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Old 02-24-2008, 09:10 AM   #31
Steven Lyle Jordan
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We've gotten nowhere? And here I thought e-ink devices were making great strides in increasing the popularity of ebooks more than ever before. If the Kindle making the front page of Newsweek is "getting nowhere," then ebooks are doomed no matter what happens. Government getting involved wouldn't make most consumers like ebooks any more than they already do, anyway.
Actually, the only thing we know about e-book devices is that they are being bought. I'm pretty sure most of the e-ink purchasers have been people who were already reading e-books, and advanced to a new device.

There's been no hard evidence to the fact that the devices are converting large numbers of print readers to e-books... yet. And the number of e-ink readers being sold, and e-books sold through the Kindle, Sony, and other e-book stores, is still incredibly small compared to the sales of print books.

Sure, we've seen an uptick, thanks to better display tech. Sure, Newsweek and others ran an article on a new service hawked heavily by Amazon.com... what respectable news service wouldn't? But it's still small potatoes so far. We should have been here a decade ago, and we're still wrestling with e-babel, incompatible hardware, and unresolved copyright and DRM issues.

If the government had decided to standardize e-books for, say, the education industry--something discussed, yes, a decade ago--we could be looking at a much more developed, cohesive and mature e-book industry today. Thanks to business being allowed to do what they want, we've been treated to progress at a snail's pace.
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Old 02-27-2008, 08:03 AM   #32
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A good president will absolutely not "significantly impact the atmosphere under which new innovations are developed." Such are the things that should be left up to private enterprise. The only impact government can have if it decides to meddle in the affairs of others is a negative one. What Bush vetoed concerning stem cell research was public funding of it. I agree that we should not be publicly funding research, but we currently fund a lot of research (much if it less useful than stem cell research) with taxes. However, adding more wrongs to the already large pile held by the government won't eventually result in a right. So it's true that the president does have an impact on technology, but he should have nothing to do with it beyond his use of it.

In terms of e-books, it's seems that Obama would be more aware of the future impacts of the technology and more tech savvy, but this is mostly due to him being the youngest of the candidates. I think his policies would have a terrible impact on business, however, and what's bad for business will never be good for something like e-books (e-books are not yet important enough in the public conscious to warrant any kind of legislation). So which candidate will be best for e-books? The one that won't stick his nose in it and will let the business grow of its own accord. Wanting the president to have an impact on such an industry is wanting the president to decide what's best for consumers. Tsk.
While some of your points here are nothing short of purestrain gold, I can't help but feel that you're being very shortsighted about a lot of the issues you're bringing up. First of all, a "good" president's complete non-involvement in any of the affairs of private enterprise does, in and of itself, qualify as having an effect on the atmosphere of innovation, especially since reaching the state where that circumstance would exist (this will never happen, by the way) would involve a massive overhaul of nearly every aspect of national, international, and individual fiscal management (among many, many other things) and would mean that all future innovations would be only as viable as their ability to generate resources for the person who owns them. I'd argue that merely by enforcing this scenario, your "good" president would, in fact, be having a more significant impact on the atmosphere of innovation than currently exists.
I say this because I believe that the ability of ideas to proliferate under the basic model of our current system is actually less restricted than it would be in Libertopia due to the fact that innovative concepts can be pursued by small groups of people with less interference from sources that would mitigate their idea's usefulness to others (either through impeding the maturation of that idea due to it not being immediately lucrative or exerting undue influence on the path that maturation takes). This is because all or part funding for the development of an idea can often be obtained from government sources whose very purpose is encouraging this type of growth of knowledge, whether it be for the benefit of that government (as is the case with many, many military contracts) or simply for the potential to increase the quality of life for a group of people.
While commercial entities can and do develop a staggering number of innovations, if all innovation were to be pursued only by those with the resources to do so and the prospect of recouping those resources (as would have to be the case is a purely resource-driven society) you'd very quickly end up with an equally staggering lack of diversity in the types of innovations (and innovators) that would be in any way viable. Whether you like it or not, the most important function of any "good" government is to force people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do, with the overarching purpose of improving the quality of life for its citizens (and, if I might get a little sappy, the citizens of those barbaric African countries). The absence of such a force in the development of new ideas in the areas of science and technology would, for the reasons I just described, probably do a lot more harm than good for the overall state of intellectual novelty and its applications.
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If the government had decided to standardize e-books for, say, the education industry--something discussed, yes, a decade ago--we could be looking at a much more developed, cohesive and mature e-book industry today. Thanks to business being allowed to do what they want, we've been treated to progress at a snail's pace.
I'd have to agree that the US government could probably be doing a lot more for the e-book reader market. Integrating them into the educational system would create both revenue and recognition of/familiarity with the industry that doesn't exist today. Additionally, it probably wouldn't hurt to have them throw a little money into the development of e-ink and other low-power display technologies (and I'd bet they probably already are in some fashion).
While I'd like to see some of that in the future, I also can't blame the government for not putting resources behind a market that has just now come into its own. I'd compare the e-book readers we're seeing today to those old Nokia cell phones (this kind), and I think we're probably about 5 years away from having our "iPhone." Once the readers are more flexible, intuitive, and stylish, I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more general awareness and integration of the devices into everyday life.

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Old 02-27-2008, 02:40 PM   #33
Steven Lyle Jordan
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While I'd like to see some of that in the future, I also can't blame the government for not putting resources behind a market that has just now come into its own.
I think the only part of the e-book industry that's recently "come into its own" has been in dedicated e-book readers using e-ink. The rest of the industry has been functioning in pretty much the same way for the past 5 years previous, and still sells e-books the same way post-Sony/Kindle.

The only viable result of the Kindle and PRS readers, thus far, has been increased public awareness of e-books (through Amazon and Sony promotion of the e-ink readers). So far, they haven't made that significant a difference in e-book operations or sales. They haven't yet reconsolidated the market, or cut back on e-babel or DRM problems.

Based on that logic, if the Govt didn't have enough of a reason to support e-books before, then they still don't now. However, I maintain that the govt should have taken the e-book industry in-hand years ago, and applied the same kind of regulations for the public good that it has applied to things like occupational safety, food quality and traffic control.
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:30 PM   #34
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Based on that logic, if the Govt didn't have enough of a reason to support e-books before, then they still don't now. However, I maintain that the govt should have taken the e-book industry in-hand years ago, and applied the same kind of regulations for the public good that it has applied to things like occupational safety, food quality and traffic control.
Why, that'd be like selling the farm to the cattle! I prefer to keep the cattle out of the barn, if know what I mean.
Anywayy, I really can't speculate as to exactly what extent the government should be involved in promoting or backing the industry's growth, but some sort of significant integration with Uncle Sam would certainly be a part of finally moving readers out of the "fringe/geek item market" and making the e-book/e-ink niche into a stable, ingrained market. Having called readers something of a geek item (I definitely think this is still true, at least for now), I'd say that the Kindle's general positive response in the portable gadget world is probably a good indicator that e-ink devices and displays are ready to break on a large scale with the right kind of noticeability (word of mouth, government backing, better screens, people actually reading for once in their lives!). At the very least, I definitely don't think that dedicated/semi-dedicated reader devices will ever pass into being a novelty item. Sorry everyone for no US presidential candidates with e-book readers right here.
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