Young and beautiful, but someday your looks will be gone

October 23, 2009
It's apple green!

It's apple green!

I finally realized what I think is the proper metaphor for all the new ebook readers coming out (approximately one every nanosecond, not that I’m complaining) whose PR focuses not on the big issues, like format, functionality, etc., but rather on the fact that the readers will be available with seventy bajillion different color covers or cases.

Last year for Christmas, my mother was adamant that the gift she most desperately desired was an iPod shuffle — and not just any iPod shuffle, but specifically an “apple green” one. Being the good daughter that I am, I went out and bought her an apple green shuffle, and also got her the case and better headphones, and set it up for her and showed her how to use and recharge it. Now, coming up on a year later, want to know how much use my mom gets out of her apple green iPod shuffle? SHE’S NEVER USED IT. Not once. I’m sure the apple green color is still beautiful, however, not being marred by anyone’s dirty finger smudges at all.

If the biggest thing you care about in choosing an e-reader is what color the device is, do other considerations matter?

And makers of the e-readers: isn’t it pretty easy to change the color of the skin of these devices? Is that all you’ve got to give us?

Pie and social media go together like…

May 25, 2009

I am a very lucky woman. But here’s how I’m going to make it sound like more than luck that caused me to turn out that way.

I joined Twitter in February 2008. I can’t remember what initially led me there, but it was instant fun to me, although a somewhat lonely experience — there weren’t that many people that I knew on Twitter at the time. Posting status updates felt a little like one hand clapping, since there weren’t really many people out there actually listening. There was something so appealing about Twitter, however, that I stuck around, and over time began getting adopted into a circle of local folks also there — only a handful of whom I actually knew in person, but when a fellow Charlottesvillager located me, I’d follow them back, and over time an interesting relationship developed. There were all these people I didn’t know whose lives I became at least tangentially aware of, due to watching their Twitter status updates fly by me every day. Sometimes we’d engage in conversation, and sometimes I’d just read and move on silently, but I was always appreciative of the things that Twitter brought into my world — interesting news links, fun local recommendations, and just an awareness of how other people were passing their lives in my town.

And then there was that fateful day. Jamie Schwartz, @brownautogal on Twitter, wondered: “Any suggestions as to who makes the best pies in Charlottesville?” Marijean Jaggers, @Marijean, soon led with: “I am the pie master,” and Brian J. Geiger, @thefoodgeek, countered with: “I have been told that my Apple Pie was Absolutely The Best…” Marijean and Brian’s Twitter followers jumped in to volunteer (selflessly, of course) to eat pies baked by the two to truly decide the question. I like pie, so I hurried to throw my hat into the ring to judge: I think my actual comment was “mmmm, pie” (trying not to be too obvious about it, in case I wasn’t chosen, or in case they weren’t serious about baking pies for strangers on Twitter, which, shockingly, they were). And at the speed of lightning, things started to happen: a name for the event was chosen. From among the Twitter volunteers, four judges were picked, including me. A date was selected. Local businesses competed to host the adventure. Others agreed to donate prizes to the competitors. Local media, including @DailyProgress, @nbc29, and @cvillain signed on to cover the event in various ways. A website was put together by @stevewhitaker, and a graphic designed by @GraphicsGeek. A way-catchy theme song was even recorded by @amandafrench, former Cville resident who still stays in touch via, you guessed it, Twitter. All of this was coordinated by people who had for the most part never met in person, and the word was spread strictly by social media: Twitter updates, a Facebook event, and blogging, sweet blogging.

The fact that the Cville Pie Down was at its origin so virtual and viral made me nervous at first, I’ll admit. I had Social Media Anxiety, fearing that for all the positive buzz about the Pie Down online, no one would actually show up to witness it in person. Marijean and Brian had nicely volunteered to bake a pie for one lucky individual in the audience whose raffle ticket was chosen, but otherwise, there wasn’t much being promised to people in attendance, other than a chance to get a sliver of pie not scarfed down by the judges and the opportunity to participate in something I thought was cool. But would others? I had visions of that one hand clapping again.

CvillePieDown 2009Apparently I should have known better. People were not shy about showing up. Marijean’s description of the event as “Other, Carnival” on the Facebook event page seemed very à propos to me while judging: sitting in the crowded downtown Mudhouse at a table with Mayor David Norris, TV camera lights making me sweat even more than I already was, people live Tweeting our every word, an appearance by Congressman Tom Perriello… How did I end up here?

Live Tweeting the Pie Down

Live Tweeting the Pie Down

And that’s part of the beauty of social networking. Among other things, it’s a democratizing force, bringing people together and allowing many to participate in discussions, events, and organizations in ways that they never would have been able to before. And social media is such a part of our lives now, in so many different ways. Me, I use it professionally (to connect with important people in my field, to stay current with news and technology that helps me in my job) and personally (to keep up with family, friends, and an ever-increasing circle of cool local folks and news). Today, social media brought me all that, plus some kick-ass pie. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Earth: fallen off

May 14, 2009

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, contrary to popular belief. 2009 has just been a crazy whirlwind of a year, and Twitter-length updates are easier to coordinate in such times. Time to start putting other things (like blogging) back on the table.

