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Will there be books in the future?

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Recently, someone asked me if I thought there would be “books” in the future.

So, never to over analyze things, whenever someone poses a question like this a few things occur to me… What does this person mean by a “book”?  And, what motivated this person to pose such a question in the first place?

The “book” – container and contents (“medium and message”)

In 2013 the question of “what is a book” certainly is legitimate.  Does the person think of a book in the traditional sense – that is, a physical object that carries/conveys/transports writing?  In this sense, the physical medium of paper and ink is a container.  Is “the book” the container or what it contains?

So, in 2013 with the ascendency of digital distribution and the decline of traditional bookstores it’s easy to understand the difference between the container and the contents of the container.  In brief, the new container is the digital distribution but “the book” remains the same – if what you mean by “book” is the contents (the message)

The deeper question of “the book”

It begs the deeper question.  Will there be “books” in the future?  And here we mean by book not so much the content as a genre of thinking.

Back in the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan came on the scene with a phrase that is linked to his basic insight – “The medium is the message”.  Prior to McLuhan people had the idea that the medium is an innocuous container and what really mattered was the content.  So in the case of a book the container should not matter in the least.  What is important is the content (message) and it does not matter if the “book” is in digital form, “paper and ink” form, or any other form or container.

The idea of an  innocuousness container goes far deeper than the simple example of a book.  What about the containers of mass media such a radio, television, newspapers, telephones, and the internet?  Are they all just innocuous containers of content?

“The Medium is the Message”

McLuhan says, no.  “The medium is the message“.  Briefly, what this means is that the medium (radio, television, newspapers, telephone, etc) changes us in a way – perhaps a diabolical way – that lies below the level of consciousness.

In essence, the message (content) is the meat that distracts the guard dog so the thief can rob you. The crime is the theft of the way we think.  The thief is the medium and the content (message) is the distraction.

Building on McLuhan, the idea is floating around that the medium of the internet is changing the way we think – and not in a good way.

Briefly, the internet has made us “shallow”.  On the internet we see a page at a time.  And even on that page we might skim a few lines of each paragraph.  Pages on the internet are filled with links.  And in some cases –  like the link I used above to Marshall McLuhan to help people if they don’t know who he is – is not so much helpful as it is a distraction from reading the rest of this blog entry.

Maybe someone clicked on the link, read about McLuhan in the Wikipedia, followed the links on the Wikipedia page, and never came back to this blog.  Those people are not reading this paragraph.  Those people fell for the power of distraction inherent in the medium of the web.

The Take – Will there be books in the future?

So, will there be books in the future?  Perhaps there will be old books in the future.  But, if McLuhan and others are correct about the medium’s ability to change us in diabolical ways below our level of consciousness then we might say that “books” might not exist in the future.  And in this case, by books I mean a genre of  “long form thinking”.

After the affect of the internet perhaps our ability to think deeply about anything will be diminished to the point that people of the future may not be able to read the books of the past nor create new books for future generations.  People living at “internet speed” simply will not be able to pay attention long enough nor think in a sequential manner or deep enough to read a book or write a book – as commonly understood in the 20’th century.

Find out more…

Check out this video from the 1960’s.  As for the term “Global Village” in the 1960’s who doubts that we have truly arrived and that “Global Village” may not be a term we use anymore since this is now our native habitat in the early 21st century.  What about the  prediction of the end of “literary man” and the rise of “tribal man” (a new man created by the electronic media).  When you hear the term “tribal man” in the video think about today’s social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and all the rest  Think about the diversity of  “public identity” that people fashion for themselves in social media.  Does anyone have an identity anymore other than what the media creates for people?

Written by frrl

February 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Quick review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

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So what’s the deal with the new Kindle Paperwhite?

I purchased a new Kindle Paperwhite book reader a few days ago.  Since I have two other Kindle devices – an original e-ink Kindle and Kindle Fire – I pretty much knew what I was getting.

Really, if you already have a Kindle e-book reader then the only reason to get the Paperwhite is for the built-in reading light.  If you have the earliest Kindle, the one with the keyboard sans touch screen, then the addition of the touch screen is nice but not essential.

One step forward, two steps back

The amount one reads, all other things being equal, is about both availability and convenience.  With the addition of the back-light, the Kindle Paperwhite adds another level of convenience.  With my older e-ink kindle it was something of a bother, or at least an inconvenience, to get an external light source just right in order to see the e-ink Kindle screen in a dark room.  Now, with the built-in reading light, all that inconvenience is eliminated.  As for availability, there are more books then every available for Kindle through purchase, public library lending, Amazon lending library, and books being place in the public domain.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite takes two big steps back through, what I would call, “the great silencing of the Kindle”.  Unlike earlier versions of the e-ink Kindle e-book reader the Paperwhite is mute – it has no speakers… and it has no speakers because it is incapable of making any sound whatsoever.  No text to speech, no audio books, no music, no nothing.

