Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Book Links 7-15-13

July 15, 2013

And then there were five.  I’m not a huge fan of consolidation, though I also get that it could all work out. I routinely hate on the consolidation of newspapers, radio,  and all things telecom. It destroys the variety of our windows unto the world, but things like the publishing industry can be different. The different houses coming under ever larger umbrellas can still maintain an identity, which is really how the different imprints  should be defining their necessity. In an ideal world an imprint would justify its existence by being known for something, and consistently delivering it. Whether that will actually happen or not is anybody’s guess. They might also become homogenized, neutered of their individuality to become just a rubber stamp on a cover, promoting some larger vanilla image. For now, though, I have cautious faith.

David Carr has a nice article up about the necessity of Barnes and Noble. It begins promisingly, building a case for the necessity of a physical bookstore as a foundational place of gathering for a community. People go, they look, they talk. It’s healthy and good. He briefly hits on the need for multiple sources of distribution needed for the health of the publishing industry and how Amazon is arguably more of a monopolist and price fixer than Apple could yet dream of being. However,  for me much of the article boils down to the physical bookstore being a necessity because people need to go and browse to discover writers to buy from cheaper online market places.  This ties back into the whole “multiple paths are necessary” thing because ebook sales fell after Borders was shuttered.  I know it’s not the point Carr wanted to drive home, but it’s the one that hung in the air when I was done, and I have to admit it’s at least partly true. While it would be another article entirely, someone other than Nick Harkaway needs to get on a platform and start arguing that the publishing industry needs to do more to take back their industry. Of course, that’s kind of hard when the government then immediately takes them to court to shift business back into Amazon’s hands… .

In case you missed it, JK Rowling released a book under a pen name. I haven’t read the book, I don’t know if I ever will, but I don’t see what the big deal is. And I don’t like the fact that someone cowardly outed her. It wasn’t hurting anyone, and if it gives her the freedom to crank out books that are good, all the power to her.  Now, every “Galbraith” novel she might write will be looked at as a “Rowling” book and carry that baggage with it.

And yet another NYT article about Barnes and Noble and their failing Nook division. I like the Nook tablet, I’ve been considering getting one since they’ve slashed prices, and I think it’s horrible that it’s dying in such a manner. From what I’ve toyed around with, I enjoy it, and I think it’s a quality little piece of hardware. I still support publishing just having a general, all-platform format for ebooks to level the digital playing field a bit, but if you have to support one ecosystem over another, there is no way I could stomach siding with Amazon. Unfortunately, it appears too many people could stomach that particular meal.

Alright, there’s my links for the day. It’s been awhile, but I’ve been busy and I haven’t really been able to find a lot of news I really cared about. But the Apple trial and the health of B&N are two biggies for me and they’ve been in the spotlight recently. Hopefully this is the beginning of getting back on the blogging track.

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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.

Book Links 5-9-13

May 9, 2013

Stuck in an elevator with Rushdie (and a host of of other interesting people)

Barnes & Noble is considering selling Nook to Microsoft. I think this is B&N getting ahead of the curve here, actually.  It’d be nice if they could keep getting some sort of share of sales of ereaders, but I don’t think there is a huge future in them. With tablets becoming more ubiquitous and more powerful, and the screens getting better, needing a dedicated reading device is going to become more and more unnecessary. At that point, does B&N have the infrastructure to be a player on the global tablet market against the likes of Apples, the various PC tablet makers, and Amazon? I don’t think so, and I’m guessing they are seeing that writing on the wall. They have been able to use Nook to keep afloat, to weather the storm of the initial push into the digital age, and now they need to find a way to establish themselves as booksellers in this market rather than technology sellers.

It’s at this point that finding some sort of partnership with MS makes a lot of sense. MS is big enough to run with the hardware end, and the software end comes naturally.  Also, B&N can become a bit of  a gateway to content for MS, depending on where B&N wants to take itself I’m a bit under the weather and my head is still pretty cloudy from lack of sleep, sickness, overmedication, and coffee, so it is a bit difficult to get my thoughts organized about this. However, it seems MS wants the next xbox to be even more of a media hub. Part of that is print – books, magazines, whatever. B&N seems to be a natural gateway for that. If they can find a way to scratch eachother’s needs, it could be hugely beneficial to them.

Haruki Murakami translated The Great Gatsby into Japanese, and here is something he wrote about it. I’m a Murakami fan and a Gatsby fan, so this was pretty much up my alley. A good read.

Okay, I don’t have as much to talk about as I thought, so I think I’m ending it here.

 

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.

