The so-called 'cult of Apple' is in some ways nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek fiction perpetrated by those unable to accept the advantages of some of the company's remarkable developments in both hardware and software capabilities.

But there lies within that fiction a kernel of important truth. Apple's pseudo-religious, at times dogmatic attitude towards computing mirrors other control-obsessed organisations such as Facebook and Google. Except that Apple goes further, or has been allowed to go further, by those who refuse to question the social implications of the company's growing influence.

It is amusing that brain scans have shown that, to Apple fanboys, images of the company's logo set off similar neurological signals to religious people viewing the iconography of their faith. But despite this, and despite the fact that the Latin word for "apple" happens to also be the Latin word for "evil", Steve Jobs' corporation is only really a spiritual order in an analogical sense. Still, that analogy obviously bears cultural weight. The iCloud is a kind of heaven, where we, in the form of our digital property, will be eternally secure. We are asked to put faith in that ideal; we cannot visit the data centre ourselves or even physically see what is stored there. This presents a challenge which is so far an exceptionally new experience to human beings, and it is because of that, that Apple and other companies appear to have an almost ethereal grip upon us as a species.

From the excellent The Machine Starts blog.

In a paper entitled Outlines of a world coming into existence: Pervasive computing and the ethics of forgetting (running an argument you may be familiar with from Viktor Mayer-Schönberger's book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age), Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin examine (sometimes in horrid academese, it must be admitted) "the potential of pervasive computing to create widespread sousveillance, that will complement surveillance, through the development of life-logs; socio-spatial archives that document every action, every event, every conversation, and every material expression of an individual’s life":

Reflecting on emerging technologies, life-log projects and artistic critiques of sousveillance we explore the potential social, political and ethical implications of machines that never forget. We suggest, given that life-logs have the potential to convert exterior generated oligopticons to an interior panopticon, that an ethics of forgetting needs to be developed and built into the development of life-logging technologies. Rather than seeing forgetting as a weakness or a fallibility we argue that it is an emancipatory process that will free pervasive computing from burdensome and pernicious disciplinary effects (more...)

The Bookseller tells me:

The much anticipated Apple iPad will go on sale in the UK in late April, a month later than originally stated by the company's website. International pricing will not be announced until April.

Shoppers in America will be able to get their hands on the wi-fi model of the iPad from 3rd April and pre-orders from the Apple online store will begin on 12th March. The wi-fi + 3G models will be available in late April in the US. All models of iPad will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April (more...)

Today is the second day in the 38 Plays: 38 Days challenge to read a Shakespeare play every day for the next thirty-eight days. This evening I shall be pleasuring myself with The Taming of the Shrew (which is online at e.g. Project Gutenberg; I'm using The Oxford Shakespeare).

Wikipedia's synopsis reads:

The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1594.

The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a drunken tinker named Sly is tricked into thinking he is a nobleman by a mischievous Lord. The Lord has a play performed for Sly's amusement, set in Padua with a primary and sub-plot.

The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments – the "taming" – until she is an obedient bride. The sub-plot features a competition between the suitors of Katherina's less intractable sister, Bianca.

For the more technically-minded of you lot out there... via ProBlogger, Jeff Chandler shows how FireFox 3 can be a great tool for bloggers:

If there is one thing that sets FireFox apart from any other web browser, it would have to be the third party support in the form of themes and extensions. There are so many extensions available for the browser, you can virtually do just about anything. As I become more entrenched as a blogger online, I’ve started to transform FireFox into more than just a browser,  it has become my ultimate blogging toolbox (more...)

Just like Scott Pack (indeed, in exactly the manner he describes, including nice email from Huw from i-level), I have received a freebie Sony Reader. I understand Steve and DGR are each getting one too.

Well, it's very nice! Free stuff is always nice. As a device it is pleasant enough but, I have to admit, I'm a little underwhelmed: I can't read under my favourite reading light because of reflected screen glare; page turn is slow -- and one forgets that with real book one flicks a lot e.g. to see how many pages before the chapter ends thus whether to read on or not; also, reading two books simultaneously, only the last one you were reading is conveniently saved, you have to search for other one (I think); and the alphabetical of authors is so wrong -- Melville is under H for Herman!!

However, it is very slim and tidy, and having a hundred-odd books within such a neat, wee package is very exciting. I'll live with it for a bit and report back anon.

Personally, I think e-readers represent a cul-de-sac technology: they'll go off on their own merry way for a bit, improve screen and e-ink technology, iron out their other glitches, and get really good at what they do -- and then the technology will be bundled back into the third or fourth generation i-phones and their competitors. The standalone e-reading device is only ever going to be a minorty-interest toy. However, if good e-reading technology is bundled back into mainstream devices (notebook laptops and phones) I can see it acting as a gateway drug that might lead some innocent young thing from the relative safety of reading on a screen to the hardcore activity of reading actual, real books. Too much hot air has been guffed about e-readers killing books -- I think they might lead a new generation back to them.

