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Old 06-18-2010, 06:28 PM   #1
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NYT: Blio's Ray Kurzweil Vows To Right E-Reader Wrongs

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/0...reader-wrongs/

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The Blio free software should become more widely available to consumers over the next two months, Mr. Kurzweil said, as large PC makers and retailers like Walmart begin to offer it on their own devices.

“Walmart is very excited,” Mr. Kurzweil said. (Melissa O’Brien, Walmart spokeswoman, said, “We speak to manufacturers and suppliers all the time regarding new products, so as a general rule we simply do not comment on speculation about what may be coming to Walmart or Walmart products until plans are absolute.”)
Anyone seen the Walmart reader?
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Old 06-18-2010, 07:05 PM   #2
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This sounds great -- almost as great as a PDF

If they had the the hardware (11" good quality screen, thin, well designed and made, 12h+ battery life for reading), then I'd just be happy as a clam with PDFs.
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:06 AM   #3
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Anyone seen the Walmart reader?
There isn't one. He was referring to products Walmart sells, like PCs and laptops, tablets, and other companies' readers. Sounds like his SW won't work on smaller devices, as it is designed to maintain print formatting, rendering it useless on smaller screens.

I see this as the wrong solution to the problem. Instead of working to preserve formatting for an old paradigm, bookmakers ought to be redesigning for a malleable screen size and more manipulation options. Kurtzweil is essentially supporting producers too lazy to do their job.
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:40 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
Kurtzweil is essentially supporting producers too lazy to do their job.
As we've seen, those are Legion.

In the article, he highlights that he is talking *primarily* about formating-dependent content; magazines, cookbooks, coffee table books, etc, more than fiction and essays. And, realistically, there *is* room for a standard high-feature format-intensive, *malleable* ebook format. PDF is basically frozen pretend-paper (despite efforts to bring reflow to it) and attempts in the other direction (adding hard-formatting PDF-like features to ePub) are inadequate for what he is talking about.

Essentially, he is taking about a better Zinio.
And if Blio offer a better path to malleable, formating-dependent content than custom-coded, platform-dependent app-mags and app-books, he *will* find takers among those lazy content producers. Not at all hard to see that side of the deal working out for him.

The consumer side of the deal, though, remains to be seen.
Is Blio *only* for open platforms like PCs and tablets? (iPad and Android MIDs are a good target for Blio. WinCE, too.)
But, will there be a Blio for Kindle? For Nook? (Not impossible; both are going to be supporting arbitrary apps soon.)

For the second-tier Linux-based readers? (If he open sources the reader software, probably.)
Will Sony buy in? Again, not impossible.

Kurzweil doesn't always appear to have all his oars in the water so a bit of skepticism is warranted. But there probably *is* a market out there for what he discusses. There *is* a real need for that kind of product.

I'm just not sure Blio is the answer to that need, though.
We'll see soon enough.
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Old 06-19-2010, 10:26 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
Instead of working to preserve formatting for an old paradigm, bookmakers ought to be redesigning for a malleable screen size and more manipulation options.
Sorry, but this smacks of magical thinking.

Documents with complex layouts that are designed to work at a particular size need a full redesign to work properly at a smaller size. It's possible to specify some basic rules for reflowing content, but that's what you have with PDF right now. If you want a complex document to look right across 10", 6" and 3" readers then you need to include separate layout code for each of those instances. And tripling the amount of labour involved in designing a document costs money, money which it's clear the customers are not prepared to pay.

The one benefit of print is that the form (page size, aspect and orientation, reproduction quality, etc) can be altered to suit the needs of the content. I don't see how attempts to jam everything into the same form-factor counts as progress.
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Old 06-19-2010, 02:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
...

