4.0238 Electronic Books (Cross-Posting) (1/97)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 28 Jun 90 17:54:19 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0238. Thursday, 28 Jun 1990.

Date: Fri, 22 Jun 90 01:57 CDT
From: Bob Boynton <BLABYNPD@UIAMVS>
Subject: electronic books (forwarded from GUTNBERG filelist)
Forwarded by: "Michael S. Hart" <HART@UIUCVMD>

I would like to thank the individuals who made suggestions about dealing
with copyright, publishers and producing my own electronic versions of
out of print text. I feel more confident.

This seems a group that would be interested in the shareware program I
have just run into--named IRIS. It is a program/language for producing
electronic books; running on IBM PCs and compatibles. For displaying
text there seem some rather direct parallels with KnowledgePro (the
original, not the Windows, version). It is a rather creative attempt to
take advantage of the flexibility computers provide to enhance enjoyment
of texts/books. And it is one way to address the claims that reading
off a "tube" is an unpleasant experience.

Their description follows. N.B. the registration fee is only $8.00. I
got it for $4.00 (I think) from one of the shareware sales/distribution
companies, but I will also pay the registration fee.



Binding sheets of paper together to form books was a landmark idea.
Papyrus scrolls were suddenly obsolete. The book format made a table of
contents and index practical. Steering the reader to another part of a
book was as simple as citing a page number. Best of all, you never had to
rewind a book. This was the beginning of random access.

Iris has taken books one step further. Instead of citing page numbers,
authors can cite topic names. Readers can select the names directly from
the screen, or from a menu. Electronic books can ask questions and
respond to the answers. Readers can jump from one topic to another with
the flick of a key. Windows can change color and size, and be accompanied
by pleasant tones.

When you use Iris, the first thing you see is a friendly help screen and
a menu of available books. This menu works like all Iris menus. A
single sorted column with items that can be selected with cursor keys,
or by typing the first letter of the item. If all the items cannot be
shown at once, readers can quickly scroll up and down the list.

The Iris distribution disk comes with two complete electronic (or
"virtual") books. One is a tutorial. Another is a reference work.

The tutorial and reference books cover Iris itself, including an
introduction to writing virtual books. Both are good examples of what
Iris can do with these types of books. Although a sample text adventure
was not provided, it's obvious that Iris was designed with gaming in

If you already have material stored in an ASCII text file, converting it
to a virtual book is a snap. Internally, Iris uses a format similar to
the well-known DOS batch file. The major difference is that "unmarked"
lines are displayed, while "command" lines take special prefixes.

To get started, all Iris needs is an occasional "topic name." These look
just like a batch file "label". Just type a colon followed by the name
you want to give the following text. Topics can be any length. Rename
the file with a .PGE extension, and you're in business. Of course, you
might want to go on and take advantage of the many special features Iris
offers, but that's optional.

Note that Iris does not include an editor. To write a book, you must use
your own text editor (or ASCII-capable word processor), and name your
file with a .PGE extension. Burgeoning authors would also want to print
a copy of the IRIS-XTR book for reference.

UserWare is also building a "library" of virtual books. Your submissions
are invited, and royalties will be paid. Catalogs will be distributed to
registered users.

A registered copy of Iris sells for $8.00. An advanced version, Prism, is
$16.00. Prism adds many features that would interest people writing books

Iris, a MS DOS program, uses 148k of free memory, and works well with
both color and monochrome monitors.

UserWare, 4 Falcon Lane East, Fairport NY 14450-3312.

Features List:

For readers: selectable screen colors, borders, and CPU speeds, sound
switch, bookmark, topics list, view list, DOS shell.

For authors: color, sound, windows, variables, arithmetic and logical
operators, procedural commands, external programs, user input, link
topics via menus or "hotwords", (advanced version also includes)
autoplay, topic and variable listing, command trace, editor support.

Capsule Description:

Iris. "Electronic book processor." Link topics. Store input. Merge
variables. Run programs. Use color, sound, windows. $8 registration.
148K, monochrome or color. Disk _____.