The books in this teeny tiny library measure just 1-1.5 inches each! See more of the smallest books in the world.
tiny and meta!
“Little Library” (2009), by Todd Pattison. Photo from the Guild of Book Workers.
“The Chompy Condition” based on René Magritte’s “The Human Condition” 1935.
from Deeplinks by Cindy Cohn and Peter Eckersley and Peter Eckersley and Rainey Reitman and Seth Schoen
Today, we’re happy to announce that we will be accepting Bitcoin donations through our website. You can use them to make one-time donations, set up monthly donations or get an EFF membership (which includes awesome membership swag like EFF hats and digital freedom t-shirts).
While we are accepting Bitcoin donations, EFF is not endorsing Bitcoin. EFF does not typically endorse products or services, and we certainly do not endorse any of the electronic payment methods that we currently accept (credit cards, PayPal, and now BitPay).
With respect to Bitcoin as a technology, there is clearly a lot more to be said. Currently it seems that Bitcoin, while innovative, has a number of limitations and weaknesses in its design, and might yet turn out to be just the first draft for future crypto-currencies.1 However, as an organization that supports cryptographic experimentation, we believe the best answer to Bitcoin’s potential shortcomings is for others to come along and offer superior alternatives.
Along the way, we want to give our supporters as much flexibility as possible in making donations to EFF. You can click to make a donation to EFF by credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and, in the future, hopefully many other payment systems as well.
How We Got Here
Two years ago, EFF decided to stop taking Bitcoins for a number of reasons and returned the coins to the community via the Bitcoin faucet and promised to investigate further. Since then, we’ve been watching the public debate around Bitcoins, seeing the ecosystem develop around them, and conducting our own research on the possible legal issues.
Here were some of the factors we considered when making this decision:
Censorship by payment intermediaries is an ongoing problem for free speech online – so it makes sense to start diversifying the available options. EFF has long tried to identify and fortify the weakest links for speech online, and payment processors remain a significant problem. We’ve seen payment processors with policies that ban speech that would be strongly protected under the First Amendment, that arbitrarily enforce those policies, and that offer no process at all for reinstating closed accounts, much less the sort of due process that the government would have to engage in to shut down speech. We’ve seen payment providers cave to pressure from government officials to shut down accounts. We’ve seen payment intermediaries shut off accounts to censor First Amendment-protected online content. And we’ve seen legislators propose misguided censorship legislation that would have put payment providers in the position of actively shutting down the accounts of individuals accused of copyright infringement. Because of this, we’re generally interested in ways of diversifying the market around payment options, so that a handful of big market players won’t be able to exercise such a stranglehold over online speech.
You can now give Bitcoins to EFF in the same way that you can give stock. EFF has long had a policy that converts gifts of stock and items like cars into cash immediately on receipt. We try to convert your donations into action as soon as possible. Another factor in our decision to take Bitcoins is availability of services like BitPay, which accepts donations for EFF and automatically converts those into dollars which we receive and can immediately put to use. It is akin to the way Stripe processes credit card donations on eff.org, but also akin to the way you can donate a car to EFF.
This relieves EFF of the burden of managing the Bitcoin account. It also ensures that we’re never hanging on to a large quantity of Bitcoins, which was a problem two years ago—we had enough sitting in the account that we likely could have affected the market had we dumped it all at once. The BitPay service also means that our policy and processing are consistent across different types of donations. Most importantly, it allows us to focus on what we do—protect rights online—and ensures that we don’t have a financial stake in the outcome of a digital rights issue, such as whether a particular company does well or the value of Bitcoins grows or takes a dip.
Our research and FinCEN’s guidance removed a key risk to EFF.Both our internal research and the recent report by FinCEN2 have confirmed that, as a user of Bitcoin or any virtual currency, EFF itself is likely not subject to regulation. While some have raised concerns about the FinCEN ruling, and noted that it’s not binding, it did confirm our own analysis of risk to us as a user and reduced our concerns that by accepting Bitcoins EFF risked moving away from its role as a defender of innovators and into the role as a possible defendant.
