Wednesday March 31, 2010
The iPad is coming. I’ve ordered one, and I’m hoping (against hope) that it arrives at my office on Friday so I can tinker with it over the weekend and not have to wait until Monday. We’ll see. So I’m all in, is what I’m saying, even if I do not believe (and am, in fact, a little freaked out by) Apple’s claim that the device is “magical.” (Can you believe it’s really right there in the release?)Why am I in? Because I think the device will accelerate the mass adoption of e-books, and I like and distribute e-books. How will the iPad do this? The most important part of this might have already happened with the release of iTunes 9.1, which includes a tab for managing and syncing EPUB-format e-books with the iPad. (You can go to Feedbooks right now if you want, download my books, and pull them into iTunes, just like you would with mp3s. They’ll sync up when your iPad arrives. I’m also trying to gain inclusion for my first e-book, Single, into the iBookstore via Smashwords, although I have a feeling the cover will be ruled geometrically non-compliant. I will change it if I have to, I suppose, although it’s had this cover longer than Smashwords has been around.) The integration of e-books into the iTunes ecosystem alone is huge. Lots of people (myself included) use iPhones to buy, download, and read e-books through third-party apps even without this integration. Adding it can only accelerate this trend. The other part has to do with something I’ve noticed about my own reading behavior. I’ve been working on the web for more than 10 years, and as websites and blogs and social networks ascended, my consumption of books and other long-form writing declined. I sporadically read longer things on a series of Windows Mobile phones I owned—and I would occasionally go on a months-long “real” book binges—but books were fading from my life. And I love books. The best job I ever had was at a bookstore. My wife and I were married in a bookstore. Nevertheless, they were becoming less relevant than the web to the way I lived. (One of the reasons I distributed my first e-book in 2006 was because that’s the way I was reading at the time, and it felt a little ridiculous to not circulate books where I myself might find them.) So there’s the darkness, from a bookish perspective, but here is the light. Now that mobile is getting its act together—I begrudgingly admit that it’s Apple that got it together, although they won’t have the stage to themselves forever—I am reading more than ever. More than I have since grad school, all on my iPhone. I save long articles with Instapaper; I download books from Feedbooks and Smashwords; and (get this) I buy books from Amazon and Kobo. I can’t get enough. The missing piece, I think, was mobile. Books and long-form texts have always been available online, but who wants to hunch over and read off a desktop or a notebook? The Kindle and (almost unexpectedly) the iPhone were the beginning of a mobile reading revolution and the iPad will make it an easy option for even more people. I still run into people who are shocked by the thought of reading off an iPhone screen. The iPad will solve this problem and give lots of other people the opportunity to give e-books a try. To buy a Kindle, you have to already be convinced. If you already have an iPad, on the other hand, you can dabble. (And you can really dabble, sampling books from Stanza, Kobo, Amazon, Ibis—all in addition to the iBookstore.) Some people will dabble and some people’s reading habits will change. Enough to save publishing!?! I have no idea. The issue of whether publishing will or will not be saved is an issue I’ve realized I don’t care so much about. For publishing to be “saved,” the loss of print readership has to be offset by an equal gain in digital readership. This didn’t happen for newspapers and magazines, so I don’t see why it would happen for books. There will be disruptions. But from my perspective—with no industry to save—I’d just like more people to download my books, and the iPad will certainly help, if not overnight, then at least over the weekend. As you can probably tell, I’ve become increasingly interested in e-books, digital storytelling, and the future of the media business generally. I read a lot of feeds and share the best on these topics—and a few others—on Google Reader. (I thought these might spark some discussion via Google Buzz, but well, you know.) But if you want to crib the articles I’m sharing as the iPad apocalypse approaches, grab the RSS feed.
Monday March 29, 2010
I have a new short story—"Pangaea"—up today at the Toronto-based literary website Joyland. Like most "new" short stories, it isn't so new to me. I started on it years ago and it has taken this long for it to come together. (I'm not sure exactly how long it took, although I know the layoff scene is based on events from the first internet bubble. If you hold onto a story long enough it will become timely again, I suppose.) I'm happy with the way it turned out. Have a look.
In related news, if you're in New York you should come to the The Fiction Feed 2 at McNally Jackson Books next Monday, April 5. Organized by Joyland, the event will feature readings by myself and Joyland co-founder Brian Joseph Davis, whose new book—Ronald Reagan My Father—comes out this week. (In preparation, I just finished his last book—I, Tania—which is snort-out-loud funny. It's a re-imagining of the Patty Hearst saga as a told by Patty Hearst if Patty Hearst were Mark Leyner.) After that, we'll discuss the future of publishing with former Soft Skull Press chief Richard Nash. Also, we expect at least two people with industry-saving iPads to be in attendance, so get there early if you want a chance to touch them. (The iPads or the people.)
Friday March 19, 2010
An amazing animation based on one of Howard Beale's doomsday soliloquies from Network, one of my favorite movies by one of my favorite writers, Paddy Chayefsky. (Discovered at 3 Quarks Daily.)
Wednesday March 17, 2010
It’s become a cliché at the weekly “Future of Publishing” conferences we’re having now. At some point, a representative of the publishing industry advises knowingly, “You realize writers have never made money, don’t you?” This rings true to me (based on experience and a rudimentary understanding of the Lives of the Writers), but there’s always a voice in the back of my head, whispering, “That’s exactly what a capitalist who’s about to exploit me might say.” Right, Mr. Vanderbilt, and there isn’t any money in railroads, either.
So I’ve been hoping that somebody would do a serious survey to answer, once and for all, if writing has ever been a winning career choice. This isn’t that survey, but it’s a start. Glad to see I at least out earn Kafka, that goldbricker.
Tuesday March 16, 2010
Sunday March 07, 2010
Just to wrap-up my contribution to the Significant Objects project, this wire basket sold for $27 on Friday with the fifth installment of “Why They Cried” attached. The basket cost $1.50, so that’s a “significance premium” of 1700% generated for Girls Write Now. That was fun. Thanks again to Rob and Josh for having me. Here are the five installments of the series all in one place.
Wednesday March 03, 2010
It just came to me on the subway this morning. Imagine:
Call me Ishmael. [as read by Benicio del Toro]
Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. [as read by Michel Gondry]
“Sorry, I have to take this,” you’ll say. “It’s my mom.”
Call me, John Sargent. Let’s talk. Oh, wait …
Elmer Gantry was drunk. [as read by Billy Bob Thornton]
… there he is now. Gotta go. Time to print the money.
(I joke, but someone will try this. If they haven’t already.)