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"[Booksellers] wish you to engage in two separate hallucinations. First, that their limited licence to read a work on a device or within software of their choosing is equivalent to the purchase of a physical item. Second, that the vast majority of e-books are persistent objects rather than disposable culture."

The point is not that this attempt at reality-engineering is harming ebooks, so much as that it is being blithely and routinely ignored. 

The article goes on to miss its footing in discussing potential for ebook resale or lending, which fails to see that readers will fill with once-read trash and forgotten tomes just as your iTunes folder has that Shania Twain album and the Sibelius thing you got because of that movie.  Storage is cheap tending to free (for ebooks, especially so, as ebooks are tiny little files: a regular novel is under a meg - that would fit on a floppy disk). 

There is no market for selling the clutter off your virtual bookshelves, because you have the TARDIS's library.  It only runs out of space if you move the swimming pool into it.
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Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout: Ragnarok happening now, played straight -- yup, it's un-Whedonised despite having a female lead and plenty of invitations to slide that way.  There are goats.  There are ravens: those two frame many chapters with a literal overview.  There is some really lovely scene-setting and occasional kennings that are bang on the money: "a hole made of wolf" is one that will stay with me.  Or how about this: "Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent. It lies on the seafloor, its hide camouflaged with crags and volcanoes. Whenever it twitches in its sleep, tidal waves kill hundreds of thousands. It opened its great red eye once, and fish took to land and evolved lungs and legs, just to get away from it."

I liked Greg's gods and scenes a lot, but found his humans and plot a bit thin.   It carries along nicely without captivating, and the twisty turny bits are, well, yeah, twisty turny bits.  Come for the scenery and brooding eyeless gods, stay for the Ragna-puppies.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest:  YA steampunk with glowing plaudits from the steamophiles, but you know what? Steampunk is best as an emergent property.  Steampunk that happens because the author and world and story are going somewhere awesome and bonkers and weird - that works, that's great.  Steampunk that has airships because steampunk should have airships, that's more like Etsy jewelery with glued-on cogs, and that's how Boneshaker felt to me. 

The story -- in alt-history Gold Rush era post-mad-science-Oops Seattle, nearly-estranged mom and teen son struggle for survival when separately thrown into a wretched hive of scum and villainy, and must face the Family Past as well as sundry gribblies -- is decent fare, but I kept on being annoyed by the clip-on steaminess.  If the idea of moving an airship using steam thrusters makes you smile, you'll like it; if you immediately think about thrust moment, and ask yourself where the hell an airship would carry all that water reaction mass, it'll annoy and distract. 

Both are available in pdf'd epub and pdf from Books On Board and elsewhere, and in dead tree too. 
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Against my better judgment, I was so tempted by Norse Code and Boneshaker (sci-fi vikings in Rangarok LA, and gold-rush steampunk zombies respectively) that I bought some DRM'd ebooks from the lovely  You can tell this won't end well, can't you?

The executive summary: Buy books, download books, move books to reader. Book-managey software says it needs an update: comply. Books no longer work, managey-software no longer sees reader, books on reader say "no".  Sundry reinstalls and re-registration does nothing.

Gamma flash, rampage!

From a customer viewpoint, I just spent good book money on broken things.  I have been ripped off.  I am angry.

If I'd downloaded skeezy ripoffs from Bittorrent, I would have got working books.  It's like the publishers are giving their products to an idiot child and asking me to trust that they'll get here and not get used for toilet paper.  Ignoring the insult implicit in publisher's use of DRM ("We think you're a thief, just shut up and pay us"), this is an enormous amount of trust.  It's the publisher and the retailer that get my anger because it is them with whom I have dealings.  Adobe's just some crap I need to makey worky.

As it happens, Adobe Digital Editions - the sinner in this little play - has junk key management and there have been DRM-cracking scripts available for months.  A bit of nerdy hoop jumping and lo, I have un-DRM'd versions of both books, and that is good. 

