Some fast links. Here’s the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) wiki page for ebook implementations. Basically, it will include evince which not only reads PDF but also scanned DJVU files.
One hidden treasure from Houston is the podcaster/technologist John Lienhard. For the last 15 years he’s been giving great 3 minute radio talks for his Engines of our Ingenuity show about “the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.” (here’s the NPR podcast feed for it). Incidentally, the transcript page would be a great URL for your Plucker Desktop to spider. Each article is short and fast and easy ebook reading.
Here’s a lecture Lienhard gave several years ago about WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT BOOKS IN 1498. In it he summarizes the profound effect that Gutenberg had on learning, and how long it took for technology to bring cultural changes.
Actually, for a full thirty years after Gutenberg, people did little more with his idea than produce classical and religious books in the same style they always had. It was the mid-1480s, one full generation, before printers tried to do anything more than blatant counterfeiting of the profitable old manuscript books. Around 1484 the first scientific illustrations started turning up in the incunabula. The first subject of the new fully-representational block prints was botany. It was also right about this time that printers began offering secular books in local languages to their new mass market.
(Lienhard goes on to describe how printed books took off when William Caxton started publishing popular fiction and romances in English (not just faithful versions of Greek classics).
If you’re looking for cool URL’s to convert to ebooks, check out Edge Magazine’s What’s your dangerous idea? essay collection (which is available in a gigantic one page version ). Here are questions from previous years, unfortunately not available in a single page format. I’ve been reading one or two page essays each day on my ebookwise, and my fave contributions so far have been from Sherri Turkle (about how younger generations are growing more comfortable with robots and simulations) and Geoffrey Miller (who argues that aliens haven’t visited earth because they’re too busy playing video games).
Edge Magazine recently published Jaron Lanier’s provocative essay on Digital Maoism, with responses from the usual suspects (Shirky, Kelley, Rushkoff, Dyson, etc). Digital Maoism is a major challenge to the concept of distributed learning and authorless wikified content.
(0riginally appeared on teleread here )