Why Print Still Rules: The Fading Legacy of E-Books

Woman reading KindleFor the better part of my career, my areas of concentration and expertise have been intellectual freedom, copyright (and copyleft), free and open source software, open access and net neutrality. But because I also have expertise in technology, people often ask me if I think e-books should replace print. They assume I would be a fan of digital books replacing paper and ink.

Personally, I prefer print books, but let us put my personal feelings aside for a moment.

Continue reading Why Print Still Rules: The Fading Legacy of E-Books

Does Android Count in the Big Linux Scheme of Things?

android-logo-white1When judging the success, or lack thereof, of Linux, many proponents of Linux often cite the success of the Android mobile operating system. After all, a majority of smartphones in the world now run Android, which has Linux as its base. Android still contributes some code back to the Linux kernel, and there is no denying that it has a Linux feel, if you happen to open a terminal and check out the inner workings of the OS.

What Android may not be, however, is a traditional Linux distribution. But some could argue Ubuntu is no longer even a traditional Linux distribution. Does that make it any less Linux? Perhaps it is time we embrace diversity as much as we are willing to embrace freedom and choice. Linux is not dominating the desktop market, but it has definitely taken over the mobile and ebook market (think Kindle, Nook, etc.) We should be proud of that.

My Book, The Golden Scrolls, on the Kindle

This post is a shameless self promotion. In case you did not know I wrote fiction, my book, The Golden Scrolls, is available on the Kindle for only $2.99. Even if you do not have a Kindle device, you can read it using a Kindle app on your phone, on your PC, or even in a web browser with the Kindle Cloud Reader. You can also borrow my book through the Kindle’s lending library for FREE.

Continue reading My Book, The Golden Scrolls, on the Kindle

6 Undercover Linux Devices

Droid, Kindle, Nook, Boxee, Roku, Revue (Google TV)

Linux has quietly inserted itself into the hands of millions of people without them evening knowing it.  Linux and free software supporters have long dreamed of the day when people would readily adopt Linux on their desktops and laptops, but it has been in the mobile and embeded markets that Linux has taken hold.  Anyway, here are 6 undercover Linux devices:

1. Roku – The tiny little media player that pumps out Netflix videos and other streaming content is Linux powered.  Unlike Linux desktops, it can play the DRM-laced videos from Netflix, but getting the Linux source code won’t help you hack it to that end.

2. Droid, HTC EVO, etc. – There are now a ton of Android phones flooding the mobile phone carriers.  Take your pick.  The Android operating system is a Linux variant, so all of them run Linux.

3. The Nook – The little e-book reader that could from Barnes and Noble is not only a Kindle killer.  It also runs Android and, therefore, Linux.

4. The Kindle – Not to be outdone by the Nook, Amazon’s own e-book reader also runs a custom Linux variant.   Nevertheless, like the odd Roku/Netflix situation, there is no desktop Kindle reader for Linux.

5. Google TV – Also Android-powered (seeing a trend yet?), Google TV will continue the Roku trend of bringing Linux to the living room.

6. Boxee Box – This aught to be called Geek Box, but people might confuse it with Geexbox.  This little cute thing can play just about anything you throw at it, making it a real competitor for Roku, Apple TV, and Google TV.  To top it all off, it runs Linux, and unlike the others, you can download Boxee for your Linux computer.

Will Linux make it into your stocking this year?

The iPad hype and why books are safe

There has been much talk about the cybersphere with the release of Apple’s new iPad.  Some of that talk has reflected the views of people who believe the days of print materials are numbered.  And please don’t mistakenly assume that because I am a librarian, I would shed tears over such a loss.

From the perspective of historical preservation, appreciation of literature, and a general love of books, I would certainly miss holding a book in my hand — the smell and texture of the pages, the feeling of turning each one with my fingers, and the weight of the object in my hand.

Nevertheless, I recognize that a change must come.  Printing anything on paper is destroying our environment, the only earth we have. Something must replace the traditional book, but the real question here is whether e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle or over-glorified e-book readers like the new iPad are the answer to this dilemma.  I think not.

There are two main problems with this theory.  The first is cost.  While there may be future devices that are inexpensive and easily distributable, these devices are not.  As much as Apple fanboys would have you believe that everyone and their mama is going out to buy an iPad, that simply is not the case.  If people have to pay more or even as much for a reading device as they do for mobile service or cable television, people will simply stop reading.

The second problem is format.  Digital media is currently laced with poison (i.e. DRM).  It is a hassle that you cannot share your e-books with others as easily as you would shared a print book.  It is ridiculous that libraries cannot do this, and until they can, e-books will always be second-rate.  The format problem is also reflected in the devices themselves.  No matter how thin they get, they are not going to replace the look and feel of a real book.

I believe the real solution is something like I saw on Caprica: a page that looks and feels like paper but is electronic.  We have the ability to synthesize almost anything these days.  I am lactose intolerant but can eat soy cheese and hardly notice the difference.  Paper can be synthesized and so can book covers that are stronger and more resilient than the current offerings.  Imagine hold a book that looks and feels just like a real book, but you can press a button when you are finished reading and turn it into the book’s sequel.

I am not writing this because of nostalgia or my love of books but just based on my observation of library patrons and people in general.  I believe that until we reach the point where the benefits of e-books outweigh the inconveniences and high cost, print books are safe.