Thursday, September 24, 2009

"it's alive!"

...and with that lame young frankenstein reference (sorry, mr. wilder, sir), we start again.

i realised the other day that it was entirely ironic preparing to write posts for a blog in england when i couldn't even keep my own blog going at the rate of a post a week. so i'm going to see if i can do better than a post a week.

the recent hiatus -- so-called -- has been the result of a) the recurrence of an old wrist injury due to too many years spent typing at marlboro; and b) trying to write a master's thesis. surprisingly, it takes a hell of a lot of time! who knew?

anyway, i return now because -- more or less entirely on a whim -- i sent my name in for consideration for part of a new project being set up by a blogger i read out of london. he wanted to put something together about e-books. "aha!" i thought. "i know next to nothing about e-books, but gosh, do i have some opinions!" (only part of that last statement is true.) so i sent him an email; he asked for a "trial post"; i wrote one (largely about the school in massachusetts which recently hit a lot of front pages for declaring it was going to get rid of all its books in favor of the kindle) and sent him that; he liked it. so now the "team" of people he's chosen from all the (dozens? hundreds? ten?) people who sent him emails in the first place are slowly assembling ourselves into something that will -- some day soon! -- resemble a blog about e-books and associated topics.

so i come back here for two purposes.

one is to solicit stories -- do you have links to cool things about e-books? do you use a kindle? a sony ereader? neither? do you live on google books? please -- send me stuff to write about! i'm not honestly afraid of running out of material -- a blog post isn't that long after all -- but i figured if anyone was kind enough to still be hanging on and reading this thing after such a long...we'll be kind and call it a "gap" would be worthwhile to put the request out there.

the second is to put into effect the new plan of microposts to solve the above-mentioned issue of the 'once-weekly' post. this way, i figure i can write a little more, clog up all your rss feeds a little more, and not put too much more strain on my poor wrist.

1 comment:

beagley said...

Random Thoughts:

I think of eBooks as an inevitability. It's like digital music, frankly... does anyone REALLY think we'll be buying plastic CDs in 2020? The inability to accept inevitability and work to make the most of it is kind of annoying.

There are certain types of physical books that people will always make (or that will last a lot longer than others). In ten years, I kind of see there as being only two kinds of physical books: cheapo, almost-disposable quick runs for easy distribution (paper is still a GREAT format for reading!), and expensive, large-format pretty books (graphic novels, art books, and boutique/retro/nostalgia/photo pieces).

There are certain forms of paper books that we should encourage to die as soon as possible. The college/school textbook nonsense, for example. Information changes faster than art, and should be in a format that reflects that. Tourist guides to a city? Similar.

Does anyone buy a paper dictionary anymore? A paper thesaurus? Very few people do... because these tools are built into the tool that they would be using when they they needed them. That's a neat concept, for me. The paper encyclopedia is also winding down. These were huge staples of the academic printing world and they are evaporating because when we NEED them, a better tool is built in (Wikipedia is instantly available from the Macintosh interface in any application, just by highlighting anything and right-clicking on it). It's neato.

All of the ebook reading devices still suck. All of them. Seriously. I've played with them all. eBooks will start to really matter when the devices are truly superior to paper books, and they just AREN'T, yet.

The book metaphor as a bridge to a new medium is an interesting topic. One example of this is the handful of reading devices that are coming out with two screens, side-by-side, for a familiar book-like experience. The nerd in me thinks that's utter crap... but maybe the familiar metaphor (like "desktop" and "folder" on a computer) will ease the transition. Another example is that devices like the Kindle still use "pages" for books. You "turn pages". It's just a silly throwback to the previous format... we don't need pages anymore... but we might want to hold on to them during the mental transition of our culture's way of digesting information.

Finally... there's something interesting about the way that ebooks will actually change the SHAPE of our literature. Humans didn't write a lot of things that could be called "novels" until we hit upon the book form. (I mean, there are a few "novel" like things that were written on scrolls and similar, but not many.) The book itself altered what was written for it... the Bible became something very different when it started to be bound the way it is, for example. A poem, when written in iambic pentameter, becomes a very different poem than one written in free verse. Online and electronic media brings its own limitations and challenges. One of the interesting ones is that my attention span when dealing with online materials is shorter. Which means sitting down to read a long ebook is a lot harder for me than when I'm sitting on the couch with the Brothers Karamazov. But then, I'm 33. Maybe my kids will solve the attention span problem a different way. In some way or another, however, the very shape of our literature is going to change.

Hope the blog is successful!