Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Atwood,Rushdie, IPad Stuff, Australia and some other bits

March 23, 2010

Margaret Atwood was the recipient of $1 million from The Dan David Prize. Beyond the ten percent she is required to share through Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Scholarships, she is sharing the prize money with another writer, Amitav Ghosh.

Salman Rushdie has archives on display at Emory University. The Rushdie-specific content is interesting (you can pull up a draft of one of his novels and edit/re-write bits of it, a weird bibliophile’s Eden somewhat analogous to an Air Force fanatic climbing into a military flight simulator) but the issue of preservation. John Updike donating fifty 5 1/4 inch disks shortly before his death is a good example of an author passing on a technology that simply no longer exists (admit it, how many of you have ever seen, let alone used, those big 5 1/4 inch disks?).  At some point, and quite likely in our life times if not within the next twenty years, we will see computing move entirely beyond decides like harddrives with moving parts and possibly even beyond solid state memory (like flashdrives) to lord knows what. are we at risk of losing great swathes of information simply because we’ll no longer be able to access it?

Blogging on demand? Well, maybe. IBM is working on a widget to connect bloggers and readers in a unique way. It’s essentially backwards from how the writer/reader dynamic has been accepted. The writer plugs away at something, throws it out there, and hopes to God someone reads it. Well, IBM is looking to find a way for readers to suggest topics for blogging and for those suggestions to be forwarded to the appropriate blogger to then do with it what he is told to do. On the one hand, as a rarely visited blog writer (unless I criticize illustrators, heh), I can certainly see the appeal. On the other hand, I write about what I write about because it interests me – not necessarily because I want to get a thousand hits a day. My reviews/critiques are dry and not for everyone. And that’s okay.

Make poetry your career and be the best at it. Over night. While it reads as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way of pushing for commercial success and societal significance as a poet, there is also an undeniable scent of truth to the vast majority of it.  I read lit journals, I glance through the annual year end Best Of collections, and am largely unimpressed with the vast vast vast majority of the poetry.  It lacks something. What it lacks is hard to put into words but there is just a gut reaction that is missing when reading it. At risk of sounding melodramatic (or maybe just wistful), it seems as if poetry is too much a way to make ends meet and not a way of life. The idea of Poet as Occupation should be a liberating one. Instead, it seems we may have become Henry Ford’s dream given artistic form. Maybe i’m not taking from it what was meant to be taken from it, but this is what it made me think about. There is a typed version of the same article at Huffington Post.

Finally, Australia is falling behind the EBook revolution. And they’re not happy about it. And they’re trying to figure out how to catch up. And Amazon is selling Kindles there without any real product support. And Apple hasn’t even hired anyone to run their Australian version of the ipad virtual store thing yet. Australia is really just being patently ignored.  And from it all, what really stood out to me, was the attention the IPad is still generating despite it looking like a fairly mediocre blow-up of the IPhone. I haven’t been thrilled with the IPad but if it somehow leads to EBook industry being opened up some more, then it’s done a good thing. Another piece of interesting info was the fact that publishers aren’t just creating digital copies of their novels, but things that are closer to app files than documents. I’m not a huge computer guy, despite the (numerous) IPad postings. But I keep seeing talk of HTML5 coming out in the near future and how it will do away with Flash and whatever else. I think this could also be the avenue for e-literature to eventually head down. Instead of apps, just use a powerful, multip-purpose programming language (as the next HTML appears to be) that allows different e-texts to be opened with a single browser.  Which makes me wish even more that I had any idea whatsoever how to create a webpage strictly through code (and not through those fuzzy point and click editors like Dreamweaver).

Apple and Literature: books will be shorter!

January 29, 2010

Alright, there are some things that just astound me. Daniel Akst’s apparent backing of less literacy carried on the back of eliterature is one of them. In an article talking about the future of publishing and how Apple’s Ipad could affect it he has the following quote:

Shorter is always better on screen, and so expect shorter books. Many nonfiction works are too long anyway — think of all those cinder-block-sized biographies — in part because right now there’s no mechanism for bringing to market anything between a magazine article (perhaps 5,000 words) and a short book (perhaps 70,000). Tablets will allow the length of works to be tailored more closely to the need.

