Monday, March 30, 2009

Headliner Books -- Nearly Instant Publishing From Headline to Book

After complaining about the need for editing on House of Cards, I find that maybe I am being a little too picky.  Evidently rushing a book to market is a new trend.  Of course it is a trend that serves no purpose if it means that the book reach the market as a poorly organized, poorly edited collections of words and paragraphs. 

The New York Times this morning, has a fascinating article by Motoko Rich entitled You've Read the Headlines.  Now, Quick, Read the Book. 

Rich reports that publishing is starting to pick up it's pace:

But as the metabolism of the culture has sped up in the digital age, pockets of the publishing industry are prodding themselves out of their Paleolithic ways and joining the rush, with more books on current events coming out faster than ever before.

She sites George Soros'  latest book The New Paradigm for Financial Markets which was published as an eBook a mere ten days after it went to the publisher.

Not to be out done, Robert T. Kiyosaki, the best-selling author of Rich Dad Poor Dad has taken to posting each chapter on the web as he finishes it.  The entire book, Conspiracy of the Rich: The 8 New Rules of Money is due out in paperback form in September.

Several years ago Steven King was one of the authors who pioneered the idea of posting book chapters online.  Several years later we began to see books complied from blog posts like Chris Anderson's The Long Tail.  This year we are seeing  books that are nothing more than complied Twitter Posts (Tweets).

All of this activity still comes back to the central question; what exactly is a book?  eBooks have obliterated the idea that is something contained between two covers. 

Yet, Publishers still seem to think that a book is just a collection of words bunched together in sentences and paragraphs with an occasional picture thrown in.  They see their job in terms of acting as a gateway to the marketplace.

They fail to recognize that they are more than basic content providers.  The Internet is slowly doing away with gatekeepers.  Unless Publishers find ways to add value to raw information by presenting it in a organized and useful fashion they will go the way of all dinosaurs.

Friday, March 27, 2009

House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street by William Cohan

Any book that has "wretched excess" in the title is sure to grab my attention! Although given the subject matter I would have probably picked up  House of Cards without this particular subtitle.  Books on Wall Street hold some dark fascination and I have read everything from The Predator's Ball by Connie Bruck to Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker

The first section of the book is a detailed a day by day account of the final Bear Stern's meltdown.  There was a lot going on, some of it quite technical.  Cohan struggles to explain a lot of complex and technical transactions and the people at the center of the action. 

There is a lot of technical detail to plow through.  And there are even more people people to keep tract of.  I found myself a little confused by roles, titles and events; never mind the technical parts of the transactions.  In this section, he gets an A for effort and a D for accomplishment.

In part two, he backs up tells the eighty-five year history of Bear Sterns and it's last four CEOs. He draws finely detailed portraits of the men and the corporate culture they fostered.  In part three he details more current history (2001-2008) of the Firm, Wall Street and the US government.  By the time you have read all these pages you really understand how the combination of the men, the government and the corporate cultures on Wall Street worked to bring down the entire firm.  Here he gets an A for effort and a B+ for accomplishment.

I have to say, I was rather disappointed overall.  The book has a thrown together quality about it.  It would have benefited greatly from decent editing.  Much of the material was restated over and over again.  Cohan relies on a lot of quoted statements pulled directly (and indiscriminately) from other sources.  The flow is often confusing and the sequence of the sections didn't work very well. 

Unfortunately, there are some glaring and inexcusable errors as well. The first one is on the very first page where he states that Orlando, Florida is 2,500 miles from New York City.  A simple Google search will tell you it is only 1,081. 

If, however, you are willing to plow through the errors and the extraneous material you will glean a pretty good understanding of what happened at Bear Sterns and why. 

If you do decide to read it, start with part two.

On March 5, 2008, at 10:15 A.M., a hedge fund manager in Florida wrote a post on his investing advice Web site that included a startling statement about Bear Stearns & Co., the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank: “In my book, they are insolvent.”

This seemed a bold and risky statement. Bear Stearns was about to announce profits of $115 million for the first quarter of 2008, had $17.3 billion in cash on hand, and, as the company incessantly boasted, had been a colossally profitable enterprise in the eighty-five years since its founding.

Ten days later, Bear Stearns no longer existed, and the calamitous financial meltdown of 2008 had begun.
How this happened – and why – is the subject of William D. Cohan’s superb and shocking narrative that chronicles the fall of Bear Stearns and the end of the Second Gilded Age on Wall Street. Bear Stearns serves as the Rosetta Stone to explain how a combination of risky bets, corporate political infighting, lax government regulations and truly bad decision-making wrought havoc on the world financial system.

Cohan’s minute-by-minute account of those ten days in March makes for breathless reading, as the bankers at Bear Stearns struggled to contain the cascading series of events that would doom the firm, and as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, New York Federal Reserve Bank President Tim Geithner, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke began to realize the dire consequences for the world economy should the company go bankrupt.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

eBook Discounts for March 25, 2008

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An eclectic mix this week -- current events, movies, dating, politics and a literary club. Enjoy!

Use coupon code DH59Y at checkout to get your discount on these great titles

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The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power eBook edition
by Sanger, David E
With a historian’s sweep and an insider’s eye for telling detail, Sanger delivers an urgent intelligence briefing on the world America faces. . .In a riveting narrative, The Inheritance describes the huge costs of distraction and lost opportunities at home and abroad as Iraq soaked up manpower, money, and intelligence capabilities.
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List Price : $26.95
Your price $20.74 (Using your 10% discount and $1.09 points in eBook Reward points)
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Slumdog Millionaire eBook Edition
by Swarup, Vikas
Swarup's Q & A is a beguiling blend of high comedy, drama, and romance that reveals how we know what we know -- not just about trivia, but about life itself. Cutting across humanity in all its squalor and glory, Vikas Swarup presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the struggle between good and evil -- and what happens when one boy has no other choice in life but to survive.
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List Price : $15.00
Your price $11.54 (Using your 10% discount and $ .61 iin eBook Reward points)
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Why Hasn't He Called? eBook edition
by Titus, Matt and Fadal, Tamsen
It’s been a week since your dream date. You thought the night went well but still no word from him. Sound familiar? As the husband-wife duo behind an exclusive New York dating service, the authors of Why Hasn’t He Called? have seen it all . . .
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List Price : $16.95
Your price $14.49 (Using your 10% discount and $ .76 in eBook Reward points)
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society eBook edition
by Shaffer, Mary Ann / Barrows, Annie
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
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List Price : $16.95
Your price $13.05 (Using your 10% discount and $ .69 in eBook Reward points)
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Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger eBook edition
by Rhodes, Jean
Authorized by the future Hall of Famer himself, and written by a clinical psychologist and an award-winning investigative journalist, Becoming Manny is the incredible story behind one of the greatest baseball sluggers of all time: Manny Ramirez.
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List Price : $25.00
Your price $19.24 (Using your 10% discount and $1.01 in eBook Reward points)

Our guarantee: If you have bought one of these titles from eBooks About in the last 15 days -- we will gladly offer you a rebate on the book; just contact us

Monday, March 23, 2009

The SAG (Sony, Amazon, Google) Wars

Last week Sony and Google announced their eBook agreement.  Under the agreement,  Google Book Search is making 500,000 public domain books available to Sony eReader owners.  All of these titles are in the public domain, meaning that the copyright on the book has expired.

sony google

I am a little puzzled as to what the big deal is.  After all, a 100,000 or so of these titles are already available through Project Gutenberg in text or html format that can be ready by pretty much anyone.

Perhaps the big deal is simply that Sony can now say that they have more eBook titles than Amazon.  After all, the Amazon Kindle now only has 250,000 titles available.  Lots of books are a good idea, but just exactly what are they?  For fun, I checked out some of the new titles:

  • Explorations of the Highlands of the Brazil By Richard Francis Burton
  • The English Dairy Farmer, 1500-1900 By George Edwin Fussell
  • Quinquennial catalogue of the Dental School of Harvard University, 1869-1900 By Dental School, Harvard University
  • Vivisection By United States, District of Columbia, Senate, Congress
  • Alphabetical List of Battles, 1754-1900 By Newton Allen Strait

I don't know about you, but these will not be on my reading list anytime soon.  Admittedly there is some great, classic and readable literature in the public domain.  Some of my favorite titles as a little girl like Pollyanna or Little Women and still current favorite authors like Jane Austin, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. But good literature is only a small percentage of the 500,000 titles. Much of this work is heavy duty academic tomes and historical artifacts that are of limited interest to the general reading public.  Quantity is one thing, quality and desirability are another!

I keep wondering why Sony thinks this partnership with Google is a good idea for them?   Yes. they become bigger than Amazon but at what price? They are giving Google a huge boost and while it may  derail the Kindle in the short run, but they are probably hastening the demise of their reader in the long run.

