Links of Interest (March 5th 2009 Through August 13th 2009)

Friday, August 14th, 2009
Audible.com to sell 2 DRM-FREE titles
It appears Audible.com is going to try releasing Cory Doctorow's next two audiobooks without DRM (a first for Audible.com as far as I know).

Skulpt
"Skulpt is an entirely in-browser implementation of Python."

Modernizr
Modernizr is a Javascript library that allows client side detection of CSS3 and HTML5 browser features. It allows you to write CSS with conditionals through one of my personal favorite bits of CSS magic: classes on the body tag. It also gives you the ability to do the same in our Javascript.

epub-tools
A collection of open source (BSD) tools for generating and managing ePub documents. Adobe's Java based EPUBGen was just added. Tools now exist for conversion to ePub from Word, RTF, DocBook, TEI, and FictionBook.

Doozers Get "Fraggle Rock" Spin-Off
It's animated, and aimed at ages four to seven, but I'll probably check it out with the kids.

The Zelazny Project
"We plan to print a complete collection of Roger Zelazny's short fiction and poetry, in (most likely) six hardcover volumes. We expect to include all published fiction and poetry we can find, however obscurely published, and a number of unpublished works retrieved from Zelazny's archived papers. We also expect to include the shorter early versions of several novels, several novel excerpts that were published independently as short works and a few of Zelazny's articles on topics of interest to him."

Robotic Nanny (Bedtime Stories Not Included)

Monday, February 16th, 2009
Amazon Kindle 2

In case you missed it, Amazon announced a new version of their Oprah approved Kindle e-book reader. One of the new features announced was the ability to have the device read aloud using text-to-speech. Pretty neat, huh?

You Don’t Have the Right

The Author’s Guild released a statement claiming that Amazon was not within their rights to do any such thing, and calling for Amazon to add a feature where authors/publishers could disable such a feature. Science Fiction author Robert J. Sawyer posted his feelings on the subject on his blog. One of the follow-up comments prompted a follow-up post about what people can and can’t legally do with things they “own”. For example;

You can buy a car, but there are countless regulations governing what you may do with it even though it’s your property. You can’t, for instance, drive it without a license, drive it recklessly, permanently export it to another country, drive it without insurance, allow children to drive it, park your car in my driveway, and so on.

The list got me thinking.1

The majority of items on the list can easily be used to do the illegal things mentioned and there is nothing else in place to prevent it. Those illegal acts have consequences to go along with them, and for the most part it seems this is enough.

The exception is pretty much any new technology. When new technology is involved then all consumers are criminals who can’t be trusted and there needs to be functionality crippling technological restrictions added. From where I sit the text-to-speech feature is merely a tool Amazon provides to the end-user. That end-user has to decide to use the tool, and perhaps they’ll use it to do things they don’t have a license to.

If you exclude DRM based restrictions, there’s nothing the Kindle 2 does that I can’t do with an electronic text and a desktop computer.

Death of the Audiobook Industry?

There is obviously fear that this will harm audiobook sales, and the value of audiobook rights. I just don’t see it. I can’t imagine there’s any real worry this would cannibalize the audiobook market.

I’ve played around with text-to-speech, and some of it is surprisingly good, and sure to keep getting better and better. Still I doubt the majority of folks who would happily sit through a text-to-speech reading of a book, would be likely to shell out the money for a commercially produced audiobook.

It’ll be a very long time before a computer simulation can come close to a Scott Brick or a Jonathan Davies. Not as long as it’s a passive act. Until computers can feel emotions, and be moved by what they are reading it won’t come close. And at that point what makes the act so different from an adult reading aloud to a child?

Unsolicited Advice to Amazon

The Author’s Guild responded to criticisms that they weren’t taking visually impaired users into account:

Others suggest that challenging Amazon’s use of this software challenges accessibility to the visually impaired. It doesn’t: Kindle 2 isn’t designed for such use.

I see that comment, and I see a solution. Perhaps rather than cripple the device, Amazon should work towards making the remaining functionality accessible to the visually impaired. The text-to-speech engine is already there.

Roxy RobotAnd just to be clear, I have no real interest in this feature. In fact, until the Kindle does ePub I’m not interested in it at all. I just get antsy when I see content producers so afraid of content consumers that the innovators in the content delivery space are pressured to stop innovating, and start restricting access. If this “burn the witch” mentality against innovation doesn’t stop then one day the robotic nannies may start the uprising that destroys the human race all because we wouldn’t let them read aloud.

  1. Which is the only reason I’m mentioning him specifically. I don’t agree with his take, but I’m not trying to attack Mr. Sawyer in any way. You should buy his audiobooks. []

Links of Interest (February 21st 2008 Through April 1st 2008)

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008
INFECTED Trailer
Amazing film-style trailer for Scott Sigler’s novel Infected (available now in hardcover).
OverDrive to offer DRM-free audiobooks via Borders: Time to try unshackled e-books, too?
This can only be good news. OverDrive has an interesting history with DRM. They have always claimed to be unable to work with iPods due to Apple’s proprietary DRM, while failing to make clear they were using Microsoft’s proprietary DRM.
garfield minus garfield
Take Garfield (the comic strip) and remove the title character, and you’re left with something darker and disturbingly funny.
‘Lego Universe,’ a brick MMO, is in development
I haven’t been real interested in Massively Multi-Player Online games in a while, but the idea of a Lego based MMO might change that.

Links of Interest (June 8th 2007 Through June 20th 2007)

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Got allergies? Tiny discovery nothing to sneeze at
I hope this comes to something. My tree allergy is so bad I can’t eat most fruit. I miss fruit.
Deconstructing a Star Wars AT-AT Imperial Walker Baby Stroller
Thingamababy analyzes a DIY stroller conversion from a handful of photos.
How To: Translate a foreign language RSS feed
Using Yahoo Pipes to translate RSS feeds. Looks nice and simple.
Future Sony e-book reader to offer IDPF format and Adobe DRM support?via Digital Editions
Sounds like the next version of Sony Reader will support the IDPF open ebook standard. I like reading ebooks from dedicated readers, but I hate the hoops I have to jump through to get them on there. Sounds like a step in the right direction.
Developers launch kid-safe add-on for Firefox
Glubble is a Firefox plug-in that allows parents to create a whitelist of approved sites to let their kids visit.
Dissecting a Plugin: Better Comments Manager
Ronald Huereca disects the “Better Comments Manager” WordPress plugin, in what is hopefully the first of a series of articles of this type. Should be a great place to start if you’re trying to figure out how WordPress plugins work.
Batman?s New Set of Wheels
Slice of Sci-Fi has pics of the new Batcycle for “The Dark Knight”
How victim snared ID thief / She chased down woman who had given her 6 months of hell
Karen Lodrick bumped into the woman who had stolen her identity, and gave chase for the next 45 minutes!
Primer, part two (glossary)
Glossary for Diana Peterfreund’s primer on publishing.
Primer, part one
Diana Peterfreund’s primer on publishing.
New Books, early June 2007
Locus online’s listing of new SF/F/H books for early June 2007
Ars System Guide: June 2007
When I’m building a new PC for someone, this is where I start. Great if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck.