The Institute for the Future of the Book has released a WordPress theme “designed to allow paragraph-by-paragraph commenting in the margins of a text.” Information about the theme can be found at its dedicated site, although an if:book (the institute’s blog) post probably makes a better introduction. As explained there:
This little tool is the happy byproduct of a year and a half spent hacking WordPress to see whether a popular net-native publishing form, the blog, which, most would agree, is very good at covering the present moment in pithy, conversational bursts but lousy at handling larger, slow-developing works requiring more than chronological organization—whether this form might be refashioned to enable social interaction around long-form texts.
Enabling a social approach to long texts via a blogging platform is an interesting project. I’m not certain how transparent the read/write interface is at the moment, but it’s still developing, and certainly something to watch. It seems most applicable to texts that reward close scrutiny, because it’s rather slow going. Finnegans Wake might be an interesting text to experiment with — could we add a choral audio file for different voices to add their readings to the mix?
For an example of the theme in action, click through on the image above.