Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Yay for Kindle

Amazon have just relaunched the Kindle e-reading device in the UK, with a new model, which looks rather spiffy.

Kindle

Mine is one of the old, white ones – but I still love it. The new one features a new layout which makes the device smaller overall but keeping the same sized screen. The Kindle now supports wifi, which is cool – mine can only use 3G networks.

As John Naughton writes in his Observer column on the subject:

In the end, however, it’s not hardware that matters, but the effectiveness of the overall system in which the device is embedded. That was the great lesson of the Apple iPod: although the hardware was lovely from the outset, it would never have had the impact it had without the link to iTunes software on the PC/Mac and thence to the iTunes store. Other companies had made nice MP3 players, but none had put together a seamless system for getting music from CDs or online retailers on to them. Apple did and the rest is history.

The evolution of the ebook business reveals the same kind of pattern. First up, in 2006, was Sony, with a beautifully crafted device that had one crippling drawback: the difficulty of getting stuff on to it. A year later, Amazon launched the first-generation Kindle, a device inferior to the Sony product in every respect save one: it had wireless connectivity to the Amazon online store, which meant that purchasing and downloading books on to the device was a breeze. After that, it was game over for Sony and, indeed, for all the other companies that had piled into the e-reader market.

There are a number of cool things about the Kindle, some of which are unique to it, some that aren’t. Here are my top three.

1. Instant books

As John points out in his article, the iTunes-like ability to buy books right away is remarkably powerful. It’s like the difference between ordering a CD online or downloading an MP3 – why wait a day for it to be delivered when you can have it now?

2. Social reading

One thing the Kindle allows you to do is to set bookmarks in your e-books, and also to annotate them with notes. In addition to this, you can also highlight passages to make sure you remember them.

A social layer has now been added to this, in that you can now see what other people who have that book on their Kindles have highlighted. It’s a bit like seeing how many other people have saved a web page in Delicious, and is very cool.

3. Syncing

As well as the Kindle e-reader device, Amazon make applications available for other hardware to read books on, including Mac, Windows, Android and iPhone. This enables you to download books to other devices and keep reading even when you don’t have your Kindle on you.

Most obviously useful for phones, the really great thing with the Kindle is the way that when you open a book in one of the apps, it opens on the last page you read on your Kindle. Likewise, when you then open the book on your Kindle, it catches up to where you got up to on the other device.

Websites I love: Project Gutenberg

Project GutenbergThere are a lot of people who still see the internet as being something that is purely the domain of right-wing lunatics and porn fiends, which is of course a shame. The internet has created, or at least helped to create some wonderful things.

One of those wonderful things is Project Gutenberg, a website which makes available out-of-copyright books for reading on electronic devices. Started in 1971, where texts had to be typed into a mainframe computer by hand, the project boasted 30,000 books by the end of 2009.

Books are made available in a number of formats, one of which is always plain text to ensure it can display on more or less any device. Other formats include HTML and also some of the popular e-reader formats like .mobi and .epub.

Reading off a proper computer monitor is a bit of a nightmare, which is why using Gutenberg’s texts with an e-reader works so well. For me, getting the books onto the Kindle is just a case of plugging the Kindle in and copying the files across to it from my Mac – it takes seconds. Formatting is always pretty good, and it’s a great way of carrying round loads of great books to read, for nothing.

So if you’re ever struggling for great examples of people coming together to do Good Things using the web, don’t forget Project Gutenberg!

Some recent reading

As well as blogs, tweets and reports that are published online, I spend quite a bit of time reading books too. They are often great for the bigger picture stuff which requires a bit of thought and chewing over.

Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve been reading recently – I’ve marked them as either DT (dead tree, ie a real paper book) or K (meaning I have it on my Kindle). It’s all in no particular order.

The Kindle has really changed the way I read techy books. I now won’t buy a work related book in paper form unless I have to – they just seem to suit the Kindle really well. I won’t switch to the Kindle for novels just yet, I don’t think, but for some reason the digital form suits non-fiction rather well.

(Disclaimer – where I have linked to Amazon, I have used associate links, meaning I get a few pence if you buy the book via the link. All the money I make from these goes towards the running of Palimpsest, a book group forum I host.)

Bookmarks for April 11th through April 16th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • A New Approach to Printing – “a service that enables any application (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer.”
  • Governments and Citizens: You Don’t Own Your Tweets – This is a really interesting piece on ownership of online content.
  • Beauty is the new must-have feature – “I’m predicting that we’ll start to have a non-functional requirement around making beautiful experiences when we build systems, and that we’ll be rubbish at it when it happens.”
  • Follow Finder by Google – “Follow Finder analyzes public social graph information (following and follower lists) on Twitter to find people you might want to follow.”
  • Enterprise 2.0 and improved business performance – “Despite growing evidence, which I’ve presented here and elsewhere, there still remains for many people a real question about the overall ability of social software to improve how organizations get things done.”
  • calibre – E-book management – Really handy (for a Kindle owner, anyway) open source, cross platform ebook conversion tool.
  • Why does government struggle with innovation? – “If innovation is becoming a core attribute required by government organisations, merely to keep up with the rate of change in society and the development of new ways to deliver services and fulfil public needs, perhaps we need to rewrite some of the rulebook, sacrificing part of our desire for stability in return for greater change.”
  • The Biggest Obstacle to Innovation – “There are many candidates for the biggest obstacle to innovation. You could try lack of management support, no employee initiative, not enough good ideas, too many good ideas but no follow-through just for starters. My nominee for The Biggest Obstacle to Innovation is: Inertia”
  • Lichfield District Council – Open Election Data Project Case Study – “An early adopter Lichfield District Council has been actively sharing a range of local data for some time. In March 2010 the Council was the first authority to make its local election results openly available as part of the Open Election Data Project.”
  • Google Docs Gets More Realtime; Adds Google Drawings To The Mix – Me likey!
  • YouTube – SearchStories’s Channel – Make your own Google search story video – like in the Superbowl ad. Cute.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Kindling

My Kindle arrived today.

I can haz Kindle

For those that don’t know, it’s Amazon’s own e-reader, a portable device that can hold around 1,500 books in its memory which can be read by turning pages using the buttons.

Even though I knew the screen was 6 inches, it still seemed smaller than I was expecting. The device is also a lot thinner than I thought it would be:

Thindle

The screen is really weird, it’s like nothing you’ve looked at before – other than the page of a book. Very odd.

Another interesting thing is the wireless – the Kindle uses the cell network, the cost of which is covered by Amazon and is presumably a part of the cost of the device.

Anyway, I can buy and download books from Amazon.com – not from the UK store yet (which may mean spelling issues…), or add books or documents from my computer. This can be done either by plugging the Kindle into my computer with the supplied USB cable (also my only way of charging it, since the plug supplied is US only too), or by sending a file by email to a special address, which is pretty neat.

You can also use the keyboard to add annotations to documents or books, so this could be really useful for students.

As well as established e-readers like the Sony Reader, the Kindle also has competition from Barnes and Nobles’ new Nook. Crunchgear has a useful comparison chart.