- [from wstarosta] Status displays: I’ve got you labelled [The Economist] – [Evolutionary biology helps to explain why luxury branded objects, even counterfeit ones, are so appealing.] DESIGNERS of fancy apparel would like their customers to believe that wearing their creations lends an air of wealth, sophistication and high status. And it does—but not, perhaps, for the reason those designers might like to believe, namely their inherent creative genius. A new piece of research confirms what many, not least in the marketing departments of fashion houses, will long have suspected: that it is not the design itself that counts, but the label.
- [from steve_portigal] The Future of Books. [McSweeney's Internet Tendency] – [As usual, McSweeney's does razor-sharp mockery, but you could read this as straight-ahead prediction and it would sadly almost pass for believable] 2050: Analog Reading Will Be Digitally Simulated. As people spend more and more of time immersed in massively multi-player role-playing games, they will begin to crave some downtime. Virtual simulation worlds will start to include hideaway "libraries" you can lock yourself into. There you'll be able to climb into a virtual bath and lovingly turn the pages of a pixilated representation of one of those dog-eared tomes—reliant on old-school linear narrative— that by this time will have been made illegal in the real world. Perfectly reproduced will be the sensation of turning the pages, the crack of the spine, and even the occasional paper cut.
- [from steve_portigal] When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? [Smithsonian Magazine] – [Fascinating cultural history] The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before WW I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says..Nowadays people just have to know the sex of a baby or young child at first glance, says Jo B. Paoletti, a historian & author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America. Thus we see a pink headband encircling the bald head of an infant girl. [Via @boingboing]
- [from steve_portigal] In Sweden’s frigid north, auto testing is hot [SFGate] – [Obvious car companies do a ton of lab and simulation testing, but they are also big advocates of real world testing] Arjeplog, a region in northern Sweden is is important to car makers eager to optimize their vehicles for driving in extreme weather, This winter, temperatures have hovered around -4 F, making ice on the lakes consistently thick enough for driving. About 180 engineers convened at the test center at one point this season to work on making cars more fuel-efficient in cold weather and to optimize their anti-spin function. While Arjeplog is the world's largest winter testing area, rival locations include Ivalo, Finland; West Yellowstone, Mont.; Carson City, Nev.; and Millbrook, England. Francisco Carvalho, an analyst at IHS Automotive, says such tracks provide automakers with "the ultimate test for the little things they can't detect or predict in a lab." Almost 9,000 car industry officials visit Arjeplog each winter, with about 2,800 engineers working on any given day.
- [from steve_portigal] Marvel faces mighty foe: publishing world uncertainty [New York Times] – ['Prototyping with comics' usually refers to a UX method on smaller scale, but as Marvel grapples with its own massive scope in both comics and film, they have natively derived an analogous method, or at least mindset] Though Marvel’s publishing side does not directly control the content of Marvel films, Kevin Feige, the president of production at Marvel Studios, said the storytelling in the comics had a strong influence on the movies “because it’s a hell of a lot less expensive to take a chance in a comic than it is take a chance in a movie.” Repeating a phrase he said he had heard from Quesada, he added, “It’s the cheapest R&D there is, but the best R&D there is.”
- [from steve_portigal] The future of books is a real page-turner [Sydney Morning Herald] – [With so much prognostication going on, this government effort to foster a conversation about the future of books is refreshing] When in electronic form, storytelling may benefit in ways that no one can yet articulate. This is one reason why the Book Industry Strategy Group, established last year by Kim Carr, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, is seeking public submissions about the future of the industry. It is seeking ideas from writers, educators, librarians, publishers, retailers and – most importantly – readers about how to enhance the Australian publishing industry as an important sector of our economy, society and culture. Will the "deregulation" of the publishing industry, where anyone can self-publish, result in more stories of highly variable quality? Of course it will – just as the printing press did. But it may lead to some new and innovative ways of storytelling, ways that engage the reader in different or deeper ways. [Thanks, Wyatt!!]
