Saturday, May 30, 2009

C4N3 Virus

Doctors would be examining my infection-filled carcass just like that.

If I had enough strength to get to them.

Planned posts will have to wait.

Unless I die.

Then we're all out of luck.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hogdoggin' Blog Book Tour, Baby!!

Crime fiction writer Anthony Neil Smith's crew is here as part of the Virtual Motorcycle Rally blog book tour to display his word wizardry, so all of you will go buy his latest novel, Hogdoggin', out in about a week from those fine folks at Bleak House Books. And you'd better buy Yellow Medicine too. Because it's also damned good!

And now, Anthony Neil Smith…

In the Last Episode, Sophie Littlefield had a girl's night out… busting heads, that is.

He just showed up out of nowhere — materialized, like Star Trek — on the front porch of the Virtual Dive Bar, walked on inside carrying some computerized tablet of some sort, and sat down at the bar, started reading.

The folks at Fry's table gawked. They’d never seen anything like him before. He kind of shimmered, flickered. You could almost see through him. Forget Star Trek. This was full-on Jedi shit.

Everyone looked at Fry, like he knew what the hell was going on. He shrugged.

"Well," Richie Rich shoved Fry's shoulder. "Go talk to him. Here…" The kid handed over a knife. "Try to stab him."

"Shit, I'm not doing that in Smith's joint. You crazy?" But he sat on the edge of his seat, still hopped to the gills after four days of nonstop crank. Knee bouncing. He didn't give the knife back. "All right, all right, all right. I'm going. Yes, I’m going over there."

So he got up and walked to the shimmering stranger at the bar.

Sat next to him.

The man went about his business. Reading the tablet.

Fry was about to talk to him, but then had a feeling. An urge. He looked back at the table, where his friends were all staring, mouths agape.

Fry looked back at the man — an angel? A ghost? — still feeling this urge in his gut. So he did it. He reached out to touch the guy.

His hand went right through.

The man said, "Stop doing that."

Fry jerked his hand back, held it like he'd been burnt, even though everything was perfectly fine.

"What… what are you?"

The man turned his face to Fry, his eyes like cameras. "You mean like, what race? What religion? What political affiliation? What species? Be specific, man."

Fry blinked. "You’re not a person."

"Oh, but I am a person. Very much so. Just a person who can be in two places at one time."

"How is that?"



The camera eyes rolled. "No, you fucking idiot. Technology. Computers." He held up his tablet. "Like this, you know, I've got about 500 books in this thing. In the old days, I couldn't even carry five books around without dropping one. Now, Five. Hundred." Raised his eyebrows.

Fry shook his head. "I ain't much of a reader."

The shimmering stranger sighed, said, "I know. I already guessed that. But Lafitte might be, I hear. And Steel God, too."

Fry remembered Steel God reading some nights, propped on his elbow beside his bike. Mostly paperbacks. Mostly sci-fi or porn.

"What are you doing here?"

The man set his tablet on the counter and looked as if he knew his reading time was shot for the day. Then he grinned and slowly explained to Fry, "I'm here all the time. I drop in, check it out, see what's happening. It's a break from Tweeting."

"Yeah, okay. I knew it. You're a tweaker."

"No tweeting… never mind. Just… hey, Smith!" He waved the bartender over. "Tell this guy who I am."

Smith said, "That's Mike."

"Tell him I'm a regular."

A nod. "Oh, yeah. Regular Mike. Drinks here often."

Fry stood, knocked his barstool backwards. Exploded. "BUT HE AIN'T REAL!"

"Sure he is."

"Watch." Fry pulled out the knife and started stabbing Mike. Swiped his chest, face, arms, legs. Mike just sat there staring. Not cut one damn time. The ghostly image turned to Smith and said, "Can't you do something about this asshole?"

Smith shrugged. "Not until the Rally is over, I guess."

"Ah, well. It's not your fault." He turned to Fry. "Asshole."

And then he disappeared.

Fry stared at the empty barstool a long time before finally giving up thinking about it. He ordered the worst bourbon the bar carried — Fighting Cock — and sat sipping. A tablet that let you carry five hundred books around? Well… ain’t that the shit?

* * *

I’d like to thank Mike for his support of my work. I really appreciate all the kind things he’s said, and all of the people he’s talked up Yellow Medicine to.

You can find Mike on Twitter quite often, talking about ebooks, some great television shows, and the end of the world (which he thinks will be here next Tuesday). But don’t you dare follow him. No no. If you do, you’d better mean it.

I look forward to the day when this ebook thing he preaches about catches on more, and I’d like to see my current published novels available in that format. But for the time being, I’ll salute Mike Cane for his efforts, and stick to the paperbacks until I can afford one of those damned readers!

