« Owls | Main | The Sigma Soda Can »

Sunday, 10 November 2013


Mike > have you tried fotos on the Retina screen ? On second thought its so great for viewing you might not want to go there.

Mike said:
"There's no reason to archive it in physical form on premises."

You might be wrong on that one Mike.

I started reading eBooks in the early 2000's ~ mostly on a Sony Clie (a Palm OS device). I amassed a considerable collection of eBooks from "ereader.com" (no longer in business). Once purchased, my book titles lived in my ereader account ("on" my ereader bookshelf), where I could download them whenever I felt the need. I also archived the books on my PC hard drive.

One fine day I went to my ereader account and discovered several of my books were no longer on the bookshelf. When I queried ereader.com, they informed me that the publisher(s) of those titles no longer offered the books for sale in my country! That was that...no refund...no apology...just ripped-off! I was glad that I had archived them.

I stopped buying ebooks at that point. I had previously noticed that the ebook price was creeping upwards and was approaching the cost of printed books (hardcovers in some cases). That, along with the rather tenuous ebook ownership model, drove me back to the library and bookstores.

Cheers! Jay

There's no need to purchase The Bay Psalm Murder Book by Will Harriss. Just go to that bastion of free thought, the local public library, and if they don't have it request that they borrow it for you via interlibrary loan. At most public libraries it's a free service supported by your tax dollars.

[Hi Randall, You've missed my intended point, which is that I prefer to read on the iPad and Harriss's book isn't available for it. Just a comment that not everything is available in electronic form, perhaps not made pointedly enough. --Mike]

The big GOTCHA with all these devices however, is the fact that book sharing or even gifting or inheriting them is a thing of the past. Yeah I know they claim you can share books on kindle, but look at the fine print. All but nonexistent. So yes, convenient now, but really, you can't share with anyone, ever, unless you give them your device. And that applies to all electronic media.

Well, "Books do furnish a room" (Anthony Powell, vol. 10; "A dance to the music of time".) Which can't be said about e-readers. Maybe something else will come up.

I'm far from a techno-Luddite but as the owner of a reasonable library (I decided that it qualified as a library when I passed about 2K volumes) I've yet to buy any kind of e-reader. If I travelled more, even as a commuter (which, thankfully, I no longer am), I'd probably buy one for the simple convenience and space considerations.

It wouldn't be made by Cr@pple however [...] [anti-Apple paragraph deleted —Ed.]

What you didn't point out is how inconvenient to use paperbacks are unless you almost destroy their spines, which is another plus for e-readers. You mention their capacity to change font sizes, which is without doubt a huge benefit. I assume that in so doing they fit the line length (aka "measure") to the displayed page width. At least this makes it possible to confine the number of characters per line to the optimum of <65.

I've pointed out to a couple of blogs, who insist on displaying text white-out-of-black (or grey) at a fixed 100 + characters per line - and often as many as 150!- thereby rendering the content almost unreadable. This is a well established principle of typography as far back as the Gutenberg Bible and not just an opinion. However pointing it out by way of constructive criticism usually garners the response "what's the problem? No one else complains."

In this respect TOP is a model of good design. Serif fonts too! You must want people to understand the content.


I purposely hold my iPad2 slightly tipped backwards on my pillow, having had a couple hits to my lip/teeth as I fell asleep. Hurt like hell! You're right to be very afraid! :-)

Whilst whistling some psalm tunes I visited amazon.co.uk looking for a free kindle photography book to try and found Insights From Beyond the Lens (it costs $3.70 at amazon .com)
On my PC monitor the pics look OK, certainly different to the printed page and somehow it seems like cheating - more like reading another photography blog rather than a book.
Will try it on my tablet tonight to see if the experience is any better or worse.

Mike wrote:
> The supreme example of this in the world is possibly the Samuel Pepys
> Library at Magdalene College Cambridge. (Samuel must have suffered
> terribly from OCD; the identical cases were custom-made

Interesting how vocabulary evolves. On his blog, Samuel calls them "presses" instead of "bookcases":

“[..] then comes Sympson, the Joyner; and he and I with great pains contriving presses to put my books up in: they now growing numerous, and lying one upon another on my chairs

“[..] thence with Sympson the joyner home to put together the press he hath brought me for my books this day, which pleases me exceedingly.

