Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Information

For those of you who are interested in the concept of information and how it is defined, stored, transmitted, there is a good popular science book on the topic: The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. Quite fittingly I read the eBook version, and here I got confused by the difference in medium.

The Kindle app on my phone (where I was reading the book in spare moments when waiting for the kids or other opportunities) told me that I was about 60% into the book - obviously there are no page numbers, as it is just a stream of text... and suddenly there was a chapter titled "Epilogue". This I found weird - why is the epilogue in the middle of the book? Was the book split into two parts with their own, independent structure?

Wrong. It was indeed the final chapter of the book. And the remaining 40% were notes, references, and the index. This is something you easily forget when dealing with a paper book, as you can identify where the book 'really' ends, and you have a much better idea of your position within it. The 60% mark offered by the e-reader gave me a false sense of accuracy, as you don't normally consider those appendages as part of the book proper.

Anyway, I guess this is something we need to get used to in the future, unless e-readers do the sensible thing and exclude references etc from the progress indication.

The book is easy to read, and contains a lot of interesting, erm, information. Ever wondered how those 'talking drums' work? Or what entropy has got to do with information? And you don't need a PhD in computer science to understand it!

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