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 Post subject: Digital books vs traditional book
Post #1 Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 3:14 pm 
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I find reading through a sequence printed on a page hard to follow. I like how SmartGo Book lets you play a move step by step. Unfortunately, it's basically iOS only.

Do people find that? Do you stay away from traditional books for that reason?

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Post #2 Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 9:16 pm 
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Whether sequences in a printed book are easy or hard to follow depends on the presentation in the diagrams with few or many moves, carefully or carelessly selected moves, markup, numbering, diagram sizes etc.

The book author can have selected a diagram sequence meaningfully to convey additional contents. This appears in a static sequence in a printed book or static ebook (such as PDF) but also appears in the default view of a dynamic book.

Static sequences have the disadvantage that one cannot dynamically click through them but also have the advantage that the reader is forced to train his tactical reading and visualisation skills and cannot circumvent this by being lazy and clicking through the sequence.

Printed books (in comparison to static or dynamic ebooks) have the great advantage of the very nice appearance of paper and printing on paper and its haptic feeling.

The advantages of printed books let me prefer them.

Besides, I am not happy enough with current digital devices: there are no good tablets with matte ca. 4:3 display, sufficient brightness outdoors and long enough battery duration and battery lifetime; ebook readers still do not convince me, either, because of black/white displays providing too little functionality and having bad operating systems.

Digital books have no printing costs (advantage for the publisher) and can have lower prices (advantage for both static PDF ebooks and dynamic smartgo ebooks). The Apple tax of previously 30% and now 15% on ebooks on Apple devices was an extreme, and now remains a very great, disadvantage for authors and less so for (non-self-)publishers.

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Post #3 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:09 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
Printed books (in comparison to static or dynamic ebooks) have the great advantage of the very nice appearance of paper and printing on paper and its haptic feeling.


Acknowledged. And valued. Books + real board seem to both give a fuller experience AND impose a more sedate rhythm.

I wish, however, that there was a way to print the kifu. I have no easy way to hold, say, Invincible open by the right page without messing the book. A pdf companion with the diagrams and some pointers back to be book would be quite useful.

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Besides, I am not happy enough with current digital devices


Maybe mechanical displays could be an option? No maintenance energy, I think. And you could even give different textures for tactile reading.

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The Apple tax of previously 30% and now 15% on ebooks on Apple devices was an extreme, and now remains a very great, disadvantage for authors and less so for (non-self-)publishers.


Well, sort of. But compare it to the "tax" of warehousing, distribution and S&H. It used to be between 25 and 40% before you shipping, which you were expected to pay. Amazon France used to, maybe still does, charge one cent for S&H because they were legally required. Now, that looks closer to the tax concept to me than apple's comission (or Amazon's, Kobo's...)

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Post #4 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:38 am 
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Ferran wrote:
compare it to the "tax" of warehousing, distribution and S&H. It used to be between 25 and 40%


No, you can't make this comparison because you have to equate the app programmer's revenue with the real world retailer's revenue of the same magnitude. The Apple "tax" comes additionally and is effectively directly subtracted from the book author's revenue. (It is perfectly ok for Apple to charge for the finnancial transaction, say 3 +-1%, and the storage / uploading / naive malware check of a file, say another ca. 3 +- 1%. So 6 +-2% would be perfectly reasonable while 15% is still outrageous.)

Apple is not the retailer but (still) is the financial / storage service. The retailer is the app programmer.

(And then there is the option of hiring a file creator assisting the app programmer.)

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Post #5 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:18 am 
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Depends.

A book with game commentaries would benefit from having a more flexible format, in my opinion. Something like being able to "click" through the full but un-annotated game before the commentary starts. After that, I'm with RobertJasiek: The author should wisely chose how to present the moves and diagrams so that the reader can easily follow the commentary.

For any other type of book I don't see any advantage for clickable diagrams right now.

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Post #6 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:15 am 
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I find reading through a sequence printed on a page hard to follow. I like how SmartGo Book lets you play a move step by step. Unfortunately, it's basically iOS only.

