about Voyager Expanded Books

Richard Gaskin ambassador at fourthworld.com
Mon Feb 4 14:29:31 EST 2008

Colin Holgate wrote:

> On Feb 1, 2008, at 6:31 AM, James Richards wrote: 
>> Have you seen Sophie http://www.fourthworld.com/products/sophie/index.html 
>>  which was written in Revolution?  I don't know exactly how it  
>> compares to VEBs, but the facility to create plugins seems to offer  
>> a wide range of capabilities.
> I hadn't heard of that, though of course I've heard of Richard. And If  
> Monks Had Macs was at one time published by Voyager as a set of  
> HyperCard stacks. The name Sophie is an unfortunate choice for the  
> product name, as it is the same name being used by Bob Stein for the  
> latest book reader he was doing

Yes, it was an unfortunate choice, and I've never figured out why Mr.
Stein made it.

Brian had advocated calling ours "Sophie" from the very beginning, some
time around '98, and we'd done a thorough search across trademarks and
the web to make sure we had no conflict.

At that time, Mr. Stein's ebook reader project was named "TK3":

We were glad to see that the only other small-scale project in this
arena had such a useless name. :)  Alas, it didn't stay that way.

Although our official release of Sophie was in 2003, Brian's web site
had been discussing it for at least two years prior.

After our initial release we published a brief outline of where we
wanted to take Sophie:

As noted there, since it's a free product and neither Brian nor I have
unlimited resources, we had to cap our proposed feature list once we'd
gotten only the basics in place.  We'd already spent several thousand
dollars' worth of development time on it, and it seemed to us that the
best way to fulfill our vision of the tool would be to pursue grants, as
we described on that page.  So the online libraries, publishing tools,
multimedia extensions, live hooks to the Gutenberg Project, and more
would all have to wait while Brian and I got back to work at our day jobs.

In 2006 I began getting emails about Sophie which were confusing to me
at first, until I learned that Stein had recently chosen that name for
his successor to TK3.  Apparently he'd been able to get the sort of
grant we were hoping for, which funded a development plan similar to
what we'd described years earlier.  Unfortunately, since a good many
people were already familiar with our Sophie, his choice of the same
name has been a source of confusion.

In all fairness to Mr. Stein, it's not surprising to find two separate
software teams independently working toward the same goal, especially
with something as obvious as ebook readers.

And while the one-in-a-billion odds of both teams, led by people who'd
once worked together, accidentally using a name as obscure as "Sophie"
may seem a bit incredible at first, Brian has talked with Mr. Stein and
assures me it was purely coincidental.

I'm not sure how Stein's Google got broken the day he chose that name,
but although I've never met Mr. Stein, Brian is a man of impeccable
character and his vouching for Stein is good enough for me.

I feel it would have been fairer to both us and his
subsequently-confused audience to have chosen a different name as soon
as it was brought to his attention.  His product hadn't been released
yet, so any of the billions of other names available would have
been a more beneficial choice for everyone.

But today it's probably too late for them to change.  Mr. Stein is far
more well-connected than Brian or I, and now with the grant funding his
project has a few orders of magnitude more resources available to them.
  With so much going on there, I don't anticipate seeing a change in the
name at this stage.

Bob Stein has accomplished a lot over the years, with his work - and
yours - at Voyager Company demonstrating an innovative approach to both
software design and marketing.  Very few software developers had even
considered putting software in book stores, but Mr. Stein pulled that
off, and well, across a long series of products that were truly

I wish his team the best of luck with their project, and hope I have the
opportunity to met him someday.  He seems like an interesting person
worth knowing.

As for our Sophie:

I believe it may still be worth enhancing, but with so much other work
going on here it'll take some help.  We've considered making the Sophie
stacks open source so we can open up development to others in this

Jerry Muelver has generously offered to assist, and the only holdup has
been on my end, booked as I've been with client work which has prevented
me from prepping the Sophie code base for handing off to others.

I hope to be able to do so within the coming weeks, so if any of you are
interested in helping to move Sophie forward please drop me a note and
let's see what we can do.

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World Media Corporation
  Ambassador at FourthWorld.com       http://www.FourthWorld.com

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