Use the link, Luke Stupid!

If you've read someofmyotherentries on this website, you'll have noticed that I'm kind of a fan of hyperlinking. Maybe I even do it too much.

But too many websites—including a lot of weblogs—seem to have completely forgotten what the Internet is all about: links. Links between different places on the Internet, showing the reader a way to get to more information, or another page giving an alternative take on something, or maybe even a place where an interested reader can actually buy the item in question.

I didn't1 intend this weblog to focus solely on books, authors, writing, writers, and everything else related to those things, but it seems that's what I've been writing—and consequently reading—mostly about lately.

And the lack of hyperlinks that I see in a lot of entries on weblogs and websites—and especially ones that are about authors and books—irritates me, frankly.

A case in point is this entry on The Unravelling Threads. And this is just the latest one I've come across that triggered this rant, I don't want to single out this site, or specific post (there's quite a fewothersI could have used to illustrate my point).

If you're like me, and see that entry, and are kind of interested in the subject matter (which, come on, hot girl hanging upside-down from the rafters in what looks like tight black leather pants, of course you're interested), instead of having a nice link to click on to get to more information I have to manually do a search for “Thief's Covenant”. And that just costs me time and effort that I'd rather not have to spend.

The hyperlink is a powerful tool, so use it!

Seen from the other side, there's a big bonus to actually providing that link to your reader. But, and this is even more important: there's an even bigger loss by not providing that link. Because now, you, as the author, have lost control over where the reader will go to get more information.

And see what I did up there? I hyperlinked the title of that book. In this case I linked it to the book's page on goodreads.com. But I could also have linked to its page on Amazon, or on Barnes&Noble, or to its page on the author's website. Imagine that!

The author of the original entry I read—which I must assume liked something about what he or she was writing about, and wanted to alert others to it—could have sent me straight to the website of the author of that book. Why he or she neglected to do that? I have no clue.

Writing for the web involves more than just putting words on a blank page. You have to be aware of the bigger picture that is tha intarwebs. Using proper hyperlinking in your weblog entries, and any piece of text on a website, actually, is crucial to being a good part of that Internet, as opposed to just another monkey banging on a keyboard.

Especially in reader-writer-land

When the stuff you are writing about on the Internet has to do with books or authors, or anything related to those, I would say it is essential that you properly hyperlink author names and book titles. Because nine times out of ten you'll be writing not about one of the big names or book titles that everyone already knows about, but about this or that author, or book title, you just discovered and want others to discover, too.

Why would you then neglect to actually point the reader to the pages that would actually help the author or book you want to give attention to? You wouldn't.

So, use the hyperlink, stupid2.

Review: “Off Armageddon Reef” by David Weber

I'm a big fan of David Weber's series around his Honor Harrington character, set in his “Honorverse”. The problem is that I've already read all the books in that series. So I've been eagerly awaiting his next instalment.

So, I had been looking for something else to read while I waited for the next Honorverse book. I don't know why I never bothered to look at works by David Weber not in the Honorverse, but I'm glad I did. One reason is that his other books can't be found on webscription.net, and I wonder why that is. Probably because he has contracts with other publishers or some such nonsense.

Anyway, I found his “Safehold” series on kobobooks, and bought the first book in the series, called ”Off Armageddon Reef“ earlier this week. I finished it two days ago. I've already bought the next two books in the series, and they're waiting to be read next on my trusty Iliad. Guess I have another series by David Weber that I'll be keeping my eye on.

Science Fiction

Just like the Honorverse, Safehold is a science fiction series, and there's quite a few similarities between the two. It certainly starts out with what seems to be a fairly standard space battle situation one could expect to see in a Honorverse book. But that changes, as it is only the introduction and the setup for the rest of the book, where humanity is nearly wiped out and forced into hiding on a distant planet, where it reverts to a pre-electric and pre-electronic society to keep from being found by the technologically superior aliens that nearly wiped them out.

So, military science fiction with most of the action on galleys and galleons armed with cannon and flint-locks. Yes, it seems David Weber has managed to write a science fiction book where the meat of the story actually comes very close to being able to masquerade as a Hornblower instalment…

Naval warfare—actually on wet seas, instead of in deep space—with a strong female lead character (although, pretty soon she's not human anymore, and for most of the book she inhabits a male body – go figure), a religious struggle between good and evil, and a cast of interesting supporting characters.

I'll admit I'm a sucker for strong female lead characters, for some reason. Ayla, Mercedes Thompson, Lyra, Sabriel, Joanne Baldwin, Sonea, or even characters like Buffy, Aeryn Sun, or Sarah Connor. And of course Honor Harrington. And now, in Off Armageddon Reef I get Nimue Alban. Can't wait to start reading the rest of the series!

