Tag Archives: eBooks

2011 – the New 1984

It’s a new world out there.  Last week I opened my Amazon account to find out that as a Prime Member (I like the free shipping) I could borrow books for free, up to one a month. That’s a nice little perk.  A few months back it was movies that I could watch for free.  This morning visits her local library web site to find that libraries have hooked up with Amazon and you can now borrow eBooks online.  I feel like I’m being seduced by Big Business.  It’s hard to resist when they offer me up literary and entertainment bonbons like that.  I know they are sucking up the little guys, and yet they make it so easy to use, so easy to accept… and how delicious the toxin is going down!  It’s rather like a Twinkie, only at least, by reading I’m getting some nutrients with my poisons.

People are taking to the streets to protest the Corporations, and I’m behind them 100% and yet… can we have a world without Big Business?  Can it seriously function if everything is small and compartmentalized?  Just think of the scale of economics.  I guess I don’t mind Big Business providing me Kindles and iPhones as long as the big boys aren’t calling all the shots, holding all the cards, and whatever other cliché I can throw at you to describe their greedy corporate antics that are… well self-destructive and short-sighted.  These new captains of industry are robber barons, but they’re robbing from their own coffers.  Who will buy their crap if they destroy the very middle class that supports all this investment, manufacturing, and innovation?  Do they really think they can just switch to the other rising economies and keep on raking it in?  With global warming, over-population, and wars and revolutions every where, it ain’t going to happen like they envision it.

Like the ancient Anasazi in the American Southwest we will all collapse from a dearth of resources, like water, to go around, and this time on a global scale.  The center might move temporarily to China and India but they’re rising fast on a faulty model, and they are already showing signs of strain. The fat cats that rule Washington now, they may die rich, but they will not leave anything to the next generation, and I’m only talking about the old ones.  The young robber barons will see it all go to shit in their own life times.  So it’s time to get money, corporations, and Wall St. out of our political process:


To Publish, or Not to Publish, That is the Rub…

back cover art for Panthology artwork by Jack KnightHaving spent quite a few months working on the Panthology it’s time to ask myself: what’s next? I’m happy to get back to reading and writing in my collaborative novels at Pan Historia, but ultimately I thrive on goals and projects that can yield tangible achievements. Writing on Pan is the most pleasurable form of exercise I know, but I still consider it exercise. It’s social, it’s fun, it’s interactive, but the end of the day it’s building things that last that I enjoy the most. Tinkering with the structure of Pan is something that gives me great satisfaction and joy as I strive to increase membership and participation by increasing the ease and functionality of the site. Of course I’m only a tinkerer when it comes to site construction but I believe that Pan reflects its users to a large degree. It’s not so much about bells and whistles and high tech apps, but about being a comfortable place to express one’s imagination. Writers just need to write, ultimately.

Perhaps that explains my mild obsession with publishing Pan Press books? I mean the logical conclusion of a writer’s work is to be published. It’s as old as the hills—or as old illuminated manuscripts anyway. To be published is to be real, genuine, accepted, legitimate. Technically it’s considered a form of publishing to post material, such as this blog, on the internet for others to read, but both you and I know it’s not what WE mean, as authors, when we say we are “published.” Even when we boast, as I have done, of my status as a “published” author deep down in my heart I want that book with pages of vellum, binding, rabbit skin glue, and black ink. This is probably why authors, as a group, are the most resistant to the idea of eBooks. It’s not quite… printed… is it? Of course it is, and I would be thrilled to be selling millions of copies of my novel in eBook format, but that will never cure my schoolboy crush on the first object of my desire: the book; either paperback or hardback.

So what is next? Besides going back to work on my own novel, a supernatural/horror adventure, I think I will prepare one of my collaborative novels, FLESH, from Pan for publication. Like the Panthology it will be a collection of writers, but this time we will bring the whole stories. It will be a challenge to edit the pieces together in order to tell each story (it will be a collection of about 4-5 stories set in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus has turned people into zombie-like killing machines). Zombies are hot items, and some of the stories are really very good with some great writers from the site. This is a piece that I feel has merit beyond the site, and can engage a larger audience of readers from hardcore zombie fans to general horror lovers. I would love to see if I can expand beyond members of the community and engage the interest of other readers for our publications. If it’s even mildly successful it opens the door for any number of such projects for any number of genres represented at Pan.

Illustration by Jack Knight


Announcing the Pan Press Project

guildimagePlans are moving ahead for the re-launch of the Pan Press as a division of a small publishing house. We had our first business meeting to discussion the structure of the operation. We have a couple designers ready and primed. My idea is to start with some of the best of the best of Pan Historia for the long overdue second Pan Birthday Book.

The Pan Birthday Book was published in 2004 as an anthology of all the various writing that could be found on the collaborative community’s forums. It included sections from the role-play novels as well as essays from the reference book section, poetry, and in addition some great original artwork from some of our more graphically inclined members. It was sold solely on the site to the membership of Pan. It was a great fundraiser for the site and a great snapshot of where we were then.

It’s five years later and I want to take our second Birthday Book just a little further. First of all it will be available via Amazon and other online booksellers and give our authors and artists a bigger potential audience. Because of my desire to showcase our creativity beyond our ‘borders’ I plan to run a contest for the entries with specific guidelines. The entries should be short stories that can stand alone for the pleasure of the reader. They can be collaboratively worked, based on storylines from the established novels at Pan, but tailored for inclusion in an anthology that might be read by people that have never visited Pan Historia.

If the second Birthday Book goes as planned I will start work on published versions of several of our collaborative novels, and hopefully members of the community will join in to create a shelf of work that can be treasured forever. The potential is limitless. Imagine being able to take your favorite online novel with you to the beach next summer? Imagine running your fingers over the pages of a novel you helped to write? I know I can’t wait to see my first edition of my original fantasy story The Midnight People or my zombie horror collaborative FLESH And yes, I plan ebook versions if possible.