- [from julienorvaisas] William Gibson On the Future of Book Publishing [Speakeasy - WSJ] – [Sci-fi author William Gibson lays out a vision for an alternative bookstore/publishing model, a response to the rise of eBooks... and it involves actual books.] "My dream scenario would be that you could go into a bookshop, examine copies of every book in print that they’re able to offer, then for a fee have them produce in a minute or two a beautiful finished copy in a dust jacket that you would pay for and take home. Book making machines exist and they’re remarkably sophisticated. You’d eliminate the waste and you’d get your book -– and it would be a real book. You might even have the option of buying a deluxe edition. You could have it printed with an extra nice binding, low acid paper.]
- Subway To Start Tessellating Cheese July 1? [The Consumerist] – Three years after the protests began, it seems Subway has finally listened to its customers and will start tessellating cheese on its sandwiches, according to what appears to be an internal weekly newsletter. As anyone who has gotten a Subway sandwich knows, most Subways layer their isosceles-cut cheese in an overlapping fashion. This means one side of the sandwich gets more cheese than the other and leaves pockets of zero cheese, resulting in a uneven flavor and texture distribution. As the newsletter says, "This will improve the cheese coverage on the sandwiches."
- Reading Lolita On Paper [graphpaper.com] – Throughout the final terrifying third act of the book, Nabokov knew that the reader would be constantly, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, seeking (or deliberately avoiding seeking) a single word, a word whose distinctive typographical form would light up like a flare in the reader’s peripheral vision, paragraphs in advance, impossible to miss. Every time you turn a page, even if you avoid it, your eyes will, in an instant, claw through the one-thousand characters in every new two-page spread to find it, the word, the single characteristic letter. He plays with this visual expectation so thoroughly — torments the reader, in fact — that it’s inconceivable that he wasn’t always thinking about printed words, words on pages being turned in a reader’s hands. Oh, how glad am I that I was unable to find Lolita in any sort of eBook format.
- Kno is a digital textbook that is about to change the way knowledge is transmitted and the way students learn – First we did our homework about the way students do their homework. We studied the way they study. We probed them about the best way to re-imagine the analog studying and reading experience in the digital world. The Kno’s two generous panels open like written material has opened for hundreds of years. The experience is reassuringly book-like. Indeed, because we respect and honor the textbook, content of 99 percent of all textbooks – including the charts and graphs – fit flawlessly. No material spills beyond the screen, so there’s no awkward scrolling or manipulation required. If Kno only transferred existing textbooks into a digital form, we might as well sleep in and skip class. Kno pushes further than that. Our mission is to create a new kind of immersive, fluid, fully-engaging learning experience – made possible because the power of the physical is combined, for the first time, with the potential of the digital. It’s a whole new form factor that feels natural because it is natural.
- Christina York’s sketched notes from UPA2010 – [Her summary of my presentation begins on slide 5] This was the perfect complement to Rachel Hinman’s opening keynote. Steve enthusiastically dives deeper into cultural clues, cues and gaps that impact our work and our own experiences in this world. In this session I sat at the front, which I usually don’t do (I like to observe the entire room). However, I am a fan of Steve’s and was like a groupie in the front row. How embarrassing. But Carol sat next to me, and I felt better about myself. Steve delivered an impassioned talk and engaged an audience that richly represented the cultures present at this conference. The group discussion was as rich as the presentation and I really appreciated that Steve’s focus was to give us something to think about and not try to ground everything in application.
- Complete Beginner’s Guide to Design Research [UX Booth] – Valiant attempt to take a complex volume of expertise and boil it down to some essentials. Not sure what it means to be a "luminary" in this field but certainly the company we're listed with is pretty awesome. Curious to hear what others have to say about this piece.
