Tag Archives | Books

Need a Book on the Timex ZX81? Here’s Where to Go

I’d managed to visit San Rafael, California more times than I can count without visiting Electronics Plus in the city’s downtown shopping district. That changed yesterday, when I stumbled across the store and wandered in.

It’s an amazing place–a kindred spirit of Sunnyvale’s Weird Stuff Warehouse–that reminds me of the parts-oriented Radio Shacks of my youth, only a whole lot larger, and even geekier. My favorite section was the book department, which felt a bit like a time capsule. Some of the tomes are a bit worn, but I think that’s because they’ve been baking in the Marin sun for years, not because they’re used–there were multiple copies of some of them in stock. (Electronics Plus has been in the same location since 1970, long before any of these volumes were published.)

If you’re ever in San Rafael, stop into Electronics Plus–and for now, check out the fuzzy iPhone photos I snapped as I enjoyed browsing the books.

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Borders Goes Bankrupt

Borders, the second-largest bookstore in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy and will close 200 of its 642 stores. It may close another 75 if the company can’t get concessions from landlords.

You might think Borders was the first major casualty of the digital book boom, but the store’s problems may actually be tied up in the previous digital revolution. An Engadget commenter who claims to be a former Borders employee makes a good point to that end:

“Borders made a big commitment to selling CDs & DVDs — large sections of the stores were devoted to this content in the 90s and early 00s. new stores were designed and built in an effort to give multimedia a large segment of the store space.

“In the end, Borders has failed because [its] stores got too big and the demand for CDs and DVDs dropped — there was just no way to pay the bills.”

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The Greatest Computer Books of All Time

Writing about music, a famous, impossible-to-properly-attribute saying goes, is like dancing about architecture. In 2010, anyone who dares write a book about computers runs the risk of facing a variant of this conundrum. The Web is so good at conveying information about technology that it’s hard to recall an age when the default medium for any discussion of computers more ambitious than a magazine article was a static, difficult-to-update, not-necessarily-illustrated printed volume.

But that era existed. The best books about computers were enormously successful, and many of them were really good. They deserve to be celebrated.

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Google Books’ Great Leap Forward

The New York Times has a good piece on the settlement between Google and book publishers which will allow Google to provide full access to a far higher percentage of the vast quantity of books it’s been scanning for its Google Book Search project. I can’t wait–even though plans are for full-blown access to full text to be a paid service rather than an ad-supported freebie…


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Nintendo Gets Into Media Convergence With…Books?

mariobooksWhen it comes creating machines that do more than play games, Nintendo never shared the eagerness of its competitors. Thinking back, I can’t recall any of their consoles or handheld devices offering other entertainment media besides games.

That’s why the deal between Nintendo and book publisher HarperCollins, to release the 100 Classic Book Collection for the Nintendo DS handheld, is such a surprise.

Really, though, it’s pretty clever. You pop in the cartridge, flip the DS on its side so the dual screens are aligned horizontally, like a book, and use your finger and the touchscreen to thumb through the virtual pages of Dickens,  Shakespeare, and much more. And does your Amazon Kindle play video games when you grow tired of reading? Thought not.

It makes sense from a practical standpoint, which helps explain why Nintendo is bucking its “gameplay above all” philosophy to do it. The DS could probably handle some sort of video capabilities to compete with the Sony PSP’s UMD format. Likewise, Nintendo could devise a streaming video service for the Wii and has suggested the possibility of DVD functionality. But you’d need servers to stream video, a major marketing push to sell new handheld video formats, a firmware update or new console generation to support DVD. None of that sits well with the company’s classic approach to gaming systems.

In any case, Nintendo doesn’t need to offer any of those non-gaming perks; they are outselling Sony’s handheld and the other two consoles, after all. So instead of branching into potential pitfalls like music and video, the Big N is providing a much simpler alternative — the written word.

Maybe it’s not such a surprise after all.


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