Google is obviously setting the stage for online books.  Books that make proprietary readers unnecessary.  Their goal is to render all eBook readers as interesting artifacts. 

Maybe the answer is that Sony and Google are hoping to create an iTunes-like store with content for eBook readers.  The problem of course is that ultimately the iPhone or something like it will make the eBook reader an interesting artifact without any help from Google at all.

It is fascinating to watch the anti-evolutionary forces in the eBook market join forces to release books from Darwin's period and call it progress.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Without Warning By John Birmingham eBook edition

parent-9780345502896 Removing the USA from the world political scene is a daunting task. Birmingham does a credible job of showing what a dangerous place the world would become without our power base.

This book examines a recent past in which the mainland USA was taken out of the world power equation. The plot devices and characters are well enough developed that by the end of this book you are ready for the sequel. Unfortunately, that next book is at least one year away from being published.

I like some of the story lines better than others. By and large though if you are a Science Fiction fan or a fan of the disaster novel this is a good read following an interesting premise.

Without the USA in play the world degrades quickly into disorder, as you might expect. Some outcomes seem likely and strategically correct. Others stretch credulity a bit but are plausible enough to carry your attention.

All in all Birmingham does a good job of drawing lines between the disappearance of the majority of US military power and the increase of chaos worldwide. This is a great spring break distraction or a really nice find if you haven’t read any of Birmingham’s other books. They are all worth reading if military fiction is one of the types of novels you enjoy. His knowledge base is solid and his writing skills are first class, so enjoy.

In Kuwait, American forces are stacked up, locked and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a covert agent, a woman who inhabits a twilight of lies and death, is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a forty-foot wood-hulled sailboat, manned by a drug runner, a pirate, and two gun-slinging beauties, is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, for politicians and peasants, from Gaza to Geneva, things will never be the same. A wave of inexplicable energy has slammed into the continental United States.

America, as we know it, is gone. . . . WITHOUT WARNING

Now U.S. soldiers are fighting a war without command or control. A correspondent records horrors for no one. Washington is gone and the line of succession is in tatters; the functioning remnants of government are in Pearl Harbor, Guantanamo Bay, and one desperate, isolated corner of the Northwest. For the jihads, it’s Allah’s miracle. For Saddam, it’s a chance to attack. Iran declares war on an America that doesn’t exist–except in the hearts and souls of the men and women who want it to.

In this astounding work of alternate fiction, John Birmingham hurtles us into a scenario that is unimaginable but shatteringly real: a world of financial ruin where a cloud of noxious waste–from America’s burning cities–darkens Europe, while men and women in offices around the globe struggle to make decisions that cannot hold and opportunists unleash their secret demons.

From a slick Texas lawyer who happens to be in the right place at the right time to a hard-working city engineer in Seattle who becomes his terrified city’s only hope, from the cancer-stricken secret agent to a drug runner off the Mexican coast and a U.S. general in Cuba, Without Warning tells a fast, furious story of survival, violence, and a new, soul-shattering reality. The first in an epic trilogy that will leave readers breathless and astounded, Without Warning offers a world without its policeman, its Great Satan, or its savior–as an unknowable future struggles to be born.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

eBook Discounts for March 18, 2009

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This week it is ARBO week (Action, Romance, Biography and Orgranization).

Use coupon code C3KL9Sat checkout to get your discount on these great titles!

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Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time eBook edition
by Mortenson, Greg
The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban's backyard Anyone who despairs of the individual's power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson. . .
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List Price : $15.00
Your price $11.54 (Using your 10% discount and $ .61 points in eBook Reward points)
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Shadow Watch eBook Edition
by Clancy, Tom
The year is 2001, and American businessman Roger Gordian has extended his reach into spAce. His company has become the principal contractor in the design and manufacture of Orion, a multinational spAce station. But the launch of a shuttle carrying parts for the station is sabotaged.
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List Price : $7.99
Your price $6.15 (Using your 10% discount and $ .32 iin eBook Reward points)
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Cheever eBook edition
by Bailey, Blake
[An] always entertaining biography, composed with a novelist's eye . . . [Cheever] has probably yet to find a definitive position in American letters among academicians. This thoroughly researched and heartfelt biography may help redress the situation."
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List Price : $35.00
Your price $26.93 (Using your 10% discount and $1.42 in eBook Reward points)
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Ransom My Heart eBook edition
by Cabot, Meg
Mia Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia and star of Meg Cabot's insanely popular #1 New York Times bestselling Princess Diaries books, has ""penned"" her first historical romance novel . . . with help from Meg Cabot. He's a tall, handsome knight with a secret. She's an adventurous beauty . . .
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List Price : $14.99
Your price $12.82 (Using your 10% discount and $ .67 in eBook Reward points)
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Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You eBook edition
by Walsh, Peter
Peter knows that freeing up a cluttered life (and mind) can sometimes take even greater work and commitment than clearing out a cluttered home, but he is determined to help you change. With his wry humor, his constant encouragement, and the specific tips and practical advice he offers, Peter helps you prioritize what matters in your life.
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List Price : $26.00
Your price $20.01 (Using your 10% discount and $1.05 in eBook Reward points)

