mm133: Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books

September 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The concept of electronic books has always been promising, and never yet delivered in a practical, affordable form.

But, they keep trying:



SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 5 — Technology evangelists have predicted the emergence of electronic books for as long as they have envisioned flying cars and video phones. It is an idea that has never caught on with mainstream book buyers.

Two new offerings this fall are set to test whether consumers really want to replace a technology that has reliably served humankind for hundreds of years: the paper book.

In October, the online retailer will unveil the Kindle, an electronic book reader that has been the subject of industry speculation for a year, according to several people who have tried the device and are familiar with Amazon’s plans. The Kindle will be priced at $400 to $500 and will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site.

That is a significant advance over older e-book devices, which must be connected to a computer to download books or articles.

Also this fall, Google plans to start charging users for full online access to the digital copies of some books in its database, according to people with knowledge of its plans. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google. So far, Google has made only limited excerpts of copyrighted books available to its users.

Amazon and Google would not comment on their plans, and neither offering is expected to carve out immediately a significant piece of the $35-billion-a-year book business. But these new services, from two Internet heavyweights, may help to answer the question of whether consumers are ready to read books on digital screens instead of on processed wood pulp.

“Books represent a pretty good value for consumers. They can display them and pass them to friends, and they understand the business model,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research, who is skeptical that a profitable e-book market will emerge anytime soon.

The concept is wonderful: in a package the size of one book one could tote around an entire library.

The reality: this has not been a product that has rewarded early adopters.

Let me count the ways: Too big; too heavy; not sufficiently book-like in readability and “feel”; way too expensive.

But, electronics keep getting: smaller; lighter; more energy efficient; cheaper.

So, why no world-beater e-book yet?

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books – New York Times

Were MUDGE a road warrior, an e-book would be tempting. Indeed, the older of two official younger brothers of MUDGE, a globe-trotting road warrior if ever was (actually both brothers maintain 7-digit frequent flyer miles accounts — a way of life older-bro would run screaming away from), glommed onto the RocketBook (I’m recalling) a decade or so ago.

Wonderful concept; okay execution for the late 90s. Probably soon discarded.

But, we know that there are zillions of road warriors out there, but who else, really, is a potential consumer of these products, even should [too big; too heavy; not sufficiently book-like in readability and “feel”; way too expensive] get solved? Amazon’s “Kindle” seems like an optimized version of a tablet computer — again, the road warrior’s weapon of choice.

But, if I’m at home, or at the office, wouldn’t I rather open up a book or magazine, and read that black type on white paper?

Of course, what does it mean that so many people spend so much time reading on their computers?

It’s different. I consider this short-attention-span reading, provided by folks like yours truly, a short-attention-span writer.

(BTW, the younger of the aforesaid official younger brothers is said to be working on a novel — a long attention span feat well beyond MUDGE‘s capacity or ambitions. I’m impressed!)

Case in point: a favorite read, Gregg Easterbrook, writing as ESPN Page Two’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback, is good for 9,000 words per week during the NFL season. TMQ I print and read offline. It’s just more comfortable.

Is there potential value on the back end? Sure, in the same way that, in a perfect world, a fee for purchasing music on iTunes might be smaller for the buyer, and potentially more lucrative for the creator, since there’s less costly production and distribution between artist and consumer. Might. Sigh.

A way for writers to achieve readership without someone’s investment in the industrial revolution’s basically obsolete bricks and mortar of production, distribution and retailing?

Well, it’s called blogging. This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere just crossed 2,000 total lifetime (active for exactly four months today) hits. Obviously, and with my gratitude, a few loyal readers.

But more exposure than this curmudgeon ever expected to achieve in his short-attention-span writing career.

How would I look on paper? Certainly not worth the trees, even if paper is totally recyclable.

And how would Left-Handed Complement look on a “Kindle?” I wouldn’t spend $400-500 plus media fees to find out.

