My wife bought me a Kindle when it first came out. While I’m an early adopter of new technologies, gadgets and services (or at the very least, keeping a close eye on the more intriguing ones), I wasn’t anxious to get one. I had the same beef with DRM on books as I did with music. Information wants to be free, etc, etc… you know the deal. I thought it looked like a well thought out product (and product ecosystem), but it wasn’t for me. It would be another year before Apple would announce an end to copy-protection on their music, but it had also been a year since Steve Jobs posted his Thoughts On Music on Apple.com. So I was mentally primed for a DRM-free (music) future. Then the Kindle comes along with their copy-protected media and we’re back to square one. I wasn’t naive to think they’d use open file formats, but I was still bummed. Now let’s fast forward 2 years to today. I still have my first gen Kindle and I still use it somewhat often although I usually prefer to use the Kindle app on my iPhone, especially during my day-to-day commuting on the Manhattan subway. But my Kindle still can’t do two things that are important when I read – scribbling down notes and flipping pages. These actions were important while I read the new book by Steve Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From.
Some might look disapprovingly at image above, with all those crude lines and chicken scratch writing, but for me, being able to underline chunks of text, scribble notes and circle words I want to look up later opens up a deeper level of comprehension into the book I’m reading. Of course this method can be adapted with an e-reader by simply pairing it with a physical notebook, but it’s a little more effort and not well-spent effort. I’m not a psychologist but something about physically interacting with a book takes reading beyond simple consumption. It becomes a form of creation. By the time you reach the end of your book you’re not left with the same pages you started with. No, no … these are my pages now. Sure, the author is making his points, but I’m deciding which ones are important. Once I’ve read through and made sufficient notes I can begin the fun game of flipping back and reading over the passages I marked up.
This might seem like a minor point, but the fact that I can’t easily flip between pages on a Kindle is a huge frustration. No, this doesn’t mean I’m not able to remember what I’ve read, but sometimes I want to reread passages. Great books, like great movies, are meant to be read over and over (unless you’re satisfied watching a Kubrick movie once). I’m completely confident this technological limitation of e-books will be resolved but until then, my thumbs rule.
This is more my beef with the airline industry than with e-books, but it’s relevant to this post. If we’re going to live comfortably/efficiently/normally in the 21st century, we need to start adapting our procedures to technologies and devices our generation is creating. Gadgets like iPods, iPads and Kindles are useless if I’m not allowed to use them during takeoff and landing. I’m waiting to hear of a plane that went down because 5 or 20 or 50 Kindles or iPhones were on during takeoff. It’s very likely many people never turn off their devices when they’re instructed anyway (not me of course). So to recap, I’m not giving up on technology. I love technology. I love tinkering, hacking and experimenting with new gadgets, but I encourage everyone to grab a printed version of the next great book you read. Don’t be afraid to get dirty and really make it yours.
I love details.
Khoi Vihn on the tools Adobe is providing to create iPad magazine apps:
In my personal opinion, Adobe is doing a tremendous disservice to the publishing industry by encouraging these ineptly literal translations of print publications into iPad apps. They’ve fostered a preoccupation with the sort of monolithic, overbearing apps represented by The New Yorker, Wired and Popular Science. Meanwhile, what publishers should really be focusing on is clever, nimble, entertaining apps like EW’s Must List or Gourmet Live. Neither of those are perfect, but both actively understand that they must translate their print editions into a utilitarian complement to their users’ content consumption habits.
In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city — with innumerable activities, events and alternative sources of distraction around you — these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.
The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and somthing else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.
-Chuck Close (via We Are The Digital Kids)
Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood reflecting on In Rainbows, ahead of the release of their upcoming album:
With In Rainbows, we were able to be the first people to digitally release our record, directly to people’s personal computers, at 7.30am GMT on 10 October 2007. I was having breakfast, and watched as the file appeared in my email, and the album streamed onto my desktop. I spent the next day and night monitoring people’s reactions online, both to the music and the means of delivery. Journalists in America had stayed up overnight to write the first review as they received the music – again, in the pre-digital age they would have had advance copies up to three weeks before. On the torrent site bulletin boards, people were arguing over whether they should be downloading and paying for the record from our site, rather than the free torrents. Various online pundits and pamphleteers were pronouncing the end of the record business, or of Radiohead, or of both.
Hey marketing and brand gurus, you taking note of his fan-centric infused campaign of real-time value launchpad content?
