eBook Notes For Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4, 2009

Digital books are coming on strong at the Apple App Store!

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Under New & Noteworthy there are four alone!

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eBook Notes For Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2, 2009

The Next Hot e-Reader: The iPhone

Unless the Apple Tablet becomes a reality, I think there is going to continue to be a market for dedicated e-readers, mostly because it is impossible to read large amounts of text on a smaller screen.

Emphasis added by me.

What century is Om Malik living in again?

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Reading Is NOT Sacrosanct!

October 29, 2009

Apparently there was an online event held today called Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo.



Two really bizarre tweets came out of that and I can’t resist commenting.

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eBook Notes For Tuesday October 13, 2009

October 13, 2009

Women, Gays Apparently Ruining Sci-Fi For the Rest of Us
— which critiques this post:

The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky
— which actually does raise one interesting point here:

What has happened is that science fiction on television has for the most part become indistinguishable from most other television shows which are written for women filled with moronic relationship drama.

Lifetime in Space!

Twitter’s unlawful Newsom contribution

Does being on Twitter’s SUL constitute a non-monetary contribution? YES.

Twitter is providing this free service to Gavin Newsom, a declared candidate for governor. Newsom uses Twitter to send his Twitter followers links to his campaign website and to campaign news stories promoting his candidacy.

It would be personally very satisfying to me to see the children who (mis-)run Twitter meet the real world of real-life consequences. I hope they get a big fat fine for this.

Remixing the Book

We’ve always had abridged versions and “selected-essays-from” and audio versions and made-for-TV adaptations. But in a more open rights schema (say, Creative Commons licensing), there is something thrilling about the idea that dedicated readers – the most engaged of all stakeholders, beyond the original writer & editor – might legitimately improve texts for certain audiences.

I’m both intrigued and horrified by this idea. Several weeks ago I was mulling over how I really hate fantasy novels — I just can’t get into them with their bizarre names and use of magic or other such things. Beneath that veneer, however, could lurk an actually good story. It crossed my mind that such writers might want to consider remixing their own works for fantasy-averse people like me. Take away the weird names and the other things I find too alienating and set it in the present day. The King becomes, say, a CEO or just The Boss, the magic becomes a lawsuit or some other real-world device … and now not only does the writer quickly have a second book out there, but one that might even attract me and others like me.

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eBook Notes For Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5, 2009

A mixture of print, book-related, and e this time.

Muslim honour killing book cancelled over safety fears

Islamisation refers to small but significant erosions of our freedom, bit by bit, demand by demand, concession by concession.

If freedom of expression is the issue, distribute it via BitTorrent.

Film-writer Nick Rowntree celebrates release of £5m movie The Tournament

“The boy least likely to succeed – that’s what they said about me at school. … If any of my teachers knew that I was now a film-writer I’m sure they would drop dead from shock at the thought that I could even manage to string a punctuated paragraph together.”

Jordan book ban over 4th memoir

Bookshops are threatening to boycott Jordan’s looming autobiography – because it’s her FOURTH in five years.

Fine. Tell the bookstores to go to hell. Release it electronically.

Stickee goes multimedia to promote Conn Iggulden’s new book Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children

Harper Collins Publishers has unveiled the campaign, www.SaveTheTollins.com, to promote the launch of the book by Iggulden, whose previous works include The Conqueror Series and The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Very odd. Using basically a web-only digital book to promote a print book. This seems backwards to me.

Ads on the iPhone Makes Perfect AdSense!

As of today, publishers can now drop smart phone optimized AdSense ads inside their mobile content.

There’s the future of the “free” eBook — and “free” digital book. It will contain ads. See the screensnap at that link.

A Letter to 84 Charing Cross Road

Sixty years ago today, on October 5, 1949, Helene Hanff wrote a letter to a bookstore in London. Marks & Co. was located at 84 Charing Cross Road; Miss Hanff was located on East 95th Street in New York City.

This is such a beautiful, wonderful story. Get away from your PC right now and see the movie version of the story starring Anne Bancroft.

Why the Digital Revolution is Missing the Big Picture

Ebooks should expand the book buying market, not be used as an alternative for the print edition. Look at the ads for the iPod: they’re fun, they’re cool, they feature all sorts of (pastel-colored) people who are far funkier than anyone you or I know grooving to the licensed beat.

I’d find people dancing to reading material — e or p — very disturbing.

What is a Vook, and How Will It Change Publishing?

These vooks may not replace the mainstream novel but they could represent a smaller, short story based product that could make authors money in between novels.

Why We Need $4.00 Books

Most books are too expensive. Compared to lower cost alternative media sources, books are becoming niche consumables like caviar.

In my first job, as a temp, I made $5.00/hour. That was the late 1970s and that was great money, above the minimum wage. I could afford whatever mass-market paperbacks I wanted. Today the U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 — and that sometimes won’t buy somebody one mass-market paperback. Affordability is the key to reading, to getting people to build personal libraries.

