The Deliverator – Wannabee

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Archive for the 'Books' Category

The perpetually sucky state of non-destructive book scanning

Posted by Deliverator on 7th February 2012

Every few years I find myself in the unenviable position of unavoidably needing to non-destructively scan a book. Every few years I pray that someone has come up with an affordable, reasonably quick way of doing this that produces good quality results. Every few years I burn an evening researching the state of the field. Every few years I come away disappointed. Here are my observations from this go around:

Hardware:

Sheet Feeders – If you can afford to destroy the book, you can cut off the binding with a fine toothed band-saw or other power tool of your choice and feed the pages through a sheet-feeder style scanner. Sheet feeders like the popular Fujitsu ScanSnap series can scan both sides of each pages at something like 20 pages per minute at 600ish DPI. This is mighty impressive as it cuts the actual scanning time for a book down to something like a half hour. Unfortunately, when I find myself in the position of needing to scan a book, it is usually some rare tome it took me 2 years and $300 to find on AbeBooks. For my purposes, solutions requiring a band-saw need not apply. Also, many of the better scanners cost $400+, which is pushing what I would consider affordable.

Commercial Copy Stands range from simple single overhead camera rigs to more complex dual camera rigs with adjustable cradles to support the book without damaging it, re-positionable lighting, non-reflective glass to hold the pages flat, automatic page flippers, etc. Commercial, off-the-shelf solutions from companies like Atiz can run $14k+ without even factoring in the cost of cameras (typically high end Canon DSLRs). Great, if you are a university library spending grant money, sucky if you are a book nerd on a budget.

DIY Copy Stands – A substantial percentage of the functionality, speed and quality of these rigs can be replicated for under $1000 by building your own dual camera copy stand following one of the several increasingly standardized designs from the DIY Book Scanner project. This is still more time and money than I want to spend and probably more space than I want to waste for a device I would only very seldom use. When a full, well documented/supported, single evening kit is available for under $300 plus the cost of cameras, I will probably be interested. The BookLiberator looked to commercially produce kits that would meet all my requirements, but efforts to produce the units fell apart after Ion Audio announced its similar sub-$200 BookSaver product at CES 2011. Ion has since VERY quietly pulled the plug on the BookSaver without ever selling any, but their initial product announcement was enough to send most small, independent efforts to produce a similar device scurrying for someplace small and dark.

Flatbed scanners are an inexpensive, mature, widely used technology which suck at scanning books in a wide variety of ways. First, most flatbeds tend to be optimized for high quality scans of things like photos, not for speed. Secondly, most scanners have a significant bezel around the scanning platen, meaning the only way to scan a book is to significantly bend/distort the spin in order to get the pages to lie flat against the glass. Even mashed against the glass, you usually get significant page distortion near the binding resulting in curving text and uneven illumination.

Several years ago I purchased a Plustek OpticBook 3600 plus, a flatbed scanner specially optimized for scanning books. The OpticBook has a very thin bezel along one edge of the platen which lets you open a book to a 90 degree angle and have one page flat against the glass while the other hangs freely over the side. This lets you produce an undistorted scan of a page without significantly bending the spine. The “DigiBook” software included with the scanner has an automatic page rotation feature, so that every other page gets rotated 180 degrees. This lets you scan a page, flip the book over to scan the opposite page and have everything automatically rotated the right way. There are giant over-sized buttons on the scanner that let you trigger a scan in B&W, greyscale or color. The actual scan takes 5-8 seconds, as the scanner is optimized for speed, rather than highest possible DPI.