Ereaders: seemingly a new one every day, though I’m still upset that the Readius device which looks so cool is apparently “stalled.” A colleague suggested that I organize a bake sale or a car wash to help out Polymer Vision. Who’s with me?

Other ereaders, such as the Kindle 2, the Kindle DX, the COOL-ER, etc. are increasingly in the news — it’s a fun time to be involved in digital publishing. I was thrilled when the MLA recently announced it no longer privileged print as the default medium for published works. This marks a big cultural shift in scholarship and publishing, and I’m hopeful that publishers will catch up with this idea and prioritize the development of media-rich, networked, open standards content.

Unrelated, but following up on my earlier post about those who denounce ebooks, claiming they could never surrender “the smell of books,” perhaps they should just investigate getting a good ereader and gallons of this?

search or search or search

July 11, 2008

Via Catalogablog, I was just clued in to Viewzi, a search engine which encourages search grouping in a visually appealing way.  Rather than search Google shopping or Google images, one can search Viewzi’s “Everyday Shopping View,” which searches within Amazon, ebay, Target, and Wal-Mart, or Viewzi’s “News View,” which searches CNN, Google Images, Newsvine, Reuters, etc. — and these are only a few of the possibilities.  In addition to the multiple cool search groupings, Viewzi’s interface is pretty snazzy, although sometimes cluttered.  (It’s probably telling that their site description lists them as being “a new and highly visual way to search” first, only mentioning “bring[ing] all your favorite stuff together” afterwards.)  They’re in beta now, so I think it will be interesting to see how their searches develop over time.  Especially if Viewzi is open to new search categorizations and perhaps add-ons and/or plugins from outside developers… they could be on to something.

It’s better on paper: follow-up

June 6, 2008

Matt Kirschenbaum points to the following funny example of the paper vs. technology breakdown: Choose Your Own Adventure: Pong.

Maybe I’ll check it out, given how unsuccessful my recent foray into Choose Your Own Adventure books for adults was…

The future of ebooks?

June 6, 2008

Admittedly, I’m someone who has a professional appreciation of books and technology, so I’m always curious and somewhat stymied to see the strong resistance many people have to ebooks in various ways and in their various forms. The debate concerning ebooks is often centered on one somewhat silly idea — that an ebook reader, no matter how great the technology, can never truly approximate the physical sensation of reading a book, and specifically that an ebook will never have the smell that the pages of an old book do as you turn them. If this was really the straw that broke the ebook’s back, I’d be willing to concede the point and give up immediately, frankly. I do wonder, however, what this silly clinging to a not-necessarily-pleasant smell is masking in people’s honest reactions to ebook technology. I get that reading, and especially reading for pleasure, does involve a visceral response, which is why I’m also betting that those who cling to “book smell” as a reason to boycott ebooks are traditionalists who were probably never a good market for ebooks to begin with — those who, if not harboring fear of new technologies, at least are not going to embrace them willingly. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with age, but the stereotype of the elderly person unable to get the VCR to stop blinking “12:00” does come to mind. (Yes, VCR, kids — maybe your parents can tell you about those.) The ebook discussion hearkens back interestingly to the resistance to VCRs in their infancy, actually, because many of the same discussions that took place in the 1980s about watching movies in a new way sound new all over again now: specifically concerns about copyright (the question of whether, if you can copy a movie off TV and possibly share it, it would damage the film’s copyright was actually a landmark court case in recent copyright law; more on copyright and ebooks below), but also: why would you want to watch a movie at home, on a smaller screen, when you’d be missing the “movie theater experience” (big screen, popcorn smell, crowds of folks sharing the movie experience with you)? And I’ll admit: I infinitely prefer watching a movie at the theater to watching a movie at home, even now that TVs are nearing the size of movie screens anyway and HD-DVDs make the experience crystal clear. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t watch movies at home — I do, and I enjoy it. It’s just different. And there are some movies that you know are going to be better in the theater than at home, or vice versa. Why are we unable to make the leap when it comes to reading paper vs. electronic books? Do we have to dismiss one option unilaterally? For many, sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

I’ve been following the discussion of the Amazon Kindle since its initial release last year with interest. Although the Kindle corrects some of the past big criticisms of ebook readers (specifically, its electronic ink eliminates the need for the reader to be backlit, creating an easier reading experience on the eyes), there are still legions of folks who refuse to contemplate it — like my officemate, who had only to be asked, “Hey, have you seen the Kindle?” before quickly answering, “Yeah, I looked at it a little bit — I can’t see myself ever using one.” Huh, well, OK. I wonder, then, if she would just be appalled at this ebook reader design featured on The Scholarly Kitchen blog? I have to say, I want to see the prototype of this thing, because my first thought was, “Wouldn’t that be really annoying to read on?” I suspect that, as with the larger ebook debate, the answer is more nuanced than that — would it be better/worse to use to read a novel-length text than Twitter updates? I want to know, so Core77, get to work and contact me!

On the ebook copyright front, as with many different types of “new vs. old” media, fear of copyright piracy seems to be raging again in the ebook world. Adam C. Engst responds nicely in this blog entry.

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