As you may have seen by my previous posts, I'm really into finding ways to work more efficiently on my Mac. One of my greatest sources of ideas and inspiration related to this topic is The Mac Power Users podcast. I was really excited to see that one of the co-hosts of this show (David Sparks) had written a "book" called Paperless which, as you might expect, is about going paperless.

Paperless

I found this "book" really interesting on several levels. I'll expand on this:

I like the topic. I've also been intrigued by the idea of eliminating paper in my life, but my past attempts have all been abandoned due to the amount of work I've had to put into it. With the improvement in scanners, PDF software, and other utility software it's much easier than it used to be. This "book" had a lot of great tips to minimize the effort and maximize the results. I'm tempted to go into more detail, but really, you should just read the book.

I like the "book". I've been writing the word "book" in quotes because a product like this is so much more than just a book. Sparks used Apple's iBooks Author to create this book (I'll stop using the quotes now) and the end result is beautiful. The typography and layout is extremely visually appealing and it's chock-full of interactive features like picture galleries and video screencasts. The funny thing is, I'm not sure how I feel about these features in general. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, said this in reference to the Kindle and how it relates to the iPad:

For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets.

And, as much as I like reading on my iPad, I totally agree with him. When I'm reading, I like to read. Videos, and even pictures, are a distraction and tend to interrupt my flow. Multimedia features can't hold a candle to what's happening in my head while engrossed in a book. However, maybe this is just the perspective of a 40 year-old who grew to love reading before the Internet existed. Kids today spend a lot more time multitasking than I did, and growing up with e-books might find the experience less distracting than I do. I think it'll take me some time to sort through my feelings on this.

All that being said, I think this was the perfect format for this kind of book. I've read a lot of technical books, and it's a huge pain to try to follow pages of convoluted instructions while learning to use a new software program. In this case, a picture truly is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth about a thousand pictures. I found it very useful, and it makes me very curious to see if Apple can make this work for textbooks as they so obviously hope to.

I like what this means for publishing. The fact that a guy with a full time job (he's an attorney) can self-publish such a beautiful book blows my mind. Not long ago ago a new writer was lucky if they received 10% of the profits of their books, but by far the biggest obstacle was finding a publisher that was willing to work with you. After all, they needed to edit, format, print, promote, and distribute an author's creation. Now the biggest obstacle is what it should be: Having a good idea and a putting forth a lot of hard work bring it to fruition. Editing is still an important step, but printing is unnecessary and distribution is relatively easy. Davis Sparks was able to do write Paperless in his free time, asked some friends to edit it, and publish it to iTunes. Because he did most of this himself, he could price it at a very reasonable $4.99 and will enjoy 70% of the proceeds. That's a win for him and a win for consumers like me.

This is what I love about technology. A regular person, just like me, can create something cool and share it with the world in a way that is unprecedented.

Posted
AuthorTodd Zarwell
CategoriesBooks

I thought I'd do my a book report - after all, I've had nearly 20 years to read for pleasure without draconian literature professors forcing me to write about it!

I'd been hearing about this book in some of the various podcasts I listen to, and, always in search of a good read, I checked it out.

To save you from reading the jacket cover (or the Amazon page - it's the internet age, after all), I'll give you the rundown: The year is 2044, and the world is in the midst of an energy and financial crisis (a little too close for comfort?)  Everybody escapes real life by immersing themselves in a virtual reality world called Oasis.  

Oasis was created by a man who grew up in the 1980's, and, on his deathbed, announced that he had hidden a series of puzzles inside his creation. The person who solves the puzzle will be rich and will win the right to control Oasis.  The protagonist is a teenager who takes the lead in solving the puzzles.  Of course there's an evil corporation trying to win the prize too, as well as an attractive albeit mysterious love interest.  Actually, everybody has a little mysteriousness going on because they all know each other as avatars within their virtual world.

The intersting part is the Oasis creator's clues revolve around the culture of his youth, especially the geek culture of that era.  As a consequence the youth of 2044 become obsessed with the latter half of the twentieth century and spend inordinate amounts of time "studying" Pac Man, Schoolhouse Rock, and John Hughe's movies.

Some parts of this book really struck a chord for me.  The inventor of the Oasis was born in 1972 (as was I), so it seemed like it was tailor-made for a 39 year old nerd who came of age in the 1980's.  He mentions receiving a Atari 2600 in 1979 (as did I).  There are even references to storing data on analog tapes, Dodge Omnis, and paying 93¢ a gallon for gas (freaky coincidences, or has the author been stalking me?).

Was it a good book?  Well, to be honest, the writing of the book reminds me of the style I see in fiction aimed at juniors.  Perhaps it's because the main character is a teenager, but it seemed a little strange because the book is obviously going to be most enjoyed by people in their late 30's.

However, it's hard not to enjoy all the references to things I loved in the 80's , some of which I haven't thought about in quite a while:

TV Shows: Family Ties, The Greatest American Hero, Airwolf, A Team, The Greatest American Hero, Misfits of Science (does anyone besides me remember that one!?), Buck Rogers, Silver Spoons

Video Games: Pitfall, Zaxxon, Galaga, Q Bert

Movies: War Games, Real Genius, Better Off Dead, Evil Dead, Vision Quest, Explorers

However, the author doesn't go into much detail about most of these. In fact, it's almost as if he made a list of all the things he loved and wrote a book around it.  In some ways it feels a little like I was being manipulated, as if the author thought the mere mention of these subjects would stimulate some nostalgic pleasure center in my brain.

But, of course it did.

Posted
AuthorTodd Zarwell
CategoriesBooks