I’ve been porting PageKicker’s open source algorithmic publishing toolkit (available on GitHub) to the 21.co network. I thought I would document some of my current efforts as a way of interesting others in both algorithmic publishing and 21. There are a lot of moving pieces so I am going to spread this over a series of articles.
I’m going to start with a simple demonstration project. I have been reading a lot about the Ice Age recently thanks to the very enjoyable Twitter account of expert Jamie Woodward, so I decided that I would build a book on the Ice Age via my Book Builder app on the 21 marketplace. There is a lot to explain about 21, but for now it’s enough to know that 21.co is a pioneering effort to enable machine-payable microcommerce on the web. PageKicker believes that the convergence of microcommerce and algorithmic publishing will result in yet another radical disruption to traditional publishing.
I have already installed 21 on my computer (for now, this is easiest for techies, but many changes are coming that will make 21 easily accessible to everyone), so the first step in my DIY project is to run the Book Builder app. You can find it by searching 21.co/mkt or via the PageKicker app list.
The app card pictured above provides the 21 quick buy command, which for my project would be:
21 buy "pagekicker/book-builder/bookbuild?key1=Ice+Age" > ~/IceAge.epub
For a charge of 10,000 satoshis, or about 7 cents, the system runs this command and delivers an epub format book to the home directory of my PC in about 60 seconds. (To run the 21 buy command in the background in bash, simply append the bash special character &.) Crucial points about this process.
- It’s even more seamless than Amazon’s One-Click. As long as you have an account on the 21 network, you can buy from any 21 vendor without any further authentication. Just type in 21 buy and away you go.
- The book is built programmatically at the time you need it, instead of being written six or twelve months before it hits the virtual shelves.
- You can build a book on any nonfiction topic whatsoever. At present, the version running on 21 is limited to a single key phrase, but the open source software actually supports much more elaborate ways to define the content of the book.
- No humans are in the loop. The system searches the permissioned content that is available to it, then does the best it can. Thus, there are no direct labor costs.
- Because the book builder runs as a one-line command, the user can easily run dozens or hundreds of build book commands via a simple script. In other words, technology exists today on the 21 network that can give you a living library that updates itself in real time at a cost of pennies.
- Full disclosure: the book you will get will be of uneven quality. Some parts will be very helpful, others not so much. That’s okay for now: the entire point of PageKicker is to move algorithmic publishing forward. We are always looking for publishing and software partners to help make this happen. Every time I build a book, I see ways for the results to improve, and I implement an improvement every single day.
- At seven cents a copy on 21, you can afford to try something new. And it’s actually even cheaper than that: 21 comes with a replenishable supply of bitcoin-based “Monopoly Money”. You can buy scores of books without ever touching your bank account. The price is right.
In the following installments we’ll tear down our sample book, then build it back up and make it better.