Our members keep politely asking for it. Ultimately, EFF needs to make independent decisions to do what is technically and legally best for supporting liberty online. Sometimes that means taking on positions or defending views that are unpopular—including those that are unpopular with our members. But we’re pleased to be able to provide our members with something they have asked for—repeatedly and passionately—when it’s possible for us.
We already accept lots of unusual forms of donations. Right now, you can donate a car to EFF (PDF), or airline miles, or proceeds from your book, or even stock from your company. We’re happy today to add one more way for digital rights enthusiasts to support our work.
EFF at Bitcoin 2013
Also, if you’re planning on attending the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose this weekened, please say hello. We (Rainey and Seth) will both be at the conference, and Rainey will be speaking about financial censorship on a panel on Saturday. Check the schedule on the website for details.
- 1. A full discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Bitcoin design will have to wait for a future blog post, but we note here that Bitcoin is very often not anonymous in the ways users might believe or expect, because (for instance) the network doesn’t actively conceal the IP addresses from which transactions were initiated; its expenditure of large amounts of computational resources may turn out to be unnecessary; and its monetary policy is controversial and arguably designed to incentivize adoption and holding of the currency, rather than maximizing valuable economic transactions. The fact that Bitcoin is subject to criticism should not be surprising; it would have been much more surprising if the first widely used cryptographic currency had been perfect, and very active research continues on ways of improving Bitcoin or creating new crypto-currencies with other properties.
- 2. Note that we are not endorsing FinCEN’s guidance as a matter of law or policy.
from Bits by By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Amazon and five other publishing companies were already contemplating a move to a different pricing model before Apple entered the e-book business, Apple says in its defense against an antitrust lawsuit accusing it of conspiring to fix prices on electronic books.
That is one of several factors that seem to be motivating Apple’s vigorous defense against a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of conspiring with five of the largest publishing houses to fix prices on electronic books, according to people close to the case.
Unlike the five publishers, all of which have settled the case, filed in April 2012, Apple is aggressively disputing the government’s assertions that Apple and the publishers wanted to force Amazon, which controlled 90 percent of the e-book market before Apple entered it, to raise its prices, according to court papers filed this week. A trial is scheduled to begin June 3 in Federal District Court in New York.
Among other defenses, Apple says that both Amazon and the publishing companies were already contemplating a move to a different pricing model in 2009, before Apple entered the e-book business. Apple cites one Amazon executive who referred in an e-mail to the idea that Amazon got publishers to accept what it wanted all along as “Jedi mind tricks.”
Apple, whose 2010 introduction of the iPad corresponded with its opening of a digital bookstore, denies that it tried to convince publishers to enforce a regime that would allow them to set their own retail prices for books, above the $9.99 price that Amazon was then charging.
In addition, Apple says that the Justice Department has selectively edited and distorted e-mails between executives of Apple and the publishers.
“Apple injected much-needed competition and innovation into the e-book business,” said Orin Snyder, a lawyer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who represents Apple. “The DOJ’s case is based on fictions and incomplete quotations. The actual evidence proves that Apple did not conspire to fix prices in the e-book business. We look forward to trial.”
The Justice Department accuses Apple of its own selective quotation. And, it said, the evidence shows that the publishing companies threatened to withhold books unless Amazon allowed them to set higher prices and that Apple “encouraged them to do so.”
Apple seems particularly peeved about the government invoking e-mails of its former chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, to assert its case, saying the government’s selective editing of those e-mails deliberately distorts Mr. Jobs’s intentions.
The government’s court papers quote from an e-mail that Mr. Jobs sent on Jan. 24, 2010, to James Murdoch, who as head of News Corporation oversaw its publishing company, HarperCollins. That was three days before the introduction of the iPad, as Apple was furiously negotiating deals with publishers that would allow it to introduce its bookstore on the same day.
Apple says the government left out of its papers the fact that Mr. Jobs said Amazon might have the right price for e-books already, at $9.99. “Maybe they are right and we will fail,” Mr. Jobs wrote.
Taken in total, Apple said, the e-mail “shows a new entrant with no market power proposing an alternative business model to HarperCollins, and candidly recognizing that Apple has no power to predict or influence other retailers,” Apple said in pretrial papers.
Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester who follows the publishing industry, said Apple still has a relatively small share of the e-book market.
“Even though they have a big brand, their actions have had relatively little impact on the overall industry,” Ms. Rotman Epps said.
Since Apple’s entry, e-book prices have gone down, the company said, with the average retail price of an electronic book falling 63 cents since April 2010, from $7.97 to $7.34.
Michael Cader, the creator of Publishers Lunch, an industry publication, said there were multiple ways of interpreting what had happened to e-book prices since the start of Apple’s iBookstore. He said at least part of the decline might reflect the exponential growth in older books, self-published books and books from an array of small and digital-only publishers, many of which are often sold for as little as 99 cents to $3.
Edward Wyatt reported from Washington, and Brian X. Chen from San Francisco.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 17, 2013
An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Mr. Cader’s thoughts on the decline in e-book prices. He speculated that the growth in older books, self-published books and books from small and digital publishers might account for part of the decline; he did not state that as a fact.
from Laughing Squid by Kimber Streams
Since 1993, artist Nina Katchadourian has been working on the Sorted Books project, a collection of photographs featuring poetry made of book titles arranged in clever ways. More of the sublime and humorous poetry can be found at Katchadourian’s website.
images via Nina Katchadourian
from Disinformation by JacobSloan
Soon anyone with an internet connection will be able to access millennia-old texts previously available only to 200 scholars in Rome. Are secrets waiting to be uncovered? The Toronto Star writes:
With 2.8 petabytes of storage from global data company EMC, the Vatican Library had to decide where to begin. In all, the collection will take 43 petabytes of storage.
“We start with the most delicate, the books that are in a critical situation for conservation,” said Luciano Ammenti, who is in charge of IT at the Vatican.
They include the Vatican’s 8,900 incunabula (books printed before 1501): the Sifra, a Hebrew manuscript written a millennia ago, a 4th century manuscript of the Greek Bible and the De Europa of Pope Pius II, printed around 1491.
“People often think the Vatican Library is a place where secrets are kept,” said scriptor graecus Timothy Janz. Once digitization opens the library to the world, “many things that remain to be discovered will be found.”
The post Vatican Library To Digitalize Its 82,000-Manuscript Collection For Online Viewing appeared first on disinformation.
from Alternet by Sandip Roy, New America Media
The latest Wikipedia flap is a reminder that sub-categorizing by minority creates implicit bias.
At 5:44 PM on April 1, John Pack Lambert, a 32-year-old student of history at Wayne State University took a small step for one man which proved to be a giant leap for mankind.
And I mean MANkind, not humanity.
Lambert moved Patricia Aakhus, author of The Voyage of Mael Duin’s Curragh from American novelists to the category American women novelists.
Two minutes later, teen romance author Hailey Abbott suffered the same fate.
Then Megan Abbott.
At 8:51 PM Lambert, the one-man army to engender order in the universe, created a new category, Nigerian women novelists and put Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie there.
James Gleick’s account in the New York Review of Books of how Wikipedia fell into the great gender gap is a riveting read, a sort of detective story for category-geeks. (Read the full storyhere).
The next day Lambert was briefly sidetracked by a discussion of whether there should be a Category:Jeans enthusiasts (for “celebrities and famous people who are always wearing or frequently spotted wearing jeans”), but then he got back to work and A. L. Kennedy, till then a Scottish novelist, became a Scottish woman novelist. On April 3 he created a category for Greek women screenwriters; so far it has only one member.
The rest of the world cried “Sexism.” Leading the charge was Amanda Filipacci, one of the women writers who suddenly found herself banished to the ante-chamber while the men hogged the living room. (Sounds like an old-fashioned Indian wedding.)
Filipacci complained in a post on The New York Times:
People who go to Wikipedia to get ideas for whom to hire, or honor, or read, and look at that list of “American Novelists” for inspiration, might not even notice that the first page of it includes far more men than women. They might simply use that list without thinking twice about it. It’s probably small, easily fixable things like this that make it harder and slower for women to gain equality in the literary world.
