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  • E-book or mobile phone?

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    Good stuff (as always) from Martyn Daniels over at Brave New World discussing the iPhone and what it means for e-books and therefore for publishers:
    Apple has raises the internet browser bar and consumers will demand that others follow. So what does this mean to publishers? It is clear that the ergonomic and user acceptable mobile browser is close to mass adoption and that the iPhone is proving the tipping point. This extends the reach of marketing and promotion into new areas and past the jacket model that prevails today. As for content it's almost inevitable that the digital renditions will be online with downloads to mobile devices. It is highly unlikely that the personal library will be on the mobile device and that it will follow the music model and dedicated device will not be for the mass market. So do you really want a sledgehammer reading device to crack this digital ebook nut?
    Nope, you certainly don't need such a sledghammer. But e-reader technology -- indeed, much web technology -- stills needs improving. Web-literate mobile phones need to offer a still better and more affordable browsing experience; laptops need to be yet more portable. E-ink technology will be perfected first on e-books not laptops; great portability, improved user interfaces and faux-codex features will also be developed further on Kindle II and its e-book competitors. And then my guess is that this technology will be folded back into a great mobile device of the future. And given how fast things move these days, that future won't be too far away.
  • Run whilst you read!?

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    Uh oh! Potentially bad news for bibliophiles via 3quarksdaily:
    Active people could be up to 10 years "younger" than couch potatoes, at least according to one measure of biological age. Tim Spector, director of the Twin Research Unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London, looked at the levels of physical activity of 2,401 twins and assessed the length of their telomeres - the "caps" on the ends of their chromosomes that help to protect the DNA from wearing down during the replication process that replenishes cells. Telomeres shorten over an individual's lifetime and are thought to function as a marker for ageing. Smokers and obese people were already known to have shorter telomeres than their healthier counterparts. The team found that, on average, telomeres in the most active group (who took more than 3 hours 20 minutes of exercise a week) were 200 nucleotides longer than that of the least active group (who took less than 16 minutes exercise a week). "This difference suggests that inactive subjects may be biologically older by 10 years compared with more active subjects," say Spector and colleagues in their paper in Archives of Internal Medicine.
    Reading -- and I do lots and lots
  • Is the future bright!?

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    In an excellent post over on Brave New World, Martyn Daniels asks: "Why do we believe that the future is bad? Why do we look backwards believing that the world we knew before served us better and that books as we knew them then were the best they could ever be?" There is much woe and despair in the publishing industry, but Martyn puts a welcome and positive spin on our publishing future:
    The paper book will not disappear but the current economic publishing model and value chain will change. The only certainty is that there will still be authors and there still will be readers but everything in between is up for grabs. Will we still be producing the volume of new titles at the current rate -- no? Will we be reviving and becoming aware of past treasures and the long tail -- yes? Will some books go fully digital -- yes? Will some books remain in paper -- yes and for many years these will be the majority of the market. The challenge is finding the balance and being able to respond to changing demand.
    Martyn's punctuation is a bit odd here. Rather than having open questions, I think he means to answer them. I think he meant to write: "Will we still be producing the volume of new titles at the current rate? No. Will we be reviving and becoming aware of past treasures and the long tail? Yes. Will some books go fully digital? Yes." And I agree with him! And, obviously, here at The Book Depository we think that the longtail is key to all this. So many books, so many readers, but new books rushing past us all of the time at breakneck speed with the good ones getting lost along the way ... How can we cope? By ignoring the flood of new books, finding our own filtering mechanisms (the literary blogosphere for me!), and buying books regardless of when they where published.
  • By trade, I'm a professional librarian. After my first degree, and after pleasantly wasting a good few years with a bit of travel and a lot of reading, I took a postgraduate degree in librarianship. It was on my course that I was initiated into the dark art of cataloguing. Who knew that taxonomy -- the practice and science of classification -- could be so interesting? And who guessed it could be so political and controversial!? So I can't deny that, yesterday, when I read this article in the Washington Post, a part of me thrilled with delight. I do like to see librarians and their arcane doings in the news!
    The stroke of a pen at the Library of Congress -- which rebranded 700 years of Scottish literary tradition as "English literature" -- has in recent weeks generated a spluttering uproar here. And last week, faced with Celtic fury, the American institution made an undignified U-turn.The decision by the library's Cataloguing Policy and Support Office to abandon 40 headings and subheadings for Scottish writing meant every author in Scotland would be categorized under predominantly "English" categories... Not even the national bard, Robert Burns, was exempt from the new Library of Congress rules. Despite penning the indisputably Scottish line "Wee, sleekit cow'rin, tim'rous beastie," he stood to be reclassified from the heading "Scottish Poetry" to "English Poetry, Scottish authors," under the system. The reclassification took place in 2006 but wasn't noticed until the London Times called attention to it just before Christmas. Then, after weeks of protest from "appalled" government ministers, writers and academics, Washington relented. In an apologetic letter to the National Library of Scotland here and the British Library in London, Librarian of Congress James Billington said the institution would return writers to their former Scottish status. It is hard to overestimate reaction to the Library of Congress policy. Many Scots believe the country is enjoying a literary renaissance with writers such as Irvine Welsh, A.L. Kennedy, Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre selling millions of books worldwide. The country's literary tradition is founded on authors such as Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, who strongly asserted their sense of Scottish identity... The absurdity aside, the change was likely to have dramatic consequences. Library of Congress subject headings are adopted by libraries, publishers and retailers throughout the world, raising fears in Scotland that its proud literary heritage would be buried.
    Yay! So Scottish Literature is
  • Thin books, please!

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    Anecdotal Evidence draws out a choice quote from Theodore Dalrymple's review in the New York Sun of the 614-page Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis by George Makari:
    Here, as an aside, I make a plea for thin rather than for fat books, at least for the general reader. (I accept the value of fat books as repositories.) There is more intellect in the distillation than in the accumulation of facts; for facts, unlike men, are not created equal. We busy human beings need guidance as to their importance and significance; and there are, after all, very few subjects of such intrinsic importance that we need to know every last detail about them.
    Loath as I am to agree with Dalrymple, I think he is absolutely right here. Not only are there far too many books in the world, there are far too few decent editors keeping the rivers of words from becoming vast, unnavigable oceans of content. As Pierre Bayard has charmingly
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