Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another round, much like earlier rounds

This week's New Yorker has an article by Ken Auletta on ebooks, Amazon and the attempt by Apple and others to get a bigger piece of the ebook market.  The struggles of publishers are not small change.  I feel sympathetic towards companies that have done business for a century or two suddenly facing an entirely different situation.  I am sure it isn't easy and it has to be stressful to suddenly find the rules have changed very dramatically and the ground has shifted under your feet into an entirely new form.

As I have written before, when we were surrounded by shelves of books and piles of books that wouldn't fit on the shelves, the idea of switching to efiles seemed very attractive.  A Kindle weighs 6 oz. and mine has 750 books in it.  How else could you get 750 great books at lower than usual cost and have them all together weigh 6 oz.?  Add to that, transmission of a book through the atmosphere to the Kindle with no other equipment in less than a minute and I am ready to use the service.  These days, that service costs $79 to get started, while I paid $359 for my first Kindle.

I have been part of the change into popular computerization for a long time. It is fascinating in many ways.  It started with the Atari and my discovery that I could type faster and correct my inevitable typos right as I was making them.  Then, Print Shop and AppleWorks showed me good format, good calculation and good information storage, all much faster and better than I have been able to do.  My Dr. Gadgets friend said," Hold on, the internet is coming and you ain't seen nothing yet".  He was totally right.  Lycos and Google showed us information all over the world on every subject there is, at our finger tips, for the cost of a connection.  Meanwhile, we got digital cameras and found that 32,000 photographs were easily put on a single computer with plenty of room left over.  A little later, we put our CD's on iPods and now have operas, audiobooks and all kinds of music we love fit into a shirt pocket.  

In the Futures course, we knew about the horseshit hypothesis, the idea that 8 million people could not possibly live in New York City.  The manure of the needed supply of horses to handle transport of people and goods for that figure would be 15 feet deep!  We knew about the buggy whip company that had it made only to find that suddenly buggy whips were not needed.  We knew that people are capable, at least at times, of completely reshaping how they do things.

For 20 years, I had a ringside seat and sometimes participated in what is sometimes called "distance education", a class of a few or thousands of students, learning from a teacher and from each other, without meeting or seeing each other.  There was, and is, fear and confusion about whether doing so was a good idea or a poor one.  That was another aspect of computers and digitization.

Now, having a blog, a web site, friends online - all fun, all uplifting.  But as "Too Big to Know" shows, we are becoming more nearly omnipresent and all-knowing.  More information about more things, much of which we don't want to know or learn, pours in on us all the time.  We can turn it off.  If we are smart, we do so occasionally but it really is a dynamic, scary, trying, exciting time.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

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