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Christian

Kindle and other E-readers

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A new wave of Kindles is coming in November.

These newer mutations have little appeal for me personally, particularly the Kindle Fire with its emphasis on games, videos, music, etcetera. I suppose these sorts of things are what people want, but to me the very lack of such multi-functionality is precisely what draws me to the current Kindle. Up until now, Kindles have been so unwieldy for web-browsing and playing audio and so forth that I never find myself doing anything with the device except reading. Books are all I really want from an e-reader; everything else seems like a distraction, and because I am weak and easily tempted, having such distractions a touch away would be my reading downfall.

The Kindle Touch, however, might be useful. I would have see how well the highlighting and annotation interfaces work.

Edited by du Garbandier

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You what's really cool, though? The new X-Ray feature:

Amazon invented X-Ray, a new feature that lets customers explore the “bones of the book.” With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.

Amazon built X-Ray using its expertise in language processing and machine learning, access to significant storage and computing resources with Amazon S3 and EC2, and a deep library of book and character information. The vision is to have every important phrase in every book.

One more step toward the perfect e-book: a document linked instantly to its sources, inspirations and offspring. It's such a Borgesian idea--a book that contains within itself all other books written. The X-Ray feature isn't that, but it's pretty cool all the same.

Edited by NBooth

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A new wave of Kindles is coming in November.

These newer mutations have little appeal for me personally, particularly the Kindle Fire with its emphasis on games, videos, music, etcetera. I suppose these sorts of things are what people want, but to me the very lack of such multi-functionality is precisely what draws me to the current Kindle. Up until now, Kindles have been so unwieldy for web-browsing and playing audio and so forth that I never find myself doing anything with the device except reading. Books are all I really want from an e-reader; everything else seems like a distraction, and because I am weak and easily tempted, having such distractions a touch away would be my reading downfall.

The Kindle Touch, however, might be useful. I would have see how well the highlighting and annotation interfaces work.

What you've written here is very much in agreement with what I've been thinking, especially since reading "The Shallows."

Down with multitasking!

So, what's the impact of the new Fire on the Nook?

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Well, I'm not the best commenter, as I've pretty much decided to stick with my B&W e-reader for now, for much the same reasons as du Garbandier.

However, B&N definitely needs to drop the price of the Nook Color to $199.99. Then they need to get a Netflix app on there (to compete with the Amazon Prime movie-streaming service). Other than that, the Nook Color and Kindle Fire seem pretty well-matched competitors. I would lean towards the Nook Color because it has a memory card slot (I don't understand why the Kindle Fire doesn't!).

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:lol:

I'm pretty sure you could make a sentence out of that like the famous "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo" example. "Cloud clouds cloud clouds!"

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Saw that the Kindle is being advertised at $79 -- $79! ($20 more for the "Touch" version) -- and came here to write, "How'd I miss this?" only to see that du Garbandier posted about the new Kindle suite a few posts up. In all the hype about the Kindle Fire, I hadn't realized the other models were being ... what, just repriced? Were any features added or taken away from the Kindle or Kindle Touch?

Edited by Christian

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Saw that the Kindle is being advertised at $79 -- $79! ($20 more for the "Touch" version) -- and came here to write, "How'd I miss this?" only to see that du Garbandier posted about the new Kindle suite a few posts up. In all the hype about the Kindle Fire, I hadn't realized the other models were being ... what, just repriced? Were any features added or taken away from the Kindle or Kindle Touch?

It's different enough that Gizmodo isn't a huge fan.

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USA Today - 'Interactive' novels link e-readers to real-world settings

Have you ever read a novel and felt immersed in its settings, as if you were walking its streets, browsing shops, exploring museums and historic sites or grabbing lunch at cafes that, when you think about it, are essentially just words on pages?

Yes. Except, when the author is that good, you don't think about it being just words on pages.

This is where technology has taken us: Now with just a click, you can be there within seconds.

At least virtually.

But if the book moves readers enough, and they're armed with information about things to do and places to see, they're likely to hit the road and actually go there.

Physically.

Well, for example, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what a young Edward Gibbon did with this tour through Rome in ... 1763.

That's the vision of Montgomery writer Patrick Brian Miller, creator of the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative, who has just jumped on the electronic publishing train and added an innovation of his own: an interactive travel guide within a book

With the introduction of Kindle editions of the two novels, Blind Fate by Miller and Dixie Noir by noted Montgomery author Kirk Curnutt, the concept of "literary tourism" has, like pretty much everything else in our lives, gone high-tech.

"Once this catches on, it's going to become huge," he said. "People just have to be introduced to it first. My hope is that when they hear about it first, they hear about it through Montgomery. The first always gets a lot of attention."

