David Ewalt's Of Dice and Men is a wonderful, energetic and personal history of Dungeons and Dragons. Ewalt -- an editor and writer at Forbes magazine -- played D&D as a geeky adolescent, gave it up through his early adulthood, then fell in love with it again. Dice and Men is the story of his journey in D&D and the history of the game itself.
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If you thought Google deleting your ebooks when you cross a border is unreasonable, check this out: Amazon's textbook rental service comes with fine-print that allows the company to bill your credit card for the full amount if they think you've crossed a state line with it. It's not clear exactly what's going on here, but all signs point to this being part of Amazon's strategy for avoiding having to pay state sales-tax.
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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.
(via Boing Boing Flickr Pool)
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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We've featured Christopher Locke's art here before on several occasions: his spiders made from confiscated scissors bought at TSA auctions; his mobile phone amps made from crazy-quilt brass instrument chimeras; his fossilized modern objects.
So it's treat to feature his first Kickstarter: "a sketchbook that alleviates the anxiety that comes from starting with a blank page. Filled with just the beginnings of drawings, it's up to you to fill in the blanks. Artist's Block has no place in this book!
The sketchbook will be offered in paperback and hardcover, both offering heavy paper suitable for pencil, pen, crayon, marker, or collage. This book is appropriate for kids who are learning to draw, as well as veteran artists who draw all the time. Unlock your potential, and draw something you've never dreamed possible."
There are also mini-lessons on drawing interspersed throughout the book. $15 gets you the paperback, $25 for hardcovers.
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As promised by Jeremy Frommer, the financier who has assembled the largest private collection of Bob Guccione, Omni, Penthouse, and related stuff (a good portion of which is for sale), Omni Reboot is live. Edited by Claire Evans, a writer and editor (and part of the band YACHT), Reboot is starting life as a blog, but Claire tells us she has great hopes for expanding as time progresses.
But what a blog! Friends of Boing Boing Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling contributed fiction to the launch: "I Arise Again" and "The Landline," respectively. The premier also sports a feature on Ben Bova, one of the great science-fiction editors and writers, and a founding editor at Omni; and about what was learned in the "failure" of Biosphere 2.
Claire, also a friend of BB, writes in her introductory editor's note: "We will never be able to compete with your nostalgia." Instead, they're using our nostalgia as a scaffolding by which we will climb to the stars.
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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[Ed: An anonymous reader from the publishing industry wrote in with the following. I have every reason to believe it's true -Cory]
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
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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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."
I ran into ComicMix's Glenn Haumann yesterday at Comic-Con and he told me about ComicMix Pro: a set of professional services for indie comics creators who want to focus on making comics. It sounds like a great idea -- the set of all people who make comics I want to read is bigger than the set of all people who make comics I want to read who know how to manage printing and distribution.
ComicMix Pro Services will advise you on how you can improve your efforts and secure the professional assistance you need. We cover every aspect of the creative and business process and customize our efforts and fees to meet your specific goals, including:
* Editorial Services
* Production, Printing & Distribution
* Marketing and Promotion
* Intellectual Property Services
* Funding Services
* Custom Comics Creation
ComicMix Pro Services
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.
The Financial Times has regular feature called Lunch with the FT in which a columnist takes someone out for lunch and a long chat, and then reports on both the lunch and the talk. I sat down recently with Tim Harford for very nice steaks and cheap wine, and Tim's just written it up:
Doctorow is clearly fascinated by economic issues, and points out that most science fiction and fantasy economies make no logical sense. The exception, he declares, is when Marxists write science fiction or fantasy. Take the recent Hobbit movie, for example. “How can the goblins have a mine that’s so inefficient?” he laughs, as he pauses from ripping the soft flesh from the marrowbones on his plate with his bare hands.
The porterhouse steak arrives, pre-sliced. It’s very good, charred on the outside but soft and pink beneath the surface. Doctorow has asked for horseradish while I am dipping my steak and chips into béarnaise sauce. The conversation is animated enough to slow our progress, and neither of us raises an eyebrow when a waiter noisily drops something fragile on the other side of the dining room.
So, I ask, if only Marxists get economics right in their novels, does that make Doctorow a Marxist? There’s a tension there, somehow – he’s a successful player in the market economy and fluently speaks the language of business; of profit, marketing reach, margins, and price discrimination. But his political activism seems squarely on the left – pro-labour, pro-equality, pro-rights.
“Marxists and capitalists agree on one thing: they agree that the economy is important. Once we’ve agreed on that we’re arguing over the details,” he says.
Plus, check out that caricature!
Lunch with the FT: Cory Doctorow
Tom sez, "I have been thinking for some time how it would be nice to produce a 3D printed book of textures and reliefs. To publish and distribute all the wonderful architectural patterning and decoration we enjoy here in Chicago and beyond. This is the prototype for that idea. The subject matter for this book is derived from 3D scans made of sculptures and reliefs, found at The Art Institute of Chicago and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The scans were all produced using a regular DSLR camera and a software package called 123D Catch. By taking multiple digital photographs of a subject, the user is able to create a lifelike 3D scan of an object, person or architectural feature."
Tom's book is available as a free, downloadable shapefile on Thingiverse.
Orihon (Accordion Book)
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 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!