Initial thoughts on my new Kindle

I bought my Kindle when I realised that I would be spending somewhere in the region of £200 on books that are part of The Modern Library’s Top 100 list. I figured I could get quite a few of them for free from Project Gutenberg because they’re out of copyright, and I could get the others fairly cheaply because they’re pretty old, and digital media is cheap.

I was wrong.

The prices of ebooks on the Kindle store is bordering on the ridiculous. Most of the books I want were published in the first 3 quarters of the 20th century. You can pick up a second-hand copy at any book store or market for a couple of pounds. You can even buy a copy of some of them from Amazon/eBay for 1 penny (if you don’t mind paying for the postage).

The book I’m reading at the moment is Sophie’s Choice. Amazon’s price list says that a second-hand paperback copy on their marketplace can be bought for £3.05, a new paperback from the marketplace costs £4.27, and a new paperback from Amazon costs £6.99. If you want a digital copy with no associated printing or shipping costs then it’ll cost you £6.64.

I don’t understand how it’s so expensive. I’m not taking up physical copies of the book requiring more to be printed. I’m getting a copy of a digital file. It’s sent to my device automatically by machine. There is no postage, there is no physical storage required in a warehouse somewhere. Does that really only amount to a price difference of 35p?

I’m a little disenchanted by the whole thing, but I do also enjoy owning a Kindle. It is very convenient, and I suppose that’s what I pay for. Also, I suppose the book publishers are the ones who ultimately set the prices and I’d say they’re about as far behind as the music and film industries when it comes to embracing the digital age.

Theremin-eqsue HTML5

I’ve spent the last few days thinking about theremins, the musical instrument that you play without touching. When I went to see a band called Spaceships Are Cool the other day it triggered my mind. One night I suddenly decided it would be possible to make a theremin that worked using only one hand using a different design.

I plan to make one at some point in the future, when I get the parts in one place… For now I decided that I would build my concept in the browser. I started out making it with a bunch of div tags, which was frustrating, and then I realised that I could use the <canvas> tag from HTML5 to do it.

I threw together a quick page and then began thinking about the sound. I found a page detailing generating sound in Javascript in Firefox 4 and decided to go with that. I installed Firefox 4 and then started playing around with scripting everything. I started out by picking apart Paul Irish’s harmony.js file (view that site in Google Chrome and scroll to the bottom). Then I added in the sound stuff once I had values for the cursor position.

What I ended up with was a very plain page that generates sound (in Firefox 4) with the pitch determined by the cursor position on the X axis, and the volume on the Y axis. The sample time is 50ms, and at the moment there’s a bit of an annoying click. I think I might be able to get rid of that by keeping the audio element playing at 0 volume or something like that, but that’s debugging for another day.

Anyway, if you’re viewing this on my page in Firefox 4 then you should see the finished product underneath. If you’re viewing this in a feed or on Facebook then you’ll want to go here. If you’re not using Firefox 4, or you’re not sure what browser you’re using then this probably won’t work for you and you’re probably very bored of reading this by now.