Even Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales was gobsmacked. In a post titled WTH, he wrote:
My first instinct is that surely these stories are wrong in some important way. Can someone update me on where I can read the community conversation about this? Did it happen? How did it happen?
Lambert stoutly defended himself to Gleick. “This whole hullabaloo is really missing the point,” he said. “The people who are making a big deal about this are not being up-front about what happens if we do not diffuse categories.”
Diffuse is geek-speak for moving things from a parent category to a sub-category. American novelist, said Lambert was just too big to be useful. “It is really a holding ground for people who have yet to be categorized into a more specific sub-cat,” said a user called Obi-Wan Kenobi. “It’s not some sort of club that you have to be a part of.”
May the force be with Obi-Wan Kenobi but really? If that’s the case why not move the men out to Male American novelists? There was a proposal to do that. It got shot down fast. That is our problem in a nutshell. We categorize by minority and therefore it’s hard to escape bias.
So after The New York Review of Books (again!) scooped all the big pubs by tracking down the mysterious Misha, the so-called Svengali alleged to have “radicalized” the brothers Tsarnaev, many commenters complained that he was described as half-Armenian. Why not describe him as half-Ukrainian complained angry readers, probably Armenians.
On the flip side, Indian American publications routinely complain that Kamala Harris is described as California’s first African American Attorney General when she is also its first Indian-American Attorney General.
But Wikipedia’s women problem is different. It’s not about the clumsiness of describing Kamala Harris as California’s first female African American Indian American attorney general. Like much of the online world Wikipedia has a gender gap. But as it has become the default go-to site for information, its gender gap is showing in embarrassing ways.
In 2011, Noam Cohen wrote in The New York Times that the contributor base was barely 13 percent women. That means there’s gender bias that shows up in the very act of deciding what topic is worthy of meriting a wiki entry and how long it is.
A topic generally restricted to teenage girls, like friendship bracelets, can seem short at four paragraphs when compared with lengthy articles on something boys might favor, like, toy soldiers or baseball cards, whose voluminous entry includes a detailed chronological history of the subject.
For example, during the royal wedding in 2011, Wikipedia members debated furiously about whether Kate Middleton’s dress deserved an entry. Wiki founder Wales thought it did because it had more social and cultural interest than “100 articles on different Linux distributions, some of them quite obscure… and (they have) virtually no impact on the broader culture.”
Well intentioned, I am sure. But a problematic example to use to try and fix a real gender problem. As one reader said at that time:
“I really see this idea that keeping this article does something to remedy the gender imbalance here to be facile at best and insulting at worst.”
Pardon me, Wiki, but your slip is showing.
It’s a knotty problem that goes beyond one OCD history student. How do you create categories without creating hierarchies? Especially given the fact that a “gay writer” is happy to claim a Lambda award given out for LGBT writing and a woman politician is grateful for support that comes her way thanks to a group like Emily’s List which wants to encourage women in politics. But neither want those honours to disqualify them from being “writer” or “politician.”
The problem is not one of the categories you belong to but the ones you don’t – this idea that somehow a woman American writer is not an American writer as well.
So in the world according to Wikipedia Maya Angelou belongs to 20th century women writers, African-American memoirists, African-American women poets, African American writers, American Activists, American dramatists and playwrights, American people of Sierre Leonean descent – everything but 20th century writer.
But the first categories Salman Rushdie belongs to are 20th century novelists and 21st century novelists.
Until Wikipedia understands that the difference between the two entries is not just one of ordering but of perspective, it’s doomed to keep falling face first into the gender gap.
from Laughing Squid by EDW Lynch
The power of reading is made very real indeed in the 2003 digitally manipulated photo series “The Power of Books” by designer Mladen Penev. For more of his photography and photo retouching, peruse his website.
from io9 by Robert T. Gonzalez
Did yours make the list?
Amazon just released its annual list of America’s most well-read cities – a ranking it compiles by tallying book, magazine, newspaper and e-book sales on a per capita basis in cities with over 100,000 residents.
