Reading about Electronic Books on Paper

Mitch Ratcliffe posted a status analysis on eBooks - The first step of a long change on his ZD Net column. I read most of it immediately after I received Mitch's email with the URL in the afternoon. We have been talking about eBooks longer than most people know they exist, so I owe him a response. I read the first seven comments on the ZD Net blog and started to ponder on the medium / technology / platform question as well as the longlevity of the printed word, commented on by a certain Yagotta B. Kidding (nomen est omen). Books had their long-term and short-term survival problems, mostly from fire and acid in the paper. Many books from the "modern phase" of the 70s when the IBM Selectric together with Copiers became the publishing technology of choice together with most of the stuff created on laser printers will be gone within 100 years. The glue that keeps the carbon particles of the Xerographic process on the paper lets go and the content falls off the page. Torah Scroll

Maybe eBooks are not books in a similar way Scrolls are not books as we know them today. Scrolls were abandoned over 1000 years ago as they were not practical to use and paper was hard to produce in long rolls. Also page consistency - the fact that a certain word is always on the same page to be read and remembered [add a reference to the ars memorativa here] - was not part of scrolls. Now we're back to scrolling, soft scrolling, fast scrolling and computer mice with one or more scroll wheels with click-wheel capabilities. Scolls have their place, today mostly in Schul, the Jewish Synagoge, as Sefer Torah, a copy of the Five Books of Moses created under extremely strict rules and written by hand.

eBooks have to repeat the same steps handwritten and printed books had to go through and get out of the early stage of scrolls. In 1989 when we started to work on the Expanded Books Project, page consitency as well as a means to help the reader understand where she is in the book were essential elements, They are still disregarded in today's eBook attempts.

With no way to take notes on the Web site and mark up passages, I gave in and printed Mitch's text to fully digest and respond.

Come back and read the next installment in the next few days. And definitely read Mitch's text.

Do you have 165 Floppy Disks Handy?

The eternal question "does size matter" always gets a strange perspective when you compare storage size, processor speed and the raw size of the plastic or metal case of the device. Apple just released the newest version of their phone software (iPhone 2.1) and while watching the 231 MB update slowly download over my 6 MBit DSL I made a quick calculation how many of the "big" 1.4 MB floppy disks I would have needed in 1991 to update my cell phone. Update my phone? Who would update a diswasher, a microwave, let a lone a phone? May be repaint the black phone pink but update? It's not a phone it's a computer and it crashes, needs lots of power and continuous updates. Consider it an improvement. Western Electric Model 500

Anyone who has ever fed some 20 of these plastic things into the slot of the drive just to install a word processor knows how it feels when after 147 disks the update process stalls and you have to reboot. Next time you - correctly - think that the iPhone backup is way to slow (apparently fixed in new release), meditate on the floppy disks. How about 32 GB Compact Flash for $299 (MSRP, Oct. 2008). Sounds like a lot? A box of 1.4 MB floppy disks initially sold for up to $100.

UPDATE: (Nov 2014): 32GB USB: $15 (AMZN) 64GB: $28.50 1TB (1024GB): $915 

There's always a next release and always a smaller storage device that holds more data. Based on reader requests: "Why is there an image of a telephone and not a floppy disk" and my response "I like phones", I'm also including an image of a 3.5" floppy disk courtesy of Wikipedia.

3.5" Floppy Disk



Baking Memories

Et bientôt, machinalement, accablé par la morne journée et la perspective d’un triste lendemain, je portai à mes lèvres une cuillerée du thé où j’avais laissé s’amollir un morceau de madeleine. Mais à l’instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d’extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m’avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. Il m’avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu’opère l’amour, en me remplissant d’une essence précieuse: ou plutôt cette essence n’était pas en moi, elle était moi. J’avais cessé de me sentire médiocre, contingent, mortel. D’où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie? Je sentais q’elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau, mais qu’elle le dépassait infiniment, ne devait pas être de même nature. [source] [Marcel Proust: Combray. p.44].

The smell, the taste because we have such a hard time to reproduce a memory before our inner nose, our inner tongue, much in the same way we recall an image that in turn allows us to memorize an element of a story, create much stronger memories when recalled.

There is no ars memorativa of smell, only the sudden flash when you open a drawer and find yourself back home.

Baking a cake or creating perfumes are possible ways to recreate the memory of smell.

Is there a Zamp in my Memory?

The evening ritual had settled in to first read Dr. Seuss: There's a Zamp in My Lamp while sitting on the bed so she could pull, rotate and wiggle all the different tabs in the book and then I would move to the leather chair to sit under the reading lamp and continue with my reading of Combray while she searches for the bist place and the best position to sleep, rolling around to feel the energy of the ever square inch, much in the way Castaneda describes it in the Teachings of Don Juan. Marcel Proust A la recherche du temps perdu

The German paperback edition I am reading is uttely disappointing in its print quality, yet she likes the three heavy volumes that give her a feeling of the 4194 pages (I am confident that we're through before she leaves for college, we have at least another 15 years to go) ahead of us.

While reading to her, I'm asking myself what the Proust's Narrateur would have thought of Dr. Seuss and if reading Cat in thew Hat or hat in the Cat would have releaved him from the terrible pain of going to bed. Did Seuss read Proust? The strange mixture of these orthogonal approaches to the ghosts that surround us, that are part of our house, our life creates an experience, a memory that may well be independent from the actual text by telling a story of movable paper tabs and a stream of vaguely comprehensible words in excessively long sentences. At 3 1/2 it is hard for her to explain why she likes Proust or Seuss but they are both important to us as a way to tell a new story.