Tag Archives: official personal opinion disclaimer

Thoughts on the Apple iPad

Since I’m somewhat interested in technology and have a blog, I am obviously compelled to give my expert analysis of the new Apple iPad.  If you have somehow missed everything about the iPad, try Gizmodo and Engadget since they’re pretty good at consolidating information about the newest gadgets.

Basically I agree with Gizmodo’s 8 Things That Suck About the iPad.  I just don’t think it offers enough for people who have actually already bought one or several gadgets that offer portability; as someone who has a Kindle, a netbook, a Blackberry, and an iPod Touch, there’s nothing new the iPad has to offer me.  Also, how in the world are you supposed to type on it?  Do you hold it up and type with your thumbs?  I’m not sure I can reach that far with my thumbs.  Or do you put it down each time to type properly?  (Not to mention I’m atrocious at typing on touch screens.  I just can’t get it right.)

And since this is a literary blog, and pretty much the only thing I care about is books, I have to comment on the iBooks app.  I certainly think it looks wonderful, but I don’t think we know enough about it yet to really jump ship.  The top publishing companies are working with Apple, but I firmly stand by Amazon’s bookstore; it’s amazing.  It has had almost every book I wanted, with the only exceptions being where the author explicitly refused (ahem, J.K. Rowling!)  We also know nothing about any of iBooks’ features.  I definitely don’t think it’s a Kindle-killer: I really think that people who want/have a Kindle are looking for a reading device which has an extensive library and which doesn’t give you a headache after several hours.  I’ve read on my iPod Touch some and I can’t stand it.  It’s not the size of the screen – I sometimes read on the Kindle with the biggest font size and there are about 60 words per page (bad eyesight + no contact lenses!) – it’s the backlit LCD screen.  I just can’t handle it for more than a few pages.  E-ink still wins on the extensive reading front.

So for me, the iPad just doesn’t cut it.  (Plus, Amazon is launching a Kindle app store.  I’m not sure if I really want any apps on my Kindle, but at least they’re addressing the Apple threat.)

Oh, and it’s pretty damn expensive.  I already pay $30 a month for my Blackberry plan, no thanks.

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Friendly authors

I think my new cause is supporting authors who are actually open-minded.  I never had anything against writers who were defenders of “the old ways” – I completely understand when writers generally prefer typewriters or notebooks to laptops.  And even being opposed to the idea of the so-called revolution in reading brought on by the electronic book isn’t so bad.  (Even though I think authors are foolish to think they can prevent it from happening.  It’s happening… paper books may not disappear forever, but we know now that it’s not the only option.)

But instigating violence against forward-thinking people simply because one prefers traditional methods?  That grievously offends me.

That’s why I’m going to be keeping an eye out for writers who are notably supportive of the e-book.  I don’t necessarily mean that they have to be willing to hand out free digital copies of all their stuff.  I mean writers who are supportive of all their readers (two-way street, please), and recognizing that their readers still want to read their work but are asking to be able to read in the manner which pleases or conveniences them most.  It means making your works available in several formats and not complaining that bookstores are the only way in which you can interact with your readers because that’s just making excuses, and bad ones at that.

I would say that my current favourite Friendly Authors are:

  1. Neil Gaiman: partly because he’s my favourite contemporary author, but also because he seems to be the most accessible writer I’ve ever heard of.  For someone who’s so incredibly popular (pretty much world-wide), he’s really interactive on his award-winning journal and on Twitter too!  Now that’s a way to interact with your readers without clinging desperately to the brick-and-mortar institutions.
  2. Cory Doctorow: not because I’m particularly knowledgeable on his works (actually, I’ve read one… short story) but because I think he’s really quite brave to post Little Brother and some of his other works online for free.  He’s also a well-known supporter of more liberal copyright laws, filesharing, and the Creative Commons, and an opponent of DRM.  I promise to read at least Little Brother, in support of Doctorow.

And just now I’ve been reading about Bradley Denton, whose famous book Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede is being made into a movie starring Jon Heder.  Boingboing shared that Denton has posted a PDF of his book on his website in an effort to make his work more available to readers.  The link is in the article but Denton’s website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment (overloaded, maybe?) so I won’t link to it… but comments on the Boingboing article also share several other links which might work.

That’s all for now.  I feel like that was sufficient drama in the e-book world.  Now time to enjoy the weekend.

P.S. Yes, I’m still way behind on Infinite Jest (30%).  In my defense, my sisters having been borrowing my Kindle because there weren’t enough copies of their summer reading books at the library – Native Son and East of Eden.  Yet another Kindle WIN – no chance of all the library copies being loaned out.

Please don’t hit me, Sherman Alexie.

At a panel of authors speaking mainly to independent booksellers, Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” said he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive reading devices “elitist” and declared that when he saw a woman sitting on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, “I wanted to hit her.” (Motoko Rich, NY Times)

I have to be honest, I’m appalled at his statement.  Sure, you can call the Kindle “elitist”.  It might be, but I think the iPod and the idea of laptops for everyone in the household are too.  Or maybe I should also feel bad that the house I live in has running water when my mother grew up walking to a community well every day.  Now I’m glad he clarified some of his ideas, because I suppose his greatest concern is that the literacy/educational gap will widen even further.  But can we really place that burden on Jeff Bezos?  One man?  I know we as a society feel like we can call upon political and business leaders to correct all of the world’s problems, but I feel like this is a tall order for one company.  I’m not saying that I condone the lack of corporate social responsibility, but I also don’t believe in forcing businesses to suffer losses on purpose or to act counter to their self-interest.  And does Alexie have a plan for Amazon to singlehandedly fix the problem of illiteracy among the lower classes and in developing nations?  It sounds like he faults Bezos for trying to innovate without handing out coupons to everyone who can’t afford innovation immediately.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always been a champion of the impoverished.  I, like Alexie, come from an impoverished background, from a largely agrarian country where 45% of the population lives on under $2 a day (UNDP).  And coming to America, my father gave up his career to work minimum wage in food retail.  I remember wearing hand-me-downs (and worse, I only had older brothers!) and getting “reduced-price” lunches at school.  But the idea that Bezos is at fault for not taking care of the entire world is ludicrous.

“How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle?”

Of course I think it’s horrible and cause for action that illiteracy and access to education is a world-wide and even U.S. concern.  But I certainly don’t expect one business to suffer losses just because no one else wants to shoulder the burden.

P.S. “I wanted to hit her.”  Does he really hate a person for owning a Kindle?  Is that how he judges people?  He wants to cause physical harm to a person for what she owns?  Let’s fight evil corporations for not solving all the world’s problems, but let’s also speak words of violence towards others for having material possessions!  I’m absolutely offended by that statement.

Edited to Add: When Kevin read this post, he was more than mildly incensed. It warranted a post of his own. (Warning: If you’re on Alexie’s side on this, you won’t like Kevin’s post either.)