Daily Book Links 10-26-12

October 26, 2012

a letter from Charles Bukowski. Have to admit, I like Bulowski’s writing. I’m never sure what to say or write about it, but I enjoy reading it. All of it. The novels. The newspaper articles. The poems. It’s all good. This letter is just more Bukowski. Enjoy.

Here’s an article on zdnet by Eileen Brown defending Amazon’s right to wipe your Kindle. The bad thing is that she has a point about their EULA, and it’s nothing new since software companies have been doing it for years now with things like MS Office, Windows, etc. The whole idea that you don’t actually buy something when you “buy” it at Amazon, but are really just buying the right to access it (which, to me, sounds a lot like renting rather than buying) and not the actual whatever it is itself.  This is something I have long complained about in those venues, too. You “buy” something, you “own” it. And I don’t understand why any consumer willingly takes a stance that opposes this. You’re just pointing a gun at your foot and pulling the trigger at that point. Maybe you shouldn’t own the car you paid for, but just the license to insure it, drive it, park it, maintain it, etc. But if you do something that Saab isn’t happy about, they should just take their car back, keep your money, and leave you hanging out to dry. Does that sound fair? Does that sound right? Of course not. And using the boogeyman of fighting media pirates and protecting copyrights is just bull. If someone rally wants to steal your stuff, DRM is not stopping them. It has never stopped them. It never will stop them. Know why? This is why. And I support Ars Technica in this because you should have that copy for yourself, even if you have to break a ridiculously unfair and likely illegal EULA agreement to get it. Or maybe no one will listen to us until we chuck a few barrels of Kindles into Boston Harbor.

Here you can download a short Halloween themed recipe book. It’s a quick download, the recipes look alright, if you don’t mind baking some cookies or making a cosmo, might be worth your time.

I really don’t know what to make of hitrecord.org, but they have their second tiny book coming out and JGL’s web site just interests the hell out of me. If anyone has any experience with them, or just an opinion to share, hit up at the bottom. Just wondering what some other’s thoughts are on it.

Alright, that’s all for today.

Book links 10-22-12

October 22, 2012

I know I hammer on Amazon a bit, but they’ve really gone out of their way to meet me in the middle today. First, a Kindle user claims that Amazon hijacked his reader and then deleted all of his ebooks. This, of course, flies in the face of an earlier court case and numerous promises by Amazon from a few years back. Making this case a bit worse is the labyrinthine correspondence record between Amazon and the accuser that seems to end rather bluntly with an email that can be cleanly summarized as, “screw you, all your eliteratures belongs to us!”  Maybe I’m just an old fogey, but I don’t believe any company should retain that type of control over a device you have paid for and own. It’s not like you’re renting your ereader. It is your device, it is your ereader. It’s just too much control to give away for a product you have bought. It makes me unhappy.

 

The next article is that Amazon is playing tax games in Europe. Essentially, they seem to be paying a 3% vat tax in Luxembourg, while collecting a 20% vat tax charge from British publishers. Yeah, can probably find examples of similar work by other countries as they seek to pay as little tax as possible,  but this still has a nasty stench to it.

 

This is pretty straight forward.  A saved video chat from earlier today involving Mark Z. Danielewski. I’ve listened to about half of it. Nothing earth shattering but not a bad listen.

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).

Book Links 9-7-2012

September 7, 2012

Not a pure book/literary link, but The New Yorker  talks about Bill Clinton’s spontaneous riffing during his speech at the DNC. I think it’s a great article, and really shows how amazing Clinton is at giving speeches. But I think it also gives some good points on creating good dialog. All of those folky things Clinton throws into his speech as he goes, all of the little asides he makes to pull the listener in…that’s not just an incredible speech maker, it’s awesome story telling.  There’s also a link in the The  New Yorker article for someone who took the original speech and compared it to the one given.

Judge Cote okayed the settlement between the DOJ and three publishers, and now Bob Kohn has filed a motion to stay the settlement because of the harm it would do to the industry.

Lastly, Fast Company has an article about Amazon’s serial publishing about how authors could take data mined by Amazon about how people react to different elements of one part of the serial so that the author can tailor future parts to fit what’s going over the best in the current part.  I hate this idea. No offense to readers, but we’re often idiots and what we like doesn’t necessarily point to what makes something good. And because a reader, or group of readers, doesn’t get why something is happening right now doesn’t mean they’ll hate what it leads to. I’m sure there will be some money to be made off of this, but tailoring a piece of work to reader’s most immediate desires just seems like an idea whose time should never come.
On a related note, I’m kind of downbeat about admitting I like the Kindle Paperwhite.  I don’t like it enough to pay for it, but I think it’s neater than the traditional e-ink displays. Still, I just can’t find enough justification for a device that does so little. Also, such things still force eliterature to behave in the same way as traditional print literature. If we’re going to start reading in a digital medium, all of the benefits of the medium should be taken advantage of. So maybe literature should (or at least could) have some video or audio components, some graphs, still photos, something. With that said, I just don’t like tablets yet. They aren’t functional enough. the closest things that I really really like are the ultraportable laptops like the macair. I think Lenovo has something, or has something coming out, where the screen and keyboard can either be attached or run separately, which is neat. I’m really looking forward to the MS Surface tablet. Something I’m wondering, though, is what you do with the keyboard/cover when you don’t want to use it. Does it fold over and clip to the back somehow? Do you just stuff it in your bag? A bit off-topic,but that’s what I’m wondering right now.