Next up, Bill Crider is a dirty, dirty son of a bitch. Buy him a drink.

On the Jukebox: Moby, "Run On"

* * *

Hop over to see the post I did for Smith's blog that inspired him to write this custom post!

And then go buy Hogdoggin'! You'll love it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Virtual Motorcycle Rally Here Tomorrow!

Yeah, they've already parked their bikes outside!

But it will take them until tomorrow to show up here!

Meanwhile, check out the action leading up to this at Crimedog One and at Can't Stop Won't Stop.

Do it before they show up here! They might want to give you a test!

The Information

"You're trying to stop the information. You see, that's where it's sad. You can't stop the information because the information keeps the country strong! You need the deviant! Don't shut him up! You need that madman to stand up to tell you when you're blowing it! And the harder you come down on the deviant, the more you need him!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hewlett-Packard Has An eBook Reader?

I don't know why others haven't picked up on what appears to be a leak in a Fortune magazine article about Amazon:
(Other competition is coming from publishers such as Hearst and computing companies, including HP. Apple is rumored to be mulling a reader too. Chances are they will all include some wireless connection.)

Emphasis added by me.

This is the first I've heard of hp actively developing an eBook reader.

They've shown off a prototype previously:

But that looked so absolutely screwy -- screwier than Kindle Mark I -- that no one took the effort seriously.

Today I must add that given the Gesture Area on the Palm Pre, the touchstrip interface no longer looks so screwy -- and that makes the last ten seconds of this next video a must-see:

hp has also been gung-ho developing flexible displays. They have a video all about that.

Plus, earlier this year hp announced a color flexible display prototype. And while reports indicate it's several years away from commercialization, color isn't needed right now for ebooks, so perhaps the monochrome version shown below -- impressively resisting abuse -- can be used:

What's also interesting is that hp never released a tablet UMPC. Everyone thought they'd be a natural entrant, but they passed. They did, however, enter the netbook fray with impressive models.

What's interesting about that is the ten-inch screen. That's the screen size for the rumored Apple tablet. Whenever I've looked at the hp mini in person, I always try to picture it without its keyboard, as a tablet.

And a touchscreen tablet is something hp could do. They have incorporated touch into their TouchSmart line of desktop and notebook PCs. How difficult would it be to graft that onto a ten-inch screen tablet?

An hp eBook reader brings up a whole series of issues:

1) What retailers would carry it?
2) What eBooks could it display?
3) How could eBooks be bought?

Could hp's eBook reader find its way into the world with a Barnes & Noble branding? With eReader software and ePub support built in? And Fictionwise/eReader as the eBookstore all ready to go?

One other thing I must note about hp's touchstrip UI idea: it sidesteps the clarity and contrast issues of the Sony Reader 700, which simply placed a touchscreen over its eInk didplay.

Dying Dinosaurs Of Print Dying Faster

Amazon's next revolution
Running on Sprint Nextel's high-speed data network, Kindle bridges the gap between the perpetual connectivity of a mobile phone and the sporadic connectivity - but superior form factor - of a laptop. There's no need to plug into a computer, the battery will last two weeks, and there are no connection fees. And buying a book is a snap. Freed considered slower connections, like a pager network or 2G, but ultimately determined that 60-second downloads would spur impulse purchases. See an interesting author speak on The Daily Show? You can start reading the book before the interview's over.

The plan has worked like a charm. For titles where a traditional paper and an electronic Kindle version are available, 35% of sales already come from downloads, Amazon says. That suggests not only that Kindle owners love their devices, but also that they're buying impetuously. And the wireless connectivity, which Amazon provides free to Kindle owners, has helped Amazon blaze ahead of its main competitor, Sony's Reader, which requires users to connect to a computer, la the iPod, to download books.

Emphasis added by me.

Impulse purchases. Impulse pricing.

What part of these two things are difficult to understand?

Here is the beginning of the death knell for traditional print publishing:

Two dollars! Two!

And that's six-hundred and ninety pages!

All of you dying print publishers, I've got news for you. Your mandate has never been to cater to an elite. Reading is supposed to be for the masses.

Keep your prices stupidly high and you'll continue to your stupid demise.

John Sayles: 20th-Century Crybaby?

John Sayles, novelist, seeks a binding agreement
John Sayles, Oscar-nominated creator of "Return of the Secaucus 7," "Lone Star," "Matewan" and other movies, is having trouble getting a book deal.

The situation is almost entirely traceable to the publishing industry's economic woes, and it's raising eyebrows, because Sayles was an accomplished fiction writer long before he made his first film. Weighing in at a whopping 1,000 typed pages, "Some Time in the Sun" is his first novel since 1990's "Los Gusanos."

