Posts Tagged ‘kindle’

pop goes the world: e-book publishing now here

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 30 June 2011, Thursday

E-book Publishing, Now Here!

With the steadily increasing cost of paper and ink, books are getting to be even more out of reach for students and those without much disposable income. They are considered luxuries, rather than essentials, in many households.

I’ve advocated time and again in this column about the supreme value of reading in building vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills in any language. The publication of works in digital formats would make them available to a wider audience. You don’t even need an e-book reader like a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other tablet gadget; e-books can be read on a desktop computer or laptop loaded with the proper app, many of which are available for free download on the Internet.

It’s a giant step forward  that e-book publishing is now being done here by a local company, and this news should give heart to writers who’ve despaired of getting published the traditional way, or wish to reach a global audience for their work (and earn better than they usually would, which is not bad at all.)

Let me tell you about one example.

Carljoe Javier’s latest book, Geek Tragedies, is going to be launched on July 1, 5pm, at the GT Toyota Hall of Wisdom, Asian Center, UP Diliman. It’s published by UP Press which will also be launching eight other new titles the same day, among them UP professor emeritus Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s Six Sketches of Filipino Women.

The interesting thing about Carljoe’s work is that it’s possibly the first time a book by a local author will be released in both print and e-book form.

The digital format was supplied by Flipside Digital Content, which has also made Carljoe’s book available for download at giant e-retailer Amazon.com. Flipside also recently released the digital version of another book of Carljoe’s, And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth, on Amazon. It was originally published in traditional form by Milflores Publishing.

Flipside’s CEO, Anthony de Luna, waxes enthusiastic about the e-publishing trend:

“Our titles are distributed through Amazon (170+ countries) and Apple iTunes iBookstore (six major market countries). We will also distribute through Barnes & Noble Nook later this year.

“Flipside has notched 12 years of experience in e-book production as an outsourced service provider to publishers in the US and UK, with more than 100,000 e-books produced. It started as a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble (I served as Director of Digital Content for B&N during the early years of e-books).

“We use leading-edge production techniques, resulting in some of the bestselling and highest-profile e-books for our publisher clients, including Grufallo Red Nose Day (it was No. 1 in iTunes UK not just for e-books, but including songs and apps); the enhanced e-book edition of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Notes from My Kitchen Table; the enhanced e-book edition of Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself; and the enhanced e-book edition of Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants.

“In April 2011, we decided to leverage the company’s international experience and resources to enable local authors and publishers to publish internationally via e-books. In our first month as a publisher – May 2011 – we published 16 titles and now have a fast-expanding title line-up.

“UP Press is the traditional print publisher of Geek Tragedies; the author Carljoe Javier asked and gained permission from UP Press to simultaneously publish an e-book edition through Flipside. It is the first time in the Philippines for a book to have print and e-book editions published simultaneously.

“On e-book publishing, the bottom line is that in the US, e-books are outselling print books three-to-one.”

Cover of Carljoe Javier’s Geek Tragedies. Image here.

While they will never replace the tactile and sentimental enjoyment one gets from ink-and-paper books, e-books are the future. In fact, many analysts say that that their future is now, and that it is only a matter of time before they will become more common than traditional books.

I’d say the major barrier to this happening fast, especially in developing countries, is the cost of the e-reader, which makes the reading experience convenient, personal, and portable, just like reading traditional books.

A major advance in this direction is the Rizal e-tablet, released by the Laguna provincial government on the hero’s 150th birth anniversary last June 19 in Calamba. The tablet may be loaded with textbooks and other reference materials, and is manufactured by Laguna-based semiconductor firm Ionics. It was distributed in Laguna schools starting last week.

I remember writing about this in my column last year when the project was first announced. It’s terrific to see that promises were kept here. Hopefully other local government units will follow suit.

One thing more needed to complete this winning recipe? The electrification of all barangays unto the remotest of rural areas. How can one effectively use gadgets if one can’t recharge them?

The Rizal tablet distributed in Laguna schools. Image here.

*****

Many thanks to veteran broadcaster Jo Salcedo for giving me a break on radio. Without fully knowing whether I would talk sense or drivel, she took a chance on me and starting February 2 this year had me on her show “Buhay Pinoy” five days a week on AFP Radio at DWDD 1134 khz AM as a guest analyst. For 15 minutes, we’d discuss current events from a cultural perspective.

