Glimpsing Digital Publishing’s Future at Codex Hackathon at MIT

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integrates with Spotify and allows users to collaboratively create music playlists for books.

Watkins was encouraged by how many young people he saw at the hackathon who are passionate about books. There’s an unfounded stereotype that young people are “buried in their phones” and don’t read as much as their elders, he said. He wants younger generations to keep reading, “but take it into the next generation of technology.”

“A lot of these [Codex] projects you can put out in the wild and just see if they can catch on,” Watkins continued. But that will be the biggest challenge for the ideas born at Codex, he said—grabbing (and keeping) the attention of a lot of users.

Here are five projects that stood out to me:

—LitCity: This app aims to create ways for readers to engage more deeply with books, through real-world experiences in places that have meaningful connections to literature. The LitCity team pitched it as a way for tourists to explore new cities. Users could search for authors who are from that city or have done work there, and then visit sites that were featured in their books or have ties to the authors’ lives.

—Readmember: People consume so many articles online that it can be challenging to keep track of them all. Readmember’s app tries to make their online reading habits more efficient.

Users create a profile page that compiles a list of articles they’ve read, similar to an activity feed on Facebook. More importantly, the software tracks a person’s reading stats, including the number of articles read, time spent reading, the rate of how often the person reads articles to the end, which publisher he or she reads most often, and his or her favorite genre. Readmember could become a social network, allowing users to share their reading stats, follow other readers, and receive personal recommendations.

—HippoReader: The software helps simplify complicated text for children and inexperienced readers. It’s currently an extension for the Safari Web browser that scans the core text of a page, like a New York Times article, and searches for less commonly used words that might be difficult for a child or teen to understand; it then replaces those words with plainer synonyms. The software has a slider for setting the reading level.

—Glasnost: This website would create a public record of censorship worldwide by allowing users to log examples of censorship. In order to provide transparency and ensure credibility of the records, Glasnost uses blockchain technology, which means there is a public ledger of activity on the website.

—BorderlessFic: This online platform would let hobbyist fiction writers from around the world post their work and enable its translation into other languages.

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