More important, an Apple tablet will offer not just text but also sound, images and video — which will all be commonplace in books someday, in a balance we can’t yet foresee. This may undermine the primacy of text, but the text in most books today is far from sacred, and a little multimedia can do a world of good in most genres — in how-to books, for example. Think back to the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages; even when text was sacred, people liked a little multimedia on the side.

Now, it’s entirely fair to point out that Akst is pointedly mentioning nonfiction work but his statement that less text could be viewed as better on a screen is a solid point and could easily be something that bleeds into fiction. But while I disagree that shorter is necessarily better in regards to his “cinder-block-sized biographies” such a move could be a positive thing for what has become a bit of a lost art: the short story.

Anyone who has been in an MFA program for creative writing, or hangs around people in an MFA:Creative Writing program, has likely heard that short stories are not a path to publishing in book form. Collections don’t sell, novels do, despite the fact that many of our most beloved American authors excelled in the form of the short story.

The cliff’s edge that will need to be avoided, however, is where brevity falls into a lack of depth. Hemingway had an economy with words but his works still carried tremendous depth. Toni Morrison often sits in the 250-300 page range and she’s a nobel winner. Nabokov excelled in the form.

This also isn’t to say that a work should have to be shortened to meet an imagined requirement of a form. While many biographies are long, that doesn’t mean their length is not necessary. Personally, I hope that when I die that it most certainly takes more than 500 pages to recount my life and whatever achievements I attain. And for any moderately influential (though not necessarily famous) person, brevity could become an insult to thoroughness. We aren’t talking about the life and times of Nicole Richie but the life and times of presidents, senators, inventors, etc. A recounting  of Nikola Tesla’s life should probably resemble a cinder block.

As for the multimedia aspect, it’s something I’ve pushed myself. but only now am I wondering what the multimedia might entail for the various romance genres.

Ipad – unImpressed

January 28, 2010

I probably shouldn’t have had my expectations set quite as high as they were. Right off, I admit, that I am partly to blame for how let down I am over the recent unveiling of Apple’s Ipad. If you have an Ipod touch, you essentially have the Ipad in miniature. But listing the shortcomings of the Ipad is probably something best left for another site (like this one). Instead, I’ll just mention how it falls short from a writing/reading perspective.

First, it’s funny to see Simon&Schuster ignoring earlier comments about where they see prices for ebooks as Apple pushed for a much lower ($13-15) price point:

Publishers acknowledge that digital content should be priced lower than the print content. “We listened to what consumers have said,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster.

Anyone who wants to go back and look at a previous blog entry, I have a quote from a Simon and Schuster representative saying that they envisioned ebooks costing about the same as a hardcover ($35) because they would chuck some extras onto it, like the bonus features on a DVD.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a big difference between this and a Kindle beyond the Apple having color and, at least, a $300 higher price tag. Considering it’s questionable that the Mac will debut with nearly the size of library Amazon already offers, while also pushing a higher price point, it’s not a great short term outlook. When you add in that the Ipad doesn’t support flash (you know, that technology that makes youtube possible) and its utility as a blog/news reader becomes hindered as nearly any embedded video becomes unwatchable.

On the writing front, it’s primary input seems to be an on-screen keyboard. I’m not a huge fan of laptop keyboards because I find their compact size uncomfortable for long stretches of typing. The onscreen keyboard looks even more crammed together and not built for any sort of writing session. There is a keyboard accessory that comes attached to a re-charging dock. Looking at the pictures and reading specks on Apple’s website, however, and it appears that the keyboard is literally attached to the dock like your head is connected to a neck. I have to assume that it’s on a wire to allow you to sit back in your chair a bit and type but I could just as easily be wrong.

On top of that, it appears the Ipad also doesn’t support the use of a stylus. One of the most substantial positives, for me, when I look at buying a tablet is the ability to flip it around, grab a stylus, and literally jot notes down on it. For attending class, it seems ideal. I can do away with a notebook that tears and wears, that often has several classes intermixed through out it or the need to have several competing notebooks. Instead, I can just open separate document files and keep ALL of my notes in one little place that I can tote with me anywhere. If it has a mic, I can even simply record the lectures/class and maybe convert the audio into text. Not including the ability to use a stylus obviously removes this ability entirely. So instead of being a useful tool for a writer/student, it loses a lot of functionality.