I Love the Smell of Paper Pulp in the Morning…

I think about it sometimes. How would I feel if my work was published in an eBook format? I mean it’s publication right? It’s getting my stuff out there? So what that it’s electronic? After all most of my work appears on the internet as pixels vibrating on your computer monitor, exactly as it is happening right now as you read this blog, so how would it be different? And yet it is. @mikecane is a huge advocate of eBooks and he’s got me convinced that I need to invest in a reader – but still something more emotional and archaic tugs at my heartstrings when I think about myself as a published author.

I want to hold a book in my hands. I want the smell of paper, possibly the stain of ink on the pads of my finger. If I could have it I would want rag paper with watermarks and a stitched binding with a nice sturdy hardcover and fancy dust jacket. On the cover itself it would be nice if there was embossing, say in that beautiful glossy ink, or maybe in gold. Remember that scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) shows off his business card only to be outdone by his rival? Here was something so low-tech in a high powered high tech environment but the touch of the rag card, the subtle embossing, the texture of the raised text with the right depth of ink…

Ok, I admit it. I could get worked up over a paperbound edition of my work way more than I could over a virtual facsimile downloadable from Amazon.com. So while I would get very excited to see big fat royalties checks because my novel was selling in the thousands across the world, I would miss it if it were not also sitting on my book shelf. Just ask @fannyfae has she feels about ‘real’ books as opposed to eBooks.

With all this in mind I hope to relaunch Pan Press by the end of the year – creating beautiful editions, print on demand, of work by collaborative and solo writers from the Pan Historia community. Of course I will be looking into the option of eBook versions, I believe that most people, myself included, will want a copy of their own book on their bookshelf. While I appreciate that much of the sales of such volumes will be to friends and families, it’s not inconceivable that full length novels and anthologies of completed works could garner wider appeal – who knows? We may one day produce a best seller. There is certainly enough talent on the site.


Book Breeding

A weird thing has happened to me. In the course of my new move, for reasons outside of my control, all of my books are now in a storage unit, packed at the back behind furniture and other assorted heavy objects. I will need, at some point, to break into this unit, with its similarity to King Tutankhamen’s tomb before it got cleared out, in order to access my copious western research as well as my all important computer techie library.

For the time being, though, I’m stuck in this weird bookless limbo that is both strangely compelling and disturbingly empty. It may cause me to succumb to the allure of the Kindle 2 or the Sony Reader that much sooner (though part of me just wants to hold out for my iPhone when my current phone contract ends). Meanwhile I have four books. I have The Audacity of Hope by our current President, two new westerns I picked up at Borders (new to me, not new to publishing – both are classics), and a western mystery, part of the Holmes on the Range series.

It’s kind of like one of those dreams where you arrive at school and you realize you forgot to get dressed that morning and now you’re in front of all your classmates completely naked. I’m not sure why being bookless feels that way, but it does. It’s both terrifying and liberating at the same time. I never intend to stop reading. I love books. I enjoy literature. I adore historical research through diverse periods. I want my art books so I can peruse the best the world has to offer right from the comfort of my own home.

But, good Galactic Bill and the Stainless Steel Rat, books are heavy sons of bitches. They weigh a ton, fill up many cartons, and then line your walls, demanding acres of bookcases (which also have to be carried). Perhaps if I was a naturally sedentary beast and never moved an inch but settled in one place, rooted like a tree (and not a tumbleweed), it wouldn’t be an issue, but I don’t see my tumbling throttling down just yet. The current apartment is a dream come true, but not an everlasting dream of contentment and retirement.

My bet is that, no matter how hard I try or even if I do get some form of e-book reader, that by the time I leave this place, whether or not I have transported books from storage to here, I will still be carting a couple hundred pounds of books out of here. Four books is quite a good start for any book breeding colony. They’re like rabbits you know.


The Electronic Book Revolution: A Personal View

This year my offspring gave me a Nintendo DS for Christmas with the little mini Zelda adventure on it.  I admit I’m having fun.  I also like the size of the contraption and the little stylus to control the action by touching the screen.  I’m enjoying it so much that last night I had an amazing thought: if I like this little gizmo so much how would it be to read a book on one?  Or something similar as I have no idea what a Kindle or Sony Reader looks like or any other electronic book reader.

Now if you knew me and mine you would know incredibly revolutionary this thought is.  I may have been one of the first people on the planet to own a computer, but I only succumbed to either a laptop or a cell phone this last couple of years, and only this morning did I become the proud owner of an iPod for the first time in my life.  It was an anniversary gift.

I love books.  I love the weight, the texture, the feel, the scent of them.  I love the way that the black ink print looks on the creamy or yellowing pages.  I love paper.  I love the musty used bookstore smell of old paperbacks.  I love the artwork on the cover and I love to handle books and I love the look of a wall full of bookshelves full of books.

Replacing all that with a little handheld electronic device?  Can I enjoy this?  Will it satisfy my aesthetic sensibilities and my sensual pleasure in reading?  More importantly how tangible is it?  If I were to publish my novel would I feel like I have a book out if it was just puffs of ethereal pixels that I can’t even see?

When I consider all these things, my Luddite self battling with my geek self, I remember that the vast majority of my authorial outpourings have always been published electronically and these days I do the majority of my reading online.  Where is the difference?  Furthermore how many trees could I save and how much easier to move without fifty cartons of books to hump around?  Could I just reserve for my book collection art books and reference?  The old beautifully bound book of poetry?  Perhaps paper books become works of art in of themselves and the rest can fit on my electronic reader.

Of course the wheels of change can move quickly, or it might be a while before I take the plunge, but the thought is there and the journey begun.