Archos 5 Android Internet Tablet First Impressions. (Long!)

Good ebook reader s/w (FBreader and Aldiko work well and are very comfortable in the portrait format)

However …

My advise to potential customers at this stage though is to wait. V1.022 software is too buggy for most people and Archos don’t deserve an early rush on sales for such poor quality control. Take the time to check other reviews and opinion and stay tuned here. I’ll test each firmware as it comes out and give a thumbs-up when I think it’s ready. Disclaimer: I’m assuming I don’t have a faulty device.

Still, look at these photos:

Archos Android Internet Tablet _1_
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Photos stolen borrowed from the UMPC Archos 5 Internet Tablet Photo Gallery

I believe both of those are FeedBooks via the built-in web browser. Over at the UMPC Portal post, there’s also a one-hour embedded video which I haven’t yet viewed. Perhaps in that Chippy demonstrates both Aldiko and FBReader. I like the stats on battery life. With brightness turned down to an eye-friendly level, this could be very good for some formats of eBook reading — once the software is stable.

FTC Wants Bloggers To Disclose: My Disclosure

October 5, 2009

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials

I did something like this back in 2007: My Response To “10 Things Your Blogger Won’t Tell You”

Let me do an update for this blog:

1) Sony: I have never requested a Sony Reader to review. Nor has Sony ever offered one. Despite repeated requests, Sony won’t even put me on their damned PR email list! I had to break down and request an invite to the unveiling of the Sony Reader 700. And Sony could have said No.

2) ECTACO jetBook: Several months ago, before I saw the light about how ePub was crap, I was severely curious about how the jetBook would handle ePub. I broke down and requested a review unit. This was ECTACO’s email reply:

Dear Mike,

That would cost You $250.00.

You will have a chance to explore the unit within 7 days and then return it for full refund.

Do you see any review of the ECTACO jetBook here? That would be a No. Seven days is not enough time to review something. Second, if I had to put out money, I could have put out $199.99 — on some days, less! — to get it from Frys or NewEgg.

3) Vook: Unsolicited, Vook sent me an email with free — free! — access to all of their web interface digital books. I used that access to compose these two posts: Vook Debuts Digital Books and How To Properly Integrate Video Into Fiction Digital Books. As it has turned out, I like what Vook is doing and once I am able to actually read their digital books, there will be additional posts. Vook knew it was gambling by giving me access because when I told them I was doing a post, an email asked:

good post or did you flay us?

4) Echelon Press: I have maybe five, if that, free PDF editions of Echelon Press books that were part of giveaways held on Twitter. I haven’t had time to read any of them yet.

5) NetGalley: I have an account on NetGalley, which means I can get pre-publication electronic galleys. I haven’t downloaded anything yet.

6) Moriah Jovan: She has given me a copy of her eBook, The Proviso, as part of an exploration into ePub display and CSS technologies. I haven’t read it.

7) Anthony Neil Smith: He was looking for places to do his blog book tour for his new novel, Hogdoggin’. I offered him a post place both at this blog and my No Flickr blog. I did not get a free copy of his book, did not ask for one, nor did I expect one. I had to do a post for his blog that tied into an ongoing storyline as part of the tour. I liked his previous book, Yellow Medicine, which I borrowed from the New York Public Library.

8) SlashGear: After the live blogging coverage of the Apple iPod event several months ago, Vincent Nguyen announced that I was the winner of a free US$25.00 iTunes Gift Card. I told him I wouldn’t accept it and he should give it to someone else. I don’t know if he did, but I never took it.

9) GearDiary/Judie Lipsett: I keep joking with Judie on Twitter that she should send me some of her leftover loot. She did, in fact, offer to lend me a leftover iPhone. Initially I declined. Then a few hours later, I changed my mind and requested it. She had already passed it on to someone else. She does, however, know better than to ask me, as I’ve turned down a few offers from her, but the iPhone I could’ve briefly used to try out some free software like Stanza.

10) Other: I think that’s it. Anything I write about is because of curiosity or advocacy, with no strings attached. Go ask around on Twitter to see that I will even go so far as to tell someone to go Fuck off and Block them if I disagree with their point of view and especially ethics. My only allegiances are to writers, writing, and to ideas. Anyone who crosses my path today can be cut off tomorrow. And I cannot be bought, leased, rented, or bribed by any company.

Why Digital Books Will Win

October 5, 2009

It’s the End of the Book as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Our childhood experiences shape our expectations later in life, and whole generations are growing up with the expectation that entertainment will be available whenever they want it, wherever they are. This will have a profound effect on… everything, including books.

He understands.

Does anyone in print publishing understand?

Does anyone who writes understand?

Does anyone on the frikkin Internet understand?