- The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books [The New Yorker] – Traditionally, publishers have sold books to stores, with the wholesale price for hardcovers set at fifty per cent of the cover price. Authors are paid royalties at a rate of about fifteen per cent of the cover price….E-books called the whole system into question. If there was no physical book, what would determine the price? Most publishers agreed, with some uncertainty, to give authors a royalty of twenty-five per cent, and began a long series of negotiations with Amazon over pricing. For months before Sargent’s visit, the publishers had talked about imposing an “agency model” for e-books. Under such a model, the publisher would be considered the seller, and an online vender like Amazon would act as an “agent,” in exchange for a thirty-per-cent fee. Yet none of the publishers seemed to think that they could act alone, and if they presented a unified demand to Amazon they risked being charged with price-fixing and collusion.
- The End Is Near for BlackBerry’s Trackball [BusinessWeek] – The BlackBerry trackball, introduced in 2006, has always had issues. It accumulates grit and gunk. Tony Naftchi started Fixyourberry.com from a small office on New York's 7th Ave. A stream of bankers, fashion models, and other high-end BlackBerry addicts pay $30 for new trackballs. "They need them fixed—'Now!' It should come as no surprise that the little sphere, flawed and strangely beloved, faces obsolescence. Trackball shipments in 2010 will fall short of last year's peak of 25 million. The last trackballs installed in new BlackBerrys will go in its Tour. Later versions have trackpads. By 2013, iSuppli predicts trackball shipments will have ceased altogether. Diehards will cling to trackballs. Nothing worth having ever goes away entirely. You can still buy a new manual typewriter on Amazon.com (AMZN) for $99.95. Betamax has its determined fans. And Westfield Whip Manufacturing in Westfield, Mass., produces more than 50,000 buggy whips annually. It's hard to kill a consumer icon.
- Books in the Age of the iPad [Craig Mod] – I propose the following to be considered whenever we think of printing a book
* The Books We Make embrace their physicality — working in concert with the content to illuminate the narrative
* The Books We Make are confident in form and usage of material
* The Books We Make exploit the advantages of print
* The Books We Make are built to last
The result of this is:
* The Books We Make will feel whole and solid in the hands
* The Books We Make will smell like now forgotten, far away libraries
* The Books We Make will be something of which even our children — who have fully embraced all things digital — will understand the worth
* The Books We Make will always remind people that the printed book can be a sculpture for thoughts and ideas;Anything less than this will be stepped over and promptly forgotten in the digital march forward. Goodbye disposable books. Hello new canvases.
- In Our Parents’ Bookshelves [The Millions] – A virtue of digital books is hey take up no space at all!—but even a megabyte seems bulky compared to what can be conveyed in the few cubic feet of a bookshelf. What other vessel is able to hold with such precision, intricacy, and economy, all the facets of your life: that you bake bread, vacationed in China, fetishize Melville, aspire to read Shakespeare, have coped with loss, and still tote around a copy of The Missing Piece as a totem of your childhood. What can a Kindle tell you about yourself or say to those who visit your house? All it offers is blithe reassurance that there is progress in the world, and that you are a part of it…To the extent that bookshelves persist, it will be in self-conscious form, as display cases filled with only the books we valued enough to acquire and preserve in hard copy. The more interesting story, the open-ended, undirected progression of a life defined by books will be lost to a digital world in which there is no such thing as time at all.
- Klaus Kaasgaard: Why Designers Sometimes Make Me Cringe [interactions magazine] – [A response to Dan Formosa's piece about marketing research] There is no doubt that Formosa has been exposed to a lot of bad market research in his career. So have I. But I have also been exposed to a lot of bad design research, whether dealing with qualitative data or quantitative data. I cringe at both. And while we should point out when the emperor has no clothes in our daily work situations, it is not the bad research that defines a discipline. I have been exposed to both good market research and good design research as well and, more important, some of the most compelling and impactful research combined different research techniques for a more comprehensive and insightful outcome. That, I suppose, leads me to my conclusion.
