GO! Smell google, Beatrix!

Posted on July 28th, 2008 by Jim

Google has a knack of being ahead of the times – take their logo today, celebrating the birthday of Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 186622 December 1943) the English author who was best known for her children’s books, which featured animal characters such as Peter Rabbit.

Rupert Murdoch, one of the world’s most powerful media moguls, has compared the advent of the internet with the invention of the printing press. Although they occurred half a millennia apart, both gave ordinary people the power to access information that was previously available to a few.

As more publishers choose to digitise their content google is working with some of the world’s biggest libraries to creat a huge online resource. It’s partners include Oxford University, Standford University, the New York Public Library and Princeton University. Whatever would Beatrix say?

The initiative is contorversial. As well as teaming up with libraries, google has stuck deals with publishers, some of which are allowing the search engine to put their back-catalogues on the site, despite the obvious commercial drawbacks of allowing readers to access books free of charge.

What is your take on this? Printed versus online – smelling the pages rather than scrolling down them and enjoying a room FULL of books. We’d love to know your thoughts on this and feel free to complete the poll in the right hand column!

What does the future hold and is this the final chapter for printed books? Do tell!

27 Responses to “GO! Smell google, Beatrix!”

  1. Lib says:

    Noooooo! Please don’t get rid of books anyone!!!!!

    I love books, I love the smell, I love the colours, old ones, new ones, borrowed ones, used ones.

    Put me in a book store and I could spend all day there, 3 for 2 at Waterstones was the best invention ever!

    For me, opening and reading a brand new book for the first time is a real occasion and I can’t ever imagine getting that same satisfaction from an e-book. Reading is escapism and for me that involves stepping away from the PC which I am bound to anyway.

    Having said all that though, I did used to feel the same way about photos and swore I would never switch to digital.

    But I did.

    • O'DB says:

      Yea, I think the senses (smell, touch, etc.) are a big draw for books over digital.

      A piece in the Observer (getting my money’s worth from that one) covered books vs digital, incl. a review of Amazon’s Kindl, Sony’s Reader & iRex’s iLiad. All look interesting technologies & certainly save space (can store over 500 books) but lose the tactility & sense acuity of a reall book. Presumably digital’s greener, but even that potential pro must be diluted by the plastics, heavy metals (batteries), etc. that are required in the digital format production (vs swathes of forest, bleaching agents, etc. in book production).

      Another point that was made in the Guardian, earlier in the week, in that tactility & book cover art-work were a big barrier for digital formats to overcome. Comparing to music formats, the piece suggested that the barrier for LP to CD was comparable with plenty of vinyl junkies holding onto the older format out of tactility & the LP art work, but with time CDs slowly became prevalent & once in this smaller, less of an art canvas format, the shift from CD to MP3 files on your computer was relatively painless & rapid as a result.

  2. Purple13 says:

    its the tactile-ness of a book that you can’t replace with the internet.

    Yes we can order everything online and yet we still go shopping – touching the fruit, smelling the freshness etc. and thank goodness to otherwise those supermarket types would loose out on all those end of aisle ‘bargains’.

    It’s much more than reading a book – its about you time, relaxing in a comfy chair indoors or out – you just can’t relax that way with a keyboard – there’s always the temptation to open an email or blog something. (well for me anyway).

    As an online company ourselves here at Fabulous Photo Gifts .co.uk, we appreciate this tactile contact which is why we do so many weekend and evening excursions to local gatherings – not to sell something outright, but rather give people the chance to touch a t-shirt, feel the thickness of a jigsaw piece etc.

    So I think books in print will always be with us. Nice to see them still crop up in Star Trek.

    Purple13s last blog post..Fitted kitchens with one important difference

  3. Mike says:

    I think the problem here, with this kind of thing, is setting it up that we see diferrent medias as in competition with each other. So the thought on-line free books will damage sales of paper books etc.

    A better way of seeing it, is that the diferrent media options all have things going for them and when brought together they form a cohesive multi platformed base for a product. In this case books. E-books and paper books need to get into bed together and play on each others strengths.

    Will free e-books kill paper books? No, hopefully they will get more paper books onto people’s shelves as they encouarge a love of reading.

    Mikes last blog post..What authority figure?

  4. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I need to feel my books, read the written pages, smell the pages and turn the pages. The other thing is that it gets me off my computer and it is portable and I can write or highlight in it. There is no “warmth” in reading from the computer like there is in a book.

