- Letter to Google from CEO of Axel Springer — very well-written and articulate challenge to the positive Google frame: your company will play a leading role in the various areas of our professional and private lives–in the house, in the car, in healthcare, in robotronics. This is a huge opportunity and a no less serious threat.
- Brewster Kahle Talk — notes from a Brewster Kahle talk. Internet Archive using non-profit status to engineer lower costs in surprising ways: accommodation and banking. (via David Weinberger)
- gitbook — code to turn markdown for textbook-style works (including problems and solutions) into PDF, ebook, HTML, etc.
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk for Docker — use Amazon’s deployment tool with Docker images or Dockerfiles.
It's time to place a moratorium on negativity and start working toward book publishing's bright future.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared on Medium; it is cross-posted here with permission. The writer is an O’Reilly employee, but he is expressing his personal views. We love his optimism about the future and wanted to share it with the Radar audience.
“THAT COMPANY is destroying my P&L, the entire book industry, and the fabric of civilized society.”
“I really like their free, two-day shipping, though.”
There’s a lot of tsoris in the publishing community right now over ebooks. Much of it has something to do with THAT COMPANY WITH THE WEBSITE THAT SELLS ALL THE THINGS, how THAT COMPANY has a stranglehold on the book market, how it’s devaluing our literary canon, how it has publishers right where it wants them.
But we’re not just cranky about THAT COMPANY. Other jeremiads include — but are not limited to — the painfully slow adoption curve of EPUB 3, the demise of beloved sites like Readmill, the failure of “enhanced” ebooks to gain traction, sundry ereader feculence, stagnating ebook sales, and sideloading.
I’m a cynic by nature, and count wallowing among my favorite hobbies, but after half a decade as a software engineer in the digital publishing space, even I’ve had enough and am issuing a moratorium on the negativity! Instead, I want to talk about some of the promising trends I’ve seen develop over the past year that foretell a bright future for the digital book. Forthwith: Five reasons for optimism about the future of ebooks.
Mature Engineering, Control Theory, Open Access USA, and UK Health Data Too-Open?
- On Being a Senior Engineer (Etsy) — Mature engineers know that no matter how complete, elegant, or superior their designs are, it won’t matter if no one wants to work alongside them because they are assholes.
- Control Theory (Coursera) — Learn about how to make mobile robots move in effective, safe, predictable, and collaborative ways using modern control theory. (via DIY Drones)
- US Moves Towards Open Access (WaPo) — Congress passed a budget that will make about half of taxpayer-funded research available to the public.
- NHS Patient Data Available for Companies to Buy (The Guardian) — Once live, organisations such as university research departments – but also insurers and drug companies – will be able to apply to the new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) to gain access to the database, called care.data. If an application is approved then firms will have to pay to extract this information, which will be scrubbed of some personal identifiers but not enough to make the information completely anonymous – a process known as “pseudonymisation”. Recipe for disaster as it has been repeatedly shown that it’s easy to identify individuals, given enough scrubbed data. Can’t see why the NHS just doesn’t make it an app in Facebook. “Nat’s Prostate status: it’s complicated.”
NSA Crypto, Web Traps, Learn by Doing, and Distributed Testing
- On the NSA — intelligent unpacking of what the NSA crypto-weakening allegations mean.
- Overview of the 2013 OWASP Top 10 — rundown of web evil to avoid. (via Ecryption)
- Easy 6502 — teaches 6502 assembler, with an emulator built into the book. This is what programming non-fiction books will look like in the future.
- Kochiku — distributing automated test suites for faster validation in continuous integration.
Location Data, Online Science, Mythbusting for Education, and Cheap Music For All
- Reading Runes in Animal Movement (YouTube) — accessible TEDxRiverTawe 2013 talk by Professor Rory Wilson, on his work tracking movements of animals in time and space. The value comes from high-resolution time series data: many samples/second, very granular.
- Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Amazon) — edited collection of the best blog posts on science from 2012. Some very good science writing happening online.
- Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education (PDF) — Derek Muller’s PhD thesis, summarised as “mythbusting beats lectures, hands down”. See also his TED@Sydney talk.
- Melomics — royalty-free computer-generated music, all genres, for sale (genius business model). Academic spinoff from Dr. Francisco J. Vico’s work at UMA in Spain.
Where is classical music publishing headed now that the great works are available for free online?
The job of a publisher is to identify and cultivate talent, underwrite the writing process, and distribute the result. The publishing industry has been wringing its hands about the future of the print book for some time, but that model is sound (in the abstract) regardless of whether a book is printed on paper or transmitted over the Internet to a paying reader.
But what if you’re a publisher of works that have been in the public domain for a long time? The talent has already been identified and the writing has already been done, so the only value to be added is in editing, printing and distributing. That pretty much describes the business of publishing classical music scores, and the amount of value that publishers add varies greatly — between Dover, which mostly produces cheaply-bound facsimiles of out-of-copyright editions, and the German publishers Barenreiter and Henle, which produce beautifully printed scholarly editions.