There is, of course, the whole issue of quantity versus quality, and how the latter is so notoriously difficult to quantify. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was reportedly a big hit in Alexandria, VA and Knoxville, TN (numbers 1 and 2, respectively). Alexandria has now been #1 for two years running, whereas Knoxville – whose residents purchased more books from the Romance category than any other city’s – jumped from the #12 slot to the #2 slot in just one year.
And then there’s Cambridge, MA, home of Harvard and MIT, which topped the list for ordering the most books in the Business & Investing category. It also led the pack in the Overall Nonfiction category, a title it claimed last year, as well. (We wouldn’t be surprised if Cambridge was highly ranked in SciFi consumption, as well, though we can’t seem to find any numbers for this category – an unfortunate oversight on Amazon’s part.)
In any case, here’s the list. Did your city make the cut?
- Alexandria, Va.
- Knoxville, Tenn.
- Miami, Fla.
- Cambridge, Mass.
- Orlando, Fla.
- Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Berkeley, Calif.
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Columbia, S.C.
- Pittsburgh, Penn.
- St. Louis, Mo.
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Seattle, Wash.
- Vancouver, Wash.
- Gainesville, Fla.
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Dayton, Ohio
- Richmond, Va.
- Clearwater, Fla.
- Tallahassee, Fla.
from Deeplinks by Corynne McSherry
When college professors want students to read a small part of a book, they put that book on reserve at the library, so everyone can get access to the bit of information they need without having to buy the entire expensive work. Advances in technology have made this even easier for students: librarians have created electronic reserves, allowing online access to a digital version of the excerpt. But the publishing world has come down hard on these electronic reserves in a lawsuit aimed at Georgia State University (GSU), insisting that libraries must pay fees for excerpts they make available digitally to students. In an amicus brief filed on behalf of several national library associations today, EFF argues that electronic reserves must be protected to serve the public interest and preserve librarians’ and students’ fair-use rights.
This case started back in 2008, when the Association of American Publishers (AAP) recruited three plaintiffs to sue GSU for copyright infringement in their electronic reserves. GSU promptly updated its procedures to conform to fair use guidelines the AAP itself had helped draft for other universities. But instead of declaring victory, the plaintiffs continued to pursue this case, even taking it up on appeal when their claims were rejected by a federal district court.
In the amicus brief filed today, EFF urges the appeals court to see what the district court saw: the vast majority of uses at issue were protected fair uses. Moreover, as a practical matter, the licensing market the publishers say they want to create for e-reserves will never emerge—not least because libraries can’t afford to participate in it. Even assuming that libraries could pay such fees, requiring this would thwart the purpose of copyright by undermining the overall market for scholarship. Given libraries’ stagnant or shrinking budgets, any new spending for licenses must be reallocated from existing expenditures, and the most likely source of reallocated funds is the budget for collections. An excerpt license requirement thus will harm the market for new scholarly works, as the works assigned for student reading are likely to be more established pieces written by well-known academics. Libraries’ total investment in scholarship will be the same but resources will be diverted away from new works to redundant payments for existing ones, in direct contradiction of copyright’s purpose of “promot[ing] progress.”
A win for the publishers here would be a Pyrrhic victory at best for them, and a significant loss for the public interest.
We hope the appellate court agrees that copyright law does not require forcing libraries to make reading a handful of pages either extraordinarily expensive or inordinately difficult for college students.
from Laughing Squid by EDW Lynch
“The Last Bookshop” is a short film that imagines a future in which bookshops have all but died out. Directed by Richard Dadd and Dan Fryer of British creative studio The Bakery, the film tells the tale of a boy who stumbles upon the last remaining bookshop. The directors created the film to highlight the decline of independent bookshops in the UK.
We love bookshops. But we saw that many are going through tough times.
