Archive for December 22, 2008

God Bless Writer Derek Raymond

December 22, 2008

Death at One’s Elbow: Derek Raymond’s Factory Novels

Their stories are baroque, bizarre, even repellent. The characters inhabit the outer limits of the fringe of those who can be thought of as society’s victims, and yet the extremity of their tales marks them as doomed messiahs, their suffering meant to stand for, if not absolve, the suffering of all victims. And while the books end with the cases solved, the evildoers either dead or destroyed, there is no sense of triumph, no illusion that justice has been restored.

Apple is not worthy of having Derek Raymond grace its App Store in eBook form:

Writing about I Was Dora Suarez presents the temptation to play at the critical form of hard-boiled braggadocio, saying in effect to the reader, “I was tough enough to take it. Are you?”

I’m not sure I am.

Reading the book made me nauseous. Rereading it for this piece, I found it necessary to restrict my time with it to daylight hours. Reading it after dark gave me nightmares. Nor do I want to play at listing the specifics of the book, thereby feeding the kind of interest that will send people to it for a kick, the way they go see the latest piece of horror-movie torture porn. I don’t know if I Was Dora Suarez can be called literature at all. If it’s possible for a book to be utterly repugnant and deeply compassionate at the same time, then I Was Dora Suarez is.

Emphasis added by me.

iwasdorasuarezcover

I Was Dora Suarez is one of the grimmest, unrelentingly bleak books you will ever read — and possibly that has ever been written.

And where the writer of the article isn’t sure, I am: It is Art.

But if it were all to do over again, I would do it all over again; I know my hands are clean.

I felt like going outside for a minute, so walked down to the bottom of Palmyra Square, where long ago I had been sent down to see into the deaths of a young couple who had lived in the top flat at number eight. There had been no point in my going, really, because they were both dead, and there was nothing I could find out or add to what the Brighton police already knew, that they had been credit-card ripping and it was catching up with them –had caught up. They had a great lunch at Wheelers, where they had invited people over to their table for brandies, after which they walked hand in hand down the pebble beach where I had just been standing and then on out to sea. The sea did for them what they had asked it to do and then afterwards brought them back to the beach in its own time, wet as fish and green with weed, their faces greyish white and their arms still half trailing round each other, and I don’t know why, but when I saw them like that in Brighton morgue, I was convulsed with what I felt in myself to be a rightful fury.

I looked out to sea again. It was the end of February, the twenty-sixth, and all at once the short afternoon had had enough; it scattered its way off towards the night chased by short, dirty clouds. I remember I got home to my wife Edie in the end at about two in the morning and she said: ‘You look dreadful, what was it?’

‘A double suicide at Brighton, boy and girl. Banks, credit cards. They asked the Factory to send someone down.’

‘Why get in a state?’ said Edie. ‘It happens all the time, you’ve only to open a paper.’

‘I know it does,’ I said, ‘and I always want to know why.’

‘Well, that’s what they pay you for, to find out, if you call that pay, what you draw.’

‘That’s what I’ve just been doing,’ I said, ‘and it isn’t that, it’s a question of two deaths down to a square of fucking plastic.’

‘The pubic has to be protected,’ she said.

I said: ‘They were the public, you stupid woman.’

‘They tried to get their hands into the till and it didn’t work,’ said Edie severely. That was always one of the troubles with my wife Edie. For her and for her father the low-grade police was beneath her socially; she wasn’t the daughter of a big wheel in the fruiterer’s trade for nothing, apples by the ton up from Kent. ‘Scratch my back for me, will you?’ I remember she said then. ‘I’ve got an itch between my shoulder blades where I can’t reach it.’

We went to bed and I said: ‘I’ve seen them.’

‘Seen what? Look, just settle, will you? Why won’t you settle?’

‘Seen their bodies,’ I said.

‘So?’

‘The sea had turned them surprisingly fucking little,’ I said.

‘Oh?’ she said. She added: ‘I do wish you wouldn’t swear.’

‘You just can’t help it in my job, Edie. Don’t you see, the words sometimes take the place of tears.’

‘I wish you’d just go to sleep,’ she said, ‘it’s nearly four.’

‘I can’t, Edie,’ I said. ‘Oh, why can’t you just be a wife to me for once, just hold me quietly for a while and don’t say anything more just now.’

