The Micromort

So the idea of the micromort is about conceptualizing risk.  A one in a million probability that something will kill you?  That’s 1 micromort.  Not the most difficult math, but it helps normalize risk (as for quantifying it, you’re still on your own), so (at least in some sense) the idea that hang-gliding generates the equivalent risk of death as driving 3000 km (~1800 mi) in a car.  There does seem to be a time element missing, as well as some way to account for mitigating elements (I can drive a lot better than I can hang-glide).  I saw this concept referenced on Bruce Schneier’s blog, who in turn credits the Stubborn Mule blog.

Kindle as Research Tool, Revisited

As my usage of the Kindle as a research tool for this semester is winding down, I thought I’d reflect on my earlier post on the topic.  Unfortunately, I will mostly be talking about some of the negative aspects of my Kindle experience.

  • Overall, the use of the Kindle has been a success.  I’m intrigued by the new Kindles coming out, I really hope the keyboards are better; mine has been lightly used, but feels like the keys could fall off or cease to work at any moment.
  • The Kindle can sync notes and annotations between the various platforms, but it was inconsistent to the point of being worthless; only a fraction ever came across.  I used the notes on my Kindle Keyboard to do my work, when I would have rather used them in the Cloud Reader or the PC Kindle App.
  • I am disappointed with the Kindle edition of David Von Drehle’s Triangle: The Fire that Changed America.  The print edition of the book has an insert with photographs; it was completely missing from the Kindle edition.  While images are not the Kindle’s strong point at the moment, it is capable of rendering them, especially the applications on other hardware.  Also disappointing is that most Kindle books are supposed to have been given page number information that corresponds to their print editions, but Triangle did not have this; if I had had to do citations for a paper (this was for an oral report/presentation), I might have been in a bit of a pickle (although I was lucky enough to have access to the print edition).  I understand this could have been a labor intensive undertaking, but considering publishing is primarily electronic, I suspect this would have been a very simple thing to fix.
  • The Cloud Reader has no search capability. I somewhat understand that, but consider that a failure.
  • I was unable to find a platform that would allow me to do any copy and paste function; understandable from a copyright standpoint, but it’s disappointing that at least a limited amount of text couldn’t be copied. (In writing this post, I see a cumbersome workaround is available by using the Kindle website, but that assumes that your annotations actually sync)
I would use the Kindle again for research, but there are some fairly heavy issues that will hopefully be resolved. Considering that pleasure reading doesn’t really have the same demands as reading for research, I will definitely use it for that in the future (when the Kindle edition’s price is reasonable, which is a whole other conversation!).

Kindle as Research Tool

My wife bought me a Kindle (or I guess Kindle Keyboard, now) this spring; I’m back in college for graduate classes, and I imagined that it might make an ideal gadget for a student, but I didn’t have a chance to test that theory until the Fall semester.  The EM course I’m taking has a textbook (Brenda Phillips’ Disaster Recovery) and a book report/presentation for grad students (mine is on the Triangle: The Fire That Changed America); both books are available as Kindle books, so I’ve had a chance to give this experiment a solid effort.  Both books were slightly less in Kindle format than in hardback, and even though I can’t resell them now, I think the ebook format is the better value.

What I like the most so far is the ability to annotate the books in line.  It’s a little tedious to use the keyboard, so the notes are generally short, but you get a nice summary of all your notes that allows you to jump to that spot.  I’ll be interested to see how the upcoming touch keyboard Kindles work out; that might be a great solution to this problem.  In fact, I would rate the keyboard as the Kindle Keyboard’s greatest weakness.

Another boon is that the Kindle makes a decent PDF viewer. I have a fair amount of documents to read, such as FEMA guides, that I can copy over to the Kindle.  The formatting’s not always the best, and moving around the screen is a little awkward, but it works, and the search features work in the PDF’s!

There are a handful of other Kindle features I really liked.  The dictionary feature has also been handy; you highlight a word and get a definition.  Another powerful feature is the ability to search within the books.  I didn’t get a chance to use it much, but I also like the text-to-speech capabilities.  Another feature I didn’t get to use much, yet, but like is the Kindle Cloud/Kindle Android app; the ability to get at these books from other sources, if necesssary, is a handy boon.  The form factor is nice, too; I might wish for a bigger screen (I’m no spring chicken), but at least I can adjust the font size up, and it’s much easier to carry around the Kindle than 2 textbooks and an armful of printouts.  I’m only a little over 1/3 of the way through the semester at this point, so perhaps a follow up later on will be appropriate.