E-books, the real reading experience?

So I must admit I have always had a pretty set and sure opinion on e-books. Let me start by saying this, I just can’t see myself sitting down to read Jane Austen in the sunshine then looking down to find myself staring at the pages of her novel on, well essentially, a computer screen. Where has the magic gone? I don’t get to feel the pages or fiddle with the edges or mark my place with the bookmark my Grandma gave me. I love books, walking into a book shop, casting my eyes over the hundreds of titles, feeling surrounded by words and ideas. That feeling, in my opinion, just can’t be equated into browsing through a list of links on amazon.com.

But when I began my research I was willing to open my mind and see if I could be convinced that ebooks were the way of the future. So let’s consider the pros based on my research. First and fore mostly I had failed to consider the environmental benefits of an ebook, as Remez Sasson writes,

‘No trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of ebooks’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm ).

Next of course comes the portability of an ebook, lighter and smaller than most conventional books, there is obvious benefits with storage and transportation as Sasson also notes,

‘Ebooks take up less space. You practically don’t need any space to store them. You don’t need a library or a room for them. You can store hundreds and thousands of ebooks on your computer or reading device.’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm )

Similarly noted in the article ‘The Ebook debate’:

‘…with my Newton I immediately recognized the potential of digital readers, since I quickly filled it with a number of books that I could carry around all the time.’ (Source: ‘The Ebook debate’ 2008, Accessed at: http://www.humanismus.com/_/The_Ebook_Debate.html)

I do see the potential in this aspect of the ebook and it’s ability to make life easier for the user. During my research I encountered the suggestion that perhaps the market for ebooks is for heavy textbooks, medical texts etc. That maybe the need isn’t there for novels, but perhaps for these forms of text an ebook presents great potential. This idea supported by Walt Crawford who states,

‘Forget replacing mass-market paperbacks; ebook vendors should look to replace bulky, overpriced, hard-to update, print books.’ (Source: Crawford, W 2006, ‘Why Aren’t Ebooks more successful, Econtent, vol. 29, no.8, pp. 44-44. Accessed: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2f3d9440-e24e-40c4-a52f-47c6a2017df7%40sessionmgr110&vid=2&hid=125)

On the contrary many still argue on my side, that the magic of books is simply that ‘the magic of a book’. But also the sustainability of the resource, a book essentially has the ability to last forever, although an ebook’s technology has the potential to become outdated. This idea is supported by the author Franzen, as noted in Anita Singh’s article for ‘The Telegraph’, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’:

‘“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing.’  (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

Finally Franzen supports my somewhat nostalgic ideas of books and memories of childhood and reading my great grandmothers copy of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and feeling a connection to the history of the pages.

‘Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, Franzen argued that e-books, such as Amazon’s Kindle, can never have the magic of the printed page.’   (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

My question, can an ebook every emulate this history and magic?

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Flipped Lecture 3: ‘2057: The City of the Future’

The documentary ‘2057: The City of the Future’ is presented in a creative manner, aiming to illustrate the development of technology into the future. Integrating real scientific advancements and a fictional narrative of the ‘City of the Future’ in 2057, the documentary attempts to demonstrate the positives that can be linked with the development of technology, as well as the dangers in relying so heavily upon technology in the future.

What I found most interesting within this documentary was the real scientific developments it documented, such as; self driving cars and the development of robots. But what I found most intriguing about these developments in science was the fact that almost all the scientists noted how a computer is many, many levels below the human brain and it’s ability to face challenges. So this begs the question by creating these new technologies we aim to remove human error, but really by doing this are we just increasing the dependence upon technology and thus making society more susceptible to technological errors?

I did some further research into the potential technological developments of the future and found an interesting website, futuretimeline.net. This website like the documentary predicted future developments in the future, specifically for 2050-2059 the following ideas were listed:

 

‘2050-2059 timeline contents

2050 – Humanity is at a crossroads | Nearly half of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested | Wildfires have tripled in some regions | Smaller, safer, hi-tech automobiles | Major advances in air travel comfort |Continent-wide “supergrids” provide much of the world’s energy needs | China completes the largest water diversion project in history

2051 – An interstellar radio message arrives at Gliese 777 | Britain holds its centennial national exhibition

2053 – Moore’s Law reaches stunning new levels | Genetically engineered “designer babies” for the rich

