Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Random Tweets

A few tweetbits from my twitter feeds this morning:
An impressive demonstration of the new Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine. CNET News reporter Stephen Shankland runs through some sample (and sometimes amusing) searches.
Also, the announcement of the Kindle DX, the long-awaited electronic book solution from Amazon. Its main advantages seem to be the viewing size (large enough that they claim that you won't need to zoom in to any part of a document), its slimness, which would be good for students who want to avoid lugging heavy (computer science) textbooks around with them all day, and its battery life. It can apparently run for days on one charge.
Disadvantages? The price is around 500USD, and... it's in shades of grey. I'm old enough to remember when computers used grey-scale displays. The old Hercules 256-shades-of-grey displays were pretty impressive back when EGA 16 colours was tops (pre-VGA) and the standard was 4-colour CGA for PCs. What was impressive about the Hercules display was the fidelity of the images it produced - like a black-and-white photo, your mind could fill in the missing colours while your eyes bulged at the intricate detail you were seeing on-screen. This would have been in the early 90s, so the display would have been probably twice as crisp as a regular TV at the time.
However, fast-forward 20 years, and I'm not sure how many people are going to want to drop $500 on a device that might be made obsolete by the magical colour Kindle that is likely to come out next year. So I think the device's major disadvantage is the price point vs. the display. If it was $200, then it might be worth it. But at that price, I'll wait for the colour version, thank you very much.
But what's this? Is The Book making a comeback? Don't call it a comeback! Just as the world's forests were heaving a sigh of relief from the downfall of newspapers and books in general, along comes the insta-book ATM, dubbed The Espresso Book Maker. It is billed as the invention that could level the playing field for smaller bookstores that can't afford the space or money to stock the same quantity of books that larger stores can hold. As appealing as that sounds, I have to Call Bullshit on that piece of PR nonsense. If anything, it's another signpost on the long road that leads to Demise, the place where bookstores are heading. Why would I want to lift my fat ass from the couch when I could just as easily order the print online and have it delivered to my door for free? And anyway, leveling the playing field is not a good thing for small stores, because it takes away whatever niche market they had working for them. Want that rare copy of a particular edition of your favourite arcane novel? Why not head over to Chapters and print it up on one of their twenty printers. Beats searching all those old second-hand bookshops for it!


BLossom,  May 6, 2009 at 4:11 PM  

Are you referring to easy book publishing that already exists such as this?

I still think there's something to be said for the post-Gutenburg ExPresso machine.

Dave Cunningham May 6, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

Hmm, I should have been a bit clearer. I'm not against the concept per-se, just that I don't think it will accomplish what it advertises. It's a bit of a Trojan Horse for small booksellers, particularly in the long term. You have to assume that the concept will eventually become common-place, at which point who wins? I think big booksellers in the mid-term, and online providers in the long-term, since there's no intrinsic advantage to being near the machine when you order the book.

But I do think the concept is pretty cool and could benefit aspiring authors, for sure. Plus access to a wealth of material that is currently out-of-print is brilliant.

Post a Comment

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP