Sharp and XMDF


A new standard proposed by Sharp for rich ebook experiences.

I keep wondering whether the fidelity improvements offered by native apps and devices like the iPad and what Sharp is proposing merit the reinvention of existing browser-based production processes and standards. The iPad’s browser experience (with the exception of flash content) is pretty great. Would users rather have the whole web at pretty good quality or portions at super-high quality? Not mutually exclusive, but if you’re a content provider with a large existing audience, this is an important question.  You may not have the luxury of telling your audience: hey — check out this new cool version of my content, but only if you have the newest and greatest device.

Other examples of iPad and other innovative reading experiences.

This is a great article from the Business Insider comparing Apple v. Microsoft in the 80’s OS war to Apple v. Google in the mobile war:

A few important distinctions in this comparison which I think strengthen the article’s point:

  • Microsoft sold their OS to computer-makers, but had to compete with other software companies with similar business models.  Google, because of its advertising model, is able to give their mobile platform away.  None of the other mobile software companies have this advantage.
  • Related to above, because Google is not in the device business, they will build their platform for any device that has access to the Internet – PCs, cars, TV, etc.  As more people use and develop the OS across platforms, it could be become the de-facto standard.  This quote from Andy Rubin, the founder of Android and VP of Mobile Platforms at Google:

    We’re at about 4 billion cell phones. About 1.4 billion Internet connected PCs — that includes desktop and laptops and everything else. Like 1.2 billion automobiles. Some 800 million TVs.  And it’s like, “OK, let’s target the top four.” Let’s do everything we can to get the big ones. Remember, our business is volume, because it’s an advertising business and we want to delight a lot of people. And how do you delight a lot of people? You get in the products that they use every day.


    • Unlike Microsoft, Google has a strong history in developing stable, secure and usable software.
    • In the 80s and 90s, software was loaded onto hardware and only updated via disk.  Mobile operating systems can be updated via the Internet.  The result is that software can evolve exponentially faster.  Both Apple and Google seem to be settling into annual updates to their software development kits.  However, because Android serves multiple device companies, there is an incentive to release new phone options faster.  If Google can develop a faster process for evolving and distributing their OS, it could be a competitive advantage.

    First, this is a great article from Clay Shirky comparing the fall of complex societies with the struggle of complex industries to innovate:

    Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond. In retrospect, this can seem mystifying. Why didn’t these societies just re-tool in less complex ways? The answer Tainter gives is the simplest one: When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t.

    Possibly related (for the textbook publishing industry) is this awesome infographic on Open Courseware:

    Infographic on Open Courseware

    Recently, I’ve seen a number of web applications experimenting with the presentation of tabular data.  In some cases, I’ve noticed them moving away from table presentations and toward a variety of listings using different fonts and presentation techniques.  There are plenty of examples, but a good one is Mint’s credit card recommendation screen:

    Mint credit card recommendation screen

    The information on Mint’s screen is tabular — there are products, card images, balance transfers, interest on purchases, etc.  Each row represents a new product and all column info is consistent.  However, Mint has chosen to display each row as a large box with its own columns of data.  On my screen resolution (1366×768), I’m only able to see two options at a time.  Because of this constraint (and likely performance concerns), Mint also asks the user to page through options.

    Why I hate paging

    Paging is one of those funny UI techniques that you hope people won’t have to use.   Google uses it appropriately– there are millions of results and Google’s algorithms have a high likelihood of finding the right results for you on the first page.  In other words, it’s rare that you would have to use the paging option.  NetFlix also spends a lot of time and money on relevance algorithms in the hopes that their users won’t have to use the paging option.  However, in shopping for a credit card, it’s very likely that I would want to see all options.  In fact, I might want to filter those options based on a series of criteria (columns).

    Ironically, as more “web 2.0” styled sites seem to be moving away from tabular presentations, support for AJAX and DHTML has made truly useful presentation of tabular data more supportable.   Many table widgets allow you to scroll through a full list, automatically sort on columns, and even do sums or other calculations on data in columns.

    This article from Smashing does a nice job of presenting DHTML data grid options:

    Really great TED lecture by Sir Ken Robinson on creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.


    Creativity…the process of having original ideas that have value…comes about from the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

    Check out the Wikipedia biographies of well known thinkers as evidence of Ken’s statement:

    • Blaise Pascal — mathematician, physicist, Catholic philosopher
    • Thomas Jefferson — horticulturist, archeologist, paleontologist, inventor, political leader
    • Isaac Newton — Physicist, astronomer, mathematician, theologian
    • Galileo Galilei — Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher
    • Leonardo da Vinci — Sculpter, architect, scientist, painter, musician, engineer, inventor, geologist, botonist
    • Ben Franklin — author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat

    It’s interesting that our universities not only silo disciplines, but  require students to think of themselves as one type of thinker or another early on in their education.

    Very cool — This visualisation generates itself from this Google Doc. So when new research comes out, they can quickly update the data and regenerate the image.

    This concept is a great example of the potential of living textbooks.  It not only applies to figures, but also to

    • Examples (one of the core elements updated in new revisions)
    • Assignments (imagine a problem in which the variables can change each time and are driven from a Google Doc that a group of SMEs constantly update).
    • Tables
    • Glossary Terms
    • Bios of significant people

    Google Docs is an interesting source because, unlike Wikipedia, edits can be by invite-only (though Wikipedia could be cool too).  There are, of course, other sources.  In a finance or statistics book, you might use published IRS data, for example.  ESPN is another great source for normalized data.

    Nice grid developed by Ron Norman for evaluating JavaScript toolkits: