Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page
Wrapping things up before the flight and just enough time for a rumination or two. I said several months ago that it felt like the e-book thing would happen this year. I wasn’t entirely right, but I wasn’t entirely wrong either. It’s still been ebooks for alpha-geeks only, but those alpha-geeks are now reading-geeks, not just technology-geeks. And I’m willing to admit (despite my scepticism about the device) that 2009 should be called the year of the Kindle. The question on everybody’s lips is whether 2010 be the year of the iTablet (iPad, iBook, iScreen, whatever Apple does next)?
As an Apple-watcher from way back (don’t get me started), I’ve been reading the speculation around the rumoured Apple tablet with some amusement. What’s really interesting is that I’ve been to librarians’ conferences where the Apple device is foreshadowed (not by me) as a definite soon-to-be-released device. That’s right, librarians, not iphone developers. Reading geeks, not technology geeks. In fact, every conversation I have about ebooks eventually ends up with the “when apple enters the market” speculation. So the non-existent device has managed to snaffle mindshare already.
I’ve been avoiding blogging my thoughts because I have no inside knowledge, and I’ve seen nearly thirty years of Apple steps and missteps to know they’re far from perfect, and that all speculation does is raise an expectation that can’t possibly be met. After all, I was a (perfectly satisfied) Newton user 🙂
But I will point you to a Macalope post that succintly summarises my thoughts:
The Macalope has been saying since spring that the tablet, if and when it appears, will have some differentiator that makes it a compelling purchase. The iPod replaced your CD collection, the Apple TV would like to replace your DVD collection (but you won’t buy one), and the iPhone, obviously, replaced your cell phone. The tablet (insert caveat about its existential dilemma) will turn another industry on its head.
I’m not convinced that Apple cares enough about books to turn the book industry on its head, but I suspect they can see potential in replacing the entire print ecosystem (magazines, newspapers etc), of which books are a reasonably significant part. In much the same way that the Mac+Pagemaker+Laserwriter combination marked the beginning of a revolution in print production processes, the Mac+unspecified software+iTablet combination might mark the beginning in end-to-end replacement of print.
Many have been waiting for the ipod of ebooks. Including myself. But another analogy is that if kindle=Blackberry then iTablet=iphone. And what the iphone did was reposition the expectations of the Blackberry and created a whole new market of people who previously hadn’t cared about smartphones. To succeed, the iTablet will have to create an entirely new market of people who previously hadn’t cared about ebooks.
Happy New Year. See you in 2010 🙂
Offline for a break in cyclone-ravaged Fiji. Iphones are loaded with kindle books, Sony Reader stocked from the Baen store. Last word from friends we’re staying with – Cyclone Mick has knocked out their power 🙂 Bring on affordable solar!!
Until next year, take care all…
Following on from the Sherman Alexie post a few days ago, another author’s rant, this time invoking Godwin’s law. In the Huffington Post, Alan Kaufmann has a spray:
When I hear the term Kindle I think not of imaginations fired but of crematoria lit. And when I hear the term “hi-tech” I think not of helpful androids efficiently performing household chores or light-speed rockets gliding seamlessly through space but of the fact that between 1933-45, modern technology was used to perform in ever more efficient ways the mass murder of six million of my people.
He goes on:
So that now, sixty four years after the Holocaust, the Nazi disdain for the book has become the feel-good Hi-Tech campaign to rid the world of books in place of massive easily controlled centralized repositories of book texts downloadable on little hand-held devices and from which a text can be dissapeared with the click of a mouse: in Nazi terms, a dream come true.
The hi-tech campaign to relocate books to Google and replace books with Kindles is, in its essence, a deportation of the literary culture to a kind of easily monitored concentration camp of ideas, where every examination of a text leaves behind a trail, a record, so that curiosity is also tinged with a sense of disquieting fear that some day someone in authority will know that one had read a particular book or essay. This death of intellectual privacy was also a dream of the Nazis. And when I hear the term Kindle, I think not of imaginations fired but of crematoria lit.
Acknowledge the concerns about privacy and happy to have a conversation about that, but really…
No, not me. You know what I think. But Sherman Alexie, the successful author (who incidentally looks nothing like me:-). Anyhow, the more talented Sherman was on Colbert a week or so ago, ranting against e-books. According to a Techdirt post, the other Sherman equates digital formats with piracy and refuses to release his books electronically so that the pirates won’t get to them:
“When the music industry went digital, somewhere between 75 and 95% of music is pirated. Nobody makes money off their music any more. Everything is about live shows now.”
