BookCamp Vancouver 2010 – Part 4

The Digital Experience—Are Tablet and eReader Devices Making us Dumber?

Interesting argument that that paper books aren’t linear, and therefore digital isn’t that different structure-wise from print. Arguing that digital is hierarchical and print is hierarchical, too (even novels).

Hmm, I’m not sure I agree. I mean, yes, some books are hierarchical (like textbooks, for example). But I don’t think novels (someone suggested chapters > paragraphs > sentences as a hierarchy) are really hierarchical just because they might be divided into chapters. These are scenes, arranged in a way that serves the story being told. They’re not organized from big picture -> details or most important -> least.

And more importantly, you don’t pick up a novel, select the chapter title that seems most intriguing, and just read that one. Nor do you read the first and last paragraphs of each chapter (or some similar studying metric) and decide that you’ve got the gist of the book. At least I’ve never heard of anyone reading narratives like that (mostly because it wouldn’t work; narrative is not just about what happened, but how the story is told, and you don’t get that by skipping chunks*). And I don’t think you can consider the text without also considering the reader. Text and reader work together as a team.

*And yes, I acknowledge that you can read a book, including a novel, however you like. That is your prerogative. You only want to read page 99 (or 69)? Fine. It remains my contention that you’re missing the point of a novel (or narrative nonfiction) if you do this.

Also, while digital can be hierarchical (think folder tree, drilling down deeper into the directory), it can also be thought of as flat, I think, as when a website is used as database with everything in one directory  (just use search and jump to where you want to go).

Anyhow, I’m still working out my thoughts on the relationship between books and ebooks, but I think it’s more complicated than just a different delivery mechanism for the same content. For example, there was a tweet from a different session that took umbrage at someone saying a pdf wasn’t a book. And I understand that reflex is probably due to wanting the content of the pdf to be taken as seriously as the hardcover or paperback. But is a pdf/ebook really a book? It’s a computer file, not a stack of paper and ink between two covers. It is a different thing. Or, you could argue it’s not really a thing at all. Hence, dissertation!

@seancranbury “The iPad is making us dumber than we were with the open web.” Great discussion about stupid devices, interactivity. @JMaxSFU

@jmv “Is the iPad Making Us Dumber?” No consensus yet, but lots of opinion; John says it threatens the open web

@seancranbury Passionate discussion of consumer rights, personal rights, stupid machines, crap biz models.

People will give up their principles (open source ideals) for shiny Apple products (as ably demonstrated by BookCamp—MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, oh my!) Argument that this support encourages closed web, locking down knowledge. (And what about Facebook, hmm?)

@jmaxsfu notes that iPad doesn’t replace his laptop. Hmm, is this the right analogy? Is it not more like a giant smartphone than a laptop/netbook?

@vishmili metaphors for the iPad? a gas stove? #iPadmetaphors

@seancranbury The slinky? Hungry Hungry Hippos, perhaps?

Brief mention of Android as open source alternative to closed-web iProducts, but didn’t seem to be taken seriously. Hrm, says the person who went Android to avoid the Cult of Apple… 😉 My Android phone is awesome, btw.

@shannonsmart Software, like literature, is collaborative, evolving, and needs to be shared.

@seancranbury Library ebook license limitations: “So I’m still #50 on the waiting list at my library for Freedom?” Yes. Yes, you are!  #DRM

Linking back to the last session, that was one of the instances during the day where copyright came up and it was clear people didn’t fully grasp what copyright does/means for them. This question was about taking out ebooks from the library and what wasn’t understood was that the library can only lend as many copies of the ebook as they’ve purchased licenses. Legally, they can’t just buy one copy of the ebook and lend it out willy-nilly.

Great session w/ @jmaxsfu & Todd Sieling. Lots to think about. Need more than 140 characters 😉 #bcvan10 October-01-10 2:05:21 PM via Seesmic for Android

Saw this right after I got home (lol!): 10 Ways People Are Using The iPad To Create Content, Not Just Consume It via @inkyelbows aka @ipadgirl

Yesterday: recap of second session

Tomorrow: recap of fourth session