Also, there’s the inability to multitask. Like to listen to music while you write? Well, you better go buy an ipod then. Want to do some research on the web while you work on short story? Better save because you can’t open both.  Want to work on a story you’ve already started on another computer? You’re going to have to buy an adapter because the Ipad doesn’t even have a USB port.

Maybe I was expecting too much simply because it was being made by Apple. While I’m not a huge fan of their OS, I love their basic style and the functionality of their equipment. Having been looking at “convertible” tablets for awhile, as well as conventional tablets, I was hoping Mac would find a way to improve on the basic concept and at a price point that would make it a realistic option for myself. Unfortunately, Apple appears to have made a device with no real purpose. It can be good for viewing movies you download (as long as they aren’t flash) or just reading something (though not both at the same time) but nothing much beyond that. If you’re looking for a device to just read e-literature with, though, I think you’re better off just buying a kindle or one of the similar devices. They are cheaper and the screens are easier on the eyes. If you’re looking for something to write on, and are investing at least $500, I have to suggest going with a more full featured laptop (of whatever configuration you like).  The convertible tablets are bit heavier than the Ipad, but they have far more functionality. And if you’re set on a tablet, you should be able to find one that at least offers the use of a stylus.

edit: just found this article about a third party company offering a stylus compatible with the Ipad. at least someone out there is realizing that a stylus is actually a pretty useful device when all you have to interact with your computer is a touch screen.

Publishers ask: how to deal with e-books? follow the music industry!

January 25, 2010

Well, apparently the publishing industry isn’t completely behind the curve of adapting to e-commerce like the music industry was. Unfortunately, their goal isn’t to find new revenue streams and ways to make their product more attractive to an online audience, but to just preserve their price structure.

So while Apples and other e-music retailers have effectively led the way in altering the music industry’s way of doing business (like by selling .99 songs and allowing you to buy an album for less than $20), the publishing industry, or at least Harper Collins, is hoping to broker deals that allow them to maintain current prices.

But there’s a problem with that. The problem is that the price would be artificially high to cover costs that no longer exists. Gone would be the costs to physically print the book. All of the people needed to run the printers, binders, etc., the costs of the materials, the costs of the storage and shipping, etc. There’s no justification behind charging $30 for something when the cost of making it has fell the comparative floor because, suddenly, all you have to cover are the costs of the editor and the writer. If need be, I’m sure that Apple or whoever could even provide a conversion application for changing over a .doc file to whatever file type they dream up to include some sort of encryption code.

This artificial price point will bloom into a larger problem, a problem the music and movie industries have already encountered and were left reeling from. At least some of the appeal of a digital reading device IS the price point. After shelling out a couple of hundred bucks for a reader, the books better damn well be a few bucks cheaper – and they are. But what happens when the price point explodes and the costs go through the roof – especially when they’re coupled with a move to a more expensive (though likely more versatile) machine like an Apple tablet PC?

Just a guess but I’m betting the same thing happens that happened with the music industry charging $20 a CD and the movie industry trying to pull $10 a ticket at the theater – people will pirate the stuff. While the industry’s worry about WalMart’s momentary flirtation with $10 hardcovers setting a new price point was somewhat ridiculous, considering how entrenched hardcover prices were and how other forces help dictate the costs so much, the price for an e-book has become equally entrenched.

Not only that, but anyone buying an ebook sees the cost savings involved as they can just as easily forward a massive text document to anyone in their address book for nothing. They don’t have to buy ink, buy paper, pay s/h, etc. They just attach and hit send. So seeing the price for their reading material jump from $10 to $30 is not going to go over well.

And, despite whatever encryption is thrown into any file document or how secure any device is made, once it is put out to the public, someone will be working to get around it and spill all of its secrets out across the web or a youtube video. So the biggest obstacle to people pirating books – a simple lack of availability unless some individual types or scans the book themselves, vanishes. So while the publishing industry simultaneously attempts to adapt to the digital world and use it to maintain a cost point that no longer makes any sort of sense, they will also be providing the files that will be ripped, converted to something like RTF or PDF and torrented.

