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comment by kleinbl00

Two of these articles are very much worth discussing, such that I'm gonna be obnoxious and vomit forth in two streams.

kleinbl00  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Why Kindles Suck

I'm moving. Which means making a lot of judgements about what things are kept and what things are eliminated. As a consequence, a lot of books have gone to the recycler.

Theoretically I could take them to a library. But I know a librarian and he has confirmed with me that about 99% of those books end up at the shredder. I could take them to a used bookstore but LA has pathetic few of them, they're run by assholes and the books have a 95% chance of ending up in the shredder anyway. So I skipped the middle man.

It's not that I hate books. It's not that they're books I don't expect to read again. It's that hanging on to a used book seems no more moral to me than torrenting an .epub. After all, I bought the book once. Being required to hang onto physical media to prove ownership (that doesn't benefit the original copyright holder one bit) strikes me as anti-consumer. And unlike physical books, I can (and do) back up my digital media.

I've owned three Kindles. They're shitty devices. Everything that's wrong with e-readers is a direct consequence of Jeff Bezos' vision for digital books, which is the same as his vision for books, which is "a commodity I can profit from by screwing the middle man." Kindles aren't designed for reading books, they're designed for shopping for books, and that design is every bit as shitty as everything else Amazon has ever designed.

Despite Amazon starting life as a bookstore, Bezos is not a reader and never will be - he's a shark who decided that was the weakness he'd forge an empire upon. The Kindle is in the same vein. Amazon had leverage over publishers, so it turned the thumbscrews. .azw is a shitty format. .epub beats the shit out of it. Much like Audible - another shitty format that Amazon wins through convenience of shopping.

But you know what? I buy books on Kindle that I wouldn't buy as physical media, and I buy books on Audible that I wouldn't read. I spend substantially more on digital media than I ever did on printed media... but that's because I'm a pragmatist. I recognize how I interact with my words (not my pictures - we'll get to that) and act accordingly.

Craig Mod worships books the way hipsters worship vinyl.

Yeah - there's a physicality to vinyl records that certainly appeals. At a certain level of emotional maturity there's reassurance and power in crates upon crates upon crates of vinyl, sleeves and grooves and faded labels. There's a transcendental pleasure in the non-random access of physical media that absolutely aids their appeal as objects. However, content is platform-agnostic unless that content is wholly dependent on physicality.

Mod mentions McSweeney's. Of course he does. That most precious of vanity houses, where every word is a poem and every layout is an homage to the Farmer's Almanac. Where content is too clever by half and if deprived of its whitespace and linen becomes tawdry and dull. The argument being that the whitespace and linen is a part of the content - the medium is the message (I know who McLuhan was, too). But it's bullshit. Anything worth reading can be read in whatever ways words are transmitted. eReader, Kindle, Morse Code, who gives a fuck.

And in order to make this point, Mod goes all the way 'round to talking about the "openness" of physical media - as if self-publishing an off-format hardcover with weird fonts is every bit as simple as vomiting your draft up on Lulu. PROTIP: everything you do outside of the norm is an upcharge, and your physical media starts out about $8 behind compared to a download.

I did not throw away all my books. My shirakawas? Safely boxed up. My first edition Arcology? Wrapped in paper. Those large, beautiful, interesting physical objects that I like to review and enjoy showing off are very much still a part of my life and always will be. But that pulp 3rd edition of Zelazny's "Isle of the Dead?" I can torrent that any day of the week. It cost me a dollar when I bought it, 20 years old, 15 years ago. Zelazny is dead, his agent is retiring, and if I actually wanted to enrich to coffers of the players behind the book, Amazon will sell me a two-fer with another novel for $9.

And then I'll have something I can search, I can highlight, I can sync across three platforms and if I feel like ripping and emailing (both of which are trivial), I can share with whoever I want anywhere around the globe for free.

flagamuffin  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Mod mentions McSweeney's. Of course he does. That most precious of vanity houses, where every word is a poem and every layout is an homage to the Farmer's Almanac. Where content is too clever by half and if deprived of its whitespace and linen becomes tawdry and dull.