Print publishers, writers, and eejitastic Internet “pundits” dismiss something such as Vook.

They don’t understand: You’re not their market.

You’re too damned old.

Your age group is dicking around with waste-of-money Kindles and Sony Readers so you can see the text by enlarging it.

You are used to a words-only paradigm.

You are future-book FAIL.

Hey, I’m videogame FAIL, so I see this clearly. I came in at the dividing line between those who would grab at videogames and those who wouldn’t. I fell on the wouldn’t side.

I’m not the market for videogames.

I’m too damned old.

Disney Digital Books, Vook, and other upcoming entrants are the pioneers for the next generation.

Do you think Toyota and Nissan developed full-blown into Detroit-devouring megacorporations? The first cars they imported into the U.S. were outright junk, the Yugos of their time.

But the Japanese were in it for the long haul.

Detroit wasn’t.

Print publishing doesn’t seem to be in it for the long haul, either. As newspapers and magazines drop dead around them, book publishers think sticking their heads in the sand will save them.

That’s no strategy at all.

Finally, I want it understood once again: digital books are not eBooks. The terms should not be used interchangeably!

Previously here:

How To Properly Integrate Video Into Fiction Digital Books
Eveda: How NOT To Do A Digital Book
Vook Debuts Digital Books
Disney + Pixar + Marvel + Apple + iTablet
Smart Digital Books Vs. The ePub FAIL Model
He Understands Something Is Missing
English-Subtitled Editis Smart Digital Book Video
Why eInk, ePub, And eBooks Will Fail
Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live
ALL eInk Devices: BAD For eBooks!

How To Properly Integrate Video Into Fiction Digital Books

October 4, 2009

The chorus of skeptics continues to bleat about how textual fiction and fictional video don’t mix, won’t mix, can never mix, etc, etc.


It just hasn’t been done properly yet.

This requires thinking about storytelling in a new way.

Right now, even Vook hasn’t figured that out, so I’m compelled to do this post.

This is how the Embassy vook opens:


The embedded video is a dramatization of all of those sentences. In other words, it becomes a repeat.

A better way to open the vook would have been this:


Now that text stands on its own.

However, the best way to open the vook would have been this:


All of those sentences are edited out and the video takes their place. One is not competing with the other. They shouldn’t. It should be one or the other — not both.

After the break, I will display a piece of video that frames an entire television series. It tells a story in and of itself, not requiring a voice-over narration or other ham-fisted technique to get new viewers introduced to the series.

And because it’s a story in itself, it’s also the perfect illustration of how video should be incorporated into a digital book.

Read the rest of this entry »

Eveda: How NOT To Do A Digital Book

October 2, 2009

Someone in Comments wanted me to take a look at this.

It’s a textbook example of why digital books have gained more skeptics than supporters.

I really recommend enlarging each of these and looking at them.

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The default language is Russian …

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… although selecting English is really not much of an improvement:

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Interface Sin: It uses a Flash-based page-flip animation to mimic print:

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… the only time I’ve seen that done well is at the Internet Archive.

What’s even worse is that the page flips seem to go to chapter starts — not from page to page of the text!

This is where you can begin reading — and I don’t recall how the hell I got there:

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Beginning to read…

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The text is bizarrely all-centered! Wrong!

And see how the page is opaque, how the background image bleeds through? Wrong!

Here’s a Compound Interface Sin:

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The page has two interfaces! Arrows in the upper right corner for Back/Forward and a scrollbar to move up/down within the text. Wrong!

ScrollMotion does something similar with its Iceberg iPhone reading app — scroll up/down and swipe back/forward — but I understand why they’re doing that (an explanation in a future post, for those who haven’t figured it out). Here, it makes no sense whatsoever.

After the text has been read and dismissed, there are three options:

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Clicking on Picture…

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… displays a confusing montage of images of different sizes whose relation to one another is not easily discerned. And there is annoying music with this too. Wrong.

Clicking the third option, Play …

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… brought up six squares, of unknown purpose.

Clicking on the sixth one …

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… brought up a teletype-like character-by-character display of text.

At this point, I’d had enough.

This is all just so wrong. Design isn’t about what you can do, what you can add — design is about knowing what can be done and not doing all of it. And great design is knowing what to leave out.

This digital book is not an end result of design — it’s the end result of a failed conspiracy.

The home page is even worse:

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It’s things like this that have engendered an army of enemies against the term “digital book.” People look at this agglomeration of randomness and have the idea planted in their heads that the future is going to offer them a mess.

Vook’s web interface shows what’s possible with the digital book. Something that looks simple is the product of the hardest thinking possible. It’s the complex and nonsensical that’s the end-result of non-thought.

That’s something Microsoft never understood — and still doesn’t understand. The only time Microsoft approached glimpsing the power of true design was with Microsoft Reader — which it abandoned.

