Archive | January, 2012

Apple, Textbooks and the Future of Reading as Living Experience

English: Steve Jobs while presenting the iPad ...

Photo by Matt Buchanan. Image via Wikipedia.

Apple today announced that it would reinvent the textbook, disrupting the traditional textbook industry by developing interactive, digital versions of textbooks for students. Apple also introduced new software that helps authors and publishers create digital textbooks.

This is really interesting to me, because, like everyone else, I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson‘s biography of Steve Jobs. I’m reading the hard-cover copy of this book, which some people may find surprising. I’m an avid e-book fan, and I read them on multiple devices: my (2) Kindles, my (2) iPads, my (2) MacBooks, and even on my iPhone, which is always available because it never leaves my person.

But some books deserve to be bought, read, and displayed in hard cover. I’d read Walter’s bio of Ben Franklin (highly recommend) and, well —  I know it’s probably not obvious — but I also belong to the cult of Mac. (We do have one lonely Windows laptop in our house; but its owner, my son, knows that just one more slip-up — and it’s gone.)

Anyway, I’ve been reading this book in bed each night before lights out. But what I’ve discovered is that it’s not strictly a reading experience. It’s a multimedia experience. When Walter writes about the October 1983 Apple Sales conference in Hawaii:

 At that moment, a screen came down from the ceiling and showed a preview of an upcoming sixty-second television ad for the Macintosh. In a few months it was destined to make history…

“Hmmm,” I think. I’d really like to see that commercial again. Ah! The iPad is snuggled next to me, so:


Not only did I find this, but I also found a video of Steve introducing the commercial at the sales meeting. Suddenly, I’m watching a young Steve Jobs and following along with the words in Walter’s book! (I presume that Walter watched this “ad nauseam,” probably also on YouTube, sitting in bed with his iPad.)

A few nights later, I get to the part in the book about the 1984 shareholders meeting:

“We’ve done a lot of talking about the Macintosh recently,” he [Jobs] said. “But today, for the first time ever, I’d like to let Macintosh speak for itself.”

Wow, I think. I’d like to see that. So, back to YouTube (start at the 2:20 point, that’s where it gets good):

So reading, even in hard-cover, is now a multimedia experience — and a faster one at that. No searching around the house for the DVD (if you have it). And yes, it’s true that Kindle and iPad already enable readers to enrich their reading experience direct from the device.

But I’m quite sure that these YouTube videos are not embedded into the text. They should be. What’s more, the text should be constantly updated and annotated with more current information, opposing opinions, and links to reference materials, such as maps and CIA Factbook info.

This goes beyond what Kindle and Nook are already doing in allowing you to bookmark, annotate, and highlight passages. For example, this episode of This American Life aired on January 6, 2012, after Walter’s book was published.

Here is a unique perspective on the impact of Steve Jobs and the tech industry. As a reader of Walter’s book, would I be interested in listening? Absolutely!

Anyone who has furiously checked the shipping status for their new iPhone will recognize the Shenzhen name. It happens that I’m a regular This American Life listener. But what if I wasn’t?  If the book was living, it would automatically be updated with this rich information.

That’s what I expect for the future of ebooks, and what I think Apple’s announcement heralds. Reading as a living experience.

Diane Thieke is contemplating buying the e-book version of Walter’s book, so that she can read it on the train, but not break her shoulder carrying it around. Follow her check-ins on Twitter.Enhanced by Zemanta

Comments { 0 }

Against SOPA and Piracy

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

Today, many major Internet companies, including Wikipedia and Reddit, have gone dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a House bill, and its Senate sister, Protect IP Act, or PIPA. SOPA and PIPA are backed by the entertainment industry and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It’s virtually impossible to find an unbiased, objective description of SOPA and PIPA on the Web, although this one from CBS does a fairly decent job describing each side’s positions at a high level (the Huffington Post link is actually better but far more detailed). You can read the full text of the bill yourself, but you’ll likely need a couple of lawyers to interpret what it means.