Our guarantee: If you have bought one of these titles from eBooks About in the last 15 days -- we will gladly offer you a rebate on the book; just contact us

Monday, March 16, 2009

eBook pricing - 2009 edition

kindlecapture As a bookseller eBook pricing is pivotally important to me. It impacts my daily business life and is often a source of frustration. I am bound to pricing as set by the publisher, evidently Amazon is not. 

Over the last few years a pricing structure has evolved where the list eBook price was the same or slightly lower than the trade paper.

And then  -- along came Amazon loudly touting that every Kindle eBook is priced at only $9.99.

Evidently, Amazon intended to use the Kindle in the same way Gillette used the razor.  People might pay for the Kindle but Amazon saw the real money in on going book sales. 

Or maybe Amazon was trying to emulate the Apple iTunes model and inject a little conformity into eBook pricing. 

Either way one thing was clear:  this was a clear attempt to muscle in on the pricing of eBooks.  Amazon was putting the world on notice that they have the clout and the resources to set eBook pricing at any level they want.

You have to admit, that for the average book buyer the pitch is great.  Buy any book for only $9.99. 

A year later, it turns out that the $9.99 price per title is (depending on your point of view) disingenuous or a downright lie. According to Knipfty on the Amazon blog, a more accurate statement is that only  33,000 of their 240,000 titles are listed to sell in the $9.01-10.00 range.  That is only 13.75%; a long way from 100%!

A close look at Amazon pricing shows that:

  • 79,250 or 33% sell for between $0.01 and $10.00
  • 105,000 or 43.75% sell for between $10.01 and 19.99
  • 55,750 or 23% sell for over $20.00
  • 80% of all the new books added by Amazon since Jan 20 have been priced above $9.99

Should all eBooks should be priced at $9.99 or lower?  Maybe.  But that isn't really the point.  The point is that when Amazon arbitrarily sets prices, everyone suffers.

Authors are the biggest losers in this scheme since they are usually paid a percentage on the actual revenue derived from each sale.  Publishers,book reps and booksellers also take a hit.

But ultimately it is the consumer who suffers when decisions about what can be read, in what format and how much can be charged are made by any one large company. That is a monopoly we can't afford.

Monday, March 9, 2009

eBooks in the News -- All Last Week


So much has happened in the eBook world in the last few days that I am still having trouble taking it all in.

I could write many words about each one of these developments but I am on a very tight schedule today.  Check out the links and see what is going on for yourself. 


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian eBook edition

Michael Zadoorian has elegantly captured the essence of what it means to choose your own life. 

The Leisure Seeker has haunted me over the last couple of weeks.  I find myself thinking about it while driving, taking a shower or sitting in my armchair. It has left me in much the same state of mind that I was after I saw Thelma and Louise.  Exhilarated and ready to drive into the sunset towards a different ending!

John and Ella  refuse to let age, illness, loss of memory or their children hold them back. They are stubborn and courageous to the end.  And this last trip is a fitting affirmation of the power of self determination; no matter how hard or improbable. 

For this last trip, John is the designated driver and Ella, his faithful navigator and colorful narrator.  Slowly, the journey down Route 66 also becomes a trip down memory lane.  And as they travel, Ella faithfully chronicles scenes from both the interstate and the story of their life together.

In every way they are ordinary people.  They courted in the old fashioned sense of the word, raised kids, took family vacations and ultimately retired.  They lived in the same urban area their whole life.  They worked, played cards and took weekend jaunts with their friends. 

Through the course of her ruminations about life, marriage, parenting and friendship you slowly realize that she is the glue that has their life together.  You get a glimpse of the young mother and the suburban housewife she used to be.  You hear the love and exasperation that co-exist in every marriage. You see her struggle with loss, age and disease. 

She is. finally, "'a feisty old lady" with a quirky sense of humor and an iron will.  Her words finely  capture the fear and the euphoria of choosing your own life against all odds.

