ReaderWriterVille

Blog in progress

Tag: technology

ReaderWriterLinks

First up, some reactions to MacMillan’s decision to window, i.e., delay access to, new ebook releases for libraries and therefore for their patrons. If you missed the news, MacMillan has decided that their “test” program of windowing Tor Books has worked so well that they’re expanding the policy to all library-purchased ebooks. John Sargent sent out a memo (caution: dreaded PDF format) which argued:

For Macmillan, 45% of the ebook reads in the US are now being borrowed for free from libraries. And that number is still growing rapidly. The average revenue we get from those library reads (after the wholesaler share) is well under two dollars and dropping, a small fraction of the revenue we share with you on a retail read.
The increase in library ebook reading is driven by a number of factors: a seamless delivery of ebooks to reading devices and apps (there is no friction in e-lending, particularly compared to physical book lending), the active marketing by various parties to turn purchasers into borrowers, and apps that support lending across libraries regardless of residence (including borrowing from libraries in different states and countries), to name a few.
It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free.

Any reader who uses Overdrive knows that library borrowing is far from “frictionless” if you take into account how quickly you can actually get a new release and how books licenses expire. But I’ll let other, more knowledgeable and eloquent people, those who actually work in and with libraries, make the case. First up, our very own SuperWendy (and please click through and read the whole thing):

Libraries are funded by tax dollars.  Tax dollars paid by the constituents in the areas where we provide service.  I can assure you, we’re pretty fanatical about making sure users meet the residency requirements.  And “lack of friction?” What does he consider long wait lists and charging libraries more for the same ebook file they’re selling retail via Amazon?  Never mind our budgets have largely remained stagnant and we’re buying multiple formats of the Exact. Same. Book. that they published (print, Large Print, audio on CD, e-audio, ebook, and a partridge in a pear tree…)

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ReaderWriterLinks

When I was on Twitter one of my favorite follows was Alexis Madrigal, who writes about tech and society. He’s writing for the Atlantic now and I was catching up on his posts. You can click on this link to scroll through all his writings. I found his take on Uber insightful:

More important, however, VCs liked the service themselves. In 2016, Hayes recalled his first encounter with Uber: “What I saw was a product that I would use all the time, even though I never use black cars. My friends didn’t use black cars, but this was a product they were going to use all the time,” he said. He and his firm would rely on their instinct instead of putting a number on the company’s value the standard way—by looking at the market Uber was targeting and figuring out how much market share it could win.

Even investor and media super-villain Peter Thiel has made fun of Silicon Valley power players’ tendency to invest in what they themselves like. “VCs often have a blind spot for things,” he said in 2014. “They overvalue things they use. They undervalue things they don’t use. Uber is overvalued because investors like riding in Town Cars.” (Thiel, for his part, invested in Uber’s rival, Lyft.)

And SV power players really, really don’t like public transit. That’s why they spend so much time and money and marketing effort on moving individuals around, rather than groups of people. Eeuuww, traveling with “random strangers,” who would want to do that?


Tablets, which were supposed to be the new, better, laptop, continue to level off and/or decline in terms of consumer sales (they’re still very popular in a range of business and professional settings). I’m a little bit surprised by this, because tablets are excellent for consumption, which is what most people use electronic items for. But it turns out that giant phones are even better:

So, what happened?

Well, big smartphones for one thing. There are dozens of smartphones now touting displays of 6 inches and bigger. These include market leaders like Apple’s 6.5-inch iPhone XS MaxGoogle’s 5.3-inch Pixel 3 XL and Samsung’s 6.4-inch Galaxy S10 Plus. With smartphones this big, who needs tablets?

And when people do want to work, they want the full screen/keyboard/OS combination. This makes sense to me; most people don’t have the luxury of having multiple electronics, and so you will either go with just a phone (if you can’t afford a computer, you will get a phone that does as much as possible to overlap functions), or a phone and laptop. Apple is finally making iOS more functional for work requirements, but it’s taken a long time.


When I was deep in the #onebag internet rabbithole, I came across this amazing post by a woman who traveled for three weeks across the USA with one shoulder bag. I am in awe. I could never do this, but I used some of her techniques, especially the multi-use fabric and layering tips:

Nothing I packed went unused, and as mentioned in the beginning of this article, I didn’t feel like I needed anything else to have a good trip- including a laptop! When the weather was cold (like when it was in the 40s F in Chicago and windy), I layered all my merino items together and covered my ears with my Buff. When the weather was warm (like in Portland when it got up to the 80s F unexpectedly), I wore my light tunic with the Anatomie pants and Tieks.

The key is layers for any minimalist packing list to work. For mine, having several layers of merino was essential. Without being able to layer my light pieces of merino together for a warmer concoction, I would have been caught out in chilly Chicago. If not packing all the merino, a fleece jacket, or something more sufficient, would have been needed.

