I came across this little snippet from Sumant Srivathsan, in Bombay, on his use of the Kindle, that gives a concise description of why digital (non-paper) books hold much practical appeal for people in much of the the non-US world. I sometimes hear talk about eBooks being elitist, which I think is a fairly US/European-centric view — For people in the tropical world, especially Africa, I’d guess that it’s pretty much a question of digital reading or no reading, in the near future. Here are Srivathsan’s down-to-earth words:

Like any self-respecting reader, I have a healthy collection of books, and consequently, an overflowing bookcase. I also live in Bombay, where every enemy of books – heat, humidity, dust, shortage of space – exists in abundance. As a result, half my library rests in a quiet corner in my mother’s apartment in Madras, waiting for the day when they can finally claim a place of their own in my home. I try to keep my books well, without tears, creases, folds, dog-ears or any form of marking. Given that much of my reading takes place on the trains and stations of Bombay’s local train system, this is far from easy to do, especially when one hand is occupied in desperately holding on to an available support for the duration of the commute. My success rate at book maintenance stands at about 40 per cent.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Last week I ordered a book by Kurt Vonnegut. He’s one of my all-time favorites. When the oversized brown package came in the mail, it was so light weight, I thought maybe Amazon had made a mistake and forgotten to enclose the book. But it was there – A tiny little paperback, hardly bigger than … well … my iPod Touch …

Seems like this says something about the economics of publishing — Doing the math — The cost of the book was $7.99 + 2.99 shipping, total $10.98. The Kindle version costs $7.19 (I didn’t buy it, the screenshot below is from the free sample ;-)) … Hmmm … How to compare the prices? Paying more for an insubstantial paperback, much of what I pay goes for the process of producing and transporting the physical thing, and these sorts of costs are certainly going to continue to go up in the future. Compare this with the Kindle eBook version, for which there’s no “physical stuff processing” involved, and the price is likely to drop, especially with competition for the eBook market. … The digital future of publishing looms …

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Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Marginalia — writing notes in the margins of books and other forms of user annotation — has seemed like an interesting idea that might be applied in eBooks. So I keep an eye out for examples of it in print books, and came across a new field recently — Devoted Bible readers, who, of course, make many notes and annotations of all kinds. The first one below is called a “wide margin Bible” and the second is a “journaling Bible.” …

Here’s one you can buy

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And from Flickr user J. Mark Bertrand

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Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Yesterday, Dan D’Agostino published The strange case of academic libraries and e-books nobody reads. He questions the investment by academic libraries in eBook packages from publishers that can be read only on computer screens. This is unwise, he says, because studies show that people much prefer to read eBooks on eReaders and smart mobile devices (especially iPhones). I’m including a sizable excerpt because it’s so well-written and because it’s close to the bottom of the lengthy article, and might be missed by many readers:

Just as studies were beginning to show that readers will not read extended pieces of text on computer screens and would use these e-book collections simply for searching, not reading, the Kindle and the iPhone arrived. These devices have shown that dedicated e-readers and smart phones are e-book platforms par excellence; they make e-books work. But unfortunately for academic libraries they don’t work with the huge e-book collections they’ve amassed in HTML and PDF (at least not very well). The result being that as the ownership of e-readers and mobiles begins to increase across campuses, the library’s e-book collection is in danger of becoming a very expensive white elephant, underused at best and perhaps already obsolete.

Dan’s article especially caught my attention because two days ago in my article One iPod Touch per Librarian (OITPL), I suggest that libraries would do well to become more involved in the exploding world of reading on mobile devices. I see Dan’s article as a good example of this — In order for us to put pressure on publishers to provide eBooks on mobile platforms, as Dan suggests, we need to be experienced in using those platforms. And the iPhone/iPod Touch is clearly the reader’s choice now.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

It’s been occurring to me that our old categories — books and magazines — are losing their meaning in the transition to eBooks and eMagazines. So I was interested to stumble last week on the serendipitous series of Twitter tweets below that nudged me to write this article …

