Neal Stephenson was at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington DC on Saturday night. He gave a reading from his new book, Reamde. Fun reading, and very interesting Q&A session afterwards. He then gladly signed books…

When She Woke

Amazon's KindleUpdate 10/18/2011: Finally, a publisher (other than Baen) that is bundling a free ebook version with the hardcover! See When She Woke (Includes Free eBook) by Hillary Jordan at Powell’s Books in Portland. I’m not interested in this particular book myself (mainly due to the pro- “choice” bias towards abortion), but I find the bundling of an ebook copy a wonderful practice! I just wish it were a better poster child. But, it’s a start.

I’ve thought for years now that it would be a great business practice to give a customer a free electronic version of any book they purchase in physical form (say, hardcover). The logistics of getting the ebook into the hands of the customer would have to be worked out, but it’s not a technical problem. I guess most publishers think (erroneously) that doing this would result in more piracy, or more accurately, in lower revenues. I hope the publishing industry as a whole figures out that this is a fallacy and they implement the practice of bundling ebooks.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Seriously: you buy a hardcover, and you get a code to download the ebook version. Do they really think this would add to book piracy? It is trivially easy to remove the DRM (Digital Rights Management, i.e., copy protection) from a purchased ebook. Once DRM is removed, an unscrupulous person could then put the book up on “sharing” (pirating) sites and make it available to anyone with an internet connection. I’d venture a guess that most (popular) books can be found on such sites.

If this were a real problem for the industry, would we have seen:

In the first five months of this year sales of consumer e-books in America overtook those from adult hardback books. Just a year earlier hardbacks had been worth more than three times as much as e-books, according to the Association of American Publishers. Amazon now sells more copies of e-books than paper books.

-“Great Digital Expectations” in The Economist, Sept 2011

This is no more a (real) problem than music-sharing (again, pirating) sites: Apple’s iTunes music store is hugely popular, and millions of people *buy* music there. Pirated music is a very small subset, and I’m not convinced that music piracy has lowered revenues to any significant extent. I’d have to say that ebook piracy would be an even smaller subset of the Book industry.

Honor Harrington series by David Weber

Baen Books (a great Science Fiction publisher) already does this. For example, many of the recent books in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber include a CDROM in the hardcover. The CD has ebook versions of the current book as well as all the other books in the series and related books by other authors. AND none of the content is copy-protected. Obviously, if piracy were an issue they would have stopped this practice. As a matter of fact, they encourage you to share the content! They figure it will ultimately lead to more readers actually buying Baen books. I know I do! They also have a “Free Library” where you can download free books. If only the rest of the industry would embrace such practices!

There’s an interesting article in The Economist on the transformation of the publishing industry, “Disappearing Ink“. Seems the Movie industry was also worried about piracy (hah!), so they have started including versions of movies, etc. that you can download (for your iDevice or computer) when you purchase a DVD (see my emphasis):

They are doing some things right. Having watched the record companies’ impotence after Apple wrested control of music-pricing from them, the publishers have managed to retain their ability to set prices. But they are missing some tricks. The music and film industries have started to bundle electronic with physical versions of their products—by, for instance, providing those who buy a DVD of a movie with a code to download it from the internet. Publishers, similarly, should bundle e-books with paper books.

-“Disappearing Ink” in The Economist, Sept. 2011

I’m a lover (and collector) of physical books; no iDevice will ever provide the same tactile experience as curling up in a comfy chair with a real, nicely produced Book. The Kindle does the best job of mimicking paper, and is the best eReader in that respect, but it still doesn’t “feel” like a book. That being said, I am also an avid *reader*, and no physical book is going to be as ever-present with me as my iDevice or Kindle. It is just so convenient to have a whole library with you wherever you go – and to have all your reading notes, bookmarks, etc. follow you in the cloud.

I love eBooks too. Don’t make me choose!

