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Sep. 8th, 2007

Odd Lots

  • I don't follow Python very closely, but from Eric the Fruit Bat I learned of Boa Constructor, a brilliantly named and still rough (but very promising) Delphi-like IDE for the Python language. I have a couple of books on Python and I do respect it. All I need now are another six hours in the day...
  • Amazon is creating a new site called Askville, which is an ask-questions-get-an-answer social networking system. Answers are rated by users, and you earn Quest Coins by providing good answers—and lose them by posting bad ones. It's a little unclear what Quest Coins will be good for yet, because Questville.com (another Amazon startup, possibly Flash-powered) hasn't gone live yet. The key point here is not that Askville exists (it's nothing special that hasn't been done before) but that Amazon created it from scratch rather than bought it.
  • Google's gotten into everything else, and they may now get into ebook distribution. This is worth following; can a Google-designed (or at least branded) ebook reader be too far behind? Which leads me to:
  • This idea may sound retro and completely loopy, but what the hell: To capture nontechnical readers during the critical next five years of the ebook industry's evolution, smart publishers might well OEM a cheap portless, dirt-simple, SD-card capable e-ink reader from the Pacific Rim, fill it with some (large) number of books from the backlist, and then sell either/both the midlist and frontist on additional bubble-packed read-only SD cards in retail stores, say, quarterly. Small SD cards (64 MB -128 MB are now dirt cheap and could easily hold a middling publisher's entire semiannual frontlist. Baen Books has been working on a private-labeled ebook reader, but I'm really envisioning something not Internet-connected at all, targeted at audiences who may just prefer to buy something physical at Borders periodically than fool with a poorly designed or simply idiotic Web system. (I won't name names, but you know that they exist.) This would be a tougher call for monster NY publishers who publish in many different areas, but for successful genre publishers (romances, mysteries, SF, etc.) it could work, and work well. If the reader has no ports and the cards require a reader to read them, even the IP paranoids might say yes.