Information Technology

Life time subscription to book you buy

by on Aug.01, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Information Technology, Technology

So what if the text books you bought in college never went out of date? You never sold them back but instead kept them and instead regularly updated them with the latest research and findings on that book’s subject?

That is exactly what Vikram Savkar of the Nature Publishing Group is hoping to achieve with his interactive digital book Principles of Biology.

Lifetime access to up-to-date info—is this the future of the textbook? by Yun Xie [Ars Technica]

None of these concepts are new. Tabletop roleplaying game books have offered free errata for their games even before they started selling digitally and the promise of interactive books has been around for a while but this is the first time it has been applied to text books. I rather hope it succeeds.
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New Books & CDF – Computable Document Format

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Technology, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Wolfram launches a new document format that puts interactivity as the core concept [Kurzweilai.net]

This is a great example of what I’ve been talking about regarding where books are headed. Wolfram is releasing a document format that will contain not only text and images, or maybe even the occasional embedded video, but actual interactive information. Geared primarily towards business documents, text books, and research documents, the idea could still hold true for any type of written work. Embedded within the text are apps that display information visually that the user can then manipulate to show how things can change. Graphics that actually allow a modification of variables, math equations where you can quickly and easily plug-in values to see how the equations change, and more.

The document standard is designed to make it easy enough for any person to create a document. No need to be a programmer to create the interactive features of the CDF. This is the real novelty of the idea, since webpages and flash have granted capabilities similar to this for years but their methods of creation have a steep learning curve.

If you’re interested in learning more, the below video goes over the various features of the CDF.

Video Source

 

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eBooks: And the rest follow – Apple strong arms the eBook readers

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Information Technology, Technology

Remember back in February I talked about some of the shenanigans Apple was pulling with eBooks? Namely that they lobbied to get the industry to sell eBooks on an agency model and then setup their app store to take a percentage cut of sales. This combined with the agency model made it so that all non-apple e-book distributors selling their books directly via an app, rather than via a website, paid all their profits to Apple? Also do you remember iFlowReader? A small time eBook reader that had to removing itself from the app store (and effectively dying) because of these policies?

At the time it was not clear if perhaps Apple was even going to enforce these policies, since they hadn’t before and yet, suddenly, the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps no longer sell eBooks, and the Google Books app is mysteriously missing from the App Store. This came only after Apple “relented” by saying that all Apps didn’t have to sell everything that they sold outside of the store, as long as the app didn’t provide an easy way to get to the alternative purchase area. Basically Apple told everybody: “If you sell eBooks, you have to sell them in the App, and let us take all your profits. Otherwise you have to remove your apps.”, then Apple came back and said, “Okay we won’t remove your apps as long as you make it so you can’t sell anything in your eBook reader. It’ll be a viewer only. Not even a link to your websites.”

This is what I am scared of when we see App Stores becoming the future. Their convenience does not outweigh the market control we’re giving Apple and really any other “App Store” gate keep out there such as Google and Backberry. The fact that Apple is pushing Apps for their desktops is a disturbing trend. A desktop that can only run Apple approved software? Apple approved websites?

I’m using exaggerated rhetoric to help you see how these maneuvers by Apple are amazingly anti-competitive. They’ve maneuvered in two completely different arenas (publishers and the app store) to create an amazing combo where in nobody can sell eBooks in the App Store for a profit but Apple itself, and have managed to mostly look like a responsible and sensible corporate citizen protecting their investment while doing so.

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Trailer: Transcendent Man

by on Jul.14, 2011, under Articles, Books, Information Technology, Novels, Science, Technology, Trailers, Visual Media

Transcendant Man is a documentary about Ray Kurzweil. You might find that name familiar because I’ve often linked to his website, KurzweilAI, that keeps track of amazing scientific advancements.

Transhumanists already know his name and have likely already flocked to read the book or see the movie, for those of you who haven’t, there is an one night viewing come to theaters across the US that includes both a showing of the movie and commentary by Ray Kurzweil himself. The showing is August 3rd and you can download a PDF contain the list of theaters here or enter you zipcode on this site.

 

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Ted Video: A next-generation eBook

by on Jun.02, 2011, under Art, Articles, Books, Computers, Entertainment, Information Technology, Technology, Videos, Visual Media, Viz

This one is a short one. Promise.

Another great example of what books might transform into in the near future. An amalgamation of media that is as addictive to browse as Wikipedia and tv tropes. For more ideas see my prior posts about eBooks.

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Carbon Nanotubes: Now in your memory

by on May.25, 2011, under Articles, Computers, Information Technology, News, Science, Technology

Low power memory from nanotubes by Katherine Bourzac [Technology review] via [Kurzweil]

So one of the biggest problems with our emerging mobile technology is finding energy efficient nonvolatile memory. That is memory that continues to hold information even after the power is turned off. The problem is that writing to standard flash memory takes up a proportionally large amount of energy but flash memory is also some of our smallest memory to date. Carbon Nanotubes, when combined with a new type of memory called phase-change memory, may be the key to overcoming this obstacle.

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eBooks: And the first one drops

by on May.22, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Technology

iFlowReader for the iOS market closes down and leaves a rather stinging article regarding Apple’s marketing policies.