2055 – Spaceflight has taken a leap forward | The vast majority of countries have achieved democracy |Global population is reaching a plateau | Traditional media have fragmented and diversified

2056 – Global average temperatures have risen by 3°C | Fully synthetic humans are becoming technically feasible

2057 – Computers reach another milestone | Handheld MRI scanners

2058 – The Beatles’ music catalogue enters the public domain | A radio telescope is built on the Moon

2059 – The end of the oil age | Mars has a permanent human presence by now’

(Source: Future Timeline 2012, 2050-2059 Timeline Contents)

This source alone in comparison with the documentary demonstrates that it proves very ambiguous to attempt to predict the future, as both sources presented different interpretations about how the future of technology and thus the world may look. Ultimately I think the documentary was aiming to highlight the infinite possibilities for technology in the future. Whilst also warning it’s audience that as a human society there is definite harm in relying too heavily upon technology to dictate all facets of our lives. I think this quote from PCWorld’s article ‘The Next 25 years in Tech’ highlights the weakness in attempting to prove the technological future, by drawing upon  the past:

‘The future ain’t what it used to be. In the pre-PC era, futurists predicted huge changes in transportation. By 2008 we would be flitting about in personal jetpacks and taking vacations on the moon. But the communications revolution spurred by personal computers and the Internet wasn’t on anyone’s radar.’ 

(Source: PCWorld: ‘The Next 25 years in Tech’ 2008)

RSS Teach Me How to Blog cont.

Once again I have gone to my RSS feeds for tips on how to turn this ‘reluctant’ blogger into an enthusiastic one. The feed I found most useful in this instance was Blog Go Down. More specifically the blog post ‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’

It’s not as though I have the suggested 250 visitors a day, but I still found I could draw some keys points from the blog written by guest blogger, Nathan Kash. The blog post discussed in a logical manner, using sub-headings the way in which as a blogger needs to have specific goals and ideas concerning the way their blog operates and the content that is posted. As the article suggests:

‘The main reason random visitors don’t end up converting i.e. subscribing to your lists, feeds or buying a product is simply that they do not trust you. They have come to your site sure enough but you haven’t given them a reason to stay or keep coming.’ (Source: Nathan Kash 2012, (‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’)

The key steps Kash suggests are as follows:

  1. Focus on your content
  2. Find a compelling angle for your content
  3. Create a posting schedule
  4. Reply to all your comments
  5. Build a relationship with other bloggers

(Source: Nathan Kash 2012, ‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’ )

The step I found most useful with the stage I am currently at in my blogging career and where I want to take blogging after the conclusion of ‘Networked Media’ was step 1. In terms of content, according to the research I did by reading this blog post, I need to discover a niche. Something that is specific to my blog and appealing to readers, that has a clear directional focus. This prompted me to begin brainstorming where my niche may lie.

This research, employing the use of my RSS feed proved very useful as it has provided me with an easy to follow process that I can follow and adapt with as blogging career develops.

I also found reading the reactions via twitter at the bottom of the blog post interesting (see image below), I also believe this is a great way to extend the reach of ones blog, allowing a blog writer to connect with a much wider audience.

 

(Source: Nathan Kash 2012, ‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’ , accessed 12.02pm 7 September 2012)

How Do I Best Search the Net?

Due to my absolute fascination and the inspiring performances in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London 2012, I decided to use ‘Paralympics’ as my search term of choice. I used three contrasting search engines, google, instagrok and duck duck go. All three search engines provided a different way of searching the vast information the internet has to offer.

Instagrok was perhaps the most different to any search engine I had ever seen before, presenting the results within a mind map/flow chart format, as well as a key facts table on the right hand side (see picture below). Personally I found this format slightly hard to navigate. Although for people who best learn visually I can see how this format would cater to their needs.

The second search engine I employed was ‘Duck Duck Go’ this search provided a format I found easy to understand and navigate. In my opinion it was quite logically set out. Providing a general overview of the topic at the very top of the screen followed by the ‘Official’ Paralympics site. The search engine also pin points which results are sponsored links and provides the option to uncover ‘more results’ if more information is need (see picture below).

Finally I employed the use of Google, admittedly my default search engine up until now. The strength in Google as a search engine I believe was the ability to break up informative sites, from news sites and the how the engine pin points these differences (see picture below). The order of sites seemed quite logical and I found it quite easy to navigate between the different resources.

