Tag Archive for videos

Kindle Smackdown

First, a few of updates.  I just finished a draft of a new preface for The Late Age of Print, which will be appearing in the (drum roll please!) NEW PAPERBACK EDITION due out in January, 2011.  The piece develops and extends some of the ideas from one of my favorite blog entries, “Books: An ‘Outdated Technology?’” which I posted to this site last September.  More good news about the paperback edition: Columbia University Press has decided to price it at just $18.50.  That’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned — at least, by academic book standards.

Now onto the business at hand: the Kindle smackdown.  A colleague of mine is considering buying an Amazon Kindle e-reader and posted a query to her Facebook site inviting friends to weigh in.  One of her respondents linked to a series of YouTube videos called “The Book vs. The Kindle,” which was produced by the good folks at San Francisco’s Green Apple Books — one of my favorite bookstores in the world.  From the moment I watched one of the videos (which happened to be installment five), I knew I’d have to share it here with you:

Cute theme, eh? Paper books, it seems, are good for picking up your fellow literati in bookstores. E-books?  Not so much.  Who would have thought print and paper were so hot?

The video actually reminded me quite a bit of an article appearing in the March 31, 2010 edition of The New York Times, which had this to say about the conundrums of owing an e-reader: “Among other changes heralded by the e-book era, digital editions are bumping book covers off the subway, the coffee table and the beach.  That is a loss for publishers and authors, who enjoy some free advertising for their books in printed form.”

It’s intriguing, indeed, to hear just how “all-in” some publishers have become for e-books, now that there are some seemingly viable platforms floating around out there.  I just wonder if they’ve paused long enough to consider how the technology they’re so investing in may be thwarting one of the most prosaic ways in which the book industry goes about hocking its wares.


Update: one possible exception to the “no more covers” rule for e-readers may be something like the dual-display Toshiba Libretto W100, although with this particular device neither of the screens faces outward.  Maybe a triple- or quad-screen e-reader will one day do the trick.

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Cory Doctorow on the E-book Price Wars


I’ve been within Cory Doctorow’s “orbit” for awhile now, mostly as a follower of his personal blog, Craphound, and his collective endeavor, BoingBoing.  Only recently have I begun reading his novels and published non-fiction works.  (Little Brother was my go-to for the first few weeks of my infant son’s life, when I couldn’t fall back to sleep after late-night feedings and diaper changes.)

Well, anyway, this video came to my attention as something that Late Age of Print readers might be interested in.  It’s a recording of a talk Doctorow recently gave at Bloomsbury, the UK publisher of the Harry Potter novels, in which he discusses the vexed matter of e-book pricing.

What I admire about Doctorow is the fact that he’s a successful print author as well as someone who’s unafraid to experiment with publishing’s longstanding economic and technological paradigms. It’s hardly a stretch to say that his success in print owes a great deal to his willingness to push the bounds online.  I should acknowledge, moreover, that the free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for him and others who are similarly committed to the belief that book publishing is at its best when it refuses to rest on its laurels.

Anyway, enjoy the video.  I’d be curious to hear how you would weigh in on his proposals.

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The End of Publishing (Books Are Dead and Boring)


I heard about this video from the good folks over at BoingBoing and just knew I had to share it with all of you here at The Late Age of Print.  Now, I generally don’t make a habit of posting corporate promotional videos, but this one’s a gem.  Truly.

DK, a subsidiary of Penguin, originally created this ingenious short for a sales conference.  Spoiler alert: it plays upon and then completely reverses a host of misconceptions people have about so-called “digital natives.”  Be sure to watch the whole thing through, because there’s a good bit of misdirection going on in the first half.

I’m working on something BIG at the moment related to Late Age, and so I’m not going to blather on at length about the video.  Just enjoy it, and consider it a little something to tide you over.  Hopefully I’ll be able to roll out the big news in a week or so.

One other quick announcement: Columbia University Press, my publisher, is currently holding its annual spring sale. The Late Age of Print is 50% off the cover price, which is a steal.  Stock up and save!

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“The Localized Appreciation of Books Is Gone”

Sherman Alexie
www.colbertnation.com


I love it when something that you think will be good turns out to be even better than you’d hoped.  Case in point: author Sherman Alexie’s visit to The Colbert Report last Tuesday night.  I expected Alexie to chat up his latest book, War Dances. I didn’t expect to be treated to such an intelligent commentary on the future of book culture in America.

Colbert starts out by affirming the author’s decision not to allow the digital distribution of his book.  Alexie cites concerns over piracy and privacy as his motivation for doing so.  I’ve noted here on the blog how certain e-book devices can expose book lovers to all sorts incursions into their intimate reading lives.  Alexie, for his part, ups the ante.  “I’m an Indian,” he states.  “I have plenty of reasons to be worried about the U.S. government” peering over his shoulder while he e-reads.  Colbert — ever the (alleged) enemy of literacy — chimes in with his objection to digital books. “You can’t burn a Kindle.”