Every product has a set of features.  Some people just count features – the more features the better.  Right?  Well, no.  Different consumer segments (and individuals) place a different value on each feature.

I’ll take a long-shot here and propose that there are very few avid book readers that would judge the value of text-to-speech as “low”, or “frivolous” to the point that this feature should be eliminated from a product.  Or, to put it another way, that the ability of an e-book reader to play audio books, and more importantly, the capability to convert any e-book to human speech would always enter into a buying decision.

The generic text-to-speech capability of the older Amazon e-ink Kindles along with voice navigation of the screen gave those with a visual disability the world of books that they may not have any other way with such convenience.  Now Amazon has taken that capability away.  Why?

Companies don’t do things without a business justification.  But, does the business justification outweigh the benefits the speech-enabled Kindle gave to certain under-represented segments of society.  Google as a company started out some simple values.  One of them was, “Don’t be evil”. (” …said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out”, ”  read more )

The Take

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is fine addition to the Kindle e-book reader line of products.  It’s outstanding feature is the addition of the built-in back light.  I find that I read more books more often on the Kindle Paperwhite for the simple reason that I don’t have to fuss with finding the lighting to read the Kindle in a dark room.  In a well-lit room there is little difference between the Kindle Paperwhite  and any of the older Kindle e-book readers.

Amazon took two steps back with the Kindle Paperwhite by silencing it.  No audio books and no capability to turn “any book into an audio book” though its excellent text to speech capability.  This was a wondrous feature.  My older Kindle e-book reader with aural capability will not find its way into the trash any time soon due to this lack of capability of the newest Kindle e-book reader.  The visually impaired have lost a friend at Amazon.

Amazon should take a look at Google’s informal corporate motto in their pre-IPO S-1 filing and re/think the Kindle product roadmap in this context.

We believe strongly that in the long-term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains.  (reference)

Read More

Read other postings on this site related to the Amazon Kindle  ( https://frrl.wordpress.com/?s=kindle )

Folks that have any e-book reader would benefit from Calibre

Folks that want the audio for a large collection of books in the public domain should check out LibriVox

Written by frrl

December 23, 2012 at 12:25 am

Quick Review: Snugg case for Kindle Fire & Amazon Basics Stylus

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If you read my review of the Snugg case for Apple iPad 3 then you know that I liked it so much I ordered the Snugg case for Kindle Fire.  The Snugg(s) are available at Amazon.com – free shipping and no tax.  At the time I added the Snugg for Kindle Fire to my order the marketing machine at Amazon suggested I add an Amazon Basics Stylus.  The capacitive stylus does the job of your finger on touch screens without leaving a mark (Hasn’t someone said to you, “That will leave a mark?”); well fingers do leave marks on shiny tablet screens.  So, yes, please add the  Amazon Basics Stylus to my shopping cart ($11).

The Snugg for Kindle Fire arrived today.  It’s the same design as the Snugg for Apple iPad 3.  Fits like a glove.  The Fire is securely held.  The border of the case around the Fire appears to protect the Fire if dropped from a low or moderate height (not tested, of course – send me your Fire and I’ll give it a try).  Pretty much everything I wrote in my Snugg for iPad 3 review applies to Snugg for Kindle Fire – including the smell of the case which is still lingering with the iPad Snugg case.

Amazon Basics Stylus

The Amazon Basics Stylus was an impulse buy recommended by Amazon during the ordering process for the Snugg.  I found that the Stylus is a great addition to the Kindle Fire when using the web browser, typing, and using some applications.  Given that the Fire has a smaller screen than the Apple iPads, the use of the Stylus gives you much more precision in screen gestures.  If you are one of those with larger fingers that often miss the letters on the virtual Kindle keyboard then the Stylus is for you.

The Take

The take on this one is easy.  The Snugg case for iPad 3 and Kindle Fire are both “buy” at a price point of $29.95.  If purchased from Amazon the order is fulfilled by Amazon and shipped free under Super Saver shipping.

My only nit pick on the Snugg for Kindle Fire is that it does not have a loop to hold a Stylus.  Snugg for Apple iPad does have this convenient loop that keeps the stylus with the case and with the device.

