Archive for September 21, 2008

Mitch Ratcliffe: eBooks

September 21, 2008

eBooks: The first step of a long change

However, we are at precisely the same stage in the digital book reader device market as when Audible saw the first challengers to its portable digital audio player emerge, in 1998. Music had not changed—that is, it hadn’t been unbundled from the concept of an “album”—and did not change until the iPod appeared.

I don’t want to wait ten years.

This market evolution needs some speedup, dammit.

More than 30 formats vie for adoption by device and eBook software developers, authors, publishers and, most importantly, readers. You cannot buy an eBook and expect it to work on a particular device, unless you buy it through the developer of your reader. This means we have a bunch of sites trying to be iTunes, the provider of titles and the interface for reading, rather than a lot of standards-based titles competing for the reader’s attention, which is analogous to the MP3-based music market that has shattered the music business.

I’ll take his word on the thirty, but I think most people are immediately familiar with these formats:

1) PDF
2) eReader
3) MobiPocket
4) Sony Reader BBeB
5) Kindle format (bastardized MobiPocket)
6) ePub
7) DRMed ePub (Adobe bastardized ePub)

(Note that only the Sony Reader can do more than one file format: PDF, BBeB, ePub, DRMed ePub. And when I cite PDF, I mean text reflow PDF.) (And that list isn’t supposed to be in any order, but subconsciously probably is, based on my perception of their current popularity. Although 6 & 7 should really be swapped then. And I don’t count TXT or Palm DOC because of lack of type attributes [bold, italic, etc].)

The market needs a robust standard format, which the ePub format appears poised to deliver, especially when the DTBook XML vocabulary is implemented to preserve page location in a form that can be used to cite page and edition for a highlight, note or copied text.

This is the first time I’ve heard of the DTBook XML vocabulary. As a writer who wants to be able to easily create his own eBooks, I bang my head on my desk over yet another complexification. Just Make It Work!

To date, the format wars in eBooks have undermined the most important feature of a paper book, the ability to point to a part of the text on a certain page of a specific edition, which is the basis of academic and professional citation, which is the key to dialogue taking place through books. Without support for citations without losing one’s location because the reader software/device has reflowed the text for a particular device, eBooks are less than paper books. That’s the biggest barrier to wider use today, because even authors cannot use electronic versions to refer to another work.

I understand that point, but can we first get fiction going, then worry about non-fiction citations later?

It’s a very good article — aside from not acknowledging the popularity of the Sony Reader — and should be read by everyone interested in eBooks. It looks like he intends to do some kind of series.

A (Free!) Clue For Sony

September 21, 2008

Macintosh owners are doing that.

Macintosh owners!

The people who are supposed to be enthralled with the iPhone and iPod Touch as eBook devices.

Yet they are still interested in the Sony Reader!


When will someone over at Sony get it?!!?

Sony Reader Revolution: FAIL!

September 21, 2008

I had to know, so I went to that Borders I mentioned yesterday to see the Sony Reader Revolution campaign in real-life action.

According to Sony’s own site, these were supposed to be today’s hours for the Revolution:

I got there at about 4:15PM. I got there within an hour of departing for it because I spent carfare to take the bus and subway. OK? I. Spent. Money. I didn’t walk (which, aside from the ferry in-between, I’d sometimes do).

I went in and looked around, not wanting to ask where these exciting eBook festivities were taking place.

Nothing on the Ground Floor.

I go up to the Second Floor.

Nothing there.


So I break down and ask.

I’m told the Sony Reader area is next to the “first information booth” — back on the Ground Floor.

Get this: I walked right by it on my way to the Second Floor!

That gives you an idea of the FAIL! of this alleged Revolution.

Sony, I don’t know if you hired a temp or if Borders was supposed to task someone to pimp the Sony Reader, but there was no one.

N.o. o.n.e!

What there was, was this sad-assed kiosk that — I repeat — I walked right by while I was looking for it!

Here is the sad sad sad evidence from the Philips crapcam:

The forlorn easy-to-miss kiosk.

How forlorn? Just one accessory on it! One!

See the Revolutionaries? I sure didn’t!!

Very craptastic: even the skirting was put on lousy!!