Apple understands design nearly completely. Which is why the iPhone has not just sold in the millions, but is also actively impacting the entire DNA of Internet too.

If this hasn’t deterred you, or you have a morbid curiosity about how design can fail, begin at the Eveda Home Page. [Update: fixed link]

The Eveda Blog reveals they have the enthusiasm for digital books. They just don’t know how to do them right.

Vook Debuts Digital Books

October 1, 2009


After much initial groaning over the neologism “vook” several months ago, Vook has finally launched with its initial selection of digital books.

And they’ve managed to bring something good to the discussion too.

A full explanation of the Vook digital book web interface is at the Vook blog. I’m not going to rehash that. Instead I’ll point out what’s exciting and innovative about it below.


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Above, the digital book cover.

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Check it out: paging is not done via flipping. It’s a sideways scroll. This is beautiful. It’s the way things should be done. The designer put some real thought into this for the future. The future of desktop computers is a touchscreen — and this will also be absolutely killer on the iTablet.

The future is the touchscreen, as Editis showed us.

We’ve already seen the Microsoft (nee Editis) video of the dual-screened Courier. What Microsoft requires two screens to do, Vook’s designer has shown a economical framework for using a single screen.

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The video is well shot — what I could see of it (more on this later). This isn’t someone grabbing a Flip camera and playing at being a director (the case with too many book trailers).

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In the mixed view, the economical design is made apparent with two pages on one screen: the left is video and stationary, while the right sideways scrolls to the next page. This is brilliant! For all of Microsoft’s supposedly-bright people, why couldn’t they think of that instead of trying to burden the future with an expensive second screen?

Now about that embedded video. I couldn’t play it. That’s not Vook’s fault, however. I’ve already detailed how video playback on my PC has been crippled by Microsoft updates. Before the updates, I was able to play any video perfectly. Post-update, even lightweight low-bandwidth standard YouTube is very skippy.

What Vook’s running into here is precisely why the iTablet is going to be a monstrous hit — even beyond the monstrous hit of the iPhone. I won’t explain that statement right now. I’m saving that for a future post.

Let me just say, however, if your machine doesn’t have any video playback problems, the Vook embedded videos should play just fine for you.

Unfortunately, people will have to choose which kind of vook they’ll buy: the web version or the iPhone version. Right now, purchasing doesn’t give a buyer access to both. This is a shortcoming I hope Vook will address. It doesn’t make sense to me for people to have to choose between the two — or worse, pay twice.




Anyone who has an iPhone most likely also owns a Mac or other powerful desktop machine. Still, between buying the web version or the iPhone version, I’d recommend the iPhone version because it can be carried around.

I’m not going to comment about the content because I’m currently unable to see the video and judge how it works with the text. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez stated on Twitter that video embedded in fiction felt “like basic cable movies stuck in the book.” I can’t yet judge. But what I can say is that these are early days and this is all brand new.

The early days of television mimicked radio, until it began to mimic Broadway with live plays. Then the Hollywood studios finally joined in with serialized filmed programming. Television didn’t start out as it is today. Pioneers had to go in and make mistakes and discover what suited that medium. It will be the same with digital books — especially with fiction. People seem to immediately — if not intuitively — grasp how non-fiction digital books would be a plus.

I’d like to see Vook try its hand at two things:

1) Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus — since this is all public domain material (or so I suppose!), it’d be relatively inexpensive to create. I remember the cry of skepticism that went up when plans for the animated TV special was announced. This could work as a beautiful vook.

The classic, original cover

2) Time and Again by Jack Finney — this is the 800-pound gorilla that even Hollywood hasn’t been able to tackle. It’s published by Vook’s print partner, Simon & Schuster too. Finney’s book already has period illustrations in it. There’s more that could be done to enhance it and add to its charm. But I warn Vook: this is one of my favorite books of all time, so any adaptation must be capital-G great.


The Vook: A Picture Book, but the Pictures Move
Simon and Schuster launches video + books product, the vook
Simon & Schuster Launches Inaugural Vooks

Previously here:

Disney Digital Books Webcast Now Online
Disney + Pixar + Marvel + Apple + iTablet
A New Twist On Digital Book Pricing
Smart Digital Books Vs. The ePub FAIL Model
The Coming Collapse Of eBook Prices
How The Axis Of E Is Killing Publishing
The Continuing Horror Of ePub
Would A US$50 eBook Reader Be A Disaster?
The Devaluation Of The eBook
ePub: The Death Of The Index?
The eBook Cover Scandal
He Understands Something Is Missing
Where I Stand Now
The Axis Of E Book Holocaust
English-Subtitled Editis Smart Digital Book Video
The Issue Of eBook Pricing
Why eInk, ePub, And eBooks Will Fail
Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live
ALL eInk Devices: BAD For eBooks!