Announcing Monocle 
Monocle is an ebook reader. It works in modern web browsers, using standard technologies. It runs in desktop browsers and on mobile devices. It's awesome in Safari and Chrome (the browsers used on iPhone OS and Android devices), increasingly awesome in Firefox, and workable in more standards-fearing browsers like Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Try it out: http://monocle.inventivelabs.com.au
We've open-sourced it under the MIT licence, which is the most liberal of the mainstream software licences. It can be used by anyone, for private or commercial use, for free (as in speech and as in beer) — as long as they retain the licence information in any copy of the software.
That is, we're giving it away.
Why are we doing this?
We're concerned that the current ebook landscape is dominated by large companies trying to lock publishers, authors and readers into their devices and distribution models. We suspect this might be good for those companies, but no good for everyone else. There's a need to open up these fields to smaller players, and to give the consumer — the person who loves to read books and to 'have' books — better choices.
We expect ebook reading devices to steadily converge with other communication devices. In the past e-readers have been fairly isolated from the network, but as they gain connectivity, consumers will demand better access to the web. Even Amazon's Kindle has stripped-down HTML rendering. Apple's iPad has one of the most advanced browsers around.
The one single platform we expect future e-reading devices to have in common is the web browser. If you want to give your readership the freedom to own (forever) the books they buy from you, the web is where it will happen.
Monocle is unique in providing this functionality. Monocle is also unique in giving publishers and retailers a way to design not only the book's content, but the way it looks and feels too. It's simple at heart, but has enormous flexibility in the way tables of contents, page numbers, running heads, and bookmarks work — even how it feels to 'turn' a page.
Because it's delivered by a web browser, the file format question really doesn't arise. Any text-based format your books' data is in — Monocle can be made to display it. Integrating it with the EPUB standard is straightforward (we've already done it).
Monocle also sidesteps the DRM question, because no files are passed around. If you want to put Monocle behind a paid membership wall, or restrict it to particular devices or IP addresses, that's easy to do. But it's not required by the technology.
If you think Monocle could be an important part of the way you publish digital content, feel free to get some techies exploring Monocle's source code. Or for expert consultation on an e-publishing strategy and workflow with Monocle, drop us a line. You'll find our contact form on the About the Labs page.
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