links for 2009-03-06

  • "It has dawned on me lately, meditating on the Metro, thoughts silenced so completely that I can hear every page being turned by passengers up and down the car (I am above reading — I am present to myself) that being fully in the moment, all senses turned on, feeling your hands in your lap and the ground under your feet, is a very good way of not being there at all."
  • Sales continue to grow (some analysts have pegged Kindle sales at 500,000 units), but e-book readers are still not anywhere near iPod-level penetration of the consumer market. Price is a big part of it.
    At $359 for the Kindle, that's a luxury device anyway you look at it. Like most consumer electronic devices, getting below $200 is key to capturing a more mainstream audience. Sony is almost there at $269, but it doesn't have any way of downloading book content wirelessly the way the Kindle does. But there's a free option now too. Last week Google launched a mobile version of its Google Book Search, giving iPhone and Android users access to more than 1.5 million public domain books.

    The fact that Plastic Logic is honing in on the newspaper business could provide for some interesting possibilities in regard to business models.

  • It's a day for e-reader news. Along with's Kindle 2 announcement, competitor Plastic Logic revealed the first partners to distribute content on its eReader when the device becomes commercially available sometime in 2010.

    The partners include Ingram Digital, LibreDigital, and Zinio, which has more than 1,000 digital magazine titles currently in its stable. USA Today and the Financial Times have also signed on.

    The eReader–which is designed to store dozens or hundreds of business documents on a very thin digital reader–is about the size of an 8.5 inch by 11 inch pad of paper and weighs less than most print magazines, according to Plastic Logic.

    As the name of the company might suggest, it's made with plastic, not glass, meaning that it is designed to be strong and to be able to stand up to being hit with objects or, presumably, even dropped. Furthermore, the eReader is an open platform that allows content creators to offer their digital content in their own way.

  • Contains the full text of the Hearst memo discussing plans for paid content and e-reader
  • "The Kindle may have scored all the press this week, but it's not the only e-book reader. The Sony Reader debuted way back in 2006, and has been quietly chugging along ever since, steadily improving with each edition. I thought it was only fair to take a look at the latest version.

    "Sony loaned me its top-of-the-line Reader, the PRS-700 ($400, or $40 more than the Kindle) for testing. Sony still doesn't seem as attractive as the Kindle. First, getting new reading material onto it involves connecting it to a PC (Windows only) with a cable–a ritual that feels extremely ancient and creaky once you've tasted the bliss of the Kindle's instant cellular downloads. Second, Sony's bookstore is priced higher and contains far fewer titles

  • "Ambitious it may be, but Hearst is battling big odds, says Forrester analyst James McQuivey. "My basic assessment of their chances is not good," he says. "Hearst doesn't have the tech credibility or relationships to make this a successful venture.

    "Hearst Interactive's Bronfin already sits on the board of directors for E Ink, the company whose screens power both the Kindle and Sony Reader. That means an E Ink screen is a near certainty for the Hearst e-reader. However, if Hearst plans to launch an e-reader this year it is likely the screen will be black and white, rather than color.

    "Hearst is hoping its e-reader will meet a different fate. But McQuivey states that a device that debuts with a black and white screen would be a deal killer for many of the company's subscribers.

    "Periodicals are just not effective in black and white," McQuivey says. "People who buy Esquire or Harper's Bazaar buy them because they want to see the magazine in color."

  • "It's unclear if the device Hearst has been working on has anything to do with the eReader that Plastic Logic unveiled recently, but its principle seems the same. It's a handheld device used to read digital content, much like the Kindle. The main difference would be that Hearst's e-reader has a much larger size to accommodate the format of newspapers and magazines.

    "At the same time as it is developing the device, Hearst is hoping for success in charging for access to at least some of its online content. A pay model for online content, as opposed to an advertising-supported free-access model, is something few publishers have managed to pull off."

links for 2009-03-04

  • Another resource for finding out what specific Twitter hashtags mean
  • "In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote in the memo entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States."

    "This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked—but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration.

  • Google's 9/08 post explaining its effort to put archived original news articles online, preserving original format/context.

    "You’ll be able to explore this historical treasure trove by searching the Google News Archive or by using the timeline feature after searching Google News. Not every search will trigger this new content, but you can start by trying queries like [Nixon space shuttle] or [Titanic located]. Stories we've scanned under this initiative will appear alongside already-digitized material from publications like the New York Times as well as from archive aggregators, and are marked "Google News Archive." Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we'll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search, you'll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well."

  • From Sept. 08 — but worth noting: "Google is partnering with publishers to digitize millions of old newspaper pages. For lots of people that’s big news because as more pages become available, the history of humanity’s every day lives will be instantly accessible. It’s almost like bringing all of the journalists of the past into realm of bloggers, where their content is almost instantly indexed and searchable.

    "Google plans to make the text available, as well as original scans with all formatting intact, according to a company blog post. The content from these newspapers won’t be restricted to an archive search page forever though. The company plans to gradually integrate the content with search results initiated using its main search engine."

  • "Newspaper and magazine publishers seem desperate to find some new trick to preserve the scarcity on which they used to profit. In a world overflowing with media, that is impossible. And editors and publishers are not clever technological tricksters. The E Ink reader will start out black-and-white. Wait, aren't the glossy photos and gorgeous layouts why we pick up magazine sin the first place?

    "What they ought to be doing is fixing their websites: Adding comments everywhere, publicly displaying the comments and pageviews stories garner, and — crucially — adjusting the story mix in light of that information. It's unlikely to happen. The makers of magazines are so used to dreaming up story ideas in their skyscraper aeries. It will never occur to them that their readers might actually be smarter than they are.

