National Science Fiction Day

National Science Fiction Day

Today is officially the unofficially official National Science Fiction Day. So happy NSFD! I got this info from both Wikipedia and Slate… is it possible to get any more legit than that?

The day was chosen due to it being Isaac Asimov‘s birthday. Which is a pretty good reason. Asimov has written one book for every star in the sky it seems. And his Foundation Trilogy is one that sparked my reading interests many many many years ago.

different engines coverIf you are interested in the history of Science Fiction I do not think you can do much better than Brake’s and Hook’s Different Engines. This book may feel a bit dry at times, but it’s simply because it ranks well in the researched/scholarly category and you are learning stuff. But the book is fascinating and worth your time.

They convincingly trace the birth of Science Fiction to Johannes Kepler’s Somnium, which he was working on in 1593, but was published posthumously in 1634. Their sense of what is and isn’t Science Fiction is a good one and offers wonderful insights for any fan of the genre.

As a gift for National Science Fiction Day this year I’m offering you a link. A very sci-fi bookish/reading link. Click here to go to Project Gutenberg and download a free ebook version of Lyn Venable’s Time Enough at Last. This is the short story that inspired the classic Twilight Zone episode of the same name.

Henry Bemis

You remember it don’t you? The one where bibliophile Henry Bemis survives a nuclear bomb and stumbles upon a public library and finally has enough time to read! With no one around to bother him! But then… so sad.

Anyway, enjoy the quick read by Venable and then go watch that episode of the Twilight Zone. It’s fun, but his wife is really mean.

Happy National Science Fiction Day!

power of habot

Two Recommended Reads

Happy New Year! I hope 2014 is off to a great start for you and that many great books are in your future. Here are two highly highly recommended reads for any functioning adult… who is on the internet… and wants to continue to be an effective and functioning adult. I’m serious about these two books. They are great reads.

InformationDiet_cover

The first recommended read is Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet (my review). This book is a short one, but it is jam packed with information and case studies about most of the places you interact and inhabit online. The book is eye-opening, but not in a scary “big brother is gonna git chu” kind of way. He just lays it out clearly. It’s all about understanding how algorithms and networks operate online and on sites like Facebook. Plus, he ends up with ideas and tips for turning your media consuming self into a more productive person and savvier consumer.

power-of-habit-cover

The second one is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. This book is fascinating. He shares data and stories on why you probably tie the same shoe first every morning,  strategies to break your bad habits or reinforce your good ones. Not too mention interviews with the people at Target and music sites that are using our habits against us in efforts to market to us and lure in their shops. Amazing stuff.

Both these books are bursting with information that I think will make you a better citizen both on and offline. Plus, it’s just good to know what kind of a world you will be wading through in 2014.

typographic-calendar

Two 2014 Typography Calendars

The new year is upon us! Which means it is time to pick out another calendar to help guide me through another year. For 2014, I’m thinking about getting one of these typography calendars. I haven’t decided if I want to go with a tear-off day-to-day type deal or if I want the wall mounted inspirational calendar. Either way, I’ve found these two options.

typographiccalendarMOMA

This typography calendar is being sold at MOMA and sports a different font every day of the year. They are calling it the Typodarium calendar and it looks like it may get a tad cutesy, but it’s certainly unique. Plus, it’s on sale for only $12.50 (see waiting until the last minute pays off sometimes)!

typograhicalendar365

Of course, then there is the annual awesomeness that is Hinrichs 2014 Typography 365 Calendar. This favorite sports a new font every month and really concentrates on the design and typesetting of each month. It’s something that any typophile would truly appreciate. But the full-size wall calendar is going for $47, so it’s a bit more expensive. I’ve seen this one before and it was wonderful. Totally worth getting the bigger one (the smaller typographiy calendar is $29).

So what have I missed? I’ve seen a bunch on Etsy, but nothing really jumped out. Let me know if you know of a cool typography calendar that I need to consider before I pull the trigger on one of these.

Happy New Year to each of you! I hope that your 2014 is full of books and great reads.

Christmas Read

A Christmas Read

Tis the season to curl up with a tinsel-themed tome and a toddy or two and this year I’m reading Otto Penzler’s Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop for my Christmas read.

Penzler owns the famed Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and for many years has commissioned one author a year to pen a Christmas-timed mystery in which his bookshop plays a role.

Christmas read

The book is a fun and light collection of a few of these short stories. No big mind boggling mysteries, but great fun. Some authors set their whole story inside Penzler’s shop while others simply make reference to it during the story. If you’re a fan on mysteries, this is a good one to be on the look out for (it was published in 2010) to have in your collection.

What are you reading this holiday week? Any annual habits or something new?

Hope you all have a wonderful and peace-filled Christmas and holiday season!

iBooks iOS pop up thumb

An eBook Frustration

The digital publishing world is one of the most schizophrenic marketplaces. Now, let me qualify that by saying: I work for a publisher. I help make print and digital books. I know the challenges and the limitations. That being said….

