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Old 05-11-2007, 07:24 AM   #1
emkay
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Andrew Marr reluctantly impressed by the iLiad

Guardian article here: link

Andrew Marr is a newspaper editor, BBC journalist and senior figure in the UK arts establishment.

A positive piece overall, with a quite refreshingly non-techy perspective.
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Old 05-11-2007, 08:38 AM   #2
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It's always interesting to see what "normal" people think about the iLiad. I wonder what he was doing most of his primary reading on... He complained about the text being too big, so I assume it was a PDF because he couldn't resize. But turning pages in a PDF isn't the "one and two" seconds that he mentioned. Maybe it was mobipocket and he didn't realize he could adjust the font size.
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Old 05-11-2007, 09:02 AM   #3
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He mentioned that he'd had it for a month, so probably it's not Mobi ... I think that leaves PDF, doesn't it? Or HTML, I s'pose.
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Old 05-11-2007, 09:11 AM   #4
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I really like the weight comparison to a banana, and the bit at the end where he asks for a musty or dank smells to be added as options ... that's hysterical.
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Old 05-11-2007, 11:35 AM   #5
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I like the way he phrased this: "It's partly that traditional books are such good technology...." Without dissing the ebook, he's making a good point. Traditional books are a very successful technology, and anything that would "replace" them is going to have to be leaps and bounds better.

I was thinking about this technology issue last night. The analogy to CDs isn't really apt-- the better analogy, I think, would be to sheet music, especially vocal sheet music. With the proper training, a human being can turn a sheet of wood pulp with marks on it into music. That's a powerful technology, and CDs have not replaced it. Ebooks might, at some point, when the readers have become much more robust, easier to use, and power-efficient. By "robust," I mean that at the very least, any physical abuse that a printed book would survive, an ebook has to survive (and preferably they should be more resistant to abuse). By ease of use, I mean it should be so obvious how to use the unit that no one needs documentation. (We don't have documentation or tech support to read paper books, unless you count the video I posted in the lounge.) Data protection, e.g. backups, should be automatic, and getting new material should be as simple as buying a book from Amazon, no matter where you are. And by power-efficient, I think I mean that if you are reading in sunlight or a well-lit room, no power is needed, and the unit can absorb enough energy from its environment when not in use that you can also power a small, extremely efficient light source when needed. (Yes, I'm dreaming. I like to dream big.)

At that point, if you can get the cost of the reader down to the equivalent of 5 hardcovers, I think people will start to prefer ebooks to the paper kind. And preference of e versions of newspapers will probably come a lot sooner, because as Marr points out, the ebook reader already has significant advantages over daily newsprint.
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Old 05-12-2007, 12:05 AM   #6
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Traditional books are a good technology... but only for those with the proper resources. Another good parallel would be to the automobile... this also is a good technology, but for all its speed and independence, it is expensive, it pollutes, it clogs cities, and it is something that many people simply can't practically afford or use.

Books are simple to use, their chief positive attribute. However, they require the use of extensive wood pulp to create one book, an environmental waste... they must be physically transported, using energy resources to do so... they must be stored, using up valuable space... and they must be kept safe from heat, moisture, chemicals, pets, in fact air itself, in order to preserve them. Some of these steps are easy enough for people with plenty of money, large houses, and purchased safeguards. But for so many others on this planet, such resources are far too limited to allow them the same luxury. What percentage of the people on this planet own shelves of dozens to hundreds of books? A much smaller number than the percentage of people who ought to have dozens to hundreds of books.

E-books are certainly not perfect, but their potential to significantly cut the costs of production, shipping and storing will help offset higher purchase prices for readers, especially in areas where those costs are very hard to pay. That makes them a great technology.
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Old 05-12-2007, 05:28 AM   #7
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Steve, I actually agree with you. But just to play devil's advocate, I'd like to consider this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan
What percentage of the people on this planet own shelves of dozens to hundreds of books? A much smaller number than the percentage of people who ought to have dozens to hundreds of books.
At the present time, the number of people who own shelves of dozens to hundreds of books probably still exceeds the number of people who own any type of electronic device on which to view ebooks-- and have reliable power service to run said device.

But hopefully the OLPC or similar projects will help to change that. (Actually, the OLPC comes close to meeting the requirements I outlined above, being designed to be rugged, easy to use, and extremely power-efficient. I'd like to see the durability improved still further, though.)
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Old 05-12-2007, 08:20 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
At the present time, the number of people who own shelves of dozens to hundreds of books probably still exceeds the number of people who own any type of electronic device on which to view ebooks-- and have reliable power service to run said device.
True. Fortunately, a device like that can be so easily powered, if even by a hand-cranked generator (like what was planned to attach to the $100 PC), that power isn't the problem. The problem is... like the $100 PC... getting one to everyone who should have one.
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Old 05-12-2007, 08:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
I really like the weight comparison to a banana, and the bit at the end where he asks for a musty or dank smells to be added as options ... that's hysterical.
Brits and their fascination with bananas... I just don't get it.

And honestly, I know he's kidding, but I still haven't figured out how people can actually be hooked on the musty smell of paper! Holy Humidity, Batman, what kind of freaky fetishists are these people?!?
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Old 05-12-2007, 09:01 AM   #10
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Could not we think about it this way:

If the technology of paper books and ebooks would have been developed at the same time, which one would you choose?
So - I mean - taking away all the bias associated with paper books. All the walls in our heads.

What would you loose without paperbooks, what do you gain by ebooks?
The argument can go on forever, but if you really look at it ebooks win hands down.

And for God's sake, will we ever start to care about the environment? How much paper we produce, how many books are printed all over the world? Is it only our comfort that matters?