If you have the Fire you’ve invested $200 in your digital life.  If you have the Apple iPad then that’s at least a $500+ investment.  So spend the $30 on a decent case to protect these investments.  The Snugg for Kind Fire and Snugg for Apple iPad are well made, look professional, and do the job at a very reasonable price point.

Written by frrl

April 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Quick Review: Snugg case for the Apple iPad 3

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A couple of weeks ago I ordered an Apple iPad 3.  I took Apple up on their offer on having my iPad custom engraved if I purchased it on-line.  Little did I know that in choosing this option, the iPad would be shipped  from China.

So, in addition to getting an Apple iPad 3 I also got a tour of China via FedEx shipping.  My Apple iPad 3 had quite a journey.  It’s first location was CHENGDU China (website), then to GUANGZHOU China (website), and then through ANCHORAGE Alaska to MEMPHIS, TN then up to the midwest to my home.  I took advantage of learning about these cities in China via Wikipedia and Google Earth.  Thanks Foxconn (website)

With that journey under its belt, I was wondering what shape the box would  be in when it arrived.  Well, the FedEx guy arrived in the morning with the box and it was in remarkably good shape.  I opened the box and extracted my new Apple iPad 3.  It was the best of all possible worlds (read).

Protecting your new Apple iPad 3

After the iPad took a journey of thousands of miles from China to my home  it would be irony if it were to meet its end at the last nanometer.  So I went looking for a case to protect the Apple iPad 3.  You would think this would be easy – but there are literally a hundred choices.  And, do iPad 2 cases fit the iPad 3?

I took a look at the Apple cover that magnetically attaches to the iPad 3 as my first choice.  Forget it.  This may protect the face of the iPad but not the rest of it.

To cut to the chase, I picked the Snugg case for iPad 3.  It’s available for $29 at amazon.com with free shipping and no tax.

Here’s the skinny

Neutral

The packaging does not indicate that this is for any specific model of the iPad (iPad 3 is thicker than the iPad 2 by a tad)

Pros

  1. It is well made.  Flawless stitching.  Fits the Apple iPad 3 like a glove. 
  2. There is a velcro flap that tucks under the iPad when inserted that holds it securely.  The device will never accidentally fall out.
  3. The hole for the iPad 3 outward facing camera is in the right place (some iPad 2 cases will have a hole that is not properly aligned
  4. Most (see Cons) of the iPad 3 controls are easily accessible
  5. The iPad 3 fits inside the case, meaning that, if dropped on its edge, there is some amount of protection.  The expectation is that the case will absorb the shock before it hits the metal of the iPad 3 itself.
  6. It has a loop for a stylus – if you use a stylus rather than a finger
  7. The cover has magnets that keeps the cover closed
  8. Wrist strap to grab and secure the iPad when not using it in a fixed position

Cons

  1. The claim is that this case is leather.  I don’t think so.  At least I don’t think this case came from a cow – more like it came from petroleum.
  2. The case has a distinctive smell.  Kinda like a new car smell.  I have owned this case for a couple of days and it still has the odor.
  3. The slide switch and the button on the right side of the device are a little hard to get to when the iPad 3 is in the case
  4. I could do without the Snugg logo on the inside of the case.  Why not give me a place to put business cards or some other use?  The Snugg logo is on the outside of the case embossed in the material.  That should be enough free advertising as I carry it around.

The Take

The take on this one is a “BUY”. 

In fact, after having the Snugg Apple iPad 3 case for a few days I decided to buy the Snugg case for Kindle Fire.  Oh, Kindle Fire.  Yes.  the “other” tablet.  Move over Fire, there’s a new Sheriff in town.

Watch a quick video… this is for the iPad 2 Snugg case… identical for iPad 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U68E0FCfypM

Written by frrl

April 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Making Kindle Fire Speak: Kindle Fire ebook reader text to speech capability

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( How to make iBooks on Apple iPad read a full book to you – here )

My huge disappointment with the Kindle Fire was its inability to read aloud a book.  That is, text to speech.  This is a feature I use constantly on my Kindle e-ink  reader.  If you are like me, you can multi-task.  Do one thing and listen to a book in the background.  Or, for some books that require a bit of concentration, sit back and just listen attentively while Kindle e-ink  reader reads to you.

Let Kindle Fire Speak !!