For some strange unfathomable reason, she and station manager Capt Emmanual Diasen found merit in my mumblings and gave me an hour show which debuted on June 4. It’s called “Kwentuhang Pinoy”, on Saturdays at 8-9am, and live streamed over http://www.afpradio.ph.

I was a horseracing commentator from 2002 to December 2010 on cable TV in a live format much like radio, doing six to eight hours at a stretch up to six days a week. However, doing opinion and news in a radio booth instead of horseracing in a TV studio is new to me.

If you tune in, please be patient; it’s a work in progress, and I’m grateful to have the support of Ms. Jo and her daughter, broadcaster Jaimie Santos, who’ve promised to stay with me in the booth till I get it right.  *** (Email: jennyo@live.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Gogirl Cafe, Twitter: @jennyortuoste)

Black-and-white portrait of author Carljoe Javier from his private collection.

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pop goes the world: towards a ‘bookful’ society

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 21 October 2010, Thursday

Towards a ‘Bookful’ Society

A newspaper article from a couple days ago heralded the use of “tablets” in selected Laguna public high school next year in lieu of textbooks. The headline used the term “e-book readers”. The two devices are different from each other in fundamental ways and I wonder if the proponents of this project are aware of this. Certainly they should know which term to use when speaking of them.

Next school year, around 1,000 “tablets” are to be distributed to freshman students of the Laguna National Science High School, UP Rural High School, and one public high school from each of the province’s four congressional districts.

The devices, said to cost $100 each and will be sourced from China, have already been dubbed “Rizal Tablets”, after the national hero. They are expected to provide students with easy access to instructional materials since each device can come pre-loaded with the prescribed textbooks and references.

Laguna provincial board member and educational committee chairman Neil Nocon was said to have “likened” the Rizal Tablet to “Apple’s iPad or Amazon Kindle”.

First, the iPad and Kindle are dissimilar and should not be confused with each other. The terms are not interchangeable.

“iPad” is a brand name and refers to an Apple product that looks like a handheld computer monitor. It glows like one, can connect to the Internet via Wifi and 3G, and is used primarily for consumption of media – surfing the Internet, playing games, and reading e-books. The generic name of similar devices is “tablet”.

An Apple iPad is great for viewing content in color. Image from here.

“Kindle”, on the other hand, is a brand name for an “electronic book reader” developed by online retail giant Amazon.com. It can only be used for reading texts in electronic formats. It also comes in WiFi and 3G flavors, but for now can be used only to access the Kindle Store to purchase and wirelessly download e-books.

It is not backlit; it uses a different technology called “e-ink” that will make you think of the Etch-A-Sketch of your childhood days, and was designed to mimic as closely as possible the look of printed text, with charcoal-black letters on a gray background. The font size can be changed, a boon for the visually challenged. It can even function as an audio-book device, although the built-in computer voice is tinny and none too pleasant. Have your loved ones read to you instead.

The Amazon Kindle is fantastic for reading. Image from here.

Now, the pros and cons. I own a second-generation Kindle and am waiting impatiently for my US-based cousin to come over to Manila next month with the third-generation version I ordered. The Kindle is very light, weighing only several ounces, and can be held for long periods in one hand, making it great for reading in bed. Since there is no backlight, there is no glare. The e-ink screen lets you see the text even in bright sunlight. A full battery charge can last a week or longer, as long as the wireless feature is not switched on. However, all it can do is let you to read books.

You can do more things on an iPad, such as surf the Web and use a wide variety of “apps” (applications) that allow you to do most things you can already do on an iPhone and more. The display is fabulous – crisp and clear and in brilliant color, perfect for playing “Plants vs. Zombies”. But it’s heavier than an e-book reader; the backlight might cause eyestrain if used to read for extended periods (about as long as it takes to read several textbook chapters, perhaps?); and the battery charge lasts only hours.

In a campaign speech last May, senator Richard Gordon proposed buying a Kindle for each of 17 million public school students to “raise the quality of education” by making access to textbooks easy and cost-effective. I remember liking the proposal when I first heard it – anything that gives people access to information is a good idea.

Laguna’s move to pilot-test the use of such devices as early as next year is exciting. Will the use of tablets or e-book readers spread the love of reading among young people? Will it raise functional literacy? Will it provide our students with knowledge and critical thinking skills? Let’s hope so.

But before they do roll out the plan, the Department of Education, the Laguna provincial board, and educators should look closely into the merits and disadvantages of each kind of device and be certain they are making the right choice for students. Which of these two types of devices do they actually plan to get?