- How many Kindles have really been sold? (And other interesting tidbits about ebooks) [Mobile Opportunity] – Some interesting numbers about the size and dynamics of the market: sales, usage, platforms, content. One highlight is the preferred device used to read ebooks
-Kindle: 32% (and rising in later waves of the survey)
-iPod Touch: 10%
-Other smartphones (including Blackberry) 9%
-Sony Reader 8%
-Barnes & Noble Nook 8%
- Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy [SF Chronicle] – Altruism is the whole idea behind the new charity, called the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy. It's the brainchild of Courtney Martin, a South of Market writer who dreamed up the idea four years ago in New York and has handed out a stack of her own $100 bills every year to select good-deed doers who agree to dream up unusual ways to use the dough. Jeremy Mende took a stack of cash to Union Square and offered pairs of strangers $1 apiece if they would have one-on-one conversations with each other. Then he videotaped the conversations and made a home movie. The strangers talked to each other about sex, fireworks, banana slugs, gin, orgasms and Marlon Brando. Some of the conversations were worth a lot more than $1. The best idea seemed to come from Martin's own mother. She used her $100 to buy 400 quarters and scatter them on a grammar school playground.
- R.J. Cutler: What I Learned From Anna Wintour [HuffPo] – Some principles of management from the director of The September Issue. We watched the film this week and highly recommend it. I thought about work as well; the film offers up lots of provocation around collaboration, artistic vision, managing teams of people, power, prototyping, and more.
- Glamtini Events: Where Girls of All Ages GLAM IT UP – Party packages include hair, makeup, nails, dress-up accessories to glam it up, and a 15-minute photo shoot. Check out the "party photos" and the video at http://blip.tv/file/1714995/
- Adobe and Wired Introduce a New Digital Magazine Experience [YouTube] – A strong emphasis on digital (i.e., touch, pan-scroll, non-linear) navigation, with a lesser impact on the actual content.
- Zach Gage’s Antagonistic Books – A set of two books and instructions for how to build them. ANTAGONISTIC BOOKS turns the emotions and actions surrounding the banning of books into physical objects that undermine the user.
Danger reenacts what has historically been done to dangerous literature, self-immolating when opened.
Curiosity represents the notion that many book-banners feel, that the true danger of literature is that once you've opened a book you have been forever changed and can never go back. Emulating this notion, Curiosity can never be closed. Once opened, it is locked in an open position forever.
- Netflix agrees to delay in renting out Warner movies [latimes.com] – "This deal uniquely works for Netflix because our subscribers are desensitized to street dates and more interested in being matched to the perfect movie," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, who handles studio relationships. "Some subscribers will so passionately want to see it in the first 28 days they may go out and buy it, just as some people want to see 'Avatar' so badly they pay to watch it in 3-D." [Snort! Guffaw!]
- Book Industry Study Group – BISG is the leading U.S. book trade association for supply chain standards, research, and best practices. For over 30 years, BISG has been working on behalf of its diverse membership of publishers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, librarians and others involved in both print and digital publishing to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products.
In seeking support from and representing every sector of the book industry, BISG affirms its belief in the interdependence of all industry segments. BISG understands that success in business is often easier to achieve through joint effort and that common problems are best solved together.
- How to create new reading experiences profitably [booksahead.com] – Books have served well as containers for moving textual and visual information between places and across generations. [digita] books need to be conceived with an eye on the interactions that text/content will inspire. Those interactions happen between the author and work, the reader and the work, the author and reader, among readers and between the work and various services, none of which exist today in e-books, that connect works to one another and readers in the community of one book with those in other book-worlds….Publishing is only one of many industries battling the complex strategic challenge of just-in-time composition of information or products for delivery to an empowered individual customer. This isn’t to say that it is any harder, nor any easier, to be a publisher today compared to say, a consumer electronics manufacturer or auto maker, only that the discipline to recognize what creates wonderful engaging experience is growing more important by the day.
- New York, 2009 [Flickr] – My photos from my recent trip to New York City. Art, street art, strange signs, people watching, and other observations. Check it out!
- Articles of Faith – The Existential Crisis of Magazines Online [NYTimes.com] – But what is a magazine?