"This is really astonishing," says Ron Hogan, senior editor of, a website devoted to publishing news. "I mean, this is John Sayles! You'd think there would be some editor who'd be proud to say, 'I brought the new John Sayles novel to this house.'"

Raise your hands, all of you who have read a John Sayles novel.

Cue the crickets.

OK, I thought so.

See, Sayles, there's this thing now called the Internet. And these other things called eBooks.

You, John Sayles, have the stature, visibility, and savvy to help push the needle away from the dying dinosaurs of print towards the eBook future:
What needs to happen:

ONE eBook gains a Word of Mouth (WOM) reputation
(Note: there are over 16 million eBook devices now [iPhone/Touch])
- genuine word of mouth or PR-assisted?
-- PR-assisted cannot move something that's shit
-- only genuine WOM matters
-- WOM moved The Fountainhead in 1940s

Unknown contributing(?) factor: Blog Book Tours

An eBook with WOM cachet and must-read-ness that's available only as an eBook (in a format that cannot be printed out) could help push the needle from print books to eBooks

WOM must be of such scale to achieve Internet escape velocity
- must enter mainstream culture, not be confined to Internet Culture

If you believe in your book, put up or shut up.

Help move that needle, Sayles, and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

No one out here is feeling sorry for you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thunder Here On Thursday!

On Thursday, I'll be scramming from here for the day as writer Anthony Neil Smith's crew takes over to have their way with my blog.

All in a good cause -- to promote Smith's new novel, Hogdoggin'!

This is the next book to follow the characters introduced in Yellow Medicine, which I posted about here.

Be here Thursday -- or there might not be a blog left for Friday!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Long Tail Of Value

A certain poobah of Twitter was touting his book today and I was reading some of the tweets relating this event.

One of them caught my eye:

This is so obvious a concept that I was somewhat startled to see it explained.

Here it is another way:
A convict from Darlington, England, was released from jail after serving three years for embezzlement.

One day, he happened to pass Mayor John Morel on the streets. Embarrassed and completely withdrawn, this convict pretended not to see the Mayor and walked past him. But he suddenly felt the Mayor holding his hands and turned around instantly to hear the Mayor say, in a cheery tone, "Hello! I am so glad to see you! How are you?" The man appeared ill at ease and the discussion stopped then and there.

Years later, according to the story told by J.H. Jowett, Morel accidentally met the same man in another town. This time the young man stopped the Mayor himself and said, "I want to thank you for what you did for me when I came out of prison." "What did I do?" asked the Mayor, surprised. "You spoke a kind word to me and it changed my life," replied the the grateful man.

The above is a paraphrase from a Robert H. Schuller book, Believe in the God Who Believes in You (Google Book Search link).

This is what I call the Long Tail of Value.

American business is FAILing left and right because it's based on squeezing the juice out of every single penny (which is actually a load of crap; those of you who decry wasteful government have no idea of how wasteful business is!).

This is the very antithesis of life itself, which is based on chance, serendipity, synchronicity, coincidence, and the longest possible perspective.

When the Mayor offered his greeting, was he thinking of its ROI? Did he do a calculation to see what was in it for him?

Perhaps this is why businesspeople -- so-called -- can't "figure out" how to use Twitter.

They've forgotten how to be human beings.

Publishers Vs. Writers: Writers Will Win

HighTalking: Novelist Jon F. Merz on How Social Media is Changing Publishing (Part 1)
Nowadays, people don’t want to go through the traditional publishing hoops of querying agents and editors. They don’t want to wait. They want their stories and articles out there fast. So, instead of even putting a piece of paper into a typewriter, they simply click open MS Word, write their masterpiece, and the save the file as HTML. Uploaded to the site, it’s instant gratification.

Publishing’s response to this has been something along the lines of, “Yes, but we’re the gatekeepers of quality. We *know* what the consumers want.” Bull puckey. That argument might have once held water, but no longer.

I’ll use myself as an example: my novel PARALLAX is a thriller with Science Fiction/Psychic elements. In trying to get the book sold, all the editors who read it, loved it. But because publishing thinks in terms of labels and how to slot books into those labels, the fact that Parallax blurred the lines a bit meant they couldn’t sell it to the committee and the book never got picked up.

Fast forward a few years and I’m tired of having a novel sitting on my hard drive not earning me any money, so I put it out as an ebook. Lo and behold, reader response has been fantastic. So while publishing might *think* they know what consumers want, that isn’t always the case. And Parallax proves that a well-written book will always find a home with an audience if given the chance.