You see, if you market an e-book as a "literary travel guide" then you can get people to buy your book for the places the story in your book occurs in, not for how well you actually write or describe them. Nevermind reading books like American Notes by Charles Dickens, From Sea to Sea by Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc's The Path to Rome, Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes, Archie Roosevelt's For Lust of Knowing, Nineveh and its Remains: with an Account of a Visit to tile Chaldaean Christians of Kurdistan by Austen Layard, George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer by Francis Yeates-Brown, or Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps. Or we could take any of these classic works, digitize them, and then cover them with hundreds of electronic travel advertisements for you to click and explore instead of enjoying the steady prose of the book itself.

Miller said he has been surprised by the number of people who respond to this innovation with, "Well, I don't own a Kindle."

He was surprised.

How does it work? At the conclusion of these e-books, "tourism guides" appear to provide links to the websites of many of the places where the action within the novels has taken place, providing an immediate "you are there" gratification for readers. They can visit websites of locations they're curious about, either on a whim or via a click-through of all the site links listed. Miller hopes this extra knowledge and insight will lead readers to put down their e-books and get on the road to visit the real-life destinations to which they have just been introduced.

Immediate "you are there" gratification. I knew there was something missing last time I read Belloc's Path to Rome. If I just look at some websites, maybe that will make me actually want to go to Rome instead of just reading about it all the time.

Curnutt's "Dixie Noir" is a mystery set in Montgomery that traces the paths and intersections of some down-and-dirty characters and others who are just down on their luck. At the end of the book, readers are directed to the author's website, where they can find a full array of links related to locations in the book, including the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and El Rey Burrito Lounge.Readers can also visit one particular character in her natural habitat. Photographer Diane Prothro took a series of photo illustrations of one of the characters in "Dixie Noir," Red, who is a waitress at El Rey and lives in an apartment above the Fitzgerald Museum. In a bit of art imitating life, the young woman posing as Red is Audria Carr, who is actually a waitress at El Rey.

Because, you know, that makes the interactive experience you are having with your e-book more real. Knowing that the photo illustration of the scantily clad young lady in the novel who works at the Burrito Lounge is a real person who really works at the Burrito Lounge produces an entirely different sensation than knowing that the illustrations are of people who might, in real life, actually work at, oh say, the nearby Taco Bell.

While new technology is what will enable his vision, it is also one of the biggest obstacles, simply because everything is "new, new, new." That makes it increasingly harder to translate the e-book/literature/tourism link, not only to writers and readers, but to people in state and local government positions who Miller believes could benefit if only they grabbed hold of the idea and took off with it.

So that government bureaucrats can ... add interactive travel guides to the laws in the Legislature? ... have more of an interactive experience while they are sitting in their soul-sucking, bleak little government office cubicles? ... be encouraged to travel more in their free time?

Miller looks forward to a day — maybe within three years or so — when there are "tourism novels" all over the country, spurring readers who love to travel to turn around the economy by putting down their well-read e-books and taking to the road.

Oh. This could fix the economy. That's why.

Edited by Persiflage

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Um, how is having a hyperlinked book like that any more objectionable than having, I dunno, The Norton Critical Edition to Tristram Shandy (or a nicely-annotated edition of American Notes)? Or "reader's guides" stuck conveniently at the end of a book? Or, I dunno, the dozens of Mystery Reader's Guide to [blank], which very helpfully guide walkers around, for instance, Washington DC so they can check out where the different novels occurred.

Heck, folks still go to Baker Street to see if they can check out Sherlock Holmes' address, and there are tons of books specially produced to help them do that. If you can't go, you pick up The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and there's a picture of Baker Street and the upteen candidates for 221B. It's not like people got a Kindle and suddenly decided that reading wasn't good enough for them. They've always made pilgrimages to Reichenbach. This is just another way to service that desire.

Of course, they say all this in the article itself:

Hence, literary tourism, which is not a brand-new idea. In fact, Miller gratefully acknowledges the work of the Southern Literary Trail which celebrates and guides readers through the hometowns of noted writers from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Exactly.

I've got my own qualms about my e-reader (primarily having to do with the fact that I don't like reading novels on it, for whatever reason. Nonfiction works great, though). But just because a technology starts doing new stuff (or, really, old stuff in a new way) doesn't make it a sign of an oncoming apocalypse. It could just be, y'know, a new way to do old stuff.

EDIT: Sorry, but this really bugs me:

You see, if you market an e-book as a "literary travel guide" then you can get people to buy your book for the places the story in your book occurs in, not for how well you actually write or describe them.

Have you seen the racks upon racks of cozy mysteries or Scottish/Regency romances that cater to this very thing? People come in to bookstores all the time looking for a Scottish-based novel because they like Scotland, or a Celtic novel because they've got a jones for Bronze-Age Britain. This isn't some new marketing ploy cooked up for e-books; it's how lots and lots of people read. Now, you can have a problem with that if you like, but it's not the technology's fault and it's not because most people are uncultured boors. It's just how it is.