But she said: ‘I think you really ought to know it, and Dad agrees with me, you’re a dreadful load on me at times — all this perturbed thinking of yours and you nothing but a detective sergeant who’ll never go up in rank because you insist it isn’t rank that matters.’ She sat bolt upright in the bed, pointed to her stomach and screamed: ‘Well, all right, then, if that’s the way you want it, look at the load I’m carrying thanks to you, Mr Police Officer with the Lofty Ideas — I think you’re altogether too sensitive for the police sometimes, I really do, and now there’s the child due in May with all the expenses it’ll bring, and a fat lot you care! She’s due on the twentieth, the doc says, and I tell you I am near the point when I don’t want to know.’

But presently she lay down again and her voice faded; I was glad of that. That night I realised that I had married Edie for her fatal, extraordinary body, not her opinions. I understood that no body could ever be enough if it held opinions in dead opposition to my own. I already knew that I wanted the coming child, who was, for nine short years, to be my daughter Dahlia, far more than Edie did; I loved Dahlia even before she was born, which may have been why Edie always hated her, who knows, and my love for the child meant that I would always find a means of tolerating Edie on account of Dahlia; I would find some means of growing deaf. All I had wanted that night was to hold Edie against me in my vulnerable hour after that day in Brighton. It was her primitive security that I needed; just a fraction of what Edie’s body was giving to the child she bore. That was all I needed to recover and so, through being reassured, feel enabled to get into perspective that greenish couple still in their trailing decomposed embrace, their swollen, expressionless faces nibbled by fish — what I needed from Edie then was her kisses, her comfort, just for a few minutes, and so prove to me that love can banish the frozen, lazy rottenness of eyes that have been eight days underwater.

We all have our weak moments.

— I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond; pgs. 34-36

But those eejits at the Apple App Store would deny you this.

I’d like the bluenoses at the Apple App Store to read I Was Dora Suarez. Maybe it would encourage them to suicide and thus improve the human species. At any rate, it’d get rid of them.

Hey, Apple App Store eejits, this applies to you lot:

[. . . ] Disinformation is invariably one of the most powerful weapons available to any regime whose members know perfectly well that they should never have been allowed to occupy the positions they do.

— The Hidden Files by Derek Raymond; pg. 143

Emphasis added by me.

In other words, Apple, get some real fucking book editors in there to do eBooks.

Supplemental:

Derek Raymond tribute site

Previously here:

Writer Derek Raymond Tribute
Writer Derek Raymond

At the old blog:

Derek Raymond: He Makes All Others Look Like Shit

eBook Author Gaps Closing!

December 22, 2008

When I began The eBook Test blog back in July, one of the writers I searched for was Frank Herbert.

The result was pathetic.

Tonight, via a tweet I saw, I was prompted to go look at The Sony eBook Store for Frank Herbert.

I got this very, very exciting and pleasing result:

frankherbert
Click = big

Prices ranged from You’re Kidding Me! to reasonable (e.g., mass-market paperback).

All of you lucky, lucky people getting a Sony Reader for Christmas are going to have a larger selection of books than was previously available!

Hmmm … maybe after this blog dies on December 31, I should take another pass at The eBook Test blog to update listings.

Caliban’s End Is POD Available

December 22, 2008

Following up on an earlier post, after Lulu sorted out all the problems they caused him, Paul F. Stewart reports he has a satisfying POD copy of his novel, What Lies Beneath, in his hands at last.

It looks like this:

whatliesbeneathcover

Happy ending?

No, not near.

When you use a service such as Lulu, you are at its mercy.

If Stewart wonders why he’s not getting any sales, it could be due to the fact Lulu apparently hasn’t found time to actually list it.

Look at this pathetic search result:

lulusearch
Click = big

Despite searching both by title and “creator” (WTF?) name, what came up was not his book. Not even close. (I’ve redacted the result because the guy in it is not the subject of this post and can damn well get his own post pimpage somewhere else!)

This is not good for any writer.

Does Lulu care? Ya think?

They Keep Trying To Kill The Long Tail

December 22, 2008

Long Tail theory contradicted as study reveals 10m digital music tracks unsold

The internet was supposed to bring vast choice for customers, access to obscure and forgotten products – and a fortune for sellers who focused on niche markets.

But a study of digital music sales has posed the first big challenge to this “long tail” theory: more than 10 million of the 13 million tracks available on the internet failed to find a single buyer last year.

Emphasis added by me.

And:

However, a new study by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that the niche market is not an untapped goldmine and that online sales success still relies on big hits. They found that, for the online singles market, 80 per cent of all revenue came from around 52,000 tracks. For albums, the figures were even more stark. Of the 1.23 million available, only 173,000 were ever bought, meaning 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.