The OpticBook concept is very nice in theory, but the implementation leaves something to be desired. Even with the scanner bezel as thin as it is, the scanning element doesn’t get close enough to the binding to scan most paperbacks. It works fine for hard covers like textbooks, where the content doesn’t start as close to the binding. The software is also very crash prone and the work-flow somewhat less than ideal, with the operator having to hit a “transfer” button in the software after each page to write the image out to disk, despite the over-sized buttons on the scanner itself. Anything that adds 5-10 extra seconds to the work-flow gets multiplied tremendously over a 500+ page book. These scanners are also very poorly sealed, with significant dust accumulating on the interior of the glass plate with no easy way to clean it short of disassembly. There doesn’t appear to be a way to adjust the lamp brightness, so you tend to get a bit of bleed through from text on the other side of pages you are scanning. Many users also complain of short bulb life, although my unit is still functional. From reviews I’ve read, I am not convinced that Plustek has learned much from their mistakes in successive models in this series.

Handheld Scanners – I’ve never been impressed with the quality of the results from hand-held “wand” scanners. I haven’t personally checked out any of these devices in years, as I’ve largely consigned the whole category into Sharper Image / SkyMall crap-gadget territory. If someone wants to tell me that X device can quickly and accurately scan a paperback, I may look into these in the future.

Software:

Post Processing – While hardware has seen little improvement since my last review, there have been some improvements on the software side of things. The DIY Book Scanner project has yielded a plethora of scripts, tools, etc. for packaging up scans into various digital book formats. Of these, I have found a tool called Scan Tailor to be the most polished, easy to install, and to use. Scan Tailor will take a directory filled with scanned images and will straighten, deskew, remove background and bleed through (to give you black text on a pure white background), set a constant page size/margin, etc. Scan Tailor will work almost completely auto-magically through each step of the process and if it does make a mistake, it is easy for the user to intervene and apply a manual correction. Scan Tailor cut my workflow from previous years of 6-8 programs and scripts (each with fussy dependencies on libraries and frameworks) down to 3. I still do some post processing of scans in irfanView and Scan Tailor doesn’t do the final bundling of images into PDFs, DJVU, etc. or do OCR, but other than that it is pretty much a one stop shop for post scan image processing.

Binding – Once you have a directory full of post processed images, what are you going to do with them? I am still using Presto Pagemanager 7.10 for assembling my post processed TIFF images into PDFs. It isn’t ideal in many ways, but has the virtue of not costing me anything more and working consistently, if in somewhat of a hurky-jerky liable to temporarily freeze Explorer kinda way. I played around with a half dozen PDF/DJVU binder scripts/programs recommended by the book scanning forums and basically concluded that the free options all royally sucked in one way or another, not the least of which is requiring me to install 5 different programming frameworks just to try them out. Scan Tailor is a lovely, consistent, unified application that is easy to install and use. The DIY Book Scanner community could really use something as well done for the binding stage of the process. As it is, one is left to fend with a gobbledygook of unmanageable python scripts, ruby scripts, feeding various Unix command line utilities and throwing an undocumented fit anytime it finds something not to its liking. The situation is marginally improved if you want to output DjVu files rather than PDFs, but only marginally.

OCR – So, you want to turn those post processed scans into a re-flowable format like .epub for easy reading on your ebook reader device? You are kidding me, right? OCR is one of those things that has been around since the dawn of scanning and despite a lot of protestations seems to have changed little. If you asked me about the state of OCR 5 or 10 years ago I would have told you there is Omnipage & Abbyy Fine Reader & everything else. Today, that still seems to be the state of the industry. I tried a half dozen of the everything else variety including OpenOCR (Cuneiform), VietOCR and TiffDjvuOCR. Most of the free solutions seem to use Tesseract, an open source OCR engine from Google. Across 3 books with straightforward, single column formatting and commonly used fonts, I found the free OCR packages basically good enough to create a rough keyword index for searching books, but nothing near the accuracy to create a readable, reflowable ebook without significant time spent correcting errors. I concluded I might actually be able to retype a book faster and more accurately than if I tried to correct all the strange and easily unspotted errors committed by OCR. I would be curious to try the commercial packages at some point, as a lot of book scanners seem to swear by recent versions of Abbyy Fine Reader, but I’m not really in the mood to spend $150+ to fart around with either of the commercial offerings.

Posted in Books, General, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | 2 Comments »

A brief rant about ebook readers

Posted by Deliverator on 24th March 2010

I’ve been reading books electronically in one form or another since 1996 (on a USR Pilot 5000). Since then, I’ve owned ~8 devices on which I regularly read ebooks. Several of those devices have been dedicated, purpose built devices, ostensibly for reading ebooks and little else.

I currently do most of my electronic reading on a Sony PRS-505 with a Sony front light wedge/leather case accessory. I’ve been enacting a boycott on purchasing Sony products since the Sony Rootkit Debacle, but received the reader as a gift. Since receiving the Sony reader, Sony has released 3-4 new readers.

This year, it seems like hardly a day has passed when the tech news sites haven’t covered the release of a new reader product from some company or another. In some cases, this latest batch of e-ink readers represent 3rd, 4th or even 5th generation products. One would expect a pretty fine degree of design refinement from a 5th generation product, especially one devoted to such a singular task. Yet, virtually all the readers, announced or on the market today, fail to address 3 fundamental user experience issues. I seldom see these issues brought up to any great degree in product reviews, either. Yet, for me, these issues are key to enjoying an electronic reading experience:

  1. An ebook reader should be comfortable to hold in one’s hand (notice the singular there) for an extended period of time and without risk of slipping or dropping the device due to positional fatigue, accidental jarring, etc. Virtually all the readers on the market are thin, rectangular shaped devices and are often made of slick plastic or metal that provides for an actively slippery surface when combined with sweaty palms. Additionally, the above should apply in both horizontal and vertical orientations for both right and left handed individuals.
  2. Regardless of screen orientation, the next page/previous page buttons should lie under one’s thumbs. Simple turning of the page is by far the most frequently accessed function on any ebook reader. It should just be there without need to reach or place the reader in a stressful/uncomfortable position. The next page button in particular should be over-sized. A D-pad is not an acceptable substitute.
  3. This last is going to be somewhat controversial. The vast majority of day to day recreational reading (novels and the like) is done in the evening and at night, often times in less than ideal lighting conditions, especially for those who share their beds with a partner. Ebook readers need to incorporate some form of front or back lighting into their designs or offer well integrated official lighting accessories. This is a somewhat unpalatable task with the current crop of E-ink displays, where adding front lighting generally consists of placing an edge lit piece of clear plastic in front of the display. Adding another layer in front of the display diminishes the clarity and contrast of the display. And the high contrast, paper-like nature of E-ink displays are a good part of the reason that ebook readers use this sort of display in the first place instead of LCD, OLED and other display technologies.

The only reader I’ve owned which has come close to satisfying these requirement was the Nuvomedia Rocket eBook.

Nuvomedia Rocket eBook

This was one of the first electronic book readers sold and yet in many fundamental ways it was more enjoyable to use than devices made over a decade later in a far more mature & technologically advanced marketplace. It had an ergonomic, curvy wedge shape that was easy to cradle in the palm of one’s hand. Later versions of the device included a rubberized backside to make it even easier to grasp. The page up/down buttons were over-sized and comfortable to actuate without moving one’s hands in the portrait orientation for both right and left handed users and weren’t too bad in the horizontal orientation, either. The screen resolution doesn’t really compare to modern readers, but it was a high contrast B&W LCD and had decent back-lighting for night reading. Astoundingly, 10+ years later, a variant of this original device is still being sold as the eBookwise 1150 for ~$100. My personal experience with the later revisions of the Rocket eBook (post Gemstart acquisition) is that they used much lower quality displays, but I would be interested in opinions from more recent users.

In conclusion, I would really like for Sony/Amazon/B&N or SOMEBODY to make a comfortable to use ebook reader.

