Archive for October, 2007

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Green Titles, Green Books

October 23, 2007

World Meteorological OrganizationBlog Action Day and the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize are now past, but it remains an apt time to highlight a few key books on environmental issues which are available (for free) at WOWIO.

This year’s awarding of the Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was met with controversy in some circles. Essential to any reasoned discussion of the merits is an actual reading of the IPCC’s report, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis — particularly the Summary for Policymakers.

The Battle over Hetch HetchyFor perspective on the larger debate over environmental policy, a look at the early clashes over preservation and resource utilization in America can provide insight on the debates that continue to this day. The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America’s Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism by Robert W. Righter (Oxford University Press, 2005) looks at the social and political conflict that led to the birth of the modern environmental movement and reframed the national conversation in the terms we see today.

Walden and Walden Pond, A HistoryHenry David Thoreau’s Walden (WOWIO Books, 2007) is the seminal work that gave a voice to the then-unarticulated tension between the yearning for nature’s simplicity and a modern lifestyle increasingly dissociated from the natural world. Walden Pond: A History by W. Barksdale Maynard (Oxford University Press, 2004) tells the story of the pond itself, from its days as a spiritual retreat for Thoreau and Emerson to today’s role as environmental and cultural icon.

In a nice congruity with the spirit of the subject matter, these books are all in downloadable ebook format. Despite the not-insignificant environmental cost of running the web and the life-cycle costs of the devices needed to consume the content, digital books are still an enormous step forward compared to the impacts of printed books — some 20 million trees consumed for books sold in the US alone, plus the power and waste by-products associated with their printing, distribution and disposal.

When considering the issues surrounding the environment, what are the titles that influenced you the most?

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Fake Steve Jobs on the Apple eBook Reader

October 16, 2007

Steve Jobs, ebook

Fake Steve says it’s right around the corner, so it must be true — Apple just wants to give the world a chance to catch its breath after months of iPhone-induced hypoxia.

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Frankfurt Book Fair: Publishers Seeing Pixels

October 9, 2007

reading at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Frankfurt Book Fair logoThe Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest book event in the world, with a history stretching back to the days of Gutenberg and the emergence of printing in the west. The billing on its web site is true by all accounts — “everyone who is anyone in the industry will be there: authors and publishers, booksellers and librarians, art dealers and illustrators, agents and journalists, information brokers and readers.”

This year’s edition is now in progress. This year’s hottest topic — adaptation and prosperity in an ever more digital world (from the Book Fair site):

Digitisation will be centre of attention at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair (10 to 14 October 2007), as the world’s largest book and media event focuses on a topic which has become a major priority for the publishing industry.

The programme will examine how all aspects of digitisation – from e-books, e-marketing and Web 2.0 through to online platforms such as Google or Amazon – will impact on the industry.

Frankfurt Book Fair preparations

Preparing for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

This trend is evidenced by the increasing industry forays into the digital realm — for example, if you’re already a WOWIO user, you’ve seen this movement first-hand in the steadily growing stream of new books and the publishers embracing its unique, all-digital (and all-free) business model.

From a dpa news story reporting on an industry meeting at the Fair:

As publishers gathered Tuesday for the October 10-14 Frankfurt Book Fair, they heard that free online books funded by advertising are one of the up-and-coming ways to earn a living from literature.

Evan Schnittman, a New York-based Oxford University Press executive giving a briefing on digital books, said US website WOWIO was already in the free e-book business […]

WOWIO will make a lot of news in the future,” he said.

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iPhone + Comics: (Not) Seeing the Big Picture

October 4, 2007
cover art

Cover art (above) displays beautifully, but text in the interior pages (below) is illegible without zooming.

interior page, portrait orientation

After some extended use, I’ve found that the iPhone has the potential to be a surprisingly good ebook reader. This is true for immersive text reading, such as fiction… but how about comics and graphic novels? The demo photos looked good, but how is it in real life?

To test this out, I loaded the comic A Bit of Madness (which, as an aside, has some of the most gorgeous comic art I’ve seen, and a richly-textured story to match) on my iPhone. Well… attempted to load would be more accurate, because Mobile Safari was unable to display the graphics-heavy 25MB PDF (the largest file I’ve been able to open is 7MB). The file was too large for email, so the backup plan of using Mail’s PDF viewer was out, as well.

Assuming that Apple or a third party will someday develop a true PDF reader that can handle the complete book, I decided to use a smaller 2MB excerpt just to test the display hardware and interface.

The results are beautiful to behold. When viewed in portrait orientation, the entire comic page can be shown and the iPhone’s sharp, rich-color display shows off the art beautifully… with one significant problem. The text is simply too small to read. The infinitely variable zooming allows it to be made legible, but actual reading requires a fair amount of scrolling. While the fingertip motion is very natural, it’s impossible to get a sense of the whole page and the integrated, flowing nature of the book’s layout is lost.

Switching to landscape orientation helps legibility, but again, the visual flow is definitely compromised.

landscape view

On the other hand, a more sequential, panel-oriented comic like retro superhero Pistolfist (below) is much more amenable to the iPhone display’s limitations.

Pistolfist page, landscape view

The iPhone’s limitations with storing and displaying documents continue to be a problem, but these are fixable in future software upgrades. However, the reader experience with page-oriented comics is hurt by the small physical size of the display, which can’t legibly display text in a full-page view. Unless your comic reading is limited to panel-oriented titles, you’ll definitely want to consider a larger-screened alternative or wait for Apple to release an iPhone-like device with a bigger screen.

Related Posts

iPhone and iPod: Dense Pixels, Happy Eyes
eBook Reader Technology Scorecard
iPhone Reader: The Long Sessions

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New Sony Reader (PRS-505) Now Available

October 2, 2007

A few weeks after initial details of an upgraded Sony Reader leaked out, the new unit is officially available.

Since my first report, a few additional improvements have been revealed, most notably an improved display with better contrast, faster page turns and more shades of gray.

Overall, the changes are nice incremental improvements, but nothing revolutionary. See the diagram below for a comparison of the new model (PRS-505) versus the original (PRS-500).

Sony Readers compared

Additional details are available at the MobileRead Forum.

Related Posts

New Sony Readers: Coming Soon!
Sony Reader and the Mac: An Unfinished Story
Sony Reader: Mammal or Dinosaur?