Alexie then notes how the revenue structure of the music industry has changed in the digital era.  Here I believe he over-reaches somewhat, but in any case his claim is that the music is no longer what primarily makes money for top recording artists.  Now, touring and performances comprise their primary revenue stream.  He fears the same may one day hold true for book authors as well, suggesting a future in which the book-as-cultural-artifact will become incidental to paid-for author appearances.  And here Alexie echoes one of Kevin Kelley’s predictions from his 2006 bombshell published in The New York Times Magazine, “Scan This Book!“, from which the late John Updike recoiled in horror.

The rest of the interview offers something of a rejoinder to this vision for the future of the book.  In a word, it is unsustainable.  Alexie recounts how the experience of the book tour has changed for him over the last decade or so.  It used to be that he would engage all sorts of local media and indy bookstores while traipsing around the country to promote his latest work.  Today, Alexie complains, “the localized appreciation of books is gone.”  Book blogs notwithstanding, what little coverage books receive in the media today mostly occurs in the national press — in exclusive forums like The New York Times and, well, The Colbert Report.  Chain bookstores, meanwhile, now play host to the vast majority of author events.  The result, he notes, is not only a diminished conversation about books at the local level, but also the elimination of untold numbers of book-related jobs that are ancillary to, yet nonetheless sustain, the book industry proper.

I can’t say that I agree with everything Alexie had to say about the past, present, and future of books in America, but his insights were provocative enough for me to air them here.  I do agree with his final point wholeheartedly, though: “White folks should be ashamed that it’s taking an Indian to save part of their culture.”  Indeed.

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In Medias Res

This week the blog In Medias Res, which is hosted by the Institute for the Future of the Book, has gathered together a bunch of great contributions around the theme, “Books as Screens.”  Definitely, definitely check them out.

On Monday Hollis Griffin of Northwestern University contributed a post called “Talking Heads: Books, Authors, and Television News.”  There he explores the becoming-everyday of books and authors on TV, in an era of media deregulation and convergence.  Yesterday one of his colleagues at Northwestern, Elizabeth Lenaghan, posted a provocative meditation called, “How Do you Hide Behind a Kindle?”  She asks, “Apart from our ability to snoop on fellow train riders or pass quick judgment on a person’s taste, what are the potential consequences of fewer printed books in public spaces?”  Today IMR is featuring my thoughts on “The Selling of Bookselling.”  It’s largely a riff off of the themes I develop in Chapter 2 of The Late Age of Print, which explores the politics of retail bookselling in the United States.  On Thursday we’ll see a post entitled “Possible or Probable? An Imagined Future of the Book” from Pomona College’s Kathleen Fitzpatrick.  Capping things off on Friday will be New York University’s Lisa Gitelman, whose post is called “What Are Books?

In Medias Res is an intriguing publication in that it asks contributors not to post per se but rather to briefly “curate” a film or video clip, often connected to some larger theme.  I love that the blog is hosted by the Institute for the Future of the Book, and that Hollis Griffin and Elizabeth Lenaghan finally connected the dots between books and audiovisual media to give us our theme, “Books as Screens.” Thanks, you two!  And thanks to all of you, my readers, for hopping on over to IMR to post comments.

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Late Age of Print — the Video


After a series of delays (I hear this is how things go in Hollywood), I’m pleased to debut The Late Age of Print video at long last.  It’s no “Thriller,” admittedly, but hopefully you’ll get a kick out of it anyway.

Here’s a little back-story for those of you who may be interested.  Last fall my editor at Columbia informed me that the Press had begun promoting some of its books using short videos.  He then asked me if I’d be interested in shooting one for Late Age. Since I’m not someone who believes that electronic media are out to kill books — I’m quite confident in their ability to help books out, in fact — I decided I’d say yes.

I was a little daunted by the prospect of shooting the video, mostly because I’m a methodological writer who’s unaccustomed to speaking in sound bites.  I reflected on this a bit last December over on my other blog, Differences & Repetitions. In hindsight, that should have been the least of my worries.

In chapter 2 of Late Age I touch on how the campus bookstore at Indiana University (where I teach) was designed by Ken White, the architect who went on to create the big-box bookstore template.  What better location for the video shoot, I thought, than at ground-zero of the big-box bookstore phenomenon? 

Unfortunately, IU decided in 2007 that it would be a good idea to outsource campus bookstore operations to Barnes & Noble — about whom I write rather approvingly in Late Age. The long and the short of it is that Barnes & Noble denied my requests to shoot the video there.

I still find it difficult to fathom how a private sector company would — or even could — refuse the use of public property for a purpose such as this.  In any case, I’m sure I could have complained to the University, but by then so much time had elapsed that I just needed to get on with the shoot.

I settled on the IU Lilly Library, which houses rare books and manuscripts.  It’s a truly lovely location, though I fear that it may inadvertantly up the “book fetishist” quotient that I try so hard to mitigate in Late Age. The videographer also had me harp on the “books aren’t going away anytime soon” theme, which, though appropriate, doesn’t quite get at the substance of the book, which focuses on e-books, book superstores, online bookselling, Amazon.com, and Harry Potter.

Anyway, despite all the drama I’m still pretty pleased with the result.  I hope you like it, too.  Please share it, rate it, and comment on it.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Now that I’ve entered the video age, would it be asking too much for Colbert to call?

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