Which is more important, what you are reading, or what is it printed on? The argument is not only about differences in technology, but that the thinking of many of us is too materialistic, and we can't believe that something that is not tangible, still has value IMHO.
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Old 05-12-2007, 09:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mambo
And for God's sake, will we ever start to care about the environment? How much paper we produce, how many books are printed all over the world? Is it only our comfort that matters?
Growing pine and farming it for wood pulp that then gets put into books actually sequesters carbon, reducing this greenhouse gas.

Sorry, just couldn't help myself there. Yes, I care greatly about the environment. So much so that when the new Harry Potter book comes out, I will, as I have done for the past several volumes, pay a premium and impose a delay in delivery by ordering it from Amazon Canada (I live in the US) so I can get the version printed on recycled paper. (Would I rather have the ebook? You betcha, but we all know about the problem with that.)

Traditional paper production can involve clearcutting of old-growth forests, use of dioxin-laden chemicals, and huge energy consumption. Or not. But to make this a fair comparison, I think we need to also consider the environmental impact of producing computers (Apple just got hit with another environmental complaint), and even more, disposing of them responsibly. The batteries often contain hazardous metals, the screens often contain mercury, etc. And every time an ebook is read, energy is used. A printed book generally has an energy cost up front to produce, and again to transport to the consumer (with many stops along the way), but at that point, most of the energy cost is over.

Perhaps a thorough analysis would show that the energy involved in producing and transporting a paper book is, in fact, far greater than the energy involved in transmitting and reading an ebook several times, especially on an efficient reader. (Many books are only read once, after all.) We might even find that the overall environmental impact for an average individual would be far lower with a series of rugged low-power reading devices and ebooks than it would be with the equivalent number of paper books, which is the more correct comparison. I honestly don't know. I'd like to see such a study. But until then, I think we should be cautious in trying to claim an environmental advantage for ebooks, particularly as they are used today.
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Old 05-12-2007, 12:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
... I think we should be cautious in trying to claim an environmental advantage for ebooks, particularly as they are used today.
Personally, I tend to give most claims about the environmental impact of this or that a good looking over. Not because I don't care about the environment, nor because I don't realize that there are things we do that impact it negatively, I do and I do -- I was in Scouts far too long to not care or notice.

The reasons for my caution are that there is a certain segment of the environmentalist lobby that will claim any crazy thing, regardless of where the facts lie (please note that I'm not classifying any particular claim). There has been a persistent (I hate to use the phrase, but it's the one that fits) hysterical paranoia in parts of the environmentalist movement for long enough that I don't just take claims on the subject at face value.

The frustrating thing is that I actually see their point: a lot of folks just won't care or notice, let alone do anything, until there is some sort crisis of biblical proportions looming over them, so they've evidently decided to convince those folks that such a crisis is indeed looming, and to that end, embrace any wacked out claim, even those that are patently false to anyone who looks straight at them.

The trouble with that approach, aside from the wrongness of embracing 'big lie' tactics, is that even the lazy and apathetic can tell when they're being lied to in a spectacular fashion, and it damages the credibility of those that are presenting reasonable, demonstrably accurate evidence, and it allows folks to disregard the whole topic is just some sort of wacko hoax, perpetrated for reasons that are impenetrable to 'normal' folks.
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Old 05-12-2007, 02:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan
And honestly, I know he's kidding, but I still haven't figured out how people can actually be hooked on the musty smell of paper! Holy Humidity, Batman, what kind of freaky fetishists are these people?!?
Ummmm, guilty. Blast it though, it's not my fault! It's from growing up near small town libraries and filling entire summer days with those places. The cool shadows, the quiet creak as the building settles thoughout the day, the (seemingly) endless things packed and stacked and waiting for me. Yes, and the smell that tells you where you are as soon as you walk in (something a modern library doesn't have generally due to proper climate control).

That smell that my adult mind tells me is the books going bad and rotting away as we speak is the same smell my emotional mind says "Books. Good. Read." Isn't smell the sense most linked to long term memories? Maybe that's why some of us still love the smell of old books.

Hmmmm, there would be an interesting product: Scent of Old Town Library. (Yes, you to can have that same feeling in your home paperback collection as you get in the great libraries of the world!)
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Old 05-13-2007, 05:54 AM   #14
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I like how he mentioned the page turner... I think that bar's perfect (much more than a button). Pity he talked about fonts and formatting as if they were part and parcel of the iLiad instead of the books he was reading (let's pretend he can't change that formatting himself, like a p-book).

And yes, I'd like old-book smell too... and a bit of soft-paper ruffle feel on the right-hand side. :P
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Old 05-16-2007, 11:59 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
Perhaps a thorough analysis would show that the energy involved in producing and transporting a paper book is, in fact, far greater than the energy involved in transmitting and reading an ebook several times, especially on an efficient reader.
That is the key, exactly. Yes, one e-book produced has a higher environmental impact than one paper book. But an e-book reader can substitute for hundreds, even thousands, of books, making it the environmental saver by far. And don't forget, you can read e-books without the dedicated reader... in other words, using my PDA to read e-books means I am not paying an additional environmental cost by having a dedicated reader produced for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stxopher
That smell that my adult mind tells me is the books going bad and rotting away as we speak is the same smell my emotional mind says "Books. Good. Read." Isn't smell the sense most linked to long term memories? Maybe that's why some of us still love the smell of old books.
Well, all I can say is, I grew up hanging out in libraries, reading and rereading old books, surrounded by shelves full of them at home, too. I also grew up inhaling the fumes of and being deafened by my old gas-powered lawn mower every Saturday! Today, I have no problem giving up an old sensations for a more efficient system, be it a cordless electric mower, or an e-book, no matter how many memories it evokes.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 05-16-2007 at 12:02 PM.
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