There is a free Open Source Android book reader application that uses the internal TTS (Text to Speech) capability of the Kindle Fire to read a book

You can read the blog article here –
http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/tom-keating/android/text-to-speech-tts-on-kindle-fire.asp

and you can get the software here –
http://iweb.dl.sourceforge.net/project/crengine/CoolReader3/cr3-3.0.55/cr3.0.55-32-arm-mips.apk

Installation

The application, Cool Reader, is not delivered by the Amazon App Store.  You must install it manually – which took all of about 15 seconds.  I downloaded the application from the web browser on the Kindle. (Click the link above if you are reading this posting on the Kindle Fire).  The file is about 3MB.  After download I navigated to the Kindle downloads folder and then tapped on the installer package.  The installer started and asked to confirm the  install the application.  A few seconds later, Cool Reader was installed.

Please realize that getting apps in this way you are bypassing the Amazon App Store and any application vetting and security screening Amazon might do before applications are placed there for distribution.

The Take

My Kindle Fire suffered no ill effects from the manual installation of the Android application (so far, that I know of)

Cool Reader’s ability to pronounce words is not as crisp and clear as the Amazon Kindle e-ink e-book  readers… but it does work.

Enjoy your Kindle Fire’s new ability to read a book to you.

Read other articles on the Kindle fire on this site – https://frrl.wordpress.com/?s=kindle

Written by frrl

March 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Review of the Amazon Kindle Fire – Has Amazon lost its way on e-book readers?

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It might be unfortunate that Amazon has named its table the Kindle Fire.  In some sense it sets the expectation for potential buyers  that the Kindle Fire is a follow-on (and improvement) to the predecessor Kindle – a dedicated e-book reader.  The Kind Fire does  much much more than the predecessor e-ink Kindle.  But, is the Kindle Fire a better e-book reader than the predecessor e-ink Kindle?  I think not.

After you get past the glitz and all the new capability of the Kindle Fire over the e-ink Kindle and get down to actually reading books on the Fire, I think some people are going to be in for a major disappointment.

Sure, the Kindle Fire has a bright screen and crisp characters but it lacks certain functionality that traditional e-ink Kindle users have come to expect.

Bringing the world of books to the visually impaired – gone

Of some minor note, and appeal to a small segment of the e-book reading population, is the e-ink Kindle voice navigation capability.  For those who have a visual disability or failing eyesight the e-ink Kindle placed in voice navigation mode will speak as you navigate through the menus and move the cursor around the screen.  So, for example, on the home page of your list of books, e-ink Kindle will read the book titles to you as you scroll down the list.  Press enter and go to that book.  E-ink Kindle will tell you where you are in that book.  Use any  menu to navigate the book and e-ink Kindle will tell you exactly which menu item you are on.  Turn on text to speech and e-ink Kindle will read the content of the book to you.

The point is simply that e-ink Kindle can literally bring the world of books to the visually impaired.  I might even say that, with some basic training. a completely sightless person would be able to become engaged in the world of books with e-ink Kindle for a very low-cost.  With the Kindle Fire – all of this is gone.

No more Text to Speech

Even if you are not visually impaired the capability of e-ink Kindle to turn just about any book into an audio book was a great feature that many people enjoyed.  You could do something else and still listen to a book read to you by e-ink Kindle.  I personally “read” more books due to this feature.  In Kindle Fire, this capability is gone.

No Collections – an endless disorganized list of books to infinity

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

November 27, 2011 at 2:39 am

More thoughts on the Amazon Kindle and ebook readers in general

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I’ve owned a Kindle for the past 5 months.  Over that period of time I have used almost all the features of the device.  I have several hundred books on the Kindle including purchased books, free e-books, PDF’s, and other assorted files such as MP3’s.