The McSweeney's game: count the number of words in the article, and then spend that many seconds reading it. But you have to factor the time it took to count. So for their average 16-word hipster list article, that's maybe 10 seconds to count, six seconds to read, consider, analyze and rebut, and then you can move on with your day.

francopoli  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

All I will ever say about the Kindle.


We got my mom a Kindle so she can read her murder mysteries. I want to like the thing, but seriously, why is the screen not the same size as the print in a standard paperback? My Nexus7 would be a perfect ereader if it had a better screen. And at this point, since the stuff I read is the same cost for digital or physical, I'll stick to the physical.

kleinbl00  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So thing 1: The advantage Kindles have over your Nexus 7 is that eInk is a reflective display, while everybody's xPad is a transmissive display. Reflective displays cause substantially less eyestrain and they also don't trigger your visual cortex into thinking it's daytime and interfering with your melatonin cycle. In other words, you can read a Kindle for longer and you can read them before bed (or a nap) without them keeping you awake.

Thing 2, though, is yeah. The form factor of kindles are shit. I have a DX, which is about the size of a legit iPad, and the printed area is about the same size as a trade paperback. It's pretty much perfect for paperback stuff. And back when they were selling them, they were selling them for like $400, and that's why Kindles are tiny and shitty: the eInk display ends up costing as much or more as an LCD.

There's a million and one things wrong with Kindles, but Thing 1 is such a big deal I don't care. Especially since I've got a DX.

By the way...

kleinbl00  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Sherry Turkle

Thanks for this. I preordered it. It comes out Tuesday. I'm still slowly picking my way through Second Self and despite the fact that it was written over 30 years ago, the insights in it about how children and adults interact with computers (and by "computers" we're talking "computers before the Apple II") are positively spine-tingling. Alone Together is probably the best book of the six or seven I've read about how humans interact with the Internet; every single other book name-checks her at some point and with good reason.

It reminded me, though, of how much I hate Jonathan Franzen.

I doubt he's read anything else Sherry Turkle has written. His take on Alone Together seems to be a refutation of Michiko Kakutani's review, also in the NYT. Worth noting:

    Writer Jonathan Franzen has called her "the stupidest person in New York"[9] and an "international embarrassment",[10] despite her praise for Franzen's recent novel, Purity (Kakutani is actually mentioned within the novel, on p. 191)

It's dreary to me how researchers are constantly pilloried by reviewers for not solving the problems they discover, and then when they make an effort, it's always somehow wrong. Franzen's the kind of guy who would argue Silent Spring was unrealistic because DDT would never be banned, or Unsafe at Any Speed was preposterous because the automobile industry would never adopt shoulder belts. Especially when this is the argument:

    She writes approvingly of a smartphone interface that “instead of encouraging us to stay connected as long as possible, would encourage us to disengage.” But an interface like this would threaten almost every business model in Silicon Valley, where enormous market capitalizations are predicated on keeping consumers riveted to their devices.

It's called CPM, yo. raise the cost per click and the number of clicks required diminishes proportionally. Here's why:

    Matthew Crawford, in “The World Beyond Your Head,” contrasts the world of a “peon” airport lounge — saturated in advertising, filled with mesmerizing screens — with the quiet, ad-free world of a business lounge: “To engage in playful, inventive thinking, and possibly create wealth for oneself during those idle hours spent at an airport, requires silence. But other people’s minds, over in the peon lounge (or at the bus stop), can be ­treated as a resource — a standing reserve of purchasing power.”

Next bloody paragraph.

I'll read the Turkle book and report back. I'm most of the way through A Prayer for Owen Meany, realistically the last legit bl00's review. After that I'll have to figure out if I feel like subjecting people to book reviews of things they didn't suggest. This seems as good a place to start as any.

I won't be reading any Jonathan Franzen.

veen  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Alone Together had been on my list for a while now because of your praise of if. I just arrived home from a long train ride where I listened to the first ~3,5 hours of the book. I've found it to be very relatable and interesting, already prompting me to reflect on the impact of technology on myself / the self. Let me know if the new book is any good.

Kaius  ·  1297 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Interested to read what you think of Owen Meaney. I'll wait for your review lest any comment i make affect your own opinion of it.