Posts Tagged ‘ebooks’

Book links! nanananananananana

March 26, 2014

Buzzfeed has a list of all 339 books mentioned in Gilmore Girls. It wasn’t a show I was ever interested in, but it’s an impressive list. I’m curious how many shows could match it.

Amazon customers got some refunds from publishers.  I think the whole lawsuit is ridiculous, and I still want to see the publishers just not sell their books through Amazon. If they really worry about Amazon becoming too powerful,  cut off the supply and begin creating a new ecosystem centered around their own websites selling their books. They could also hook up with Apple in the future, or MS, or throw more weight behind Barnes & Noble, and create their own website similar to the itunes store.  In the end, I don’t trust Wal-Mazon.

Writers, go (mid-) West. Alright, I did have a long blurb here but wordpress hiccuped and lost it. Good post, a lot of good links to further readings from recent writers of the midwest. I’m searching for Rust Belt Chic from my local library right now.

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Book Links

September 30, 2013

Leave it to Texas. They have decided to open a new library…without any books. It might make budgetary sense, but the idea of a library being essentially a Mac Cafe doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe it is just a cultural inevitability, though. I know there have been sales numbers over the past year that has shown the market for ebooks slowing, and that there is a renewed hope for paper and cardboard to hang on as the present and future principle form for books, but I just don’t see it.  Not with wages stagnating, population growth and growing urbanization making living spaces smaller, and the general desire to comfortably lug whatever the hell we want with us to wherever we want to take it.  Hardcopy books will likely, eventually, go the same way hard copy movies and music appear to be going: towards a niche market.

Please don’t buy my book on amazon. Author Jamie Clarke wants you to buy his book direct from the publisher, instead. He has  a website up promoting his cause, and I encourage folks to go and check it out. And if you want his book, buy it from the publisher (and get it early!).  As always, I support the majority of antiAmazon sentiment, but I’m not familiar with Clarke’s work. I’ll be checking it out, though.

Finally, TC Boyle has a new collection of stories coming out. 15 years worth of stories covering 900+ pages. I enjoy Boyle’s work, though I haven’t made enough of a dent in his last collection. Still, I look forward to this one.

Book (and one audio) links

September 27, 2013

Here’s a collection of JG Ballard covers done up by James Marsh.  I have still yet to make the leap to ebooks, and this is part of the reason. While I know ebooks still have “covers,” an electronic cover is far from the physical thing in your hands. The book cover is one of the primary ways to attract a reader to a book, being literally the first thing the reader sees.  Looking through these covers and I know that if I was roaming through a bookstore, and saw these covers on the shelf, I’d have to pick at least one of them up and look through it. They’re just interesting and engaging, they pull you in and  make you curious about what past the cover awaits your eye.  While I may, technically, be able to see the same “cover” on my ereader, I think it loses something when you remove its tangibility. It becomes just a picture, something to click through, something easy to be discarded. It is no longer tied to the text in any real way.

Which might be one of the largest problems with ebooks in general. While they offer great convenience, they also become less important because of their literal lack of weight. You don’t have to make room for the book on a shelf or on your coffee table. You don’t have its bulk continually taking up space, shoving itself before your eyes every time you glance in its direction. Ebooks can be forgotten, lost to the ether of ones and zeroes.  While ereaders may have pulled more people than before into the readersphere, they  have also helped for this appearance of a product easily ignored, easily removed from thought.

I’m a bit late to the remembrance, but Carolyn Cassady has passed away. She was the husband of Neal Cassady, the close friend of Beat legend Jack Kerouac. She wrote her own memoir remembering the Beat scene, that I’ve read bits and pieces of and encourage anyone who is interested in that time and place in American literature to check it out.  The whole Beat generation thing seems too often to be overly condensed to Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg, with everyone else reduced to extraordinarily minor  spots – the women especially. Her voice is an important one for perspective on the scene. It shouldn’t be ignored.

And the British aren’t happy about the Booker Prize being opened up to American writers.  Not much to say, as I don’t entirely agree with the opening the Booker competition up, either. It’s okay for it to focus on United Kingdom born writers. I don’t see how it cheapens the prize by maintaining a narrow focus. If anything, I think it opens the prize up to a nearly impossibly deep well of applicants, where merely deciding on finalists from year to year will become increasingly difficult.  Also, there’s nothing wrong with some pride for the UK.

