Beneath the Ink: Under the Radar

Image - iStockphoto: Nneirda
Image – iStockphoto: Nneirda

‘A wild hair’

“My first job was as a Walt Disney Imagineer,” Sherisse Hawkins says, “and that was about designing theme parks and rollercoasters.”

And before she struck out on her own, her 25 years in corporate positions included being vice-president of subscriber equipment and navigation with Time Warner Cable. While there, she was named Woman of the Year in Technology by Women in Cable and Telecommunications, and she is a fellow of the associated Betsey Magness Leadership Institute.

“A lot of large, customer-facing projects,” Hawkins says. How large? Well, 13 million Time Warner customers were on the receiving end of one of her projects. But:

“I got a wild hair and decided I really was sick of video and wanted to jump into this chaotic world of digital publishing. There are very few times in your career that you can be a part of something that’s changing so rapidly.”

And so Hawkins formed Beneath the Ink about two years ago in Boulder, Colorado, with a board of advisors that includes serial publishing entrepreneur Richard Nash and visual effects director (The Matrix sequels, Noah, etc.).

Sherisse Hawkins
Sherisse Hawkins

“We took a very engineering-minded approach,” she says, asking why books are “so lame” when they go from paper to digital without any real accommodation of the new context they of e-reading. “We started to experiment with what could happen by adding enhancements” but in a way that doesn’t create what she calls “the whiplash” of being wrenched out of a narrative by a bell or a whistle.

Of course, this was happening at just about the time that the industry threw over its brief love affair with the idea of “enhanced ebooks.”

Just when you think you’ve seen every decent attempt to get other media to coexist with text in the ebook ecosystem, Hawkins is hoping you may find yourself taking a second look here.

In the ‘Bink’ of a reader’s eye

The subtlety of the technology that Hawkins and her people are using can indeed seem to live “beneath the ink” — or e-ink — of a page on an e-reader or a tablet screen.

In their terminology, a “Bink” — as in Beneath the Ink — looks like a hotlinked word or phrase in your ebook, nothing more. Hit it, however, and it opens, right on the page you’re reading, to reveal a bit of text, such as an aside or a footnote; or an image; or some video; or audio; maybe a gallery of images; maybe a map; or a timeline…all without leaving the page. What’s more, an image can be made expandable to full-screen and moved around. You wonder if this could be a digital answer to some of the needs of photojournalists like Dan Root, from whom we heard last week here at The FutureBook.

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By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

The FutureBook: Beneath the Ink: Under the Radar

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