And what makes it stupid is that it could all be avoided now, when the whole e-book thing is still in its infancy. From the CNN article linked above:

The news comes as e-readers and e-books rapidly rise in popularity. Led by the Kindle, 1.7% of all books sold in the third quarter of 2009 were e-books, according to a Book Industry Study Group survey released this week. That’s up 42% since the beginning of 2009. The survey also found that 20% of e-book readers stopped buying print books altogether. Shatzkin expects that figure to double by next year.

Okay, so while ebooks have been a new buzz word and can flash impressive numbers like 42%, they still only make up 1.7% of book buying. Even if they jump by another 42%, they’ll only be around 2.4% of all book buying. Then, even if we take Shatzkin’s guess that 40% of ebook buyers will stop buying print books entirely, that’s still only 1.4% of the book buying public.

Maybe Harper Collins looks at these numbers and sees ebooks as something they can maybe stomp out of existence with a ridiculously high price point. Maybe that’s their goal. But if that is their goal, then they are destined for failure. Even if you’re not a fan of reading your bestseller off an LCD screen, it is fairly clear that it is becoming an eventual reality. This isn’t to say that regular print books will cease to exist, just that digital forms of entertainment are here to stay and will only grow. trying to counter this is only going to result in a violent negative reaction (piracy).

Harper Collins hits at part of the solution with its assertion that

enhanced e-books with video and other functions could be released simultaneously with hardcovers in the future “at a price more in line with the print edition

I don’t believe readers necessarily want to pay for video to go along with their books – unless it is in some way a vital part of the text – and they will still desire a simpler, cheaper “bare bones” version. My guess, though, is that the “video and other functions” will be like the massive amounts of shovelware dished out for the wii. Things that make the product look good on a shelf but are cumbersome and unenjoyable in practice. If they wish to offer “enhanced” texts for additional costs, fine, but I am betting the majority of readers would rather a plain text at a cheaper cost. And if this is not offered, they will find alternative ways of procuring them.

(E)Magazines Galore

December 9, 2009

Awhile back I posted an article linking Conde Nast Publishing and Apple’s development of a tablet PC rumored to hit the market in the fall/winter of 2010. The thought was that Apple was forming some sort of partnership to help pull E-readers to their tablet to help break into a market dominated by specialty readers like Kindle or Nook.

Whether Apple is involved or not, five major publishers have banded together to push for a more open e-literature world.  Demanding a universal standard that allows their magazines to be accurately transferred to a digital medium across a wide range of viewers – rather than the specialized files used by current readers – it is clear that this is but a prong on a multi-faceted attack to allow PCs into the suddenly lucrative E-reader world.

If a standard is established and all magazines, newspapers and novels are published in that one form that is open for all computers/readers/cell phones/etc. to download and read, it’ll open up a world of competition for Kindle, Nook and the Sony Reader. Instead of having to make a severely specialized product to compete in the market, a company like Apple (or Del or HP or…) would be able to do what they do best: make a jack-of-all trade machine that hits a specific price range. We’ve seen the proliferation of the netbook (which I find horribly unusable with their smurf sized keyboards…) so we know big box computer companies can easily shift their gears to make smaller computers.

This is something to keep an eye on in the next year and maybe make you re-consider throwing down that two to three hundred bucks on that brand spanking new e-reader. While their displays are nice and they do what they do very well, the e-lit world could be on the cusp of a minor revolution.

Apple Tablet Going Organic?

November 22, 2009

Apple keeps not saying anything but leeks keep bubbling to the surface regarding a possible tablet PC in the next year.  Now there’s word that there might be an option for an OLED screen along with the less expensive LED versions.  As I’ve said before, while pushing e-literature with one hand while slapping the very unversatile e-readers with the others, I like the idea of being able to download/purchuse digital books but I don’t see a reason why it can’t be done with a fully functional computer.  Leave it to Apple to fill the void.

