In this issue:
Washington Monthly • May/June 2011
Designing issues. In graphics guru Edward Tufte's words, "There is no such thing as information overload—only bad design." Peruse this engaging profile of the author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and learn why statistician is the next sexy job.
Regardless of whether statistician is "the next sexy job," we can all learn how to better depict data from the master of data visualization. Some of his lessons include clarity of purpose, comparison, avoiding "chartjunk" and getting the data-ink ratio right. We don't all have to be prolifically churning out infographics to need the lessons in this piece. Virtually any library budget can benefit from a compelling depiction of its impact on the clientele it serves. Approach the problem like Tufte would and the result will be a lot more useful than our typical charts and tables. ( Tennant)
The Next Web • May 8, 2011
How to succeed at failure, and more. Check out Diego Rodriguez's "Declaration of Innovation"—21 principles for promoting and managing innovation success. You've seen many of these before, but there's something of interest here for everyone, including "Knowing when to orbit the hairball."
In principle I applaud this list—but I didn't find anything new here (walk around the block, think like a child, fail frequently). And I was rather annoyed that some of these principles contradict one another (be remarkable, be content with incremental change). But maybe that's because I'm not accepting that life is uneven. Or maybe it's because there's not enough play in my life. Now where did I put that hula hoop? ( Proffitt)
The Wall Street Journal • May 7, 2011
Cheap thrills. Reporter Matt Ridley makes a good case for the value derived from lowering the cost of an existing innovation: "A feature of innovation is that the greatest impact of a new idea comes not when the light bulb goes on over the geek's head, but when the resulting technology eventually becomes cheap enough for many people to use—perhaps decades later." E-reader ownership is still the purview of the privileged, but as prices come down, costs for content will plummet even more.
In this short commentary, Matt Ridley reminds us that the real impact from innovation often occurs long after the initial invention is conceived: when other innovators have reshaped the technology into something that is economical for a mass market. "Cheapeners and cost cutters" are, in Ridley's view, the unsung heroes of innovation who make new technologies accessible to all, rather than something reserved for the technologically skilled or the exceptionally wealthy. For example, the first computers had little impact beyond a select community of scientists; it was the widespread availability of cheap PCs and laptops, pioneered by innovators like Michael Dell, that truly changed society. Ridley lists solar power, high-temperature superconductors, and space travel as examples of technologies that still await large-scale impact. But his point applies equally well to technologies less grand than these. High definition TVs were once affordable only to a few; today, they are practically ubiquitous. The price of an eBook reader has fallen considerably, with take-up rising to the point where many public libraries are now offering eBooks as part of their collections. It is the "cheapeners and cost-cutters" that have made this possible. ( Lavoie)
FutureBook • May 13, 2011
Instant gratification. As publishers dither over eBook formats, licensing, DRM and timing issues, they are losing sales, says book blogger Rhian Davies. The urge to download a book is often a spontaneous response to an advertisement, review or author interview, and publishers should remember they’re in the instant gratification business.
Davies is right to chasten publishers for delaying the release of e-versions on the false premise that "dedicated readers" will prefer print over ether. Most of the eBooks I've purchased in the last two years were selected and downloaded in haste as I boarded an airplane, moments before take-off. The instant gratification of a seconds-long download has changed my book purchasing behavior from that of a curatorial collection-builder to that of an impulse-buyer. I read books I would never have picked up in the past, and even as I curse the limited title list in the Kindle store, I am purchasing more books today than I ever did before. Does this make eBooks the fast food of literate culture? Gaily packaged junk at the end of the check-out lane? I think not. My reading tastes haven't changed, but the means by which I satisfy my constant cravings have. Publishers who prefer to lose readership than to enter the e-marketplace are the brittle cultural elite of our age. I say: Aux barricades! ( Malpas)
O'Reilly Radar • May 12, 2011
Marginal thinking. As one of those who likes to annotate as they read, Peter Meyers has some suggestions for ways to make eBooks more note-friendly. In Meyers' opinion, note-taking is not some kind of personal fetish—it's the best means for synthesizing and remembering the material you read.
The authors point out that it's much easier to mark up a print book than an eBook. In an eBook, you can't doodle, connect one note to another, or attach a note to a whole chapter rather than an individual paragraph. Readers do all of these things to make a text their own—and to own the content. The authors argue that an interface that would allow these activities would make an eBook feel more like a print book, but I'm not convinced. Drawing tools are hard to use and not very personal. My PowerPoint graphic arrow connected to a couple of boxes looks just like someone else's, and even a simple picture is so tedious to produce that I don't do it unless I have to. Give me a pen and paper and a printed book instead. ( Godby)
Above the Fold Quiz:
According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what company positions itself as the "standard for influence" online?
Click here to find the answer.