It’s it for now. Thanks,



mm124: Michael Vick: Crimes Worse Than The Iraq War | TPM Cafe

September 1, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

This post was almost going to be MUDGE’s classical music trifecta (I, II) but this terrific post from Talking Points Memo (highly recommended, and an inexplicably late addition to the blogroll) jumped up to the top of MUDGE’s consideration.


By M.J. Rosenberg | bio

Michael Gerson, the former White House speechwriter, wrote in his Washington Post column yesterday that he and his fellow neocons worried that this was going to be the summer in which opposition to the Iraq war overwhelmed the Bush administration.

It sure looked that way in the spring when Democrats were mobilizing and popular support for the war and Bush dropped to levels reminiscent of LBJ and Vietnam after the Tet offensive.

But now the ship of state has been righted. The President’s popularity has risen a bit. More Americans think the war is succeeding. And the Democrats have lost their zeal about ending it.

section break

As I keep asking: where is the outrage?

This is a country where millions of people can hardly stop weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth about Michael Vick and those poor animals he tortured and killed.

How many dogs did Vick kill anyway. 25, 50, a hundred. I don’t know. But 3739 Americans have been killed in Iraq and maybe 600,000 Iraqis — not to mention the US destruction of a whole country and society.

Isn’t the above what many of us have been thinking, but haven’t been able to articulate nearly so well?

The rest of the post is terrific, and some of the replies and comments are thoughtful also. Please take a look.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Michael Vick: Crimes Worse Than The Iraq War | TPMCafe

So, there’s another element of the Michael Vick story, one that was very clearly articulated by one of MUDGE’s absolute hands down favorite writers, Gregg Easterbrook, writing as ESPN’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Next, I feel sympathy for Vick because there is racial animus in the current turn of events. If Vick really is guilty of cruelty to animals and associating with lowlife gamblers, these things leave him open to a kind of condemnation that has nothing to do with race. But don’t you just sense there are loads of people who are happy to have the chance to condemn the first African-American quarterback who was drafted first overall — via an accusation that has nothing to do with race? That there might be racial animus against Vick is not an excuse; he is responsible for his actions regardless of what others do or think. But suppose everything about the Michael Vick controversy was exactly the same except Vick was a white quarterback from an upper-middle-class family in Winnetka, Ill., Newport Beach, Calif., or Coral Gables, Fla. Can you say with a straight face that the public reaction and government action would the same?

Next, I feel sympathy for Vick because he tripped into a “summer scandal.” Starting around mid-July, legislatures recess, business executives and heads of state go on holiday, Hollywood airheads fly their private jets to Sag Harbor, N.Y., to relax in 10,000-square-foot mansions while complaining about greenhouse gas emissions: The news world slows down. Every summer, there is a scandal that is magnified beyond its inherent importance, owing to lack of other news. The Michael Vick accusations are this year’s summer scandal. His indictment came in late July. Had it come in October or March, far less attention might have been paid.

Note that Easterbrook’s second point above (actually about the fourth in his original post) emphasizes the seasonal factor that M. J. Rosenberg picks up on.

TMQ is always wonderful, in Easterbrook’s fulsome way about much more than professional football. During the season, I relish his columns even more (most years up until the last few) than watching MUDGE’s home town team, the Bears. Finish his Vick reflections and hurry back!

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

ESPN Page 2 – Easterbrook: Sympathy for Vick

WIWICWLT! But I can’t, and I’m grateful for your readership despite the inelegance and worse.

Let’s summarize our reasons for outrage: The ongoing tragedy of Iraq should have us storming the bastions to get our representative government to make changes now to literally stop the hemorrhaging. Not happening, in or out of Washington.

And the fact that so many U.S. citizens who aren’t up to the task of activating themselves and their friends and neighbors to get behind ending Bush and the neocons’ military misadventure are happy enough to feel outrage over a wealthy young man’s mistreatment of some dogs.

And, aren’t most of those most upset reacting for only slightly submerged racial reasons? Now, that’s outrageous!

To quote M. J. Rosenberg:

I’ll tell you. If we were sending dogs over to fight this war, and they were dying and being maimed like our soldiers, this war would have ended before it started.

It’s it for now. Thanks,