I had to laugh--I've been struck in the face, neck or shoulders by iphones, a kindle and a nexus 7 when using them (including to read books) while lying on my back. (However, my eyes are in such a state that I was holding the devices either very close to my face to begin with, making for a very short drop, or, with glasses on, away over my chest or down around my belly. An otherwise annoying limitation that probably saved me from a split lip or black eye.)

Come to think of it, though, I've been beat up in the same way by books, too, which may be why I prefer soft paperbacks for reclining with.

One advantage of general purpose tablets vs proprietary readers is access to multiple ebook stores and libraries, and multiple reader interfaces.

A big plus for me is Google Books' collection of free scanned books, mostly contributed by university libraries. The scan quality, and degree of ebook conversion, are all over the place, so it can take some effort or luck to find the good ones, but on a tablet the better examples retain some bit of the feel of perusing a real book, and some of the pleasure of coming across a fascinating dusty old volume in a library stack (though without the dust, must and sneezing). Especially nice for books with many illustrations and plates, or particularly good design. I've been enjoying a number of art catalogs and treatises on drawing and painting.

Hi Mike,
I wonder if the last book to be printed will ever be worth as much?

I think ebooks are a great way of having access to a wider range of books than stores can carry, and makes it easy for people to recommend books to others.
I hope hardcopy books don't disappear completely as I still use reference books a lot. Google search is handy but when I've got a Something, it's nice to have a book of Somethings so you can edge-flick the pages to ID it, then I can google more.

Heh - No more book burnings - just hacking of databases.

Interesting book cabinet idea:
best wishes phil

Amazon just sent me a $40 coupon for a Kindle (I guess I could be among one of million who received this coupon). Now, you can buy a basic Kindle for $29 !!!!
I've been using iPad and Android tablets for a LONG time. But, I can't pass up the give away price of the Kindle ;-)
Also, a few of the major publishers are experimenting with eBook pricings (cheaper!). A couple of weeks ago I purchased "Year Zero" for a $1.00 from Amazon. (btw, a great book if you like Music ;-)

Just a curiosity question...

Your, or TOP's, forthcoming publication wing, are you considering doing e-versions of the traditionally published books you'll release?

"And there's one great advantage to digital e-readers that printed books can't compete with: variable type size."

Another, I find, is being able to invert the screen thus having white type on a black page at lower contrast - less tiring on the eyes, methinks ...

I still can't bring myself to be a big ebook reader, though I have a decent Kindle paperwhite. I have friends and family that I like to show the books I enjoy, and when I finish a book, I like to either shelve it, give it to a friend, or donate it to our great "Friends of the Library" bookstore, where it will be sold for 3-7 dollars (and if it is popular, is often resold at the same place a couple times). And sometimes a virtual book is about as much fun as a virtual camera.

"...I've been afraid it's going to attack me."

C'mon, Mike! That's a rationalization that even a very understanding wife would reject.

On another note, it sounds like your shift to e-reading is analogous to the popular shift away from routinely printing all exposures on a roll of film to uploading and viewing images on a computer screen. The average snapshooter prints only a small percentage of his photos these days, and the ones that he does choose to print are what we would have called "enlargements" not too long ago. I guess those prints make up the "cabinet collection".


You've blogged in the past about sleeping difficulties. I was doing more and more reading in bed on my iPad, until hearing an NPR interview with the author of a book on sleeping disorders. She said that the glow of the screen tends to keep one awake and make falling to sleep more difficult. Since then I've tried to make my bedtime reading traditional paper format, and it has (at least for me) made a small but noticeable difference.

My wife periodically reminds me that we are net sellers -- not in dollars but in units or mass or volume -- which makes the acquisition and retention of digital things possible. But there is no digital replacement for a fine art book. And I hope there never is.