The price of ebooks

It seems like book publishers, writers, sellers, printers and other hangers-on have suddenly realised they are next. And it's put the industry in a bit of a titter. It's not as if this should have come as a shock. But that's what you get with old industries that are suddenly confronted with new technologies that are capable of disrupting their whole business model. Think the book industry learned from the mistakes the music and film industry made?

Guess again.

They are quickly heading to the top of the charts of sheer stupidity. And what they don't realise is that, unlike the movie industry and—though to a somewhat lesser extent— the music industry, they have even less of a legitimate ‘raison d'être’ than their counterparts in those industries.

Just look at what you need to write a book and get it out to your readers in the “new” “Internet Age” we live in today, compared to what you need to make a movie (or even a music album). Stripped right down to the bone, you need a computer, and probably an Internet connection. For a movie or a music album (depending on your preferred choice of music, of course) you need a lot more kit to start with. And then come the supporting industries you need to make the finished product.

Granted, just a writer with his computer and an Internet connection is probably not enough. You need a good editor. You need promotion. You probably need a dozen other things. But still, the bare basics that you'll need as a writer in this “Internet Age” are a lot less than you need to make a movie.

I'm not saying the end of publishers, or printers and what have you is coming. Though I'm pretty sure if the current crop of top-tier publishers continue on the path they're taking, they will be replaced by others that approach this new technology revolution the right way. At least, I fervently hope so.

I have quite a few thoughts on the current trends in publishing, and especially on the ebook front. But lets concentrate on one aspect of it that's getting more attention lately.

On reddit yesterday, I ran across this piece by Michael Hyatt, a publisher, called Why Do eBooks Cost So Much? (A Publisher's Perspective). Go ahead, read it. It's not very long.

Well… I call bullshit. Or I think maybe he's right about the situation now. But then my answer would be: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

But lets just dive into the specifics for this piece. Hyatt states at the start that:

As you are probably aware, Amazon is selling most eBooks for $9.99. That is already roughly half the price (depending on the format) of the typical physical book.
So, ebooks for about $9.99 and physical books for about $20?

Maybe it's the genres that I read (and maybe it's because I live across the pond, but that's a whole different can of worms I will certainly be writing something about in the near future), but that's absolutely not what my experience with pricing on Amazon is. Here, let me show you (and keep in mind that this was collected in like 5 minutes, I did no specific searching, just went on Amazon and clicked a few books it recommended to me).

exhibit a
exhibit a: pricing for A Feast of Crows by George R.R. Martin

Okay, so the ebook (Kindle Edition) is $10.57, and the paperback is… oh, huh? $8.99? Okay, must be a fluke. Let's try another.

exhibit b
exhibit b: pricing for The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Darn, $11.03 for the ebook, $7.99 for the paperback. Next?

exhibit c
exhibit c: pricing for The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Nope, $10.57 for the ebook, $8.99 for the paperback. One more try?

exhibit d
exhibit d: pricing for Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Yes, that's right. $7.99 for the paperback. And a whopping $16.01 for the ebook. Need I go on? I think not.

This last example isn't even a rare occurrence in my experience looking for ebooks on Amazon. I've even seen ebooks priced one or two dollars higher than the hardcover. Which is INSANE.

But what can I say, I think the whole book publishing industry is acting insane at the moment. Except for one, actually, which, well, read on…

Because I have an even better ace up my sleeve against Hyatt's bullshit story. Take a look at the pricing at baen book's ebook store called webscription. Here, I'll just give you a snapshot:

exhibit e
exhibit e: pricing at the webscription ebook store

There you go, $5.00 or $6.00 for an ebook. Now we're talking. But that's Heinlein, dead writer, old catalogue, so their other books probably aren't priced that low, right?

exhibit f
exhibit f: more pricing at the webscription ebook store

Wrong. Again, $6.00 for a David Weber ebook. And nearly every other ebook on that website is either five or six dollars.

And what's that green lettering you see there? That's right, it says:

Baen Free Library Book
In other words, baen is saying: here's the download link, go crazy, dear reader!

And if you're thinking they only have the dregs of their catalogue up there as a free ebook, think again.

And I know the genre is pretty narrow, it's mostly SciFi, with a bit of Urban and Fantasy stuff creeping in lately, but if you're in to those (and even if you aren't), I would highly recommend checking out a few books on their free list. What can you lose?

But enough kidding around, baen is gonna be out of business pretty soon, right? Because, just giving away your books for free can't be good for the bottom line, right? And those five or six dollars can't nearly be enough to cover those enormous costs of producing an ebook, right? Right?

Right. Let's talk again in a couple of years. And, in the meantime you might want to read this insightful piece by Eric Flint, one of the excellent authors whose books you'll find in the webscription store.