Finally, not book related at all, but you can no preorder a massive Bob Dylan collection. Two things are interesting with this. The first is that it is labeled as “volume one,” but it contains all 35 studio titles that Dylan has released, as well as 6 live albums, and another two disks called “side tracks.” Which leaves me to wonder when (or if) volume two is released, what will be on it.   It makes me wonder if maybe we will see the material Dylan has used to release his occasional “Bootleg Series” editions released in one measure treasure chest of B side and rarity goodness. It is something I would desperately want, but also be desperately unable to afford. The second curious thing about this collection, is that there is an Amazon exclusive version that is packaged as a harmonica…but has all of the songs on a relatively tiny USB drive.  And it’s a hundred bucks more than the conventional collection of CDs, hardcover book, etc. While I think the harmonica thing is cool, you’re also giving up a lot of nice extras – including the physical CDs to keep around as master sources for your own personal rips. I like the idea of the USB stick, but I don’t see how it is worth $365. I’d rather have the box set and all of the tangible swaggy goodness that comes with it.

Book Links

September 25, 2013

Bookstores…of the future!  Okay, maybe not of the future, but definitely a bit of a shift from what we’re accustomed to outside of a Barnes & Noble (or a Borders *sigh*).  Add a cafe, or a bar, or a children’s play area (maybe a Happy Meal, too, eh?).  A coffee shop I used to hangout at with friends in undergrad was attached to a Christian bookstore, and cafes have long been a staple of the national book chains. It’s also an idea the wife and I have kicked around in our more whimsical moments. “Hey, let’s open a bookstore!” “And then file for bankruptcy!” We even had a grandiose dream at one time of having a restaurant/bookstore/coffeebar. Yeah. I applaud anyone taking the leap of opening a bookstore and attempting to incorporate such things into their plans. I hope it works, and I would try to support your endeavor. That said, I think it’s a long haul through two feet of financial woe. Still, sell a good spice cake and I’m there.

Sticking to the UK, there is a massive piece in The Guardian centered on Stephen King. I’m an unabashed King fan. I have had a more difficult time getting into his newer stuff, which may in part be from my own reading interests shifting over the years, but King is the guy who got me back into reading when I was in middle school and came across Eyes of the Dragon on the school library bookshelves. to be honest, I’m still slogging through this interview, chipping away at it throughout the day when I have the opportunity.

And the BBC caught up with Bill Bryson who wants his cake…and digital books, too! He’s lobbying for publishers to package a digital copy with a normal printed copy, so when people buy an actual book, the digital book is packaged with it in some way. I get what he’s saying, and I’m not against it.  We’ve seen movies package a “digital copy” with their DVDs, and music CDs are so easy to rip that a digital copy isn’t necessary (especially since it seems most music is bought digitally – maybe they should start packaging CDs with each download?). Something I’d be curious about is a digital subscription to my favorite publishers. For ten bucks a month, let me “join” Penguin and be able to read a selection of their library.  Sort of like a Netflix for books.  They could limit what was available, though if it is too limited no one would have any interest, and control the distribution/downloading. Also, they would have an opportunity for a treasure trove of information about their readers likes, dislikes, and habits.  it would almost be enough to get me to buy an ereader.

 

Book (and other) links 8-20-13

August 22, 2013

I have a couple of Barnes and Noble links that are somewhat related. Over at Mashable, there’s this article about Nook devices and how it was probably a mistake by B&N to get involved in tablets, their devices are still really good and you should buy them before they are gone because they are cheap. Then, over at Publishing Perspectives, they have an article about Barnes and Noble having a healthy business in their brick-and-mortar stores, and their college bookstores.  At the same time, there is a great post up at Roughtype about the flattening of ebook sales. I’m sort of stuck in the middle of all of this. I don’t read ebooks. I just don’t.  I don’t have an ereader, and I like having physical books.  At the same time, I think a move towards digital media is an eventual reality.   Digital is too cost effective, too convenient, and too versatile.

The Inquisitor has an article naming 15 novels it sees being destined to become classics.  I’m less bullish on the majority of them. The only one of the list that I would enthusiastically endorse is McCarthy’s The Road. Franzen’s novel was arguably not the best novel its year of publication, while numbers 5,7, 8,and 9 just don’t belong (and I’m a big fan of Shadows of the Wind). I think Rowling’s place in YA lit is safe, but I’m not sure it’s a classic.  In the end, what becomes a “classic” seems to be more of a whim of changing enthusiasms and ease of publication than anything.

