walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

information week interview with Tim O'Reilly about e-books


This is a really interesting article, in part because it displays several really big rhetorical lapses.

Here's the one that triggered this post:

"So this idea that long-form fiction is the heart of publishing is just bullshit." O'Reilly correctly notes that the novel is a comparatively new development. He does not attribute the "long-form fiction" quote to anyone. I suspect he is thinking of Bezos, who constantly says "long-form reading" when describing his mission for the kindle. Perhaps he is hoping we will. But Bezos never prejudices the novel over non-fiction when discussing the kindle. I am not claiming O'Reilly made a factual error -- just that rhetorically, he has created a straw man and then mocked it, as if this is somehow relevant to discussing the kindle, e-books, whatever.

O'Reilly is, predictably, quite full of himself (he's got a long history of this, so no big surprise). He talks about twitter and having the power to bestow status on others, but thinks that when "celebrities" do this, it is somehow different. Which is weird, because if O'Reilly isn't a celebrity of geekdom, I don't know who is.

The interview is loaded with weird little tidbits that either make sense (and are self-serving, to put a good face on it) or don't make sense at all. His long-form fiction straw man is up against people wanting to learn things. Well, of course he'd think that. His world is all about teaching people how to do things. When Amazon tells him they aren't going to help him out with his formatting issues, he says they told him, "Well, you guys are a specialty publisher and there's not enough demand for those features for us to put them in."

I suspect that's not actually precisely what they told him. I think they told him more or less what he quoted, only they included some word along the lines of "yet".

In _my_ world, I see a lot of things that don't work the way I want them to, but do work in a way that other people value. I piss and moan, and then go, damnit, why isn't someone marketing to me. I _don't_ imply that somehow this is a matter of open vs. closed.

O'Reilly also drags netbooks into the discussion (bad O'Reilly! Psion is going to come Get You for violating their trademark!). This one is so breathtaking I feel compelled to quote it more fully:

"I guess what I would say is, in addition to the smartphone, there is this netbook phenomenon. And the Kindle in many ways is a kind of netbook; similar price point, just a different heritage. I would actually start to imagine the Kindle merging into a converged device with the netbook and the tablet; the netbook tablet, so to speak. It clearly has advantages in terms of battery life. The eInk technology is way superior to traditional laptop technology. That being said, it lacks color and the ability to do some of the things that people have come to expect on their displays."

Wow. eInk is better than traditional laptop technology? Really? He notes that it lacks color (altho we've seen that Fujitsu is willing to give you color if you're willing to fork over for it), but points out the advantage of better battery life. What, precisely, does he mean by "the ability to do some of the things..."? Maybe, like, _fucking refresh in a reasonable way_?! Has he _used_ an eInk display?

One of the huge problems with IT folk is their tendency to see the possibilities: the great battery life, the easy on the eyes. They see these possibilities in a Bright, Shiny, Compelling way that causes them to think that ordinary folk would be willing to live with a screen that flashes whenever it refreshes (which it does crazy slow). Which I would _not_ be willing to do. You can think of this as roughly approximate to focusing on what the music customer or book customer wants (free music and books by their favorite authors as soon as they are available) vs. what the producers want (a nice middle class lifestyle and to be able to pay for their kids college education).

I'll save my launch into which OS is going to win the netbook scrum (what? didn't know there was a scrum?) for a later post.
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