We wanted to contribute to the cultural debate with our own celebration in support of these glorious independents and their shelves of treasures. So with the help of some remarkable independent bookshops, and a lot of talented friends, we have been able to make our idea for The Last Bookshop into a reality.
via Digg Videos
by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov
This week will mark the launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which will provide access to millions of books, publications, recordings and more. The DPLA will function more as a portal to other libraries with digitized collections than as a single repository. Because many libraries are not linked up, the DPLA hopes to act as a hub that can improve Internet users’ ability to find and access materials available online. It also will fund efforts to digitize collections not yet converted, and link up with Europeana, the European version of a digital library. According to the DPLA mission statement, “The DPLA will incorporate all media types and formats including the written record—books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, and digital texts—and expanding into visual and audiovisual materials in concert with existing repositories. In order to lay a solid foundation for its collections, the DPLA will begin with works in the public domain that have already been digitized and are accessible through other initiatives.” Officially launching on April 18, the DPLA was created through the efforts of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
from Bits by By DAVID STREITFELD
Jason Merkoski played a significant role in developing the Kindle at Amazon. He has some regrets and worries about where e-books are taking the culture, and who is in charge.
Technology companies will occasionally acknowledge they were wrong — just last week Apple had to apologize to its Chinese customers — but you hardly ever hear them express doubt about the glorious future they are building for us all.
So it is refreshing to see Jason Merkoski, a leader of the team that built Amazon’s first Kindle, dispense with the usual techo-utopianism and say, “I think we’ve made a proverbial pact with the devil in digitizing our words.” And this: “If you’re willing to overlook the fact that Big Brother won’t be a politician but an ad man and that he’ll have the face of Google.” Mr. Merkoski even has mixed feelings about Amazon, which he left two years ago. “It’s hard to love Amazon,” he notes. “Not the way we love Apple or a bookstore.”
Those comments are from “Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading,” which Sourcebooks will publish Tuesday as, of course, an e-book. A physical edition will follow this summer. It’s a mixture of an insider’s tale, quirky analysis and informed speculation about our onrushing digital destiny, told with an appealing ambivalence that should give it a wide readership. What follows is an edited Q&A with the 41-year-old author.
You write that “Amazon, Apple and Google are a bit like medieval fortresses in their own ways. They’re secretive like China or Japan before they opened up to Westerners, or like Tibet or Mecca, closed to foreigners.” Are they afraid that if people knew what was going on, the peasants might storm the gates?
There are two issues about secrecy here: social responsibility and intellectual property. As far as social responsibility goes, let me just say this: These companies have entire buildings filled with lawyers. They aren’t there to come up with new lawyer jokes. They are there, in part, to keep people like me from even answering this question. That said, I think if people were given a chance to spend a day looking inside Amazon or Apple’s veil of secrecy, most of them would be fascinated — although some might boycott.
And with intellectual property?
The biggest tech companies are secretive to the point of clinical paranoia because there’s an all-out arms race in innovation. If one company knew what another was doing, it could one-up the other with newer, better, cheaper features. That said, tech companies cross-pollinate all the time, with their ideas and worker-bees who flit from hive to hive, from Apple to Amazon to Google.
You also say, in discussing the tech companies’ power: “What moral or literary sensibilities do the executives at Amazon have? What about the retailers at Barnes & Noble or Google or Apple? You have to ask yourself whether you trust these men.” Well, do you?
There are three dimensions of trust here. Do I trust retailers not to censor books, do I trust them with my personal data, and do I trust them to curate great books for me to read? Frankly, I don’t trust the executives at any e-book retailer when it comes to censorship. I know many of them. If push came to shove, I think most of these execs would rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that would avoid bad press. These are major retailers, not your quirky corner bookstores. They’re manned by former management consultants in clean shirts and pressed Dockers, not eccentric book-lovers with beards and cats.
And your personal data?
I do trust them with my identity. These companies are obsessed with safeguarding privacy. The worst they’re going to do is show me more ads.
And to recommend things?
Not yet. When it comes to book recommendations, retailers have the literary sensibilities of a spreadsheet — they’ll just recommend the most popular books to me, or books that other people also bought, but they know nothing of the soul and sparkle of a great book. I hope this changes over time.
For an e-book developer you certainly seem attached to your physical books. Even after trying to cull them, you still have thousands of them.
I’m a sentimentalist. I’ve got many more books than friends, and I think I always will. Some are such a part of my life that I can’t get rid of them.