Arthur Phillips at Politics and Prose, 5-24-2011

I went to see Arthur Phillips give a talk on his latest book, “The Tragedy of Arthur“, tonight at Politics and Prose Bookstore in DC. As usual, he gave a very engaging talk/reading of the book. I’ve been to a few of his talks now (he’s one of my favorite authors), all at Politics and Prose: for “The Song is You” , “Angelica“, and “The Egyptologist“.

See previous posts: Arthur Phillips Reads “The Song is You” and Walter Isaacson, Arthur Phillips recent events.

His latest book (The Tragedy of Arthur) is different: the premise is that this is a memoir of his (actual) life with his (con-artist) father and sister. He has written the Introduction to a newly discovered Shakespeare play, “The Tragedy of Arthur” (discovered by his father, a convicted forger – see where this is leading?). I was really drawn into this novel (memoir). Ok, it’s not a real memoir, but it reads like one. Just go with it. I haven’t read the play at the end yet, but Mr. Phillips mentioned it has been staged by a theater company in NY for the audio book. That would be interesting!

At one point tonight Mr. Phillips asked if anyone in the audience was a “real” Shakespearean actor and would like to read one of the soliloquies. Turns out someone was there who was with the Shakespeare Theater Company, and he came up to read. Not sure if that was a coincidence. :)

Arthur Phillips at Politics and Prose, 5-24-2011

Arthur Phillips signature on my iPad 5-24-2011

One different thing about tonight is that I asked Mr. Phillips to sign my “ebook” version – i.e. my iPad. He smiled and did so, though he hesitated to “mess up Machu Picchu” (I have a Gelaskin on my iPad, from a photo I took on my honeymoon at Machu Picchu). Turns out that signing ebooks is a real possibility now, though it hasn’t really hit the mainstream yet. Soon? Hopefully it can be done in realtime, as part of the fun of getting a book signed is meeting the author. A “virtual” signing isn’t the same thing. We’ll see. For now I plan on adding more signatures to the back of my iPad. When the back is filled I’ll come up with something…

The Clockwork Universe Edward Dolnick was at Politics and Prose bookstore tonight giving a talk on his book, “The Clockwork Universe“. Engaging speaker and an interesting talk. My son Brandon also came along and he was surprised to find it interesting enough to come out of the cafe.

The author didn’t do a reading from the book; he spent about 20 minutes giving a very interesting overview of the historical period in which Newton and contemporaries lived. We sometimes forget that these geniuses were living in a very different world from ours today; one in which basic hygiene and knowledge of how the physical world worked was about non-existent. London of the time (around 1660) was a very dirty, disgusting place to live. It certainly didn’t help that the Plague hit London in 1666, and within a year 1/5 of the population were dead (100,000 people) Mr. Dolnick also touched on how the people of the time *really* thought of God as someone pulling all the strings all the time- nothing at all happened in the world that was not directly due to God’s intervention. Newton et al. very much were men of their times, and as such assumed that everything was due to God; they were merely trying to “read God’s mind” as it were.

Fascinating history of the start of the Royal Society, the oldest Scientific organization in the world. Ideas were being thrown around those meetings: one minute they would be discussing whether or not a spider placed inside a circle of “unicorn dust” could leave the circle and the next they would be discussing astronomy and the orbits of planets. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!



Edward Dolnick talking at Politics and Prose, 2/26/2011

Edward Dolnick talking at Politics and Prose, 2/26/2011

Edward Dolnick talking at Politics and Prose, 2/26/2011

Edward Dolnick talking at Politics and Prose, 2/26/2011

2012 Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya (showing glyph date on left)

2012 Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya (showing glyph date on left)

2012 Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya Last Saturday I went to an all-day symposium, “Under Cover of Darkness: The Meaning of Night in Ancient Mesoamerica” sponsored by the Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. While there, Professor Mark Van Stone was signing copies of his book, “2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya. What was really neat is that he signed my copy by writing the current date in Maya glyphs. Really neat!

maya date glyphs

maya date glyphs

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