The Nook dude at the Barnes&Nobles looked forlorn today

How bad would it be to be a Nook pusher right now? The Kindle has its adherents, the iPad is out there, why would anyone buy a Nook? I have to think that B&N is going to bail on this strategy at some point.

Amazon on the other hand I think is playing its hand well. At the end of the day, I doubt that Amazon cares that much about maintaining control over the Kindle hardware — it was just a vehicle for jumpstarting ebook sales. If people prefer to consume ebooks on phones or iPads or PCs or whatever, Amazon is there with the Kindle software and nice sync’ing of state across all your bookreading devices. I’d expect to see them continue to invest in the software and service asset, and it wouldn’t shock me if they sold the Kindle asset to some hardware company at some point.

Apple faces an interesting conundrum — why would you buy a book in the Apple store which can only be read on the iPad, when you could just as easily buy it in the Kindle store and read it in a dozen places?

Another thought — so many people look at the Kindle vs iPad battle as if it is some head-to-head winner-take-all cagematch. In fact tho, as the cost of electronics keeps driving down to zero, I’d suspect that rather than one unified device in my bag, I’ll have many smart devices all sync’ing to shared data in the cloud. Magazines, books, and newspapers all coexisted just fine in the old world, I carried them all in my bag. No reason why I won’t carry several different smart devices in my bag with different form factors and benefits. As long as they all sync data to the cloud, I’ll be happy (again, nice job Amazon).

Three failures — Kindle, MacBook, Google Docs

Yesterday was a brutal technology day. First, I wedged my Kindle between my rear and a chair and heard a nasty “crack”. My Kindle display has a nice shattery image on it permanently now. Sad. I had to open a paper book last night. New Kindle arrived today (thanks to Amazon Fresh trucks), and because the content is all stored at Amazon, I had my full library back working in less than a day. It sucks that e-readers are fragile (well I do weigh >200 lbs so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the Kindle’s failure, it is not sold as a stadium chair), but back and running fast.

Second, the battery failed on one of our Macbooks which is about 3 years old. But of course Apple replaced for free at the Genius bar. Because they replaced the motherboard a year ago under some dubious warranty claim after we dropped the machine, again for no charge. Really, why would a regular human buy a machine anywhere else?

Third — every week, I update a task list document on Google Docs for a mission-critical subcontractor we use, print/save as PDF, and email to the sub. It is not a complex doc but it does need to be right. Last night Google Docs kept failing during the PDF save process (which is also how to print from Google Docs, so this is a pretty important function). After many tries it worked and I forwarded the downloaded PDF to my sub without examining it. Disaster — the PDF was for the version of the task list from January 24! The sub got all the wrong materials and did the wrong things totally, I had to scramble today to patch things back up.

I use the intrinsic functions in google docs to datestamp my doc, and the delivered PDF had the january 24 datestamp in it, and the content in the pdf is completely different than what is in my current doc on google docs, and i assume is a faithful representation of the state of the doc on january 24. how did google deliver me this pdf? My best guess is that some part of the PDF rendering process failed badly in the Google server farm, and they restored from some earlier version, and the restore picked up old queued files. I really have no idea how they could have delivered a two month old PDF rendering of my doc.

Corruption of data and inability to faithfully print documents are pretty damning problems for an office suite. I really can’t imagine continue to using Google docs with this class of problem. I haven’t bothered to file a bug with google yet because, well, delivering a product with this level of data corruption for basic scenarios is pretty much a deal breaker for me.

Commendations to Apple and Amazon for creating systems and businesses that are incredibly customer-focused, even when products fail. The Google Docs failure may be an isolated incident, but I do wonder if Google has this same level of customer focus.