People, feelings, stories, and things.
I came from studios in General Motors and in Fiat, where they believed in high segregation. Their idea was if you want to treat things equally you keep them separate. If you want to make design unique and fresh you isolate it. I got the job at BMW when I was 35. So I said, let’s get rid of the walls. No doors between Rolls Royce and BMW, no doors between BMW and MINI, no doors between motorcycles and cars.
And I love this quote:
The markets guys, these guys you have to keep a little bit at bay, because their first reaction is no. No, no, no, no. You can’t create life under an atmosphere of no.
Have a watch, there’s a lot of great ideas to absorb from this guy.
Design might seem like this lofty, hippie idea, but when you see guys like this making it happen at one of the most prestigious car makers in the world, you know it’s possible.
*be sure to watch the 4 outtakes on Bangle too
Paul Bennett at Bloomberg BusinessWeek keeps it real with his plee to brand and marketing gurus to drop the bullshit jardon:
The hardest thing that marketers and brand managers have to do right now is simplify. Marketing and branding need to get back to first principles — people, feelings, stories, and things. Tangible things. Not weird words. And for all of us agencies out there, we need to feel more confident that actually the best thing we can do is to tell it simply, both to the organization we’re working for and ultimately to the consumer.
I’ve noticed more people, whether in blog posts, trade publications or comment threads, being vocal with their frustration that Apple is taking/getting credit for inventing products and technologies. What’s important to understand is many (most?) of Apple’s products and technologies they’ve turned into innovations are bases on the inventions of others.
Last week Apple announced the new MacBook Air, the first refresh in the line since the Air introduction in 2008. Then I find stories like this one at ZDNet pointing out Sony had a wafer thin laptop back in 2004 first.
The author, Brook Crothers, breaks down what separates Apple’s and Sony’s models:
When the Sony Vaio X505 came out, it was about $3,000. And that’s probably where Apple’s new Air breaks the most ground. The ultrasvelte, 2.3-pound Air–which I would argue is the most impressive Apple MacBook design–can be had for $999.
Price is the only ground that matters once something has been innovated upon – that’s what innovation is.
An invention gets released …it’s iterated …and iterated …and iterated and then it reaches a tipping point, the price drops and it’s adopted by the masses.
I’ve also heard people complain how Apple’s taking credit for inventing video calling with FaceTime. It takes a perfect storm for innovations like FaceTime.
Apple is able to make FaceTime work in the marketplace because:
A) It’s already selling millions of iPhone 4’s with it preinstalled
B) the protocols and networking logic have matured over the last 20 years
and C) high speed mobile connects have been adopted by millions across world
There’s a great video of frog’s recent design mind Salon in Amsterdam, where Microsoft researcher and computer scientist Bill Buxton talks about this essential gap between invention and innovation. He calls it the ‘Long Nose’:
To go from invention, when the first idea appears, to the point where it meets maturity, that maturity I define as reaching a [one] billion dollar industry takes a minimum of 20 years … and notice, this is the most important implication, that anything that is going to become a billion dollar industry within the next 10 years, is already 10 years old.
This is not new, people.
The automobile, not invented by Henry Ford as many think, but Karl Benz (yes, that Benz) in 1886. Well, sort of. He patented the gas-fueled car, but there’s a dozen or more who all should get credit for helping invent the automobile. Ford was able to make cars innovative in large part because of the assembly line techique of mass production.
The cassette tape. Nope, not invented by Sony. The magnetic tape was invented in Germany in the 1920’s. Hell, Sony didn’t even invent the cassette player. They were standing on the shoulders of giants when they miniaturized the existing technology and created the Walkman, which, as I wrote about the other day is now being retired after 30 years.
The light bulb. Not Thomas Edison. As Wikipedia notes, Edison invented the entire ecosystem in which the light bulb must live in order for it to be a successful innovation and that’s plenty to be proud of.
We humans have a need to label and tag things with names and credits, but it’s important to understand that the reality is rarely that simple.
We all exist on a continuum.
I’m looking forward to buying some of these amazing posters by Stanley Chow.
TechCrunch reports Sony is stopping production of the (cassette) Walkman after 30 years. While they’re at it, Sony should stop making Blu-ray players too. Love it or hate it, but physical media is over. The signs are everywhere – Netflx is prepping for streaming-only in the US, and Apple is expanding it’s optical-driveless MacBook Air line of laptops, not to mention their keeping DVD drives on their standard MacBooks.