We have gone back and forth on the e-reader question in my household. We had one until a mysterious out-of-warranty software glitch rendered it irreparable junk and our e-titles gone. They are great when you go on vacation and would rather not pack a separate suitcase full of books (a problem that we face more often than you might think). On the other hand, it is nice to have the intellectual patrimony on the shelf where it is safe from power surges and failures, obsolescence, software "upgrades," and the lottery effects of buying into the tech of a losing team as business plans of the players receive their grades from the marketplace. I do wonder what the 23rd century view of our time will be. Somehow I don't think that Apple or Amazon will function like the library of Alexandria or the Old North Church. As all of our info migrates to digital I think we risk heading down a cultural cul-de-sac - - - 250 year old e-reader? Yeah, I don't think so.

So I am of two minds about this. Ambi-ambi-ambi-valent. What are we doing, exactly? Taking a long-lived commodity with a long-tail failure rate (books) and turning it into a short-term commodity dependent on proprietary hardware and software. This strikes me as convenient for individuals and terrible for us collectively. I would love to be wrong about this, by the way. Just feeling like an e-curmudgeon today.

Of course you know the first book press in North America was stablished by the Spaniards in Mexico City, just 101 years before any English press in the continent. The first book cuold be “Breve y compendiosa doctrina cristiana en lengua mexicana y castellana, que contiene las cosas más necesarias de nuestra santa fe católica para aprovechamiento de estos indios naturales y salvación de sus ánimas”, which was printed just in 1539.

Last spring, I asked the 89 students in my introductory sociology course to raise a hand if they felt they could read from a screen as efficiently and effectively as from the printed page. Increasingly, publishers are offering e-format texts at lower prices than printed ones, and as the students were largely first and second year students, I thought it might provide some insight into how quickly matters were changing. Not one hand went up. Price and weight are advantages, but they recognized that there are other costs.

E-readers of various types have caused a true paradigm shift for book lovers. I am the only child of a children's librarian and have had a long love affair with books. I could think of nothing more satisfying than to relax in a room full of books, a library. We recently built a new home; Before we moved, I looked at my bookshelves full of books I've read and am extremely unlikely to read again; the three volumes of Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago," are a good example. I boxed almost all the books, and gave them to our local library's bookstore for resale for the benefit of the library. The good news is that our new home is but a five minute walk from our excellent local library. I now read books and the New York Times on my iPad (though I recently read that doing so just before bed can interfere with sleep), I can get almost anything I want at the library. Our new home contains many photography books but not many of the classics I used to treasure. And sadly, I don't miss them, and I have a lot more room in the house for other things, whatever they may be.

It seems my teeth are safe—it's been my nose every time. Perhaps some enterprising accessory manufacturer can provide a nose and teeth guard for those of us who like to read in bed.

And here's something you can't do with a book no matter how good it may be, tap on the podcast app and listen to intelligent commentary like RadioLab, EconTalk, Sinica, the Reith Lectures, This American Life, In Our Time, Council of Foreign Relations, The Naked Scientist, Brooks Jensen's Lenswork & & & while making dinner, doing the ironing, exercising (ugh)...

You realize that the transformation in the printed book world will soon be coming to photography as well? I find it less necessary to print as time goes on. If I prepare a 2048-pixel wide jpg to display on a Retina-equivilant screen, I'm exceeding the resolution of many of my early scans and digital cameras, as well as my Dye Sub and Iris prints. With the impending 4K displays right around the corner, screens will be presenting photographs better - with more resolution, more colors, more dynamic range - than any 2-D print. With calibration we'd get more consistency as well.

Of course vintage work will still be framed and hung but in a few years contemporary photographic work might just as well be entirely screen based. We already have inexpensive digital picture frames, it's only a matter of scale.

I already go back and forth preparing my jpgs for optimal viewing quality... making sharpness, gamma, and color adjustments. It's a lot like printing.

It's not without hiccups. A lot of the cool young photographers hardly have any experience with prints, much less making a fine one. I was editing one kid's work for a print book and found that he subtlety misfocused almost all of his shots. They looked fine as 800-pixel wide jpgs but once you got up to a higher resolution his mistakes were glaring.