Considering that the majority of the praise for Amazon’s Kindle device has been for its screen and how closely it resembles the look of actual paper, I have to think that has played into Apple’s apparent courting of an OLED version of its much rumored tablet PC. Personally, a reported cost of $2,200 turns me off entirely but I have a feeling that I wouldn’t exactly be Apple’s target audience for such a product. But a nice multi-functional tablet PC for $500? I’m in. Even if I don’t download the latest STephen King novel to it, I’d be happy with something that I could use either as a notepad or (hopefully) hook a keyboard up to and use as a regular computer. I’m very much of the word processor/internet box computer buyer segment of society – video/photo/music editing has never been a hobby of mine – so a lack of processor power isn’t a big deal to me. Also wouldn’t mind the ability to hook the tablet up to my television or a regular computer monitor if the screen proves to be too small to use as a monitor in and of itself.

Also of note from the article, Conde Nast is said to be preparing a host of magazines under its publishing umbrella for download to tablet PCs. for those who don’t want to follow the link, among Conde Nast’s publications are Vanity Fair, Wired, Vogue, GQ, and The New Yorker.

Read(h)er well and Kindle some Nook-E (reading)

October 23, 2009

I’m a fan of e-lit.

Now, if you’ve spent any time in a university hallway in the English wing, you would know that this isn’t a very welcomed feeling. Critics and lit majors have a hard on for the physical body of books. It’s the lover they can never keep. While the writing majors/profs mostly see a changing economic landscape that could forever deprive them of any book deal that would be worth cashing at some place other than the corner liquor store.

alright, exaggerations (slight) but still largely true outside of the pop culture studies majors/profs who get off on technology and our evolving culture in general. But the point is that the only people who really get e-lit are the normal, every day people. They are the ones fueling the sale of e-readers and making publishers hold back electronic publication dates to christmas eve (or christmas day).  they’re the ones blowing around $200 and better for these things so they can tote four novels around with them wherever they go.

but lets go back here for a moment. $200. For something to read a novel with. Or a newspaper. or a magazine. All of which you also have to purchase (though at discounted rates from their pulp and binding twins).  and all these things do is allow you to read books and purchase more books. Granted, Nook-E looks appealing, but that’s still a pret price point to read Kafka on the Shore.

And then your ebook collection isn’t even safe. As Amazon has demonstrated, it appears to be very easy for an outsider to simply go in and erase books from your reading device.  While it may be arguable that their reasoning did have some basis, it is still an appalling invasion of an individual’s world. Can anyone imagine Barnes&Noble coming to their house and, for any reason, demanding to take back a book you bought from the? But they wouldn’t even demand it. They would just pry open a window one night, creep in, take it from the shelf and leave a few bucks on your night stand. That’s what Amazon did.

All of this has made me wonder about the popularity of such devices. They are expensive, they are limited in function and they appear to be some of the most un-secure devices you can own. What is the appeal? and why don’t more people simply use tablet PCs? For anyone who doesn’t know, a tablet PC is essentially a big ipod touch but with a ton more functions.  it’s a computer that you can interact with either through a stylus or through a conventional keyboard/mouse (depending on each particular make/model of your tablet PC).

People have argued that the size of such things are prohibitive. They’re too big. They’re too clunky. Etc. But most tablets I see are between 10 and 14 inches long and around four pounds. Slightly bigger than Kindle, nook-E and Reader but that also means the text can be bigger. And they are far, far more functional. I’ve also heard people talk about the screens and how the readers are easier on the eyes. Well, you’re reading this blog, ain’t ya? A normal, well-maintained monitor screen is fine for reading text.

Apparently, Steve Jobs has had similar thoughts. Apple is prepairing their own tablet PC that appears to be aimed at the Kindle crowd. And it looks pretty much like a really big I-Phone or I-Pod Touch. Granted, it’s going to be a good deal more expensive than the other e-readers (around $700-900) but I’m betting it will also be a LOT more functional. Given the massive following that overprice Apple gear has, maybe this will be the push that people need to move away from these e-readers and start doing what music lovers have been demanding for quite awhile now: less specialized gear, better price points and easier access – along with more consumer rights, despite publishers/record labels wanting to strip these rights to the bone.