So please, Random House, Barnes & Noble, ditch the DRM, it hurts paying customers.  BooksOnBoard, and the rest of the industry, put some pressure up the pipe to get rid of the DRM, because I'm not buying any more when I have to go through all this frakkin' hassle.
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Since I've had my reader for a while, and gorged on half a dozen novels and a pile of science PDFs, here's some bearded sagacity for the future:

The successful vendor must be format-agnostic.  Offer the book as a download, then give the customer a choice.  Write a little app to detect the platform, rememer it in their profile, and offer the best option, otherwise give a pick of the standard (EPUB) and the proprietory (Kindle, Mobi, Spaceflaps).  If your store doesn't allow me to buy an ebook, I'll go elsewhere to buy books in general, and then you've lost my treebook sales too.

PDF blows goats.  Seriously.  Make it reflowable and resizeable or go home.  If you think your page layout matters more than being readable, you're dead wrong. 

E-newspaper subscriptions are dead.  C'mon, it's a crippled version of a feed aggregator (there's a market niche there for an "RSS-to-EPUB" converter in there - Feedbooks, Zinepal, TeleRead et al come close but it hasn't had its ipod moment yet).  Definitely not worth the premium, on which note...

Downloads are worth less than paper.  I can't give a download as a present, I can't hug a download and remember its smell, I can't find a blade of grass from that camping holiday in a download, a download isn't bent by my lover's hands.  Downloads are commodity pap: it is ridiculous to charge as much or more for them.  Tenner for the book, fiver for the download, that's about right.  DRM makes a download worth even less, because it can't be shared and is subject to the whim of technical gremlins.  

Let me down and I go to BitTorrent.  Why isn't your full catalogue available online?  Don't pad it with the Gutenberg stuff, you big fakers.  If it's out there, you should be selling it.  If the vendor gets in the way, it's torrentin' time.

Trilogies and partworks rock.  Without the bulk of treebooks, downloads are perfect for epic series.  Bundle 'em up: all the Harry Potters in one go?  An easy sale.  And if you want to keep readers coming back, the partwork format is super-easy to do without all the physical overheads (and stock risk on series that tank).  A fresh Glass Books or Dark Tower novella every couple of months? 

Fat Zines.  Paper zines and current electronic zines are choked on layout and limited in size.  There's nothing to stop fat zines from rolling up big chunks of material.  A monthly Nanowrimo 'reader's digest' with half a dozen of the best novels, along a theme?  Technically trivial.
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I've been looking at readers for a few weeks, and today had a play in The Shoppe and succumbed to the Cool-er. Mostly because I think a reader should be fairly invisible, a portal not a gadget, and the competition (the Sony PRS-300 Pocket Reader) was much too cluttered with buttons around the page. I got both devices in my hand and it was a no-brainer.

The Cool-er fits my "magic size and shape" - a DVD case. It's a little narrower and slimmer, and weighs exactly the same as a DVD in its box - ie, bugger-all. The Sony was much more of a Quality Gadget - Sony don't make anything else - but it was heavier and thicker and just more gadgety. It's a thing of beauty and Sony fans will be righteous in their love, but I don't even want to see the reader, let alone squee over it.

The Cool-er also does HTML which the Sony doesn't, and quiet a bit of my stuff is HTML.

There's no software with it: you manage it all with file folders or you get Adobe Digital Editions for the DRM stuff (yeah, riiiight). That suits me just fine. Charging is handled through the USB cable, so it should charge fine from ad-hoc USB chargers like the FreeLoader if you need to.

It takes SD cards up to 4Gb, which is total overkill for books but not for PDFs which get hefty - if you're a PDF slut like me, this is ace. The crazy-toothed survivalist library can easily tuck in one corner of a big SD card without getting in the way, waiting the zombie apocalypse.

Graphics are okay - 8 greys, very rich PDFs look a bit arse (zines no, papers with graphs yes). Page turns are fast for its class.
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Scribd, the ebook host, has started doing a profit-sharing downloads-for-sale deal with authors.  Given that their previous entry into my thunkosphere was "waily waily, some ass has uploaded my magnum opus" from minor authors, this sounds pretty cool.  Anything that isn't device-locked and fitted with a killswitch is a big win in my (e)book.

Would you writery folks use it? 


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