Essentially, he is taking about a better Zinio...
How exactly is Zinio different than PDF, other than Zinio being a weird, proprieatary, DRM-laden format?
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Old 06-19-2010, 05:05 PM   #7
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How exactly is Zinio different than PDF, other than Zinio being a weird, proprieatary, DRM-laden format?
I'm no fan of Zinio myself but a lot of the corporate publishing types seem to like it precisely because it is a weird, proprietary, DRM-laden format from which it is extremely hard (if at all possible) to extract anything from.
Plus it does video and audio in ways they like.

http://img.zinio.com/corporate/products.html

I'm hardly endorsing Zinio when I say there is room in the market for something a whole lot more flexible and malleable than plain old pretend paper for formatting-intensive content. If anything, I'm writing it off, along with PDF, because after all these years floating around it hasn't gotten much traction. As things go, it's losing ground to app-books and app-mags, which shows a lot of corporate disatisfaction with the product and/or its business model.

What the market needs is a reader/format combo that is smart enough to adjust its *layout* according to the device and mode it is being displayed on. (And maybe give the reader a bit of say. It *is* his or her's money that is paying for the content, after all.) This *is* doable with no real magic or labor-intensive hand-coding but it does require some forethought and savvy.

It may be that Blio does it.
But the only way to know, is to wait for the thing to go live and see what the product and its associated business model looks like. (The thing could end up like Wolfram Alpha; a "product" without a market.)

Me, I can think of two ways to do it but I'm going to wait-n-see how Kurzweil's operation does it. (Not going to give him any free advice until I see how he intends to make the world safe for formating-dependent content.)

Last edited by fjtorres; 06-19-2010 at 08:00 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 06-19-2010, 05:12 PM   #8
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a weird, proprieatary, DRM-laden format?
That actually sounds a lot like Blio
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Old 06-19-2010, 08:53 PM   #9
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I'm no fan of Zinio myself but a lot of the corporate publishing types seem to like it precisely because it is a weird, proprietary, DRM-laden format from which it is extremely hard (if at all possible) to extract anything from.
One word: screenshot. Easy as pie to 'extract' things from it.
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:08 PM   #10
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One word: screenshot. Easy as pie to 'extract' things from it.
Really?
Well that explains the lack of appeal to the publishers.
Interesting...
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:29 PM   #11
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Sorry, but this smacks of magical thinking.

Documents with complex layouts that are designed to work at a particular size need a full redesign to work properly at a smaller size. It's possible to specify some basic rules for reflowing content, but that's what you have with PDF right now. If you want a complex document to look right across 10", 6" and 3" readers then you need to include separate layout code for each of those instances. And tripling the amount of labour involved in designing a document costs money, money which it's clear the customers are not prepared to pay.
Well, I never said it would be easy.

But most content can be defined by styles, and style sheets can alter the content according to the presentation form factor. In point of fact, very little content cannot be redesigned to be presented in that way. And most of those who insist their material cannot be so altered, as I suggested earlier, simply do not want to try... whether it is out of laziness, or out of a belief that their content is "perfect as presented," and MUST NOT be altered.

We are talking about people who have optimized their presentations for paper, and who simply do not want to have to reinvent the wheel... or to turn their wheel into a jet engine. They'd much rather find a way to have someone else throw their wheel through the air...
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Old 06-20-2010, 02:55 AM   #12
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Really?
Well that explains the lack of appeal to the publishers.
Interesting...
You know what though, I am a speed-reader and can easily and comfortably stand in a bookstore for 20 minutes and zip through a whole magazine without paying for it What I think publishers need to focus on is NOT 'how to make sure that every eyeball resting on our glorious product is an eyeball who has paid' (because that is not realistic---next thing you know they will be banning me from visiting my mother, lest my eyeballs rest upon her books, magazines, cable television etc. which I can see with my eyeballs for free by going to her house. What they need to focus on is the best way to get the eyeballs to WANT to pay, by making it easy and convenient and affordable for them to do so.