But I did walk away with some cheap swag:

Borders pamphlet, actual-size Sony Reader brochure, actual-size jetBook eReader card

Oh, that jetBook card got in there because after Borders, I stopped in J&R. Where I was ejected for spraying drool all over the counter protecting the red Sony Reader!! (Half true. I fled after spraying!)

Look! You can see it says Borders. Shame!!

Other side of the FAIL brochure.

And the FAIL is even compounded!

The Borders brochure gives you a code as a Thank You for submitting to a demo. It allows you to download ten free classics eBooks! But get this: Because some retard at Sony spackled frikkin DRM on those public domain works, you must sign up for a Sony eBook Store account and give them your credit card number in order to get these “free” classics!


Sony, when will you get a frikkin clue?!

Look, hire a goddammed temp. Have him/her do up your own versions of these classics so you can get rid of the damned DRM. Then at least people can really, really get them for free.

Expecting people to jump through confiscatory hoops for free is just Major Dumb.

In fact, let me go further: You’re outright lying. They’re not free. They’re “free in exchange for” — which, hello McFly!, is the definition of a sale!

You’re not getting money, but you’re getting something.

And that’s a transaction.

Christ, Sony, when will you guys stop pissing me off?

Will that happen on October 2nd? I hope so!

Sony Reader Revolution: In Search Of …

September 21, 2008

Right then.

Me and the Philips crapcam are going walkies for a few hours to see what this Sony Reader Revolution campaign is all about.

This better be worth it!

Be prepared for the usual crappy-blurry photos.

If I find the Revolutionaries!!

Red Headlines For September 21, 2008

September 21, 2008

The New York Daily News skipped finance today.

This will be a manic-depressive week on Wall Street.


September 21, 2008

I was checking out my Twitter Followers and this led me to a website called MicroDesign.

At the bottom I saw this:

I clicked through to the Fluidbook site.

And I did the demo.

It’s very interesting. Performance was OK — not great, but not terrible — even on this crap PC (which means it should be great on your PC). The user interface was clean and it was the first time I’ve seen online publishing done in a sensible and actually readable way.

Go have a look.

Attention, Sony! Amazon Nails Kindle In One Line!

September 21, 2008

Over 200 Apress Titles Now Available on Kindle

This commitment from Apress moves us closer to our vision for Kindle, which is to make any book, ever printed, in any language available wirelessly in less than 60 seconds.

Emphasis added by me.

Maybe I haven’t been paying attention. Or maybe my visceral-aesthetic revulsion of the Kindle (mis)design has blinded me.

But that’s the first time I’ve seen the Kindle summed up like that.

And you, Sony?

“Our vision for the Sony Reader is …”

… a device open to more eBooks than any other?
… a device that can be used with public libraries?
… a device that gets its ass kicked by superior Kindle marketing?!

So far, it’s been the last one!

How about:

“Our vision for the Sony Reader is to be the most affordable, most open, and most …”

I leave others up to you. That’s why you people get your paychecks.

Now get to work!

Quote: Elizabeth, On Using Windows

September 21, 2008

Why I am switching to Mac.

Being a Windows user reminds me a little bit of being chronically ill.

Yes! That sums up my ongoing Windows XP experience perfectly! Brilliant!!

Rex Hammock Plays His Crisis Card

September 21, 2008

Some of us are wired to think the world is going to hell in a handcart. And some of us are not

Some of us view the world as physical scientists: we see everything breaking, declining and dying. We see that even about ourselves (and for most of us, our bodies are breaking as we age). We see it about institutions like government and media. We see it about our cities and our economies and our churches and schools — and all social structures. And some of us view the world as engineers: we see all things — especially broken things — as something that needs improving or fixing — and that can be fixed. And we start looking for the right tools.

It’s an excellent post. I left a Comment there with my view. Add yours.

Mitzi Szereto’s Big Night Out

September 21, 2008

A Night With Staind… The True and Uncensored Story

Yup, I figured I’d rope you in with that headline! I bet you’re imagining all sorts now – wild nights filled with endless amounts of Jack Daniels, weed, blow and, of course, sex. I mean, we are talking about the big bad boys of rock and roll (and the little erotic writer), aren’t we?

Mitzi had a lot of fun and her enthusiasm really comes through in this post. A happy read!