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keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

Dave's Exegesis is my eclectic site of exegesis on pretty much everything I can think of, whether biblical studies, theology, music, movies, culture, food, drink, sports, or the internet.

Mark This Day

07.20.10

Amazon has announced that for the first time, their e-book sales have surpassed print book sales.  This is important.  After Gutenberg invented the printing press, there were still those people who preferred scrolls for a time.  Now that computers have been invented, paving the way for “sit-down” reading devices to be created, the shift is happening before our very eyes.  The clock is ticking on the extinction of print media in the developed world.  All it takes is one generation…

July 19, 2010

E-Books Top Hardcovers at Amazon

By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER

Monday was a day for the history books — if those will even exist in the future.

Amazon.com, one of the nation’s largest booksellers, announced Monday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books.

In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.

The pace of change is quickening, too, Amazon said. In the last four weeks sales rose to 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover copies. Amazon has 630,000 Kindle books, a small fraction of the millions of books sold on the site.

Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come,” he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions.

The shift at Amazon is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months,” the chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, said in a statement.

Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industrywide sales are up 22 percent this year, according to the American Publishers Association.

The figures do not include free Kindle books, of which there are 1.8 million originally published before 1923 (they are in the public domain because their copyright has expired). Amazon does not specify how paperback sales compare with e-book sales, but paperback sales are thought to still outnumber e-books.

The big surprise, Mr. Shatzkin said, was that the day came during the first period that the Kindle faced a serious competitive threat. The Apple iPad, which started sales in April, is marketed as a leisure device for reading, and it has its own e-book store. Yet sales of the Kindle also grew each month during the quarter, Amazon said.

Amazon is being helped by an explosion in e-book sales across the board. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have quadrupled this year through May.

Amazon said its sales exceeded that growth rate. One reason Kindle book sales have held their own is that owners of iPads and other mobile reading devices buy Kindle books, which they can read on computers, iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Android phones. But, except for the free uncopyrighted books, Kindle owners must buy or download content via Amazon. “Every time they sell a Kindle, they lock up a customer,” Mr. Shatzkin said.

Some industry analysts say that many people do not consider the iPad to be a reading device the way the Kindle is, and see a need to own both. Amazon’s latest sales figures are “clearly an indication that the iPad is complementary to the Kindle, not a replacement,” said Youssef H. Squali, managing director at Jefferies & Company in charge of Internet and new media research.

The growth rate of Kindle sales tripled after Amazon lowered the price of the device in late June to $189 from $259, Amazon said. That was moments after Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its Nook e-reader to $199 from $259.

During roughly the same period, Apple sold three million iPads, it said.

Analysts said Amazon’s announcement could assuage investors’ concerns that the iPad threatens Kindle sales. Amazon’s stock price is down about 16 percent in the last three months, in part because of those fears.

“The sentiment’s turned a little more negative on the stock because of iPad issues and concern that Amazon would lose market share in the book segment,” said Aaron Kessler, director of Internet and digital media equity research at ThinkEquity.

A Vista Review…Finally

07.15.08

Well, I’ve seen enough this year of Apple ads, blog posts (particularly at mattheaton.com), and videos to incite my comments on the Microsoft Vista Supreme OS. Before I begin, let me put my experience in context with several noteworthy points:

  • I am no computer expert, simply an avid user. I have no programming education or experience and have learned most things through trial and error and through the advanced expertise of former roommates and brothers-in law. I like to use sophisticated Bible software (Bibleworks, Libronix, etc.), I have lots of pictures and music (about 50-60 GB’s worth), I like to do web editing (with Frontpage), I sync my devices with the computer (iPod, Blackberry, Pocket PC), and I use most MS Office Applications (Word, Excel, & Outlook). Thus, I like to have a lot of things running at once.
  • I have used most phases of Windows, including Windows 3.5, 95, 98, 98 Second Edition, ME, XP Home, and XP Professional (through each service pack). All have had their difficulties, but I found XP Pro to have the least issues.
  • I have used a few versions of Linux, including Fedora Core 5-7 and Suse Linux 9. I enjoyed the layout of these systems, but had a great deal of difficulty with drivers and optimizing my screen view (oddly enough). I wholeheartedly support the efforts of open source operating systems and other software, and do enjoy the concept of the Live CD or DVD to run off.
  • This is the probably the most important point of all: I added to my RAM by 2 GBs before I upgraded XP to Vista. Even before I upgraded and still had XP, it was a massive difference in the speed and performance of my computer. To upgrade to Vista, it requires at least 1 GB of RAM and I only had 512 MB.

Now, with all that being said, I realize that the Mac (and/or the world) vs. Windows is much like the PR battle of the Democrats (and/or the independents) vs. Republicans. Windows is the corporate product whereas a Mac or Linux OS is a product for the people. Like productive political discussion, however, it is necessary to stick to the issues and not the hype or rumors. After all, it all comes down to how a particular system pragmatically delivers our greatest spread of ideals. I have heard so many people talk about Vista as a disaster, a mistake, poorly planned, and crippled with flaws. However, I am hard pressed to find any specific examples of problems with the actual operating system. Of course, the most common problem with any OS upgrade is hardware/driver compatibility. For PCs, there is really no way around this because the hardware components are all made by different companies, and they are responsible for creating new drivers that are compatible for the latest operating systems. As a matter of fact, even after an entire year of using Vista, the company who made my sound card has not updated their drivers for it such that I cannot get my microphone or line-in jacks to work. I really don’t use them so it’s not that big of a deal to me, but I wouldn’t consider that a “failure” for Vista. And by now, as the first Service Pack is available, most driver issues have been resolved and issues of that nature have been resolved.