Personally, I love Zinio and have bought four subscriptions from it. The DRM does not bother me much because I do not view magazines as timeless, eternal content the way I view books. In the old days, I would either read in the store or else buy one favourite a month, keep it for a year or so, get offended by the clutter and then have a clipping day where I pulled out pages I wanted to keep, and pitched the rest of it. Now, I can have the complete digital issue to read and enjoy and if there are any pages I really want to keep, I just screenshot them and away I go. Much easier. And why should they care? I have bought it already.
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Old 06-20-2010, 03:54 AM   #13
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What they need to focus on is the best way to get the eyeballs to WANT to pay, by making it easy and convenient and affordable for them to do so.
Way too sensible.
They'll never go for it.
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Old 06-20-2010, 04:38 AM   #14
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Well, I never said it would be easy.

But most content can be defined by styles, and style sheets can alter the content according to the presentation form factor. In point of fact, very little content cannot be redesigned to be presented in that way. And most of those who insist their material cannot be so altered, as I suggested earlier, simply do not want to try... whether it is out of laziness, or out of a belief that their content is "perfect as presented," and MUST NOT be altered.

We are talking about people who have optimized their presentations for paper, and who simply do not want to have to reinvent the wheel... or to turn their wheel into a jet engine. They'd much rather find a way to have someone else throw their wheel through the air...
Actually, it *is* easy.
And its been done.
(Stylesheets is one way.)

Another way is older, pre-web, even:
Way back in the last century, in the heydey of desktop publishing, in the (gasp!) 80's programs like Ventura Publisher and later MS Publisher allowed you to completly alter the layout of a publication just by swapping out a single template file that defined the size, shape, and position of how the individual elements were to be positioned on the page. The elements were automatically repositioned according to the new template.
I don't think the technology has become a lost art.

To do malleable-layout publications all that is needed is a presentation/reading app that can select any of a handful of template sets *embedded* in the publication file depending on the display size and orientation and any applicable user settings. Each template set would be optimized for a specific corporate look and philosophy and would include templates for a variety of *standard* display devices and/or modes.
Since the templates can be reused, each publisher would define their corporate layout set once and then call them up on a page by page (or section by section) basis.

For a lot of publications all that is needed is one template per targetted display mode but the concept allows as many individual template sets as needed. Magazines, for example, generally only use a fixed number of page layouts per issue and to maintain their individual look conform to those fixed layouts issue after issue for years at a time.

It is no different, conceptually, than embedded fonts.

The rendering of the document then becomes a two stage process; first, building the empty page layout from the designated template for that page and then filling the layout elements with the appropriate content.

Hardly magical.
And I shouldn't even have to bring it up because this is how page layouts are done for print.
It doesn't send the formatting gurus to the unemployment line, or increase their workload, either.
It does however require them to learn a new trick.

That might be a problem I suppose.
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Old 06-20-2010, 10:15 AM   #15
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True, templates would work. One thing about them, though, is it makes the creator responsible for creating a new template for every new screen format (or sometimes every device) built and added to the market.

With style sheets, the content creator creates one style sheet, and the new device is responsible for adapting that style sheet to its new format. And legacy material does not have to be re-altered to fit a new device that comes along after it was created. Putting the onus on the device, rather than the creator, is more practical and logical.

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You know what though, I am a speed-reader and can easily and comfortably stand in a bookstore for 20 minutes and zip through a whole magazine without paying for it
Take 'im away, officer...

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What I think publishers need to focus on is NOT 'how to make sure that every eyeball resting on our glorious product is an eyeball who has paid' (because that is not realistic--- . What they need to focus on is the best way to get the eyeballs to WANT to pay, by making it easy and convenient and affordable for them to do so.
First task: Making sure people like you can only browse previews, and not the entire magazine!

But seriously, in the case of digital content, previews are exactly the best tool for getting people to want to buy the product; content hints and low-res pictures/thumbnails serve to whet a reader's appetite. Web content can practice the same methods, and paid customers would get access to the rest of the content online.

Actually, the part you need to make sure people WANT to do is to get more material. If they think they might get caught accessing illicit content, and therefore may be cut off from future content they know they'll want, they will be less likely to access illicit content. That's how you keep them honest, essentially. (This is the method used by cable TV to keep you from stringing a cable line over to your neighbor's house.)

But, as this is all slightly , maybe we should move on...
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