22/11/04: This weblog is now closed. However I continue to write about eBooks and other things on my personal weblog, Read/Write Web.

November 22, 2004

eBook Culture Acquired By Read/Write Web

Announcement: I've decided to integrate my eBook Culture weblog into my main weblog, Read/Write Web. If you'd like to continue reading my writing about eBooks (and I hope you do), please unsubscribe from eBookculture.com and re-subscribe to this RSS feed: http://www.readwriteweb.com/rss.xml.

I owe you an explanation.

Short Version

Basically, what I've been writing about at eBook Culture has been getting closer and closer to the themes I explore over at Read/Write Web. The interview with Tim O'Reilly that I published last week on Read/Write Web confirmed that trend for me. What I discussed with Tim in Part 3 of that interview are the themes I'm most interested in exploring in the eBook world: eBooks as a practice, not an object; eBooks and social networking; Remix culture (of textual content, in this case); and most importantly of all, finding out what the various "jobs" of eBooks are in different contexts. I'm pretty sure all of that would be of interest to my Read/Write Web readers too.

Long Version

Yes I could continue to explore those themes here at eBook Culture, but it would fragment my readership. I've already been noticing that a number of people I've met via eBook Culture have been commenting over at Read/Write Web or linking to it. So even without my intervention, things have started to mix and mingle between the two blogs! And rather than confuse new readers with the option of 2 blogs, I figure I'll make it easy for everyone and just have 1.

NB: the eBookculture domain and archives will remain intact for some months to come, I just won't be updating it anymore.

The only downside is that some eBook Culture readers may not be interested in Web technology (and some R/WW readers may not want to read eBook posts). But because I'm not a prolific blogger - I normally only post 3-4 times per week - it shouldn't be a big deal for people to skim over the posts they don't want to read.

I should also note that when I started eBook Culture in early August '04, it was with the intention of building a community of eBook fans and possibly even a business. To do this, I planned to provide how-to articles and newsy articles. I have to eat humble pie on that count, because I've mostly used eBook Culture as a platform for "culture" posts. I still do hope to build a business around eBooks, or something along those lines. But what the last 3-4 months has shown me is that my interest in eBooks is more about exploring ideas about eBooks, rather than building an eBook information portal as I originally had grand plans to do.

In regards to community, I highly recommend MobileRead Networks as a good hangout for eBook and PDA enthusiasts. As for other eBook bloggers, I've subscribed to and am a regular reader of David Rothman's TeleRead, Brad's ePublishing Blog and Tenebris. I've added all those sites to my Read/Write Web blogroll.

See you at Read/Write Web!

So that's it for eBook Culture, the blog. But eBook culture the topic will continue to be explored on my personal blog.

My RSS feed again: http://www.readwriteweb.com/rss.xml (right-click and copy to your favourite RSS aggregator to subscribe).

Thanks everybody! I look forward to more eBook conversations with y'all, over at Read/Write Web.

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November 19, 2004

Pulse Data Releases MyReader

A New Zealand company (disclaimer: I'm a kiwi!) has just released a fantastic new electronic reading device for vision impaired people. It's described as a "low vision auto-reading device" and basically what it does is scan pages from a book or document, then allows the content to be manipulated on-screen to suit the reader's preference. In the words of Pulse Data:

"Once text is captured it can be presented according to your specific preference."

Now apart from being a brilliant device for people with vision impairment, it also highlights one of the benefits of eBooks. An eBook reading device worth its salt will enable people to control the presentation - e.g. re-sizable text, colours, automatic scrolling with user-controlled speed.

As to what "job" this 'flexible presentation' functionality is doing (to use Tim O'Reilly's phrase), in Pulse Data's case it's the very important job of enabling vision impaired people to more easily read.

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November 18, 2004

My Interview with Tim O'Reilly

eBook fans will enjoy the 3rd instalment of my interview with Tim O'Reilly on my personal blog Read/Write Web. Tim is of course the CEO of leading computer book publisher O'Reilly Media and he has some interesting theories about eBooks and book publishing in general.

It's hard to isolate a single paragraph to quote here, but this is what I took to be the crucial theme relating to eBooks:

"I think that the form of the book, per se, will persist and the job of the book will be re-discovered in a lot of new forms."

I'll be exploring this theme on eBook Culture over the next month or two.

There is a lot more Tim said on this topic, so I recommend you jump over to Read/Write Web for the full interview!

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November 09, 2004

3 Month Review of my eBooks Adventure

eBook Culture has been running for just over 3 months now and I've pretty much got 'the lay of the land' as far as the eBook industry goes. I admit I haven't done as many 'how-to' articles or community-related things on this blog as I intended to. I've put my energies instead into web technology analysis and other things on my main blog. Nevertheless eBook Culture is serving a purpose for me and I hope for the people who've subscribed to it. A couple of observations so far on what I've learned about eBooks and where I want to take this:

Commercial eBooks?

I started this blog mainly to 'learn by doing', which is a maxim I live by on the Web. I had plans to use my Palm PDA to do a large chunk of my reading. So how's that going, you ask...

Well I use my PDA mostly to read Web content (predominantly blogs). My process is that I convert Web content to Plucker format so I can read it offline - on the train, at the kids playcentre while my 3-year old runs around, etc. And for that, my PDA has been a God-send. I have a nice routine going: browse Web via PC --> bookmark stuff via del.icio.us --> convert to Plucker --> read offline on my PDA --> save best links to linkblog or blog about it. It's still somewhat of a manual and clunky process, compared to how automatic things should be in an ideal world, but it suits me for now.

Re reading actual books on my PDA, I'm almost ashamed to say that it largely hasn't happened. Yet. Well that's not entirely true, because I read Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture and Cory Doctorow's books via my PDA - both free downloads. And therein lies one issue with me - I haven't actually *paid* for any eBook yet. One reason is that my favourite authors don't do eBooks - e.g. Tom Wolfe's latest, which I intend to buy pretty soon, isn't available as an eBook. And no recent Michael Lewis books are available as eBooks (only a couple of his old books). And just one Douglas Coupland book, no Greg Egan novels (although Fictionwise had some of his individual stories, which is a good start) and no Alex Garland. Mind you I haven't searched that hard.

I suspect it's mostly my fault for not looking around enough for new eBooks to enjoy. I will try and check out Lulu.com and Blackmask for some new things.

Wrapped up in Formats

The second observation I will make about my first 3 months in eBooks: there is a lot of fluster about eBook formats and I think it's distracting me from finding out what is the real value of eBooks. I very quickly learned that there are a million different and mostly proprietary eBook formats, and the promise of one open format (but frankly very little info about when it will be released to users). Obviously the eBook industry is in a state of flux and hasn't 'matured' yet in terms of formats and hardware. But really, as a potential eBook customer - I already have my hardware (Palm PDA) and preferred formats (basically anything that runs on my Palm and which doesn't have too restrictive a DRM). They're both compromises, but I accept that I have to make do with what's available - e.g. OpenReader sounds great and all, but the fact is it isn't available and I've no idea when it will be.

Given all that: I'm set, I'm ready to read eBooks. So apart from now trying to figure out what eBooks to buy (see my first point above), I'm looking for ways that eBooks can meet my needs in ways that paper books can't. I've already found that eBooks do the job of portability better than paper books - if I was able to buy my fave authors in eBook format, then I could carry all their works with me wherever I go. But what other compelling reasons for buying eBooks over paper books are there? That's what I'm trying to discover here on eBook Culture and will continue to explore.

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