2008年12月27日星期六

Saying goodbye to print books and magazines

This year of 2008 has been a remarkable year. Many good things happened, so did many bad things -- all in one short year.

For now, I just want to note that, for me, this is also the year that I, finally, am (almost) done with print books and magazines.

For technical books, now I (almost exclusively) read on Safari Books Online.

For leisure books, I just bought an Amazon Kindle, a wireless e-book reader that uses the e-ink technologies to mimic a paper display.

And of course, I have been spending too much time on the web!

I realized this is the beginning of an end when one day in November I found that I was reluctant to order a certain book that I needed for my work. I didn't mind the price of the book, yet I was reluctant just because the book was a print book. I didn't want to wait for shipping, nor was I pleased with the idea that I'll have to find some bookshelf space for the book, and the idea that I'll have to carry the book around if I wanted to read it both at work and at home. I was procrastinating because subconsciously I was hoping that they had a PDF or web version -- until I really found it. This experience was an epiphany to me -- I had changed!

This reminds me of a time some 20 years ago when I finally gave up my practice of printing out a program's listing to review the program, to debug it, or to archive it (1). For program listings and for text, these two shifts in mentality happened to me in two points of time that were separated by 20 years. For me this was a long time, but for human history, this was probably nothing.

To find further support for the claim that the days of print books are numbered, I also noted that in this year several major print media, including The Christian Science Monitor and PC Magazine have already announced that they will no longer distribute the print versions of their newspaper or magazine, and they will publish exclusively on the web. So, to me, the writing is on the wall.

Back to myself, I am glad that I will be saving some trees, and moving less atoms around. Yeah!

For my friends in print media, don't worry, I still believe that what count are the memes, not the carriers -- papers or electronic signals -- that transmit these memes. So keep up the good work, but brave the new paperless world! Who should worry, then? I guess the paper and ink industries may have to.

-- The End --

(1) Younger readers may not realize that there was such a time that people would even print out programs' listings -- well, that was considered reasonable when typical computer programs were only a few hundred-line long. There was even special tractor-feed paper made for the purpose of printing computer programs (and output as well). And most computer centers would have a special "pigeon-holed" cabinet set up to distribute the printouts to the users. By the way, it is also fun to remember that people used to write their computer programs first on a piece of paper before they typed the code into a computer terminal. Those were the days.

Oh ... don't ask me to recite any recollections of the use of computer punch cards. I am too young for that :-)

4 則留言:

mayellacheung 說...

I don't want to say goodbye to print books yet as browsing at bookstores and spending some leisure hours at libraries are still my favorite pastime.

Don't you think to hold and smell a book when reading feels quite different from glancing the text on the electronic screen?

Btw, is the Kindle heavy? Will your eyes get tired easily to read from the small screen?

mayellacheung 說...

Although I only took COM139 at my school days, I certainly remember the long printouts of the program listings and all those pigeon holes at computer center.
hmm.... that could be one of the reasons which made me stopped taking anymore computer courses at the university, haha... :-)

Have you heard of TURING? That's what I learnt in COM139 at U of T!
If my memory is correct, TURING was a dinosaur invented by U of T.

李銳華 Clement Lee 說...

I also thought I did not want to bid farewell to print books that quickly. Of course, now I have changed.

The Kindle is even lighter than a paperback.

Yesterday I went to a gym to swim. After that I ate in the cafe. I happened to have my Kindle in my hands. So while I was waiting for my salad to be served, I browsed the Kindle store (using the wireless network) and bought and downloaded Sarah Vowell's "The Wordy Shipmates", the book that I wanted to read for a long time but never actually got to find the time to do it. The book arrived in a few minutes after I pressed the "Buy" button.

It was a wonderful afternoon. It may be different to a bookstore experience, but it is equally nice, if not nicer!

To go into a new world, we will have to leave something behind.

李銳華 Clement Lee 說...

Mayella,

Ha ha! You did a programming course? My understanding is that all non-engineering students fear these programming courses (well even engineering students fear them too).

I only know of Alan Turing, a pioneer in the field of computing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing