New journal of Southeast Asian science fiction: Lontar

Jason sez, "The first issue of my new literary journal, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, was just recently released by Singapore-based publisher Math Paper Press. The issue's contributors are Paolo Bacigalupi, Kate Osias, Zen Cho, Paolo Chikiamco, Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, Elka Ray Nguyen and Bryan Thao Worra, all of whom present speculative writing from and about the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam. The print issue can be ordered online through the BooksActually Web Store, and an ebook version will be available in the coming months. A 25% sample can be read for free at Issuu."

Issue #1 (Thanks, Jason!)

Feynman lectures as HTML

Here's an HTML-ified version of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, volume one, courtesy of the good folks at CalTech. We discussed these lectures when I reviewed Feynman, a biography in graphic novel form; they're justly considered to be one of the great works of physics instruction.

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Lego robot that strips DRM off Kindle books

Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at Vienna University of Technology, built a Lego Mindstorms robot that presses "next page" on his Kindle repeatedly while it faces his laptop's webcam. The cam snaps a picture of each screen and saves it to a folder that is automatically processed through an online optical character recognition program. The result is an automated means of redigitizing DRM-crippled ebooks in a clear digital format. It's clunky compared to simply removing the DRM using common software, but unlike those DRM-circumvention tools, this setup does not violate the law.

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Cross a border, lose your ebooks

Jim O'Donnell was at a library conference in Singapore when his Ipad's Google Play app asked him to update it. This was the app through which he had bought 30 to 40 ebooks, and after the app had updated, it started to re-download them. However, Singapore is not one of the countries where the Google Play bookstore is active, so it stopped downloading and told him he was no longer entitled to his books.

It's an odd confluence of travel, updates, and location-checking, but it points out just how totally, irretrievably broken the idea of DRM and region-controls for ebooks is.

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How the Strand sells print books to ebook readers


Avi Solomon snapped this pic of the window display at NYC bookstore The Strand lauding the virtues of their "Real books priced lower than ebooks," including the fact that you can read them during take-off and landing.

Real Books... (via Boing Boing Flickr Pool)

Dutch ebook sellers promise to spy on everyone's reading habits, share them with "anti-piracy" group

Earlier this summer, the German Booksellers Association announced a daft "watermarking" process for ebooks that would introduce random variations in the text as a means of uniquely identifying them. At the time, I pointed out that this was just silly: firstly, it's not hard to detect and vary the watermarks (just compare two different copies of the text using a 40-year-old program called "diff") and secondly, because the fact that a pirate site has a copy of a book with "your" watermark in it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's not illegal to lose your computer, be hacked, or give your hard-drive away.

What I totally failed to anticipate was that booksellers and publishers would use watermarking as a rubric for tracking and sharing information about everything that everyone is reading. In the Netherlands, ebook sellers have announced that they will retain full reading records on their customers for at least two years, and will share that information with an "anti-piracy" group called BREIN (a group that already has the power to order Dutch ISPs to censor the Internet, without due process or judicial oversight; and who, ironically, were caught ripping off musicians for their anti-piracy ads).

I am not often shocked by the insanity of anti-piracy efforts, but this one has me agog. As a former bookseller, I can't believe that people in the business of putting books into readers' hands would casually spy on their customers' reading habits, and, worse still, turn them over to a sleazy third party with a track-record of bullying, corruption, and censorship.

It's hard to imagine a less ethical business practice. Piracy (that is, "reading books the wrong way") pales by comparison alongside of it. If the Dutch booksellers had set out to build the case for piracy as the safest, most virtuous reading practice, they could have done no better.

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Why writers should stand up for libraries

Earlier this summer, I worked with the American Library Association on their Authors for Library Ebooks project -- which is asking authors to call on their publishers to offer ebooks to libraries at a fair price. Right now, libraries pay several times more for ebooks than people off the street -- up to six times more! I recorded this video explaining why libraries and authors are natural allies.

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Penguin's insane policy on electronic galleys for authors

[Ed: An anonymous reader from the publishing industry wrote in with the following. I have every reason to believe it's true -Cory]


Update: An agent writes in to say: "Penguin ALSO doesn't want to give agents the hi-res final jacket image without charging. We can often beg/loophole/cajole -- but the official party line is they are supposed to charge $300. (???!) Mind you, this could pretty much ONLY be used to promote the book. We like to put the book jacket on our agency website, in our agency catalogues for foreign book fairs, make postcards, etc... but obviously we can't authorize any other territory to use this image. So essentially they are saying they don't want us to create promo material on the book's behalf, even on our own dime."