Everyone seems to have taken a side, and I agree with Green in the CBS article, it is a battle between old and new. I’ve been in digital media since the early days, and as a former media industry employee, I can understand both sides. I firmly believe that copyright owners have the right to be paid for their work, and the law needs to put in place protections for these owners.

Throughout my career, I’ve advocated for copyright protection, while also recognizing that disruptive technologies were changing human behavior – and these changes did benefit the flow of information overall. I’ve always contended that the media and entertainment industries are complicit in the liberal content sharing economy we have today.

If the media industry truly believed that content had value, we should not have given it away for free when the Internet became commercialized in the mid-90s. Doing so changed human expectations for all kinds of media, not just print.

Still, that’s only one cause. The other is that technologists, for all the talk of innovation, haven’t really been enthusiastic about creating technologies that help protect copyright. There are notable exceptions, including iTunes and Spotify, but other than paywalls, where are we?

I don’t think blocking entire web domains is the answer. We need a combination of technologies and smart laws. One of the problems of SOPA/PIPA is that it was developed without much input from the big tech players. Perhaps we’re overdue for that kind of collaboration?

In the meantime, here are some views about what SOPA/PIPA means for everyday users of the web, PR pros, and content providers.

Simply Talk Media will not be going black today, but welcomes a dialogue about this issue on our pages. Just mind your links.

Comments { 0 }

Is it Time to Join Google+?

Google announced that search results will now include posts from its social network, Google+. Called “Search Plus Your World,” the new format will include public posts and posts shared privately with you by your friends. Search results will be commingled with Web results.

The new feature has generated a lot of comment, most of it critical. (Read the New York Times, PaidContent, Mashable, and SearchEngineLand articles to get a good overview.)

With personal results now turning up in a Google search, what does this mean for businesses and personal brands? While Google+ is still a fledgling social network, it’s potential shouldn’t be discounted. Search Plus Your World is a good reason to pay attention.

Every business should have a Google+ page, even if you have it on low maintenance. If you’re looking to promote your personal brand – whether you’re looking for a new job or new clients – a little bit of engagement in Google+ can be worth it. In the case of Search Plus Your World, it could be very worth it.

For example, let’s say your expertise is in Drupal development. Every week you write a blog post, and send about 20 tweets. If you share that content on your  Google+ profile, it will likely show up in search results when people in your network search for Drupal news and information.

And now’s a good time to promote thought leadership on Google+. Relative to other social networks, there aren’t many people there, so the content you feed into this network has a better chance of being seen. With social search, it has a better chance of being read.

Comments { 0 }

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Blog More Often

It’s New Year’s, and you’ve resolved to blog more often. Here are some tips to make it happen.

  • Resolve to keep it short (300 words or less).
  • Use bullets. They make it easy for people to read your posts anyway.
  • Develop an editorial calendar. Brainstorming ahead of time makes the writing easier.
  • Write all your posts for the week on Sunday afternoon, and then set them up in your blogging software. Then it’s a simple matter of hitting the publish button.
  • Do you always seem to get an idea for a great post whenever you don’t have the laptop nearby? Use your phone to record your thought, either by leaving yourself a voicemail or using a recording app.

How do you handle writer’s block? Here are some good fallbacks:

  • Review a book.
  • Provide how-to tips (like this one).
  • Use a video recorder and interview a customer or employee.
  • Or take that same video recorder, and offer three tips or observations on your area of expertise from fun and unique locations (three tips on social media from inside a taxi).
  • Riff off a recent news item.
  • Write a case study.
  • Create a top 10 list (like Letterman; it can be serious or funny).

Let me know if blogging is one of your New Year’s resolutions and how you plan to meet the challenge.

Diane Thieke is working on her 2012 editorial calendar. Tell her what you’d like to read about in this space. You can find her on Twitter at @thiekeds.

Comments { 0 }