Fantasmagorie: The First Animated Film

Today, we're adding to our collection of Free Online Movies a great little film by Emile Cohl, otherwise known as "The Father of the Animated Cartoon." Made in 1908, Fantasmagorie stitched together 700 drawings, each double-exposed, creating the first fully animated film. Cohl made over 250 films between 1908 and 1923, of which 37 survive in film archives. And several – Le cauchemar de Fantoche (1908) and The Hasher's Delirium (1910) – appear right here on YouTube.

Related Content:

Early Experiments in Color Film (1895-1935)

Frankenstein Hits the Silver Screen (1910)

Where Horror Film Began: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Reading While Driving, Seriously?

I gave up biking on the roads this summer for a good reason – too many knuckleheads texting, chatting, even reading, while driving. Reading a novel while driving? A complete aberration? Apparently not. Joining the genius above, we have the Portland, Oregon bus driver giving more thought to the Kindle than the road. And then this complete piece of work mindlessly moving from the traditional book, to the Kindle, then to the smartphone.

via Tech Crunch and Media Bistro

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The iPad eBook Reader: Some First Reactions

Yesterday morning, I headed to the Palo Alto Apple Store, spent an hour waiting in line, then finally gained entrance to the store. And who entered alongside me? Steve Jobs! An auspicious beginning. I left with a 32 gig iPad, took it home, and started playing particularly with the eBook reader. Here are my very early impressions:

15 months ago, I bought a Kindle and returned it. I just couldn't read with it at night (a non-starter for me), and figured that Apple would eventually get it right. Well, they largely have. The iPad initially feels a little heavy. But, it's actually no heavier than your average hardback book. Plus it's fairly easy to hold. Score one for the iPad.

Then, when you fire up the eBook reader, you instantly like what you see. The fonts are crisp, and the images are in color, which means that you can read children's books, comics and other graphic intensive texts. Plus, you can change the size and kind of the font. You can adjust the brightness of the screen. And, in some cases, you can even alter the background color of the screen. (Most of this you can't do with the Kindle.) All of this contributes to a reader-friendly screen that's easy on the eyes. And, yes, I can read with this device at night. (Readers make other good observations in the comments below.)

How about buying books for the iPad? Well, it's pretty easy. Both Apple and Amazon sell books for the device, with prices generally ranging between $9.99 and $12.99. Rather notably, they also offer access to a sizable collection of free books in the public domain. (You can get more freebies here, too.) Overall, Amazon has a much larger inventory, and their books tend to be cheaper. But otherwise these are pretty similar services. And, because Apple now has a far superior device, you have to wonder whether this is the beginning of a big shift in the book market. In five years, Amazon might not be quite the behemoth it is today -- something that's probably letting Steve Jobs sleep easier than Jeff Bezos at night.

A final point worth mentioning here: Neither company will let you have true ownership over the books you buy. Both vendors lock down their books, dictate the operating environments in which you can read them, and control the user interfaces that shape the reading experience. (PC World has more on that here.) You don't have much ultimate control over the underlying file. So the upshot is that you had better like the iPad (or Kindle) reading experience before deciding to amass a large and costly library.

Now for a few random observations:

1) The  video generally looks great (unless, of course, it's produced in Flash). I was really impressed with the quality of YouTube videos, and Netflix movies (free app here) stream over the iPad rather brilliantly.

2) On the downside, I found typing on the iPad to be rather difficult -- even more so than typing on an iPhone. The device is large enough that it's hard to stretch your fingers to reach various keys. Maybe I will get a hang of it. But, for now, it's unwieldy.

3) The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have developed new apps for the iPad, and they deliver a pleasant reading experience, to be sure. But I don't see this suddenly making consumers any more (or less) willing to pay. The concept of the iPad saving the newspaper industry seems fairly overplayed, I'm sorry to say.

4) Is this a must-have device? Or just nice-to-have? Right now, I'm inclined toward the latter (and so is Slate). Aside from the eBook reader, your home computer or smart phone can accomplish most of what the iPad can. However, the iPad will rapidly differentiate itself. It will become a nice low-cost, portable computer -- one that lets you store data in the cloud, and provides access to a large volume of cheap or free software (at least more than your average consumer normally gets). Give it a year. Wait for the flood of apps to come. Wait for innovative software developers to extract the potential of this machine, and wait for Apple to make the iPad lighter, cheaper, and even faster. Right now, it's not a game changer. But it will be down the line.

