Arise the E-Readers

Today all the internet is abuzz and agog with the newly released e-reader from Amazon called the Kindle. This is a very interesting new addition to the gadget world. E-books have tried and failed before, there was the e-book gold rush that occurred at the same time as the internet bubble while they both imploded together the e-book failure was largely due to the small screens of PDA or clunkyness of laptops that made reading books off them not a comfortable experience. The arrival of commercial e-ink has been a long time coming. Some have likened the release of the Kindle to the iPod. Both terms of of game changing and scope.

Sony Reader
Originally uploaded by jopemoro

I for one would like suggest that the Emperor has no clothes, and while it is a significant release I don’t believe the Kindle will have the longevity of the iPod. That is a heady claim, however, unlike most people, I have been the proud owner of a Sony Reader for 6 months, Sony’s first western release of an e-ink product. It is not the best product in the world. The page changes take too long (~1-2 seconds), the contrast needs some work and the battery time while rated at 7000 pages turns really some in about 400 for actual usage. However it has changed the way I read. It is the right size and I think looks as good as it needs to. True it doesn’t have the keypad of the kindle (but is found in the Japanese version the LIBRIĆ©). I think that the kindle is trying to replace a PDA and not a book. Sony needs to add a WiFi to the reader and it would be truly excellent. I am still however happy with the money I spent and find that the need to go to a computer every few weeks to upload some new books hardly a chore.

2007 has been a very interesting year thus far with nearly every music producer beginning to understand that DRM is not working. They are finally pursuing a business model where DRM enforcement is been dropped left, right and centre. So it is a big surprise to see how restrictive the initial release of the Kindle is. It almost as if they haven’t read Steve Jobs letter, the horror. Certain file can’t be downloaded direct to the Kindle and have to be converted to some propriety protected format, via the Amazon servers. However it is already a lost battle with thousands of books already available, and unprotected on the internet.

I’m sure that there will be other readers that come along that will be competive with the Kindle, maybe even one from Apple? Who knows until then it will very interesting to see the take up on the Kindle now that it has been released.

Also just this week there was an announcement of a book ripper, from a crowd called ATIZ, which would allow people to “rip” books they already own and create digital copies that can be read on any format they choose using little more than digital cameras. I’m not sure if it is ready for prime time but it is a start.

I feel a bit mixed about books finally moving digital. My personal opinion is that downloading music from the internet is OK, as it should be (and it should have always been) a promotion tool for artists to attract paying fans to live gigs, an experience that just can not be downloaded. It is similar but a little less true for movies, now that people have huge entertainment centres there is a fall off when people watch a movie at home instead of the cinema so that explains the next wave of 3D movies that Jim Cameron and Robert Zemeckis are current working on and which should keep bums on seats,and paying, for another 10 years.

I don’t however see the analogue for books. The e-reader experience is virtually identical to the book experience (you will get purists that will say the e-readers will never be the same as having a book in there hand, point them in the direction of vinyl lovers and see if they can make babies). There is little that an author can capitalise on once a book has been ripped and distributed without there permission, and more importantly without income. Sure they can hope it gets turned into a movie but what about the books that are great books unfilmable? Will we see the continued rise of product placement in successful stories?

Australian Urban Archaeology – Google Earth Style

I found an interesting toy on the internet a few days ago. The NSW government has released a maps viewer, called Spatial Information eXchange, that looks for all the world like a google earth knock off. They boast that the resolution of the images are better than those used by google earth. While nominally set up to help emergency services and government departments the tool has one trick that google earth/maps doesn’t, satellite imaging from 1943.

The service has been up for a few days but it looks like the server couldn’t handle the initial load. However I was finally able to get consistent service again to produce some present versus past imaging. As some one who didn’t grow up in Australia but live here now it has been very interesting to examine the places I know know as see what they used to look like.

The picture below is an over head of the area around circular quay. The site now occupied by the Sydney Opera House used to be Fort Macquarie tram depot on Bennelog point. The Cahill expressway has yet to be build and join up with the Harbour Bridge.

Also over on the left side of the image is the area known as the hungry mile which has been filled in since 1943 but was recently shut down as an operational port to make way for residential buildings and be renamed “Barangaroo”. Ten years from now it will probably look very different again.

These images are above the area known as Darling harbour. It is currently the location of convention centres, eateries and an IMAX cinema, however it used to be a big shipping yard. It was completely rebuild in the 80s. You can also see the addition of all the elevated roads that carry traffic in and out of the city from the west.

If you know Sydney, or NSW it is definitely worth a look.

Erasable Tattoos

For years I have wanted to get a tattoo. However when it comes to deciding what to mark ones body with for the rest of ones life I usually draw up short. I have a habit of going off ideas very fast and would probably come to loath a tattoo within weeks never mind years. Ideas have been :

  • A Chinese character
  • A barcode
  • The bat logo from Batman Forever (with Riddler question mark!?!)
  • A Celtic pattern
  • A barb wire

As I look back at them all I’m sure I’d want to gouge the skin out of my arm to remove any one of them.

Tattoos of course are removable, but there are stories of extensive laser treatment that cost a lot and quite painful with the final result being close to but not completely normal. Please see attached photo.

While my personal favourite solution, programmable tattoos, are a long way off, I was surprised to see on Time’s top inventions for the year a tattoo ink that can be removed in a single treatment, called Freedom2. The ink is really biodegradable and bioabsorbable dyes within safe, colorless polymer beads. To remove the tattoo a laser breaks open the polymer bead, the ink is dispersed and can be absorbed by the body unlike current inks that contain heavy metals.

I can imagine the arguments that parents are going to be having with there kids once this new ink becomes ubiquitous until then please refer to the popular Machinima, Red vs Blue, public service announcement and remember 10 years ago you were and idiot and you still are an idiot, it will just take you another 10 years to find out.