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All due respect to Douglas Adams, but I’m a lover of print, and I’m not “confused” about anything.

I like Adams’ analogy. Indeed, only the logically obtuse would fail to recognize that a work of writing takes priority over the medium in which it is transmitted, just as food takes priority over the plate on which it is served. But it doesn’t follow that the medium (in this case, print) is unworthy of “love”. The food might be the primary purpose of the meal, but there is much more to a meal than the food itself, as any chef or server can attest. The same holds for writing. And just as in all other things mediated by culture, there is such a thing as appreciation for the medium. It’s called aesthetics, and everyone has their own tastes and preferences.

Perhaps Adams is a strict utilitarian with no affection for print. I respect his personal preference, even if I shrug off his apparent arrogance in not returning the courtesy. But some of us love reading the printed page and appreciate the art of the bound book, that has developed over the many centuries since Gutenberg. And our love of print has nothing to do with a failure of intellect, thank you very much. And some of us can actually appreciate history in a personal way without being luddites.

Presuming that the context of Adams’ statement is the ongoing digital revolution in publishing, I think it would be more accurate to say, “Opponents of digital publishing are simply confusing the plate for the food.” The distinction between “lovers of print” and “opponents of digital publishing” is an important one. That someone feels romantically about print doesn’t necessarily tell you what one thinks about the digital revolution in publishing. The issue at hand isn’t the subjective disposition one has toward books, but the stand that one takes in response to the history unfolding in our midst, perhaps even in spite of our emotional ambivalence about it. Of course: dismiss bad arguments from digital critics. But don’t muddy the water by assuming that the problem is nostalgia; the fallacy of many critics is not their emotion about books, but the inability to see past it.

I, for one, embrace digital publication, even if I will continue to critically follow the policy discussions regarding intellectual property that it brings about. And yet I will continue to participate in a community that values print. And while many of us will embrace e-readers, we will yet remain, to our dying days, proud collectors of analog volumes which will fill many shelves in our homes. And maybe through some turn of history our undying affinity for print will someday appear not so confused or misguided as once so arrogantly believed by some, but will instead be understood as possessing a wisdom unrecognized by the short-sighted utilitarians of our day. Then again, maybe future generations will forget our love of print altogether. No matter. Our love of books needs no vindication from history; we have the pleasure of the page in our hands. 

The above is a response one of my friends gave to Douglas Adams’ quote in the box above. I think his response is not only poignant, but gets to the heart of the matter for those of us who still love print but yet do not reject digital publication. His response is well worth reading.

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Bezos' "remote display" patent envisions tablets and e-readers that are just screens—power and processing is provided wirelessly by a central system.

US Patent & Trademark Office

It seems like everyone is trying to jump on the cloud computing bandwagon, but Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos wants to take it to a whole new level. GeekWire reports that he and Gregory Hart have filed a patent for "remote displays" that would get data and power from a centrally located "primary station." The tablets or e-readers would simply be screens, and the need for a large internal battery or significant local processing power would theoretically be obviated by the primary station.

The patent sees processors and large internal batteries as the next major roadblocks in the pursuit of thinner and lighter devices. "The ability to continue to reduce the form factor of many of today's devices is somewhat limited, however, as the devices typically include components such as processors and batteries that limit the minimum size and weight of the device. While the size of a battery is continuously getting smaller, the operational or functional time of these smaller batteries is often insufficient for many users."

The full patent is an interesting read, since it presents other potential use cases for these "remote displays" that wouldn't necessarily need to wait on this theoretical fully wireless future-tablet to come to pass. For example: a camera or sensor could detect when a hand is passed over an e-reader display and respond by turning the page. A touch-sensitive casing could detect when a child is handling a display by measuring things like the length and width of their fingers and then disable purchasing of new content or the ability to access "inappropriate" content.

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DeptofDepartments writes "With Kindles and ebooks on everyone's lips (sc. hands) nowadays, this might come as a surprise to some, but besides being a techie, I have also amassed quite a collection of actual books (mostly hardcover and first editions) in my personal library. I have always been reluctant to lend them out and the collection has grown so large now that it has become difficult to keep track of all of them. This is why I am looking for a modern solution to implement some professional-yet-still-home-sized library management. Ideally, this should include some cool features like RFID tags or NFC for keeping track of the books, finding and checking them out quickly, if I decide to lend one." For more on what DeptofDepartments is looking for, read on below.

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The internet is disrupting many content-focused industries, and the publishing landscape is beginning its own transformation in response. Tools haven’t yet been developed to properly, semantically export long-form writing. Most books are encumbered by Digital Rights Management (DRM), a piracy-encouraging practice long since abandoned by the music industry. In the second article of a two-part series in this issue, Nick Disabato discusses the ramifications of these practices for various publishers and proposes a way forward, so we can all continue sharing information openly, in a way that benefits publishers, writers, and readers alike.

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ebooks are a new frontier, but they look a lot like the old web frontier, with HTML, CSS, and XML underpinning the main ebook standard, ePub. Yet there are key distinctions between ebook publishing’s current problems and what the web standards movement faced. The web was founded without an intent to disrupt any particular industry; it had no precedent, no analogy. E-reading antagonizes a large, powerful industry that’s scared of what this new way of reading brings—and they’re either actively fighting open standards or simply ignoring them. In part one of a two-part series in this issue, Nick Disabato examines the explosion in reading, explores how content is freeing itself from context, and mines the broken ebook landscape in search of business logic and a way out of the present mess.

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I'm entering a PhD program in the fall (scientific computing/bioinformatics) and am taking the summer off to travel. As such, I feel like I'm going to have a lot of free time for reading. I'm looking for suggestions for books that I should read that will make me a better computer scientist. I'm not interested in textbooks, since I'll be reading enough of those in the Fall and would prefer topics that I likely wouldn't get exposed to in a class. Also, everything I plan on reading I'm going to have to carry with me for the whole summer, so lighter and smaller is better.

So far I've compiled the following list based off of previous similar discussions:

  • The Soul of A New Machine - Tracy Kidder
  • The Society of Mind - Marvin Minsky
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid - Douglas R. Hofstadter
  • Computer Power and Human Reason - Joseph Weizenbaum

What else is there anything else that I definitely should add?

EDIT: Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm definitely going to have a lot of good choices this summer.

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LG flexible e-paper display stock press 550

Ladies and gentlemen, our dreams of flexible digital newspapers are nearly within reach: LG just announced that it has begun mass production of a 6-inch, 1024 x 768 e-paper screen that can bend by up to 40 degrees. We haven't been able to find a press release, but several Korean publications are reporting that the plastic-based screen is shipping to Chinese manufacturers to build e-readers right away, and devices based on the technology could be available in Europe as soon as early April. LG is boasting that at 0.7mm thick, the entire display is as thin as a protective film for a phone's screen. According to the reports, LG conducted 1.5-meter (about 5 foot) drop tests with the screen and smacked it with a rubber mallet with no ill...

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