My guess is, baen is probably gonna be here a lot longer than most other publishers if they keep on showing their customers the finger. Which is basically what they're doing at the moment. Good luck with that. That tactic is working out so well for those other behemoth industries that went boldly before you, kicking and screaming into the Internet Age…

“Slush Pile Truths” response to “Cherish the Book Publishers”

I was planning on writing a response to the Wall Street Journal blog by Eric Felten titled Cherish the Book Publishers—You'll Miss Them When They're Gone, but Kristine Kathryn Rusch saved me from putting in the effort by writing this excellent response: The Business Rusch: Slush Pile Truths.

A Dance of Dragons reprimer

That's maybe one of the small drawbacks of long-running book series, such as George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

I actually started reading the first book and putting it down after 20 pages or so. Not for me… And then I was stuck on a sailboat in the Turkish waters with nothing else to read… and read the whole book in record time. And then couldn't wait to get back home to place a little order for the rest of the books.

And then it became silent. It's been a while, so when the next book in the series is released in a week or so (I had completely missed this by the way) I think I'd better work through this helpful primer up on tor.com.

Review: “Resonance” by Chris Dolley

I read Resonance by Chris Dolley a few months ago. I didn't specifically buy this ebook, but it was included in the June 2007Webscription I bought a while ago (probably because that edition included Kildar by John Ringo). It's actually also available from the Baen Free Library, so there's no reason not to check it out!

I don't know why I started reading Resonance (I have quite a lot of unread ebooks on my iLiad), but somehow the title just resonated with me I guess… Haha. Funny, me.

I'm glad I did though. Resonance is one of those books that I was unable to put away. There are books that I enjoy reading at a leisurely pace. I read a bit when I get home from work, I read a bit before going to sleep, I read a bit here and there, and after a few days or even weeks, I reach the end. Good book (otherwise I wouldn't have finished it at all, obviously).

Other books, I read more in a kind of reading frenzy. I cannot stop reading every spare moment I have. I'll even go to bed earlier so I can read longer. And then wonder how it got to be 3 a.m. in the morning already. Resonance was one of those books. I've had it worse, but I was pretty hooked on it. So instead of finally putting out the light at 3, it was more often around 1 or 2 a.m. Very good book.

What's to like

A quirky and somewhat reluctant lead character, nice character development, an elusive solution to a science fiction problem (which was not obvious to me directly, bonus points), multiple universes, even some romantic interest. What's not to like?

A lack of annoyances and minor quibbles is also what's to like. Sometimes while reading a book I hit a passage that just feels off, or annoys me, or something (one example is the 'overused word' syndrome). Sometimes this happens more than once. It brings down the total score for that book, as these annoyances and quibbles pull me, as a reader, out of the suspension of disbelief the book has created. This breaks the flow of reading the story. In extreme cases, I'll just stop reading the book.

No such problems for Resonance.

What's not to like

Not much, really.

Maybe just that the author doesn't seem to have a lot of other books he wrote in this genre. Shift looks promising. Maybe his other works are worth a look as well.

That's also my M.O., by the way. “Good book” equals “check up on author for more”.

Requiem for an iLiad

At iRex Technologies they did a lot of things wrong. Browse a few of the older threads about the iRex iLiad at the irex mobileread forum and you'll get a sense of most of what the company did wrong. It went bankrupt, although the reason it did is probably not as closely related to those errors as it is to increasing competition in the ereader market at the time (Amazon.com had just released the Kindle 2 in 2009 and then came out with the Kindle 3 in 2010 and others — like Barnes & Noble with its Nook — had just gotten into the ereader market with new products). A problem with the US market where FCC approval for the new DR800 was delayed didn't help.

Which is a shame, because for all the problems the iRex iLiad had, it also hit a couple of sweet spots for an ereader, namely:

Size

8.1″ is exactly the right size for an ereader.

In case it wasn't clear already, I own an iLiad (yes, the one right there, on the right). I was one of the earlier adopters and I've loved the reader since the start. Of course there were (and still are) problems with the device, but for me, the good very much outweighs the bad. Call me a fan.

And one of the most important reasons for this is that iRex got the size of the device exactly right. The screen on an iLiad is almost exactly the size of a standard paperback, which means the reading experience I have while using the iLiad is the same as when I read a real book. I get a sentence length that's mostly the same, but much more importantly, the frequency with which I need to turn a page is the same. I don't need to turn a page more often than I would with a paperback, which is the case with the smaller ereaders that were mostly (and still are) popular when the iLiad was released.