Regardless of quality, all of these publishers face disruption in the form of the International Music Score Library Project, which makes 67,927 works of public-domain classical music available, for free, as scanned scores from academic music libraries. Traditional publishers rely on sales of warhorses like Beethoven’s piano sonatas to fund their operations, and that’s precisely what’s most readily available at IMSLP. It’s as though Knopf needed to sell Great Expectations to supply Robert Caro’s typewriter ribbon.
Notable Release, SVG Library, Modular Robot, and Factchecking Politicians Will Not Work
- Quick Reads of Notable New Zealanders — notable for two reasons: (a) CC-NC-BY licensed, and (b) gorgeous gorgeous web design. Not what one normally associates with Government web sites!
- Linkbot: Create with Robots (Kickstarter) — accessible and expandable modular robot. Loaded w/ absolute encoding, accelerometer, rechargeable lithium ion battery and ZigBee. (via IEEE Spectrum)
- The Promise and Peril of Real-Time Corrections to Political Misperceptions (PDF) — paper presenting results of an experiment comparing the effects of real-time corrections to corrections that are presented after a short distractor task. Although real-time corrections are modestly more effective than delayed corrections overall, closer inspection reveals that this is only true among individuals predisposed to reject the false claim. In contrast, individuals whose attitudes are supported by the inaccurate information distrust the source more when corrections are presented in real time, yielding beliefs comparable to those never exposed to a correction. We find no evidence of realtime corrections encouraging counterargument. Strategies for reducing these biases are discussed. So much for the Google Glass bullshit detector transforming politics. (via Vaughan Bell)
Amazon Slash Slashed, Indies Out, Printing for Peace, Massively Online Orthographic Build System
- Kindle Worlds Fine Print — Amazon’s fanfic publishing system has a few flaws: no pr0n, no crossovers, no slash, and Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright. I can’t see this attracting pinboard’s most passionate users.
- XBox One Won’t Allow Indies to Self-Publish Games — When it comes to self-publishing, Microsoft is the odd man out. Both Sony and Nintendo allow developers to publish their own games onto PlayStation Network and Nintendo Network, respectively. Microsoft’s position stands in stark contrast to Sony, which has been aggressively pursuing indie content for PS4. (via Andy Baio)
- 3D Printers for Peace Competition (Michigan Tech) — We are challenging the 3D printing community to design things that advance the cause of peace. This is an open-ended contest, but if you’d like some ideas, ask yourself what Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, or Ghandi would make if they’d had access to 3D printing. (via BoingBoing)
- covim — Collaborative editing for vim. My dream of massively multiplayer troff can finally be realised.
Master Coding, Rethinking Textbooks, Blocking Open Access, VPN from your Pi
- Analyzing mbostock’s queue.js — beautiful walkthrough of a small library, showing the how and why of good coding.
- What Job Would You Hire a Textbook To Do? (Karl Fisch) — notes from a Discovery Education “Beyond the Textbook” event. The issues Karl highlights for textbooks (why digital, etc.) are there for all books as we create this new genre.
- Neutralizing Open Access (Glyn Moody) — the publishers appear to have captured the UK group implementing the UK’s open access policy. At every single step of the way, the RCUK policy has been weakened. From being the best and most progressive in the world, it’s now considerably weaker than policies already in action elsewhere in the world, and hardly represents an increment on their 2006 policy. What’s at stake? Opportunity to do science faster, to provide source access to research for the public, and to redirect back to research the millions of pounds spent on journal subscriptions.
- Turn the Raspberry Pi into a VPN Server (LinuxUser) — One possible scenario for wanting a cheap server that you can leave somewhere is if you have recently moved away from home and would like to be able to easily access all of the devices on the network at home, in a secure manner. This will enable you to send files directly to computers, diagnose problems and other useful things. You’ll also be leaving a powered USB hub connected to the Pi, so that you can tell someone to plug in their flash drive, hard drive etc and put files on it for them. This way, they can simply come and collect it later whenever the transfer has finished.
Equity of Access, Smartphone Rare Earths, Nanoquadrocopter, and Macmillan Expands in Open Science
- Myth of the Free Internet (The Atlantic) — equity of access is an important issue, but this good point is marred by hanging it off the problematic (beer? speech? downloads?) “free”. I’m on the council of InternetNZ whose mission is to protect and promote the open and uncaptureable Internet. (A concept so good we had to make up a word for it)
- Periodic Table of the SmartPhone (PDF, big) — from Scientific American article on Rare Earth Minerals in the Smartphone comes a link to this neat infographic showing where rare earth elements are used in the iPhone. (via Om Malik)
- CrazyFlie Nano Preorders — 19g, 9cm x 9cm, 20min charge time for 7m flight time on this nano-quadrocopter. (via Wired)
- Changing Scientific Publishing (The Economist) — Nature buys an alternative journal publisher (30 titles in 14 scientific fields), which comes with an 80k-member social network for scientists. Macmillan are a clever bunch. (O’Reilly runs Science Foo Camp with Macmillan’s Digital Sciences and Google)