Open Books from Google

New from the Google Books Blog:

Try doing a search for [Hamlet] on Google Books. The first few results you'll get are "Full View" books — which means you can read the full text. And, because the book is in the public domain, you can also download a copy of Hamlet in PDF form.

Starting today, you'll be able to download these and over one million public domain books from Google Books in an additional format. We're excited to now offer downloads in EPUB format, a free and open industry standard for electronic books. It's supported by a wide variety of applications, so once you download a book, you'll be able to read it on any device or through any reading application that supports the format. That means that people will be able to access public domain works that we've digitized from libraries around the world in more ways, including some that haven't even been built or imagined yet.

The post continues here.

The Beatles Talk Before the Fall

Flashback to 1966. The Beatles hold a press conference in LA, on the eve of their very last live concert. As you'll see, the questions range from the frivolous ("What do you think of American women's legs?") to the more serious ("Do you really think you're more popular than God?" Or, "What would happen if you came to an event without an armored truck and without police?"). A brief glimpse into a day in the life of a Beatle. Part 1 is above. Part 2 is here. And Part 3, here.

Will Sony Beat Amazon Where It Counts?

sonyreaderIf you haven't heard the news... Sony is releasing a new e-book reader, its answer to Amazon's Kindle. Retailing at $399, the Sony reader will feature a touch screen (something the Kindle doesn't have) and the ability to download books wirelessly (something the Kindle does have). It will also provide access to thousands of free (public domain) books & documents provided by Google Book Search. A nice touch.

But I'm wondering whether the Sony reader will beat the Kindle in the one category that really counts? Will it have a truly readable screen? The Sony and Amazon screens each use "e-ink" technology, which doesn't cut the mustard. As Nicholson Baker recently wrote in The New Yorker, “The problem was not that the screen was in black-and-white; if it had really been black-and-white, that would have been fine. The problem was that the screen was gray. And it wasn’t just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray. The resizable typeface, Monotype Caecilia, appeared as a darker gray. Dark gray on paler greenish gray was the palette of the Amazon Kindle."

Hopefully Sony figures this piece out. If not, Apple may. According to The Wall Street Journal, Steve Jobs is back at Apple, just months after his liver transplant, working hard and raising the blood pressure of Apple employees, as they prepare to roll out a multimedia tablet that's rumored to include, yes, an e-book reader.

Google Knol Prediction Revisited

Back in December 2007, I made a bet against Google Knol, the search giant's answer to Wikipedia. In a fairly involved piece, I listed three reasons why Knol wouldn't upend Wikipedia. Now fast forward 18+ months: Tech Crunch has reported that Knol's traffic is trending down. It peaked in February at around 320,000 visitors per month, according to Quantcast estimates. Now it's at around 174,000. (See the graph here.) The bottom line? You can't win at everything. But fortunately there's some good new things coming out of Google, and we'll be mentioning them in the coming days.

PS In case you didn't hear, Wikipedia is starting to put editorial restrictions on certain entries. The laissez-faire days are coming to an end.

We Are as Gods

Between 1968 and 1972, Stewart Brand published The Whole Earth Catalog. For Steve Jobs, it was a “Bible” of his generation, a kind of Google 35 years before Google came along (see the excellent commencement speech where Jobs makes these comments.) More recently, Brand founded The Long Now Foundation, which is all about cultivating “slower/better” thinking instead of the “faster/cheaper” mindset that dominates our day. (You can get The Long Now podcast here: iTunes - FeedWeb Site.  It's also in our Ideas & Culture Audio Collection.) Brand is good at looking thoughtfully into the future, and above he takes a long-range view on our global climate problems. The upshot is that "we are as gods" and we had better get good at it. If you watch, you'll see what I'm talking about. This video originally comes from the EDGE.org.

Related Content:

The Whole Earth Catalog Now Online

Better Thinking Through Podcasts

Is OpenCourseWare Hitting the Mainstream?

A quick news break: Time.com has released today a new list, "The 50 Best Web Sites of 2009," and right alongside some well known brands, you'll find Academic Earth, a new venture that aggregates high quality university video. Essentially, Academic Earth pulls together videos from top-notch universities and lets users watch them with a very user-friendly interface. And that's why we've previously featured them in our popular collection: Intelligent Video: The Top Cultural & Educational Video Sites. Is open courseware finally hitting the mainstream? It seems so. Congrats, Richard!

For more university courseware, check out our large collection, Free Lectures & Courses from Great Universities. Or get this university content via our free iPhone app.

David Sedaris Guest DJ’s

These days, David Sedaris is the thinking person's favorite funny man. In the past, we have featured his live readings of comic material from When You are Engulfed in Flames. (See "Related Content" below.) Today, we're highlighting something a little different. On August 19th, Sedaris appeared as a guest DJ on KCRW, a radio station in Los Angeles, and spun his favorite old records. You can listen with the player below or here. Meanwhile, if you want to hear more of KCRW's Guest DJ Project (which has featured David Lynch, Jimmy Wales, and other cultural icons), you can get the podcast here:  iTunes - Feed - Web Site.

Related Content:

Sedaris Reads “Solution to Saturday’s Puzzle”

David Sedaris Reads “Of Mice and Men”

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