Posts Tagged ‘ereaders’

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.

tablet readers don’t want content?

December 1, 2012

At least that’s what the president of Hearst publishing claimed. Which sort of makes sense, in a weird,lazy, just give me what I’m accustomed to so I can scan through it and get back to my day sort of way. For me it makes absolutely no sense at all. Why wouldn’t you want video with your magazine? Or at least audio? Why wouldn’t you want the magazine to be interactive in a way that allows you to screw around with it a bit more and make it “yours?”

Which would have been good questions, and maybe they were posited/answered and maybe it just didn’t get picked up for this article, but they’re still questions that don’t really get a satisfactory answer. What I thought provided a better picture of what may have been happening was this quote later in the article:

“We were frustrated with how unstable the app was,” David Granger, Esquire‘s editor-in-chief, told me in an interview at Esquire‘s offices earlier this month. “We had a lot of complaints, a lot of bad reviews,” he said of the reason for switching to Adobe’s publishing software.

Esquire, btw, is owned by Hearst, so it fits together rather well. It leaves me wondering how much the readers didn’t want the extra stuff and how much was that the extra stuff was provided in a crappy app? I’m a sucker for extra features, I’m one of the people who listen to all of the commentary tracks to a movie and googles a movie for whatever easter eggs I didn’t find, but even I wouldn’t want any of the extras if it made what I was watching unstable and glitchy. It shouldn’t be any sort of surprise that readers would react more positively to a pared down format that works than to a format abundant in extras that always crashed on them.

This is something that irks me a bit because it seems like a good excuse for companies to essentially provide a PDF file of the text and let it go. With the digital format, we should embrace the idea of extras, of multiple layers, of an experience that goes beyond the text. I think this is also the best way for publishing house to really market themselves and find their niche. I think that content trumps everything. The most important piece of content is whatever work is at the center of what is being built. All the commentary tracks in the world don’t really matter if no one is willing to watch the movie in the first place. But assuming we have several publishing houses that put out quality work, what sets them apart? well, I think it can be the extras they provide.

For a comparison, I’d like to point to The Criterion Collection. For anyone who doesn’t know, The Criterion Collection releases movies that aren’t exactly summer block busters but which they believe are significant to the art form. While they clearly love David Fincher and Wes Anderson, they also release films by Agnes Varda and Yasujio Ozu.  They not only do the best to put out a high quality representation of the film, they also pack in extra features that you really won’t find anywhere else. With the movie Brazil, they packaged in an alternative cut edited by the studios for a more upbeat ending, a documentary about the war waged by Terry Gilliam against the studio to get his version of the film released, a documentary of the special effects (before digital special effects came into their own, so we’re talking some very impressive, classic Gilliam work) and a nice booklet. With their bluray editions, the special features are still there, and the booklets seem to be of heavier stock, with a chunk of better production value to them. In short, they don’t skimp and they have a very loyal following because of it.

Which is what publishers need. They need to cultivate a product that people want, because they certainly don’t need it. As it is, though, an ebook is an ebook is an ebook. Some go out of their way and have begun to really embrace the freedoms of the digital format, but they’re not the norm. on top of that, with the digital format the publishers are fighting the cost image. Now, from everything I’ve read, a whopping few bucks of a book’s price goes into the physical construction of the book, from buying the paper, to printing the words, to binding it all together. It’s a remarkably cost efficient process. Still, that means the TPB you payed $15 for should still be $12 if you buy and download it from B&N. Which should be great, you saved three bucks. Except all of us can made a .docx file or a pdf.  We can even download software that will do it for free.

So why are we paying $12 for something that doesn’t appear to cost much of anything to produce (of course, ignoring costs for editors, marketers, the writers themselves, etc. because these costs are often ignored or seen as something that should be cut for the sake of lower prices)? Well, that is where the extras would come in.  You’re not just paying for the text, but you’re also paying for all of this extra crap that comes with it. And it doesn’t even have to be incredibly great extra crap. Were there several cover designs being considered? Load them in as extras. Does the author feel okay with loading up a doc file with all of the edits saved so a reader can comb through and sort of reverse engineer the book? Awesome! A ten minute interview with the editor? A vid of part of a signing event? ANYTHING. And with classic novels, you can include scholarly work, past covers, etc. There is so much to do out there, especially if you’re creative (I’m not).

Just don’t do it if your format is crap. If your file is going to freeze my viewer every time, crash my o/s and force me to restart, yeah, just go with the story. That’s perfectly fine, too. But if you have something that works, that makes sense, load it up and create a niche. Some sort of author’s commentary track would be incredible.

Book Links 10-4-12

October 4, 2012

EContent has a good article about YA publishing and its ability to cross barriers to bigger audiences.  I’ve tried, but I just can’t find YA lit overly interesting. I know this is going to sound disparaging, but I’ve tried Hunger Games, I’ve tried Potter, etc. and I just don’t feel engaged by it. Still, if you’re looking for a place to write and make money in, YA definitely seems like the destination to be.
Over at BookRiot there is an article about the Musashino University Library in Tokyo. Not much to say, just a neat library to look at. They need to fill more of those shelves, though!

On a similar note, here’s a collection of home libraries from dornob. I thought my wife and I had a lot of books, but these folks put us to shame. Check it out, be envious.

Microsoft and B&N complete Nook Media. I will admit that I’m not entirely sure where this is going to go, but I find it interesting none the less. while Amazon and Apple have an all-in-one thing going with their own devices and stores, B&N and Microsoft have teamed up to (apparently) provide a similar service. Considering my distaste for Amazon, and my too thin wallet for Apple, I’m probably on MS/B&N’s side here. I prefer the Nook ereaders to the Kindles, and I really like the idea behind the surface tablets (though the possible price tags for the “pro” edition are a bit of a stumble for me).