    However, I do like to have both for research and technical information, but if I had to choose I’d pick a book.

    Yes, Star Trek understood the value of it…although Data didn’t, but he was not human.

    I also still feel the same about vinyl records versus CDs, but it is more practical to listen to CDs. I need my book collection in the same way that I need to keep my record collection!!! We still do have two turntables in the house.

    ClinicallyCluelesss last blog post..Past & Present all in my head and feelings!! ~ Slideshow I

  5. Sarah says:

    I need to feel the pages to read book but I don’t mind to read ebooks..as long as there are printed books..
    still trying to digest Harry Potter though..have been reading it like forever and might as well finish off the last book..

    Sarahs last blog post..Twitter Layout – GSTF Inspired

  6. J says:

    i’m a HUGE bookworm, the “new car smell” has nothing on the smell of an old book! i could never use one of those electronic books, but i’m also addicted to the internet. just not for long reading sessions.

    Js last blog post..Strike a Pose (This Time with Visuals)

  7. I read a lot on the Internet but when I go on holidays, if I was laying on beach and had to choose between a paperback and a laptop, it is an easy choice.

    Also lying on the couch and reading a good book is a favourite pastime of mine and so for me, paperbacks can never be replaced.

    Steve Andersons last blog post..Another Birthday Card

  8. aussiecynic says:

    I love Beatrix Potter and May Gibbs and Lindsay Nolan..
    some of favourite stories..
    Moppet has just finished the Beatrix Potter collection.. yep the whole lot…

  9. Urban Pagan says:

    I prefer the printed word

    when perusing dutch art house publications I must say paper is the way forward- preferably laminated.

    however the day they can laminate a pc screen could sound the death knell for print

  10. AngryfromEllesmerePort says:

    The internet is not the downfall of the printed word. After all, it’s always great to read a book about how Fred West hung his victims up from the cellar ceiling, tortured them and made a patio out of the remains, or how Dennis Neilson strangled and chopped up the queers he picked up in a pub.
    What is devaluing books is the plague of self-help, new-age, alternative medicine paperbacks filling space on the shelves. Even one of the GSTF founders resorted to ‘name your price’.

    • Jim & Em says:

      Oh Angry one, as a GSTF founder you’re well aware our vision is to ‘inspire countless people around the world’.

      If that doesn’t sit well with you then we’ve a problem.

      Well being, inspiration, travel and health is where we’re taking this so get signed up to Reiki, Em will take you through angel cards and we’ll book you in for crystal healing. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

      And relex.

    • Urban Pagan says:

      I agree

      I read a book called the Iceman about Richard Kuklinski a mafia hitman who used to tie his victims up feed them to rats and film it all. some of the photos were great.

      I also agree that new age books are on the whole just opinions presented as medical fact. I think most people have now woken up to this and this is why they can’t give them away.

      Bottom line is this- good authors will find a publisher and will get paid for their work. Crap ones won’t. There is still money in books if you are good at writing. If you aren’t then you may have to publish yourself and hope you can hoodwink people inbto covering your costs. Its a congested market but thats because everyone wants to be an author but I would say .1% and thats being generous of people doing this are actually any good or actually have anything interesting to say.

      An ex of mine who used to be a lap dancer but was into the new age nonsense would spend hours writing- I read her work- it was absolute tat. She told me to be brutal. I told her it was awful and she should move on. She now lives with a bloke who thinks she is ‘a talented writer’ . However she will never get published as she has no discernible talent or interesting story. The difference is he is willing to whore himself and his principles to her to stay with her.

      Its emperors new clothes all this new age authour stuff.

      • Jim & Em says:

        So mind, body & soul isn’t the fastest and most popular genre in the world right now?

        Maybe front page news is preferable?

        • Urban Pagan says:

          I can only answer that once you

          1)- let me know who defines ‘mind body and soul and how?
          2)- how is fastest defined?
          30 how is most popular defined?

          the bible is the biggest selling book- I’d class that as fiction as it is a series of stories- 5-6 billion
          books of mao’s speeches about a billion
          tokien about 300 million
          dickens about the same
          harry potter- half a billion

          if you are taking the bible into your new age category then you might have a case- but I’d argue its fiction and fiction HUGELY outsells mbs all the time.

          mbs may have loads of self upblished books but I’ll bet it doesn’t shift anywhere near popular fiction.

