Writer Cliff Burns: Podcast Of His eBook

October 23, 2008

“So Dark the Night” Podcast–Episode 1

Thanks to the technical acumen of my lovely wife, we now have the first 20 minutes or so of So Dark the Night available for your listening pleasure. In all, we’ve recorded the initial 75 pages as a teaser and, depending on feedback from readers and listeners, we may do the whole novel.

Well, dahhhyum.

When I wrote about Harlan Ellison, I stated:

I’d finally read Spider Kiss in the past year. But I understood only after the film that it would have been better if Harlan had read it to me. I couldn’t pick up on his cadences. He read a passage from it — a passage I recalled reading and thinking about at the time — and was shocked that I didn’t really get it until the words came out of his mouth. The emotion he imbued the words with were lacking in my own mind.

The same thing just happened to me listening to Cliff read his free eBook, So Dark the Night.

Again: Dahhhyum.

It’s frikkin terrific! It’s like listening to an Old Time Radio broadcast. He parses his sentences in ways my brain wouldn’t. And I listened, astonished.

Go get the podcast!

And Cliff? More!

iPhone: Classics, A New eBook Reading App

October 23, 2008

Things are beginning to get wild and woolly in the eBook reading area of the iPhone.

How many programs are there now?

Well there’s one more to come: Classics (animated QuickTime demo at that link).

This is the main interface:

This is what it’s like to use — there is page turn animation:

What’s apparently being done here: public-domain classics are being redesigned to make them more like period printed books, complete with contemporaneous illustrations (or verisimilitudes thereof).

I don’t know what’s going on here. Is animation a function of the reading program or is it built into each eBook?

Here’s a posting by someone who participated in the app’s design.

Classics is projected to cost, at introduction, $2.99. I don’t know if that’s for a collection of eBooks, the reading program alone, or what.

This space is beginning to get crowded. Are people going to get confused or just fed up with having to use a specific program to read a desired book? And if someone has many books, how will they easily remember which book is stored in which reading program’s library?

— via Twitter from raminf

Oprah To Flog Abominable Kindle?!

October 23, 2008

This is probably the most disturbing tweet I’ve received:

Of course I clicked the link: Oprah’s Favorite Gadget – Oprah’s Kindle crush will boost Kindle sales

There are screensnaps there.

I did my own investigation.

Although he mentions Amazon video, I couldn’t find that.

So, I ripped the video from Oprah’s site (sue me!). I had to convert it due to my crappy PC. Then I carefully went through it. It’s ambiguous for the most part, but I think I did catch a glimpse of white plastic near the bottom edge of the screen as she was handling it:

Best snap I could get.

I’ve posted about Oprah here before:

Today’s Oprah: Women And Money Is Repeating!
Oprah Uses Skype
Reminder: Free Suze Orman eBook
Today’s Oprah: Women And Money
Today’s Oprah Is Worth Watching

The key one being this: Oprah, Get A Sony Reader!

I even wrote to my then-contact at Sony at the time, telling him to get a Sony Reader into Oprah’s hands. I was told:

We have tried many times with her. We will continue.

Apparently, it was all FAIL.

Now Oprah is going with the abominable Kindle!

All of you Oprah fans who are going to be hitting this site, read this post.

And hey, when all your eBooks go south on you due to DRM issues or Amazon switching to a different file format, remember that Oprah told you to buy it.

Enjoy The Lockdown!

One eBook Issue

October 23, 2008

Regular readers will know what I think of the abominable Kindle. I won’t post about it as a thing in itself, only to highlight broader eBook issues, such as in this post:

Can the Kindle Save the L.A. Times?

After my initial infatuation with the LAT Kindle edition wore off, I began to focus on some rather annoying limitations.

* No images of any sort. No diagrams, tables, or illustrations. No photos. No comics. NO COMICS!? No wonder the Kindle edition is cheaper than the print edition.

* Limited skimming. The top stories display a very brief summary. Many of the stories below the virtual fold display only the title. A surprising number of titles are not self explanatory (journalism 101, anyone?), meaning you have to click through to find out what the story is about. The Kindle is not exactly what I would call speedy, so this process can get tedious.

* Paging through the news as opposed to scrolling through the news. The first week of reading the LAT on the Kindle I found myself attempting to scroll through stories using the Kindle scroll wheel. Instead, I had to train myself to use the page buttons. It’s like reading a paperback edition of the LAT, which is something that I find to be completely unnatural.

Strangely, I have no trouble flipping pages on the Kindle when I’m reading books. This scrolling preference is clearly something I’ve developed from reading news online. I suspect this small interface quirk speaks volumes about the Kindle’s suitability as a replacement for reading news online.

* The Kindle is wireless, but it’s not connected. Reading the LAT on the Kindle is like reading an ebook of a newspaper. It’s a straight analog to digital conversion (minus the images and tables) with none of the benefits traditionally associated with digital news distribution.

These are very interesting issues that apply to all eBook devices.

The last one specifically: Don’t mistake an eBook reader for, say, an iPhone. eBook readers are best for things that are not — or have no need to be — dynamically updated. Such as eBooks!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I read something, I like to it remain that way for the next time I go back to it. I’ve read several entries in wikipedia over the years and the changes to those entries have sometimes been dramatic. Now imagine an eBook like that: “Oh, I just read about that. Here let me find it for you … oh, um, uh, where did it go? Wait, here it is. No it’s not. The same title but none of it is what it was before! It doesn’t have the passage I remember!” (In fact, I go through that all the time with online news from Bloomberg.)

I think this distinction in function needs to be made clear.

Personally, I don’t want things to change in eBooks I buy. The very word “book” implies an unchanging permanence.

If everything we read is going to be dynamic, why bother with the concept of “book” then? No files to download. Everything can stay on the Net and portions downloaded a bit at a time for reading. For free. Infested with ads too.

Won’t that be great? Sitting there, quietly reading, then turn the page, and get slapped by an all-dancing, all-Flash, all-talking ad!

I don’t think so.