Elton John is just too damn scary for Russia.  Their loss. I’ll keep my Rocket Man, though.

Okay, this is a couple of days late, but better late than never.

Book Links 8-16-13

August 16, 2013

To visit a much posted topic here, yet more stuff about the Apple vs Government case. Anyone remember how way back at the beginning of the trial the judge commented that Apple was essentially boned? Well, she has a reputation for pre-judging her cases.  If you’ve read pretty much any of my other book links from the past few months, you know where I fall in this argument. I think Apple was entirely in the right, and it’s a joke that Amazon, the company that legitimately worked (works) to corner and monopolize the ebook market was hit with nothing.  I’m looking forward to Apple’s appeal.

Publisher’s Weekly has a blog post about bundling digital copies with damn near everything and wondering why the publishing industry doesn’t do it. My take is that it’s too foreign. Movies and music have always had a certain malleable aspect to their delivery the moment it became possible to be pulled into the home.  Each have went through a variety of formats (8mm, video cassette, DVD, reel-to-reel, audio cassette, CD, etc.) and have been open to being copied, swapped, and manipulated by their consumers in ways that publishing just hasn’t.  Aside from sitting down and either transcribing or xeroxing something, there wasn’t a convenient way of copying something for someone else to read.  You also couldn’t easily manipulate a text outside of a pair of scissors and some scotch tape.  The idea that your product not only can, but needs to, be creatively packaged and sold doesn’t have any real traction for publishing.  Their idea of a bonus feature has been an author interview in the back of the book, or perhaps a chapter or two of the author’s next book. If you wanted something with annotations, something that provided a weighty bonus feature, you were likely looking to pay a few extra books and having to special order a special edition.  What usually happened was that any sort of bonus usually became another book, or a magazine article, something that could be published entirely separately and monetized over again.

Which is awesome for writers and publishers. It’s just not something that has prepared them very well for what they should, and need, to be doing now.

Also, have to say, there are always exceptions to the rule. I don’t have the title off the top of my head, but I know at least one book I have had a music CD packaged with it featuring music created by the writer to go along with the book.  I think I bought it at a Border’s Closing Clearance Sale, and I still haven’t read it, or listened to the CD. So maybe there is also a lack of interest in readers for extra material, though I’m fairly certain that if I got a CD of some bizarre music with a Stephen King novel, I’d have probably listened to it in the car on the way home.

Anyway. The kid just brought me the mail, and it’s sort of thrown my entire thought process out of whack. I have no idea how anyone is productive at all when there is a kid in the house.

Book Links 5-20-15

May 20, 2013

Apple is still fighting.  I think the government going after Apple and publishers for the agency pricing model is ridiculous considering how  Amazon was allowed to develop a strangehold on the ebook market before that. It might have forced people to spend a few more bucks in the short term, but I think it was providing for a more robust publishing industry in the long term.  While the publishers have caved, Apple continues to fight, and I applaud them and wish them luck. Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this bit about their tax haven practices is coming out now. Considering the big banks were allowed to skate after tanking our economy, politicians complaining about Apple gaming the tax system (legally, as they admit) rings hollow.

On the flip size, Amazon wants to profit by the government going after Apple/publishers, but they don’t want to lose any blood over it. They are fighting to keep their data/info out of the public eye, and out of the courts. I think they are wrong. they are clearly a major player in this, and they deserve  to be pulled into the fight.  They are the only major interest that will greatly benefit by the government winning their case.

Stephen King’s next book, Joyland, won’t be released as an ebook. I like this, except it’s not really his next book. It’s his next book published by the small, independent press Hard Case Crime. I still applaud the move, but it’s not like it’s his next, big publisher release. And you can still buy the physical book off of Amazon.

Not book related, but David Carr’s new article about telecom giants giving us crappy, overpriced cable is a must read.

The house, the reading, the writing, the web, and other various topics of momentary interest

April 12, 2013

Alright, it’s cold today.  the high is supposed to be 50, which means it’s actually about 45, which means the other side of the house is uninhabitable. I went over to fix lunch and froze my nuggets. Thank god for the microwave.

