All Things Change

So I’m about halfway through my last polish pass on my third major draft of Untimed. [Update 7:44pm, finished the polish] This is one of the umpteen revision passes. Only another day or two to go before I send it off again and get down to waiting for feedback (hands down my least favorite part of writing).

The book totally kicks ass BTW — biased opinion but true.

Anyway, this has me planning to spend my “downtime” (waiting) doing some really serious research on self-publishing my first novel, The Darkening Dream, and seeing if I can get it out there before the holiday season.

I’ve been following self-publishing blogs like A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and Dean Wesley Smith for around a year. These guys — rhetoric aside — have made sense for some time but the arguments for traditional publishing grow lamer and lamer. Check out something like this, which lays it out there — albeit with a lot of flavor. Publishing is in the throws of the cataclysmic “doing digital” change that has or is shaking up all the media businesses. For example, in music the conversion from media (vinyl, cassette, CD) to MP3 during which the labels/studios stuck their head in the sand and found themselves nearly destroyed.

The fact is, the change is coming no matter what any big old-school companies want or try to do. Readers are well on their way to embracing ebooks, the rise of the tablet (aka iPad), and dropping smartphone and reader prices (order your Kindle Fire here! 250,000 preorders in 5 days!), has etched the writing on the wall (in blood). In a few short years print will make up 20 or less percent of the market. Paper books (and I say this as someone who has a two story library with over 15,000 of them!) aren’t going to vanish instantly, but they won’t be majorly relevant for novel sales.

So this basically guarantees completely and without any doubt that print revenues will crater, leaving publishers unable to support their big overheads. Borders (and nearly every independent) going bankrupt will just hasten this. Barnes and Noble is next. They tried with the Nook, but Amazon is going to crush them (again, Kindle fire, not to mention $79 regular Kindle). And publishers, being large old-school companies that employ LOTS of people under the old model are showing lots of signs of panic, but pretty much not a glimmer of adapting to the changing business.

But they won’t have one soon. Because without control of the gates to bookstores, they don’t control anything.

Right now they still make the better product. But as an author they:

1. tie up rights

2. take way too much money (15% vs 70% doing it yourself)

3. take way too long (15 months instead of like 1-2 to market!)

4. charge too much for ebooks

5. don’t actually do any marketing

6. often have really stupid ideas about “marketability” (like “sex doesn’t sell” or “vampires are over” *)

Eventually new meaner leaner packaging companies will make the murky ground of processing books a bit easier, but in the meantime. Time to get researching.

If anyone knows a kick ass indie book marketer, I’m looking to hire one (that’s the only part I can’t really do myself).

For more posts on writing, click here.

* From above: The Vampire Dairies and True Blood both prove both statements simultaneously asinine. And while TDD does have a vampire, he does not ever sparkle in daylight (900 years and he hasn’t seen a glimpse of it) and he is not in the least sexy. He is, howeverfrightfully smart, cautious, and happy to decorate your house with the entrails of your closest family members.

iPad 2 – Less is More

Second Generation iPad

Being the consummate gadget man, I succumbed to the iPad 2 upgrade. In fact, I even ordered it at 1:01am, only 1 minute after they went on sale (at the Apple online store). Despite my jumping on the bandwagon, it took 13 days to come too. Mostly because I got a 3G model and those were slow to ship.

In any case, over the last year I have been pleasantly surprised at how incredibly useful the iPad is. I’ve already written one article about it, which is all still true. I owned a kindle before the iPad and found that to be of very limited use. Primarily it was good for long vacations where I previously would have dragged 20-30 paperbacks (weighing down my suitcases). With the kindle, just one little device covered that. And the thing had a tremendous battery life. But reading on it was annoying, mostly because the page turning was so slow and the screen only held about 60% of s single paperback page.

Enter the iPad. Seemingly just a giant iPhone, it’s actually radically different. As a book reader it holds a full page, and it’s fast. You can flick back and forth fast enough that it’s “browsable.” This was excruciating on the kindle. The screen is a little harder on the eyes, and the battery life only 10-12 hours instead of weeks, but the speed and size are more important to me. Plus, when you get an email, or feel the obsessive compulsive need to check today’s blog stats, you can just flip over instantly (IOS 4.2 on — so useful I was running the beta for months). It’s also just a darn comfortable way to do all your casual computer crap in bed, in the kitchen, watching tv, etc. There are a number of reasons why. Unlike even a laptop, it’s instant on, you can tuck it in the couch and grab it when an email comes in or you feel the need to look up actors on imdb (which I now do constantly). The battery life is such that as long as you charge it while you sleep, you can do whatever the hell you want with it during the day and not worry. This is so not true of any laptop, including the amazing MacBook pros and airs with their long battery life. You still have to plug them in if you are going to use them all day. The iPad isn’t a necessity, but it sure is convenient.