Edited by NBooth

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In the vein of Mark O'Connell's earlier thoughts, Reif Larsen gives a thought to the Borgesian nature of e-books:

In a way, reading on the iPad reminds me of Jorge Luis Borges’s haunting story The Book of Sand, in which the narrator comes across an infinite book that contains the pages of all other books in the universe. At first intrigued, the idea of the book begins to terrify him. He considers burning it, but reasons that the smoke from the book would be infinite and thus suffocate the world, so he ends up abandoning it in the National Library, on some anonymous shelf. I feel some sense of this low-grade unease when reading on the iPad, as if the book I am reading at that particular moment in time might be part of a much larger book, and that I am actually reading all books at once. Then again, maybe this feeling is not such a bad feeling because maybe it is true.

There's some thoughts, too, on the difficulty of constructing an e-book that isn't just a direct copy of the printed page (i.e. the fact that a truly interactive book has to be an app, not an e-book, etc):

In its quest for a beautiful, streamlined environment, Apple is suppressing a real opportunity for innovation in eBooks and browsability by its readership.
Edited by NBooth

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Huge sale on Kindle titles today only, including books by some of my favorites such as Walker Percy, Rebecca West, and Stanley Elkin. A large number of mysteries.

Including the newly-republished Ellery Queen novels, The Roman Hat Mystery and Calamity Town. Both of which are worth checking out from an historical perspective--and Calamity Town's just a good novel in its own right (I'm just finishing up a 20-page seminar paper on it and feel like I could go on forever extolling its virtues).

Edited by NBooth

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Boom!

On "Black Friday," November 25, Amazon said it had sold four times as many Kindles in a single day as it did in 2010. At this rate, it seems increasingly likely that e-books will match printed books in the next few years, and eventually overtake them.

Today I heard a radio feature that mentioned the Nook Color, and I suddenly found myself wanting one. Why? The battery life stinks on the Nook Color in comparison to other e-readers, right? And I don't need to look at Glamour magazine.

But maybe other magazines, even ones that have nice color graphics (I'm more of a black-and-white text-heavy magazine guy) will be to my liking down the road, and wouldn't it be nice to be able to get decent Nook Color versions of those magazines?

A pale reason to justify a growing desire for an e-reader, but the thoughts keep coming.

Edited by Christian

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For an early Christmas present, I just got a Dell Inspiron Duo, so that I could do all of my reading on one device. Look it up, you will probably be impressed by the concept. It is a Windows 7 tablet that also flips and has a full keyboard. It will come into its own when Windows 8 is released because that will fully support the touch interface.

I did not get a Nook Color or a Kindle Fire because the screen is just too small for reading magazines. My minimum was 10", and even that is almost too small. The iPad, for comparison, is just under 10", and the Duo is just over.

It has all the drawbacks which one would expect from an over-powered beast (dual-core 1.5Mhz processor, 2 GB RAM, 250 GB of storage--compare that to the 16-64 GB in an iPad!). It has short battery life and it weighs over 3 pounds. But I am absolutely loving it so far. And the price is right.

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Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society -

The author of Freedom and The Corrections, regarded as one of America’s greatest living novelists, said consumers had been conned into thinking that they need the latest technology.

“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it's pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing.

“I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change ...

“Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball.

“But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”

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And it looks like I'll be getting one for my birthday. So I guess I'm doing my own bit to bring about civilization's end.

Also, it's hard for me to take anything he says seriously when he says some deplorable like this:

Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in 50 years’ time to find out if books have become obsolete.

“I’m amused by how intent people are on making human beings immortal or at least extremely long-lived,” he joked.

“One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], ‘Well, that won’t have to be my problem’. Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.”

It may not be my problem (if it is a problem, that is), but it will be my kids' problem, and their kids' as well. To deny that strikes me as completely selfish.

Edited by opus

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I was a late adapter to Kindle. Part of the reason I was so slow is that I thought I would miss the library too much. (The money was part of it too).

When I think back to the books I've read in the past two years (I still get new releases from the library), there is no difference--at all--between the stories I read on a Kindle and the stories I read on paper.

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I was a late adapter to Kindle. Part of the reason I was so slow is that I thought I would miss the library too much. (The money was part of it too).

When I think back to the books I've read in the past two years (I still get new releases from the library), there is no difference--at all--between the stories I read on a Kindle and the stories I read on paper.

There is some difference for me, but the difference is skewed in the direction of classic works of literature because they are free on the Kindle. So the Kindle has had the devastating effect of making it easier for me to read the canon of western literature that I always found excuses to avoid or ignore.

Franzen is silly. Perhaps he could start by explaining how that dog-eared, stained paperback is more permanent than an electronic file.

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