Just as I was about to tweet this message …

ericrumsey: Difference Between “Web Pages” & “Magazines” is Getting Blurry http://bit.ly/7AmmsT View Tweet

What should appear in my Twitter stream but this …

doingitwrong: Worst thing about this piece: The assumption that in 2020 eReaders will be about the same as they are now. http://is.gd/5rEZQ /via @PD_SmithView Tweet

And the day before, I had tweeted this …

ericrumsey: Prognosticating eBooks – “What Exactly will Define a Book at the End of 2010?” (LA Times: @paperhaus) – http://bit.ly/4vL1JxView Tweet

The three articles linked in these tweets, on eMagazines, eReaders, and eBooks, have the common theme that the digital world is very much in flux, that old formats are likely to change in unpredictable ways. I think this is especially true in the case of picture-laden magazines –The experience of reading an article on the Web that combines text and pictures is pretty much the same, be it on a blog, news source, miscellaneous webpage, or part of a “magazine.” So I’d guess that “magazines” will fairly soon disappear as a category separate from other Web sources. The category of “books,” on the other hand, I think will take longer to lose its meaning – For now, the experience of reading a book is quite similar whether its in paper or online — The game-changer for the “book” category will be when eBooks become connected to each other so they all blend into the ocean of the Web.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

John C. Abell, in his recent Wired article Steve Jobs’ Legacy Is the Missing Clue to the Apple Tablet, suggests that in the same way that he invigorated animated film with Pixar, the music industry with iTunes, and the mobile phone market with the iPhone, Jobs’ next mission is to invigorate the publishing industry with the Tablet. Abell talks specifically about the newspaper and magazine publishing industry, but his comments, I think, can easily be broadened to books also, as he talks about making readers forget about the printed page. I’m excerpting here because the words about publishing may be missed by many readers — Short excerpts, but with considerably more valuable nuggets than will fit into a 140-char Tweet:

If he is looking for One Last Thing, saving journalism would be the Holy Grail. … The device will have to make readers forget — really forget — the printed page. E-readers, for all that they do, don’t do this yet.

After detailing Jobs’ accomplishments in invigorating other industries, as mentioned above, Abell concludes with these words:

Even given this track record — and what we choose to believe is the all-trumping motivator of perfecting his legacy — a device-centric initiative that saves newspapers and magazines that seem to be in perpetual, some say irretrievable, decline, sounds next to impossible.

But is anybody seriously willing to bet against the house — of Jobs?

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Steve Pociask wrote an article in Forbes last week, “Google’s One Million Books,” on the Google Book Search Settlement. There’s been a lot of commentary about GBS recently, as the October Settlement hearing approaches, and I was doubtful that tweeting this article with it’s forgettable title would get much attention.

Reading the lead paragraph of the article, though, I was struck by the lead sentence: “Imagine that your home and the homes of millions of your neighbors are burglarized.” Pociask suggests that the “burglar” metaphor might be a good fit for the Settlement. Hmmm, I think, surely someone will pick up this bold, unique metaphor in a tweet. But with a Twitter search I found that, surprisingly, no one had used it. And searching further, I found that the only tweets on it just used the article’s uninspiring title, and not surprisingly, few of these had gotten any retweets. So I tweeted to bring out the “burglar” theme, and got two retweets by the end of the day. Here’s my tweet:

Google as Burglar of One Million books? – #GBS settlement, Steve Pociask, Amer Consumer Inst (Forbes) http://bit.ly/MqovK

I also added the name of the author and his connection with the Amer Consumer Inst, which I think added interest to the tweet, and which had gotten little attention in previous tweets on the article.

So, the simple lesson — When tweeting a link to an article, remember there’s no rule that you have to use the title that the author used. If it’s boring and unexciting and you think your followers’ eyes will gloss over reading it, use something else! READ THE ARTICLE and see if it has an interesting theme that’s not brought out by the title, and base your tweet on that instead.

Eric Rumsey is on Twitter @ericrumsey