Tags: kindle

5

sparkline

August in America, day fifteen

Being a beachy surfer kind of place, it made sense that we spent our last day in San Diego hanging out by the beach. We went to La Jolla. We watched people swim, snorkel, and paddle-board. In amongst the human activity, we also saw the occasional seal pop its head out of the water.

It was another beautiful day in San Diego. It was also my last day in San Diego: tomorrow I head north to San Francisco.

I was all set for another flight until disastrously my Kindle gave up the ghost. The e-ink display is b0rked, permanently showing half of Jane Austen and half of a New Aesthetic glitch. So on the way to dinner at the Stone Brewery this evening, we stopped off at a Best Buy so I could slap down some money to buy a bog-standard non-touch, non-white Kindle.

Imagine my disgust when I get it home, charged it up, connected it to a WiFi network, registered it, and discovered that it comes encumbered with advertising that can’t be switched off (the Amazon instructions for unsubscribing from these “special offers”—by paying to do so—don’t work if your device is registered with a UK Amazon account).

A little bit of Googling revealed that the advertising infestation resides in a hidden folder named /system/.assets. If you replace this folder with an empty file (and keep WiFi switched off by having your Kindle in airplane mode), then the advertising is cast out.

So connect your Kindle—that you bought, with your money—to your Mac, open up the Terminal and type:

cd /Volumes/Kindle/system
rm -r .assets
touch .assets

Now I can continue to read The Shining Girls in peace on my flight to San Francisco tomorrow.

Analogue

I like my Kindle. I mean, I hate the DRM and the ludicrous overpriced badly-typeset books but I really like having a browser with a free internet connection just about anywhere in the world.

The Kindle is a particularly handy device when travelling. I can load it up with science fiction and popular science books without weighing down my carry-on luggage.

But when travelling by plane, there are two points in the journey when the Kindle must be stowed. Even though it’s using e-ink, it is technically an electronic device so it must be switched off for take-off and landing. So I still find myself packing some good old-fashioned paper in my bag.

I noticed that almost all of the printed items I’ve been travelling with aren’t available from bricks’n’mortar shops. These books are generated by the internet.

Books generated by the internet

Adaptive Web Design

Aaron’s book is a great read: nice and short but with plenty of meaty hands-on practical stuff. If you haven’t bought it yet, go ahead and read the first chapter to get a taste for the quality of the writing.

Everything published by A Book Apart

I’ll admit that I’m biased because I wrote the first book and penned the foreword for the most recent one, but c’mon: these little beauties are perfect for travelling with.

Back in March when I was bouncing around within the States, Mandy gave me a copy of Erin’s brand new Elements Of Content Strategy at the start of my trip in Austin. By the time I got to the Pacific Northwest later that month, I had finished the book …just from reading it during aircraft ascents and descents.

Six-Penny Anthems II

Kevin’s somewhat-twisted sense of humour appeals to me. A lot. Six-Penny Anthems II is a great hodge-podge of his cartoons.

I distinctly remember reading this during the landing at the end of a transatlantic flight and giggling uncontrollably to myself. I may have worried my fellow passengers.

SVK

Actually, I’m not sure if this excellent collaboration between Warren Ellis, Matt Brooker and the BERG gang is suitable for take-off and landing. That’s because the accompanying ultra-violet light is technically an electronic device. But you should definitely get your hands on it.

The Manual

If you fancy some thoughtful reading material delivered in a beautiful vessel, be sure to get your hands on the first issue of Andy’s creation. Each essay is written by a web professional but you’ll find no talk of software or hardware.

I’m flying across the Atlantic to New York tomorrow for Brooklyn Beta, which I’m looking forward to immensely. I’ll have my Kindle with me for the flight. I’ll also be bringing one of those artefacts of the network with me.

The Kindle connection

There is little to do on the bus ride from Brighton to Heathrow other than to listen to an iPod. So that’s exactly what I did on Thursday morning, using the time to catch up on some podcasts.

I listened to a Radiolab short called Pass the Science featuring the author Richard Holmes. Robert Krulwich positively raves about his book The Age of Wonder.

Immediately after that, I listened to an interview with Freeman Dyson. I had to grit my teeth through the climate denialism to get to the good bits about .

Dyson on Heresy, Climate Change, and Science on Huffduffer

During the interview, the subject of books came up. I knew that Dyson occasionally reviewed a book or two, having read his article about James Gleick’s The Information. He mentioned that one of the finest books he had recently read was …The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes.

The coincidence was too much. I decided I had to have this book. I jotted down the name of it in my notebook. Then I remembered …I had my Kindle with me.

Risking motion sickness, I turned it on just long enough to navigate to Amazon and download the book, overcoming my loathing of its hateful DRM.

Just to recap: based on recommendations received through audio signals sent from a handheld device that stored time-shifted conversations, I connected to a global network of machines to exchange currency and download a file onto another handheld device—all whilst travelling in a moving vehicle.

Living in the future feels pretty cool.

It was even cooler when I entered a heavier-than-air metal craft that was capable of counteracting the force of gravity long enough to take me halfway around the world in just half a day.

