Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Has anyone seen a comparison of e-books to paper books from an ecological perspective? Pollution, energy use, whatever. My gut feeling is that e-books have to be more environmentally friendly, if for no other reason than transporting the paper from forest to paper plant to printing press to warehouse to bookstore/library/home/wherever has to use a whole lot of fossil fuels, but I'd be curious to see an actual analysis of this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So Close, and Yet So Far Away

As you've probably already heard, unless this is the first blog you've read today, Amazon has released its new e-book reader, called Kindle. And it's very, very nice. But still not quite there....

The good:

  • E-ink.

  • Built-in "free" EVDO.

  • The battery life rocks: it goes up to a week without recharges.

  • It handles newspapers, magazines, and blogs as well as books.

  • It has a keyboard and the ability to write margin notes, bookmark pages, etc., etc.

  • Adjustable text size.

The bad:

  • The EVDO is limited. It's free to browse Amazon's Kindle e-book store and to have books, magazines, and blogs delivered to your Kindle, but you can't just browse the Internet (except, bizarrely, Wikipedia) on it, and you have to subscribe to and pay for blogs.

  • The newspaper subscription prices are a little ridiculous, considering that you can get the entire content of most (and once the Wall Street Journal goes free, I think all) of these newspapers online for free.

  • It supports Word documents and pictures, but not PDFs. (Although, according to the comments on Amazon, you can get around this by converting PDFs to Mobi files.)

  • $400. Considering that I have my eye on an entire laptop that costs $400, boots in 15-20 seconds, and does a whole lot more, I can't see spending $400 on something just to read e-books. My goal in buying new gadgets nowadays is to cut down on the number of things I'm carrying with me, not add a new one that won't replace any of the old ones to the pile.

If it was less than $400 I might still be tempted. I really would like an e-ink device with long battery life for reading PDFs on the go. Even once I get a job and can justify buying one of those Asus Eees, it still only has about 3 hours of battery life. (Although I will be amazed if Asus doesn't eventually put an e-ink display in one of the Eee models, which should help on that front quite a bit.) But it's going to have to be a lot less than $400. Like, $50 if I can only use it to read e-books. Maybe up to $200 if I could use it to browse the Web or if it could replace my PDA and/or laptop in some circumstances.

Of course, if the Kindle bombs maybe I'll be able to pick one up on Ebay in a couple of months for $50.... Hmm.... Should I root against the Kindle so I can get one cheap, or should I root for it so e-books will take off and there will be more competition between vendors to improve their e-book interfaces and offer more/better/cheaper e-books? Dilemmas, dilemmas.

Friday, November 16, 2007

An Advertising-Related Link Roundup

I've had a post percolating in my head for a couple of weeks about the economics of content production in the digital world—basically, where is stuff going to come from, and who's going to pay for it, and what's the future of ad revenue in that picture? There have been a lot of interesting posts and stories about that topic lately, and one of my freelance gigs is currently paying me to pay attention to the Hollywood writers' strike, which hinges on some of the same issues. But the post just isn't coming together in my head (probably because I haven't had more than 30 seconds in a row to sit and think about it, thanks to interning + job-hunting + trying to do enough paying work to cover the rent). So I'm giving up, admitting defeat, and just posting all of the links here for your pondering pleasure.

The Wall Street Journal, as has been expected for awhile now, has finally decided to make its online edition free to users and to fund this via advertising revenue.

Marginal Revolution links to a study showing that relying on advertising revenue for funding actually seems to make a given media outlet less biased.

A British library has started putting advertising inserts into its books; the company that's handling the inserts is apparently paying them around 3 cents per insert.

And Meredith Farkas thinks about advertising in relation to ALA and its funding streams.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Your Educational Time-Waster of the Day

Somebody has built a shiny interactive interface for Princeton's WordNet ontology. It looks a lot like the AquaBrowser word cloud, but with a whole bunch more semantic richness. I'm tempted to start using this as a thesaurus instead of Thesaurus.com, but I suspect that I'd get way too distracted by all of the pretty colorful moving things and fail to return to whatever I was supposed to be writing.

Hat tip: Marginal Revolution.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Using Scanned Books to Develop Ontologies

This is a brilliant idea. Go read it. (Because, the previous post notwithstanding, I'm not going to violate copyright by cutting and pasting the whole thing in here, and it's too short to summarize or excerpt productively.)

Cory Doctorow Talks About Online Publishing

Cory Doctorow gives a wonderful interview. (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution.)

A few choice quotes (but you should really go read the whole thing):

"[I]t's just hubris that makes us think that this particular change—the computer change—is the one that's going to destroy publishing and that it must be prevented at all costs. We'll adapt."

"It's the 21st century, there's not going to be a year in which it's harder to copy than this year.... And so, if your business model and your aesthetic effect in your literature and your work is intended not to be copied, you're fundamentally not making art for the 21st century."

"If things that schoolchildren do in the course of being schoolchildren violate copyright, the problem is with copyright—not with the schoolchildren."

Friday, November 2, 2007