This is a guest post by my old friend and collaborator, Robin Lubbock
I’m still waiting for this hole in the market to fill in. It’s the tablet hole. The space for a viewer/reader/player about the size of a novel. It’s easy to type on, it runs apps like an iPhone and everybody’s going to love it. But it’s not here yet.
Apple’s iPhone, let’s be frank, isn’t that wonderful a piece of technology. It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture: nice to look at and hold, and it’s just the right weight. But now that I’ve had mine for a year it has such a lag in its response time that it’s actually somewhat entertaining. You type, then sit back and after what seems like seconds you watch the keyboard apparently hitting keys of its own accord. Like one of those old pianos that plays itself, the keys moving in that wonderful ghostly way.
One impact the iPhone has had on me (and I’m sure I’m not alone) is that I now find myself touching screens everywhere and expecting them to do something. Of course by and large they don’t, which is disappointing. David Pogue had an article in the Times this week about screens that play images and music
, but aren’t touch sensitive. He points out that one of the screens he reviews looks as if it was originally designed to be touch sensitive. But it isn’t. Either the market won’t bear the cost, or the technology won’t bear the burden.
Manufacturers of tablet sized computers still seem to be stuck with the choice between power and portability. So you have a rash of e-readers that aim to trickle out their power over a long time, and so have slow two-tone screens that can’t be asked to do very much.
Somewhere on the heels of the Kindle and Sony’s e-reader, you’ll soon have Plastic Logic’s business e-reader (see demo
): a reader that’s aimed at people who like to print out documents before they read them. This may sound a little bizarre as a business proposition, but the reader does have a touch sensitive (if rather slow) screen. This alone puts it ahead of other readers. But how will people with Kindle accounts use it?
These are murky waters, but they are turbulent with activity and they will clear one day. I hope it’s one day soon.
(This is a guest post from a friend and long-time colleague, Robin Lubbock of WBUR, who will be contributing to Loose Wire Blog. You can read his blog, the Future of New(s), here.)
Why don’t you buy hard-back books? Either they are too expensive, or too big. They are too big to comfortably hold in one hand. So if you’re sitting in bed trying to read you’ve got to find a way to prop the thing up. Not a hurdle you can’t overcome. But an inconvenience.
Now think about the reader of the future. It’s the same issues. Size, readability, and cost. Any lessons you’ve learned from book reading, apply them to the electronic book and you’ll be imagining the electronic reader of the future.
So why hasn’t anyone made a good electronic book yet?
I was in Staples the other day and an assistant asked me what I wanted. I said “I want something about three or four times the size of an iPhone which I can use for browsing the Web when I’m in bed.” He said they had nothing like that, but he wanted one too.
So when I saw photos of a group of proposed readers in an article by John Markoff in the New York Times this weekend I thought my dream had come true.
But Markoff has a different view. He says he also used to think he was looking for a mid-sized reader for the Web. He went over some of the issues. But he reached the conclusion that although chip power means that you can’t get book performance out of a phone sized reader yet, people could be comfortable reading newspapers on a three-and-a-half-inch screen.
I took his implication to be that if people are happy with a small screen for reading newspapers and blogs, there will be no call for a mid-sized reader.
But I still want one. And I still believe the company that successfully develops a tool that has the same benefits as a novel, in usability, portability and ruggedness, will make a fortune.
Kindly pointed out by my old friend Robin Lubbock from WBUR, here’s an interesting piece on journalists who blog in their spare time by Steve Outing.
Outing points out that in many cases, things don’t go well. Reporters “have been fired or punished because of their personal blogs,” he writes. Landmines include when “a simple family blog written by a reporter might contain a reference to trouble at work, or discontent with a boss. It’s so easy for such an item — meant for a tiny group but accessible by the entire Web world — to take on a life of its own and spread to a huge audience, embarrassing not only the employer but also the employee.” The result: Tightly controlled personal blogs, both by the employers, and by the writers, who tend to be increasingly careful of what they write for fear of creating trouble.
Outing also cites cases of “resentment and morale problems from those who consider the blogs they publish on their own time to be an important part of who they are.” A lot of these end up being anonymous, operating without the knowledge of their bosses. That means there may be a lot of ticking time bombs out there, once those folk are outed.
The bottom line for me is this: Journalists (I don’t include columnists here, who are paid to have opinions) should be careful that anything they write or say in public does not compromise their objectivity. There are the obvious topics — usually politics — which journalists would be well advised to stay clear of, whether or not they’re writing on their spare time. Someone who reads a casual remark on a blog that indicates a political bias is justified in feeling that same journalist may not lend balance to his/her reporting when they’re on the job.
That said, journalists are inveterate writers, and blogs are a wonderful place to scratch that itch — especially, I imagine, for editors frustrated they are not out there reporting, or reporters on a beat that’s not their preferred one. I can’t see anything wrong with a political reporter getting hot under the collar about the disturbed migration patterns of the Lesser Bluebacked Hedge Warbler (I know I’m pretty upset), so long as the causes of the disturbance are not political in origin. (Of course, they almost certainly are, knowing politicians. But I can’t say that.)