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Bloviating Zeppelin: The Replacement for Books

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Replacement for Books

Is there a replacement for books?

Google seems to think so.

The Economist has a handle on this issue. Go here for the article.

For those unknowing:

IN SECRET locations and using secret methods, human beings are scanning lots and lots of books for Google, the world's largest web-search company. That humans are involved is beyond doubt (fingers are visible in the corners of many pages on although this is uncharacteristic of Google, which has a fetish for purist technology.

Google will not divulge exact numbers, but Daniel Clancy, the project's lead engineer, gives enough guidance for an educated guess: Google's contract with one university library, Berkeley's, stipulates that it must digitise 3,000 books a day. The minimum for the other 12 universities involved may be lower, but the rate for participating publishers is higher. So a conservative estimate has Google digitising at least 10m books a year. The total number of titles in existence is estimated to be about 65m.

The author of the article makes several points but adds:

Most stories, however, will never find a better medium than the paper-bound novel. That is because readers immersed in a storyline want above all not to be interrupted, and all online media teem with distractions (even a hyperlink is an interruption). People do not read fiction in order to accomplish a specific task in a limited amount of time, as they read reference and schoolbooks. Random-access dictionaries and cookbooks may be useful; random-access novels less so.

I submit there are two clear and unequivocal categories of reading:

  • Research/business
  • Pleasure

Digital books will never, ever, replace pleasure reading.

There is nothing, nothing quite so satisfying as holding an actual book in one's hands. That feeling will never, ever be replaced by something as intangible as a mere faux collection of 1s and 0s.




Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Remind me not to write posts about digital books anymore.


Sun May 27, 12:15:00 PM PDT  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

It is strange but true: Baen Books sells more 'real books', as in paper and ink with cover, by giving away free material, as in free text of said books.

Books are: high resolution, do not depend on a power source just light, are handy in format size, comfortable to carry, have a non-volatile memory system that can even handle dunkings in water, and look nice on shelves when next to each other. E-books are trendy and e-book readers can double as a web browser.

Hmmmm... I think I know *why* free text sells books....

Do visit the Baen Free library, they have some very, very good items to read there. You just might end up buying the book... I recommend 1632, the Keith Laumer material, and anything by David Drake.

Sun May 27, 02:06:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Oddly enough AJ, I am a lover of SF. Some of my elder SF is rather old. My brothers got me into it in the early 60s.

And yes, I enjoy many Baen books.


Mon May 28, 01:17:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

I can clearly remember reading my brothers' 1965 paperback of Herbert's Dune. Back when it was in good shape.


Mon May 28, 01:18:00 AM PDT  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Mr. Z - One of the Baen authors has charted his sales and residuals and can show, as in money in the bank account, that free text makes him money. The other authors there have also noticed that, too.

I have only worn a couple of books to the point where their bindings have gone to pot, and those are older, pulp market editions where the glue was... substandard, to say the least. There is a tactile sensation of a book that goes with the information and that, alone, has made finding reference material very easy, for me. I know what a story or part of one was and what the book looked and felt like even when I have spaced on the author. One glance and by size and color then just a few pull backs to see the cover and thats it.... It will help when they are digitized, but the physical editions will always have a home for their ease of use and user-friendly interface. And we do tend to forget those factors, too. It are those *tangibles* that we key on in life and that make them lasting. No doubt there will be a replacement, but it must be as easy to use, lightweight, high resolution, have no power requirements *and* offer all the benefits of computing and networking. It will get there, just not very soon...

Mon May 28, 01:52:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

AJ: do you find that, like me, I can't digest information, say important reference material or lengthy memos from work, unless they are printed out? I just don't seem to be able to "process" important info sufficiently from a computer screen, as I do when it exists in my hand.

You that way too?


Tue May 29, 03:04:00 PM PDT  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Mr. Z - I can get the import of information via reading online or from a screen, but actually *storing it* so as to have it be *useful* requires something else.

We have a built-in talent for coordinating memories and those that hit visual as well as tactile are reinforced. Thats the bit about not remembering the author, or even the exact quote... but the book I can find on my shelves. There is, in actuality, a lot of research going on looking at that in the cognition field: if we can find out how to use those different pathways for learning, we can greatly increase our ability *to* learn.

At work I got out of the habit of printing things as all of that had to be bagged and such for classified material and it really was trivia, 99% of it. Important documents get *printed*. Memos got the bit bucket.

I still prefer reading from books... just no two ways about it. I can ingest information direct from the screen, but my ability to properly index it mentally and itegrate it is less than that from paper. Still, when I worked it was far, far easier to delete files than shred paper. So I made that transition because I am a lazy SOB! Too true for words, that... if you had to walk over to a shredder or slip it in a burn bag and keep track of it until it got magically disappeared and signed off upon, you, too, would do away with paper. The 'paperless office' will arrive the same day as the 'paperless bathroom' here. Other folks already have that, but their offices don't work too well....

Thu May 31, 02:11:00 PM PDT  

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