Archive for the ‘Reference – Writing’ category

But It’s Still A Fine Madness

December 31, 2008

Some Days Are Better Than Others

I’m sure that all of you who write have experienced it.

Things seem to be going well. The words are coming out smoothly. You’re in the flow. And then…

You hit that place, that certain point, where you can’t seem to go any further. The words and ideas have suddenly stopped. It’s like beating the bottom of that damn ketchup bottle, and nothing, but nothing, will come out!

Oh yeah.

But it’s still a fine madness …


… even when it makes us feel like that!

Reading Is An Investment In Thinking

December 31, 2008

The Long Decline of Reading

It takes hours to finish a book, even for the fastest readers. This wasn’t a problem when books had less competition, but with the three massive timesinks of cable TV, videogames, and the internet, people look at that massive time investment, and they get apprehensive. Sure, they know that books can be just as enjoyable as movies or games, if not more. They may even feel guilty about not reading. But what if this book is no good? What if I end up hating it? What if I can’t understand it? Imagine all the time wasted! And so they stop before they even start.

A long, detailed, and excellent article.

Strangely, public libraries aren’t mentioned at all.

Reference: GutenMark

December 29, 2008

GutenMark Home Page
Attractively formatting Project Gutenberg texts

What is GutenMark?

GutenMark is a command-line tool for automatically creating high-quality HTML or LaTeX markup from Project Gutenberg etexts. As of April 2008, there is also a graphical front-end called GUItenMark that greatly simplifies usage for casual users. Both Windows and Linux ‘x86 are supported. Mac OS X is also supported, though in some respects it lags the others. Limited iPhone support is also possible.

In combination with other freely-available conversion tools GutenMark aims to convert Project Gutenberg etexts into publication-quality Postscript or PDF, for print-on-demand applications. The goal is for this conversion to be completely automatic, without manual markup or editing, but for the forseeable future some manual intervention will almost always be needed—at least, if your standards are at least as high as mine.

I took the Project Gutenberg plain text file of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and ran it through this.

Amazingly, this:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.

was transformed to this:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.

As it should be!

I was impressed with the available options and did some light testing. It could be a very useful tool for Project Gutenberg etexts that have only a plain text version available.

On the other hand, I also downloaded the Project Gutenberg HTML of the same Holmes and it was superior.

But this tool remains a very painless way of changing those text files into a format that can then go on to further processing to create an eBook.

Reference: Public Libraries And eBooks

December 27, 2008

The fine folks over at MobileRead have put together a wiki for public libraries that offer eBooks.

I live in New York City, so I don’t have to pay the $100/year fee to get an NYPL card.

Suck it up, baby!

Besides, for that $100 fee, you are competing against my domestic borrowing rights!

I hate you for doing that. You know that, don’t you?

The Zero-Gravity Toilet Of Adobe DRMed ePub

December 27, 2008

There’s a classic shot in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when the main character has to first consult instructions on how to use a zero-gravity toilet:


Imagine having to go through all that!

And yet — there is something actually worse than that.

It’s the instructions on how to go about using Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!

Here are the Zero-Gravity toilet instructions:


Now contrast the amount of text there to instructions for using Adobe DRMed ePub:


Can you imagine the poor technically unsophisticated schmo having to deal with all that?

“For God’s sake, all I want to do is read eBooks!!!”

Really, it turns out it’s easier to take a shit in space than to deal with Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!

eBooks And Pricing: No Argument Now!

December 27, 2008

I was going through my LifeDrive memos and came across a Stephen Levy column from Newsweek that nails the argument for lower-than-print pricing of eBooks.

This column is from 2004 — four years ago!


This is the key point:

This summer [2004] provided a clue to further harnessing the force of digital nature. For three weeks, Real Networks tried to lure new customers by slashing prices to 49 cents a song and $4.99 per album. Since Real paid the full royalty load to the labels (almost 70 cents a tune), the company lost money on every transaction. CEO Rob Glaser says that the company did get new customers, but here’s the real news: Real sold six times as much music and took in three times as much money.

This reflected the experience of Audible, which sells audiobooks on the iTunes Store. Working in conjunction with publishers and Apple, Audible offered some online titles at a fraction of the normal price. One of those buyers was me — I had been thinking of getting a David Sedaris audiobook to entertain my family on a summer drive, but balked at paying $11 for something I might play just once. After I got an e-mail informing me I could get it for $2, I snapped it up. Audible CEO Don Katz says the featured books on that single e-mail were downloaded at 60 times the previous rate.

Emphasis added by me.

Let me hammer down the point.

Audible was selling an audio-eBook. It sold at sixty times the previous sales rate once the price was slashed.

Let me run some math, and I’ll use simple numbers because math usually gets me in trouble!

An eBook at $10.00 with a 10% royalty, one copy sold = $1.00

OK, that’s the “normal” rate of sale.

Now let’s do the Audible price cut numbers.

An eBook at $2.00 with a 10% royalty, sixty copies sold = $12.00

Which would a writer rather have? A guarantee of $1.00 per copy with an increased risk of piracy?

Or sixty copies sold at a piracy-prevention price that makes him twelve times as much money than expected sales?

I will keep hammering this point home again and again, dammit.

I want to walk into a printed bookstore and witness this conversation:

Shopper 1: “Oh, this book I want to buy!”
Shopper 2: “Me too. But it’s cheaper as an eBook for my Sony Reader!”

That is the Marketing Point for eBooks, the one that will drive hardware sales and then increase eBook sales exponentially:

If you buy it as an eBook, it’s cheaper.

Remember: eBooks are not like music. People will listen repeatedly to a song. But people don’t read an eBook over and over again. Once it’s been read, people want to buy something else.

And the resistance to eBooks is not as strong as anyone believes. See Vox Populi: eBooks.

Vox Populi: eBooks

December 27, 2008

Found via TwitteRel (which I recommend):