BOOKISHNESS: What Makes a Book a Book?

April 22, 2013

In our madcap rush to digitize the book we’ve been all too willing to attempt both to replicate the physical book experience in the digital realm and to just as quickly discard any feature of physical books that proved too challenging to emulate online. (more…)

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Hated the Book. Loved the Kindle

April 25, 2011

From the “You Can’t Please all of the People all of the Time” department:

The book in question is the Booker Award-winning The Sea, by John Banville.

Most of the 142 customer reviews on Amazon are positive, but those who dislike the book are vocal. Among the negative headlines:

  • Dull as toothpaste
  • This won an award?
  • Exquisite languor
  • eh?
  • Most boring book I have ever tried to read
  • Conned by Booker Prize

From the “Loved the Book. Hated the Kindle” department:

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Just in Time: An Expert on the Future of Books

September 16, 2010

Phew! That was close. Just yesterday I read on Simon Pulman’s Transmythology blog (Story, Branded Entertainment & Transmedia) that “It is a given that 90% of books purchased will be digitally downloaded.”

Today I learned from an “expert” that “the book is here to stay.”

Professor Clingham is a professor of English — clearly not mathematics — for he notes: “Just after Christmas last year, for the first time ever, the sale of electronic books exceeded the sale of hardback books. But, surprisingly, the sale of hardback books has remained constant, suggesting that people are buying more books and not just changing preference.”

The good professor obviously does not read my blog. If he did (and had a better memory than I), he would recall my entry from last January 5th where I discussed Amazon’s silly press statement: “On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

It turns out that Amazon was using the word “purchase” very loosely, in that 64 of the 100 top Kindle store bestsellers were free. These days Amazon admits that money is part of the transaction when we call said transaction a purchase.

So it was not after Christmas, but on Christmas Day, and it was only Amazon (not the world) and it was not sales. Aside from that, bingo.

Today I received also an inquiry from a third year graphic design student at the University of Leeds in the U.K. He explained that he is writing his dissertation on the “death of the printed word and image” and is reading as many articles as possible.

He read just one article on my site (out of perhaps fifty) and “wondered if you could point me in the direction of any other relevant research that is currently being undertaken?”

I’ve been at a loss for words. I thought to write: Why don’t you start by reading the rest of the articles on my site all of which discuss the…

And then I paused.

None of them discuss the “death of the printed word and image”. That’s because I don’t believe that the printed word and image are dying.

A key distinction to be made here: of course my site is all about the decrease in relative consumption of analog forms of content, replaced and often augmented by the wonderful explosion in available digital content.

But just because print is decreasing don’t mean it’s dying. I thought today: There is NO empirical evidence that print is dying. There’s a ton of evidence of decreased consumption, but media consumption does not evolve in a linear fashion. The trend line might look like it’s heading towards zero but an examination of historic media consumption patterns suggests that the decline will taper and at some point level off.

It could be that 90% of books purchased will be digitally downloaded, as Simon Pulman suggests. There is, however, no evidence of this. It is not “a given” (which Mr. Pulman acknowledged today).

Ebook enthusiasts, of which I am one, must keep in mind that analog media does not have to die for digital media to flourish.

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No. 1 Planned Use for Apple iPad: Working on the Go

March 24, 2010

As Bob Sacks points out in one of his three newsletters this evening:

Can there be anything more ridiculous than a survey about what people will do with a product that hasn’t yet been delivered?  All this hype is getting to me.  The Apple hype machine once again has my complete respect.  As I’ve stated before, I’m already on the list and ordered mine early.  My excuse is one of professional necessity.  If I’m going to predict the future, it sure makes sense to continually be part of it.  What’s your excuse?

He’s referring to an article published under tomorrow’s date on Apple Insider. Surveyed were 2,443 adults with a mobile phone, 770 of which own smartphones. And, as it turns out, this is an extremely prescient group!


Adding to Bob’s questioning above, I wonder how something that does not exist can be referred to as a “trend.” Oh well, precise use of language has never been a strong point among technologists.

As you can see above, 12.2% disqualified themselves altogether by stating that they “would never consider purchasing such a device.” Party poopers. Another 4.4% have been living in the deepest Amazon jungle for several months and have let Steve Jobs down by not knowing what an iPad is. Shame on them.

Based on the phrasing of the question, apparently 15.5 % of those surveyed do plan to purchase an iPad without any idea of what they’ll use it for. Discretionary income put to good use.

The rest intend to use it for tasks they can already perform on existing computing hardware. Very creative.

I think I’ll just drop this warm potato right here. It speaks so eloquently for itself.

Update, March 30/2010: MediaPostNews Online Media Daily has found another survey (from a firm named “PriceGrabber“) that boldly predicts that of the 34% of those surveyed who intend to buy an eReader of some sort next year, 59% will choose the Apple iPad versus 35% who will choose a Kindle, and half that percentage the “Sony Reader” (presumably all models from Apple, Amazon and Sony are included).


But this cross-section of the American public demonstrate that it has not done ALL of its homework. As the article points out:

Focusing on the e-reader market, the PriceGrabber study found that four of five consumers want to pay less than $250 for such a device. Since that would rule out the iPad, which sells for $500 at the lowest price, either people aren’t aware of what the Apple tablet costs or they are willing to pay more for its versatility. The average price of the  top 10 eReaders on is $241.

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Why the Kindle is Safer than Print

November 27, 2009

For the last two days I’ve been reading a good old-fashioned paperback novel. Written by Steve Hely, published by Grove/Atlantic, Inc., it’s called “How I Became a Famous Novelist.” I don’t remember how I first heard about it, but I ordered in from the West Vancouver Public Library and picked it up yesterday. As was promised by the press coverage it is hilarious, a brilliant satire of the world of bestselling authors.


Yet, I’ve now realized, the book reveals two reasons why paper is more dangerous than Kindles (and presumably other eReaders). The problem stems from turning paper pages too quickly. On page 23 of the book the fictional narrator, a hack writer of essays for illiterate college students, becomes upset at a series of profiles in The New York Times on bestselling novelists. He reads a few, and then in disgust turns a page so fast that he gets a paper cut. That WOULD NOT happen on a Kindle!

To make matters worse, the glowing endorsement on the front cover of the paperback, credited to The Brooklyn Alternative, states: “I was turning the pages so fast they nearly burst into flames.” I’ve investigated and apparently they did not in the end burst into flames, and the reviewer suffered neither physical nor psychological trauma.

But keep this in mind. You can turn pages as fast as you wish on a Kindle (actually one of the complaints about the device has been that screen refresh is a little slow, but let’s ignore that quibble) without ever worrying about this eReader bursting into flames. I can’t even find any complaints about overheating: it’s a low energy device.

So this Christmas, as you consider purchasing Mr. Hely’s marvellous “How I Became a Famous Novelist” from Amazon for $10.08 (same at Barnes & Noble if you’ve got a membership), or buying your loved ones a Kindle for $259, just keep in mind that the Kindle may be safer, but “How I Became a Famous Novelist” has not yet been published as an eBook.

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