As far as the quality goes, there is certainly plenty of crap out there. People are impatient and they want to believe that their stuff is gold right out of the gate. So, sure, there is a lot of junk. But there are also some really great writers out there making a decent living from self-publishing their own material. If traditional publishers were smarter, they would take advantage of these ready-made audiences and then look to break that author out into a larger market share.

Emphasis added by me.

There are also some very interesting thoughts in part two.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More About the Smart Q7

It's actually the Smart Q7. I won't correct the earlier post because it's also been typoed like that elsewhere, plus I think most search engines can still parse it correctly.

There is a short booklet included in the package. Chippy got it in Chinese. This is a link to a PDF version in English. Update: Yes, it's for the Q5, but all the buttons are the same, so the instructions should be compatible with the Q7.

I've seen this for sale on U.S. ebay (US$199.00 with a whopping US$45.00 shipping charge from China), but only with Chinese-language OS. Apparently there's an Englishized version of the OS available as a 196MB ZIP download. This is a slow download and can take over an hour.

There is also a very strange forum with cryptic posts.

I'm not sure how practical a device this is.

For one, an hp 1000 mini netbook with Linux OS can be had for as low as US$299.00. That has a far more powerful CPU, a 10" screen, keyboard, and can also have Windows XP implanted in it. With Windows XP, one would have Flash (not available with the Q7) and can also add Adobe Digital Editions, Sony Reader, MobiPocket Reader, and more in order to access a wide variety of eBooks.

On the other hand, this might be a case of comparing A to B. Each has its functional place. But still, US$250 is a pretty hefty price for the Q7.

Then again, Chippy reminds us that it's more capable than a higher-priced Kindle.


SmartQ 7 As eBook Reader

The punchline first: This device has a domestic (China) MSRP of just US$189.00. Seven-inch color touchscreen, Linux-based OS, WiFi, battery life of 8-12 hours.

Steve Paine (aka Chippy) at UMPC Portal first made me aware of this device via Twitter about two weeks ago. I was very skeptical because the website and ordering instructions seemed sketchy. Being an adventurous lad, Chippy was undeterred and went about arranging a safe way to purchase (via Paypal, rather than the wire transfer methods touted on the website!).

Once he got it, he put it through a live two-hour-plus UStream videocast. All of which I happened to miss (damn you again, Twitter!).

Steve knows I'm interested in eBook developments, so when he saw that FBReader was installed on the SmartQ 7, he did a demonstration just for that.

Here's the video:

He also posted several photos at Flickr, one of which I'm cloning because it's very impressive:

Click = big

Note that it shows version 0.8.17 pre-installed. The latest version is 0.10.07 and it can do DRM-free ePub. I hope Chippy gets curious -- as he usually does -- and sees if it's possible to upgrade FBReader to the latest version.

eBook Search 101

Since this seems to be a difficult subject for some to grasp, there's actually an eBook store that attempts to do it right: eBooks About Everything.

Click = big

Click = big

I can understand the need to resort to drop-down menus for newbies, but an actual separate form that delineates each publisher with a checkbox would be best. Shoppers could then look for books from multiple publishers at once. A drop-down menu limits searching to one at a time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The eBook Free Market Of Naomi Campbell

You'll have to watch the clip to the end ...

... and even then the Naomi Campbells in pinstripes won't get it.

Piranha Publishing Begins

Finding Indie Opportunity on The Kindle
Readers expect Kindle books to be much cheaper than dead-tree books (because they know it costs less to publish them and they can't share them and worry they won't have them forever).

Emphasis added by me.

It's unfortunate that Gilmer doesn't provide solid numbers besides stating "The low hundreds per day" in a Comment. Someone needs to step out and provide writers with some numbers we can actually digest. This is especially the case when it comes to money actually earned. The confiscatory/ upside-down money split that Amazon "offers" is a step backward to the old pulp magazine days.

In the glass towers of the dying dinosaurs of print, some of them are probably laughing at the sales figures and running guesstimates of money earned.

I've got news for those people: That's still money you didn't collect.

And if race-to-the-bottom pricing is going to be expected, then all of you in New York City (and elsewhere) had better start envisioning other careers for yourselves -- because what you bring to the table is something that writers can contract out on their own.

Every writer you drop will become your direct competitor.

There are more of us out here than you.

And we know how to use the Internet.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Does Everything eBook-Related Suck?

Thanks to shallow celebs such as Ashton Kutcher, Twitter has become just about worthless now.

So I signed off it today in moment of fury and decided to soothe my soul by going through the eBook listings at the New York Public Library.

Like every public library, the NYPL is a victim of that metastatic monopoly from OverDrive. Public libraries do not create their own websites and add eBooks they believe will suit their clientele. No. They have no other choice -- thanks to DRM and the cowardice of the dying dinosaurs of print -- than to lease a turnkey system from OverDrive which they gateway through their existing websites.