Are you a new iPad owner? Have any thoughts in general? Or particularly about the eBook reader? Add them to the comments below, or send them our way. We look forward to hearing what you have to say ...

Amazon Releases Kindle App for the iPad & Mac OS X

A quick fyi: Amazon has released an app that will let you read Kindle texts on your Mac (finally!) and the upcoming iPad. If you're looking for free Kindle texts, we've produced a long list here, including many great classics. You can find Kindle apps (all free) for other devices below.

Thanks Wes for the info...

Kindle Experiment Falls Flat at Princeton

Last fall, Princeton launched a small experiment, replacing traditional textbooks with the Kindle DX, Amazon's large e-book reader. Almost from the beginning, the 50 students participating in the pilot program expressed dissatisfaction with the devices. Yesterday, a university report offered some more definitive findings. On the upside, students using the Kindle DX ended up using far less paper. (Paper consumption was generally reduced by 54%.) On the downside, students complained that the Kindle was fundamentally "ill-suited for class readings." As one student put it:

I expected it to be a really useful tool that would enhance my experience, but it has hindered my studies in a lot of different ways... I wasn’t able to absorb the material as well as if I had hard copies of the readings, and I had to deal with a lot of technical inconveniences just from the design of the Kindle.

For more, give the Daily Princetonian a read.

via @jryoung

British Library to Offer 65,000 Free eBooks


More than 65,000 19th-century works of fiction from the British Library’s collection are to be made available for free downloads by the public from this spring.

Owners of the Amazon Kindle, an ebook reader device, will be able to view well known works by writers such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy, as well as works by thousands of less famous authors.

You can read the rest about this Microsoft funded initiative here. In the meantime, we've made it relatively easy to download major classics to your Kindle, iPhone, smartphone or computer. See our collection of Free eBooks (and Audio Books).

Top 10 Reasons Why iPad Marks Kindle’s Death

Caveat: If you missed it, yesterday’s post was 10 Reasons iPad Will Not Kill Kindle. So take everything here with appropriate grains of salt.

10.) Books with graphics. Many books contain photos, graphics and diagrams that the Kindle does not handle well, if at all. When people realize that the iPad will do this flawlessly, they’ll head in that direction. Example: while reading the new Carver biography on my Kindle, an experience that I loved, I had to miss out on all of the pictures collected from Carver’s life. Once you take into account newspapers and magazines, there's even more weight on iPad’s side.

9.) Cost: Seriously, Amazon really overstepped their boundaries when they set Kindle’s price at around $300, as they did. If they had made it $100 or less, they would have probably have sold 4 or 5 times the number of devices, hooking more readers to their bookstore and their device. Look at Gillette as an example: which costs more—the razor or the razor blades?

8.) “I love my Kindle!” – less than two million people have bought the Amazon product. By comparison, over forty million iPhones and iPod Touches have been sold. No one knows how many folks will rush out to buy an iPad, but if previous iPhone sales and the buzz around the iPad are any indication, this is going to be another big win for Apple.

7.) iPad is a Kindle: just use that free Kindle app on your iPad and you’ve got the whole Kindle store wide open to you. You can even take your whole Kindle library right over to Apple’s iPad with the Kindle App.

6.) Cost, again: with iPad coming in at a low $499 for a device that’s much better made and features much more capability than the Kindle, with at least four times the memory… well, you get the picture. Oh jeez… I just found out the Kindle DX goes for $489. Oh, Mr. Bezos… what are you thinking?

5.) Capability. People don’t want a dedicated reading device: if you can carry around a device the size of your e-reader, but also use it to check email, surf the web, watch TV and movies, listen to music, use office-type apps, etc. then that’s going to win in today’s economy.

4.) Book pricing. It looks like Apple, the diabolical pricers of all songs at $.99, might wind up being the publishers’ darling in the e-book market by pricing their titles higher than Amazon has been. So far it looks like ibooks will be closer to the $14.99 price point that publishers like. Right now, as evinced by this past weekend’s squabble between Amazon and Macmillan, publishers appear to be fed up with Amazon’s pricing strategy. Apple may just become publishers' white knight. (more…)

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