Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Classic from The Trial

Defining Publishing

From a purely utilitarian standpoint, the attempt to label a publisher is an attempt to categorize quality for marketing purposes. The more accurate the label, the better indication of the quality of the product.

The problem isn’t with the vocabulary. The problem is that publishing is an industry in flux. At one stage in publishing history pamphleteer was a pejorative, but pamphleteers also produced classics, ie Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Recently, so called traditional publishing applies as much to celebrity drek as to quality literature, so this isn’t really about quality either.

The identification by the public of the publisher “type” is the duty of the publisher. The publisher has to communicate to its audience who they are and what they do. A good publisher will be able to do that. A poor one won’t.

Publishing is about providing words to the public. The hope remains that despite the categorization of the publisher, in the flood of words, quality will still float.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How To Read And Drive Safely -- At The Same Time

The bus driver caught in Portland reading his Kindle while driving his bus originally peaked my interest, because I read my Kindle all the time when I'm driving. I didn't see what the big deal was until he turned the page. This was a dead giveaway that the bus driver didn't have a clue how to use his Kindle. If you are going to drive and read, let the Kindle read to you with its text to speech function, then when you are done driving, you can just start reading where the text to speech voice left off. It turns the pages for you, so you can drive.

Maybe Amazon can do that for the next commercial -- How To Safely Read Your Kindle and Drive At the Same Time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

5 Benefits of the Kindle over the Nook

I bought a Nook this weekend so I could compare it to a Kindle and so I could review the books we will be publishing in both formats.  All in all, I still prefer the Kindle.

  1. Touchy Touch Screen.  My biggest beef with the Nook is the touch screen.  Oddly enough, when I was buying the Nook, the sales person at B&N tried to convince me that the Kindle had all these buttons that were easily pushed and made stuff disappear.  I've used the Kindle now for two years and haven't had a problem, ever.  The touch screen on the Nook was so touchy that I lost an entire Sudoku game, just as I was about to finish it.  My fingers were too big/clumsy to type as quickly as I can on the Kindle, plus I had to keep changing the keyboard to access numbers, which made typing in my WiFi password a monumental pain.
  2. The Digital Toggle v. A Real Toggle.  The other thing the sales rep told me was it didn't have Kindle's annoying toggle switch.  Yet, I had to push about four buttons on the touch screen just to get to a touch screen toggle on the Nook.  
  3. Ease of Purchase.  I guess if you are trying to conserve your book purchasing dollars, the Nook might be better for you, because it takes a bunch of clicks to find and buy a book.  I'm into click conservation and the Nook is click heavy.  Amazon is evilly brilliant in its ease of purchase.
  4. Color Touch Screen.  I'm offended by the Nook's implication that I need color.  As a reader, color isn't high up on my need list.  The clarity of print is in the black and white, I'll go to the meaning of the words for color, ambiguity and depth.  I'm a reader and I have an imagination.  If I want color and computer graphics, I'll buy an iPad.  I don't need the smell of a book, I just don't need distractions on my reader.  I guess that makes me a traditionalists out of the eBookers.
  5. Selection.  The selection of Amazon blows B&N away.  I know they say they have a million books, but that is only thanks to Google Books which gives everyone a million books, including the Kindle.  I ran a few quick searches and for what I was looking for I was glad I had the Amazon store.
On the plus side for the Nook, it is a functional electronic reader and a great Sudoku game (when the touch screen works).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Future of the Book -- And It Is Now

I read an interesting article by Hugh McGuire in Forbes about the future of the book. In the article, he mentioned numerous things you can’t do with a book that you can do with a web page on the internet. McGuire muses that books must merge with the Internet and in so doing will become even more valuable.

Much of what he posited as needing to take place is happening. I can easily cut and paste anything I’m reading digitally and post the quote to Twitter and Facebook. Amazon is more than happy to direct anyone clicking on my quote right to the page to buy the book. This is cut and paste. This is deep linking to the book. And it maintains an economic novel that rewards the individual author.

McGuire gets lost in his own argument however when he writes: –You cannot query across, say, all books about Montreal written in 1942–even if they are from the same publisher. Wait a minute, I thought books and the Internet would be interchangeable. What McGuire is actually arguing for here is a more refined search, not the merging of books and the Internet. These are two different things. The digitization of books will merge books with the Internet. Accessibility will be the duty of the author and publishers.

The new job of a publisher is SEO. As McGuire pointed out, API’s are applications to make sure that people access your data and not someone else’s data. The future of books is incorporation into the digital mass of information. In an age were anyone can publish anything and have it remain forever, the future of publishing is search engine optimization.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Publishing 0101

One month ago I began an adventure.  All my life I've loved books.  I'm not even sure how many books are in my personal collection.  I know I haven't even come close to reading them all.  When people ask me how many I've read, I say "About a third."  But I really have no idea.

I do know one thing.  Reading has changed me in a fundamental way.   At one point in my life, something like five minutes ago, I would have said that the changes were "metaphysical", but I've read too much neuroscience to say that it is metaphysical.  Reading has created me in a physical way, carving out my neural pathways in a way that is unique.  The authors who have influenced me have allowed my brain to run down their neural paths, so I'm part Aristophanes, part Chaucer, part Shakespeare,  part Philip Roth, part Henry Miller, part Jack Kerouac, part Dostoyevsky, part Tolstoy, part Camus -- well, you get the idea.    I would be remiss if I didn't mention my wife, JulieAnn, the author that I met because of her book and writing -- talk about positive and passionate changes in my neural pathways.

So as an attorney and lifelong bibliophile, I decided to do something.  I decided to start a digital press.  In a way it was my response to the problem I saw that was addressed in Book Glutton this morning.   How do you write and read in the age of Facebook and Twitter?  The interplay of ideas and thoughts are what make us and I wanted to pass out the building block of deep, rather than superficial ideas.  My press is barely a month old and we will begin publishing within the week.  (Website, a week or two away)  I have the rights to publish  over 40 books, all by authors who have been previously published.

I feel the weight of trying to wrestle even a small portion of the unruly stream of words into a channel that can be used to irrigate the thoughts, feelings and lives of potential readers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing for Money

Question and Answer with Christopher Hitchens in the New York Time Magazine:

Did you write the book for money? 
Of course, I do everything for money. Dr. Johnson is correct when he says that only a fool writes for anything but money. It would be useful to keep a diary, but I don’t like writing unpaid. I don’t like writing checks without getting paid.

I'm reading Hitchen's memoir, Hitch-22 and found the above quote about why he wrote the book.  Now, if writing for money means I get to hang out and play word games with Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, then definitely, I need to make sure that I write for money.  

For an author, money can be a motivating force to improve your craft.  In our society is also the economic indicator of how many people the writing reaches.  More money = bigger audience.  Hitchens the journalist understands this well.

Yet, I personally like David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen's reason for writing fiction, because I think they are correct. 

[Fiction is the] ‘neutral middle ground on which to make a deep connection with another human being’: this, we decided, was what fiction was for. ‘A way out of loneliness’ was the formulation we agreed to agree on.

Writing is about creating a connection with other people.  No writer I've ever met is content with their words being stuffed in a drawer or a hard drive (although they often end up there).   Pleas to artistic desire or writing compulsion are nothing more than screams for connection.  No artists writes a book so no one else can read it.  

No audience, no art.  

No audience and it is artistic masturbation, while possibly pleasurable, much more productive and fun if shared.   So in an indirect way Hitchens is correct, money means more connection and that is what writing is all about.