American Go E-Journal

An E-Book Author, Publisher and Reader Walk Into a Bar…

Tuesday January 15, 2013

The ongoing development of electronic publishing is often framed as a battle to the death between two formats, hard-copy versus electronic. But the reality may be more complex, as creators and users seek to maximize the advantages of both formats in a rapidly-changing technological landscape.

“The e-book version has the advantages of both printed books and a go file on the computer using a go program,” says Michael Redmond 9P, a top player and author of many hard-copy go books, who has recently released ‘Patterns of the Sanrensei’, written specifically for SmartGo Books. “The greatest advantage of go file on a computer is the ease and speed with which one can view the moves and variations, without having to search for the next move, and no problems with misplaced stones. I think the advantage of a printed book is that it is easier to grasp the overall flow of the game when you can see a number of diagrams on the pages, and can compare diagrams, check the text analysis, with it all there in front of you. With SmartGo Books you can start with the book view, and it looks just like a printed book. Then you just touch a diagram, and you can enlarge it, play out the moves, and do just about anything you might want to do while viewing a file on a pc. You can try adding moves, in case you want to be sure about if that ladder really works. Then you return the diagram to it’s original size, and everything is as it was before, in the book form. Any moves you added will disappear, so you don’t need worry about messing up the diagrams. This combination of the strengths of books and computers allows the author to present more information, and for the reader it is relatively easy to understand. When I first saw what SmartGo could do on an iPad I thought it was perfect already, then I wanted to write a book for it, and that is how the book ‘Patterns of the Sanrensei’ came to be. Since then, (SmartGo Books publisher) Anders Kierulf has actually managed to make it even better, with inline diagrams and links between diagrams that add depth and enrichen the learning experience.”

Kierulf notes that since SmartGo Books — which has now released several dozen e-books, many of them re-issues of classics like the Elementary Go Series or Janice Kim’s Learn to Play Go books — “are currently limited to iOS devices (iPad and iPhone), the impact on printed book sales will necessarily be limited.” In fact, Kierulf (at left showing Eric Cotsen the ‘Invincible’ e-book at the 2012 Cotsen Open) says, “There’s some indication that releasing a book on SmartGo Books actually increased sales of the printed copies, which I’m glad to hear, as we need to keep a healthy ecosystem for go book authors and publishers.” Kierulf adds that “For me personally, being able to carry ‘Invincible’ in my pocket has made the whole SmartGo Books project worth it. So many people (including me) own the printed copy, but have never had the opportunity to study the games properly.”

“In reviewing both the print and SmartGo version of ‘Patterns of the Sanrensei’,” I found that is was very easy to read the SmartGo version because of the virtual go board capability,” said go player Robert Huang, anĀ AGA 6 kyu. “This is much more convenient than the print version and simple eBook version on iBook or Kindle. I was able to start, stop, pick up where I left off, and finish the entire book in a relatively short amount of time. I think being able to actually visualize the move sequence, as opposed to mentally playing the sequence is very helpful.” Huang adds that “I am not sure how much I actually retained at this point, but the proof will be in the pudding as I play more games. Hopefully, I will see my ranking improve.”

What are your thoughts on hard-copy vs. electronic go books? Let us know at journal@usgo.org! photo by Chris Garlock

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