text? Again we are entering a new phase in which we try to express ourselves. The electronic challenge can only be met successfully if we understand the difference between copycat and innovation.

Frank van Amerongen
Reinventing Educational publishing .
There is a huge gap between teachers and their pupils in the way they use ICT, in
the way they communicate and in the way they obtain knowledge. There also is a huge gap between the skills that are thought in the schools and those our future world asks. Content seems to be free and teachers are encouraged to develop their own teaching materials. Schoolbooks are considered to be too expensive and often outdated as they are used for very long periods. Sounds like there hardly is a future for educational publishers. Considering schoolbooks actually only look like books (because teachers want them) but in fact are disguised complicated structures, databases of learning objects, didactic research outcomes, test and assessment tools connected to background information for teachers and the rest of it, maybe there will be a crucial role for educational publishers even in a no book era.

Veljko Kukulj
Publishing truth (as subjective look at the facts)
We can observe interesting phenomenon in “new media” global publishing today. If you look at the available content and try to select “truthful” information, you will find conflicting viewpoints almost everywhere. There is still common perception that the truth is universal and at the same time there are divisions on “us” (who accept certain truth) and “them” (who do not). This is noted before and there are several methods that are implemented with a goal of establishing “objective truth”. From user voting to discusion pages, from citing sources to credibility factoring, each method has its successes and flaws. In most cases, established truth is an interpretation of reliable facts. It is easy to spot that most flaws originate from the way facts are selected as reliable or in method of interpretation. If we observe facts as common denominator we can present different interpretations next to each other and compare them. This can lead to some interesting research, but also can allow us to speculate on wider social impact of this kind of approach.


17.30 – 17.45 &gt
Book Launch
Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader

For millions of internet users around the globe, the search for new knowledge begins with Wikipedia. The encyclopedia’s rapid rise, novel organization, and freely offered content have been marveled at and denounced by a host of commentators. Critical Point of View moves beyond unflagging praise, well-worn facts, the classic amateur versus expert debate, and questions of reliability and accuracy, to unveil the complex, messy, and controversial realities of a distributed knowledge platform. The essays, interviews and artworks brought together in this reader form part of the overarching Critical Point of View research initiative, which began with a conference in Bangalore (January 2010), followed by events in Amsterdam (March 2010) and Leipzig (September 2010). With an emphasis on theoretical reflection, cultural difference and indeed, critique, contributions to this collection ask: What values are embedded in Wikipedia’s software? On what basis are Wikipedia’s claims to neutrality made? How can Wikipedia give voice to those outside the Western tradition of Enlightenment, or even its own administrative hierarchies? Critical Point of View collects original insights on the next generation of Wiki-related research, from the significant role of bots and radical artistic interventions to hidden trajectories of encyclopedic knowledge and the politics of agency and exclusion.
Video of launch available here.


18.00 – 20.00 &gt
Reception at the Meermanno Museum

Join us for drinks at the Meermanno Museum, named after Willem Hendrik Jacob van Westreenen van Tiellandt and located on the Prinsessegracht 30 in The Hague. The museum’s collection of sculpture, books, etchings, and paintings is housed in an 18th century Herenhuis interior with period furnishings and collectibles. The museum focuses today on the written and printed books in all forms, with development of the design of old and modern books as the central theme.


17.30 – 19.00 > Book Launch>
I Read Where I Am: Exploring New Information Cultures

The Graphic Design Museum, Valiz & Institute of Network Cultures are presenting I Read Where I Am: Exploring New Information Cultures. I Read Where I Am contains visionary texts about the future of reading and the status of the word. We read anytime and anywhere. We read of screens, we read out on the streets, we read in the office but less and less we read a book at home on the couch. We are, or are becoming, a different type of reader. Reading is becoming a different experience. Different from what it once was. We have access to almost all information at any given time. We carry complete libraries in our pockets. Books have become part of the multi-media world, they can be shared between platforms. Do all these extra possibilities add value or are they a mere distraction? We read the text as much as we read the interface. With similar ease, we read newspaper articles as well as search engines, databases and navigational structures. Texts and images become interchangeable, creating new forms of information. Differences in content and between readers require different shapes and experiences. The question remains which shape will it take and what experience does one want? To answer all these (and other) questions we have asked people from different backgrounds, subject to the aforementioned changes, to think about these issues. I Read Where I Am collected 84 diverse observations, inspirations and critical notes by journalists, designers, researchers, politicians, philosophers and many others. The book is designed by Lust.

Video available here.

Programme Saturday 21 May 2011

5.30 – Introduction by Mieke Gerritzen, Director Graphic Design Museum, and Geert Lovink, Director institute of Network Cultures
5.35 – Reflection by Henk Oosterling
5.45 – Reflection by Max Bruinsma
5.55 – Poetic performance by F. Starik
6.05 – Drinks (and possibility to buy I Read Where I Am ISBN 978-90-78088-55-4, € 17.50)

*This event is in Dutch
RSVP via


History of the (E)book

Venue: Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam,  2nd Floor east
(If you go up with the escalator turn right – if you come down, turn left)

An exhibition of 7 large showcases on:
Reading and writing materials from the very past to the electronic present

You’ll find, lead letters and Hollerith cards, carbon paper and mimeograph, computer memories and e-readers, paper and a real typewriter, and many books of various kind, representing the history of publishing.
More than 7 sq. meters of book history and future.