Do people find that? Do you stay away from traditional books for that reason?


The quick answer first: I think most people desert paper books for electronic toys because they like shiny new things.

For the longer answer, I think the first thing to note is that you do not include in your question why you want to read books in the first place. Are you trying to improve at go or are you trying to enjoy reading about the game? Both are completely valid goals. FWIW I'm in the "enjoy" category.

To avoid confusion through differing personal associations with the game, let us step outside go for a moment. Are you a painter or a tourist? Millions of people walk through art museums, usually looking at every picture - or certainly a lot of them - and derive great enjoyment. For some, the enjoyment is being inspired with some deep emotion inspired by the artist. For many, the joy is being able to tick off a painting on their bucket list of what to see before they die. They may even try to enhance their enjoyment. One typical way would be to hire one of those portable ear-sets that tell you about each painting. Another would be to buy a book about the painter. Or a printed copy of painting as a constant reminder of an enjoyable visit.

A rather small number of those visitors, however, might be aspiring painters. They would rarely look at all the pictures - maybe just one. And they'd look at it in a way quite different from a tourist. They'd be looking, for example, at the brushwork or the choice of colours, or trying to work out how the artist solved a problem with perspective or composition - all with a view to using what they learn to become better painters themselves.

Superficially we can see the same two strands in go. But go confuses things, because it is almost impossible to enjoy go as a tourist without becoming something of a go painter. Not only do you need to learn something about go painting to get any enjoyment at all, but the more you do it - that is, learn the techniques and theory of go - the more you enjoy it.

So, to some extent, you need to work at it. You may not need to do the fabled 10,000 hours, but in general the more hours you do, the more you will improve. And if you are a go tourist, the more you will enjoy go.

That leads us to the question of how much work to do, and the related question of how to make the work efficient. If you are in the tourist, it doesn't really matter how much work you do. You simply do as much as you enjoy before you stop and have an ice-cream.

But when you do do work, you want it to be as efficient as possible. The jargon phrase is "effortful practice". This is basically a euphemism for hard work, but it does have the advantage of putting the emphasis on hard. The scientists claim (and I believe) that this is the best way to work, in that it is the most efficient way to learn and leads to the fastest and most sustained improvement.

Now consider what usually happens in our practice. The jargon word for this could be "effortless practice". We open a book and read from beginning to end, looking at the pictures (i.e. the Figures and variation diagrams) on the way. Then, when we summon up enough new energy, we open another book and repeat the exercise. We are like the tourists who just walk through various art galleries looking at each picture.

Some of us may try a bit harder. We may get our electronic toys out - the equivalent of the art gallery's portable electronic guides - and click through the Figures and variation diagrams by using a e-book. But when the tour's finished, what then? Have you really learnt anything? Have you really made any effort?

Or you could play through the figures yourself, from an original paper record. Professionals tell us to play through 1,000 game records to reach 1-dan. The best known example of this approach is possibly even more impressive. I am referring to the case of my late GoGoD colleague T Mark Hall. He acquired a set of Go Seigen's collected games in Korea (which he couldn't read, so had no help from commentaries). He then set to transcribing them all into sgf files - about 700 games. In the course of doing that (about 6 months) he progressed from 2-dan to 4-dan.

Mark's own explanation of what was happening was that, when he first began, it was very tedious (i.e. effortful) because it was hard finding the next move on a diagram packed with 100 moves. The most efficient method was, arguably, to run his finger along each line on the board diagram until he found the right number. But what he did instead (the really effortful part) was to think where the next move should be. In other words he had to become a better go player and think like a pro. He succeeded. His transcribing time for a game shrank from about an hour to 20 minutes and his tournament results shot up (e.g. he became British open champion). In my very limited understanding of how neural networks work, he was doing a small-scale equivalent of AlphaZero using a mini-scale database. But the key point was that he put in the effort. He didn't learn a method, and he didn't suddenly become cleverer overnight. He didn't have a teacher. He didn't have a gizmo. He just had perseverance.

