in e-reader news

I’m not a fan of Amazon, and this is not something I’m real subtle about. This post pretty well covers my distaste of the company, and it comes down to this:
Amazon is:
  1. A monopsony
  2. A monopoly
  3. An unethical company who discourages competition
I get pretty upset about people wasting their money on the Kindle, mainly because I can’t see why you would buy a format you’re trapped in. The average Joe doesn’t know how to convert files, so when the average Joe buys a Kindle, they’re locked into that format. If they want to switch to a Nook, Sony ReaderKobo Reader, or really any non-Kindle reader, they’re up a creek without a paddle. If, for whatever reason, I ever decide I’m tired of my Nook, I can switch to any other e-reader on the market (with the exception of Kindle) and take my library with me.
Own a Kindle, build your library on a Kindle, and you’re stuck with Kindle. There’s no switching, unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who can break your DRM and convert files for you. I don’t like that. I do not like it when a company sells you a crippled product that prevents the consumer from being able to easily use it. I tend to think (radical, I know) that if I pay for an expensive technology (like an e-reader, music player, or tablet device that plays movies), I should be able to buy and download content from any store I choose.
So, yeah, I dislike the Kindle. However, although the Nook is growing in popularity (and is, in fact, the second most popular e-reader available), and although the Nook was designed by some of the best minds from Silicon valley, and although all the “improvements” Amazon/Kindle has rolled out since the Nook’s initial release in 2009 are just sad mimicries of Barnes & Noble/ Nook innovations, there was still a problem with Nook.
Kindle had gotten in first. They’d come out of the gate strong, priced e-books shockingly low, and took serious financial losses in order to build a customer base of Kindle users. Recall, you can’t easily take your library to another reader. If a consumer bought a Kindle in 2005 and began building their library immediately, they now have a vast library of books incompatible with any other e-reader on the market. If they leave the Kindle, they think they’ll have to leave their books (actually, I think you can root a Nook and put a Kindle app on there to access your Kindle library). Because Amazon/Kindle cornered the e-reader market early, they still dominate (hence both the monopoly and the monopsony). There have been serious concerns that even as awesome and innovative as the Barnes & Noble Nook division has proven themselves, they couldn’t compete against the sheer numbers and heavyweight of Amazon, not to mention Amazon’s willingness to take losses and engage in unethical practices just to get customers to invest in a platform they would then be trapped on.
Well, that problem is no more. Microsoft has thrown their weight in with Barnes & Noble, with a $605-million dollar investment. The chief exec at Barnes & Noble says this partnership will enable them to expand their digital business and reach hundreds of millions of new users through the Windows platform. This is also great timing because the much-anticipated Windows 8 will be coming out soon. Plus, as Microsoft works to become a bigger player in the tablet market, they’ll have access to Barnes & Noble’s massive digital content collection. This whole situation makes me happy.

Book review: Longitude

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Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book. It’s one of the excellent historical non-fiction books that is really well written and interesting, even if you’re not normally interested in the subject. I can honestly say I have never once wondered about how longitude is determined, or why it matters. Until I read this book, it never occurred to me that longitude was not a historical constant like latitude. I had no idea there was this depth of history and tragedy in the story of determining longitude, and it was damned fascinating. This was well-written, engaging, and enlightening. In other words, awesome!

girls night out

I went camping this weekend with some friends, and John had some one-on-one time with Kidling. I think it’s important to make space for one-on-one time between kid(s) and each parent; too often when it’s kid(s) and both parents, one parent becomes sort of the dominant, “caretaker” personality.
You know, the one who in the infant years reminded the other when it was time to diaper change, feed, or stop for a break. The one who remembered naptimes and carried the diaper bag. As the kid(s) grew, that dominant caretaker parent was the one to remember and enforce bedtimes and homework schedules and doing chores and (when on trips), the one to remind about potty breaks and time to stop and eat (little tummies do not equal adult tummies!) and time to stop and stretch. It breaks down, to some degree or other, in every couple like this. Sometimes the dominant caretaker takes on a lot more responsibility, sometimes the parents are almost equal in this regard — but there’s always one parent who’s a little more caretaker-y. In our case, it’s a pretty even split, maybe 60/40 with me being the dominant caretaker type. This has more to do with me being the sahp than anything. So I was really excited to have this weekend to take a break for myself and let John and Kidling have some much needed bonding time.
The ladies and I headed out to the Cougar Hot Springs in Terwilliger, Oregon. It’s gorgeous out there, really. We found a campsite, and I set up the 6 person tent John had dug out of the garage for us. Meanwhile, the others unloaded the car. Then we headed down to the hot springs, which are clothing optional. On the way up to the campsite and down to the hot springs, we saw someone the park ranger later referred to as “Nature Boy.” He apparently had not read the sign specifying the hot springs and general area within a 50-ft radius were clothing optional, but beyond 50-ft, clothing was required. He was just walking along the highway, balls swingin’ in the breeze, carefree as could be. It was a bit stunning.
At the hot springs, my friends stripped to their altogether. I wasn’t real comfortable with that, personally — it’s an all-ages, co-ed hot spring, so there were other bathers ranging from toddlers to old, old men . Most of the naked bathers were guys, but after my friends stripped, a couple other girls started getting in topless. I found it interesting how the guys seemed to have absolutely no inhibitions with getting up and wandering around buck naked, but the girls always had a towel nearby to cover themselves with when out of the hot springs. I wonder if that’s ingrained socialized modesty, or discomfort at the plethora of naked peen. For me, it was the combination of naked peen and all ages. If it had just been people in the 20-35 range, or just been the ladies, I would have been fine. But to have boys and girls, men and women, ranging from toddler to geriatric — well that was just weird. So I just wore my swimsuit and tried to avoid appearing to either notice or judge the nakedness. We stayed there for about an hour, then headed out.
Back at the campsite, we attempted to make fire, but the wood we’d bought was damp. So we mostly just made smoldering embers and smoke. Occasionally we coaxed a flame with balled up paper and the constant feeding of twigs. I made foil packets of potato, onion, and bratwurst, then fed the fire a steady diet of twigs to cook the food. We also roasted cheddar brats, marshmallows, and I made foil-wrapped bananas stuffed with marshmallow and chocolate chips. The other ladies took shots while I nursed a hard cider, and we discussed feminist theory and MRA’s and misogyny and chemistry (not relationship/ attraction chemistry, but actual chemistry. We had a science/ medical major in our group). We also discussed the depiction of LGBT and bisexuality in popular media. Oh, and we talked about books, literature, and how utterly evil Amazon is. And toilet zombies. So, the usual stuff.
Around 11:30 or so, we turned in. I heard the others still talking, but I conked out pretty quickly. We got up pretty early in the morning, and my friend went for a forest trail run while I fixed breakfast and the third member of our party slept in.
After we finished eating breakfast and packing up the campsite, we went to go home and . . . my friend had locked her keys in the car while we were packing up. We tried calling a tow truck or locksmith, but no signal (and also, insanely expensive for them to drive out there). So with the help of some nearby campers, we smashed a tiny little, like, half-window — the kind where it doesn’t roll down, but it might prop open with a lever? Smashed that, reached inside, and unlocked the door. Another camper took some video, which I will try to figure out how to upload. Fun times.