PictureIt Rare Book Reader

We bring old books to life. See them again for the first time.

Post by Catherine Soehner.

It is my pleasure to announce the public debut of PictureIt Rare Book Reader. A collaborative effort between several Library units, the product is now available for shared use after 18 months in development.

PictureIt Rare Book Reader

PictureIt is a web-based animation program that gives users the sensation of turning the pages of digitized rare materials that would be otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to view or obtain. Volume 1 of John James Audubon’s Birds of America was selected as the inaugural PictureIt book for a few reasons. Foremost, the eight volume set has special meaning as the first purchase for the Library by the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan. As well, the University of Pittsburgh had already digitized all volumes of the Birds of America set and was willing to share the images with us. And finally, the illustrated plates of this set were intricately completed, making them as much art work as scientific work. Volume 1 of Audubon’s Birds of America was also selected for the first PictureIt book because its complex images demonstrate the product’s embedded magnification tool which allows users to get up-close and view the details of each illustration.

While the Library is excited to share Volume 1 of Audubon’s Birds of America within the University of Michigan community, the scope of the PictureIt project is much larger. The animation programming for PictureIt was designed as a template to allow for the easy and quick insertion of other digitized rare materials. The PictureIt project is also under a Creative Commons License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en, which will allow others to use and change the programming with proper attribution to the University of Michigan. As a result, we hope many institutions will post their digitized rare materials using PictureIt as a growing collection of primary source materials available for worldwide viewing.

I wish to express my deep gratitude to the many people who participated in bringing PictureIt from idea to finished product, including Lilienne Chan, Peggy Daub, Sara Henry, Karen Jordan, Melissa Levine, Ken Varnum, John Weise, and John Merlin Williams. I also would like to extend a special thanks to Eric Maslowski, who provided the programming skills and the vision of a template for this product.


on March 9, 8:22pm

Is ere a site for the distribution and discussion of the PictureIt code? The link in this post goes to the public interface to the Audubon’s Birds of America, but I don't see a link to the software itself.

John Weise
on March 10, 11:36am

Also, PictureIt code will be released under Creative Commons license in the near future and an announcement will be made at that time.

on March 10, 3:47pm

What CC license will the code be release under? I was under the impression that one should not release code under CC, but use a GPL, Apache, or BSD license.

John Weise
on March 10, 4:18pm

The plan is to use http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en but we are open to suggestions. Notice in the original post the part about there being a configurable application as well as source code, in case it makes a difference.

on March 16, 9:14pm

This is great! Have you thought about building in a rotate feature to turn the landscape pages? Also, it would be wonderful to "unfold" fold-outs somehow. Once the source code is released, maybe these features will be developed and shared... Thank you!

John Weise
on March 17, 1:56pm

Yes, rotation has been identified as a desired enhancement. Foldouts always present challenges. I agree it would be nice to be able to open them up. Thanks!

on Feb. 2, 3:10pm

What amazes me is the page turning...BY FAR. The kindle rushed to market (for obvious reasons) sure...but this is about the reading experience. Love it.