Posted in Books, General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Why Old Media Deserves to Die

Posted by Deliverator on 5th March 2009

It looks like The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a newspaper which has been in existence for some 137 years is likely to close up shop within a few weeks time, or be cut back to the extent that they are no longer recognizable. It is likely that some web-only presence will remain, but print runs will cease and employment will be decimated. It is not entirely unlikely that the Seattle Times will fold in the not too distant future as well. Old media, for a large variety of reasons is facing tough times and I have a tough time finding pity for them. They have been all too slow to adapt to changing times and quite simply don’t get the power and opportunities of The Internet. Most of the traditional newspaper’s online presences merely ape the appearance of the dead tree edition and do little to leverage the power of the web. To them, it is just another delivery mechanism (a series of tubes, perhaps?) to deliver the same content in the same top down, one way, non-interactive fashion. Fundamentally, not only are content providers having a difficult time figuring out how to make money on the web, they are having as much of a problem figuring out how the web can save them money.

I recently read a back of the napkin analysis that suggested that amortized over the period of a few years, it would be cheaper for The New York Times to buy all their readers a Kindle than to print and deliver them a daily dead tree edition. I would be very interested in media producers subsidizing the high cost of a Kindle II or similar device in order to get their content in front of consumer eyeballs. Somehow, I suspect that the NYT will keep on moving dead trees around till their dying day and their online presence will remain shrouded behind a pay wall or login prompt, increasingly making them irrelevant to broad public discourse on the day’s events.

Today, I was listening to a podcast of an episode of This American Life. Ira Glass, the show’s host, came on at the beginning of the Podcast to talk about how the Podcast is costing the station something like $150,000 a year in bandwidth bills. This American Life’s solution to their budget problem was to beg the public for money. I feel profoundly disinclined to cough up my hard earned when something as simple as providing an optional torrent feed of their show in parallel to their existing feed would greatly diminish those costs. Other nationally syndicated radio shows have already demonstrated that this can work and it basically costs them nothing to provide. This American Life has a large and rabid fan base and I would gladly pitch in a few bucks to make my commute more interesting if the Ira Glass was asking his listeners to please click on a this link rather than that link in order to help save them money.

There is a lot of Old Media I like and I am more than a little nostalgic about a lot of it, but I am also very excited about the new forms and directions that media is taking and in the end, there are only so many minutes in the day and bucks in my pocket. I will chose the options that are broadly accessible, usable and convenient to me and avoid ones which require me to jump through hoops, utilize special software or proprietary devices and try to substitute some pseudo-form of rental instead of real ownership upon me. Culture has become broad enough that when faced with even the slightest inconvenience the modern media consumer can simply swerve towards some other shiny thing.

Posted in Books, General, Media, Movies, Music, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Sir Arthur C Clarke Dead at 90

Posted by Deliverator on 19th March 2008

Arthur C Clarke took his final trip up that great space elevator in the sky today. He was the last living of “The Big Three” science fiction authors (the others being Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov). It is hard to overstate the impact of Clarke’s works not just in the science fiction community, but on science and engineering in the 20th century. Clarke is widely credited with scientifically developing the concept of geostationary communications satellites, having first set the idea to paper in 1945, some 20 years before the first launch of such a satellite. These days, there are literally hundreds of functional satellites in geostationary orbit. Geostationary orbit is officially named Clarke Orbit in his honor. His concept of a space elevator may take longer to realize, but serious materials engineers believe the essential building blocks of such a system (likely carbon nanotubes) will be used for a wide variety of large and EXTREMELY small scale applications in my lifetime. The large scale exploration and exploitation of the solar system will almost certainly require the construction of such a device. Right now, to most people’s understanding a space elevator is a whimsical, almost magical idea, but as Clarke has oft been quoted, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Like the geostationary satellite before it, the fundamental idea of the space elevator is sound and if we could only regain the political vision to look to the stars instead of to oil, mankind might survive its adolescence. It saddens me to think that such an optimistic and foreward thinking man as Clarke died in such dismal times. Now that Sir Clarke has passed, the naming of things will begin in earnest. He’s already had a few spacecraft and an asteroid named in his honor, but I have little doubt that his crowning monument of his life will one day be The Clarke Space Elevator.

Update: Let the naming begin.

