Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 05:25 on 02-02-2012, Guy
I love physical books and having lived surrounded by them all my life I can't imagine not having them around. But I've got a Kindle and I love it; partly for reasons mentioned and partly because it actually helps to control my book-buying habit. It used to be the case that when I read a review for a book I might like, I'd either buy it (and then potentially have it sit unread on my shelf for years) or not buy it (and potentially miss out on a book I would have genuinely really liked). Now I just download the sample; when I'm looking for a new book to read, I browse through my samples, start reading one, and only actually buy the book at the point where I've started reading it and know I definitely want to read more. My spending on books has become much more reasonable, not because I'm reading less but because I'm only buying what I actually read.
permalink
at 23:26 on 01-02-2012, Shimmin
Most of the Kindle stuff I've bought has gone for less than a pound, thanks partially to people self-publishing and partly to the Daily Deal.

Point, but OTOH those are particular niches and I suspect won't overlap my buying habits too much. I have a reading pile about as tall as me, and odd tastes, so I don't tend to buy books on spec. YMMV of course.

A minor additional point I've just remembered; most devices (not just e-readers) get grubby and vile fairly rapidly. Screens get full of dust, touchscreens smeary, etc. Generally less of an issue with books, and of course it only affects the one, though they're less wipe-clean than decent electronics.
permalink
at 21:15 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
Also, e-books are not necessarily a cheap or easy option. Quite a few are about the same as the paperback. A lot of my English reading comes second-hand for a couple of quid, which is little enough to risk on random things that I can pass on to someone else or send back to the charity shop. Once you're talking a fiver for a non-transmissible book it's a bit different.

Most of the Kindle stuff I've bought has gone for less than a pound, thanks partially to people self-publishing and partly to the Daily Deal. I agree that £5 a pop is probably too much for an ebook unless there's some compelling reason go for that option over the physical book (hypertext-enhanced gamebooks, ebook is released months in advance of the main event and you'd rather have it electronic and early than physical and late, etc).

An e-reader showing text on a static screen doesn't provide any physical clues to help out. When I try to recall something I've read, I tend to picture the book or the layout of the pages in my mind. I know it was about halfway down the left-hand page maybe a quarter of the way into the book. My physical and visual memory of the book provides a strong connection to the text that I reckon simply wouldn't be there with an e-reader.

I thought that'd be the case, but the Kindle provides a handy-dandy progress bar at the bottom of the screen whilst you're reading, which I find is enough of a cue to help me work out roughly where something was in a book. It's not as easy as flipping to a spot in a physical book but it's easier than I expected it to be. (Also searching for keywords works well for precisely this sort of purpose.)
permalink
at 20:52 on 01-02-2012, Shimmin
My negative take on ebooks is a bit of a touchy subject, given my job. I cheerfully do a lot of on-screen reading, be it blogs or news or articles, but the idea of reading books on a handheld gizmo doesn't do anything for me. Alasdair's points 2-5 cover some of my objections already, especially that I do too much on computers already. Searching stuff for keywords is nice, but I don't often want to do that in novels, nor comment or highlight them. For one reason and another, my typing-from-text skills are sufficiently badass that not being able to copy-paste a page or two of text doesn't bother me much on the rare occasions I'd like to.

One problem is that I'm not really that keen on devices in general. Several Ferrets could gripe about my neglect of phones (I have one I was given second hand eleven years ago; it's never turned on). I don't think about devices, or remember to charge them, and carrying them around is too much hassle (my tiny cheapo MP3 aside). The idea of reading depending on me remembering to charge a device, load books onto it and actually bring it with me is too much. I can just grab a book and shove it in my bag.

Also, e-books are not necessarily a cheap or easy option. Quite a few are about the same as the paperback. A lot of my English reading comes second-hand for a couple of quid, which is little enough to risk on random things that I can pass on to someone else or send back to the charity shop. Once you're talking a fiver for a non-transmissible book it's a bit different.

Alasdair already pointed out that lots of things aren't digital. About a quarter of my book-reading is non-English, and most of that will never be digital, plus I bet it'd be hard to get that stuff anyway. Gutenberg's all well and good, but I rarely find stuff there that I both want to read and can't readily get on paper.

Above all, though, I've always found there's a sort of nebulous sameness to electronic text that doesn't tie into the way my mind seems to work. I struggle to remember what blog had some bit of information on, and I find it harder to concentrate on. Articles blend into each other distinguishing features and I don't feel I remember information as well. An e-reader showing text on a static screen doesn't provide any physical clues to help out. When I try to recall something I've read, I tend to picture the book or the layout of the pages in my mind. I know it was about halfway down the left-hand page maybe a quarter of the way into the book. My physical and visual memory of the book provides a strong connection to the text that I reckon simply wouldn't be there with an e-reader.
permalink
at 20:52 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
Well a lot of his other-planets stories were written well before we had a clue what conditions on Venus/Mars were actually like. ;)
permalink
at 20:43 on 01-02-2012, Sister Magpie
In Ray Bradbury's case, there's his entire corpus of Mars stories to stand as fairly compelling evidence that he's an SF writer.

Yes, I do know that and I have read the Mars Stories, and the other ones mentioned. What I meant was that his sci fi still feels more like his fantasy to me, with little interest in the workings of the technology. It's one of the things I like about him, actually, because I'm not very into what I guess would be called Hard sci-fi. It just feels like it could just as well be fantasy to me. It doesn't seem really interested in making the science plausible or being inspired by scientific discoveries of the time.

I didn't mean to imply that I thought a sci fi writer shouldn't be a Luddite, actually. (In fact, my vague impression of the whole genre is that it's conservative and old fashioned, sometimes in really disappointing ways--at least when it comes to the "old guard.") I more meant that Bradbury's work just always felt very nostalgic to me, even the sci fi stuff, so it didn't seem surprising that he wasn't interested in technological advances themselves. He seems very fond of small town life and mourns older ways passing away in his work.

Of course, given his age, maybe stuff that seems nostalgic to me wasn't so much when he wrote it. Maybe I shouldn't really make a distinction between kids in R is for Rocket and whatever the cutting edge techno guys are doing today. Going to the moon is going to the moon. I Married A Monster from Outer Space is sci fi just as much as The Terminator. Village of the Damned and Alien are horror movies with equally sci fi premises. It's just that like I said for me it always seemed like his sci fi didn't depend on the science part. For instance, "All Summer in a Day" takes place on Venus, but it's not overly dependent on actual conditions on Venus.
permalink
at 19:35 on 01-02-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Arthur's right on the money here. Bradbury started out in the 1940s working more in traditional SF, but he slowly evolved away into horror and mainstream writing by the 1960s. Alongside The Martian Chronicles, I would certainly consider "The Veldt", "A Sound of Thunder", "There Will Come Soft Rains" to be science fiction.

Along with Crichton-esque "fear the machine" stories, I'd also include some postapocalyptic neo-barbarian romps to be another example of Luddism in SF. Stories involving far-future societies that are structured like premodern ones from Earth could count in certain circumstances, but I'd say the majority of them are more conservatively minded than actually technophobic (not quite the same thing, believe it or not).

Also, Sister, distaste for how the world had turned out was actually fairly common among writers from the Golden Age of American SF. Understandable, really; you spend the prime of your life imagining how the world is going to turn out, and when you finally get there the stuff you wanted to see never appeared and the stuff you warned people about just got worse. By and large the general reaction was to turn inward and recycle old settings (something SF critics in the 1980s complained a great deal about), though Robert Heinlein is perhaps unique for deciding to deal with the world by collapsing into a singularity of pure Heinleinousity.
permalink
at 19:34 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
ME AM PLAY GODS is the best thing Dresdek Codak has ever done. (Only good thing DC has ever done? Arguable.)

Re: lack of covers - decent ebooks will include an image of the cover at the front. :P
permalink
at 19:29 on 01-02-2012, Dan H
Being a Luddite isn't mutually exclusive with writing SF - there's a whole tradition in the genre of dire and alarmist warnings about science Going Too Far


Quite so.

On ebook readers, I think the thing is that I don't read enough for the savings of ebooks to be worth the initial outlay of buying the reader in the first place.

Also, weirdly, the lack of covers gets to me.
permalink
at 18:44 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
Being a Luddite isn't mutually exclusive with writing SF - there's a whole tradition in the genre of dire and alarmist warnings about science Going Too Far.

In Ray Bradbury's case, there's his entire corpus of Mars stories to stand as fairly compelling evidence that he's an SF writer.
permalink
at 18:18 on 01-02-2012, Sister Magpie
Also, the Ray Bradbury quote is kind of hilarious and really not surprising. I mean, I absolutely love Bradbury, but does he really write science fiction? There's absolutely nothing I can think of in his books that *wouldn't* suggest he'd be a Luddite.
permalink
at 18:12 on 01-02-2012, Sister Magpie
Have to chime in on the pro e-book side, despite the fact that I recently sat on my Nook (having put a stool on it) and broke it. I'd just upgraded so they were able to replace it in the store. Felt really stupid, though.

Anyway, I love it. It's great having something that's always the same size and pretty light to carry with me to read on the subway--some library books were really big and heavy. (I enjoyed the walks to the library, but it is pretty convenient to be able to just check out the book at home--though impossible to renew immediately and not as good of a selection.) If I really want a book immediately I get it with the press of a button. The biggest drawback is probably my paranoia that I'm going to drop it on the train tracks by accident or destroy it in some way and have to get a new one and load it all up again. But in general I've totally embraced it, although I love books as objects. Nook also has a share feature for some books.