I would still need a jacket in windy and 40sF Chicago, I think. But an ultralight down jacket from Uniqlo is warm, inexpensive and extremely packable. I took my ultralight vest to Wales because it scrunched down to about the size of a regulation softball.

Weeknote 12

Weeknotes are back. Which means, sadly, that my vacation is over and normal life has resumed.

Work

I spent the week catching up. Emails, phone meetings, memo writing, and other sundry administrative tasks. Don’t you love forms that must be signed the old fashioned way? That means receiving the form, printing it, signing it, scanning it, and then emailing it onward. An electronic signature would take a fraction of the time to sign and send back. And no, this isn’t a legal document or a HIPAA/FERPA form. Sigh.

Reading/Watching/Listening

I am behind on my 20 Books of Summer list. I am reading, but not as much, and I’ve been reading non-list books like Iain M. Bank’s Culture novel, Matter. It’s very good, although frequently quite discursive in that patented Banks way. But I’m enjoying it. I did manage to read Sarah Morgan’s most recent release, which I wrote about in a previous post, and I liked it a lot.

I’m still thinking about the Women’s Fiction/Genre Romance debate. A lot of my romland friends are bummed by the switch to WF by longtime romance authors, but the market for contemporary and historical romance is just not very profitable for publishers anymore. If you don’t want to self-publish then you pretty much have to move into a romance-adjacent genre, or at least that’s how it seems to me. It isn’t new for romance authors to shift to more high-profile genres with hardback options; category authors started doing it in the 1980s and 1990s. It might just be that social media amplifies the voices who dislike these moves, or it may be that social media and the internet more generally allow more people to see publishing shifts happen in real time than was the case in the past. Anyway, I’m still going on a author-by-author, book-by-book basis.

I fell way behind on my podcasts but have been catching bits and pieces of the Women’s World Cup. England v. USA on Tuesday should be something. England demolished Norway and the USA did not look its best while beating France, so who knows.

We watched another episode of Good Omens (still fun) and the first episode of the most recent season of Endeavour, which has finally premiered on PBS. We were gone for the first one and missed the second one, but PBS gives us a few weeks to catch up for free if we give them our email. It was good! Although Endeavour’s moustache is not. It’s very true to 1970s style, I admit, but I keep wanting to reach into the TV and brush it off his face.

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Our #onebag travel experience

We did something slightly unusual on our Wales holiday: we each packed everything into one not-huge backpack and carried those packs ourselves for the entire trip. I say this is unusual because we didn’t meet anyone else doing this who wasn’t either camping or staying in hostels. The people we met in the inns and B&Bs we stayed in were having their luggage transported daily from one night’s destination to the next and using day packs on the walk itself. It’s not expensive to use a porter service (about £5/day), and our relatives who walked Hadrian’s Wall did it this way. So why didn’t we?

One answer is that we’re independent and like control: we didn’t want to have to think about where our stuff was and we had intended to make decisions on the fly. As it turned out we had every night’s lodging booked in advance, which meant we did have to get from one place to a designated next place and that didn’t factor in. A second answer was that we wanted to see if we could do a nearly two-week trip across a variety of conditions carrying everything ourselves, kind of like when we were young. We’ve downsized on a lot of our ten-day to two-week trips to a carry-on rollerboard, but those are still a bit awkward, especially on uneven pavements and cobblestones (not to mention having them drag behind in a crowded city).

I went down the #onebag hole on the internet and found subreddits devoted to the practice (r/onebag and r/heronebag). I watched YouTube videos and read blog posts. You will not be surprised to know that there is an entire community of people who are dedicated to traveling light, and thanks to the magic of the internet they’ve found each other.

Basically, if you’re willing to wash out your clothes and wear the same things repeatedly, you can #onebag it pretty easily, even in cooler weather. The main trick is to take clothes in materials that dry quickly and don’t wrinkle (or I guess you can take linen, which is wrinkly as a feature). In our case we also needed water-resistant and waterproof stuff, since we’d be outdoors every day.

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ReaderWriterLinks

I found this article in Wired really interesting, not least because I’ve been working on “unquantifying” my life (the quantified life is one in which you track your behavior, health, etc. to try and improve outcomes). I hadn’t heard of the “nocebo effect” before but it makes sense:

“The body’s response can be triggered by negative expectations,” says Luana Colloca, a University of Maryland neuroscientist and physician who studies placebo and nocebo effects. “It’s a mechanism of self-defense. From an evolutionary point of view, we’ve developed mechanisms to prevent dangerous situations.”

For Golden, a 38-year-old patient advocate who began with an Excel spreadsheet and later used specialized apps, tracking initially helped her provide better information to her doctor. But she became focused on every possible factor that could make her headache worse. “I’ve seen people become very obsessed with it. I was at one point,” she says. “What did I do at lunch? What did I do at dinner? It can be all-consuming.”

The symptom tracker doesn’t just reveal your highs and lows. It produces a state of anxiety—and possibly more pain.

As always, I’d like to see more studies and the underlying data, but it’s an interesting finding.


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