Posted in Books, Media | No Comments »

The Prestige

Posted by Deliverator on 15th October 2006

I recently read The Prestige, a book by author Christopher Priest, in anticipation of the impending release of a film adaptation from director Christopher Nolan. Chris Nolan did Momento and Insomnia and is most recently credited with the revitalization of the Batman franchise with Batman Begins. The movie features a star studded cast including Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie as Nikola Tesla! From the trailer, it looks to be a kick.

I look forward to seeing what he can do with it. I will be seeing The Prestige this coming edit SUNDAY at Lincoln Square if anyone would like to accompany me.

* SPOILER ALERT *
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Books, General, Media, Movies | 1 Comment »

iRex Iliad – In The Wild

Posted by Deliverator on 26th July 2006

iRex Iliad

Well, after many delays, it is finally possible to purchase the iRex Iliad…kinda. iRex started fullfilling large business orders earlier this month, but just recently opened its e-store to individual/small quantity orders. The catch is that the website indicates a 3-5 week ship time, which really makes this a press-release “paper” launch. Still, it is now possible to at least order the Iliad for delivery, hopefully with package arrival prior to September. Even after all these delays, the Iliad is not as Delayed as Sony’s e-ink based reader, which now appears to be on track for a winter holiday release. It is possible to purchase an Iliad reader for immediate delivery. They are being resold by at least one of those business customers I mentioned earlier. A company called Arinc has slapped a bunch of aviation documents on the Iliad and is selling it as the eFlybook. Buying an Iliad now in the form of an eFlybook will cost you an additional $90 or so for the priviledge, adding to the Iliad’s already exhorbitant $810 price, although the eFlybook also comes with a 512 MB SD card to store all those aviation document.

The Sony reader, while lacking some of the Iliad’s neat features, like a pen digitizer for drawing and marking up documents, is expected to retail at a much more palateable $350-400. I am still waiting for a sincere public apology from Sony for the arrogant, contemptful behavior of intentionally rootkitting their customer’s computers with DRM laden music CDs. In my mind, Sony’s actions were downright criminal. Until I hear Sony changing their tune, I don’t intend to purchase another Sony product.

I can understand iRex’s desire to be first to market with their product, but it seems like their software is rather incomplete at this point and that many bleeding edge purchasers (they don’t call it the bleeding edge for nothing) are in for a very disappointing user experience. The software significantly under-delivers on oft repeated specifications including supported document formats, note taking/document markup abilities, page turn rates, document navigation abilities, etc. For instance, the Iliad currently lacks the simple ability to bookmark the last page you were on in a document! This, coupled with the lack of a quick way to navigate within a document will make it intolerable to try and work with long documents or read a book over multiple sessions. The poor document navigation is coupled with rediculously long page flip times. I have seen several videos that seem to indicate an average page transition time of six seconds!

iRex has long claimed that the hardware is capable of displaying a new page in around a second. This has slipped to two seconds in the final stated specs, but doesn’t take into account software overhead. From what I can gather, when viewing a PDF, the Iliad does no prerendering of upcoming pages (much less prerender them all to begin with), which means that the Iliad waits until you hit the next page button to even start calculating a bitmap with which to refresh the diplay. From what I can see, the hardware is very well designed, but the software needs significant fleshing out before this product will become interesting at any price. iRex has promised to add many features to be released as software updates, but this is coming from a company whose product slipped several release dates due apparently to software development issues and shipped with significantly less functionality than announced (including some truely basic functions). In addition, iRex is going to be facing some very stiff competition from Sony in a few months. Early adopters represent a very small portion of the potential market for something like this, and vertical market companies that deal with a lot of documents (lawyers, medical, etc.) are definitely going to evaluate functionality before placing their orders. I suspect that Iliad has at most a few months to straighten out their product or risk becoming a footnote as established brands release more polished products. I can’t help but feel that iRex would have a lot to gain from opening up the specs/software interface. Passionate user communities can add a lot to the value of a product, but only if you foster your relationship with those communities quickly enough to make a difference in the marketplace.