On the other hand, I finished nearly all of my grading this morning. And I think I tracked down the shut off valves to the second floor shower. At first I thought they would be concealed in closet of an adjoining bathroom, because that would make total sense.  So, I removed a loose panel in the closet, and was confident I would find a couple of knobs to turn. Well, no knobs.  there were these bizarre upside down copper udders, though. Did some looking through Lowes’ website and found that they are supposed to remove knocking in the lines from air. Kinda neat, actually, but an odd thing to see for the first time. I think I’ve found the cutoff valves in the basement, so when it warms up a bit, I can start tearing apart the tub faucet to see what I need to replace. I’m hoping the shower head is just clogged, but I think it’s going to more likely be the cartridge.

Also, I need to fix the toilet in the half bath. It won’t stop flushing once it starts. An easy enough fix, really.

More adventures in the basement. I hauled the majority of rubber backed rugs out of the basement yesterday. We think they played a role in deteriorating the cement in one third of the basement. In the middle third, they covered a couple of spots where it seems a previous owner tried to use a sledge hammer to level out the natural stone floor. Yeah, not sure what the was going through their heads and why they didn’t just go rent a grinder to take the high spots down slowly. Or, if the sandstone floor bothered them that much, why they didn’t just replace it with cement when they poured floors in the two other sections of basement.  It was definitely bizarre, and a bit disheartening to see the floor damage. Right now we’re thinking of hammering out the two spots that are damaged and seeing if we can find replacement chunks of sand stone to drop in.  Then I discovered that they managed to store more…stuff?… in a couple of crawlspaces in the basement under an addition they did. So I have to haul a small step ladder into the basement to boost up into these crawlspaces to haul out lord knows what. Yay.

On the non-house front, ebooks now make up 23% of all book sales. Not only that, but book sales in general were good. the digital market will continue to grow, and it becoming the dominant format is likely inevitable. At the same time, there is a tangible, tactile quality to paper bound books that is undeniable.  I still haven’t bought an ereader or tablet, I’m not sure when I ever will, but the market is undeniable.

Entertainment Weekly has an article up about a possible Shining movie prequel, and they got a couple of quotes from King about it. King doesn’t sound thrilled, and I don’t really blame him. For one, it’s not going to come close to Kubrick’s masterpiece of horror. Secondly, who cares about what happened to the previous caretaker? We know that already. Dude went nuts, axed his family. If they want to do something at the hotel, fine, but just take it out of The Shining world and use new characters and new events.

And Jeff Bezos with a letter that I disagree with. He can try to dress up his shop window and make it look like a part of the community of publishing/writing/etc., but Amazon is the new WalMart. If you were ever against Walmart because of how they drive smaller stores and companies out of business, you have no reason to feel differently about Amazon. While the publishing world certainly doesn’t do itself any favors with how it has approached the digital transition, Amazon has played an active role in hastening their downfall and turning small(ish) mistakes into catastrophes. It’s not all about the customer, it’s about control and it is about dominance, and in the end it’s about making as money as possible. If you’re going to shop there, either admit you don’t care or that you can’t afford to care. It’s okay, I couldn’t always afford to care, either. But now I can, so I make different choices.

Finally, something else I want to talk about that is a bit off the beaten path: Fox and CBS might become cable networks. The whys of it don’t particularly matter to me, but if you’re curious, it’s a good blog post from SF Chronicle. What I want to do is to pair this with the news that the city of Santa Clara is going to have free wifi. From my understanding of the history of television, the government essentially gave the broadcasting airspace to networks provided they give time back to the public in the form of providing the news. So, for basically an hour a night. And for decades it’s been a steal for the government, in that it has allowed for a populace informed about the nation and the world at a relatively low cost and high access. However, that has changed over the past decade or so. This isn’t about the quality of the nightly news, but the rise of the internet and the connected world. Television has become less important in our every day lives, at least in the sense of sitting down in front of a television and watching your favorite show at 9pm on Tuesdays. If you’re like me and my family, you don’t have cable, dish, or antenna. You just get all of your info from the web. You have a twitter feed you keep track of, you have a facebook account, you’re tapped into various rivers of information.  The problem is that this connection comes with a price. Here it seems to be anywhere from $30-120 a month. Thirty bucks doesn’t sound like a lot, but compare that to the nothing people are accustomed to paying for their broadcast television and their ability to get the news every night for nothing other than sitting through some commercials. And the Washington Post had a report from back in February about how the FCC wants to buy back some of these airwaves from broadcasters to set up a national free wifi network.

And this is why it is important. Not so we can surf gawker for free, but so that our populace – a populace becoming increasingly urban – can benefit from the sort of free access to news and information that previous generations of Americans benefited from. Would it eat into profits for wireless carriers and giant telecoms? Almost definitely, but it’s also entirely in the public’s good to push forward with such initiatives. This isn’t about getting something for nothing, but about knowledge and access.

