Tuesday 18 January 2011

Crossroads of new and old

In the progression of things, I'm generally in favor of more technology as opposed to less. Or more like: cleverer, more useful technology as opposed to low-tech solutions. This approach, however, does break down for me in a few cases for me that I couldn't figure out to a satisfactory solution, yet. I wager, these breakdowns occur because I'm not "young enough" anymore so I had extensive experience of the low-tech even if I can clearly see and evaluate the advantage of the high-tech available here and now. Also, I wager, besides experience, emotions cloud my judgement. So I think I want to talk a bit about electronic and paper books, and electronic and paper journals.

Journal Entry
By: joelmontes@flickr

Books: Dead Tree or Bits

As a little kid practically I grew up in a library and I've always been reading a lot. I bought a lot of books: not the most among the people I know, but give it some time and I'll have a pretty decent library at home. Provided I don't move continents and pass on that library to a second-hand bookshop, again.

In Taiwan it is slightly more difficult to find books in a language I can read (in most likelihood it will be in English) than back in good ol' Hungary or England. Not impossible, there are plenty good ones, but two selves in a 2 or 3 level bookstore is not the greatest. I turned to e-books, then, and started to read a lot on my... phone. Using Aldiko on a HTC Desire is pretty good - surprisingly good, I'd say, given the small screen size. And since I bring it with me everywhere, it is very practical - for a few hours before the constant screen usage devours the battery. And it is only really good for text-only novels, for any of my research papers or comics it is... well, comical. Thus I was thinking of buying a Kindle DX. Not the smallest kindle, which I've seen and it's great, but wouldn't solve my research-paper problems.

But then I was really thinking: it's such a very different feeling to have a library of paper books and electronic ones. I can have tens of thousands of books on a hard drive easily and will never be able to really read all of them. Buying the same number of paper books would give me a stop, do I really want to read every single one or just too lazy to be selective? The whole experience is completely different, and somehow the practicality of the ebooks does not compensate me for the loss of control and inner "fuzzy feeling" (yeah, that's how well I can put my finger on it).

Resolution? The best would probably be if every book could be a bundle: paper + ebook for some premium on the price. Not double, but maybe 10%. Maybe even 25% I could justify and would opt for the bundle instead of either of them on their own. Provided the ebook is DRM free, of course. But until then, I think I will just keep my paper copies no matter how large they are....
And as for the Kindle... I guess I will procrastinate a little while longer (since I don't need it, "merely" want it) and will buy it on an impulse later.

Journals: stored in attic or in backup

Daily journals also have a lot of emotions attached. Paper journals are really good to write, and sometimes even to read back. They tell a lot about the person, and give a lot of freedom how to use them. On the other hand, typing being my main way of putting words down, I don't trust my hands (and the cramps in them) to produce something consistently legible. Searching for things is also near impossible unless reading through a lot of material.

On the other hand, I set up a personal wiki not long ago, and it's just a matter of setting up the right pages and there am I, typing away the days events and observations, with linking to the relevant people and things, with search, with backup, with legibility.... and somehow with less involvement. I don't think one could possible write a journal on paper and then transfer it to the computer, at least I don't think there's good enough handwriting recognition to handle that yet.

Resolution? In the meantime I started to write it in the wiki, thinking that things written down in any format are better than not written down at all. And hoping that the sad feeling that by typing instead of writing I lose something, will diminish with time...


It is telling, however, that there are so many things that I don't mind being changed. Don't mind internet radio instead of normal radio or live performance as my main source of music. No matter how close journals and daily planners are, I don't mind using just Google Calendar for all my events, even if that means I've lost a lot of colorful notes that I had before in my planners. Don't mind sending emails most of the time even for close friends, and only the occasional snail-mail.

Maybe I'm just making things too difficult for myself. But I don't want to lose all the personality I have in exchange of convenience. At least there has to be a threshold.
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