A perfect example of this is the iRiver series of audio players. The iRiver H120 is considered by many audiophiles to be the best hard disk based mp3 player ever made, due largely to the excellent 3rd party Rockbox firmware. The problem is that Rockbox took a long time to mature, largely because hardware documentation was poor to non-existant and the developers had to reverse engineer virtually everything. The H120 hardware was far superior to anything released by Apple at the time. The H300 series, similarly, beat Apple to market with a hard disk player with a beautiful color screen. iRiver was doing photos and videos long before Steve Job announced a photo ipod, much less one that could play videos. I would argue that both of these products failed to make a splash due to lack of real community building from iRiver, and these days that means supporting outside developers.

Don’t just build a product to meet the needs of just those consumers which you can pigeonhole into your narrow-minded imagination. Release your product openly and let the world, in all its diversity, come up with those 1001 uses of which you could never imagine. Time and again the computer world has been reinvigorated by off the wall ideas cooked up by individuals or small groups of people:

-mp3s
-blogging
-podcasting
-p2p networking
-social networking

Many of these ideas started out quite small and yet have generated many billions of dollars. Especially when reaching out into a new and largely unexplored market, there is huge value in building strong community relationships and letting the community point the way. E-ink is a new medium and can only be succesful if it lets the customers decide the message. If the e-ink companies continue with the “It’s a $800 device for reading a small selection of nominally marked down best-sellers from 2 years ago” then e-ink will die a quick death like all the other failed ebook initiatives. If, however the companies approach it as “E-ink is an amazing display technology which we have attractively packaged into this neat device, which out of the box can do x, y, z, but we would love to see what you can make it do” then I think e-ink will have a place in the market for a long time to come and I will happily shell out $800 of my hard-earned.

Posted in Books, General, Media, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | 2 Comments »

iRex ebook reader – coming real soon, we promise!

Posted by Deliverator on 19th March 2006

iRex iLiad

I just read on engadget that it looks like the iRex iLiad ebook reader device is actually going to make it to market. It will be going on sale next month with an expected price somewhere between $300 and $400 (which probably means $399.99). The iLiad is, in my mind, the first real stab at a general purpose ebook reader device since the Gemstar Rocketbook (now available through eBookwise). Sony has been selling an ebook reader in Japan for a number of years called the Librie, but its strange control layout and crippling DRM makes it a non-viable option, imo. Sony is also planning on releasing an ebook reader for the US market, but I am not much interested in purchasing Sony products any longer. The Sony rootkit debacle left a very bad taste in my mouth and until I see some signs of real contrition from Sony, I will not be purchasing any Sony branded products.

Anyways, back to the iLiad. Here are the reasons I think it will be a success:

-support for a large number of non-proprietary formats at launch
-very high resolution display
-20 hour battery life
-high contrast eink display, which is readable in direct sunlight
-touchscreen
-wide variety of connectivity & storage options

Some fairly detailed specs of the iLiad have been released, but I still have a few concerns.

-The iLiad appears to be a totally flat tablet, without any consideration of the ergonomics of actually having to hold the device for hours on end. The gemstar line included a curved , rubber molded grip so that the reader could be held comfortably with one hand for hours on end.
-no indication of dedicated page up and down buttons. Ideally, the device should be able to be held in one hand with controls for basic functions such as flipping the page accessible without having to use one’s other hand or having to reposition the device.
-Uses rechargeable batteries. Lets face it, batteries technology just plain sucks and trying to find a replacement battery years down the line for a gadget that is no longer sold comes close to my vision of the ninth circle of hell. I cannot recall the number of battery packs that I’ve had to rebuild over the years. I would much rather see a device like this come with NIMH rechargeables in a standard size.

Unless this device receives some very bad feedback, I will almost certainly be purchasing one. You should be able to order your very own iLiad next month through iRex’s online store.

