Monthly Archives: October 2013

MatchBook and the empty bookshelves

Amazon.com has unveiled a new sales feature called MatchBook: “For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now allow you to buy the Kindle edition for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.” The level of the price is set by the participating publisher.

My own book, One Thousand Years, is part of this program. If you bought the paperback from Amazon, you can now get the Kindle edition for free. (Sorry, Amazon’s offer doesn’t work the other way; if you bought the Kindle edition, there’s no discount for the paperback.)

The transition to ebooks reminds me of what Lawrence Cunningham wrote earlier this year:

Books have lined the shelves of the offices of all my colleagues at every school where I have worked. In my early days of teaching, or when spending a term as a visitor, I’d wander into a learned neighbor’s office to get acquainted. The titles and content of those books announced a person’s intellectual background and interests. They were instantly and extensively a topic of earnest discussion. If my interlocutor should be interrupted by a call or an assistant popping in, I’d amuse myself by grazing over the titles, scanning the shelves that added up to an inventory of knowledge. On their shelves and mine, students attending office hours would likewise find easy ice breakers.

He goes on to observe that this will be lost with the end of print. I can only imagine that MatchBook will make the transition more convenient.

It’s not that we should give up, and stop moving to the next big thing. Every technological advancement probably loses something important. It’s interesting to watch it happening. It’s sad in a way, but I don’t doubt that we will gain something new at the same time.

Solar power is real

Solar power is real. By that I mean it’s gone from being a pipe dream and an expensive water heater to being just another source of electricity.

More and more companies are now using it, and most of the cause is simple economics: “solar panel prices have fallen 40% since 2010.” Retail companies lead the list, with Walmart, Costco and Kohl’s in the top three. I’m guessing that their building profiles — being big and flat — make solar an easier decision. See the link for the top 25.

That reminded me of a few years ago when Ray Kurzweil was quoted as saying that we’ll be getting 100% of our power from solar in 20 years. I looked it up, and found where he said more recently (in 2011) that it’ll be in 14 years.

This isn’t something we could have sped up by simply pouring more money into solar power research 20 years ago. It required high-tech of this day and age, and getting there required more than just research on solar power.

It’s nice to see we’re at a tipping point.

This means more than just a new source of power. If Kurzweil is right, people will eventually decide that other forms of energy are too expensive. We may slow down our investments in other forms of energy, particularly those that expect a return only in the long term, like nuclear, or those that seem (and probably are) boondogglish. That’s probably a good idea if Kurzweil is right, and bad if he’s wrong.