Another good thing about the size of the iLiad is that it fits in your hand. I can't really make a comparison here, as I've never really read a book on another device, but for the iLiad the size is right. It's bit heavy, maybe, but I've come to like the heft. A book doesn't weigh nothing, either. And if something is going to contain thousands of books, I want to feel that (at least a bit) in its weight. Call me old-fashioned.

Controls

The controls on the iLiad are mainly good for two reasons: the page flip-bar and the stylus.

The page flip-bar is the long cantilever on the left side of the iLiad, which you can flip to the right or to the left. This is used to flip the page of a book, and to me it's one of the best features of the iLiad (when it works correctly). To me, it feels totally natural to flip the bar to the left to advance to the next page, and flip it to the right to go back a page. Mimic the motion you would perform to flip the page on a real book, to flip the page on the ereader. Genius.

Although I haven't used the stylus as much as I thought I would for actual writing on the device, it's still a very good way to navigate on a screen. I prefer it to most forms of direct touch screens. Another (not unimportant) benefit of the Wacom penabled system used in the iLiad is that it doesn't require a special coating or extra layers on top of the screen, which makes the iLiad eink screen better than most of it's touch screen competitors.

Hackability

The iLiad is a linux device, and iRex Technologies did what it could to facilitate hacking the device. Within limits, of course, but I've still to see another ereader manufacturer that comes close to offering the hacking possibilities that iRex did. At first glance, I think maybe Onyx could come close, seeing as they have an SDK available for their ereaders.

The potential for users hacking your device and coming up with useful improvements is certainly there. You only have to dive into the developers corner for iRex devices on mobileread to see what can be done. I installed a few of the enhancements you can find in the forum area on my device, and actually hacked the code on my own device to get it to do some things it doesn't out of the box.

How cool is that? Granted, not everyone will want to do stuff like that, but the fact that it's even possible is what counts. And I happen to be one of those people that do want to hack at the internals of my devices. Sadly, these days, most devices don't offer you that choice.

Farewell, but hopefully not too soon

As you see, I've only touched on the reasons I like my iLiad. Mostly because all the negative things to be said about the device are already there on the Internet to be found. And why beat a (literally) dead horse?

I've had my iLiad for a few years now, and I still use it daily. Recently I've been thinking about getting at least a backup for when it dies. The screen is known to be fragile, and it's my biggest fear that I'll drop something on it and break it. IRex is no more, so good luck getting a replacement.

So, I've been keeping an eye out for a potential replacement. I've thought of buying one of the few second hand iLiads still being offered once in a while, or maybe even it's successor, a DR800.

But not so long ago I came across the announcement of the Onyx Boox M90. It has a slightly larger eink screen than the iLiad (9.7″ instead of 8.1″), but the device itself is not that much bigger. And, Onyx also seems to care about customers that want to hack on their devices, so that looks promising, too. Alas, no flip-bar, and it seems a problem with the controls was the reason behind some delays before it was released just recently. But, another plus, it uses the same Wacom penabled technology that the iLiad uses.

So I'm not sold yet. But I have time, my iLiad is still working perfectly, and if it's up to me I'll be reading books on it for many years to come.


FAWM gems

Don't know what FAWM is? Head on over and start browsing through the tons of original songs produced by crazy musicians over 28 days this past February.

You'll be amazed and positively surprised by quite a few songs. At least, if you're anything like me.

Here're some links to a few great songs to get you started:

Be sure to also check out the rest of these guys' songs, there's a lot of good stuff there.

Here is a thread on the forum where people point fingers to good songs: recommendation thread

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the potentially great songs to be found over there. And, seeing as they'll be closing the site down soon in preparation for the 2012 edition, I'll probably miss out on quite a lot of other still undiscovered gems. Too bad.

On the other hand… 2012 is just around the corner.

The sharp word

Why the sharp word?

I find myself often ranting internally about things that I read, or things that I see, hear, remember. Other times stuff just pops into my head.

Sometimes I think, ‘I should write this down…’.

So, yeah, sharp words. Or maybe not. Maybe also soft words. We'll see.

oxylogos

The sharp word.

oxy-
sharp
logos
word



recent entries
Use the link, Luke Stupid!

Why don't posts about authors and books actually contain links to those authors and books?

Review: “Off Armageddon Reef” by David Weber

A book review.

The price of ebooks

Looking at the pricing of ebooks, and the bullshit that surrounds it.

“Slush Pile Truths” response to “Cherish the Book Publishers”

Kristine Kathryn Rusch responds to Eric Felten's crap piece bemoaning the death of Book Publishers.

A Dance of Dragons reprimer

A helpful primer of where everybody is before “A Dance With Dragons” begins.

Review: “Resonance” by Chris Dolley

A book review.

Requiem for an iLiad

The iRex iLiad was the best ereader of its time. Still is.

FAWM gems

February Album Writing Month is awesome.


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