April 17, 2011

I anticipate the future, when books will feel alien...

... because I'm already saying — only as a joke now, but still — "I don't know how to read this; I can't figure out where you're supposed to click."

Said while reading "Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric," which is actually a pretty cool book, but would be much better — to me — as a webpage. The main reasons for making this a book: 1. So Ward Farnsworth can earn royalties, and 2. Books, unlike webpages, are giftable. Got any rhetoric buffs that you give gifts to? Dad, maybe, for Dad's Day?

The main reasons for writing this post: 1. I think the book-vs.-webpage observation is interesting, 2. If you buy the book at the link, Prof. Althouse will probably make more via Amazon Associates than Prof. Farnsworth will make via publisher's royalties.


KenK said...

Send a copy to Obama. He needs some new tricks. "Some say that..", and "let me be clear...", feature in nearly everything he says in public.

Bob_R said...

I was going to click,but its not available on Prime. (Does that effect your take?)

Kensington said...

I was very excited about getting a Kindle, right up until I actually obtained one.

Now I'd rather have books again. The Kindle is heavier than I expected it to be, and the interface is clumsier than I'd prefer, too. But really, I guess I'm still just too attached to the physical sensation of holding an actual book and feeling the weight shift as I progress.

edutcher said...

Once my refund comes through (pinky swear).

PS Books have a portability browsers and Kindles and other electronic stuff just don't have yet.

A book can get wet or kicked down the hall and still be usable.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Not available on Kindle? Pass. At this point, I only buy physical books where art or diagrams are a major element. Exceptions only for "gotta have" books, and this isn't one.

PS Books have a portability browsers and Kindles and other electronic stuff just don't have yet.

A book can get wet or kicked down the hall and still be usable.

Yeah, especially when you're carrying 782 of them at once.

Oh, wait, you can't do that with physical books. "Portability" has a lot of different meanings.

Paddy O said...

Here's an even better idea. Buy my new book: How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness by Patrick Oden, and give Althouse money through Amazon Associates and a long time commenter money through publisher's royalties.

I suspect Althouse and Farnsworth are going to be making a lot more money than I am, so I need all the help I can get. It's not officially released until April 25th, and should be out on Kindle by then, but since Amazon started selling it early, I'm going to start marketing it early.

Ann Althouse said...

"I was going to click,but its not available on Prime. (Does that effect your take?)"


Martin L. Shoemaker said...

As for this...

... because I'm already saying — only as a joke now, but still — "I don't know how to read this; I can't figure out where you're supposed to click."

One day, when I was very tired from long hours of work, I was drawing a design on a whiteboard. I made some mistake of some kind... and I instinctively searched for the Undo button.

I decided to end early that day and go get some sleep.

galdosiana said...

I was just saying this exact same thing to my brother and dad on Friday. My dad is a huge fan of the Kindle--my brother and I prefer the paper-variety. I blame Kindle for Borders' demise, and I also wonder how many other *book* stores will fall victim to the electronic readers?

Freeman Hunt said...

Ha. I just got that in the other day.

Freeman Hunt said...

I bought it on Prime a few days ago, so I think Amazon is just out of stock right now.

Freeman Hunt said...

I love the Kindle. I finally got one, and I use it all the time.

My favorite features:

(1) Text to speech. Don't have to put down a good book while driving.

(2) Newspapers. I hate reading physical newspapers. They're unwieldy. They also make a big mess. I subscribed to the the Wall Street Journal the other day on Kindle, and I love it. Easy to navigate, highly portable, no more giant, flimsy newspaper.

(3) Instant books. After I read a book, I often want a follow up book right away. Now I can have one instantly.

(4) Interfaces with Twitter. I like being able to highlight a passage and share it through Twitter using only the Kindle.

Freeman Hunt said...

Things I don't like about the Kindle:

(1) Can't thumb through a Kindle book.

(2) Don't retain the information from a Kindle book as well as from a physical book. The way to overcome this is to use the Kindle's highlight feature. You can view just your highlights from the book to review it.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Freeman Hunt said...

Things I don't like about the Kindle:

(1) Can't thumb through a Kindle book.

Depends on what you mean by thumb through: randomly pick a page and start reading? Or quickly skim looking for something you remember?

You can randomly pick a page, but you'll be sorry. You can fairly easily page forward a bunch of pages; but when you do, that gets stored as your latest page/farthest page read. And since those are important markers for picking up where you left off, you effectively lose your place. Annoying.

As for skimming for a page you remember, it has a search feature which works if you can remember at least a few words.

But yes, physical books win when you judge by random access. Amazon needs to work on that.

deborah said...

For those who haven't seen it, here's a skit showing a monk used to scrolls trying to understand how to use a book:


LilyBart said...

I like the idea of the Kindel, but it won't replace 'paper' books in my heart. I will always collect books, even when it becomes quaint to do so. I will just be choosy about which books to collect. The 'throw-away' fiction, I can just download.

LilyBart said...

Yhe Kindle didn't kill Borders. I follow retail companies in my job, and Borders has been in trouble for a long time. Its more correct to say Amazon killed Borders.

