Category Archives: Kindle
I came across a reference to William O Douglas’s book “Of Men and Mountains” in the “Hi Alpine” blog. The reference related to how William Douglas was at peace on his sick-bed thanks to the memories he had of his extensive exploration of the mountains around his hometown of Yakima, WA. I’m not much of a reader and don’t think I have ever read a book published outside of my lifetime, but this book published in 1950, turned out to be far more relevant to me today than I would have ever imagined.
I thought the book was going to be autobiographical with significant focus on William O Douglas as a Supreme Court Justice, but no, it was really just about his adventures in the wilderness. I immediately found myself fascinated by the challenges of a young man losing his father at an early age growing up in Yakima, WA, in the early 1900’s. I was able to gleam from the few professional references that William Douglas was a true man of integrity and must have been a tremendous Justice, but again the book was about his beloved Pacific Northwest Wilderness.
There were a few references to his wilderness adventures in New England and I loved his recollection of his trip to New York to attend Columbia Law School. He only had a few dollars so he hitched rides on trains across the country. Otherwise his story centered around Yakima in the Cascades and Wallowas. I have backpacked enough in this area to know of his references, but to share in them from a few generations prior was unique. What gear did an early backpacker use: a Nelson, Norwegian or Horseshoe packs. What did they eat: beans, bread, berries and fish. How did they stay dry: sometimes a tent but mostly they relied on the natural coverage of trees or caves. How did they stay warm: many times they didn’t but wool was their main resource. Horses for riding and packing were a part of their experiences. Interactions with Indians, trappers and herders were intriguing. But what I loved most were the recollections of his early backpacking experiences where his youthful enthusian would call into question the wisdom of some of his adventures. I get that, I think back to some of the stupid things I have done in the wilderness and I am thankful to be alive. In fact, I have always shared the kinship of my early adventures with my friend John back in NW Colorado in the 1980’s. We used to joke that we were the last of the true Mountain Men.
Not long after I started reading the book I shared my interest in it with John. I knew he would relate to it as I have, especially the fishing secrets throughout the book. Yes, for us this book is an easy reading escape back to our own wilderness adventures. And when a first edition copy of the book was delivered to my home, it could have only come from my wilderness brother, John. True friendship is as valuable as anything we have and William Douglas shared many of his friendships in this book. I hope you all have friendships built upon wilderness adventures.
The Wired Magazine interview with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in their latest issue has motivated me to reflect. For 15 years Amazon has been influential but they seem to always be behind the curtain to players like Microsoft, Apple, Google or Facebook. But consider what they have accomplished and how they have done it. A philosophy based on low margins designed to serve a large customer base in stark contrast to another famous tech player that focuses on high margins catering to a small customer base. Also the fact that Amazon is willing to commit to a 5-7 year business plan has separated them but may also contribute to how they may be overlooked. I remember in their early years I was amazed at their staying power, willing to loose money for many years, but knowing that they would eventually win because market share is the key to domination of the Internet.
Amazon’s strategy which has yielded success is why I have to believe that their approach to publishing with book distribution is also destined to radically redefine that industry. Apple tried to shake up the distribution game with iBooks but Amazon truly controls online book commerce. And now as Amazon ventures into publishing I think we need to take notice. Bookstores as the big publishers desire are quickly becoming history. Consumers will buy books via the most effective and affordable path and that is the Amazon model. We in Higher Ed continue to reason why this can’t work but it does. The majority of our students buy their books through Amazon and if we hope to maintain happy students we will relent to support of that model as well. So take notice of Amazon’s release of the Kindle Fire and their aggressive direct publishing strategy that will reward authors with 70% of the revenue stream. We may fear Amazon’s invasion of our privacy but that fear dampens as we compare it to all the other intruders into our lives.
Finally an alternative to Apple’s iPad in the latest Kindle offerings. I have to admit that I am impressed sight unseen by the Kindle Fire for $199. More then anything else I see adopters of these simpler pad devices desiring simplicity. Just give me a device I can check my email surf the web and read books, and a guess playing games would be cool. This is really about the fact that these pad consumers have never wanted to use a real computer nor should they have been forced to. Now we have some pad options that truly justify having one as a digital consumption device. Let the geeks have the computers but let the masses participate in our digital world more simply and affordably.
Something else that struck me was how Amazon may now be able to build a stronger customer profile database. Not only from this more controlled connection to their customers because of the Kindle device, but maybe more from their controlled monitoring of their web browsing trail. What I am talking about here is the Amazon Silk web browser. Isn’t this improved performance based on running everything through the AWS cloud better then even a proxy server. Google only gets to monitor us when we are on their sites. What if Amazon can now monitor everything we do?
Stephen Shankland’s CNET article: Amazon Silk: One step forward, two steps back shed’s additional light on my privacy concern’s.