27 October 2006

Only Two More Workdays 'til Monday

This morning's miscellany is truly diffuse, disorganized, and, well, miscellaneous.

  • Everything great in publishing is always two years in the future. Ranging from the purported breakout in CD-based audiobooks (sorry, guys, but changing disks every 74 minutes is less convenient than changing cassettes every 90) to the POD "revolution" that will have book-production machines in the back of every third Borders (seen any yet?), enthusiastic technophiles have predicted radical changes in the publishing industry and distribution system with annoying regularity since the mid-1990s. In that time, I count exactly one of those changes that has had deep influence on publishing: the rise of the online bookstore. And that took a lot more than two years.

    This time, it's the rise of digitized books being predicted. I've heard this refrain before. Three times. Eventually, it's going to be true, or at least have some truth to it. I don't see that happening this time, for a very simple reason: There is still no usable, affordable, essentially disposable reading device available. The Sony product carries a $350 list price and is at best marginally usable, particularly for those of us who have even moderate visual impairments beyond simple nearsightedness. And it's the best of a poor lot, short of a general-purpose computer bound to a power cable (and Sony sticks its head in here, too, with the battery problems).

  • Those whacky academics! Not only do they whinge about Wikipedia (admittedly, with more than a little justification), but they resign in protest at Evilsevier's journal pricing policy.
  • I must be one of the worst fathers in the country, because I won't let my son buy an electric guitar until he learns how to read music. That's a horrible thing to do to a teenager. But now, I can point him to an article that agrees with what I've been telling him for years: He'll be just like Barbara Streisand and Paul McCartney until he does. And that, to a teenaged boy today, is (fortunately for me) anathema, second only to being a nerd (like his father). On the other hand, he has at least expressed willingness to learn to read music... possibly because I've educated him in the classics: Beethoven. Prokofiev. Hendrix. Knopfler.