Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ebooks Will Kill Print...Don't Make Me Laugh

There is a lot of debate about ebooks killing off the printed word and several people have already predicted its end date.  They are wrong.

I was initially responding to a post at the Literary Lab when I got to thinking about how unlikely this death is to happen.

The three reasons I gave were that Hardbacks weren't killed off by paperbacks, home taping didn't kill music and the internet didn't kill off the postal service.  There are, naturally, many more examples that I, and you, can think of.

The problem, as I see it, is that printed books are just too useful.  Forget the feeling of holding a book and the smell of the paper.  That's just for anoraks/nerds/geeks/freaks (delete as appropriate) like me.  For the vast majority of people, a book is a simple piece of technology that can be taken anywhere.

- Ereaders need power to function, usually in the form of batteries.  A book doesn't.
- Ereaders need to boot up before they can be used.  A book doesn't.
- Ereaders give too much choice of reading material.  A book doesn't.

The question is not whether ereaders will replace books, but whether ereaders will last at all.

Other technology could give us a clue:  DVDs and mp3s.  Despite Apple's best efforts, they haven't got a monopoly on downloaded music and now that Amazon are selling unrestricted mp3s, that market may well dry up completely.  Mp3s can be played on any compatible player, a number of which can be bought cheaply.  You can play mp3s on your phone or your computer too.  With a little wizadry, you can get them to play via your stereo system.

DVDs are region restricted, but you can play them on any DVD player in that region.  You can get regionless DVD players as well, not forgetting that BluRay players can play DVDs as can computers.

Both mp3s and DVDS are portable and so are printed books.  The books for ereaders aren't.

The music industry and games industry have found out the hard way that using Digital Rights Software is only going to cause trouble for the honest and be cracked by the dishonest.  Microsoft, meanwhile, are learning that proprietary software is going by the wayside, as their office software and internet explorer are being used less frequently by individuals and businesses, whilst Windows is being replaced in some areas by Linux.

The other problem with ereaders is economics.  A lost or broken book can be replaced relatively cheaply.  What happens to your library if your ereader breaks?  Are Sony and Amazon going to replace it all free of charge? When technology passes your current ereader by, will you be able to transfer your digital library to something else?

A cautionary tale comes from the 1980s.  The British historian Michael Wood was at the head of a research project to compile a modern Doomsday Book.  They decided to use a computer and the System they chose was the BBC Micro as it was widely used in schools and universities.  Ten years later they started a campaign to save this data as the BBC Micro had been usurped by Windows and the project was in danger of being lost.

Could the same thing happen to the software on the Kindle and Sony products?

The way forward for Electronic Publishing could be something as simple as the humble PDF.  The PDF is a file format designed by Adobe and made freely available for anyone to use.  It is second only to Word in its ubiquitousness on our computers and in the number of documents sent via email.  In many ways it is the document equivalent of the mp3. 

If you download a PDF book you can take it anywhere and put it on as many devices as you like as well as have a backup up copy. 

There will be the inevitable cries from the publishing industry that they will lose money as people will just email them around the world.  Aside from slandering the entirety of humanity, it also fails to account for second hand bookstores.  Charity shops sell plenty of books, with not a penny going to the author or the publisher.  Some of these books are sold several times before being finally binned.  The difference between this and passing round a PDF is...?

The vast bulk of humanity are honest enough to want to pay someone properly for a job well done, that's why they leave tips.  Ereaders are not the way forward or as pliant as the publishers (and the manufacturers) would have us believe, but are an expensive way to build a llibrary and read books.

All these reasons, in my opinion, are why ereaders will never replace the printed word.


Monday, August 23, 2010

True Friendship is...

There are many definitions of true friendship and all are wonderful and correct.  For me, one of the best is:

True friendship is when you can share the silence.

I love this one as it shows friendship as a totally comfortable experience where you can be yourself and not have to keep people amused all the time.

On another note, Hub have issued another magazine which I have two (yes TWO) reviews published.  One of which is positive (about the book 'Changes'), and one negative (about the DVD of Starhyke).

World domination of literature is a step closer.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good or Bad?

I was in Wales last weekend staying with an old friend.  Whilst there, we watched some TV together (sharing silence has never been a problem for us) and one of the programs was called 'How To Look Good Naked'. 

My initial reaction was that this was yet another sign of declining standards in broadcasting and a bit of soft porn.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Instead of a catwalk full of size 0 models, the women were all normal and came in all shapes and sizes: well, mostly.  I didn't see a single woman who was less than a size 14, so it wasn't ALL shapes and sizes, just all the larger ones.

The women who volunteered all had a low opinion of themselves and how they looked.  By the end of the program, Gok Wan (who has to run Dale Winton close for the gayest man on TV) had dressed them well, had them pose naked in a shop window (not boobs or genitalia showing, just bare backs and bums) and then had them parade on a catwalk in some sexy underwear, stripping off just before they walked off for the last time.

None of the women were forced to do it and some of them backed out of the stripping on the catwalk, but the transformation in their attitude to themselves was glorious to behold.

They were all shown models of different bodies and asked where they would put themselves in terms of size and they were ALL wrong, rating themselves too fat or big.  One women who thought her chest was something to hide, thought that a set of plaster boobs looked great only to find out that they were the same size as hers.

Sadly, we live in a world where unless you have the right shape, bank balance, job or car, you are considered not worth a damn.  And then they wonder why those of us who aren't normal have no confidence and prefer to stay indoors and play on the computer.

'How To Look Good naked' shows us that we are all normal.  More power to that attitude.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Oddbox...Again. And Some Other News.

I've been a bit erratic with this blog recently....so why stop now.

Here's the weekly bit of odd news that really SHOULD be in the main news programs to give balance to their reporting of all the world's misery.  Yes, it's Oddbox.

Whilst I'm on the subject of odd things, I received some great news over the weekend.  No, I haven't had a novel accepted, I have been cast as the evil villain in KATS production of 'Babes In the Wood'.

I'm looking forward to being horrible, nasty, evil, viscous, mean, cruel and rotten.  And that's just for starters.

Enjoy your day.