Tag Archives: National Geographic

E vs. ink

My friend Karen posted some thoughts on Twitter about ebooks and readers.

Been thinking about how e-books/Ipad exclude poorer readers. Continued…. Folks with literacy/soc. justice concerns should keep zines/broadsheet etc. in mind. If medium is message, cost of readers excludes many.

It would easy to dismiss Karen’s thoughts because of her history with paper but she has a good point.  A Sony Reader ranges in price from $240 in Futureshop ($179 online) to $149 at Wal-MartChapters is promoting a new reader for $149.00 which isn’t that bad except you realize that a) that is all you can do with it and b) I am buying it so I can buy new books.  I am paying $199 (or $259 if I am looking for a Kindle) so I can spend even more money to use it.

Most of our gadgets are like that.

In our household right now, we have:

  • 2 Sony PSPs and games are anywhere from $15 to $40
  • 3 iPods and songs are $.99 to $1.29 but we can use our own CDs to rip music.  Apps range from free to $4.
  • 1 PS2 and games are $10 and $25
  • 1 Nintendo Wii and games are from $20 to $60 (yet all have come from Lee).

So what’s the difference.  Well I don’t think you can compare Backyard Football or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to books and education.  My quality of life is not reduced because I don’t have a PS3 at all but my quality of life is greatly reduced by lack of access to books and news media.  Low cost news media serves several important functions in our families life outside of the obvious.

While driving to the cabin a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in Watrous (at Pip’s Esso) for a snack and grabbed a copy of Popular Mechanics and tossed it the backseat for Mark to read on the way up there.  It opened up his mind to several things as he poured over both the articles and the ads.  How many times has all of our lives been enriched by someone doing something similar.  A lot of my spring reading was done by people wandering in to my office and tossing a book on my desk and saying, “you will like this”.  With publishers and their DRM restrictions, you can’t do that.  Even if Wendy and I both get Sony Readers, we can’t share a book.

Reader Store screen capture Everyone is touting Google Books as the answer.  Even Sony has a link to Google Books on the front of their Reader Store.  I have spent hours going through there looking for books to download.  Most of the books you can download in ePub format for free are in the public domain and therefore really cheap to get at Indigo/Chapters/used book store in paper.  Sadly even many of them are not available because of the edition they scanned it from has restrictions on use and you are left with a snippet of what is available.

So even if I do purchase it and really like it, how do I make sure Mark can read it other than giving him my reader.  Even if we bought a reader for him, I can’t transfer it to him there.  Everyone has been fawning over the new iPad app from Marvel and it is very cool but Cory Doctorow makes this point about the iPad but he could be talking about any ebook reader.

Marvel app for the iPad I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It’s part of a multigenerational tradition in my family — my mom’s father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

So what does Marvel do to "enhance" its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.

That’s what I am realizing that we are losing.  Books, comics, and papers are part of the social ties that bind people together in communities.  Around work, the Star Phoenix is a communal paper.  It is read together, digested together, shared, it’s flyers are passed around and deals discussed.  Also, it gets treated as exactly as what Karen is talking about.

Well, we aren’t going to turn back time and to be honest, many publishers are banking everything on the iPad to save them (anyone else find it an odd coincidence that the financially struggling New York Times is features so prominently in Apple advertising)  As I was thinking seriously about buying a ebook reader this week, I took a step back from the side of the cliff and asked myself if what I am losing more than what I was getting and I had to admit it was.  From a design and an engineering point of view, the iPad/Kindle is a great piece of technology and a lot of fun (and yes I know the iPad comparison isn’t fair as it isn’t really designed as a book reader but rather a tablet computer).  Is it good enough to stop supporting a local bookstore (although Indigo/Chapters made those pretty rare in Canada) or lose the social element of reading and learning as an entire community.

So in the end, I continue to support print magazines.  For the record, those include National Geographic, Explore Magazine, Mountain Bike Action, Sports Illustrated, The Atlantic Monthly and The Walrus via subscription or purchasing one monthly at McNally Robinson.  While I only read The Star Phoenix online, we do subscribe at home (where Mark reads it with me every evening) and at work.

Christmas Gift Guides: Gift Ideas for the Accountant Across the Hallway (2009 Edition)

Well this is my most difficult Christmas gift guide yet.  My “friend” Jackie works across the hallway from me and she has been criticizing my Christmas Gift Guides all year long.  Monday she asked me to come up with a list of things she wants for Christmas which is a) getting as lazy as it gets b) acting kind of like Wendy and my brother Lee who rely on my Amazon wish list to get me some gifts.  Well here goes nothing…

  • Final Draft Version 8 :: Well one thing I know about Jackie is that she is well above being functionally literate, and one day after Andrew Morton has written the story of my life, someone who actually knows me will want to exploit working with me.  It may as well be Jackie and this is the software that will allow her to write the book, adapt the screenplay and produce the movie and a later mini-series. If I were her, I would get The Rock to play me and Halle Berry to play Wendy.
  • While Jackie is at it, she may as well get a computer that is perfect for writing the story of my life on a new netbook from Futureshop.
  • We all know that the movie of my life is going to be huge, possibly bigger than The Blind Side.  Before Jackie can start shooting, she will need to scout out some locations.  A Flip Video Camera is going to get the job done.  Also it will allow her to move from just taking embarrassing photos of her husband to taking videos.  Greg will be thrilled and possibly sue.
  • I know the commute would be horrible but a membership at Paragraph would be a lot of fun.
  • The Complete Collection of National Geographic :: Jackie, you know those awkward silences that you have when you are talking about stuff I no longer care about, a couple of well placed factoids from the National Geographic archives going back to 1888 would liven things up  Think how many times you will be able to drop a factoid about Mayan maize farming in the 1400s over coffee.  It will be great.
  • Starbucks Gold Card :: To be honest, I thought this was a good idea but the rumor is that Starbucks is coming out with a new reward program so it’s time has past.  Still, nothing says that I am a liberal elitist quite like a Starbucks Gold Card that really has no purpose than to say, “I’m more addicted to Starbucks than you are.”  There’s value in that.  Of course if you can’t get a superior Gold Card, there is always a superior Starbucks coffee mug.
  • Fantasy Football for Dummies :: This isn’t so much for Jackie as it is for me.  Our old accountant used to run a dozen fantasy football teams and being an accountant, he kept them on spreadsheets.  People thought we were working when we were trying to decide whether or not to play T.O. that week.  Good times.
  • Well staying indoors all day long adding up numbers can’t be good for you and since we live in Saskatchewan where one can watch their dog run away for four days, a snowboard would be the perfect winter activity.  While we don’t have a lot of hills around here and Blackstrap is closed, maybe you can get Greg to tow you behind the car.  If that happens, I’ll hold the video camera.
  • Ohto Tasche Fountain Pen :: The ingenious design of the Ohto Tasche allows one to carry it as a small compact pen when closed, but use it as a full sized fountain pen when open.  This slim fountain pen measures 10.2 cm long when closed, 10 cm long when used by itself, and 14.7 cm when used with the cap on. Writes in nice, fine lines perfect for your accounting journals (what? it’s all done on computer now? doh!)
  • Solid Wood Stapler :: Well you would know who took your stapler if it ever went missing.

Of course this list has only proven a couple of things a) the only thing that Jackie and I have in common is that we drink Starbucks coffee b) coming up for Christmas gifts for co-workers is really, really hard.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.