Emphasis added by me.

On the face of it, those figures are devastating and disheartening.

But I wondered: Was any marketing done for the unsold portion? Did anyone know they were there to be had?

And: What services were measured? I’d like someone to do a study of how much music is sold via MySpace and compare those bands against, say, the iTunes Store and Amazon’s MP3 Store.

All this is directly applicable to writers.

Any writer, for example, who direct publishes an eBook and expects people to find out about it without any marketing is just asking for a bagful of disappointment.

Previously here:

The Long Tail: Not Entirely Discredited
Google Book Search: Medialoper FTW
More Long Tail Debate
The Long Tail: A Lie?

How Many Of THESE eBooks Will Apple Ban?

December 22, 2008

App Developer Strikes E-Book Deals With Major Publishers

ScrollMotion, a New York mobile app developer, has concluded deals with a number of major publishing houses, and is in talks with several others, to produce newly released and best-selling e-books as applications for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Publishers now on board include Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Hachette and Penguin Group USA.

Having these big names is a big step forward for iTunes itself in becoming an e-book shop and the iPhone in becoming a legitimate e-book reader and competitor to products like the Kindle and the Sony E-Reader.

Emphasis added by me.

Cue maniacal laughter of Doom.

The first official books will begin to roll out Monday and include titles such as Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass” and a number of others by Christopher Paolini, Brad Meltzer and Scott Westerfeld.

There are already several e-book readers in the app store, as well as a number of out-of-copyright e-books, but ScrollMotion’s product is unique in that these are stand-alone and newer in-copyright titles and best-selling novels.

Each book is a separate application using Scroll Motion’s new reader technology called Iceberg and is wrapped only in the FairPlay iTunes DRM, putting Apple directly into the e-book business by allowing them to pick up a certain percentage of each sale.

Emphasis added by me.

What? FairPlay DRM on eBooks?

FAIL!

Unlike other e-book applications, each title keeps the same pagination as the print book, while still allowing the reader to zoom in and scroll down as well as skipping ahead with a feature called “Book Skim.” Current functionality also includes note taking, text search and the ability to purchase additional books using a recommendation service over a Wi-Fi connection.

Emphasis added by me.

That’s some coding voodoo there.

On any other day, this news would be exciting.

Given Apple’s propensity for being censorious, book-banning eejits, it’s not.

They plan to eventually roll out the apps on both the Android and Blackberry platforms as well.

And so the eBook ball will be taken away from Apple.

Deservedly so!

2009: Dawn Of The eBook

December 22, 2008

Opinion: Will 2009 be the year of the eBook?

Will 2009 see mass market adoption of electronic book readers such as the wonder that is the Sony Reader?

For those of us on TechRadar that have had the pleasure of living with a Sony Reader in 2008, we can only hope that the coming years will see these wonderful gadgets find their ways into the hands of the millions of avid readers worldwide.

Robert McCrum, respected literary editor of The Observer, is also a huge fan of the e-book, posing the basic (but fundamentally vital) question this week: “will people carry on buying books?”

“Framed like that, it’s a no-brainer,” writes McCrum.

And:

While TechRadar largely agrees with McCrum’s assertion that e-readers are currently “the kind of gizmos the trade will use to lighten its load (literally)” and that “the reading public has yet to make the switch” he is surely bang on the money when he claims that “the iPod moment” for books, while it has not yet occurred, is on the near future horizon.

Emphasis added by me.

Ironically, that “iPod moment” is now very unlikely to have anything to do with book-banning Apple!

The upcoming wireless Sony Reader will be a move towards that.

But I’m also keeping my eye on Palm too.

And who knows what Asus will do, if anything? Let’s not forget the impetus for the original EeePC was to empower kids with an inexpensive computer. Could Asus do a US$99 eInk (or Pixel Qi) ePub-capable eBook reader? (And at $US99, would lack of wireless matter?)

Things aren’t settled hardware-wise yet.

But bring on those ePub eBooks anyway!

Apple Bans ANOTHER Book From App Store!

December 22, 2008

And this time it’s an eBook with nothing but words!

E-Book Banned from App Store for Obscene Content

David Carnoy’s book, entitled Knife Music, was rejected twice by Apple. Yesterday, Apple deemed some of its content objectionable, saying the book does not follow the company’s guidelines in its software-development kit, according to Carnoy (who is also the writer behind CNET’s Fully Equipped electronics column).