 

edit: alright, just as I posted this, PC Mag put up this blistering article about the Kindles and Amazon’s putting ads on them to subsidize their costs (and then charging a good bundle to take them off).  I’m not a fan of it, but I think they’ve been doing it for awhile and I don’t know why anyone would buy a kindle without knowing this. All the more reason to buy a Nook, imo, and support a real book store.

Atwood,Rushdie, IPad Stuff, Australia and some other bits

March 23, 2010

Margaret Atwood was the recipient of $1 million from The Dan David Prize. Beyond the ten percent she is required to share through Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Scholarships, she is sharing the prize money with another writer, Amitav Ghosh.

Salman Rushdie has archives on display at Emory University. The Rushdie-specific content is interesting (you can pull up a draft of one of his novels and edit/re-write bits of it, a weird bibliophile’s Eden somewhat analogous to an Air Force fanatic climbing into a military flight simulator) but the issue of preservation. John Updike donating fifty 5 1/4 inch disks shortly before his death is a good example of an author passing on a technology that simply no longer exists (admit it, how many of you have ever seen, let alone used, those big 5 1/4 inch disks?).  At some point, and quite likely in our life times if not within the next twenty years, we will see computing move entirely beyond decides like harddrives with moving parts and possibly even beyond solid state memory (like flashdrives) to lord knows what. are we at risk of losing great swathes of information simply because we’ll no longer be able to access it?

Blogging on demand? Well, maybe. IBM is working on a widget to connect bloggers and readers in a unique way. It’s essentially backwards from how the writer/reader dynamic has been accepted. The writer plugs away at something, throws it out there, and hopes to God someone reads it. Well, IBM is looking to find a way for readers to suggest topics for blogging and for those suggestions to be forwarded to the appropriate blogger to then do with it what he is told to do. On the one hand, as a rarely visited blog writer (unless I criticize illustrators, heh), I can certainly see the appeal. On the other hand, I write about what I write about because it interests me – not necessarily because I want to get a thousand hits a day. My reviews/critiques are dry and not for everyone. And that’s okay.

Make poetry your career and be the best at it. Over night. While it reads as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way of pushing for commercial success and societal significance as a poet, there is also an undeniable scent of truth to the vast majority of it.  I read lit journals, I glance through the annual year end Best Of collections, and am largely unimpressed with the vast vast vast majority of the poetry.  It lacks something. What it lacks is hard to put into words but there is just a gut reaction that is missing when reading it. At risk of sounding melodramatic (or maybe just wistful), it seems as if poetry is too much a way to make ends meet and not a way of life. The idea of Poet as Occupation should be a liberating one. Instead, it seems we may have become Henry Ford’s dream given artistic form. Maybe i’m not taking from it what was meant to be taken from it, but this is what it made me think about. There is a typed version of the same article at Huffington Post.

Finally, Australia is falling behind the EBook revolution. And they’re not happy about it. And they’re trying to figure out how to catch up. And Amazon is selling Kindles there without any real product support. And Apple hasn’t even hired anyone to run their Australian version of the ipad virtual store thing yet. Australia is really just being patently ignored.  And from it all, what really stood out to me, was the attention the IPad is still generating despite it looking like a fairly mediocre blow-up of the IPhone. I haven’t been thrilled with the IPad but if it somehow leads to EBook industry being opened up some more, then it’s done a good thing. Another piece of interesting info was the fact that publishers aren’t just creating digital copies of their novels, but things that are closer to app files than documents. I’m not a huge computer guy, despite the (numerous) IPad postings. But I keep seeing talk of HTML5 coming out in the near future and how it will do away with Flash and whatever else. I think this could also be the avenue for e-literature to eventually head down. Instead of apps, just use a powerful, multip-purpose programming language (as the next HTML appears to be) that allows different e-texts to be opened with a single browser.  Which makes me wish even more that I had any idea whatsoever how to create a webpage strictly through code (and not through those fuzzy point and click editors like Dreamweaver).