      • O'DB says:

        Not necessarily new age, but homeopathy has come under fire in an open letter recently, quoting from Monday’s (21st July) Guardian:

        ‘ The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has been asked to take action following allegations that pharmacists are failing to give customers proper information about the shortcomings of homeopathic treatments before they buy them.

        In an open letter to the society, Edzard Ernst, the country’s only professor of complementary medicine, criticises high street pharmacists for selling homeopathic remedies without informing customers that they contain no biologically active agents and are no more effective than sugar pills.

        The ethical code states that pharmacists who sell homeopathic remedies, herbal medicines or other complementary therapies, “must assist patients in making informed decisions” by providing them with “necessary and relevant information”. ‘

        That “necessary and relevant information” would include, for instance, noting that the Potassium Chloride solution you’ve just bought for ‘muscle relaxation & tone’ contains less than a part per billion of Potassium Chloride, probably less than the average tap water. You’ve got to hand it to homeopathists: create a ‘medicine’ that contains no biologically active components, which also nicely gets round costly R&D & clinical trials – because there’s nothing actually there to research & trial – & then flog it to unsuspecting people with genuine illnesses.

        BTW … I’ve got a job lot (~15, but could get more if demand dictates) of St. Peter’s* clavicles/collar bones which will free you of any ailments of the back induced by sinning. *Other relics are available & will each cure a different part of the infirm body.

        • Urban Pagan says:

          I’ve got the turin shroud indoors. I will let it got to the correct bidder- ie a free thinker who will believe its true with deep pockets.

          Available in s.m.xxl in grey, taupe, burgundy and aqua-marine.

          1,000 english pounds

          add an additional 500 pounds and I will get judas to autograph it

        • O'DB says:

          Can we start a Saturday morning SwapShop?

          I’ll swap 3 St. Peter’s clavicles for a Med Turin Shroud in grey? Or 5 if you get Jimi Hendrix to fix it for me to have Jude’s signature on it?

          Getting back to Leeds, for the carnival can you bring a bag of pegs? I’ve got a load of herbaceous boarder plants that with a spray of purple paint will look the bomb-diggetty as heather.

        • Jim & Em says:

          We’ll bring our angel cards…

          Seriously, don’t knock’em – V accurate on our travels.

  11. Thanks Brad for the enlightenment. When I first saw this post I agreed with the majority with a resounding NOOOO. First the demise of the net book agreement (which meant that bookshops could discount so much the poor authors got almost nothing and the publishers started to really struggle), and then this. As it is they say that only 1,000 people in the UK actually make a living from writing novels, so surely making all books available FOC on the net would be one more nail in the coffin. But, if, as Brad says, the service would actually bring out of print and backlist to our attention then that is good.

    Besides, who really, honestly, truthfully prefers a PDF to a printed, perfect-bound, shiny covered, handbag-sized (that one for the girls) book with an emotive illustration on the cover?

    I review a lot of books and these days those I get to look at and critique are often sent to me as PDFs, so as you can imagine it takes a fair bit of ink to print them out. I can’t read on a screen, it makes me speed read. All that ink and paper and I reckon they end up costing me as much as a printed book. The good thing about the Internet is that you get instant results – which is good. But a bulky pile of A4 sheets don’t fit in my handbag, so I can’t read them on the train. When I drop a book on the floor, I might lose my place, but I never have to put all the pages back in the right order afterwards. And after I have finished a book, I love to place it on a bookshelf and remember it each time I see the spine. What do you do with a printed PDF? At best you could buy a binder (more expense) and file it there, but it’s not the same.

    That’s my opinion, anyway, if biased, having written 25 books myself and not really wanting to give everything away for free …

    Expat inspirer

  12. Kristie says:

    Heaven forbid they do this! I’ll be out a job. Luckily kids will always need tactile, touchy feely, and the lift the flap books.
    Can you imagine moms sitting on the couch reading to thier kids from a screen? I guess that’s not so far fetched seeing where things are heading.

    • Urban Pagan says:

      a lot of adult males also like ‘lift the flap’ type publications- really allows interaction even if just for 5 or 10 minutes when bored on a sunday morning

  13. Sarah says:

    great link..now I have something to play around..

    Sarahs last blog post..Twitter Layout – GSTF Inspired

  14. Jim & Em says:

    Thanks for that Brad….

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