Which may or may not be true and ignores the billions of legitimate downloads that people are paying real money for on the itunes store and on spotify etc etc. As Techdirt points out:
Alexie doesn’t seem to understand how book file sharing happens. It’s not because the industry digitizes the books, but because others digitize those books, and, yes, they’re most likely already available on file sharing networks, whether those authors released them in ebook form or not. It’s not the official ebook they’re sharing in most cases anyway.
I know that I’d like to be able to buy the other Sherman’s books electronically (hell, I’d like to be able to buy *this* Sherman’s books electronically). Maybe when (not if) the e-book world becomes second nature to more of us, he’ll come around 🙂
Not everybody has google’s resources, but some of us have libraries of dead tree that we want to load onto our laptops or readers or iphones or whatever. Enter the DIY scanner:
So over three days, and for about $300, he lashed together two lights, two Canon Powershot A590 cameras, a few pieces of acrylic and some chunks of wood to create a book scanner that’s fast enough to scan a 400-page book in about 20 minutes.
On a day when American newspaper trade publication Editor and Publisher ceases operations, Harpers prints a long reflection on the role of newspapers in the imagining of American cities. Richard Rodriguez reflects:
Most newspapers that are dying today were born in the nineteenth century. TheSeattle Post–Intelligencer died 2009, born 1863. The Rocky Mountain News died 2009, born 1859. The Ann Arbor News died 2009, born 1835. It was the pride and the function of the American newspaper in the nineteenth century to declare the forming congregation of buildings and services a city—a place busy enough or populated enough to have news.
He considers what will be lost:
We will end up with one and a half cities in America—Washington, D.C., andAmerican Idol. We will all live in Washington, D.C., where the conversation is a droning, never advancing, debate between “conservatives” and “liberals.”
but makes the observation that many will not care:
In this morning’s paper there is a quote from an interview San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, gave to The Economist concerning the likelihood that San Francisco will soon be a city without a newspaper: “People under thirty won’t even notice.”
A good read, and whilst there is some misty eyed romanticism, and mythologising of newspaper proprietors, the complexity of change is acknowledged:
Whatever I may say in the rant that follows, I do not believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or of the Internet. The forces working against newspapers are probably as varied and foregone as the Model-T Ford and the birth-control pill. We like to say that the invention of the internal-combustion engine changed us, changed the way we live. In truth, we built the Model-T Ford because we had changed; we wanted to remake the world to accommodate our restlessness.
As if by magic, nook is released and Jeff Bezos has an interview in the New York Times! Some very interesting snippets though. Especially this:
For every 100 copies of a physical book we sell, where we have the Kindle edition, we will sell 48 copies of the Kindle edition. It won’t be too long before we’re selling more electronic books than we are physical books. It’s astonishing.
That other e-reader with the two screens, Barnes and Noble’s nook seems to have done the rounds. A few snippets from the usual suspects. Spoilers ahead. From Engadget:
In the end, the Nook is an intriguing product launched by a powerful force in the world of booksellers, but the initial offering feels long on promises and short on delivery. With the right software revisions, the Nook could be a tsunami, but as it stands right now, it’s only a mild swell.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: The Nook isn’t a Kindle killer–not in this initial form, at least. For all its pleasing touches, intriguing innovations, and clear advantages over the Kindle, it feels like a less-than-perfectly-polished 1.0 product, just like Amazon’s first e-reader did a couple of years ago.
Still, I need to get this out of the way: The second screen is not a sudden and miraculous cure for what ails ebook readers. It may prove to be, but B&N’s current implementation is conservative. As yet, there are too few occasions on the Nook when I notice an LCD feature and say “Kindle can’t do that.”
The debate over whether e-ink or LCD screens are better for e-books continues. So it’s no surprise that someone has come up with a device that uses both. No, not the Nook, which has a very small LCD screen for navigation, but the eDGe, which has two similar sized screens – one colour LCD and the other greyscale e ink – targeting the textbook market. From the NYT:
Now there is a new approach that may adapt well to textbook pages: two-screen e-book readers with a traditional e-paper display on one screen and a liquid-crystal display on the other to render graphics like science animations in color.
The dual screens are linked by a central processor so that, for example, a link on the e-paper display can open on the color screen.