 

Book Links 2/10/13

February 10, 2013

From time to time I gripe about the length of some books. I enjoy reading, I would say I love reading, but there are also times where I wonder where the hell editors have gone to help reign in authors and tighten books up  a bit. Galleycat has a nice little article up with a graph showing how a handful of fantasy series have grown and shrunk over their lifespans.  I have a hard time wanting to invest myself in a series of books if the shortest comes in around 700 pages.

Here’s a couple of articles about Amazon. The Seattle Times has an article up about Amazon’s inability to gain much market penetration in China, despite massive investments. At the same time, Wired’s Marcus Wohlsen has an article about Amazon and their possible foray into used ebooks. Given that one possibility of Amazon diving into the second hand business is to further weaken publishing houses  and push a larger market share back to their own servers, I don’t really mind seeing them have a tough time in China. There really isn’t anything new to say about Amazon and the publishing industry with either of these articles. The responsibility for saving their rears still rests largely with the publishing houses themselves, and the only way we readers can really help is by not shopping through Amazon – something the majority of people seem wholly unwilling to do if  it saves them a buck fifty. So it is what it is.

What author had the largest fingerprint on 19th century literature? Apparently, it was Jane Austen.   #2? Looks to be Sir Walter Scott. Not much more to the article.

Alright, that’s what I have for now.

On Amazon, Nick Harkaway, and digital revolutions

January 16, 2013

I did have a longer book links post to put up yesterday, but it appears wordpress managed to eat it.  Unfortunately, I lost most of the links I was going to use, but I did remember where to get one of them. Nick Harkaway, the author of The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker, put up a blog post about a new feature from Amazon called autorip. Now, I think this feature is ridiculous, and shouldn’t be as popular as it will likely be. The gist of it is that when you buy certain CDs from Amazon, they will install a “free” digital version into your Amazon cloud player for you. Now, I quote free because it’s not really free, you’re paying for the CD. And ripping a CD is insanely easy. Ripping it yourself also gives you control over the rip’s quality, the format, and what devices you want to put the rip on. Also, it doesn’t give Amazon the ability to just step in and erase your music for whatever vague reasons they can concoct like they have from time to time done to ebooks stored on their servers. I can think of literally no good reason to want to take Amazon up on this service aside from sheer laziness and apathy. And all of this is slightly to the side of Harkaway’s point in his blog post.

His point is that Amazon is setting expectations for what they get when they buy something. They buy a CD, they will expect to get a digital version for free. It’s something we’ve been seeing for awhile now with blurays, where they package another disk that has your “digital copy.” Harkaway’s thing seems to be that publishers need to get in front of this and start establishing their own brands by creating their own exclusive packages for people when they buy a book from them. And I pretty much agree, up to a certain level. I have to believe that at some point in the whole publishing process, someone has a document file that could be easily converted to a PDF and made available to download with the use of an access code whenever someone buys a hard copy of a book. It’s not like everyone is plodding away on typewriters or scrawling the final versions of their novels out by hand. And this should be a simple thing to do, and able to be used across a variety of platforms. Also, by using a common file, it might help stamp out the individual ereader market a bit and push everyone to a more generic use of a tablet as an all-in-one device for media consumption.

Where I would draw a line is with “enhanced” ebook experiences. I don’t know a ton about programming, but from what I do know, HTML5 seems to be a very powerful programming language that can handle a great variety of tasks from video to text to images to I don’t know what all. So, my suggestion would be to build enhanced ebooks around HTML5 because it would be a common file type that could be opened across a wide variety of devices, while still allowing an abundance of enhancements to make the purchasing of an enhanced ebook worth the price.

Still, with all of my editorializing aside, will the big publishers be able to make the transition? I think so, even if we’re not happy with how they’re doing it right now.I don’t really share Harkaway’s pessimism in that regard, in not being sure that these institutions will still be around ten years from now, filling largely the same role they are filling now. While I don’t believe they are too large to fail, and that the landscape may alter a bit, I think the Penguins, the Simon & Schusters, the Vikings, etc. will still have their place, and they’ll still be putting out big name, big selling writers.  If they would get a bit more aggressive now, though, they might be able to make sure that the landscape down the road is a bit more pleasing to their eye than what may other wise come about.