In some ways, “Burning the Page” is a celebration of the physical book even as it is looking ahead to its extinction.
Reading is great, but I don’t know whether you need paper and ink for it. You’re going to get so much more from e-books because they bring your friends and family into the margins of your reading experience. They will be literally on the same page with you.
That gives me the creeps.
We can lament the older experience of reading, because that’s what we were raised with. But there’s nothing to be afraid of. Technology has a way of shifting, and we’re adaptable. That’s our genius: we do adapt.
Physical books were convenient, cheap, easy to use, attractive, practically indestructible. What will the great advantages of e-books be?
In 20 years, the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs. You’ll still be able to find them in artsy hipster stores, but that’s about it. So the great advantage of e-books is also their curse; e-books will be the only game in town if you want to read a book. It’s sobering, and a bit sad. That said, e-books can do what print books can’t. They’ll allow you to fit an entire library into the space of one book. They’ll allow you to search for anything in an instant, save your thoughts forever, share them with the world, and connect with other readers right there, inside the book. The book of the future will live and breathe.
You also write about what will be lost.
I found a book at my grandmother’s house that was inscribed by my great-grandfather. I learned what his original last name was — before he changed it. That was an interesting link to my past. We’re going to lose that sort of trace of ourselves if we go all digital.
Another surprising thing you said was, “E-books aren’t ready for children yet.”
Giving children an e-book at this point might not be that much better than plunking them down in front of a TV, especially if they’re reading the e-book on a multifunction device with instant messages, games and other distractions. Better they should be outside and engaged with the world.
Why did you leave Amazon?
Working at Amazon was like getting an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. at the same time. It was an incredible education. These were the smartest people I ever worked with. But Amazon had a dark side as well, as if it were the mean stepmother in a fairy tale. There was this push to get great products out to consumers. It makes a lot of teams very haggard. Amazon is held together by adrenaline, spreadsheets and people running around like crazy.
from Epicenter by Marcus Wohlsen
Amazon looked back to its roots in bookselling and forward to its future as the global overlord of all human literary output by announcing its plan today to purchase social reading site GoodReads.
The acquisition has a certain quaintness to it: remember when Amazon just sold books? But a lot of history has accumulated since then, during which Amazon supplanted Barnes & Noble as the publishing industry’s greatest frenemy.
Today, the success of a book on Amazon weighs heavily on its success overall. Amazon’s dominant position allows it to set the pace on pricing. It has signed bestselling authors under its own publishing imprint. And it has created an way for writers to easily self-publish and distribute digital books, occasionally with shocking success, bypassing traditional publishers altogether.
Amazon even quoted one such phenom, Wool author Hugh Howey, in its press release announcing the GoodReads deal.
“I just found out my two favorite people are getting married,” Howey said in the release. “The best place to discuss books is joining up with the best place to buy books.”
The nuptials troubled a portion of GoodReads 16 million members. Some took to the site’s discussion forums today to voice concern over Amazon’s access to their reviews. Others were angry that the site was getting back in bed with a company it had visibly distanced itself from little more than a year ago in a dispute over restrictions Amazon placed on GoodReads’ use of its book data.
This loss of independence dovetails with the broader context of Hugh Howey’s success. Howey wrote his subterranean science fiction saga in the mornings and during his lunch breaks at the bookstore where he worked. He self-published on Amazon. Readers clamored for more. He took over the bestseller list. Ridley Scott bought the movie rights. Only then did Howey sign with a mainstream publisher, which agreed to the deal while granting Howey the unprecedented right to retain ownership of the digital version of his work.
All of which sounds like the ultimate indie cinderella story. And yet here’s Howey acting as an endorser of Amazon, a $60 billion multinational giant. How indie is that?
But my point is not to descend into a tedious argument about indie cred. It’s just a way to observe that even as Amazon provides Howey an “independent” platform to spread his work, his success also makes him a valuable Amazon product. Writers can no longer afford to escape Amazon’s gravity. And now, with the takeover of GoodReads, readers won’t be able to either. Launched in 2007, GoodReads has become a key way for writers to find readers and vice versa. Now they’ll all be able to find each other on Amazon.