[Beowulf] how Google warps your brain

Bill Rankin Bill.Rankin at sas.com
Tue Oct 26 07:54:43 PDT 2010

Heading completely off-topic now, but the area of digital media and long-term archival/retrieval is something that I find very interesting.  I'll leave it to Rob to somehow eventually tie this back into a discussion of COTs technology and HPC.

> > It's interesting: I just got an iPad a few weeks ago, mostly as a
> > reader/web-browser device, and I've been reading a variety of
> > out-of-copyright works: H. Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain.
> Thank
> > you Gutenberg Project!
> It is awesome, isn't it?

Amazon also carries many of the out-of-copyright works in their Kindle store for $0 (and gives credit to Gutenburg to a small extent).  It was nice to be able to go pickup things like the Sherlock Holmes series, Homer's Illiad and some of Einstein's works (which I don't pretend to understand) and have them downloaded via 3G on Amazon's dime.

I will say that because of this I tend to overlook their rather high (IMHO) price on current digital content and have probably purchased more e-books overall as a result.

> > And, since I am sitting/lying here with a very sore back from moving boxes
> > of books around this weekend looking for that book that I *know* is in there
> > somewhere, the prospect of some magic box that would scan all my books into
> > a format usable into eternity would be quite nice.  I might even think that
> > a personal "print on demand" would be nice that could generate a cheap/quick
> > copy for reading in bed(yes, the iPad and Kindle, etc., are nice, but
> > there's affordances provided by the paper edition that is nice.. But I don't
> > need hardcover or, even, any cover..)

There is just *something* about paper, isn't there?  And while I don't have a library to the extent of RGBs or others, I do like having some books around (glancing at the two bookshelves in my office).  On the other hand, I still have boxes of books sitting around unopened since we moved house 4-5 years ago.  I certainly need a purge, lest I end up on one of those "hoarding" shows that seem to be popular as of late.

At some point, I have to ask myself if I really *need* to have a old beat-up, falling apart copy of "Voyage of the Space Beagle" laying around.

> > (or, even better, a service that has scanned all the books for me, e.g.
> > Google, and that upon receiving some proof of ownership of the physical
> > book, lets me have an electronic copy of the same...  I'd gladly pay some
> > nominal fee for such a thing, providing it wasn't for some horrible locked,
> > time limited format which depends on the original vendor being in business
> > 20 years from now.  I also recognize the concern about how "once in digital
> > form, copying becomes very cheap" which I think is valid.

A scanning service would be wonderful for a lot of the books I have, mainly those I view as reference-type material.  For current reference material, Safari Books Online has a reasonable usage model that allows for making hardcopy of their online content.  Now if there was only a simple way to transcribe the same content for download to my Kindle I would be set (something beyond the OCR+PDF approach, which is awkward and inconsistent).

> What a killer idea.  Acceptable use, doggone it!  I'd ship them books
> by the boxful in exchange for a movable (even DRM controlled) image, a la
> Ipod music.  I just don't want to rebuy them, like I've now bought most
> of my music collection TWICE (vinyl and CD).

[let's not get started about vinyl collections - that's a whole 'nother set of unopened boxes]

The problem is that many of the media houses are still waging an underground war on Fair Use, despite the legal decisions handed down by the courts.  As an example, I recently had a email exchange with one of the customer service people at a major network.  I was trying to locate additional interview footage from when my brother-in-law was on a certain hour-long Sunday evening news show.  This person informed me that I did not have their "permission" to recorded the over-the-air broadcast of the show and burn it on a DVD to give to my sister, so what I was doing was not legal.  

This was news to me, since this usage model was clearly defined as permissible by the Supreme Court many years ago in the Sony v. Universal "Betamax Case".  

While the market for online music, video and written works have forced the various publishers to acknowledge to the need to provide content in digital form, to a great extent they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  A lot of progress has been made but there is still a lot of resistance towards efforts to open up availability and access even further.

I would like see a service where I could take bins of old books to a used book store and somehow get credits towards the purchase of e-books online.  I think that could break me of my paperback hoarding habit pretty quickly. 


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