Sunday, February 15, 2004

Cory Doctorow on E-Books

Cory Doctorow is one of the more interesting new SF writers. He not only writes about technological change, he incorporates within the very distribution of his writing. For example, both his novels (and some of his short stories) are available as e-books. For free. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Eastern Standard Tribe. A Place So Foreign.

He says it's good marketing, I think it is too. I've read his first book and will probably obtain the hard copy for the collection.

Here's a speech he's made available (through the Creative Commons Licence) on the usefulness e-books.

For a similar view that discusses the perceptual differences between e-books and "real books", here's a lecture by Umberto Eco.

My take is similar to Eco's: E-books are great for reference work but a pain in the butt for narrative works. That being said - I like the format as it makes it easy to read on the train or anywhere really. I don't think I absorb as much from e-books as I do from the printed page, however. I think I'm still trained to see anything on a screen as intrinsically ephemeral, so I don't remember it as well as words on a printed page.

This will probably change as we get more familiar with reading off screens. Certainly I mostly read the Sydney Morning Herald through their AvantGo channel. Anything it misses out, I can read on the website. The only copies of the SMH we buy now are the ones with liftouts we need (the TV Guide, Good Living and the Next supplement, and the Saturday papers.) The electronic version, however, makes the classifieds much easier to access (if you're looking for jobs, accommodation or a new car) as the information becomes searchable, rather than just browsable.

If I could download the tv guide into my Handspring, I would. Once we go to digital television, with an online program guide - will we actually need Monday's Herald anymore?

We'll see.

Meanwhile, I continue to buy books from small publishers, as that's the only way to get stories from Brendan Duffy, Kelly Link and Jeff Vandermeer.

And the books look good too.

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