June 4, 2001-- Newsletter #133

By Joe Burns

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Goodies to Go (tm)
June 4, 2001--Newsletter #133

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.
http://www.internet.com

Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Whew! I just finished up the second editions of the books HTML Goodies and JavaScript Goodies. HTML Goodies received 15 new tutorials while JavaScript Goodies was given almost 100 new pages of text. JavaScript Goodies also had a lot of mistakes repaired now that the Y2K bug has hit and left us. All that was done in two and a half weeks. I have to get back to work at the University. These breaks are killing me. Look for the second editions in around two months.

Did you hear...

You know, I always make a point of mentioning viruses in the newsletter. I don't like them, but to be honest, I'm often a little impressed by the delivery method. These virus folk just keep getting one over on the email-reading public.

Well, a new one is out...and it's not even really a virus. If you receive an email asking that you search your system and delete a file named SULFNBK.EXE, don't.

It's a trick.

The person, or persons, who are sending this one out are playing on the fear of receiving a file with the extension .exe. SULFNBK.EXE is not a virus. It's part of the Windows 98 operating system that helps you restore long file names. If you've already deleted that file, you'll want to go back and restore it. There's a nice set of instructions on About.com at: here.

You'll need to have your original Windows CD-ROMs to undertake the re-installation.

So what? You may be asking what is the big deal and why I'm spending so much time on this. Well, here's the big deal.

I believe this is only the first step in a two-pronged attack. This first set of email warnings simply told us to be careful. The next set that show up will have an infected version of SULFNBK.EXE attached along with install instructions.

Watch for it - when it happens, just remember where you heard it first.

Now onto today's topic...

What is it about a book? Why do people still love books?

When CDs came along, that vast majority of people simply gave up their vinyl and went with it. I'll bet that soon enough MP3s will overtake CDs. You'll buy a new album online and simply download it right to your little MP3 Walkman. We'll just simply push the old technology to the side.

We are so very quick to throw away older, slower, CPUs in favor of the massive new clock speeds. The chip that is celebrated today is dead tomorrow.

Yet, we still love books.

I'll be honest with you. I was stunned when my book HTML Goodies sold the way it did. It was named one of the best selling computer books of the year by Amazon and other dealers. JavaScript Goodies did the same. I was floored.

Do you know why I was floored? It was because there really wasn't anything in the books that wasn't on the Web site for free. Why spend $20 on the paper when it's online for nothing more than the cost of your time?

When I teach HTML in a class setting, I obviously use my own writings. They are all online. The students need to only log on and go get it. All I ever hear is how poor these students are, but yet they all buy the book. It's not because I tell them to either. My syllabus only suggests that the book might be a good idea. It states plain as day that purchasing my book is not required for the class. I hate the thought of forcing a student to buy my book for my class. It just seems a little sleazy somehow.

Yet, at the end of the year, when I ask them to critique the class, it always comes through that I should require students to by the book.

"But it's all online for free," I counter.

They always respond that it's just easier with the book in hand.

What is with books, anyway? Why won't they go digital?

A CNN poll of users showed that 68% of those who responded said they have never tried e-books. Respondents liked their paper copies.

E-books just aren't taking off like publishers thought they would. One company, Gemstar, stated they have only sold 60,000 e-book devises in the past year. That's not a lot. Some say it's the cost, some say it's the lack of titles available. E-book Web sites are running into trouble. One such site, Bookface, employed a friend of mine. They went under last year.

Even those companies that have an out-of-the-gate winner are running into trouble. Softlock.com, now Digital Goods, put out Steven King's "Riding the Bullet" with Simon & Schuster last year. No luck. Thirty-nine persons were just laid off.

What is it about books? Why won't they go digital?

It may be price. If I get off a plane and accidentally leave my $5.99 paperback in the pocket next to the airsickness bag, I'm not all that broken hearted. I simply stop by the bookstore and pick another one up, not that this has happened to me...three times.

I have no trouble lugging a 500-page paperback to the beach. If it gets buried in the sand, fine. I can still read it. Leaving behind an e-book reader or taking it to the beach might make me a little more concerned.

No, I think it's more than that. We're not afraid to spend money on technology. That's obvious. There are more cell phones, PDAs and laptops out there than people. I think it's more than money or lack of titles.

I think it's because books are intimate.

When I read a great story, I am part of it. The entire show is happening up in my head. There's nothing between the story and me. Ishmael is telling me about the great white whale. Inside my own head it's the best of times and it's the worst of times. The characters beat on, boats against the current, being borne back ceaselessly into the past. It all starts in the beginning.

You might feel that an e-book will do all of that as well. I don't think so. There's something wonderful about first cracking those pages open and listening to the binding crunch. My favorite books simply fall open to the pages that I read most often. They are covered with marks, highlighting, and notes in the margins. When I finish the book, I can roll the pages back together and pass it along to another whom I think might enjoy the story as well.

The e-book interface, though unobtrusive, still gets in the way. I speak to classes about traditions and how we expect things to taste, look, feel, and operate. Records and CDs worked basically the same way and the CD was better so the vinyl lost.

The e-book doesn't reflect the traditions of a good book. Sure, the text is there, but it's not the same. The results are the problems those selling the product seem to be running into.

Plus a good book never does run out of power... or electricity.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

That's that - thanks for reading my e-newsletter.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: With the out-of-control gasoline costs going on here in the U.S., how about some gas facts. Gas comes from petroleum, which means "liquid rock". The first gas station opened in St. Louis, MO in 1907. An automobile produced today created 20 times less pollution than an auto built in 1960. Tell that to my friend who just bought himself a 1963 Corvette. Oooo...does it look cool.

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