Round up #118: HDMI, Penguin for sale?

Round up #118: HDMI, Penguin for sale?

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Rupert Murdoch might buy Penguin, combine with HarperCollins

There’s a lot of speculation in this

Guardian Article

but here’s the thing:

Marjorie Scardino has left as CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Pearson, a major media company that owns Penguin, Pearson (an educational publisher), and the Financial Times.

The thought is that the new CEO may be open to selling off part of the company, and that Rupert Murdoch might be interested in buying (Murdoch’s company already owns HarperCollins).

I used to be a big admirer of Penguin as a publisher, but they’ve made some moves in the digital world that has soured me on them. They blocked text-to-speech access, for one thing, and their prices have been perceived as being particularly high.

At this point, the image comes to mind to me of penguins on an ice shelf, and one gets pushed off to get eaten. The penguins are the parts of Pearson…and Penguin is the penguin. ;)

I don’t know if this would all be approved, or even if it would be a real possibility. Interesting to speculate, though…

HDMI on the Fire HD

One of the differences between the first generation Kindle Fire and the Kindle Fire HD is an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) out port. One that means is that you can buy a cable, and connect the micro HDMI output on the Kindle Fire to something with a regular HDMI input…like many TVs, and see the Fire on that second device.

I bought a fairly inexpensive one ($8.99):

Mediabridge Flex Series – High Speed Micro-HDMI to HDMI Cable with Ethernet (6 Feet)

One thing that will affect the cost is the length of the cable, and I debated with myself whether I wanted a short one (6′ is short) or a longer one so I could sit far away and control what I saw on the “monitor”. I went with the short one because my Significant Other is not a fan of seeing cords, and the six foot one is easier to hide when not in use.

I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work…would it show me everything on my Fire’s screen, or just certain types of output, like video?

It shows me everything…and it looks fine. :)

I can see some good uses for this…watching Prime streaming video, of course, but also for websites, pictures, and so on.

That also means you could use it with an HDMI projector…that would let you show content from your Kindle Fire on a wall, for example. It wouldn’t look great on a wall, naturally, but it means you could use it as a presentation device in a meeting. We also have big screen monitors in some of our meeting rooms that use HDMI, so it would work for that.

It is a plus for the KFHD.

Oh, and I did try Skype, finally. The sound quality on the call was great…much better than on my SmartPhone, or even on my landline (although I do use a cordless phone for that). I suspect that was the Dolby sound.

The video was pretty unreliable. It never played smoothly. I tried calling two different relatives, and for one of them, my side never connected for video.

I’ve only tried it once (well, two people, but within minutes of each other) on one network, so that’s not much of a sample. When I’m on wi-fi, though, it could replace my SmartPhone for phone calls, I think.

Graphic: Why DRM Doesn’t Work

Thanks to Joe Wikert for the heads-up on this funny graphic (even if it is from 2010):

Why DRM Doesn’t Work

The premise is that DRM (Digital Rights Management) can make it much more difficult to get a file than getting it from an illegal torrent site. The illustration is hyperbolic (it’s part of what makes it funny), but yes, it can be awkward to work with some implementation of DRM.

Do book blogs only point people to easy reads?

In this

Telegraph article

The article quotes Sir Peter Strothard, the Chairman of the Man Book Prize judges, as saying:

“Books that are not immediately easy to read – the books that in the end will last, that reward you most – do increasingly require the Man Booker Prize judges to identify them so that people will find the pleasure and reward of reading them.”

The article suggests that Strothard thinks that online blogs which review books (which would include this one) tend to point people towards what are sometimes called “popcorn books”…easy reads which may not have a lasting literary value or impact on the reader.

Do we need Man Booker and other literary prizes to preserve traditional criticism?

My own thought is that there are blogs that do popcorn books, and blogs that would help you find those “worthy” titles.

My guess is that one driver of blogs towards easy reads is the need to publish frequently in a blog. There is going to be a push towards quantity…Man Booker doesn’t have to write about hundreds of books a year. ;)

What do you think? Would you use your Fire to run your TV? If so, would you drop premium cable channels? How do you feel about Penguin as a publisher…and would Rupert Murdoch owning it change your feeling for good or bad? Have you had experience Skyping on a Fire? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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16 Responses to “Round up #118: HDMI, Penguin for sale?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    The buzz on the Pearson CEO transition is that she was not performing well in transitioning Pearson (especially the FT) to the new digital world.