While it doesn’t seem to be official that Apple is enforcing the policy iFlowReader is talking about, it is most certainly on the books and the creators of iFlowReader have succinctly connected all the pieces of this amazingly anti-competitive move by Apple. I talked about this in detail back in February and honestly it is making me nervous about owning an iPad or the eBook industry in general. The iFlowReader is a great example of ingenuity in the eBook area and that has now been squashed.

This isn’t a perfect blow against eBooks. There are other mediums out there for reading, such as the Kindle and your cell phone and Android based tablets. However the iPad is one of the best tables out there, making it a prime example for others to follow, and I do enjoy using it for reading. This restriction of my ability to read eBooks on it to basically just Apple sold eBooks and stuff I can get off the web is as disturbing to me as DRM.

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What Books Will Become (Part 2 of 2)

by on May.09, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Gaming, Information Technology, Internet, Science, Technology, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Recently I came across this article, which takes an even more in-depth look at the possibilities of where books could go.

What Books Will Become by Kevin Kelly [KK.org/TheTechnium]

That is a long article and I’m sure enthusiasts, such as myself, likely read it all. For those of you not interested in reading the entire thing, here are some interesting points I’d like to point out and discuss. In Part 1 we discussed the problem with the word books and the transition to non-book formats.

Picking up where we left off:

At the same time, a screen that we watch can watch us. The tiny eyes built into your tablet, the camera that faces you, can read your face. Prototype face tracking software can already recognize your mood, and whether you are paying attention, and more importantly where on the screen you are paying attention. It can map whether you are confused by a passage, or delighted, or bored. That means that the text could adapt to how it is perceived. Perhaps it expands into more detail, or shrinks during speed reading, or changes vocabulary when you struggle, or reacts in a hundred possible ways. There are numerous experiments playing with adaptive text. One will give you different summaries of characters and plot depending on how far you’ve read.

This is where we start getting into interesting areas of information technology and adaptive text. I both like and hate this idea. As a gamer I find this idea intriguing. As a reader I’m not sure I like this. The article goes on to discuss that adaptive text has never been widely accepted. I remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books and Lone Wolf books that were effectively the same thing but relegated to the children’s book section. Perhaps with the growing number of adults who are used to playing video games, books might become a more interactive media.

The article also discusses the idea of the inclusion of movies inside text. I recently attended a seminar given by Edward Tufte, a well-known name in Information Technology, who talks about, prior to the invention of the printing press, it was common for images to be included, in-line, with text. It is an idea that modern technology limits us from, even today. In order to embed an image for you to see here in this blog, I have to set alignments and specialized tags. Images and text don’t flow well together in modern technology. This is something I personally hope the advancement of eBooks will fix, even if it is a tangential part.

The current custodians of ebooks — Amazon, Google and the publishers — have agreed to cripple the liquidity of ebooks by preventing readers from cut-and-pasting text easily, or to copy large sections of a book, or to otherwise seriously manipulate the text. But eventually the text of ebooks will be liberated, and the true nature of books will blossom. We will find out that books never really wanted to be telephone directories, or hardware catalogs, or gargantuan lists. These are jobs that websites are much superior at — all that updating and searching — tasks that paper is not suited for. What books have always wanted was to be annotated, marked up, underlined, dog-eared, summarized, cross-referenced, hyperlinked, shared, and talked-to. Being digital allows them to do all that and more.

I don’t think he is crazy. It’s the nature of the transition for the people who held all the power to try to adapt technology to the same limitations that they once had but eventually the old powers, or some new power, will figure out how the market works adapt to it. Hopefully anyway.

But the last topic of the article I want to bring up is introduced in the above paragraph. The idea of a  networked book. There are paragraphs devoted to this concept in the article and I both like and dislike the idea. I do like the idea of a book forming its own metadata as it is read, shared, discussed, and copied. I don’t think it will be as beautiful or seamless as Kelly is describing. He talks about books that continue evolving, being edited not just by the author but by the meta content that is created for it. You can see a proto-example in theweb series of novels Shadowunit. Movies and television already regularly make use of the web to try to create this content, to create a following around a show, so this idea isn’t new or alien. I think, however, at this point, we will have birthed a new media that is very different from the kind of stories told in books today. I don’t think that is a bad thing, but it’ll be a transbook media.

And I look forward to reading it.

Anyway if you’ve liked some of this discussion, read the original article. There are more neat ideas about where books are headed in here.

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What Books Will Become (Part 1 of 2)

by on May.08, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Gaming, Information Technology, Internet, Roleplaying Games, Science, Technology, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Readers might remember I wrote an article awhile back about the evolution of how stories are told. It discussed the current transition we find our media undergoing, between analogue and digital. I stopped short, in that article, of discussing where it could possibly lead and left that theorizing to the reader.

Recently I came across this article, which takes an even more in-depth look at the possibilities of where books could go.

What Books Will Become by Kevin Kelly [KK.org/TheTechnium]

That is a long article and I’m sure enthusiasts, such as myself, likely read it all. For those of you not interested in reading the entire thing, here are some interesting points I’d like to point out and discuss. (continue reading…)

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The Digital Public Library of America

by on May.02, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Information Technology, Internet, Politics, Technology

Ruling Spurs Effort to Form Digital Public Library By Miguel Helft [New York Times]

This news header caught my eye because the concept seems like almost a no brainer. Except that copyright and laws are all confusing in the idea since digital media is so easily transferable as compared to physical media. Still an online public Library of America is a great idea and I hope it gets off the ground and becomes popular enough to stay alive.

 

 

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