    "Smart enough, at any rate, not to buy a gadget designed by a magazine guy.

  • "Given the evolving state of the technology, the Hearst reader is likely to debut in black and white and later transition to high-resolution color with the option for video as those displays, now in testing phases, get commercialized. Downloading content from participating newspapers and magazines will occur wirelessly. For durability, the device is likely to have a flexible core, perhaps even foldable, rather than the brittle glass substrates used in readers on the market today.

    "What Hearst and its partners plan to do is sell the e-readers to publishers and to take a cut of the revenue derived from selling magazines and newspapers on these devices. The company will, however, leave it to the publishers to develop their own branding and payment models. "That's something you will never see Amazon do," someone familiar with the Hearst project said. "They aren't going to give up control of the devices."

  • "Not that it's anything we think the New York Times Company should do, but we thought it was worth pointing out that it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead. Here's how we did the math…"
  • "Despite weak demand hitting its TFT-LCD panel business, Prime View International (PVI) expects to see strong shipments of its electrophoretic displays (EPDs) as the company's largest client Amazon has launched its second-generation e-book Kindle 2, according to market sources.

    "PVI is also speeding up the transition of larger-size EPD production to its Korean subsidiary Hydis, the sources noted. Amazon plans to launch a new generation of Kindle by the end of this year, which will be larger in size and equipped with touch functions, the sources said."

  • "Data is the pollution of the information age. It's a natural by-product of every computer-mediated interaction. It stays around forever, unless it's disposed of. It is valuable when reused, but it must be done carefully. Otherwise, its after-effects are toxic.

    "And just as 100 years ago people ignored pollution in our rush to build the Industrial Age, today we're ignoring data in our rush to build the Information Age.

  • "The scant information available so far indicates that it would have a larger screen than the Kindle (remember, we’re talking newspapers here) in order to handle larger blocks of content. This larger content, of course, would include advertisements.

    "Hearst says that they wish to retain the better features of the kindle, such as low power consumption, high capacity, and a display that is very easy on the eyes. It is felt, apparently, that the kindle display (which is about the size of a standard paperback book) would be to small for use with newspaper content, despite the fact that there is a lot of newspaper content available for the Kindle already, even with its smaller screen size."

Twitter Frenzy: “We’re rotting corpses grabbing for any glimmer of relevance”

That’s how Daily Show tech correspondent Samantha Bee explained why Congress and the news media are so fascinated with Twitter:

Hat tip to Adam Glenn

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What’s that Hashtag? New glossary tools for Twitter

On Twitter, hashtags are a powerful, simple tool for tracking topics, communities, live events, or breaking news. They make you findable, and they allow on-the-fly collaboration. When you insert one of these short character-string tags beginning with #, you make it easy for Twitter users who don’t already follow you (plus anyone searching Twitter) to find your public contributions to the coverage or discussion on that topic.

The catch is that hashtags are often cryptic — usually because they work best when they’re as brief as possible. So you might stumble across an interesting-sounding tweet containing a hashtag like #wci, #plurk, or #tpb and wonder about its context. Although you can follow a hashtag easily with tools like Twitter Search,, Tweetdeck, or Twitterfall (which Paul Bradshaw recommended yesterday in Tidbits), those tools don’t easily tell you what a given hashtag means.

Here some promising new tools that can help you quickly put a hashtag in context — or let people easily look up the meaning of the hashtags you launch or use… Continue reading

Failure as Taboo: My She’s Geeky Tweets Part 2

Back in January I attended — and live-tweeted — the She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA. Very slowly, I’ve been mulling over what I tweeted from there. Especially from Susan Mernit’s Jan. 31 session on that taboo of taboos, especially for women in business and tech: discussing and dealing with failure.

(For more context on failure, see this consummate resource.)

NOTE: This is part of a series based on my live tweets from At last weekend’s She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA.

Series index

Perhaps more than any other She’s Geeky session, this one resonated with me. Right now, I’m in the process of ending my marriage, relocating from a community I’ve loved and called home for nearly 14 years, entering midlife, and dealing with much emotional backlog that has accumulated while I’ve kept busy busy busy for so many years.

That’s a lot of stuff to handle, on top of work and ordinary life. Frankly, it’s been hard for me to admit to myself — let alone anyone else — that because of all these issues I am not currently operating at the 1000% (not a typo) level I typically expect of myself, and often deliver.

So first, here are my tweets from this session, followed by some results of my mulling on this. Note that I deliberately did NOT identify speakers, except for prompting questions by Susan Mernit. Discussing failure leaves people vulnerable, and the attendees of this session agreed to make it a safe space. Everything appearing in quotes below is from an attendee…

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links for 2009-03-02

1Password is not for me: Doesn’t work with third-party applications

I use many, many online services that require passwords access. Some for important stuff like online banking, or gmail, or collaboration tools, or travel arrangements, or Twitter. Others are less important, like news sites that require logins. I was starting to get concerned about password security for all of that, so I tried the Mac application 1Password, which several people  recommended to me.

1Password seems pretty powerful. But it’s not for me.

Reason: 1Password only integrates with Web browsers, not with 3rd party applications. For 3rd-party applications, you can generate stronger passwords using 1Password — but then you have to store them in the OSX keychain or elsewhere. If you rely on such applications regularly, this vastly reduces the potential security benefit of 1Password.

This became a dealbreaker for me. Here’s why…

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