Friday, December 3, 2010

What is a book?

originally published 19 August 2010

A friend shared an interesting link with me today:

It's a comparison of e-readers. I'm not sure why they didn't include a Sony and at least one current Kindle in the list -- cynic that I am, I think that sometimes magazine writers will purposefully write a 'flawed' article in order to generate lots of comments and discussion.

Still ... just the picture of all of the devices together is interesting, you can make a quick assessment of some of the trends and commonalities that are coming forth. Like: a dual e-paper/LCD display. Frankly, it sounds like an atrocious idea to me, but the Nook and the Alex e-readers both get high marks. So maybe it's one of those things you've gotta use to appreciate it.

I'm sort've finding myself drawn to the really small e-readers (like the Cybook Opus)("Finally, an e-reader that really is the size of a paperback") because as much as I love my iPad, it's heavy and even after decades of reading thick hardback books one-handed, my arm still gets tired holding the iPad. I can't wait until these things get down to like $39.95.

This is a great time to be alive.

"We have books here bound in the hides of echidnes, krakens, and beasts so long extinct that those whose studies they are, are for the most part of the opinion that no trace of them survives unfossilized. We have books bound wholly in metals of unknown alloy, and books whose bindings are covered with thickset gems. We have books cased in perfumed woods shipped across the inconceivable gulf between creations -- books doubly precious because no one on Urth can read them. "We have books whose papers are matted of plants from which spring curious alkaloids, so that the reader, in turning their pages, is taken unaware by bizarre fantasies and chimeric dreams. Books whose pages are not paper at all, but delicate wafers of white jade, ivory, and shell; books too who leaves are the desiccated leaves of unknown plants. Books we have also that are not books at all to the eye: scrolls and tablets and recordings on a hundred different substances. There is a cube of crystal here -- though I can no longer tell you where -- no larger than the ball of your thumb that contains more books than the library itself does. Though a [woman] might dangle it from one ear for an ornament, there are not volumes enough in the world to counterweight the other."

-- Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer

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