Books — Enclave, Heart-Shaped Box, Inspector Cadaver, The Last Colony

* “Enclave”:amazon by Kit Reed. A wellmeaning nutjob tries to create a perfect closed society, which of course fails totally due to Murphy’s Law, hubris, and selfishness. Amazon says 4 stars but I thought this was quite weak, paper-thin characters, clumsy forcing events.
* “Heart-Shaped Box”:amazon by Joe Hill. Stephen King-esque tale of a ghost with murderous intent. Longer than it needed to be, where was the editor? Amazon says 4 stars but I’d only give 3. With good editting there may have been a 4 star book in here.
* “Inspector Cadaver”:amazon by Georges Simenon. Ah I love Maigret. He ambles into a situation, stirs the pot a little, and lets human nature take its course. Detection by judo — he exerts little force himself, he takes advantage of the inevitable foibles of all around him. Agree with 4.5 stars at Amazon.
* “The Last Colony”:amazon by John Scalzi. Final in a series of 3, humanity struggles to expand in a crowded galaxy. Intra- and inter-race politics dominate. A solid tale, perhaps not quite worth the 4.5 stars Amazon bestows, but solid.

Books — In a Sunburned Country, Empires of the Sea, Tycoon's War, Suffer the Little Children

* “In a Sunburned Country”:amazon by Bill Bryson. Humorous Australian travelogue. Easy breezy read.
* “Empires of the Sea”:amazon by Roger Crowley. More than you ever wanted to know about the battles for control of the Mediterranean in the 1500s between the Ottoman empire and the various Christian states. Brutal unforgiving warfare.
* “Tycoon’s War”:amazon by Stephen Dando-Collins. The story of Vanderbilt’s machinations in Central America. Some of Vanderbilt sections are interesting, but the details on minor skirmishing in Central America put me to sleep.

And some fiction to cleanse the palate:

* “Suffer the Little Children”:amazon by Donna Leon. Great entry in a detective series set in Venice. No grand action sequences, just human foibles and painful results.

Recent Books — Matter, The Creator's Map

* “Matter”:amazon by Iain M. Banks. Solid far future science fiction set in the author’s Culture universe. First I’ve read in this setting, interesting characters tho mostly dead by bookend. I admire an author who can kill off their main characters in furtherance of the plot and emotional impact of the book.
* “The Creator’s Map”:amazon by Emilio Calderon. At first I feared this was one of the legion of Da Vinci Code clones, but it is really a spy and love story twisted together. And a deep look at 3 characters who experience the same events, but have profoundly different experiences based on their own issues and emotions.

The Black Swan

“The Black Swan”:amazon by Nassim Nichoias Taleb. Been on the shelf for a while, finally read it at the urging of one of my smartest friends. A quirky and insightful book. Some of the central thinking about the nature of uncertainty and the human inability to correctly assess risk and act on risk is very important; but as with most nonfiction books, this tome could have been at least 50% shorter, and the author’s style sometimes gets in the way of understanding. I don’t mind the snarky humour but the pedantic nature of some sections gets old — it is as if it is not enough that the reader open his mind to the writer’s ideas, but that the reader must accept them fully and displace all others. Not a tone I find endearing. But still, an important set of concepts to understand.

Recent books — Watchmen, Customer's Yachts, Broken Angels, GI Biomechanics

* “Watchmen”:amazon by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Wow, excellent. Better as a graphic novel than it could have been as a book, the use of text and font and images to intertwine multiple stories works very well. You have to think as you read.
* “Where Are The Customer’s Yachts?”:amazon by Fred Schwed Jr. Timeless classic, its crtiticism of the financial services industry and customers’ foolishness is still dead on.
* “Broken Angels”:amazon By Richard K Morgan. Another Kovacs novel, this one wasn’t a home run for me. With all the morally ambiguous factions, I could never quite get Kovacs’ motivations. And his drawn out death postponed by one miracle drug after another quit working for me. The whole thing felt a little choppy and unmotivated.
* “Biomechanics of the Gastrointestinal Tract”:amazon by Hans Gregersen. Interesting reference on the GI tract, treating it as a mechanical device and analyzing behaviour from that view. Useful to help you build up a complete picture.

