April 29, 2011

The Final JQA Lecture in the Series Now Available

Filed under: JQA Lectures,Writing,Writing Sample — Tags: , , , — Brian Triber @ 4:46 pm

Image by Southworth & Hawes (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
The Concluding Lecture on Rhetoric and Oratory.

The final lecture, Conclusion has been added to the John Quincy Adams Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory page. This marks the completion of the JQA Lectures project.

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April 28, 2011

JQA Lecture XXXVI Now Available.

Filed under: A Writing Journal,JQA Lectures,Writing,Writing Sample — Tags: , , , — Brian Triber @ 4:53 pm

Image by Southworth & Hawes (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
JQA Lecture XXXVI
Delivery.

Lecture XXXVI, Delivery, has been added to the John Quincy Adams Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory page.

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April 27, 2011

The e-reader Debacle, Revisited…

Filed under: Book Discussion — Tags: , — Brian Triber @ 6:45 pm

After living through three months of my computer limping along — its internal hard drive crashed, and its system running from an external hard drive — I finally broke down and got a new Mac laptop. The new computer works like a dream, and setting it up only took an hour after I plugged it into the old one — all of my settings were exactly the same without any tweaking!

I also took the opportunity to upgrade my major software: the new Microsoft Office works (surprisingly). My new version of FileMaker Pro is great. Adobe CS5 with Dreamweaver is amazing, and I got 90 days free training from lynda.com. And right now I’m dictating this blog entry using Dragon dictation for Mac.

So, with everything else working perfectly, you can imagine my consternation when several purchased e-books refused to open in my Sony e-reader library software. Since I purchased the e-books from Borders.com, I assumed it would be a rather easy thing to download them again. But, alas, I had to reinstall the e-library software from the Sony e-reader. After a week of going back and forth with Borders, I finally got my e-books re-downloaded. But then, I discovered I couldn’t synchronize my computer with my e-reader!

For some odd reason, connecting the E-reader to my Mac resulted in an icon appearing in the library titled “Error.” With no error code associated with the mysterious error, a visit to the Sony website did little to help. After a half-hour on the phone with Sony, manipulating the E-reader in various ways by plugging paperclips into holes, and triggering repetitive stress injuries from holding various buttons in contortive ways, I was finally told that my e-reader, which I had spent in excess of $80 on two years ago, is not compatible with my new computer’s Intel processor.

This episode brings up two separate issues: First, there is no guarantee that, when a system crashes, replacement e-books can be retrieved from the merchant websites where they were purchased originally. I lucked out this time, because my e-reader software was easily reinstalled, although I had to jump through hoops to reactivate both my Sony account, and my Borders.com account. (Heaven knows why it had to be this complicated in the first place.)

Secondly, what is the point in paying $100 or more for an E–reader which will not remain compatible with newer computer systems? It’s true that many new e-readers use Wi-Fi to download books, and if my current e-reader used Wi-Fi I wouldn’t have had the library problem I experienced.

The Wi-Fi approach, however, has two big operational holes for consumers, and my experience only serves to underline those issues. Firstly, there is no guarantee that an e-book store will remain around forever. In the case of Borders.com, even though the company is restructuring, if somewhere down the line they go out of business, my e-library on Borders.com is gone. There is no retrieving my purchases again. And for that reason, I need to have a way to back up my e-books. But, and this is the second issue, if my e-reader only had a Wi-Fi connection, then there would be no way to synchronize it to my computer for backup.

With e-book purchases, the consumer is not actually purchasing a book. We are purchasing a license to view the book on a particular device. If that device becomes defunct, there is currently no way to transfer an existing e-book library to a new device. As most computer consumers know, technology is upgraded on average every three years. What this means is that every time a new device is purchased, our entire e-book libraries will also have to be repurchased, or restored from the original e-book store where it was purchased (if it still exists.)

So where does that leave me? I’m stuck with an e-book library which I can only read on screen on my computer. Until I purchase a new e-reader — which at this point is wholly unlikely. Many e-reader manufacturers may claim that the technology is mature, but until these issues are ironed out they are still not ready for prime time.

Your thoughts?

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April 14, 2011

To e-, or not to e-… That is the Question

Filed under: Book Discussion,Publishing Industry — Tags: , , — Brian Triber @ 10:01 pm

Image by Christoph Michels
via Wikimedia Commons.
Are e-books really here to stay? Not yet…

There have been many articles coming out of the publishing industry, both for and against the inevitability of e-books replacing print books. Most have focused on the industry impact e-book sales are making to publishers’ bottom lines, which e-book formats are selling best, and what the pricing on e-books should be. What the e-book industry is neglecting, however, is the end user’s experience. They’ve forgotten that, as in the case of the Daewoo Matiz, that customer satisfaction drives sales, not the other way around (that and decent engineering).

I’ve been quietly enjoying my Sony large-format e-reader for over a year now, and the hardware itself seems to be stable. The software interface, or “library” that is maintained on my Mac, not so much. Whenever my e-reader’s memory has been zapped, It it needs to synchronize the whole library all over again, choking up every time. But this is a time inconvenience — I can leave it to synch overnight if need be. At least I haven’t lost any of my books. Or so I thought.

Enter the Borders.com e-book store. A while ago I purchased a few e-books online from Borders.com, and loaded them into my library without a problem. Then my computer crashed in January. Aside from the nightmare of rebuilding my system disk and reinstalling my software, I suddenly realized that some of my e-books were no longer available for reading. What did the missing books all have in common? They were all .pdf files purchased from Borders.com. So, I logged into my account there to download those files again. The deal was that Borders.com was supposed to remember what I had purchased and make sure that those licenses were available to my home computer. But, surprise, the files are now registered to another user — i.e., not my rebuilt system.

I’ve emailed Borders asking for a way to fix this but have received no response. This in itself should be no surprise since the IT department was gutted in the last reorg before they declared Chapter 11 (my source is Publishers Weekly’s Borders Watch column.)

Purchasing e-books from other sources can be fraught with frustration as well. Amazon requires either owning their Kindle or downloading a free kindle-reader app. Similiarly, Barnes and Noble does the same thing with their Nook.

The obvious problem that all these companies are overlooking is that no one wants to pay $100-$300 for three different devices so that they can read the books they want to read. That’s why the open-source .epub format exists — it’s a free format that allows people to read e-books on Sonys, Libres, and all the other third-party e-readers. The problem is you can’t buy an .epub book on Amazon or B&N, and if you purchase on Borders its linked to one machine and can’t be shared or loaned out.

So, ignoring the other reasons for not purchasing e-books (like the lack of tactile materials, dimensionality for pop-up books, and ability to have a favorite author autograph your copy), until a single usable universal format exists, I’m going to have to keep killing trees, or risk losing my library in an EMF event.

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