Posted in Books, General, Portable Computing/Gadgets | 5 Comments »

Marking Time

Posted by Deliverator on 14th March 2006

We all note the passage of time in our own unique ways. One of the things that makes me note “hey, another year has gone by” is my annual purchasing of the humungous and authoritative anthology “The Year’s Best Science Fiction” edited by Gardner Dozois. I have been reading these annually for as many year’s as I have been able to read. I had very little pocket change growing up and more than that, there were few places nearby to spend it, so my insatiable reading addiction had to be satisfied by the local library. As such, my personal collection did not start until the 7th annual anthology. I recently started a minor personal quest to make my complete my collection. It has taken months of searching, but the end is in sight. As of a few days ago, I now own every yearly anthology from the 2nd to the 22nd.

The second annual edition was particularly difficult to nail down, as it has become quite collectible for rather more morbid reasons. The cover depicts a “future history” of New York, starting with the present on the far left and the distant future on the right. The leftmost part of the cover shows the World Trade Center, with a fireball explosion blooming out of the upper floors of the building. The cover art for this book was created in the early 80’s, almost twenty years before 9/11.

Dozois Second Annual Anthlology

As of now, the only one for which I am still searching is the first annual collection from 1983. I have found copies of it for sale, but not for much less than ~$500, which *personal obsessions aside* I am not willing to pay.

Posted in Books, General, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Accelerondo

Posted by Deliverator on 10th November 2005

I recently picked up a copy of Accelerondo, a new singularity themed book by Charles Stross, which has been getting mentioned by quite a few people I know. Anita, who needs all twenty digits to count her scifi author friends, was showing off her galley print of it at a recent Eastside Bloggers Meetup. Vernor Vinge sung the book’s praises at the recent Accelerating Change conference. About the only conferences I can afford to attend these days are free ones. But with great free events like Mind Camp, who wants to plunk down $500-$1000. Vernor Vinge is widely attributed as the creator (or some would say earliest predictor) off the Singularity concept. His science fiction stories are pure gold. They are always stuff to the gills with new imaginings – in the finest spirit of that part of the genre which should properly be termed speculative fiction. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Vinge, so his recommendation of Accelerondo was enough to seal the deal. I headed over to Amazon to make my purchase, only to find that they were actively promoting a free PDF edition as well. I chose to download and read on my Jornada and have been doing so with much delight for the last few days. I am sure I have read parts of the book before in serialized or novella form, but cannot recall where. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book thus far and will pick up a dead tree edition soon. I like keeping my author’s wallets full, even though I actually prefer ebooks, these days.

As to spoilers, I will only say this:

In space, nobody can hear your colorless green ideas sleep furiously

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Virtual Author Collaboration in Second Life

Posted by Deliverator on 5th November 2005

Stayed up far too late last night in order to chat with Cory Doctorow, who is currently in London. I found the mismatched hours particularly amusing given that I had recently read Cory’s second novel, “EST.” The chat took place in Second Life, at a new library that seems to serve as a place for authors to share and discuss their works in progress. Cory has been impressing me with the sheer volume of material that he has been putting out of late. Cory has a new novel out on shelves, another on the way, has been serializing a story called “Themepunks” and is of course a regularly featured Boing Boing blogger. The event was much smaller than his last official Second Life appearance, in promotion of his book “Someone Comes to Town…Someone Leaves Town,” perhaps due to being announced at the last minute and in the middle of the night. There were around 10 people in attendance, which gave the event a much more intimate, conversational feel. The main topic for the evening was nanowrimo, an annual event in which participants attempt to write a novel length book in a single month. Other topics included splogs (spam-like blogs that steal content from legitimate sites), serialization & syndication, dealing with agents & publishers, compensation schemes for content in general and writing in particular, etc. The typing was fast and furious, so this is the lightest touch of the subjects discussed. I had a very enjoyable time and I found SL to be a very effective way for people located around the world to converse about common topics in a fairly personal way.

Posted in Books, General, Media, Rants and Raves | No Comments »