    So a new CEO will come in with a mandate to shake things up. The stuff I’ve read is that the FT would most likely be on the block. Thing is I get the FT every day, and I have to tell you they are vitriiolically anti- Murdoch, anti-News Corp.

    I suspect any attempt by News Corp to acquire any of the pieces of Pearsons would be vociferously opposed. OTOH Murdoch getting Penguin would probably be the death knell for agency pricing — Penguin is far and away the most opposed to the DOJ suit. Absent a buyout they will oppose the DOJ to the bitter end (IMO :D).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Right, as an FT reader (although for me, FT is Fortean Times, but that’s another story), you know that selling that to Rupert Murdoch would be difficult internally, and to readers.

      Penguin is different…only serious readers even know who the publishers are, and then they generally aren’t emotionally invested in one or another (although they sometime oppose them).

      as you point out, HarperCollins settled on the Agency Model, and worked out a new contract with Amazon quickly. Since Rupert Murdoch isn’t exactly old publishing, I think he’s less concerned about the prestige, and more concerned about the profit. :) That can be good for readers, since profit comes from us, and makes the company more beholden to the readers than to “principles”. I don’t oppose principles, of course…but they aren’t always the best thing for other folks. ;)

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I was glad to see you bring up the HDMI thing here. In a reply to a comment on a recent ILMK post, someone brought it up, and you mentioned Roku Juice. I was thinking of adding some info there, but this is better place.

    There are a couple of threads over on the Amazon Kindle community forums dealing with the HDMI issue. The bottom line comment is that video streaming on the KFHD looks superb, but that when you hookup an HDMI cable to a 1080p TV, the result is not nearly as good. Quality looks like SD, colors washed out.

    Lots of back and forth, but no definitive conclusions. Let me make some observations. First the KFHD is a 1280×800 display. HD 720p is 1280×720 — so the best a KFHD can display is going to be 720p.

    Much of the sources used for the testing over on the forums came from Prime Instant video, and Amazon video. If the source there is HD, it is almost definitely going to be 1080p (as what they’re selling/streaming is mostly targeted at customers with full HD (1080p) TVs,. When 1080p source video is streamed to the KFHD, it will be down converted to 720p. If you take whats then on the KFHD screen out thru the HDMI port up to your HD TV, what you are sending is going to be 720p which will not look as good as if you streamed the 1080p video from Amazon directly to your TV.

    Another point (I’m managing expectations here), the ppi of the KFHD is 216 which is pretty good (much better than the original KF). However, when you take the 1280×800 KFHD screen contents out over the HDMI port up to a 46″ or 55″ 1080p TV, the ppi is going to fall way down — so what looks fabulous on the KFHD isn’t going to look near as good on a large TV.

    Lastly, HDMI is a digital interface specification, cable quality (mentioned as a possible issue over on the forums) isn’t going to matter at all. With HDMI either you get a full high quality image, or you get nothing — you never get an inferior picture from an inferior HDMI cable. Most issues with HDMI occur if you run long cable lengths (25′ or longer) and there if the cable is not up to snuff for the distance of the run, you will get no picture at all.

    There are other scenarios beyond forwarding a video from a KF to a TV using HDMI. Many smart TVs (like Samsung for one) do not provide apps to stream Amazon video sources directly (they used to, but not any more — probably for business/competitive reasons). Over on the forums, the suggested work around is to buy a Roku box ($85-99). In addition to Roku Juice which you previously mentioned, I’ll mention two other apps that can make the HDMI port useful.: one is Plex, and the other is remote for Roku (which lets you use your KFHD as a Roku box controller.

    Running an HDMI cable from my bed to my TV on the wall (10′ away) is not a very convenient notion. There are various kinds of boxes/dongles that you can buy that can connect two HDMI ports wirelessly — but that starts to get expensive.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I appreciate all that technical analysis! I don’t have it hooked up to a super large TV, and yes, it wasn’t as sharp as it was on the Fire itself….but neither is my cable TV on that screen. It looked equivalent to the cable to me.

      I didn’t play with the TV’s settings, and that might matter. That TV blows up the signal to fill the screen, and I can set it to a smaller, sort of letterbox (although it’s not really in that aspect ratio) setting. I may test that, just to see.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    On literary prizes like the Man Booker, I think the notion of the judges somehow putting the mark of literary permanence (for the ages) or excellence on works is totally bogus. To my mind most of those prizes are administered by a small coterie of insiders rewarding people like them. I suspect if you go back over long time periods and look at prize winners, you will find that few have stood the test of time: most are forgotten.