I also do a lot of reading on my (original) iPad, both in the iBooks app and the Kindle app. It's finally time for me to upgrade since my iPad no longer runs some recent apps and the new OS and so now, instead of a full-size iPad I'm looking hard at the Mini, now that it's got the Retina display. At that small size and weight, I'll be much more likely to carry the thing on my daily subway trips around NYC.

It was a long stint working abroad in 2010 that dragged me (somewhat reluctantly) into e-reader ownership. The justification was obvious. I always had enough reading material without a suitcase bulging with paperbacks.

But I also discovered that my jacket pocket was just big enough for the original Kindle I still own. So I could lapse back into a book whenever I had some downtime, on a train or plane, or even waiting for my evening meal in the local restaurant.

It took me about a week to get used to the screen and find a font size that worked. It also takes a period of psychological adjustment. But without even being consciously aware of the decision I have not bought a single paperback novel since. It's just too easy to browse a catalogue on-line and the 150 novels and textbooks I have stored in my catalogue since would have forced me to sell an equal number of real paperbacks to make space in my crowded apartment.

I like books. I always have. But the books that I consider as "more than just their content" are those illustrated references (including photo books of course) that I have collected over the years, and some nicely bound and rare hardback classics. For paperback novels it's not the book that matters, but the story.

I now actually prefer reading novels electronically. For one thing, readers are a lot lighter than a 1,200 page anthology.

If I were to compare with photographs, I think the same holds true. A Flickr account or iPad catalogue is not a substitute for a large luscious print, but it is a perfectly suitable medium for a low res lifestyle snap you want to share, and a great way to show your portfolio. So I don't see on-line/tablet based photo-albums as a replacement or alternative to prints, but as a compliment that comes into it's own when prints are overkill or need to be widely viewed.

I see e-books the same way - as a compliment to printed books. And they are perfectly simple to share. I do it all the time with my brother. 14 days is plenty and since we live a long way apart, it's much easier, cheaper and faster than the post. He uses the Kindle app on his tablet. Besides, I lost count of the books I lent out and never saw again!

One nice feature I've discovered with capable devices (currently I'm using a Nook HD) is the Overdrive Console app which allows you to borrow books from libraries which support this - audio books too, which is really great for long drives.

I still love books, and will buy favorites or those which really need to be in print, but I no longer feel the compulsion to 'own' everything I read. I've already got more physical media than I could possibly consume in my life.

Short of a major apocalypse, I think it's unlikely I will lose access to all of my virtual collection (probably no more likely, perhaps less, than losing my physical collection to fire or flood).

Also I find I feel less guilty spending money on an expensive real book now that my overall book spend has greatly reduced.

I gave up film for digital (although, I'll grant it was kinda out of necessity). But books - they'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands!

As what used to be called an early adopter, I bought a iPad 1 for sbowing my portfolio. I showed my latest work to a repeat client who immediately said we need ten of these. I asked which ten photos were they buying, and he said, 10 iPads!

I'm a big proponent of e-books, and they're my preferred reading format. With one or two exceptions, I have read them on my PDA (mostly Palm Pilots) or, more recently, phone (Android). I have my phone with me all the time, and it's light, and it's very easy to read, and page changes are instant so doing twice as many as on a paperback doesn't bother me (the page change is instant and the button lies under my thumb or finger depending on which hand I'm holding the phone with). Hauling along a book in addition to everything else seems, more and more, to be a burden. Furthermore if it's one of my "good" books, where I care if anything happens to that copy, it's a really bad idea to carry it around with me.

But. If you do the simple, easy thing and buy a Kindle and license books from Amazon, they can go away at any time, and have, for good or bad reasons. And you can't so far as I can see pass them to your descendants legally, nor can they be sold in the used market. I personally have the tech to bypass the first two problems. I think it's important that we work out actual legal solutions to all of them.

The goal as I see it is for books to remain available, and for money to flow from happy readers to the author or immediate heirs (the farther removed from the actual creator the money gets, the less I care). We need considerable legal work to get there.

