In lieu of a an e-Book reader...


There was recently some discussion on e-Book readers and the future of the book.

I’m very interested in theory of mind and consciousness (in a layman’s, thanatophobic sort of way) and the other day came across David Darling’s Zen Physics, which is out of print, but the text of which he has kindly posted on his website. I love stuff like that (e.g. Dennett et al’s Mind’s I, Capra’s Tao of Physics etc). Anyway, I wanted to read it but at the same time, I didn’t want to print the whole thing out and waste all the ink and paper in my inkjet printer (never got around to buying a laserjet - will do soon…). And I don’t have an e-Book reader that could read it (I’m not even sure any are great for reading arbitrary text at a reasonable price).

So… Using two pieces of software, one of which has always had a link on the Links page and another which some of you guys recommended, I found that reading the whole book on my MacBook Pro’s screen was a really pleasant experience.

You’ve probably guess which they were:




I put all the chapters into Scrivener, using Paste and Match Style, so that it all gets copied in as my default font - Century Schoolbook 14 point, which is the closest I could find to the copy of Slaughterhouse 5 I have, which is a book dear to my heart. Then, when I wanted to read a chapter, I just pasted it into Tofu and had Think running with Tofu so that Tofu was set against a darkened screen.

I have been surprised at how easy the reading experience has been. Amar Sagoo is certainly right - reading in columns and scrolling in columns is a lot nicer than scrolling downwards, which makes it a lot more difficult to find your place or to go back and forward to find something you just read.

Anyway, there you go - a bit of a long-winded recommendation. It’s a short book, and I doubt I would want to read War and Peace from the Guternberg project this way, but it I was surprised at how good a reading experience these two apps in conjunction provided. I hope the creators of eBooks look towards Tofu when designing their software, I really do…

All the best,

Thanks for reminding us of these. Nice combo.

If you are interested in the cutting edge of consciousness research, check out the writings of Christof Koch.

Happy New Year


Echoed here … and not just thanks for pointing me to Tofu and maybe Think, though I haven’t tried that yet …

But thanks for the link to Zen Physics, which I too have downloaded and am following your advice about how to put it into a more pleasurable form to read. I have long been a fan of The Tao of Physics, and must pursue Dennett. I am teaching an introductory course on Cognitive Science, and it behoves me to find out more about a philosopher who can apparently say:

“That’s how it is in my opinion, with the philosophical topic of qualia, a tormented snarl of increasingly convoluted and bizarre thought experiments, jargon, in-jokes, allusions to putative refutations, ‘received’ results that should be returned to sender, and a bounty of other sidetrackers and timewasters …
… I deny that there are any such properties. But I agree wholeheartedly that there seem to be.â€

Yeah, the first part is fascinating - all the stuff about split brain cases, total amnesia and multiple personalities and the implications such cases have on a theory of self. I’m just into the second section now. I had read online that the second section was less convincing. There is something, I think, very convincing in his arguments that memory are the key to self so that if you lose them you are no longer your “self”, and that death is a losing of all those memories, but his extrapolation that therefore after death there will be other yous (you’s?) seems a mere semantic trick. There will indeed be other yous, but they won’t actually be you.

As for Dennett, I’ve only read The Mind’s I, of which he is an editor and contributor, but that’s a great book, including thought experiments by Borges and Turing’s essay laying down what is now known as “The Turing Test” etc.

Crikey, teaching an introductory course in Cognitive Science… Are you doing a PhD in that subject, then?

blueloo - thanks for the Christof Koch recommendation, I will check him out.

All the best,

No … at a few years off retirement age, that would be a tall order. But as a lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Westminster, I came into the fringes of of the field through teaching introductory Linguistics to students of Cognitive Science, and discovered that that area, where Linguistics and Cognitive Science converge, was my real intellectual home.

Then, as I became involved in the university here in Xiamen, an old friend and now colleague, a specialist in simultaneous interpreting who has discovered that our interests converge here too, asked me if I would teach an introductory course in CS to the MA students of interpreting and translation, as more and more of them were using “cognitive” as a kind of buzz-word in their theses, and it was obvious that they didn’t really know what it meant … a lot of it probably back-translation from books in Chinese commenting on western publications though often misunderstanding them.

The frightening thing is that currently, it seems that there is no Department of Cognitive Science in any Chinese university … which means that I am the principal exponent of Cognitive Science in this vast country. :open_mouth:

That’s one for me to follow up too … but it’s difficult here.

Mmm … and to you too Keith, and all Scriveners everywhere. May 2008 bring you even greater success than has been your moiety in 2007.


Just remembered an interesting reference I found when researching a paper last year.

The topic was imprinting human consciousness on machines.

If anyone is interested, I can post it, for academic purposes.


I’m interested! I wrote a short story about exactly that a couple of weeks ago, and am in the process of making the pseudo-science sound a little more real. :slight_smile:

If you get the chance, you might want to read The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Not as brilliant as his Variations, but fun reading into the mind’s ways.

I’m interested too …



See if you can view the pdf (or download it) via this link. … device.pdf

Also, here is another resource to keep you busy:

LMK if the link works for you.



The link worked for me! Thanks for providing it. Interesting stuff.