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Sophie: The arrival of the networked book

I have been impatiently waiting for this moment for what seems like decades. The Institute for the Future of the Book just released a very early version of Sophie, its software for publishing networked books.

I immediately downloaded Sophie, then took some text from an essay I’m working on and placed it on a page. Well, not quite immediately: I was initially mystified, so I watched the movie. That cleared up a few issues.

I still haven’t figured out the most fundamental action, which is how to move this book from my computer to the Web; I am not sure what a “flow” is, or how big it should be; even after watching the movie, I don’t quite grasp what most of the boxes and menus actually do.

But the moment I launched Sophie and saw its white screen, I felt the intimacy and familiarity of writer, page, book. Like watching Brewster Kahle leaf through the books in the Internet Archive, I felt a twin frisson: old and new word tools wed like strands of DNA.

Step away for a moment from the latest 2.0 geegaws, and spend a little time with a tool that may become part of the great chain of literary being.

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