So yeah, I get a lot of practical use out of my ereader. In fact, earlier it was handy to be able to look up something in a book I wanted to reference even though I hadn't read the book in a while. It was right there inside the book I'm reading now.
permalink
at 17:11 on 01-02-2012, valse de la lune
Well, you're talking to a pirate, so I have no problem "lending" ebooks in any case. :) (And the books I do buy, I immediately strip the DRM--it's not particularly hard--and if it's a book I think is garbage, I feel no qualms about sharing them.)

Though real books are also pretty easy to highlight/annotate, and the copy-paste thing is a bonus for ebooks rather e-readers.


You can't draw/write freely on a paper book. There's only so much margin. You also can't select the highlights/annotations, hit "share" and sync them to somewhere you can access on your PC for review purposes. Yeah, more about advantage of ebooks over paper books rather than ereaders over paper books, but there it is. The form factor of an ereader/tablet also makes it much easier to, er, read than reading off your desktop or laptop.

There's also a screen technology that lets you switch freely between "e-ink" and backlit LCD mode. The unbacklit mode is very good indeed, though the LCD mode is washed out.
permalink
at 16:39 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
You can apparently only lend books where the rights holder (usually the publisher or author) has ticked the relevant box, so it isn't an option for everything. But that kind of puts to the idea that it's all big bad Amazon controlling access to content and authors/publishers losing control to the Amazon leviathan.
permalink
at 16:06 on 01-02-2012, Andy G
Didn't know that, good to know. Though so far I only have 2 actual books on it.
permalink
at 15:06 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
Actually the Kindle lets you lend books to people for a space of two weeks, provided they also have a Kindle. Once the time limit's up it gets auto-scrubbed from their Kindle, and you can only ever lend each book to 1 person, but even so that's way more than I'd expect from DRM-protected stuff. And loads of places sell stuff DRM-free.

Also, having a Kindle hasn't stopped me buying physical books, it just means I only buy physical books which are good enough to deserve shelf space.
permalink
at 15:02 on 01-02-2012, Andy G
"easy to highlight/annotate, easy to copy-paste text to quote in reviews"

Though real books are also pretty easy to highlight/annotate, and the copy-paste thing is a bonus for ebooks rather e-readers.

I personally find the advantage over "real" books is cost and space, though the advantage over reading on an ereader vs reading on a laptop screen shouldn't be forgotten too.

One thing that's recently struck me is that it is much harder to *lend* ebooks to friends (at least if they have copyright protections); though theoretically should make it much much easier for libraries to loan books out to people.
permalink
at 05:53 on 01-02-2012, Frank
Going back to Arthur's comic find, I think it's more than his, the sketcher's, whiteboy's club rant. It is my guess that the doodle was drawn because xMenfangirlhothair31415 fucks other guys and probably likes it but won't fuck the sketcher who believes himself to be a Nice Guy.
permalink
at 05:48 on 01-02-2012, valse de la lune
Ebooks: searchable texts, easy to highlight/annotate, easy to copy-paste text to quote in reviews.

That and physical books equal batshit shipping fees for me.
permalink
at 01:40 on 01-02-2012, Michal
I'm also in the "nay e-readers" camp. All my reading material since I left university comes from used book stores and the library. An even shallower reason: I find a full bookshelf aesthetically pleasing. That's really all there is to it.
permalink
at 00:40 on 01-02-2012, Andy G
I personally bought a Kindle so I could read academic articles without spending all day staring into a screen. Turns out that the 2nd year of my PhD involves spending my whole time writing, so the plan of not staring at a screen all day didn't really work out too well, but I've read a few books on it now too and I find it absolutely fine and comfy. The ability to do a text search more or less cancels out the annoyance of not just being able to flick instantly to the bit I want to get to.
permalink
at 00:03 on 01-02-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
On the subject of Nicolas Cage, he answered some questions from random internet people for Empire magazine recently.

And in some older news, he's had some incidents with home invasion/Fudgesicles in the past, and has been spreading knowledge to foreign lands.
permalink
at 23:15 on 31-01-2012, Arthur B
I'm probably the last person in the world to see it, but I thought Nic Cage's Agent was hilarious. I love it mainly because of the spoof movie posters in the background.
permalink
at 22:02 on 31-01-2012, Arthur B
I was sceptical about reading on them at first too, but it actually surprised me how little reading on my Kindle feels like reading on a screen. There's no glare or anything because that's not how e-ink works, the default Kindle font is optimised for being easy on the eye, etc.

Re: ownership - there are ebook stores which sell stuff DRM-free and usable on most e-readers (including Kindles). Hell, more or less the entirety of Project Gutenberg is available in ePub and Mobi formats, so purchase of 1 e-reader = all the out of copyright classics you could possibly want, readable in the nicest format you're going to get out of Gutenberg short of printing stuff out and binding it yourself.
permalink