The OverDrive system is a blight upon the world of eBooks and especially upon the world of public libraries.

All of the search options a good library would offer in its own computerized card catalog (such as the NYPL's own LEO system) aren't present. There is no field to search on "Writer" or "Author," for example. There is the corporate lawyer term "Creator" -- something that must make lifelong and dedicated librarians want to pull out a gun.

The OverDrive system is just so entirely atrociously bad.

And today it reached its nadir.

I decided to browse through the eBook catalog in reverse chronological order, from newest acquisitions backward.

Click = big

Because OverDrive search is such an absolute collection of crap, this is really one of the best methods to actually find things -- by bulk browsing. In a way similar to browsing a physical shelf -- except worse and much slower.

With over 11,000 items, I planned to go through at least one thousand.

OverDrive had another idea:

Click = big

Suddenly I was presented with a page that had absolutely no relation to the search itself! Look at the upper right corner. It's telling me this is an eHolds error.


I'm nowhere near the eHold part of the damned crappy site! I'm in the rotten catalog!

When the hell will the eBook world get its act together?

Fictionwise/eReader has servers that are seemingly powered by dying gerbils.

Sony has a site with its own problems.

Cool-er's eBook store is an object lesson in breathtaking incompetency.

And now this cavalier approach has infected the national circulatory system of knowledge too -- our public libraries!

President Obama should appoint an eBook Czar.

And that should be me.

I'd get it all straightened out.

Even if it meant taking a baseball bat to some overpaid heads!

Get your shit together, dammit.

There is no excuse for what I'm seeing and for what you're subjecting the general public to.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cool-er eBook Store: FAILing eBooks

Click = big

The Cool-er eBook Store is a lesson in utter incompetency.

See above screensnap with several listings for business reports -- priced at US$636.00! -- showing up in the Biographies/Memoirs category. This isn't isolated. I went up to about page 180 in the listings (which claimed there were 3,534!). I had to bail after hitting about twenty pages of these business reports.

In addition, there were several eBook listings that were duplicates.

There's no way to do any sorting.

There should be an Advanced form with checkboxes and fields.

The fields should allow someone to type in Author, Title, Year. The checkboxes should display the name of every publisher, so the entire selection is right there to see. Sorting should be done by date and price too.

The current dropdown/overlay to select eBook device is of no help. It still manages to list titles for which there are no compatible formats available. See this prior post for an example of that.

The general public who wade into this mess will wonder what they have done wrong.

Book discovery is going to be one of the hot topics in the next few years. This is a fine example of how not to do it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Will Sony Even Exist In Five Years?

Sony hires a professional fixer
On Friday, Sony announced it has hired longtime IBM executive George Bailey as chief transformation officer. He will report to Sony CEO Howard Stringer beginning June 1 as head of the Transformation Management Office and consult with two main company divisions: Consumer Products and Devices and Networked Products and Services.

Bailey served for five years as the global managing partner of IBM's electronics industry consulting practice. His new title at Sony -- though grand -- describes exactly what Bailey has been known for in his career: fixing the way consumer electronics makers approach the business and help them make money -- he even wrote a book about it.

Emphasis added by me.

And what is in that book?
Of course, it's easy to say, "Do what Apple does." But the numbers tell the story: Sony Electronics had $11.1 billion in sales in its most recent quarter, and an operating income of $412 million. Because Sony Electronics is a unit of Sony Corp., the final profit numbers for the individual business are unavailable. Apple, on the other hand, had a $472 million profit on $4.37 billion in sales in its most recent quarter.

So what does Apple do right that Sony does not? Two things: It innovates, and it gives customers what they want, from the packaging to the slick advertising, say the authors.

"That's sort of the secret formula for success that the book talks about," said Bailey.

Emphasis added by me.

Oh dear god. Anyone who calls something so frikkin obvious a "secret formula" is not someone I'm going to trust to feed my cat!

What has everyone been screaming at Sony to do in regards with the Sony Reader?

1) Lower the hardware price

2) Release BBeB eBook creation tools

3) Open the eBook Store

4) Release Mac OS X eLibrary software

5) Add wireless

How "secret" exactly has any of this been? And these are calls from customers and people who want to be customers and people who want to be in the eBook business.

None of it has been a secret.

That Sony has ignored all of this for years points to the company having a future just like that of General Motors, Chrysler, AIG, and Citigroup.

In other words: Self-inflicted FAIL!

Don't make this the Betamax of eBooks, Sony!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photos of BeBook 2's SIM Slot

Click = big

Click = big

These blurry images are screensnaps from an HD video I had to rip and downconvert in order to view. The original video, via MobileRead, is in Dutch. However, there is a sentence in English clearly stating the BeBook 2 not only has a 3G SIM slot but WiFi too. Alas, no actual demonstration of wireless book discovery or downloading is shown.