Update: Rob over at SnowBlog has some interesting things to say about the device too.

if:book (via googlizationofeverything) have a useful review/overview of their coverage of Google over the past four years:

Fair use, digitization, public domain, archiving, the role of libraries and cultural heritage are intricately interconnected. But the name that connects all these issues over the last few years has been Google. The Institute has covered Google's incursions into digitization of libraries (amongst other things) in a way that has explored many of these issues - and raised questions that are as urgent as ever. Is it okay to privatize vast swathes of our common cultural heritage? What are the privacy issues around technology that tracks online reading? Where now for copyright, fair use and scholarly research?

In-depth coverage of Google and digitization has helped to draw out many of the issues central to this blog. Thus, in drawing forth the narrative of if:book's Google coverage is, by extension, to watch a political and cultural stance emerging. So in this post I've tried to have my cake and eat it - to trace a story, and to give a sense of the depth of thought going into that story's discussion.

More at if:book.

Should be writing? Easily distracted? Try Dark Room (via doshdosh):

I’m busy with some other projects now and instead of leaving the blog alone for several days, I thought I’ll do a quick post on a helpful tool that I’ve been using for more than a year.

It’s called Dark Room and its a minimalist fullscreen word processor which forces you to focus on the writing process and nothing else.

This free Windows/.Net application transforms your entire computer screen into a dark background and removes all the usual word processor toolbars and quick buttons. The only thing you’ll see is the words. I feel that it really improves my ability to concentrate on the blog post or school essay I’m writing.

Today, Amazon launch their e-book reader, the Amazon Kindle. There is a very chunky article in Newsweek (thanks Lee!) with the details:

This week Bezos is releasing the Amazon Kindle, an electronic device that he hopes will leapfrog over previous attempts at e-readers and become the turning point in a transformation toward Book 2.0. That's shorthand for a revolution (already in progress) that will change the way readers read, writers write and publishers publish. The Kindle represents a milestone in a time of transition, when a challenged publishing industry is competing with television, Guitar Hero and time burned on the BlackBerry; literary critics are bemoaning a possible demise of print culture, and Norman Mailer's recent death underlined the dearth of novelists who cast giant shadows.

Evan Schnittman, OUP's Vice President of Business Development and Rights for the Academic and USA Divisions, has a review of the Kindle Device up on the OUPblog.

Via if:book: "QuickMuse ... is a project built on software by Fletcher Moore that tracks what a writer does over time; when played back, the visitor with a Javascript-enabled browser sees how the composition was written over time, sped up if desired ... [E]ditor Ken Gordon has invited a number of poets to compose a poem in fifteen minutes, based, usually, on some found text. The poetry thus created isn't necessarily the best, but that's immaterial: it's interesting to see how people write. (If you'd like to try this yourself, you can use Dlog.)"

You can now get RSB blog posts via instant messaging, SMS and other new-fangled ways through Twitter (thanks, Lee, for all your help here). If you're already a Twitter user, just add ReadySteadyBook at If you're not, signing up is nimps (old scouse for "easy"). If you wish to avoid such nonsense, I don't blame you!

Update: I've now also added The Book Depository to Twitter:

Update II: And now also BritLitBlogs --

Worrying news posted at if:book:

After years as an Internet urban myth, the email tax appears to be close at hand. The New York TImes reports that AOL and Yahoo have partnered with startup Goodmail to start offering guaranteed delivery of mass email to organizations for a fee. Organizations with large email lists can pay to have their email go directly to AOL and Yahoo customers' inboxes, bypassing spam filters. Goodmail claims that they will offer discounts to non-profits. and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have joined together to create an alliance of nonprofit and public interest organizations to protest AOL's plans. They argue that this two-tiered system will create an economic incentive to decrease investment into AOL's spam filtering in order to encourage mass emailers to use the pay-to-deliver service. They have created an online petition called for people to request that AOL stop these plans. A similar protest to Yahoo who intends to launch this service after AOL is being planned as well.

We (thanks Lee) have just added tags ("book and publishing news", "authors", "blogosphere", "events", "personal", "technical", "music" and "manchester" so far) to RSB to help you navigate the RSB blog content a bit better. You'll find the wee 'tag' link underneath the "posted by Mark Thwaite" bit on each blog entry. No doubt, you'll have seen the like before. If not, check out e.g. Technorati.

We've changed the comments procedure here on RSB to make things a little easier for everyone: if you have not posted a comment on RSB before, it will need to be approved by me, but once you have an "approved" comment, you can go ahead and post further comments to your heart's content. We have also introduced a captcha code to prevent spam.

Access keys are keyboard shortcuts that help users who have difficulty in using pointing devices such as a mouse. RSB is fully set up with access keys - see our accessibility page for more details.