A few miscellaneous thoughts on eReading and annotating

I have in mind a few more blog posts over the next few days about the end of the summer term/beginning of my 13th school year at EMU, but I’ll start this morning with some of the things/links/thoughts I’ve come across lately about publishing, reading, and writing.  Most of these have been left open in my browser for well over a week, and it’s time to clear them out.  And the clean the desk and then the kitchen.

First, there’s this helpful info-graphic, I believe from Newsweek:

Click on it to read it more clearly. Much more after the jump.

I think that the comparison between books and ebooks is fairly accurate and interesting, though it is of course not an “either/or” situation.  At least I don’t think it is.  A couple weeks ago, before Annette and I went to “grown-up camp,” I bought some “fun reading” books.  I bought a couple of “eBook” novels I had heard about on NPR recently, The Thieves of Manhattan and Super Sad True Love Story, both of which I got as Kindle books (for my iPad), and a paperback version of that dragon and tattoo book and a book my parents had recommended, The Devil in the White City. The only iBook I’ve purchased so far is Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, which is kind of for fun/kind of for work.  The big difference for me between Kindles and iBooks so far is sheer availability:  there’s just a ton more books for sale for the Kindle.

I know there have been lots of critiques about the difference between eReading (and the readers themselves– the Kindle versus the iPad), and I thought this post by Keith Peters at Bit-101 about taking a USB powered microscope to a close-up view of a Kindle, an iPad, and old-fashioned print.  (BTW, while I have no practical use for a USB powered microscope, if someone were to give me one, that would be pretty cool).  It’s interesting I guess, though it mainly just comes closer to confirming what I knew before:  print (as in paper and such) is more “readable” than the electronic ink of the Kindle, which is more readable in some sense than an iPad.  My own experiences with iPad reading so far is that when it comes to eye strain, it’s somewhere between paper and a computer screen, which is to say it is not a big deal to me.  The one exception to that rule is reading in the sun:  taking an iPad to to the beach or by the pool is a waste of time, unless you want to use it to reflect sun back onto you for a more even tan.  But I don’t think I’d want to take a Kindle into these conditions either– all that sand, wind, water, etc.

I really like reading off the iPad for all kinds of different reasons, but print books still have a lot of utility to me and while their numbers might decline in coming years, I think it’s going to be a long time before they are completely irrelevant.  Books are a really good technology:  they are relatively cheap, much more durable than current eReaders, extremely high resolution, don’t require power or instructions to operate, etc., etc.  And print is permanent.  As I have discussed several times before, I’ve personally experienced the unpleasantness of being “disappeared” from an electronic publication, something that is significantly less likely with paper.  A lot more people might have glanced at my dissertation online than in the print version deposited at Bowling Green State, but I also know that the print version is still there.

BTW, NPR had a pretty interesting story kind of about this, “Books Have Many Futures.” And this piece from The Atlantic, “Before the Kindle, Another Reading Revolution,” which is an interview with Andrew Pettegree about his book The Book in the Renaissance. Maybe I’ll try to download that book for the iPad.

Though it might be a problem finding a place to publish or buy good-ol-fashioned books in the not so distant future.  Ann Arbor’s own Borders has been hemorrhaging money for a number of years, and while it was an academic press, Rice University Press has closed down and is giving up on what a lot of people saw as a very viable alternative to traditional print.  Apparently not viable enough.  Still, I think there’s a chance that more of a “print on demand” sort of model will catch on (I’ve heard rumors of such a thing in the computers and writing world coming online one of these days), and as Ray Connolly pointed out in this piece in The Guardian, authors have often gotten a raw deal from publishers and it does make some sense for writers to just put it up online.  Which also isn’t that different from the way people did it in the past, either– wasn’t Leaves of Grass first published by Whitman himself?

Almost done clearing out the browser links, but before I stop, I wanted to point folks to what may be a better alternative to my current choice in annotation for the iPad, which is iAnnotate.  There’s a new app that I have just started to play with that’s pretty cool called Noterize.  Here’s a link to the video. What I haven’t figured out yet is how these different programs’ annotations translate to different platforms.  As far as I can tell from playing with it for just a few minutes, Noterize’s annotations don’t show up on Preview, while iAnnotate’s do.  Even though Noterize has a much more groovy interface and its easier (IMO) to get stuff on and off my iPad with it, the lack of connectivity to a desktop PDF reader might be a deal breaker.  Still, pretty cool.

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