Commentpress lets readers comment on each paragraph of a document or respond in-line to other comments. Developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, it is a terrific way for writers to solicit and track critiques of their work, from either a controlled or open group of readers:

Annotate, gloss, workshop, debate: with Commentpress you can do all of these things on a finer-grained level, turning a document into a conversation. It can be applied to a fixed document (paper/essay/book etc.) or to a running blog.

The documentation for CommentPress  (written using Commentpress) shows how documents can be structured (title page, table of contents, pages, posts, numbering, etc.) and is a great resource once you’ve got the tool up and running.

Getting Started with CommentPress

CommentPress is a WordPress plugin. To get started, activate CommentPress Core on the Commons. Once activated, your theme will automatically switch to the CommentPress Modern theme. We recommend using this theme.  (Your other choices are the Default CommentPress theme and the Flat CommentPress theme.)

CommentPress will only work with themes created by CommentPress.

If you deactivate CommentPress Core, your theme will switch back to the Commons default theme (currently, Twenty-Twelve).

To configure CommentPress, go to Settings>>Commentpress. Be sure to check the box to “Create All Special Pages.” All the other default settings are fine to begin with. You can always come back to the setting page to fine tune your site. By default, CommentPress uses pages as chapters for its Table of Contents.

Readers may comment on an entire page or post, or on a specific paragraph within the page or post. There is no approval process for comments, but members must supply their name and email address (and optionally, their website’s URL) to comment. To avoid spam, make sure to install and configure Akismet or some other spam filter. To control the pool of responders, you might want to set up your site as private, and invite the readers you want to join.

A CommentPress Example

by Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism, New York University

“This paper is designed to be a conversation. I am presenting a collection of some of the more controversial ideas from the early chapters of my book on the history of disbelief. The ideas are organized loosely around a single theme: the Roman leader Pompey’s forced entry into the most sacred place of the Jewish temple. At issue are the origins and prevalence of doubt, even at the heart of religion.

The paper is also an experiment. The Institute for the Future of the Book has devised a new format, through which readers can engage with me and with each other, directly alongside the text. This site is a rough prototype. Each of the paper’s twelve sections has a dynamic margin to the right of the text. There, you can post responses to individual paragraphs, and also annotate the text with links and references to related materials. … “