For the above reasons I decided to rank the search engines in this order:

  1. Duck Duck Go
  2. Google
  3. Instagrok

Therefore, I went about changing Duck Duck Go to my default search engine. I did this by following the instructions posted on Duck Duck Go itself:

1. Right-click the address bar (where it says duckduckgo.com).

2. Select Edit search engines.

3. Find and select DuckDuckGo in the list. If not there, click here.

4. Click Make Default.

5. It should then move to the very top with (Default) next to it. Good luck!

(Source: www.duckduckgo.com)

Flipped Lecture 2- Download: The True Story of the Internet

‘Bubble’ part three of the documentary series ‘Download: The True Story of the Internet’. The documentary explored the growth and development of ‘e-commerce’, referred to by website ‘Dynamic Web Solutions’ page, ‘What is e-commerce?’ as:

‘In its simplest form ecommerce is the buying and selling of products and services by businesses and consumers over the Internet. People use the term “ecommerce” to describe encrypted payments on the Internet.’

The documentary explored the growth of e-commerce through case studies examining both eBay and Amazon and their ‘get big fast’ strategies. What I found most interesting within the documentary was the concept that both these companies were willing to sacrifice economic growth initially in order to develop their business and in turn this lead to in theory a delayed financial gratification. The other key idea raised in the documentary was that for an e-commerce website to achieve success it had to offer something the customer ‘needed’ and to offer a two way forum where customers could control their own actions and purchasing. The failure of many websites during the dot com boom was due to their inability to cater to the customers needs or identify with their wants. Here ebay was different, as the ‘Free Encyclopedia of E-Commerce’ states:

‘By providing feedback from buyers and sellers, eBay had succeeded in establishing an online community. Customer loyalty was a key factor that allowed the site to maintain a dominant position in the auction market.’

As the documentary did not examine the current financial success of eBay and Amazon, I thought I would do some further research to uncover their current financial success. In an article for the ‘Chicago Sun’, ‘Tech Drives eBay Growth’this article suggested:

‘The biggest marketplace on the Web — eBay has 93 million active users — is going all in on mobile shopping, a booming market that is projected to top $119 billion by 2015.’

The following chart displayed within ‘Forbes’ article ‘Amazon’s 4 Keys to Spectacular Revenue Growth’, which they sourced from businessinsider.com, I thought was a useful tool in examining the ongoing growth of Amazon, as an e-commerce leader:

Image

When examining this documentary and relating it back to Networked Media as a course, I think the most valuable thing I can take away is that for a website to be effective and achieve success it must have a clear purpose, audience/usership and offer a unique way of operating as part of community. Most importantly giving the users something they need and want. Therefore innovation is key to the building and development of a successful website.

Flipped Lecture 1- Download: the true story of the internet

‘Browser Wars’  the episode within the documentary series, ‘Download: the true story of the internet’ told the story of a merciless battle between software giant Microsoft and hot new upcoming star Netscape. In a world and time where the internet was, as eluded to in the documentary, a place for ‘geeks’, ‘scientists’ and ‘academics’, Netscape offered a new potential service, one that could be used by everyone.

The documentary was presented in a way that heightened the presence of drama, antagonism and suspense in order to present the so called ‘war’ between Netscape and Microsoft as an intriguing and conflict ridden time in the history of software and the internet. Most likely presented in this way for us less internet savy or purely perhaps uninterested everyday citizens. I know ‘Internet Explorer’ exists but that was really enough for me. Admittedly I was drawn into this up and down battle, finding myself waiting and wondering what would happen next.

Further research prompted me to uncover the fate of Netscape in the future, after the said join with AOL. An article sourced from w3schools.com, suggested the Netscape browser went out of production in December 2007:

‘December 28, 2007: Netscape developers announced that AOL would discontinue their web browser on February 1, 2008, due to low market share.’ (Source: w3schools.com, 2012)

Similarly the piece prompted me to do some research into the current activities of internet browsers now in 2012, because as I look down into the dock on my MacBook, I can see three internet browsers, Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome, all of which are clearly not Internet Explorer.

w3schools, within their article Browser Statistics’ also provided a great list of statistics on internet browser usage, suggesting that in July 2012 Chrome was in fact the highest used browser on 42.9%, followed  by Firefox and then Internet Explorer. So this suggested to me that in a world of ever improving technology, software and absolute innovation, Microsofts ‘War’ may never really be over.