One line in particular, where a teenage girl uses expletives during a romantic encounter, is at the core of Apple’s objections.

“The app was resubmitted last week, and the only reason cited for the rejection was because of the obscene content,” Carnoy said.

Emphasis added by me.

Why is he surprised?

“And furthermore, there’s ‘explicit’ content all over iTunes, with lots of rap music (they have the ‘explicit’ bug on those items). And obviously, Apple does serve up some R-rated movies,” Carnoy added. “Beyond that, Apple sells audiobooks through iTunes that feature profanities. It has plenty of best sellers that are in the same genre as my book (Michael Connelly’s Brass Verdict, for instance). So, obviously, the whole thing is hypocritical and unfair. My book is R-rated at best. It’s not porn.”

Welcome to the Apple App Store of Hypocrisy, Carnoy!

Previously here:

Direct Publishing Via POD: A Primer (David Carnoy article)
WHY Freedom Of Speech MATTERS, Dammit! Part Three
Sony eBook Store: Publishers Portal
2010: Back In Your Box, Bitch
WHY Freedom Of Speech MATTERS, Dammit! Part Two
WHY Freedom Of Speech MATTERS, Dammit!
Takiji Kobayashi: Writer’s Revenge
Murderdrome: Eleven Years Old!
Print: Dying. And The Net: No Future?
Apple And A Tale Of Two Bannings
Apple Forfeits eBooks By Banning A Comic Book!

eBook Winners: RH And S&S

December 22, 2008

Random House recently announced it will increase its eBook offerings thanks to exploding sales.

The publisher already has more than 8,000 books in the electronic format and will have a digital library of nearly 15,000. The new round of e-books is expected to be completed within months; excerpts can be viewed online through the publisher’s Insight browsing service.

And now Simon & Schuster announces it’s been a big eBook winner too.

Simon & Schuster expects to have nearly quadrupled e-book sales by the end of 2008, according to its c.e.o. Carolyn Reidy. In her end-of-year letter to staff, Reidy said that in response to the growing demand the publisher was making an additional 5,000 titles available.

This is good news, but still not the best news.

Thousands of titles sounds great, but there have already been that available and I’ve noted significant gaps in writer collections and entire authors not yet available in eBook format at The eBook Test blog.

I don’t think these moves will make a significant dent in that deficit.

I think for every current title one of these publishers releases as an eBook, anywhere between five to ten of the mid- and back- list should be released too. Stop allowing Google to steal from writers!

One thing I have to comment about is Random House’s earlier announcement that it’s changing the formula to calculate royalties to writers.

I’ve stayed more or less mum about this but now I think it’s time for me to take a stand: It’s a good thing.

Yes, I know it will cause immediate pain to writers, but the Right Now isn’t my concern. I take the Long View.

Random House is recognizing that eBooks cannot continue to be sold at price parity with printed versions. The majority of book buyers will not stand for that. I don’t stand for that.

So lower prices are the future.

But with these lowered prices will come many more sales. I’m convinced of that.

Take the pain today, writers, for tomorrow’s better profits.

Will Mac OS X Have THE ePub Program For Writers?

December 22, 2008

One of the big frustrations for writers who wish to direct publish eBooks using the industry-standard ePub file format is the complexity of that format and the current expense of the tools. Basically, unless you’re a real techie, you need to be a professional typesetter because what the on-shelf choices currently boil down to is the pricey Adobe InDesign.

Last week I learned of a new desktop publishing package for Mac OS X called iStudio Publisher.

I immediately read the description of it and emailed the publisher to ask them to consider adding ePub file output support. This led to the revelation by that publisher that another program is under development, called iStudio Bookbuilder — which will be specifically for building eBooks and which will also feature ePub file creation!

bookbuilderlogo

Without divulging any information about the state of its development, let me quote some of an email I received today:

[I]t will be very similar to iStudio Publisher, which is focussed on drawing / layouts, and turning the focus more to writing. There will be lots of features for writers, such as allowing the writer to make notes and save URLs against certain parts of the text, auto indexing, advanced stylesheets, outputting to ePub and many more features.

We aim to sell Bookbuilder at $149 — however, we will give a discount to early adopters of iStudio Publisher — and the two file types will be compatible with each other.

That sounds wonderful!

The price is affordable and it sounds as if they’re thinking beyond static book-like files, with the ability to tap on URLs to reach out to the Internet. That would be especially helpful for non-fiction eBooks that are tied into timely information.