Better Browsers and Books While You Wait

Two reasons why I’m sure there will be another Internet boom (though hopefully one that is not as out of hand as the last one): the continued bursts of creativity in the browser space even in the face of Goliath-like domination by Microsoft, and the incremental yet determined progress of just-in-time product manufacturing. In plain English, I’m talking about Web browsin’ and book readin’.

How to Improve Your Surfing

The first is best exemplified by Apple’s well-publicized Safari, which is, in a general sense, the most well-designed browser I’ve ever used and my preferred vehicle for surfing the World Wide Web. That said, Safari is more an instance of refining ideas long brewing in the work and imaginations of browser afficionados, and not necessarily a showcase for the very latest thinking.

For that, you can turn to iRider, which incorporates so many real innovations in the way that users travel from webpage to webpage that you can almost forgive the fact that it’s built on top of Microsoft’s supremely inelegant Internet Explorer engine. To be sure, iRider is flawed and not nearly as attractive as some of its competition, but it’s probably the first browser since Mosaic that can reasonably claim to change the way people use the Web.

Hot off the Presses

As for just-in-time manufacturing, I point to CaféPress’s new Publishing service, which allows anybody to publish paperbacks up to 275 pages long with virtually zero capital investment in printing, and only in the quantities demanded by their readership.

The physical qualities of these books are probably not much different from what you can get done at your local Kinko’s, if at all, but the fact that CaféPress will print them on the fly — much the same way they do with hats, tee-shirts, coffee mugs and other tchotchkes — is a pretty significant step towards changing the economics of the publishing industry. It may be naïvely utopian to say that the day is close at hand when authors will no longer be at the mercy of the corporations that own publishing houses… but a little utopianism isn’t necessarily a bad way to get out of a down economy.