The video is worthwhile because it also shows the forthcoming BeBook Mini, an eInk device with a five-inch screen. With a purported retail price of only $200, this could put pressure both on Sony as well as the five-inch-screened ECTACO jetBook.

Cool-er eBook Reader & eBookstore

Second update: Confusion continues to surround the true capabilities of this device as well as the format of eBooks for sale at its store. Until all that is sorted out with undeniable proof, proceed with caution.

This post has been updated with corrections and clarifications.

The Net has been abuzz over one of the first of a coming flood of new eInk eBook devices.

This one is called the Cool-er.

Oh wait. Wrong picture. This is it:

Photos over at Engadget show a shitty hardware UI: page button on the right side, other controls on the spine. So far, only Sony and the designers behind the jetBook have reader-friendly hardware UIs that take into account the book part of hardware design.

Dismissing the hardware -- which may or may not use either Adobe for its ePub rendering engine or FB Reader (the Engadget photos reveal these seeming to co-exist!) -- what remains is an eBook store that could be their salvation.

UPDATE: eBook format confusion just bit me! OK, at this bookstore, Adobe Digital Editions is a PDF file, not ePub. This also explains how this device contains both Adobe and FBReader. The Adobe is used for PDF. FBReader is used for ePub. This means ePub rendering could be problematic!

I browsed through it and while some of the prices are shocking -- due to the continued eejitcy of the dying dinosaurs of print establishment currently hastening their own deserved extinction -- there are books here and there that could steal customers away from, giving one example, the Sony eBook Store.

Look at this.

Cooler has four books from Christopher Fowler:

Click = big

$5.59 is a great price! Here's Sony's price:

Click = big

$6.64 -- discounted from $6.99.

And get this: the Cooler eBook editions are ePub, while the Sony are proprietary BBeB. Anyone who would buy the Fowler eBooks from Sony is a moron! Update: The Cooler editions are PDFs. These should in fact be avoided.

So Cooler could be taking money away from Sony, never mind whatever revenue they hoped to gain from the hardware. Update: PDF will not win -- especially not on a device with a six-inch screen! If Sony does indeed release an 8.9" reader, then perhaps these PDFs might be worthwhile. Although buying ePub is the best bet for the general public.

There are still some rough spots at the store:

But anyone who buys eBooks should bookmark the site and check it out for bargains. It'd also be helpful if the store had a Twitter account and tweeted what's added -- this is something Sony doesn't do with its own store. Update: Any such tweets should also make it very clear what eBook formats are available.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

eBook Notes For May 13, 2009

Three major items.

First Item: BeBook announced via Twitter that the next iteration of its eInk BeBook device -- the BeBook 2 -- will contain worldwide 3G capability. In addition, wireless access to eBook buying is currently functional prior to release. And over 190 stores in The Netherlands, including two large chain stores, will stock and promote the BeBook.

BeBook (first version)

Second Item: Amazon has awakened and it's not happy news for any writer. Amazon announced its Encore program. This is basically a whole new way to screw publishers (by excluding them), writers (by impoverishing them), and printers (by not using them) -- all to the benefit of Amazon itself. Amazon has finally figured out what I've been waiting for Apple to do: cut out publishers altogether. But unlike Apple, Amazon will be doing it by screwing writers.

Third item: ePubCatalog is active. I see this as a baby step towards the Universal eBook Catalog I called for earlier. This can be successful only if we all cooperate and help fill it up. Go to it, read the instructions, and get a Twitter account if you don't already have one.

Of less importance, two items regarding Sony:

1) Sony is still delusional. Here's the latest revelation. Expect more to follow!

2) Sony thinks we'll accept advertising in electronic periodicals, such as newspapers and magazines. I've got news for Sony. Advertising in electronic media = free! There's no paper and no union drivers whose salaries I have to cover as with a print publication, so there's just no way I'll pay for an e-newspaper or e-magazine. Good luck with that, Sony. You can join Murdoch in the corner, mumbling WTF? to one another, clueless to your respective FAILs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sony's Howard Stringer Is Delusional

It just has to be said.

Howard Stringer, in charge of Sony, is delusional.

[NEA Interview] Sony Chairman, CEO Howard Stringer
Right now is an excellent opportunity for consumer electronics companies to improve their understanding of consumers.

Five years ago content companies were regarded as king in our industry, but that was wrong: the customer is king.

Sure, some people might say, "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about." But I reached this conclusion after spending more time on the road, worldwide, than most executives.

