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May 2012

A look inside the New York Public Library

NewYorkPublicLibraryLogoI'm a New Yorker at heart, even though I haven't lived in New York for several years. When I conjure up an image of a public library the image I see is the New York Public Library's main branch with the iconic lion statues out front.

That's why I enjoyed reading Charles Petersen's two part (part 1, part 2) story about how the NYPL is attempting to transform itself to meet the new needs of their patrons. It is such a huge organization, and many people assume the library is dedicated to one thing: books. Nope. Any library you visit isn't just a collection of books, but rather a repository of information staffed with people who make it their life's work to help you sort through it all.

Anyway, you shouldn't be wasting time reading this when the first part of Charles' great article is waiting for you.

Don't be guilty at the library

Library Cards

People pirating books piss me off, but I love the library (in fact I was just at the Free Library of Philadelphia yesterday (proof) where I checked out three books). Sometimes I do wonder, though, if I should buy a book to support an author I like instead of making use of the library. The problem is, if no one goes to the library then in these days of budget cuts the library closes (heck, even though library usage is up some libraries are closed!).

Luckily N.K. Jemisin, author of the wonderful Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was discussed on an episode of The Incomparable, assuages my guilt thusly:

It really, really, really helps me to be in libraries. Not all traditionally-published books get that privilege; most self-published books certainly don’t. So if you’re feeling at all guilty over checking my stuff out from your local library — don’t. Consider: you’re helping to keep me on their “buy” lists, especially in these days of rampant budget cuts, which means several hundred (if not thousand) additional sales for me.

Piers Anthony on using a tablet

I'm a tech guy, but I really try and emulate the mindset of a non-technical person when I'm writing, since they are my audience. That's why I find this quick review of a Polaroid Android tablet from Piers Anthony's Newsletter so fascinating. Piers, a successful and prolific author, isn't technical at all but his wife bought a $100 tablet. He's using it now and likes it, but you can just read this thoughts yourself:

My Sony Reader expired just as I was about to read the foregoing novel. That gave my wife a pretext to shop for something she had had her eye on, and we got a Polaroid Android Tablet Computer on sale for a hundred dollars. As I like to put it, I'm an old codger from another century, and slow to catch on to newfangled dinguses, but I rather like this one. Its Adobe Reader handled the .pdf manuscript, oriented the page to be upright regardless of my orientation; sometimes as I let the device tilt the page would spin around to re-orient. I can show the pages as they are, in assorted type sizes, or have them reformat and wrap to remain always on the page. The print is beautiful, easy to read. But I am unable to jump to my place in the book, or to return directly to the beginning when I complete it. So I had to page backward through the 373 page manuscript, one page at a time. This gets old fast. It does hold my place if I keep it in ready mode, but loses it if I turn it all the way off to save power. It will play songs, and I can read with musical background; it seems to have a fair roster of popular songs to start with, and we added more. But it can be a federal case to make it stop playing, and we have not found out how to make it play our added songs. It acknowledges their presence, lists them, but won't actually play them, instead playing only its own songs; it seems to think they are on the Internet. Would it be too much to ask that you be able to play a listed song by clicking on it? Or that there be an On/Off switch? If there is a Hell for programmers, it may have an On/Off switch for the tortures they undergo—that doesn't work. It will handle WiFi, but as yet I have not caught up with that 21st century stuff. So it's a novel experience, and I like it despite its frustrations.

I don't know what I would use a tablet for if I didn't have Wi-Fi.

Joe Weisenthal vs. the 24-Hour News Cycle -

I love writing, but this profile of a financial blogger just sounds awful. Working all day in the text mines, looking for Fool's Gold:

Some of what he writes is air and sugar. Some of it is wrong or incomplete or misleading. But he delivers jolts of sharp, original insight often enough to hold the attention of a high-powered audience that includes economists like The Times columnist Paul Krugman and Wall Street heavies like the hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass and the bond investor Jeff Gundlach.

Dreaming of a better Kindle Fire - TechHive Beta Blog

It is no secret that I'm a fan of Amazon, and of their Kindles more specifically. It is often assumed, for one reason or another, that if you like a company that means you can't be critical of anything that company does. This is probably most commonly seen amongst Apple aficionados (and I think that some of the Apple press do give the company a pretty wide berth on many, many issues) but the same can be said for any company.

Just because I like the Kindle Fire (I wrote a bestselling book about it too which you should totally buy) doesn't mean the product can't stand some improvement. My internet pal, and yours, Jason Snell makes some great points on Techhive:

The Kindle Fire is definitely a first effort. I’m reminded of the original Kindle, which was intriguing and yet horribly flawed. After a couple of iterations, Amazon got the Kindle in shape. It can do the same with the Kindle Fire, especially if it emphasizes its two strongest points: a small size and a low price. With some tweaks to the hardware (volume buttons!) and continued software refinements, including better support for multiple Amazon accounts, the Kindle Fire’s future can still be bright.

The Kindle Fire's biggest flaw, if you ask me, involves physical buttons but I don't miss the volume buttons as much as Jason does. The location of the power button, however, is just plain dumb. I long for a sliding button like Amazon had on the second and third generation e-ink Kindles (though the 4th gen Kindles switched to a normal pushy button, which I am not a fan of). Turning on/off or putting a device to sleep shouldn't be something you can do accidentally.