Here is the publisher's synopsis:

John and Ella Robina have shared a wonderful life for more than fifty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and has chosen to stop treatment. John has Alzheimer's. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down-on-their-luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives to steal away from their home in suburban Detroit on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery.

With Ella as his vigilant copilot, John steers their '78 Leisure Seeker RV along the forgotten roads of Route 66 toward Disneyland in search of a past they're having a damned hard time remembering. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, a person can go back for seconds—sneak a little extra time, grab a small portion more—even when everyone says you can't.

Darkly observant, told with humor, affection, and a touch of irony, The Leisure Seeker is an odyssey through the ghost towns, deserted trailer parks, forgotten tourist attractions, giant roadside icons, and crumbling back roads of America. Ultimately it is the story of Ella and John: the people they encounter, the problems they overcome, the experiences they have lived, the love they share, and their courage to take back the end of their own lives.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

eBook Discounts for March 4, 2009

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Video Poker tops the list this week and if that doesn't interest you we have fiction, biography and releationships to interest you.

Use coupon code BAS27 at checkout to get your discount.

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Confessions of a Video Poker Winner - Revealing Answers for Casual Gamblers Who Seek the Real Truth Behind a Beatable Game (Adobe Reader) eBook edition
by Perry, Greg, M.
Here are the answers you seek but not just mechanical answers. You'll learn exactly what you can expect, whether you play in Las Vegas or elsewhere such as Tunica or Oklahoma, and you'll learn how to maximize the fun you have while increasing your gaming profits.
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List Price : $9.95
Your price $8.51 (Using your 10% discount and $ .45 points in eBook Reward points)
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The God of Small Things: A Novel (Mobipocket) eBook Edition
by Roy, Arundhati
Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. . . Lush, lyrical, and unnerving,
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List Price : $10.00
Your price $8.55 (Using your 10% discount and $ .45 in eBook Reward points)
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Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (Mobipocket) eBook edition
by Harvey, Steve .
In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve lets women inside the mindset of a man and sheds lights on concepts and questions about men and relationships. . .Sometimes funny, sometimes direct, but always truthful, This is a book you must read if you want to understand how men think when it comes to relationships.
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List Price : $23.99
Your price $18.46 (Using your 10% discount and $ .97 in eBook Reward points)
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Take No Prisoners eBook edition
by Gerard, Cindy
New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard's red-hot new romantic suspense series features the irresistible men of Black Ops, Inc., a special team of heroes with a taste for living on the edge...Abbie Hughes and Sam Lang search the wild Honduras backcountry to find Abbie's brother, Cory. With danger on their trail, they must trust each other completely or face certain death alone....
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List Price : $5.99
Your price $5.12 (Using your 10% discount and $ .27 in eBook Reward points)
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Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy (Mobipocket) eBook edition
by Canellos, Peter S.
No figure in American public life has had such great expectations thrust upon him. . . Ted Kennedy -- the youngest of the Kennedy children and the son who felt the least pressure to satisfy his father's enormous ambitions -- would go on to live a life that no one could have predicted
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List Price : $28.00
Your price $23.94 (Using your 10% discount and 1.26 in eBook Reward points)

Our guarantee: If you have bought one of these titles from eBooks About in the last 15 days -- we will gladly offer you a rebate on the book; just contact us

Monday, March 2, 2009

iPhone, Compaq and Nokia

My friend Elizabeth gave me temporary custody of her iPhone last week. It is an impressive piece of technology -- smart, fast, graphics, touchable and just plain cool.

As I was playing with it I flashed on my first portable PC.  It was the size of a small suitcase and could be carried anywhere.  I was younger then and spent more time at the gym.  I loved it!

I suspect that in a few years I will think about my current 20 inch laptop with the same sort of nostalgic half smile.  It is so very clear to me that the iPhone (or something like it) is the computing device of the future.

Which brings me to Nokia.  According to Reuters, Nokia, the biggest cellphone maker, is planning to produce laptops.

At first I was really taken aback.  It seems counterintuitive to me to try and leverage your mobile phone base into PC's.  Actually it seems downright backwards.

But then again, maybe not.  A lot of companies have been playing with a tablet computer, but so far, no one has really gotten it right.  Nokia is in a unique position to get it right. . .

Nokia smartphones have screen technology down to a science, integrate voice commands and intelligently integrate phone and computing functions. And they understand small tight operating systems better than anyone.  The Symbian OS is a marvel all by itself!

This picture from MobileLinuxInfo probably says it all:


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