It has also been mentioned that this project comes close to DepEd secretary Bro. Armin Luistro’s “vision of a bookless society”. I assume he means a society that uses handheld electronic devices for reading, not a society that does not read. I hope that the students given such devices will be allowed to use them to read for pleasure and not just for school, because the cult of the book brings some of the deepest joy that thinking man can experience.

A well-written story can take you to another place, another time, and put you in the mind of a character very different from you and make you feel what she or he feels. Fictionist Stephen King called it “falling through a hole in the paper”. In this case, it would be “falling through a hole in the screen”, but as long as the result is the same, I have no objection.

And may we soon bring about a “bookful” society, where the written word is enjoyed as much as the mindless drivel on television. If he were still alive, that would make Jose Rizal very happy, especially if it means that his Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, and other works will be made available to a wider audience. ***

Jose Rizal portrait here. From here, image of Stephen King holding a one-of pink Kindle as described in his for-Kindle novella “Ur”.

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library in your pocket: amazon kindle 2

When I was growing up we had so many books that we could have built a house with them, the way environmentalists today build structures from plastic soda bottles or beer cans. I can’t imagine living without books. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I found out not everyone loved to read as much as our family did.

So every time I’d visit other people’s homes I’d see if they had books and how they stored them. When I was in college there was this guy, a friend of friends, who invited a bunch of us to their big old house in Manila. His name was Ditto Amador, the brother of the actress Pinky. He had science fiction and fantasy books piled up on the floor of his bedroom knee-high while a sheaf of papers was impaled to the wall with a sword, I swear I am not making this up. We all thought it was extremely cool and we wanted one.

Over the years, hundreds of my books were lost or damaged or stolen or given away. I wish I still had them, so I can revisit the familiar cadences of sentences that drew me to different worlds. Now, through the marvels of new technology, I can rebuild the library of my childhood, and carry with me the books I love as an adult, and later on bequeath them to my children, the stories and wisdom and knowledge of the world all in a gadget I can hold in my hand.

I recently acquired a pre-loved Kindle 2. This gadget is a brainchild of Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The first-gen model – Kindle 1 – was released in 2007 and followed in 2009 by the second-gen version, while the third-gen device – Kindle 3 – ships on August 27 and pre-orders are sold out.

The Kindle uses e-ink (electronic ink) technology reminiscent of an Etch-a-Sketch and is not backlit, eliminating eyestrain caused by glare which is the problem when reading on computer monitors, phones, and the iPad. You can read in bright sunlight, but you’ll need a booklight in the dark.

Kindle 2 uses only one font but offers eight font sizes and both landscape and portrait orientation options.

How does it all work? Digital files of books in the proprietary .azw format are sold at the website and may be downloaded to your Kindle through wireless technology called Whispernet (the Kindle comes in 3G and WiFi flavors). A file may be received practically anywhere in the world there is telecom access in under 60 seconds – yes, in the Philippines too. It’s like it was sent as a mobile phone message to you – it’s that fast, and it’s free.

The Kindle 2 also reads other formats such as .mobi (Amazon bought out Mobipocket some time ago), .txt, and supports .pdf and mp3 and Audible audio book files.

The device is light and thin and may be held comfortably in one hand for a long period of time, say, reading in bed at night or while waiting for your police clearance at the NBI. The Kindle 2 has a 6-inch display in 16-point grayscale, giving an acceptable level of detail for viewing some types of graphics. For text, it is superb.

Control buttons are at the edges and bottom of the device. “Previous page” and “Next Page” on the left, “Home”, “Next Page” “Menu”, “Back”, and the five-point joystick on the right. On the bottom is a QWERTY keyboard for searching for books at the Kindle website through wireless; for looking up word definitions in the built-in dictionary; adding annotations (the e-equivalent of scribbling notes in the margins); and more.

The Kindle 2 only came in white, which looks clean, though newer versions also come in graphite that offers better contrast.  No, they don’t have it in pink yet, though I have hopes.

The power switch is located at the top of the gadget, with a headphone jack for listening to audio books.

Beneath the Kindle is a USB port for downloading books from a PC and for recharging. Once fully charged, the battery lasts about a week to ten days with normal use and wireless switched off.

It is a delight to read on the Kindle, and to be able to hold 1,500 books with one hand and carry them with you wherever you go. I can give away most of my ink-and-paper books now, saving only those that have sentimental value.

But I still want a sword.

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