Consumers today are a lot different from how they were 20 years ago. They aren't passive any more. The spread of the Internet has given them the power to dictate how products are used, and an increasing number of people are discovering new ways to have fun, such as by creating their own content.

Emphasis added by me.

The customer is king?

1) Then why does the Sony eBook Store still sell proprietary BBeB eBooks?

2) Then why is it still impossible for writers and small publishers to publish at the Sony eBook Store?

3) Then why aren't there tools for writers and small publishers to create BBeB eBooks?

4) Then why isn't there Sony eLibrary software for Mac OS X?

5) Then why does the Sony eLibrary software for Windows still bite?

Those six things still tell me the customer is not king -- the customer is still an insignificant little lackey the King can piss on.

In fact, which "customer" does Stringer actually mean? Here's his vision of "customer" just last May:
Walt taking Howard to task over "craplets" on his Sony computers (this is a big thing for Walt). Wants him to take anti-craplet pledge. Howard won't bite. "You're not a typical consumer." Not true! says Walt. Everyone's got my back on this! Howard: "I promise you a craplets review."

Emphasis added by me.

If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple Inc of the US.

This is simply delusional!

Does Howard Stringer understand why the iPod and then iPhone succeeded? Does he think it was simply luck, a fluke? As I said earlier, a company not in consumer electronics, without a history of music-related products, based outside of Japan, stole away a market from global giant Sony. Show me where the "open" was in that equation, Stringer!

And then Amazon came along and kicked Sony's ass again -- with the Kindle! This despite Sony spending a ton of money on ads and investing money on two iterations of the Reader!

Now, if Stringer had said this:
If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Amazon's Kindle.

Emphasis added by me.

He would have at least been in waving distance of reality.

He could have read this waaaay back in January 2008:
1) Give away the ebook file format. That’s right. Let anyone and everyone have it, royalty-free. There’s a precedent for this, Sony helped set it, and Sony reaped millions and millions of dollars from that move and created a new worldwide standard. They did it in conjunction with Philips when they introduced the Compact Cassette tape format.

2) Open your ebook store. Because you’ve held onto the file format, you’ve allowed Amazon a huge advantage here by allowing writers to immediately publish their works and sell them via the Kindle Store. This is really inexcusable, Sony. Do any of you use the Internet? What is the Internet but the largest self-publishing effort in the total history of humanity? How could you have missed that connection? With the year-long advantage you had, your ebook store could have boasted of thousands of titles the Kindle Store lacked. All of them original. And some of them would have remained exclusive to your store because we writers are loyal beasts. We remember who treats us right (and vice versa!).

But apparently he didn't have his stupid Chumbly tuned to my blog's RSS feed.

That's seventeen months lost, Stringer.

How many more are you going to waste?

When the hell do you wake up, man?

Things Change. Things ALWAYS Change.

Enter the WABAC Machine with me, Sherman, and let us return to the streets of the early 1980s.

Regard the people walking and jogging. See the headphones over their ears? What do they lead to? A Sony Walkman -- or knockoff.

SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman SONY Walkman ...

Now let's good back to the year 2009. Regard the people walking and jogging. See the earbuds in their ears? What do they lead to? An Apple iPod -- or iPhone. (No, you have never seen a Zune; stop being delusional, Sherman!)


Who would have forseen a company not in consumer electronics, without a history of music-related products, based outside of Japan, stealing away a market from global giant Sony?

Today, it's:

Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle ...

... blah blah blah.

That too will change.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pirate Planet

Rampant Piracy Will Be The Kindle DX’s Savior
The Kindle DX changes that. Just find the book you want in PDF form, upload it to your Kindle over USB, and you’ve got a perfectly readable and convenient textbook. Sure, students will have to deal with the usability issues I raised above, like slow highlighting. But these books, frustrating as they might be, will be 100% free. That’s $300 per quarter in extra beer money. Most obstacles and morals fade quickly in the face of that much alcohol.

TechCrunch fills in the other part of the Kindle DX puzzle.

As soon as I knew the screen size, I immediately realized all the free eBooks that writers put out as PDFs will suddenly be worth getting, since the DX allows them to finally be read on a comfortable device.

But such freebies wouldn't drive sales of a device such as the DX. Ripping people off would.

Amazon chose not to use Adobe DRM for PDFs. Adobe's DRM is a very complex beast. Amazon's DRM so far has not been and all current Kindle eBooks can be liberated for actual ownership.

And here's the one Comment over there that summarizes everything:
Pirates always win. You’d think Microsoft with their huge amount of money would be able to stop piracy too. Hell, they have been in the software business a lot longer than Amazon and they still haven’t figured it out.

The one eBook file format that has not been cracked is Sony's Broadband eBook (BBeB). If Sony does indeed release a Reader with a screen the same size as the DX, that might attract the skillz needed to finally make BBeB DRM fall.