Wandering around Shanghai in a semi-jetlagged state also feels like living in the future—given timezone considerations, I kind of am in the future—and it also feels pretty cool.

The problem with seeing so many new sights and experiencing so many new experiences is that I have grown used to sharing them with the world via Twitter. Alas, the Great Firewall of China was forcing me to go cold turkey.

But then Jessica discovered something: it turns out that the 3G Kindle can circumvent China’s censorship (for now). My feeling of disconnectedness vanished the moment I pulled up mobile.twitter.com and saw the beautifully mundane updates from my friends across the world.

I still hate the DRM and I still have issues with the ludicrous pricing models of digital books but that’s twice now in as many days that the Kindle has given me something more than just a good reading experience.

Have Kindle, will travel

I’m on my way from Florida to the Pacific Northwest. I don’t mean I’m about to set out. I mean, right now I’m in a plane flying across North America from Orlando to Seattle. This in-flight WiFi lark is quite wonderful.

There are some other technological inventions that make long journeys more bearable. There’s podcasts, of course. I’m catching up on all the audio I’ve been huffduffing and there’s some truly wonderful stuff in there.

Then there’s the Kindle. Having a choice of reading material packed into a small but comfortable to read device is extremely convenient. Mind you, for take off and landing, you’ll still need a nice slim non-electronic book, such as Erin’s marvelous The Elements of Content Strategy.

But for all of its convenience, some things about the Kindle really stick in my craw.

First of all, there’s the DRM. It’s utterly, utterly pointless and may even be infringing copyright by violating —remember kids, copyright isn’t just about protecting the rights of the content producer; it’s about the rights of the consumer too.

Then there’s the pricing. There are some books I’d really like to buy right now. I’ve got my credit in my hand, ready to hand my money over to Amazon, but then I see that the Kindle edition costs more than the paperback. Often, the Kindle edition is closer in price to the hardback. That’s just not right—or even if it is “right” for economic and legal reasons, it doesn’t intuitively feel right to me, the potential customer.

Kevin Kelly figures that electronic books will cost about a dollar within five years. Sounds about right to me. He also extrapolated that Kindles could be free by November.

The ludicrous asking price for DRM’d electrons is even more galling when the publishers clearly put no effort whatsoever into the production of the work. I really wanted to buy Surface Detail, the latest Culture novel from Iain M. Banks, but when I found reviews bemoaning the conversion quality, I put my credit card away:

I read the Kindle version, and the Kindle version has been lazily put together, I’m guessing from an earlier manuscript version. It has missing or half completed paragraphs. Very frustrating.

Jessica had already bought The City And The City by China Miéville—another book I really want to read—but she had to get a refund because the formatting was so awful.

Phil Gyford, speaking in the context of shoddily-printed physical books, sums up my frustration with the way publishers are treating Kindle editions:

I want to love books, but if the publisher treats them merely as interchangeable units, where the details don’t matter so long as the bits, the “content”, is conveyed as cheaply as possible, then we may be falling out of love.

Cennydd doesn’t even bother with the book-reading aspect of the Kindle, using it instead as an interface onto Instapaper.

The Kindle is a great lightweight reading device that’s particularly handy for travelling with—and the 3G version provides an almost miraculous permanent internet connection without any monthly contract—but the Kindle ecosystem, for all its Whispernet wonderment, is kind of nasty.

Now Amazon have decided that this ecosystem will not include third-party additions like Lendle. Even nastier.

Reading the street

Like many others, I was the grateful recipient of a Kindle this Christmas. I’m enjoying having such a lightweight reading device and I’m really enjoying the near-ubiquitous free connectivity that comes with the 3G version.

I can’t quite bring myself to go on a spending spree for overpriced DRM’d books with shoddy layout and character encoding, so I’ve been getting into the swing of things with the freely-available works of Cory Doctorow. I thoroughly enjoyed For The Win—actually, I read that one on my iPod Touch—and I just finished Makers on the Kindle.

The plot rambles somewhat but it’s still an entertaining near-future scenario of hardware hackers creating and destroying entire business models through the ever-decreasing cost and ever-increasing power of street-level technology.

Cracking open the case of a particularly convincing handset, he offers advice on identifying a fake: a hologram stuck on the phone’s battery is usually a good indication that the product is genuine. Two minutes later, Chipchase approaches another stall. The shopkeeper, a middle-aged woman, leans forward and offers an enormous roll of hologram stickers.

Chipchase, mouth agape, takes out the Canon 5D camera that he uses to catalogue almost everything he sees. “What are these for?” he asks, firing off a dozen photographs in quick succession. “You stick them on batteries to make them look real,” she says, with a shrug. Chipchase smiles, revelling in the discovery. “I love this!” he yelps in delight, and thanks the shopkeeper before heading off to examine the next stall.

That isn’t a passage from Makers. That’s from a Wired magazine article by Bobbie: a profile of Jan Chipchase and his predilection for ; counterfeit electronic goods on the streets of Shanghai …not unlike the Bambook Kindle clone.