But don't feel too sorry for Borders - it was big national chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble that killed the independent bookstores, which saddens me. Ah, progress.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

LilyBart said...

Its more correct to say Amazon killed Borders.

Yes, and somewhat with Borders' own unwitting assistance.

When Borders made their half-hearted foray into the online world, they saw their online store not as a competitor to Amazon, but as a competitot to their own brick-and-mortar stores. And so they matched their brick-and-mortar pricing, not Amazon's pricing. Why? Because the executives from the brick-and-mortar side refused to have it any other way. They couldn't stop Amazon from undercutting, but they could stop their own online store!

Friends from Ann Arbor, home of the original Borders, told me they really wanted to support their local business; but Amazon's prices were just too good. They still shopped Borders in person, but their online business went to Amazon.

Freeman Hunt said...

Borders charged full retail price for their books. Big shock that didn't work out.

(I say that, but then my sons and I used to meet my mother at the now closed local Borders about once a week. My mother always bought several books that my sons picked out. Maybe Borders' focus should have been on luring in more grandparents with their grandchildren.)

Freeman Hunt said...

The worst part about Borders' failure is that they had Seattle's Best cafes. Seattle's Best is a subsidiary of Starbucks, but the coffee drinks are better at Seattle's Best.

As for straight coffee rather than coffee drinks, the Starbucks nearest to me serves Pike's Place all the time. Pike's Place tastes like it hates people. It's like a little "eff you!" in every sip.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Oh, trust me, Freeman, I will always have Borders nostalgia. Back when I was in college, my parents once gave me a Christmas present: a card with $50 and instructions to go to Borders (back when there was only the one).

And to show my age: I left the store with literally a grocery bag full of paperbacks.

And in the 90s and early 00s, that store had the best computer book selection anywhere. I traveled a lot, and I never found a selection to match.

But as much as I have fond memories of beautiful books, it's ultimately the words I value most; and those can be delivered to me faster from the comfort of my own home.

And Amazon has really beefed up their recommendation engine. Once that was my strongest argument for brick-and-mortar stores: I would find things I never knew I wanted. And for years I laughed at Amazon's recommendation engine, because it seemed to find only things I already owned and things I would never want. But in the last year or so, the engine figured out my tastes at last. Just last week I bought a textbook I never imagined existed, but immediately knew I had to own. Score another win for Amazon.

Chip Ahoy said...

How do pop-ups work on them? I'm imagining they don't.

This comes to mind because I'm working on a pop-up card in book form. A friend's birthday coincides with Good Friday next week, although it's not clear what's so good about a guy being crucified. So the card is having an Easter theme even though the friend is not particularly religious. The plan that is working out is for two stories to be told simultaneously over three pages.

On the first page bunnies pop up out of hollow logs strewn about a forest floor, and by the way, in the distance in black and white, three tiny figures are being crucified on a hill. (It took four iterations of decreasing detail to get the imbalance of scale to work. The final copy will be the fifth.) Oddly, it was very easy to create the scene on Calvary, even a detailed one, and more difficult to make it look like it's happening in the distant background)

The second page is bunnies hopping all around the place with a few Easter eggs and baskets, and by the way, in the background drawn in black and white a large stone rolls to the side of a hill reveling an open tomb. (It took two days to devise a way for the stone to roll when the pages are opened and still seem inconsequential to the larger colorful bunnies.)

The third page is a bunch of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies in green nests hidden in the grass and among fallen branches and forest stuff while in the background a tiny black and white Jesus in triumphant pose is suspended in the air with threads.

The cover might be just Happy Birthday or something. I haven't really thought about that yet.

reader_iam said...

People used to complain about "see [jump hed] on [page x]"

It's what people do.

reader_iam said...

Borders charged full retail price for their books. Big shock that didn't work out.

Which ones?

Synova said...

My problem with brick and mortar is that whenever I wanted a particular book, it was never there. Going into the book store and being disappointed over and over again leaves an impression.

For as huge as the mega stores were publishing paper has been all about remainders. How many books do they take off the shelf and send back again? (The hardcovers get discounted instead of shipped back, the paperbacks have the covers ripped off of them and the covers sent back for a refund.)

We can blame stupid pricing plans and we can blame a whole lot of things, but the issue between the book stores and Amazon is inventory. Buy a book from Amazon and you have to wait. Buy a book from a book store and you get it immedi... wait... no you don't... you don't get it at all because they ripped the cover off and pulped the rest.

Oligonicella said...

Martin L. Shoemaker --

"Yeah, especially when you're carrying 782 of them at once."

Which also allows you to lose 782 at once.

Good idea, but just a little too premature technologically to be 'right' yet. Need a more calculator-cheap tech before it's worth the effort to me.

Trooper York said...

I actually thinking about buying a kindle. I have resisted it for a long time because I love the feel of a book in my hands.

Especailly on the toilet. Just sayn'

Trooper York said...

I mean who wants to be holding a computer while you are taking a dump?

Except Titus of course.

Paddy O said...

It's back in stock at Amazon, and I just bought it with the Althouse-Funding link.