What no one realizes is that the advent of digital goods requires a reformulation of economics. That will have to happen too.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Steve Haber Of Sony Nails It: Print Is Dead!

Can E-book Readers Like the Sony Reader Dominate the Industry in 10 Years?
When I headed Sony's U.S. digital-imaging division, people said, 'I don't like digital. I like the warmth of film.' And then we continued to improve the product. Now Americans buy 40 million digital cameras each year.

Emphasis added by me.

Hey, raise your hand, all you people who are using film cameras. Show me those Instamatics, Advantix, and Polaroids.

Thought so.
When we introduced our Reader, the biggest resistance I heard was, 'I like the smell of books, and I like the smell of paper. I can't go digital.' That was the confirmation for me that this change will happen. If the smell of paper is the biggest push back, then we're good to go."

Emphasis added by me.

This should be your wake-up call.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Publishing On Smashwords

Mark Coker is relentless.

Despite the fact I hate the name Smashwords, he's been at me over and over again to give it a fair shake.

Because a project I had been working on had frustrated me for four days straight, I took a break yesterday and decided to finally go through Smashwords.

I went through about 190 pages of listings. I also did real-time tweeting of that, ragging on some of the bad stuff -- and there was a lot -- as well as pointing out some interesting things that looked worthwhile (very few!).

Before sleep, I decided I should try publishing something on Smashwords, to see what the entire effort would be like.

Mark Coker dared me to put my fiction up. No, not when it'd be next to things such as this.

At first, I was going to simply publish an essay I believed was in the public domain by someone else.

But something that simple isn't much of a challenge nor would it have been by me.

So, I decided to take three of the most popular posts I've written and repackage them as an "eReprint." These were the three posts I did in October 2008 about the introduction of the Sony Reader.

Dutifully, I RTFMed over at Smashwords. Moriah Jovan had already clued me in to it wanting a certain type of file only. I wanted to play by the rules and see what resulted.

I took those three posts and made an RTF document in Wordpad (the only writing tool I have, besides BlogDesk, believe it or not!).

I also made a quickie cover (using MS Paint).

Even though the photos in total couldn't have been more than 500K, when the RTF was saved, it managed to balloon to a whopping thirteen megabytes!

I didn't find that out, however, until my Smashwords upload was rejected.

I did everything I could think of to shrink the pictures, but the result remained at over ten megabytes.

I then relented and downloaded Open Office.

I opened the RTF in that, put the photos back in again -- to see if that would recalibrate their sizes -- and saved it as a Word 5 DOC file (which is what Open Office kept switching to, despite my asking for Word 6).

Result: over five megabytes. Smashwords wants nothing more than five megabytes.

Finally, I started deleting photos. That meant some text changes too.

The final result was about four and half megabytes and I was good to go.

The process to publish something on Smashwords is very simple. Fill out a form, choose the cover to upload, then the file of the book to upload, and hit Publish.

After that, a bit of whirring, then the Meatgrinder, as they term it, activates and converts the file into the formats that have been chosen before uploading.

Once that's over, the eBook is ready to be looked at within Smashwords itself via an HTML window or can be downloaded in the formats chosen.

My first hint of trouble was that the HTML preview was rather wonky. The photos, although not great to begin with, became outright atrocious. Just look at this awfulness:

Click = big

Also, it managed to lose the centered text I put in. It was only in three places, too!

I then downloaded the ePub and the PDF versions to look at.

Remember that ePub is the file format all the major publishers have agreed to use. So this is very important for writers who choose to use Smashwords to put their work before the general public (and, in some cases, ask money for it).

Let's see the results of the ePub.

This is what it looked like in FBReader, starting with the all-important cover:

Click = big

Oh my god.

Would you want to read that? I wouldn't want to go further, and I created that! The cover is supposed to look like this.

OK, this I chalk up half to my fault and half to Smashwords. The Smashwords guidelines do not suggest any sort of recommended dimensions for a cover. I simply did a quick and dirty one in MS Paint without paying much attention to the size. But even so, this is horrible.

And then in FBReader this is what the photos turned into:

Click = big

More hair-raising horror!

I can't dismiss FBReader because it's the ePub rendering engine that drives the ECTACO jetBook. Will people who view ePub with embedded photos wind up seeing something as terrible as that? I don't know. (And ECTACO has not been willing to provide a review unit. Maybe this is why!)

With the Sony eLibrary software, the cover results were the same:

Click = big

The photos were no better than the HTML preview:

Click = big

The final test was the PDF. It came out beautifully:

Click = big

My centered text was preserved and the photos were identical to the originals.

And thus ended the experiment.