Recent Books — An American Tragedy, Beginner's Greek, Big Russ and Me

* “An American Tragedy”:amazon by Theodore Dreiser. A compelling story of overreaching ambition, lust, and tragedy. But oh my gosh could it have used an editor — needs to be about 40% shorter. The whole first book establishing the lustful ambition of the protagonist should have been a chapter.
* “Beginner’s Greek”:amazon by James Collins. Entertaining comic romance. Light and breezy, appealing leads.
* “Big Russ and Me”:amazon by Tim Russert. A light autobiography, particularly poignant in light of Russert’s untimely passing. No deep messages but solid life lessons and makes you sorry that Russert is gone.

The Enzyme Factor, One False Move, and other recent books

* “Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar”:amazon by Cathcart and Klein. Philosophy lite. A diverting bathroom book, no more.
* “The Alchemist”:amazon by Paulo Coelho. A parable about being true to your dreams. Simplistic. And so kind of appealing but kind of ridiculous. A week later, hasn’t stuck with me.
* “Crash Course: Gastrointestinal System”:amazon by Seidel and Long. A western medicine reference to the gastrointestinal system. adequate overview. all trees, no forest tho.
* “The Enzyme Factor”:amazon by Hiromi Shinya. Excellent sensible book on health and diet. Based on his long long experience. Contrast with the prior text, very much a forest view. Some very sensible conclusions about diet and lifestyle. Some of the details may not be fully justified (coffee enemas on a regular basis, really??) but the overall discussion is very useful.
* “One False Move”:amazon by Harlan Coben. Another myron bolitar tale. Snappy as always. Can’t go wrong with one of these on the beach or the plane.
* “Devil May Care”:amazon by Sebastian Faulks. Eh. Pretty rote Bond story with a telegraphed twist. A fine screenplay but pretty tired as a story. Don’t understand the rave reviews this has gotten, there are like thousands of suspense and mystery books that are more interesting

Amazon Unbox rental — never again

Rented a flick on Amazon Unbox last night — it downloaded fine to my Tivo and it looked fine, but the 24 hour exploding limitation is beyond stupid. We regularly watch a movie on two nights running, half each night, but this is impossible with Unbox rentals thanks to the fact that the movie explodes in 24 hours. I can pay the same price and buy a movie off Tivo PPV and keep it forever. This unbox thing will be a failure until Amazon can get DRM straightened out.

Recent Books: Thirteen, Monsters of Templeton, Glasshouse, Ghost War

More airplane reads, I have been doing a lot of air travel:

* “The Ghost War”:amazon by Alex Berenson. Good cloak and dagger tale, china and the us brought to the brink by a rogue megalomaniac general. No new ground here but well written with a nicely flawed hero.
* “Glasshouse”:amazon by Charles Stross. Far distant future, nano-enhanced humans fighting off bad guys who are infecting human society with the nano equivalent of a virus. Fun romp, nicely imagined. Stross is reliably entertaining
* “The Monsters of Templeton”:amazon by Lauren Groff. A young woman returns to her hometown in a moment of personal crisis and delves into her own surprising past, uncovering a lot of dark family secrets. Oh and there is a sea monster too. And a ghost. Tho the titled monsters are generally the human and personal kind.
* “Thirteen”:amazon by Richard Morgan. Wow, way better than I anticipated. Crazy mix of biotech, world domination schemes, secret agents, super humans, social criticism, with some extreme objectivism thrown in.

The Kindle — changing my life.

Excellent review here — agree with most of it. The integrated wireless and the Amazon.com integration make this thing sing. It has completely changed my reading and my buying habits — if a book I want doesn’t have a Kindle edition, i save it in my wishlist for later, and I’ll probably only buy it once a Kindle version shows up. And the Kindle disease is spreading, I just learned that Dad has one as well!