There's something going on at Penguin (interesting to see if it changes now that it's Penguin Random House, though all signs point no) that's so stupid and old school and against all authors that I thought I'd share.

In every contract in publishing, there's language (as you know) that gives an author a certain number of copies of the book, on publication. When ebooks came to play, agents began trying to negotiate for an electronic version of the book too, oftentimes successful. What they /can't/ get from Penguin (and a few other publishers, though notably Penguin) is a final PDF or even a final word doc of the book. Agents are told that Penguin puts work into the layout, edit and design and so agents can't just give that work away to foreign countries for them to use in their editions. That work must be paid for. I semi-buy that argument, though it makes me think two things: 1) Shame on them for getting in the way (as they do sometimes) of a foreign deal and 2) Penguin is contractually obligated to create the book anyway, with all of those pieces.

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Warren Ellis's Dead Pig Collector excerpt

Tor.com's posted a long excerpt from Dead Pig Collector, Warren Ellis's forthcoming novella about an assassin who is being hunted. It will be published in full on July 30.

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Tomely: a DRM-free, name-your-price ebook bundle for tech books

Justin sez, "Tomely.com is a DRM-free eBook seller who bundled some amazing eBooks together. Readers set the price. Part of the proceeds go to charity. Bundle offer ends in 11 days." Cory 14

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking

I must have read Space Viking over a hundred times. Since my youth, H. Beam Piper's Terro-Human histories, as well as his Paratime novels, have thrilled me.

Space Viking lays out Piper's Terro-Human universe several generations after the collapse of the Federation, a galaxy spanning human government. Civilization, across space, is slowly reverting to barbarism, except a few worlds that've held on.

The Sword Worlds struggle on but they are unwittingly watching their chances at a civilized future slip away. Pirating former colonized worlds for goods and treasure has left the Sword Worlds uncreative and culturally parasitical. Few realize the doom looming on the horizon but when a madman kills Lucas Trask's fiancé, Trask's quest for vengeance becomes instead a movement for hope.

I love H. Beam Piper and can't recommend Space Viking highly enough.

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking -- FREE in the Kindle Store

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking -- FREE on Project Gutenberg

This is How You Die: the sequel to Machine of Death

David Malki ! writes, "After poring over 2,000 story submissions, commissioning dozens of illustrations, and waiting ever-so-eagerly, we're so pleased that the sequel to Machine of Death is out now! It's called THIS IS HOW YOU DIE and it's published by Grand Central. We've put a 90-page free PDF preview on our site, and we also made a really cool short film to introduce people to the MOD concept."

Machine of Death is part of the current Humble Ebook Bundle, which closes in about a day -- that is, you've got a day to name your price for Machine of Death, along with books like Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, Wil Wheaton's Just a Geek, Louis McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, XKCD Vol 0, Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, my novel Little Brother, Holly Black's Poison Eaters, and Neil Gaiman's Signal to Noise -- a seriously kick-ass deal.

This Is How You Die

Five years of amazing short sf from Tor.com - free ebook

Tor.com, the electronic arm of Tor Books, has published a free-to-members ebook called The Stores: Five Years of Original Fiction From Tor.com, collecting stories originally published on the site by John Scalzi, Rachel Swirsky, and many other writers (including me!). It costs nothing to sign up for Tor.com, and new signups can get the anthology for free. Cory 2

Humble Ebook Bundle reveals second week bonus books: XKCD, Gaiman/McKean, Holly Black & Machine of Death!


The Humble Ebook Bundle -- a two-week, pay-what-you-like, DRM-free ebook sale -- has just revealed the four bonus books in week two: XKCD Volume 0 by Randall Munrow; Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean; Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black and the bestselling Machine of Death anthology. To get these bonus titles, you have to pay more than the present average for the books (if you bought already and paid more than the average at the time, these books are already yours to download, otherwise, you can top up your payment to get them). Remember, you can also buy the bundle as a gift-code to give to a friend!

(Reminder: the Bundle also includes Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn; Wil Wheaton's Just a Geek; Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor; Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker and my Little Brother)

NASA ebooks

NASA has a great collection of ebooks about space, science, aeronautics, and the history of science. All DRM-free PDFs. Your tax dollars, at (good) work! (Thanks, Alan!) Cory 4