The First Generation, in a Tuff-luv case

Now as to the iPad 2. If you don’t have an iPad and are at all interested (plus have the disposable $500-829). Get one. The first gen ones are going on sale cheap now too. But if you already own a first gen iPad, it’s more about personal tolerance for being slightly outdated. The new one doesn’t do anything the 1st can’t except for video chat. But it is thinner, lighter, and about twice as snappy. For me, that alone is worth it. As I said, I’m a gadget freak and I use the pad all the time, everyday. The thinness and weight are noticeable, as is the speed. It’s certainly snappier. Apps load faster, the muitasking flips between apps much more smoothly. Not that the first iPad was slow, but this is faster. If you are into the games the GPU is supposedly 9x faster. Infinity Blade and the like seem very zippy now, and they weren’t bad before.

One other thing worth mentioning is the developer only multitouch gestures added to iOS 4.3. Now to use these, you have to connect the iPad to your Xcode 4 enabled Mac and turn on developer mode. This is a free download for devs, or a $5 purchase from the new Mac AppStore. I’ve only been using these for a few days but they’re awesome. Here’s yet another example of how Apple likes gets the little things right. There are 4 gestures. One to bring up and down the multitasking bar. Another to go back to the home screen, and a pair to flip back and forth between apps. It’s surprising how convenient and natural these are.

I haven’t gotten used to the subtle button changes on the new iPad yet. There is more angle to the bevel and this gives the physical controls, including the docking jack, a slightly increased inset, but I’m sure in a couple of days they’ll seem normal.
I got one the the crazy new covers too. I love the cool magnetic lock and the auto turn on / turn off feature. We will see how well the cleaning component does. The thing is ultra slim and light in the cover, particularly compared to the cushy but bulky full leather case I had on the old one. But on the other hand it’s a bit slick, and I’ve already fumbled it once and certainly don’t want to drop it. I might have to see if someone sells some sticky little tape/decal. That was a nice thing about my old case.  I have a thin sticky rubber case on my iPhone 4 for just for the texture.

All and all the iPad 2 is like everyone says, a typical Apple evolutionary tuneup to an already brilliant product. Certainly it’s better in nearly all ways, and the combination of Apple design, software, and heavy vertical integration makes it hands down the only tablet worth considering. I’m writing this blog post on it while out on the town, and while theoretically I could do that on my phone, I never would.

My previous iPad article can be found HERE.

Side by Side

The thickness


Why the iPad is a Document game changer

iPadI work with a lot of documents. By this I mean things one reads, usually mostly text and often PDF’s or Word docs. I always did, but especially now that I’ve been writing. I have drafts of my books, drafts of other peoples books, notes on them, peoples screenplays, programming manuals downloaded off the internet, etc. Books and other printed versions of documents have always been the nicest way to read or edit these things as you can sit somewhere comfortable and you can mark on them easily, but books take a long time to print. The two traditional solutions were:

1. Print it out, which takes a while and wastes paper.

2. Sit at your computer, which is uncomfortable.

The iPad changes the game because it makes it  so easy to read these things. There are lots of ways to get your docs on the device, including just emailing a PDF to yourself and clicking “Save to iBooks.” But you can also use Dropbox. This free app allows you to drag files into a tree of folders on your computer and have them immediately accessible on any iPhone, iPad, or computer with a Dropbox client. You can read there or save to a better app.

Goodreader is a decent and cheap PDF/doc reader ($0.99), although for PDFs the free iBooks is great. Goodreader even allows you to do markup on top of the files and email out annotated PDFs. But the interface for this is a little clunky. For serious editing I use iAnnotate which admittedly is “expensive” for an iPad app ($9.99), but has a really slick interface for marking up documents. I’ve sat on my couch and highlighted, crossed out, edited 500 pages that way. If someone emails you a doc you can do it anywhere without even going to your computer, and no destroying a big hunk of tree for the ream of paper and toner needed to print. Not to mention that 500 pages of looseleaf is hardly convenient.

Basically if someone sent me a draft screenplay or something before I’d put off reading it because sitting at the computer was no fun. Now it’s no different than a published book — I read those on the iPad too.