Books as an example of good technology

I was listening to the radio and Daniel Kitson said that books are an example of the best technology, because you don’t notice how well they do the job they do. This was in a conversation about the Kindle, and whether you can read one in the bath.

It got me thinking about what technologies actually improve our lives. Like mobile phones make it easier to contact people, but now my day is filled having conversations that don’t really need to happen- I used to make plans to meet someone at a certain place at a certain time, now everyone is late (because mobile phones let them be late because they can call you to tell you they are going to be late), and they call to tell me that they are going to be late, and they will call again when they get to a different meeting point because they can’t get a park, then I’ll call them back because it stuffs up later plans I have, but I have to leave a message as it’s gone to voicemail, then they text back without listening to the voicemail, requiring another call etc. etc.

What is the last truly fantastic object that actually made life better? or had advantages that really outweigh any disadvantages? I like the life-straw and the hippo roller, but I don’t use these. I’m thinking the washing machine, because it’s the best home appliance- you just put things in and turn it on - imagine if dishwashers worked like washing machines, tip all your dirty plates in and an hour later they are clean.

That is an interesting comment about cels. I don’t have a mobile and I am always 15 minutes early waiting for people to get to a meeting 15 late saying, “sorry, I guess I don’t have your mobile number…I wanted to call!”.

Isn’t it obvious?

The watch.

I haven’t bought into the whole e-readers thing myself because of love books. I mean with e-readers you have to worry about if the book you want is available for an e-reader, the battery dying, etc. And can you use it in the bath? I’d never thought about that.

But a book you don’t have to worry about those things at all. Anyone who can read can read a book, no matter how familiar with technology they are - my grandparents could never figure out how to use a Kindle. There’s no batteries. No limit to what books you can get.

But it’s not just those aspects. There’s something nice about the experience of physically turning the page and feeling the texture of the paper. Or if you spill some drops of coffee or something on a page, it adds to it in a way. Sure, it’s nice having a pristine, new-book-smell book. But the aged ones that you can tell have been well-loved and read have more value in a way. Then add that to the fact that you can watch your collection grow on the shelves.

I don’t think you could even come close to having the same reading experience on a Kindle.

I completely agree. I absolutely love books that have been “well read” so to speak. And I particularly love paperbacks because of the way they get so worn (and they’re lighter…) Kindle et. al. are cool and everything, but there’s no way they’ll wear like that.

I don’t have an ereader yet, but I expect to. Often, I take 2-3 books on the road with me and only ever read one. I want the other two depending on my mood (politics, design/business or fiction?). The Kindle would save a good 4-6 inches of space in my bag!

You know…thinking about innovation…why isn’t there an ereader with solar cels on it? Almost all calculators are solar now. The consumption on the eink readers is low. Maybe the solar couldn’t power the device outright, but it could surely trickle charge it. Hmmm…

Having been a recent convert to the eBook herd. I am now 100% on the eReader side of the fence. Some of my thoughts as discussed.

  1. The idea that you can’t read it in the bath is silly. You can’t read a book in the bath any easier. If your book falls in the water, it is rendered effectively useless. If your hands get wet, the pages start sticking together. I would not hesitate sitting in a bath using my Kindle (minus if I had it plugged into the wall).

  2. The battery running out is my only complaint so far. As long as you have your charger with you as you travel, it really isn’t a problem.

  3. All the books I have on my “to read” list aren’t available…yet. I know this is going to change as time progresses. But, my to read list is quite large. I have yet to find that I am wanting for a book to read on my Kindle. I haven’t even begun tapping into the Guttenberg Project.

  4. If I ever feel nostalgic…i can always buy a book. I honestly don’t see it happening.

IP: I hear you. My gf’s main complaint is the lack of french titles. It will change. It’s ironic having the debate, because it’s the exact opposite of mp3s. We had Napster (content) before the iPod (appliance). Now we have ereaders (appliance) before we have ebooks (content).

A book doesn’t require any sort of DRM, and a book doesn’t tell anyone else that I’ve read it (look at the Authors Guild vs. Google controversy Authors Guild v. Google, Part I: Proposed Class Action Settlement | Electronic Frontier Foundation). I wouldn’t want an “apps” style store not letting me read something because they didn’t approve it.

I can see a potential future market of pirate books, similar to the street-market foreign language translations (¿Hagrid, qué es el quidditch? | Books | The Guardian):

In some cases it’s a race against unofficial translators, too; in China, where enforcement of international copyright law leaves something to be desired, IPR parasites churn out their quick and shoddy renegade versions more or less with impunity. These range from fan-produced translations published online, to brand-new books in the HP series sold on street corners, like the rather peculiar attempt at a book five that appeared while Rowling was in fact still hard at work in Edinburgh writing it (Rowling shares this distinction with Cervantes, who was understandably taken aback to find the second part of Don Quixote published unofficially before he’d had the chance to get round to writing it).

Though the “quick and shoddy renegade version” of the next Dan Brown would probably be better than the actual Dan Brown.

But, a solar or kinetic powered e-book reader that could download any written material in the world via slow (therefore cheap) 2G networks would be awesome. Anything to encourage reading.

Never looked at it that way (content/appliance and vice versa.) Good point.

I love how Google is tossing a Kobo ad at the top of this thread after IP blasted them a couple weeks ago on the boards. Heheh.

Here is the Encyclopædia Britannica’s list for the Greatest Inventions of All Times

The best combination from their list - the zipper and Viagra.
Greatest omission from their list - cheese from an aerosol can.