    The notion that readability is somehow not prize worthy is ludicrous. Great literature informs and entertains over long periods of time, and great literature usually is accessible to far more than some small grouping of literary elites.

    Much great American literature of the 19th and 20th centuries is both entertaining, and educational. Few of these ever won any “prizes”.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I think that some people have the opinion that if something appeals to the masses, it can’t be good. :) That’s probably worth a post by itself…thanks!

  4. Jj Hitt Says:

    I don’t want to drag politics in here. But Murdoch’s “fair and balanced” approach to things sickens me. This is terrible news.
    I haven’t in the past paid much attention to who the publisher of a work is, but I try to avoid spending my money on things sold by companies who support what I oppose and oppose what I support.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jj!

      Well, that question (and it’s not an unreasonable one) requires someone to know two things:

      What are the politics of the current leaders of Penguin?

      Do those politics affect the publications?

      I see people on the forums say things like, “The new Paperwhite doesn’t have text-to-speech? I guess I’m buying a NOOK.” Of course, the NOOK doesn’t have TTS either…and the Paperwhite doesn’t even have speakers. :)

      I don’t know that Murdoch would significantly change Penguin…he might, of course, but it’s hard to say.

  5. Mary Says:

    Bufo, there is somewhere on the Kindle forum a query about using the HDMI port with a Fire HD and a large screen for someone with low vision to read books. I have lost track of where this was, but could you try this with yours and see what it looks like on the screen? If it actually works, then people who want to do this would need a longer cable than you have, but that is a minor issue if it helps them to read.

  6. Zebras Says:

    The only upgrade added to the new Fires that makes me want to buy one is the HDMI capability. My husband doesn’t have the patience to sit around the little Fire screen or his computer to watch amazon streaming movies, and I always want to go that rout, because they tend to be a buck or two less than the on demand on my cable, and the free ones are good, too! On my cable DVR I tape as much as I can on High Def, the picture quality is amazing especially on the shows that are filmed in 5.1. Hawaii 5-0 and Survivor come to mind. So I might be dissapointed in quality.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      My Signficant Other says that watching TV or movies on a computer is out (not for me, but for my SO). This might work for that. Also, I could see it working for my SO for Skype, or pictures from our adult kid.

  7. D. Knight Says:

    I share almost exactly your impression of Penguin. Furthermore, they seem to be lowering their quality of books published (that is just an impression without me doing any research to back it up, though). If that is correct, they seem to be trying to appeal to a larger audience without the policies–really, lower prices–necessary to make that work.

    One thing that caught my attention from the Telegraph article is that it conveys the overall attitude that books destined to be classics are not easily readable, which I find ludicrous. It’s true that older classics are often hard to read–understandable since they were written in a different cultural context and often a slightly different language than ours. But for current books I would think the potential classics are more likely to be readable since they would be written by the better writers! There might people who have really great ideas but less than stellar writing abilities, but I would expect this to be the exception rather than the rule. What do you think?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, D.!

      Oh, yes, that point about them not being hard to read at the time they were published and hard to read now is key. I remember telling people years ago that Shakespeare was the Laverne & Shirley of his day, and getting huge pushback. Shakespeare wasn’t writing in obscure language. When a line in Shakespeare has six feet instead of five (the latter being the classic “iambic pentameter” people know), the Bard is making fun of the French. It’s like somebody on TV now doing a rap when it isn’t appropriate for that person’s character, as a joke.

      Shakespeare was extraordinary, not least in the ability to write to different levels at different times. The playwright certainly wasn’t trying to make things difficult and inaccessible, at least in the intended to be popular works.

      Dickens, serialized in magazines, writing about ghosts and broad characterizations, wasn’t expected to be a classic at the time…

      • D. Knight Says:

        Yes, I agree…except I’d probably compare Shakespeare with Downton Abbey rather than Laverne & Shirley :-)

  8. Crystal Says:

    The attitude that the Man Booker prize is necessary to encourage people to read worthwhile books is very much a gatekeeper mentality.

    Once upon a time the leaders of ABC, NBC, and CBS decided what we could watch and the Big 6 publishers decided what we could read, but those days are gone. The chairman of the Man Booker prize judges gets to tell us which books are worthy… for now. He’s fighting a rearguard action and his days are slipping away.

  9. Can a popular book be a good book? « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] I Love My Kindle Fun and information about the Kindle and the world of e-books « Round up #118: HDMI, Penguin for sale? [...]

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