Internet choice: April 2012

I haven’t written a post of links for a long time. This is because I’ve been using Google + to share these links, ever since the “share” facility on Google Reader was closed to make way for the new “plus” era. Google + is a very quiet place, though, so I will post here some of the stimulating, fun or plain annoying articles that caught my eye in April.

Gyrovague: Why e-books will soon be obsolete (and no, it’s not just because of DRM)
E-books will be obsolete within five years.  Crippled by territorial license restrictions, digital rights management, and single-purpose devices and file formats that are simultaneously immature and already obsolescent, they are at a hopeless competitive disadvantage compared to full-fledged websites and even the humble PDF.” I am not sure that I agree with the contention, very common among tech types, that a one-device-for-all-purposes is something that everyone wants: I quite like having a dedicated e-book reader. But his points about sharing, rights restrictions, proprietary formats and so on are well-taken.

I very much like the poems of Carol Ann Duffy so I was pleased to see that the Poet Laureate is going to write her own versions of traditional fairy tales for a stage show this Christmas season (BBC).

I like this new way of occupying one’s time while at the station: maths problems to work out how long you have to wait (Going Underground blog).

Only for strong-minded authors: The Rejection Generator Project. “The Rejection Generator rejects writers before an editor looks at a submission. Inspired by psychological research showing that after people experience pain they are less afraid of it in the future, The Rejection Generator helps writers take the pain out of rejection.”

Appnewser: iPhone diorama (video). This is a beautiful little idea – I haven’t watched the video but the initial still is so lovely. Maybe someday iPhones will be personalised like this – and I might even buy one if so!

Debtonation: We can learn from Iceland’s crash – and their recovery. I sure hope so.

Author Barry Eisler takes an unfashionable view in the Guardian: Why trailblazing Amazon should take on the publishing establishmentWhile most people in the world are either wary or downright hostile about Amazon’s presumed monopolistic ambitions, Eisler begs to differ, arguing that it is the “legacy publishers”, as he calls them, who have the monopoly, and that Amazon is the route to freedom. There are, naturally, some dissenting views in the comments, politely put and well-argued for the first page of them at least.

And in the Guardian’s Sunday sister, The Observer: The talking penguin’s guide to climate change. “Darryl Cunningham is using the graphic novel format to address the most serious issues in science and to fight disinformation.” Killan Fox, author of the Observer piece, writes: “He [Cunningham] has done a good job of representing the subject in all its ambiguities, but ultimately it is a snapshot of how we understand climate change at this time. As new information emerges, that understanding will be expanded and refined. As his Afterword says: “Good science is testable, reproducible and stands the test of time. What doesn’t work in science falls away and what remains is the truth.””

O’Reilly Radar has a great weekly feature on visualisations. I particularly liked The history of shipping routes, a visualisation of 100 years of sea trade, by Ben Schmidt (I am not going to mention the T word in this context).

13 thoughts on “Internet choice: April 2012

  1. Thanks for sharing the links here….I must admit google + does not compel me to log in often as there’s just not a lot happening there.

    I read that article on the future of ebooks with interest. I do agree that geographic restrictions and the like are an unnecessary legacy from a largely bygone era (even with physical books the global market these days makes a mockery of such things). But I’m not sure I agree with him on other points. I like having a dedicated eReader. I have several devices which can read eBooks – iPhone, laptop and iPad – but I hate reading on the first two and while the iPad is OK for reading but I’d much rather curl up with my sony eReader. Partly it is the form factor and partly that I am quite easily distracted and I like to lose myself in the book when I am reading. The points he makes about formats are even less compelling, clearly someone who doesn’t read a lot of fiction. PDF is a lousy format for fiction as it doesn’t lend itself to re-sizing for different screen sizes (it tends to display in whatever size it was created in – usually a4 or a5 – and many devices are odd sizes. He might be right that the humble web page will reign supreme for non-fiction and academic stuff but I’m afraid I won’t be reading my fiction via PDF any time soon – the few that I tried from Net Galley were awful – to the point I have up my subscription as I could not be bothered. I like to dream that the DRM will be removed from things like ePub and mobi and so on one day and then all devices will be able to read all formats. Around the time the sky becomes full of small, flying swine 😉

    • I agree about the dedicated device, Bernadette, I think it is something that “real” readers like, whereas these purely tech-enthusiasts don’t get that kind of thing as they are essentially magpies. About the format/readability, I agree with you re PDFs & also cancelled my NetGalley account after one attempt. But the “e-ink” or other comfortable format of the current e-readers is only theirs because it is proprietary. As you say, there’s no technical reason why someone shouldn’t provide as nice a reading experience on another (non-dedicated-ereader) device. Whether it will ever happen, though?

  2. Thanks for the links, Maxine! Much to chew over here (I’m thinking mostly about the Observer article on Amazon, and realise now that I can’t remember which side I’m on here – argh!)

  3. Maxine – Thanks for sharing those links. I’m not sure what is going to happen with regards to ebooks, but I’m fairly certain that the less seamless it is to buy and read them, the less consumers will want them. And I have to agree about PDFs. I read them sometimes when I’m reading scholarly articles but they certainly don’t make for comfortable reading.
    I’m intrigued by Cunningham’s approach to writing about climate change, too. Research is showing that graphic novels can be an effective way to send a message, and it also shows that people, especially young people, who are otherwise reluctant readers read more and recall better with the graphic novel format. I’ll be interested to see how successful that book is.

  4. Thanks for these Maxine. I will come back and view them at my leisure. I’m not really sure about google plus. Part of the problem is that I have a very old gmail account named after my geriatric cat who has now been dead 4 years. It’s the e-mail address I use when I don’t want to give my hotmail one out. So I don’t have many contacts, few people recognise it’s me anyway and I can’t work out how I’m supposed to use the +. I think I need an idiot’s guide.

    • I too find google + confusing, and it is certainly a quiet place. It definitely has not caught on (yet) with the social media “set” so it is well worth waiting to see what happens before dashing in, I think! Unfortunately Google is trying to force everyone to use G+ by removing services and replacing them with G+ ones, so it will be interesting to see if it works for them or not (they are doing this as a rival service to Facebook which I hate, so in some ways I wish them luck though in others I am annoyed that G+ is so clunky and free of useful functions, as well as people).

  5. I wonder if the author of the first article had heard about Tor’s decision to go DRM-free when he wrote that piece? I completely sympathize with his annoyance over DRM and geography restrictions, but I think some e-book publishers are figuring out that DRM and other proprietary nonsense does more to punish paying customers than it does to prevent piracy.

    I agree with you and bernadetteinoz — I *like* having a dedicated e-reader. I don’t want to receive e-mail alerts in the middle of a chapter. I also agree that PDFs and Web pages are not a pleasant reading experience. I’m not chomping at the bit to have my ebooks replaced by Web pages any time soon!

    • Not sure, Marian, but science fiction is a bit of a genre in its own right with a very strong community – which may not spill over to readers generally? I don’t know, some people think DRM-free is only a matter of time, but movies as a medium have retained their rights management systems for a long time (just look at the problems of being able to watch movies of one’s choice on the TV if your provider does not happen to have paid for the rights). Obviously as you write there is a lot of piracy but probably the bulk of people are meek and boring like me and just pay up.

      • You’re definitely right about sci-fi fans being a vocal niche market (and, if I can indulge in some gratuitous stereotyping, a fairly tech-savvy one that’s good at cracking DRM anyway). I guess I’m hoping that Tor is a test case that will end up showing that a company can still make money with non-DRM, non-geography-restricted eBook sales. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking!

  6. The premise of eBooks being obsolete in five years is flawed. Any book that you can read in a digital format of any kind is an eBook. If you’re reading a book on any type of screen (eBook reader, website, PDF file, etc.) you’re reading an eBook. Turning off my nitpick filter I detect the key concept is that stand-alone eBook READERS will be obsolete in five years.

    That’s only plausible with a cloud-based book solution like Google Books which makes the eBook available anywhere assuming the reader has Internet access.

    if the person wishing to read the book does not have an Internet connection to access “the cloud” and read their book then they’re out of luck.

    Unless of course they can cache (store) the eBook offline in which case the eBook reader is alive and well again since that’s what eBook readers do now.

    Kindle has a cloud feature already. Every other eBook platform will have cloud access inside of a year.
    Long live eBooks!

    • Thanks for your perspective, Howard. Good to know – although I prefer print books to the e-reader versions, I do like a dedicated e-reader compared with a device that does so many things it is impossible to get any of them right (ie me with my “smart” phone which is too smart for me to do very much on).

  7. Extremely interesting set of links, thank you for posting them. I found Eisler’s article very thought-provoking, and it’s certainly true that traditional publishers, and their business model, are inevitably going to find it tough in future. What’s a mid-list author to do, though? I’m still trying to work that out!

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