I just bought an iBooks ebook thinking: “I can read this immediately and on any of my devices, because Mavericks put iBooks right on my desktop. I’m living in the future!” But what was the first thing that greeted me upon opening my new eBook…

iBooks iOS pop up - This book was designed for iBooks on iOS.

Ugh! Are you serious!? My suped-up laptop can’t do whatever it is this book was designed to do? This stinks. Ebooks have now grown into such a multi-headed enhanced hydra that they can no longer consistently deliver on what is one of the biggest perks of an eBook… instant access on multiple devices.

But too be honest all of my frustration (and this blog post) could have been avoided if the publisher had simply stated something along the lines of “best for iOS-only reading” in the product description or marketing copy or email promotion… anywhere.

So publishers… please… please… PLEASE… use your own books and see where your frustration lies. Chances are your “ugh!” will be the same one your readers will utter. So think of them and work harder on the book or take the time to be up front with your readers. They will all appreciate you more for it.

 

HANDS ON: Espresso Book Machine

The first Espresso Book Machine in Alabama, is now open for business. It’s located inside the Brookwood Mall Books-A-Million store. The BAM crew did a good job with the launch, food, speeches and demos…. but let’s get to the good stuff and talk books!

The EBM is on the first floor by the front door.

The EBM is on the first floor by the front door.

For those that are not familiar with the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), it is a essentially a book-making machine. You can bring in (or download) a PDF or photos and it will print you a paperback book. The operator loads up the files and the color printer does a color cover, the printer then prints on archival quality paper, folds everything together, glues the cover on and trims it. I watched four demo books being printed last night and they averaged 8 minutes for a 150-page finished book.

With the covers off you can see the guts working. This part is powered by a Mac-mini, the ordering, barcodes, etc. is all on a Windows machine.

With the covers off you can see the guts working. This part is powered by a Mac-mini, the ordering, barcodes, etc. is all on a Windows machine.

The books slide out the bottom one at a time.

The books slide out the bottom one at a time.

The Espresso Book Machine can handle books 50-600 pages and sizes anywhere between 5″x5″ and 8″x10″.

The neat thing about the EBM is not the “hey, go print your own book or create a scrapbook for grandma”. Though that is certainly the emphasis of their marketing efforts now. The neat part is that you can legally have them print and bind any public domain work for you. They have ondemandbooks.com which supposedly ties-in to thousands of public domain works, but their search capability is horribly frustrating. You pretty much have to know the exact title you are looking for. So I recommend starting at Project Gutenberg or somewhere similar. Side note: Be aware that some publishers have made even their copyrighted materials available via the EBM, but much of that has geographic restrictions. The rep last night said that there are books he is allowed to print in Birmingham, but not in other parts of the country and vice-versa (hey Washington, time to update some copyright laws?). Anyway, I recommend going in and letting them search for  current titles you’d want to buy.

As an example, after doing some research I think that a book called Scrope, from 1874, may very well technically be the first biblio-mystery. Thanks to the kind souls at Project Gutenberg and folks on Google I have a PDF copy of that book that probably no one else cares about. But now I could go and get a physical copy of this book to put on my bookshelf next to all my other biblio-mysteries.

The paper quality is good. You won’t be disappointed. Of course, when it comes to interior half-tones and images, it’s as decent as any quality office printer. So no surprises there. It’s not as good as a traditionally printed book, but no one is expecting it to be.

Paper quality is really good, both in feel and ink retention.

Paper quality is really good, both in feel and ink retention.

Images and half-tones are only as good as the source, but the EBM doesn't enhance much.

Images and half-tones are only as good as the source, but the EBM doesn’t enhance much.

 

The glued spine was amazingly tight for having almost zero drying time.

The glued spine was amazingly tight for having almost zero drying time.

 

Being PDF-based, they have no problem printing in other languages as well.

Being PDF-based, they have no problem printing in other languages as well.

The book covers are made of a heavier and better (what I call) “photo paper”. Nothing is overtly fuzzy, but it’s not the laser precision detail of a web press. You can see the sheen in this book jacket:

 

The cover material is slick and what you'd expect from a "color printer".

The cover material is slick and what you’d expect from a “color printer”.

You can also tell that they EBM suffers from the same font issues all printers and book people do, like in this barcode. But with speed in mind, they just don’t have the QA steps that most presses do. So make sure you check your book before you leave the store!

Oops! Fonts are a thorn for every book designer. No different here with it swapping out and crashing into bars.

Oops! Fonts are a thorn for every book designer. No different here with it swapping out and crashing into bars.

Last night they got their first paying customer as well.  A guy used their system to look up and buy a copy of James Froude’s 1888 Victorian-era travelogue The English in the West Indies. The 208-page book set him back $18.53. Unfortunately, this guy also gave them their first big paper jam! This was cleared up much in the same way you clear out the copier at work.

Checking all the nooks and crannies for the paper jam.

Checking all the nooks and crannies for the paper jam.