So, I’ve “been there, done that”.  Here are some observations after 5 months

  1. The most useful feature to me is the  ability of the Kindle to read a book to you.  The Kindle can play media that is a true audio book but, more importantly, the Kindle can turn almost any book (unless specifically disabled) into an audio book through generalized text to speech capability.  The voice of the Kindle is actually very good.  It is tolerable to listen to the synthesized female voice – at least, I got used to it.  So, I find that I “read” more books when I don’t have time to “read” a book when I can listen to the book being read to me.  The advantage of having  a book read to you is that you can concentrate on listening and thinking rather that combining the act of reading and listening.  The Kindle has a set of speakers on the back, and a headphone jack, so take your pick for the listening mode most enjoyable to you.
  2. Library books.  My local library and the library system to which my local library is a member is now offering to lend books in the Kindle format.  Basically what happens is you check out a book in the library collection and if there is a Kindle edition you get re-directed to the Amazon.com web site.  You download  your public library loan from Amazon.  The lending period is 7 or 14 days ( your choice).  You can download the book to Kindle or you can have Amazon deliver your library loan over wireless.  When the loan period expires the Kindle the library book is no longer readable on the Kindle (Digital Rights Management).  When the loan expires, you have a choice to purchase the book (good partnership for Amazon) or delete the book (unreadable) from your collection.  Public library lending in Kindle format mediated by Amazon is a real win.  Add the fact that most of my public library loans were “speech enabled” books you not only get a book in traditional form but also an instant “audio book” of the loan.
  3. Shared highlights.  Another win.  Since College, I have been reading with a pen or highlighter.  Most of the books I own are marked up.  Kindle lets you highlight and mark-up library loans.  If you borrow the book again, you get your highlights back.  If you buy the book, you get your highlights.  With the ability to highlight and with Amazon mediating the whole mess highlights can be shared.  On a recent loan, I found sections  of the book that were highlighted by hundreds of people.  It’s interesting to look to see what other people think is important.  Kindle makes reading a community event.
  4. Great battery life.  I only charge the Kindle once a month for traditional reading.  If you use the text to speech capability (or playing MP3 files) then you will get about 16 hrs of use before a recharge.
  5. Kindle e-mail drop box and conversion utility A capability that I seem to use more and more is a capability provided by Amazon to convert and transfer documents to your Kindle.  Every Kindle has an e-mail address that is hosted by Amazon (e.g. yourid@Kindle.com).  So, send a PDF, or any supported document to this address and Amazon will convert it and store it.  Next time you turn on the wireless on your Kindle, Amazon will transfer these documents (or converted documents) to your Kindle.  I use this a lot.  Send interesting things that you find during the day at work or web surfing to the @kindle.com address and you will find it waiting for you on the Kindle.
  6. Web Surfing.  The Kindle tries hard to make this work for you.  It has an “article mode”.  If you are reading a web page and the browser on the Kindle can find something that looks like an article (for example, an article in a newspaper) it will try to reformat it for you so you can page through it in readable text.  Nice try.  But, surfing the web on the Kindle has to be an “on emergency” basis.

The downside

I still  can’t get past the fact that, for me,  reading a book on Kindle is a diminished experience compared to a traditional (“real”) book.  Earlier this week the Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson was released.  Since this book was available in Kindle format I could have gotten the book “instantly” – there is no inventory problem and there is no waiting for a physical object to be delivered to you.  You don’t even have to travel to the bookstore to get it.  But, I didn’t want to read it on the Kindle.  Why?  Don’t know.  So, I waited and got the real thing.

The Kindle or any e-book reader will never replace a book filled with pictures, illustrations, and art work.  Unfortunately, these days, many books are only text.  Perhaps the advent of the Kindle and other book readers will motivate traditional book publishers to “up their game” to produce more beautiful books.  Books are about content for sure, but it’s also about the presentation of that content that make the reading enjoyable and extends the literary meaning of the words with imagery and illustrations.  Words alone can not express all that can be communicated.  For some books, art, illustrations, and photographs communicate what worlds alone can not express. The current format ebook readers can not reproduce this sort of rich communication – at least until that e-book reader was the size of a coffee table book.  And any e-book reader that big would not be viable.

The Social Consequence of Kindle

I found one of the Kindle commercials very curious.  In this 30 second commercial an attractive young woman asks a guy to go to the bookstore with her to get a new book.  The guys says that he has that book on his Kindle and it only took 60 seconds to download it.  So, no trip to the bookstore for these two.  And no trip to the bookstore means giving up any social interaction that this would have entailed.

In my neighborhood the bookstore is a social meeting place as much as it is a place to buy books.  This Barnes and Noble bookstore has the traditional Cafe as well as regular entertainment and lectures from authors.  The Cafe has an amply supply of board games available for free use and it is not uncommon to see people in the Cafe playing a game of chess or checkers or having a conversation on the topics of the day.  This Barnes and Noble has several book discussion groups that read different genre’s of books.  We certainly have fallen far from the Salon’s of France in the 17’th century but I could imagine, with a stretch of light years (in both distance and time), that when I see what goes on at my local bookstore there is a faint glimmer of what these used to be like.

So, when I see a commercial like this I wonder if the Kindle will create a generation of people reading books “alone, together”.  Weren’t you going to the bookstore?  Bookstore’s deliver a social experience that can not be delivered wirelessly to any e-book reader in 60 seconds.  Expediency at the cost of loss of social interaction.

You can read other articles on this site related to the Amazon Kindle here –
https://frrl.wordpress.com/tag/kindle/

Written by frrl

October 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm

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