Google voice search on iPhone

Good lord. I have just discovered that Google’s ‘Google Mobile’ application on the iPhone has voice search. Go to the search page and bring the phone to your ear. The accelerometer tells the app to start listening. Then just speak your search, and away it goes. I’ve done a half-dozen searches and it has been spot on every time.

The future really is with us, my friends. Just to prove it to myself, I held the device up to my mouth and asked it for information on ‘transparent aluminium.’ It worked. I am Scotty, and the idea of accessing the databanks with a mouse and keyboard are starting to seem a little quaint.

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Creative writing on the iPhone followup – iUI

I just wrote about the problems of note taking on the iPhone and PC. It may not be as difficult as I previously thought. There is a great project called iUI on google code which makes it easy to roll your own iPhone-flavoured website. I got this very basic screen up and running within minutes. I may look into creating an Ajax app using iUI, jQuery, markdown, and WMD

Books are dead.

_**Books are dead.** New books — physical paper copies — will be gone within a few decades, replaced by electronic downloads read on hand-held [readers][kindle]._

At my writer’s group this evening, we got to talking about the [Amazon Kindle][kindle], the e-book reader that uses a very-low-power, [paper-like screen][eink] to let people read books and newspapers, and have content pushed wirelessly.

I mentioned that I thought that paper books were on their way out, and some people disagreed; I’m going to explain why we won’t see bookshops on the high street in 2028.

We all know, I think, of the huge shifts in the music industry. [CD sales are falling][cdsales]; figures from earlier this year had US CD sales dropping 20%. HMV have taken a [three-year, 60% stock price plunge][hmv]. Chains like MVC and Tower Records are dead. Virgin Megastores are [gone from the high street][vm].

Why?

Two things have conspired to kill the CD, and the stores that sell them. Neither of these things would have been enough on their own, but paired together, they have sealed the fate of the CD. It may look alive still, but it is fatally wounded.

The two things, then; the [iPod][], and broadband.

First, the [iPod][]. Portable music used to mean a walkman. You carried round one hour of music, and left your CD library at home. The iPod changed that, though. A full-fat 160gb ipod will hold about 3,000 albums. You don’t carry one item from the library anymore; you carry the entire library. This is huge. Once you’ve experienced it, the idea of not having all your music with you feels prehistoric.

Second; broadband. So you’ve got an iPod, and now you need music on it. What options do you have;

1. Buy a CD and rip it.
2. Borrow a friend’s CD and rip it.
3. Download it from an on-line retailer line like [emusic][] or [itunes][iPod].
4. Download it from a site like [mininova][] using peer-to-peer software like [ĀµTorrent](http://www.utorrent.com/).

Downloading is, again, simply better. Legit copies are cheaper, and the selection can be better than a shop. You don’t have to buy full albums, saving you more money. It’s fast, too. If you were standing in HMV’s doorway, and I was sitting in front of my PC, I bet you I could buy an album faster than you. And of course, using peer-to-peer software like [ĀµTorrent](http://www.utorrent.com/), one could probably download it in about ten minutes, for free.

The combination is lethal; the CD is no longer the component part of a music library; the MP3 has displaced it.

So…

books.

What would it take for this to happen to books?

Well, there would have to be a reading device that was comparable to reading a book. The [kindle][] is one of the first devices, the [sony reader][] is another. It won’t be long before we see a reader with a screen that compares to paper, but which will hold your entire library. And no reason why you couldn’t make readers share documents via bluetooth or wireless. We’ll have the book equivalent of iPods. Give that a couple of years.

Then we’ll need book content, delivered over the internet. Well, that won’t be hard. The beating heart of the web is just that; a text delivery system. HTML and PDFs will be the new component part of a text library. Amazon will push publishers to produce electronic equivalents of their books, which won’t be hard because they are all typeset on computers anyway. Content will drive uptake of the readers; people with readers will demand content. The internet will deliver legitimate and illegitimate content, and readers will become standard urban gear.

Borders will go the way of HMV.

You know what I think the killer app will be here? Schoolkids. Schoolkids with one reader in their bag, with all their schoolbooks downloaded, along with a copy of wikipedia P2P-copied there just in case.

[cdsales]: http://news.digitaltrends.com/news/story/12526/us_cd_sales_down_20_percent
[eink]: http://www.eink.com/
[emusic]: http://www.emusic.com/
[hmv]: http://www.hmvgroup.com/investors/shareprice.jsp?_ryFormSubmission=true&duration=-36&fromDateDay=18&fromDateMonth=2&fromDateYear=2005&fromDate=2005%2F2%2F18+00%3A00%3A00&toDateDay=18&toDateMonth=12&toDateYear=2007&toDate=2007%2F12%2F18+0%3A0%3A00&ownDateRangeSubmit.x=13&ownDateRangeSubmit.y=8
[iPod]: http://www.apple.com/itunes
[kindle]: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA
[mininova]: http://www.mininova.org
[sony reader]: http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=11038811
[vm]: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/sep/18/media.retail

The Rise And Fall of Art Forms

Two things you should read; this [coilhouse post][ch] introducing [“The Decline of Fashion Photography”][art].

[ch]: http://coilhouse.net/2007/11/24/the-decline-of-fashion-photography/
[art]: http://www.slate.com/features/010510_fashion-slide-show/01.htm

The main article traces one art form from the fifties to the present-day in twenty-eight photos and comments. Her argument is that the form has descended from a heyday to a low point nowadays, with either too little art, or too little fashion.

In a wider sense, it’s interesting to consider whether art forms generally go through such rises and falls. This has to be quite focussed; I think arguing for a golden age of cinema, or of music, would be ridiculous; but arguing for the heydey of zombie explotation movies, or mod, or house music, that’s possible.

For me, the interesting question is around sci-fi short fiction. Recently, it’s been [argued][we] and [riffed on][al] that science fiction short story mags like [Analog][an] have been declining in circulation; does this mean that form of written, printed short fiction drawing to a close? Is it being transformed by the internet? free electronic distribution of magazines like [hub][], reworking the form into [flash fiction][ff], and changing the medium by podcasting (eg [pseudopod][pp]) suggest the forms mutating rapidly and that the classic sub-10,000 word, printed paper story might well atrophy away. After all, while people might not be comfortable reading a whole book on a screen, they’ll read an awful lot of short pieces.

PS: I’d recommend [coilhouse][chm]; it’s a interesting art blog focussing on alt culture.

[we]: http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=5212
[chm]: http://www.coilhouse.net
[al]: http://www.hub-mag.co.uk/?p=11
[an]: http://www.analogsf.com/0712/issue_12.shtml
[pp]: http://pseudopod.org/
[ff]: http://www.365tomorrows.com/
[hub]: http://www.hub-mag.co.uk/