If you’re holding one, you can turn the page. But it’s very possible that you’re nowhere near a turnable page now. You’re reading on a computer or a hand-held device, even though this column was intended for a magazine — a Sunday newspaper supplement that started in 1896. Like hardcover books in Kindle editions and “Daily Show” clips on the Web, this column is produced in large part for a medium other than the one in which it is consumed. That creates some dissonance.
- E-Books – The Bigger Problem, Part One of Three.[Dangerous Precedent] – From a publishing standpoint, too, e-books are thrilling: the dirty jobs of printing and distribution fall away, replaced with an upload to the iTunes store – or the publisher’s own – and a direct billing relationship with the client. For advertisers it will offer all of the advantages of web advertising with the rich-media and contextual advantages of appearing within a publication, so for a skilled ad-sales team it’s sure thing, and with the Great Media Crisis entering its second decade that sort of talk is catnip to a big media company like Bonnier, or (the one I work for more often) Condé Nast.
But while BERG’s work, and other pieces like it, are beautiful to see, they leave me very frustrated. The client-side development is very exciting to do – especially the systems-thinking that you need to do to take the entire customer journey from browsing to buying to backing-up – but the harder work, the more fundamental work, isn’t done. I’m talking about the editorial workflow.
- Designing the future of publishing – Or the screen might be smaller, on the assumption that even the most serious readers don’t just sit on a couch for hours and read Tolstoy. They also read shorter works, in all sorts of places, and at least some of them would likely value a highly portable device over one with a big screen. And if our designer’s boss insists that most people don’t want to carry multiple portable devices, she’ll also build in a phone and camera, and make sure her processor can run not only an e-reading application, but plenty of other software too…What does this mean for the future of the e-reader space? Will we see a bifurcated market, with our first group buying gussied-up descendants of the Kindle, and the second preferring tablet-style computers? It’s hard to imagine that this won’t happen.
(Thanks @nquizon for the pointer to @litnow)
- Skiff E-Reading Service to Launch in 2010 – Skiff (incubated by Hearst) oday announced plans to launch a new consumer e-reading service platform in 2010 that will deliver enhanced content experiences to dedicated e-readers, as well as to multipurpose devices such as smartphones and netbooks. The Skiff™ service and digital store will feature a comprehensive selection of newspapers, magazines, books and other content from multiple publishers, uniquely optimized for wireless delivery to devices and delivery via the Web.
- Empire of the Word – …a compelling look inside the act of reading and traces its impact on more than five thousand years of human history. The series traces reading's origins; examines how we learn to read; exposes censors' attempts to prevent our reading; and finally, proposes what the future might hold for this most human of creative acts.
- The Oxford Companion to the Book – It includes traditional subjects such as bibliography, palaeography, the history of printing, editorial theory and practice, textual criticism, book collecting, and libraries, but it also engages with newer disciplines such as the history of the book and the electronic book. It pays particular attention to how different societies shape books and how books shape societies. The two-volume work is organized in two parts, totalling a million words. Nineteen of the essays provide generic histories of the subject ranging from writing systems, the ancient and the medieval book, through central aspects of book production, to theories of text, editorial theory and textual criticism, the economics of print, and the sacred book. These are complemented by 29 surveys of the history of the book around the world, including the Muslim world, Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
(via Design Observer)
- In praise of the single-use device – 1) The overall trend is clearly towards media devices with multiple (but discrete) functions.
2) There’s still room for a solid handful of dedicated-use devices who do their job really, really well; for reading plain text, a device like the Kindle could fit into that category.
3) A lot of what we read isn’t plain text. It never was.
1) Whenever possible, tear down the walls between the “separate” functions on multi-function devices. It should feel like a device that has one function — just that the function is complex, multilayered, integrated.
2) Within the content, too, stop treating text as if it could be fully isolated as a separate data channel from every other kind of media.
3) The end of the multiple-function device, and perhaps even the multi-media object; the birth of the integrated–function device, and the integrated–media object. These last two were made for each other.
- Kottke: People read more than books – E-readers — are all focused on the wrong single use: books. The correct single use is reading.