Thursday, June 21, 2012

Asymco's Dediu in China

Horace Dediu's (Twitter: @asymco) is one of the best mobility analysis sites out there, so I was excited about his recent trip to China, hoping that he'd have some special insights in his Critical Path podcast with Dan Benjamin.

Alas, apparently he was only here for five days, and it was a vacation with friends, so his observations were purely as a tourist, though of course a smart guy like him can't help but notice interesting things.

He visited a PC Mall and bought some cheap cables. He was frustrated to find that Twitter/FB don't work here.  To him, China is the familiar case of a developing country that follows the Japan/Korea model of Asian development, converting "peasants into factory workers" for a straightforward boost to GDP that will bring them a long way but won't necessarily translate into an innovation powerhouse.

Most of all, he saw lots of smog, as you can see in this photo he took in Shanghai:IMG_1589

He points out that soon China will be Apple's biggest market, but he didn't dwell on the possible consequences and instead devoted most of the podcast to his take on how this year's WWDC shows Apple is becoming more friendly to an ecosystem of partners.  

Bottom line: worthwhile podcast if you want to hear more about Apple and the mobile industry, but not much insight about China.

By the way, I was intrigued to hear that, like me, he gave up regularly reading the Economist some time ago. Though filled with great writing, their perspective puts too much faith in macroeconomics which I think perceptive readers after a while lose confidence in its explanatory power. I mean, they provide an interesting well-written narrative to explain what happened, but I just haven't seen many cases where that macroeconomic viewpoint helps you see the future. 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Calibre for books

Calibre  About
Amazon Kindle has become my main way to buy books, which of course is incredibly liberating because nowwith the Kindle app I can put every book on every device, including my iPhone. Imagine: I carry with me, on my phone, a copy of nearly every book I’ve purchased for the past three years.
Unfortunately, Amazon’s not the perfect solution. For one thing, I’d prefer not to be so dependent on a single company for so much of my reading. I trust Amazon today, but how do I know that these e-books will still be readable in 20 years?
I’m also limited by the Kindle software and whatever features Amazon gives me for searching/annotating and otherwise enjoying my books. For example, sharing a section of a book: Amazon limits me to short snippets, and those must point back to an Amazon-operated site.
Happily, there is a wonderful way around these limitations. The wonderful people of Calibre have created a wonderful free and open-source ebook management system that lets me do whatever I like with ebooks.
To answer an obvious question, yes there are plug-ins for Calibre that break the Kindle rights management system, and yes that means that you can probably steal tons of books just as easily as you can steal music or movies. But before you ask any further, let me state up front that I don’t feel right about it, and I won’t “share” any books (either giving or receiving) from you, so don’t ask.
But the “fair use” terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act means I’m allowed to use these books on other devices and in other formats, such as if I want to use the much prettier book reader on Apple’s iBook.
Today I also discovered another advantage of Calibre. By putting all my Kindle books in a fair use format, my books don’t need to be re-downloaded from Amazon servers when I load a new device. If I want one of my already-purchased books to show up on a new iPad, I just synch with the local copies on my computer. No internet required.