synthetic zero

January 10th, 2009

So, recently, I got an iPhone — bought it because I’m thinking of doing some software development for it, and with the maturation of the App Store and the 3G network it felt like it was finally time.  The application that particularly interests me right now, however, is eReader — an ebook reader for the iPhone.  I had an ebook reader for my previous PDA phone, of course, but I found the interface to be rather hard to deal with; the resolution of the display made reading on the device rather annoying.  The iPhone is still a relatively small device for reading, but the resolution is twice what my old phone had, and for the first time I find myself able to read ebooks comfortably.  It’s a kind of a revolution; suddenly, thousands of books are now available to me instantly, over the air, and I can download them and read them at my leisure, carry as many around with me as I wish, at the same time, all inside the phone I’m already carrying anyway.  My parents happened to have a copy of the Oliver Sacks book Musicophilia, which is entertaining and fascinating as most of Oliver Sacks’ books are (one gets the feeling, of course, that his writing isn’t so much genius as it is clear and edifying — there’s a certain fascination, however, with the individual cases he chronicles, aside from any overarching theme he may be trying to lay out.)  In any event, I just read a bit of it over the holidays, and I wanted to read the rest, so I installed eReader and found, to my delight, the book was in fact available, as are quite a few titles new and old. The iPhone is much more convenient than the bulky Kindle; for my purposes, it’s ideal.

Meanwhile, I got a Roku box — there are thousands of titles available from Netflix which you can stream instantly to the Roku in reasonably high quality — they even have a small number of HD titles as well.  The box will soon support other download vendors, also, such as Amazon, and others, in the future.  Netflix’s “instant” selection tends to be less popular films or older releases — however, this means there are a large number of art house films, foreign films, and classics available, all for a flat rate subscription.  I have to say this has also been a huge shift; to suddenly have access to so many classic movies, foreign films, art films, etc… instantly, essentially, it’s a tremendous shift in our ability to gain convenient access to these cultural treasures.

In a strange way, I feel as though I’ve been waiting for this era of online media delivery all my life; it feels natural to me, not at all strange.  Some friends of mine have a strong attachment to paper books and other physical media, but for me, it’s always been the ephemeral information networks which seemed the more logical means of delivery for books and films — yet, it always seemed not quite ready before. I actually think this shift will generally be salutary — the fact that visual culture is so limited on the cable and satellite networks and books have been competing with online content, and losing — this could mean people may find things they might otherwise overlook.  I’ve already watched a number of films I probably would have missed otherwise.

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