Incidentally, I was struck by the fact that Go World has - even in this AI age - started off this year with a new series of practising how to read through game records quickly. There are various tips but basically the method is to do it, compare your time to a benchmark, and then do it again to see if you can speed up. And then when you go onto the next game, see how much faster you can start off.

I never tried to copy Mark's (or Go World's) efforts. I knew I was the kind of tourist who does the full tour and buys a book in the gallery shop about whichever artist takes his fancy. (Which just happened to be Go Seigen, in this case, and so led to books of mine such as Kamakura).

But I have nevertheless been inspired by Mark's efforts, and that led to my Go Wisdom series.

My starting point was to make go books both entertaining and effortful. The entertaining part (the stories behind the events, the lives of the players, their squabbles etc) is there to provide enough enjoyment to predispose the reader to do at least some effortful practice.

What constitutes effortful practice in this case is, first of all, reading through a game record on an actual board. Whether you do this on your posh kaya board or on a computer screen is a matter of personal choice, but I strong recommend using a real wooden board. The tactile and aural experience of placing stones on the board creates associations that seem to help massively with learning. It may seem tedious but for that reason it also helps subtly with self-discipline.

The second element is how I deal with variations. Very occasionally I will show mercy and use a variation diagram (e.g. to show one of Kitani's 40-move variations ending in a yose-ko). But most of the time I expect you to get your own knees up or touch your own toes. I therefore dispense with variation diagrams and put the necessary information inline, sometimes using letters on the main Figure. (For example, Black can get a ko by throwing in at A). I expect the reader to try this out on a real board. Again the tactile/aural element comes in, to which you can add the very, very strong and beneficial associations of seeing the flow of the stones. Sometimes, especially if you are a DDK, you may not easily see how the ko actually happens, but again that's where effortful practice comes in. You quite literally have to practise by making an effort. (I will often provide extra clues, though, such as what to look for in the final position.)

The indications I am getting so far as to whether this works are totally positive. Obviously I can't do anything about those who just don't want to do any work (people like me) but I did enjoy a comment from one reader who said he found that after reading Genjo-Chitoku he could now always remember where he'd left his car keys!

Although I'm the type that doesn't enjoy effortful practice in go, I have had some unexpected benefits myself from this approach. One was that having to recast a variation diagram in words meant that I had to really think about the actual variation. I was doing effortful work, in other words. But that in turn made me appreciate something else. I am far from the first to use letters and text instead of variation diagrams. That was normal in Japanese books until the mid-20th century, and common even beyond. It was normal in old Chinse commentaries, though normally done without letters either! I had always assumed that this was because of printing and paper costs - and I'm still sure that's a big part of it - but I had an experience just this week that shed a new light and gave me immense joy. Possibly the most joyous moment I have ever had in go, in fact.

I was reading through a commented old Chinese game. About halfway through, I became aware of something that had changed in my thinking process. Guided by the commentary, I noticed I was saying, in my head, something like, "Black is doing this, because White... and White is now doing that because Black..., so, as Black hopes to ... he now probes White's intentions." Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I realised, "I'm doing hand-talk!!!" I was absolutely thrilled.

The first thing to say is that part of the reason for the thrill was that I had imagined before what hand-talk was like. Reality was nothing like that. It was instead like a real conversation, but a conversation with a really gifted interlocutor. I was now seeing the forest and not just the trees. I think the reason I was blessed with this moment of pure joy was that I had been sensitised by my own efforts to transform variation diagrams plus the fact that the ancient Chinese master, because of the format of commentary he was having to use, was talking to me conversationally about ideas, not just spouting a list of moves and mistakes. In fact, one thing that characterises these old Chinese commentaries is their massive use of "feelings" words. On every line you will see phrases like, "His idea is to .. ", "He hopes to...", "He wants to...", "This move has two meanings". It actually goes much deeper than that, but that's the gist.