 

I never got to see the finished product though as 25 minutes into it they were having to hand-collate the pages to make sure they didn’t miss any during the snafus. I’m sure he got his book though.

Seems there will always be a need for a pressman to check the production... especially when there's a paper jam.

Seems there will always be a need for a pressman to check the production… especially when there’s a paper jam.

 

I’m anxious to give the Espresso Book Machine a try. It’s all about finding that book that you want that no one else does. That lost work that no publisher can justify printing. That’s when it’ll be fun. I just need to find the right book.

 

 

Calvin and Hobbes Go Free!

The entire run of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip is now free to read online or via the Go Comics mobile app (again, for free). Calvin and Hobbes have been some of the best Sunday funnies reading ever. The strip has been put online in a promotional effort for an upcoming documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson.

Go read the strip

Calvin and Hobbes

I know I am going to check in on Calvin and his tiger ever day. I wonder if the film will be any good….

the abominable

Dan Simmons quote

Dan Simmons has a new book coming out The Abominable (October 22, 2013). I have to admit to being on the fence as to whether I want to read it (I loved, loved, loved The Terror, but Drood and the next left me meh). But this one sounds a little more in line with The Terror so I’ve been following along as it rolls out. Which is why I ran across this interview with Simmons by the folks at Publishers Weekly. It’s not long and worth a read, but the last answer struck a chord as Dan Simmons explains how he wants his readers to be with the flip of the last page:

“The real test for me is how the reader feels after he or she has finished one of my books. If readers have no questions to ask, no conversations they want to start, no strong feelings they wish to share, then I’ve failed. But overall, as at the end of a life well lived, there should be a sense of completeness—of having known triumph and sorrow—as well as having some questions still unanswered. That and some sense of sadness that the characters are no longer there to spend time with. Finishing a good book, I think, should feel a bit like saying goodbye to old friends.”

THAT’S exactly how I want to feel at the end of a book. I think The Abominable just secured a place on Mount TBR.

 

cover_the abominable

hoover_library_thumb

Bluff Park author to Speak

September 9th at 10:00 a.m. local-Hoover author Heather Jones Skaggs will be speaking at the Hoover Library. Her appearance is free and open to the public, though it is part of the Friends’ meeting. While her Bluff Park book was a great success, you may be able to get the scoop on her upcoming book (also by Arcadia) titled Early Hoover, which she is currently working on.

The meeting will be in Meeting Rooms A,B and C. You can call 205-444-7840 for more information.

hoover library gfx

podcast_image

Podcasts for Bibliophiles

There is a great thread, in the Books on the Nightstand group, over on Goodreads, where members are listing their favorite podcasts for bibliophiles and book lovers. Even if you’re not a member of GoodReads or prefer other sites (like LibraryThing!) this thread is worth checking out. There are quite a few podcasts mentioned that I’m going to have to check out at least once. Here is a list of the first five that I’m downloading now to see what they have to say:

Greater Boston Book Loft - sounds like this will be a nice shorter 10-15 minute podcast and includes author interviews.

Literary Disco - three friends who are self-professed booknerds

Authors on Tour – this podcast is produced by the good folks at Denver’s indie rockstar bookstore The Tattered Cover

KCRW’s Bookworm – a podcast about books and authors, based in L.A.

The Afterword – produced by Slate

Other than Books on the Nightstand and NPR’s offerings, what podcasts do you listen to? Let me know if I’m missing out.

pelham library thumb

Book Sale: Pelham Library

The Pelham Library hosts a used-book sale a few times a year. The next one kicks off on August 26th and runs through the end of September. I’ve only been once, but need to fix that as the prices are always good. Hardbacks will be $1 at this sale. All kids’ books and paperbacks will be 50 cents. You an follow the library on Twitter for updates or to ask questions.

Here’s a link to their “Location” page so you can find them. Happy book hunting! And let me know if you score anything good.

pelham library site

Author Rejections

I’m reading Pushcart Press‘ perfectly pocket-sized (only 101 pages) Rotten Rejections and it’s great fun. It’s amazing some of the rejections now-famous authors have gotten over the years. Some of my favorites so far:

Rudyard Kipling (1889) – “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

Norman Mailer (1948) – “This will set publishing back 25 years.”

Samuel Beckett (1951) – “There’s no sense in considering them for publication here; the bad taste of the American public does not yet coincide with the bad taste of the French avant garde.”

John Le Carre (1963) – “You’re welcome to le Carre – he hasn’t got any future.”

I have to say it’s been fun reading through all of the blurbs and quotes from the author rejections. It’s interesting to see how often a book manuscript is rejected based on being bad vs. the author’s lack of skill. One thing I’ve noticed is that the publishing industry is a lot nicer these days. The form letters of 2013 are dull and drab to some of the absolutely b-r-u-t-a-l barbs editors and publishers replied with back in the late-1800′s through the early 1900′s.

But the colorful writing found in Rotten Rejections does make for better reading.

Books, Publishing and Birmingham