I have found Vista to be a very welcome and timely update to XP. I’m glad Microsoft slowed down their production of operating systems, because up to 2001, there was a new one pretty much every year. So they took their time with Vista and gave themselves 5-6 years. Thus, they were anticipating changes of the way in which we use computers. For instance, they have a voice recognition component built into the OS. It may not be the same quality of the amazing Dragon Naturally Speaking product by Nuance, but it provides the service for those who would like to try it. They have also significantly enhanced Windows Media Center, as it will serve in the future as the way people watch TV, movies, photos, and listen to music. It will replace TiVo or a DVR for those who have the vision to centralize their media on their computers. I have seen this in action at my sister’s house where my brother-in-law runs everything through his Windows Media Center server and he accesses the media at each TV through Xbox. It looks and function much better than TiVo or my Comcast DVR, and completely replaces the need for Apple TV. But, you don’t hear people talking about that, because most people have not been exposed to the far-reaching, forward-thinking capabilities of Vista. Of course, I could mention that the Vista interface looks really nice and as appealing as Linux or Apple, or that they’ve simplified the folder structure of Vista to make it a bit more intuitive, but that should be expected. Issues of visual aesthetics are all customizable even for XP. If you have XP, you can make your interface look like a Mac or Linux, or even Vista if you wanted to. You can even add the widget features of Mac or Vista to XP. So, it is no surprise that these things have been updated with Vista.

Two components to the OS that I find have greatly enhanced Vista, which most people don’t like, are Windows Update and User Account Control.  My computer is on 24/7, so Update runs every day at 3:00 AM and it includes all critical updates and even defrags once a week.  Of course, you can turn off this feature.  User Account Control is the big change people feel inconvenienced by.  This alerts you when anything wants to run or install, and gives you the choice to allow it or not.  I find this helps me know exactly what is going on my computer and eliminates spy ware at the front end.  Of course, you can turn off this feature if you do not care to use it.   But, I think it is helpful in most cases.

Other features that I don’t use often but think they are necessary are Windows Backup and Restore Center, Shadow Copy (this creates shadow copies of your computer), Remote Access, Sync Center, and Windows Easy Transfer.  You can always go to the Vista site and demo all the features.

Overall, I am very happy with the upgrade and know it will serve me well for the future.  MS is already close to completion on “Windows 7” and will be starting “Windows 8” soon (Vista is “Windows 6”).  I do think that the most important factor in my upgrade was increasing my RAM.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  My wife has only 1.25 GB, and her computer is noticeably slower running Vista.  So, keep that in mind if choosing to take the plunge.

(FYI: I started this post like 8 months ago and just finished today, just so you know)

Nature and Nurture

11.18.07

Just got finished watching a fascinating NOVA program entitled, “Ghost in Your Genes” which was about epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of genetic modifiers called “epigenomes” that are instrumental in turning on and off the varied features of any given genome. The Human Genome Project of the early 90’s was monumental as it mainly purposed to identify all of the genomes or “genes” in the DNA make-up of humans. In 2000 they reported that they had found 22,000-23,000 genomes, which was surprisingly less than they had anticipated. That’s roughly the same that can be found in worms, rats, and frogs. Since it has been thought that humans are more genetically complex, it left many questions about what causes some genes to appear and others not to appear. The salient example of this question is how identical twins which have the exact same DNA structure can develop differently. The answer that has been found in the past few years is the discovery of “epigenomes” which can attach themselves to certain genes or gene sequences and turn them on or off depending on the circumstances. Moreover, they are finding that epigenomes can be influenced early in development, showing that although we inherit genes and epigenomes naturally through our parents, it is how we are nurtured that can determine which traits develop in us. That is certainly a simplification of very complex research, but nonetheless very compelling. They have now launched the Human Epigenome Project to try to identify what could be millions of epigenomes influencing genetic development. This is very exciting, and they have already benefited from this kind of research in cancer treatment.

Here is the TV Program Description
Here is the Program Manuscript
Here is the Program Preview
Here are some links and resources
Here is the Wikipedia entry for Epigenetics

Open Source Mobile OS

11.08.07

The Open Handset Alliance released Monday that it has been working together to provide an open source mobile operating system (dubbed “Android“) that is far more user friendly and customizable than standard mobile OS’s. I am proud to say that my company is part of the alliance which has contributors that range from mobile operators (like Sprint, T-Mobile), to handset manufacturers (like LG, Samsung, Motorola), to software companies (like Google, EBay, NMS), and to mobile component manufacturers (like Broadcom, Intel, NVIDIA). The OS is based on the Linux OS kernel which is also open source. For those who have smart phones and other internet enabled phones, this will add some spice to the currently small variety of mobile OS’s available now on the many phones being sold (Mac, Windows, & Blackberry are the only ones that I know of right now). The development kit (SDK) will be released on 11/12, so forms of this OS will probably not be seen on phones for another year perhaps.

I was excited that my favorite NPR (WBUR) program “On Point” was discussing this news yesterday, but I was quickly turned off by the fact that the host, Tom Ashbrook, got quite carried away by his misunderstandings of the project. He was calling it the G-phone or Google phone, which is a radical misnomer because there are over 30 companies involved in the alliance, and was very concerned that Google’s agenda with the OS would be to make money by planting ads in phones. Also, he raised the question about security and privacy because he thought that since it is open source it could be tampered with. He had at least 3 field experts on his panel for discussion, and I thought they did a good job talking about the possibilities of the project. However, they also had some of the same misinformation which was also furthered by some of the callers, and I think many people walked away from the discussion thinking falsely that Google has become a phone developer with a few partners putting out an insecure phone that invades peoples privacy. The discussion really missed most of the goals of the alliance in developing “Android” and I hope that in the coming weeks and months that Tom updates this story with a clearer apprehension of the significance of the alliance and it’s project(s).