I do like "fine" books some. I'm very happy to have the Easton Press edition of John M. Ford's Growing Up Weightless, for example, or the first edition (Steeldragon Press hardcover) of Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell, or the American first edition of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens (signed by both authors). But those are rarely the copies I actually read. For reading I prefer mass-market paperbacks because they're much easier to hold. For me "the book" is the words in it.

And, finally, the FAA is changing the rules so I'll be able to read below 10,000 feet again :-).

I note the discussion of whether "everything" is available for digital. Of course it isn't, today.

But in 25 years, or perhaps 5 or 2 years, it will be -- because nobody will look anywhere else any more, so anything that doesn't exist in digital won't in any practical sense exist at all.

Mike.. Mike, you're not helping my gadget addiction. Anyway Google Books have a very smooth (almost life like) page turning animation. I kinda wish kindle app can do the same. I have a first gen iPad and now thinking to upgrade it.

I am using a Nook HD+ 9" tablet to read and post here. Much cheaper than the iPad or equivalent Kindle, but they are most likely orphans, but try finding another quality sub $200 tablet...

I've been publishing my textbooks electronically as well as on paper for 3 years now and the paper ones still outsell the electronic ones by 5:1.
However, I have tried an experiment. I started a website with my own photos way back in 1995 and for years corresponded with people who found them and often wanted to use them (many of the photos were of auto racing history back to the 50s.)
With the photo sites on the web began getting all the attention and traffic to my site died off, I abandoned it for years.
After doing electronic versions of my textbooks, I decided to try an experiment. I used Apple's iBook Author and created several books of photos. One on Monarch Butterflies on our Farm was quite serious and has had some academic interest.
The other two are humor - photos of unusual, funny or ridiculous things I have seen here in California since we moved here ten years ago. One is just on cars, which I know some of you are as much into as I am.

I can't say if it's the right medium for art books, but for photographic essays and humor, it looks to be a fine way to go and you don't have to worry about recycling all that paper when they pile up!

Dear Mike,

Well, you've beaten me to the new iPad because I keep putting off sorting out the differences between four different companies' data plans. I soooo hate comparison-shopping! But I will be getting one, most certainly. An appropriate test report will follow.

I haven't moved into e-books yet, though I imagine I will at some point. Partly it's because I still don't like reading on a screen as much as I do on paper, and partly it's because I've got several hundred paper books, here, that I really, really want to read, which significantly reduces my incentive for buying more.

When I do, though, I am absolutely not going to trust my e-content entirely to the Cloud, and I think you're making a mistake doing so. It's one thing if it's a book that you truly know that you only want to read once and will never look at again. It's another matter entirely if it's something you think you might want to go back to later.

For all the reasons that others have mentioned, and so many more, you can lose your e-book with no warning and no recourse. It's happened several times already. It will happen again. Even if all the third-party licensing nonsense gets straightened out, systems are still fallible, and companies will still fail. And when they fail, they will take your data and your permissions south with them. Anyone who tells you it won't happen is engaging in unwarranted optimism, based on the not-so-distant past. Anyone who tells you it can't happen is simply living in a dream world.

Fortunately, there are ways to crack the DRM protections on most e-book systems. If/when I start buying e-books, I'll only be acquiring those for which I can do this, so I can archive them myself. Yes, I'll be happy to make use of the convenience of the cloud… But I'm not going to be totally dependent on it. Nor am I going to be accepting of the possibility that some kind of a third-party snafu in licensing will result in the e-book I've already paid for suddenly becoming unavailable to me. I will buy “books;” not “limited licenses to read, unilaterally revocable by the seller at any time for any reason.” To the latter, I say thank you, no.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

"the glow of the screen tends to keep one awake and make falling to sleep more difficult"

Free apps like f.lux and Twilight will automatically warm and/or dim the screen at night, and are available on every platform as far as I know. Very customizable, and one can easily deactivate them for set periods to do color-critical work. I have them installed on my desktop, laptop and tablet, and they seem to be helping.

There are also apps to help analyze and improve sleep habits and quality, like Sleepbot.

This post makes me think of a cabinet collection in e-book form, a kind of 'great books' for ipad, etc. By subscription, perhaps... if it were well designed and curated, using good editions, it would be a nice way to read through a collection of classics.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007