The second thing to say is that I suffered great disappointment immediately afterwards. I played through another game, looking forward to the same joyous conversation. It didn't happen. By pure chance I got the explanation a couple of days later. I was watching a masterclass. I think it was by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and she was teaching a singer to produce a certain difficult sound. This involved much prodding of cheeks, diaphragm and pelvis, but eventually the maestro said "Sing!" and the right sound came out of the singer's mouth. The look of surprised joy on the singer's face was exactly like my joy at achieving hand-talk. But then the maestro said, "Do it again" and the singer couldn't. And the maestro said, "That's because you were trying to repeat the result. What you should have been doing was to try to repeat the process." Again a big clang of recognition reverberated through my brain. In the forest I had newly perceived I had been hearing the sound of two hands clapping - not one hand clapping. I also (slightly glumly) later realised I need more effortful practice.

But for those prepared to nobly go where no practiser like me has gone before, I incorporate in Go Wisdom another major feature. I index not just names or the like but also all occurrences of a vast array of technical concepts (e.g. momentum, thickness, capturing races). Those who wish to study a particular concept can thus access a very large number of commented examples across a now significant number of books (and therefore various players, styles and eras).

Because I have become enamoured of this approach, and because I get fed up with people asking me how to get a copy of Kamakura, I have decided to produce a new Go Wisdom version. I am on the finishing straight with that, but because I don't like effortful anything I am taking a break from it.

So, having outlined all of that to make a point, what is my point? For convenience I repeat the OP quote:

Quote:
I find reading through a sequence printed on a page hard to follow. I like how SmartGo Book lets you play a move step by step. Unfortunately, it's basically iOS only.


I conclude that:

1. Finding a sequence printed on a page hard to follow is a GOOD thing. It demands effortful practice.

2. SmartGo is a wonderful gizmo if you want to be a tourist (as most of us do). But it won't make you a painter and may even have the effect of discouraging you from making the effort to be a painter.

3. The priority is to decide whether you want to be a painter or a tourist, but then to accept that, in go, even as an amateur you need to combine tourism with the techniques of painting. That means effortful practice. Which takes you back to point 1.


Last edited by John Fairbairn on Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Digital books vs traditional book
Post #7 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:47 am 
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So, if I understand correctly, we're getting new printed copies of Kamakura, John? :razz:

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Post #8 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:40 am 
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So, if I understand correctly, we're getting new printed copies of Kamakura, John?


That's the intention (on demand; and it will be a very differently version but with basically the same text). But I've got a queue of other almost finished projects and which ones I give priority to is not something I can predict.


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Post #9 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 11:30 am 
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SoDesuNe wrote:
A book with game commentaries would benefit from having a more flexible format, in my opinion. Something like being able to "click" through the full but un-annotated game before the commentary starts.


Before reading or watching any commentary, if possible I find the game on go4go and click through about 150 moves, trying to guess the next move until I memorize the moves. That's not enough to become a go-painter, but already enough effort for a go-tourist like me.

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Post #10 Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 11:21 pm 
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What a great story about your breakthrough, John! I look forward to Go Wisdom, whenever it comes.

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Post #11 Posted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:01 am 
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John! I look forward to Go Wisdom, whenever it comes.


You are looking forward to the past. Good! "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."

Go Wisdom has already appeared in full in Games of Shuei and Genjo-Chitoku. There it occupies an appendix of about 40 pages of A$-size books. There are also GW indexes in First Teenage Meijin and The Incident Room. All these paper-only books are available on demand via Amazon.

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Post #12 Posted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 6:49 am 
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xiaodai wrote:
I find reading through a sequence printed on a page hard to follow. I like how SmartGo Book lets you play a move step by step. Unfortunately, it's basically iOS only.Do people find that? Do you stay away from traditional books for that reason?


I enjoy SmartGo's format and innate portability. I enjoy holding a paper book (touch, mass, smell) in my hands. A book encourages playing out the sequences on a board for two reasons: 1) helps to see the sequences, and 2) my lovely go set is not getting any other use these days.

At my skill level -- don't know what yours is -- I can handle up to about 10-12 move; I cannot look at a game diagram and easily see the numbered stones played out on the board that sits on the table in my head. The interactive displays on the iPad are tremendously entertaining and helpful.

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