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Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Refuting Lee Child’s take on Amazon’s book-selling

My thanks to Kathryn Jankowski for pointing out Joe Konrath’s refutation of Lee Child’s opinion piece on Amazon that I posted about recently.

Rather than leave the link in a comment, I am posting it separately as Konrath’s article, titled Fisking Lee Child, makes some excellent points. I particularly liked how he highlights the differences between the few bestseller category authors like Child and the thousands of other writers.

Well worth reading for a balance to Child’s arguments.

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An author’s perspective on Amazon’s book stores

Since my previous post on the implications of Amazon opening physical book shops, the Guardian has published an opinion piece by thriller writer Lee Child on why he thinks this is a bad idea: Lee Child on Amazon’s real-life bookshops – and why we should be worried.

Apart from the implications for publishers and print books, he also weighs in on the terms and conditions Amazon imposes (and subsequently adversely changes) for writers following the indie publishing route.

Some good and interesting arguments against an Amazon monopoly.


Many advantages to Amazon opening physical book stores

Anyone interested in Amazon’s approach to book retailing (and most writers will fall into this category!) will be interested in this analysis in Computerworld of Amazon’s approach to physical stores and its strategy to leverage “bricks and mortar”:

This is why Amazon will open physical bookstores

The point here is not so much competition with other book shops as positioning its overall placement of products, delivery and how Amazon’s publishing business competes with other publishers.

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WordPress versus Joomla!

This blog is based upon a WordPress template. Overall, I would say I have been very happy with it. However, the time came to rewrite my wife’s art website (which had been somewhat cumbersome to update in an HTML editor). A website designer friend suggested that rather than rewrite it in WordPress I try out Joomla!

We tried it for a while but the experience was never satisfying and Joomla, to me, seemed to lack some of the flexibility and ease of use that WordPress has. So, having abandoned HTML editing for Joomla!, we have since been through another complete restyle and rewrite of her site using a commercial WordPress template from Themezilla.

Despite the odd hiccup from time to time, even Karina – who is definitely not a techie! – has been able to edit and update her site using a set of notes I prepared. All in all, it is a relief to have both her site and this one both on WordPress.

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David Brin on why 2015 was the best year ever in space

Nautilus is an excellent online science resource I use for writing ideas and I recommend you take a look at it. Each month it publishes a series of articles around a common theme.

This month the theme is “space” and it has published an article titled 2015 Was the Best Year Ever in Space by SF writer David Brin giving his opinion on why last year was the best ever for space exploration. The article includes a few superb photos and videos.

While there are plenty of ideas for writing and about plans for the future, what really appealed to me is the sense of hope for the future the article conveys.

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Excellent Scrivener template to help start that novel

As long-time readers of ‘Nightspore’ will know, I have been a fan of Scrivener writing software for quite a while now and find it an invaluable writing tool.

I did struggle a bit when I first started using the software because of the scope of what it does.

What would have helped me start “Rose In Winter”, my first novel (previously I had stuck to short stories), is a template that did more than just help format the final output and provide buckets for research etc. Although Scrivener’s storyboarding and synopsis tools are very powerful, there is much more that can be done with it if one knows where to start.

Impatient to get going, I took a “let’s start writing” approach which has since proved to be bit of a problem as I had not worked out enough of the plot and structure for my novel and had almost nothing beforehand on the characters. It all just “grew” – I am now trying to sort out the unholy mess by developing character outlines and breaking the story down into five (possibly more) novelette / novella length sections.

Last week, while browsing the Online Writing Workshop‘s Discussion Forum I finally found that “starting a novel” template tool I needed. OWW member Caroline Norrington has developed just the answer.

As well as manuscript parts for ‘just typing your novel’ she has included detailed instructions and ‘fill in the blanks’ elements for the conventional three act structure, semi-structured plotting, scene building and a wealth of material around developing characters (which I really wish I had found a year or two ago!). Also, of particular interest to fantasy and SF writers but useful for any novelist, there are sections on ‘world-building (such as cultures and geiography) and other research.

As if this was not enough, there is also a section on producing your final output in paperback novel format or as an e-book, complete with instructions on how to include cover art-work.

Rather than include the template here, I encourage you to read Caroline’s article about the template on her website. Not only will this have her latest version (I understand her template is being refined at the moment) but there are also screenshots and more information about what the template covers.

Highly recommended!


How Tolkien Leads the Digital Revolution

In the late ’60’s and ’70’s I devoured Tolkien’s stories and loved his world-building, My involvement in (and frustration with!) the Tolkien Society, led directly to my helping to found the British Fantasy Society in 1971. Since then, some of my children have grown up as Tolkien fans and we have enjoyed the world he created brought to the ‘big screen’ by Peter Jackson.

From this, it is little surprise to me that hundreds of thousands of people name ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as their favourite book. However, I did a double-take when, in the course of keeping up on technology news and developments, I read a (very straight, not tongue-in cheek) artidle by IDG about How Tolkien Leads the Digital Revolution.

While IDG is right that most smartphone and tablet apps don’t reach the level of depth, the layers possible, I suspect the issue is the time to develop and launch is so much shorter. Tolkien spent his life developing Middle Earth. He didn’t work to a deadline or the corporate need for continuing increases in quarterly profits or the need to launch something ‘new’ or ‘world-changing’ every year. The issue then is the expectation versus ability to produce something original within an ever-increasing the pace of change.

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Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s view on how you measure success

I have admired Kristine Kathryn Rusch as an author and editor for a long time (my subscription to F&SF ran through her editorship) so I was particularly interested to read her blog on the changing measures of success for writers.

She sets out the ‘traditional view’, which includes:

    Selling your first short story/article
    Selling your first novel
    Hiring an agent
    Winning a major award
    Hitting a bestseller list
    Selling more than one novel
    Selling overseas

I confess there is a lot here I can relate to (if only in ‘aspirational’ terms!)
Then, looking at some comments by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (who says ‘the three big ideas at Amazon are a focus on the future, customer obsession, and a willingness to invent), Rusch then redefines what it means to be successful as an author in today’s market.

The article – The Business Rusch: Markers – is fascinating and if you are at all interested in how publishing has changed over the past ten years, including how technology has enabled self-publication to disrupt the traditional model, then I recommend you check it out.

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PRISM: Orwellian surveillance and the Cloud

The recent disclosure of the extent of US covert electronic surveillance through PRISM (and, one must assume, that of other governments via access to PRISM data or through their own tools – Yes, China, we’re looking at you!) shows the paranoid had it right about living in an Orwellian dystopia where one’s every utterence (presumably, including this post!) is scooped up into the maw of the US intelliegence machine to search for key words that ring their alarm bells.

Americans themselves appear to have some (probably scant) constitutional protection from all this. The rest of us suckers appear to be fair game. This is a “wake-up call” for anyone who has placed any faith in Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and all those other US-based providers of data storage and cloud services. Do they deny PRISM because they knew but couldn’t tell (due to secrecy orders) or because they really didn’t know? Either way, this is bad news for privacy and security.

For a British technology writer’s take on the imlications for Cloud computing see this Computerworld article on Why PRISM kills the Cloud.

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Amazon’s unfair e-book refund policy

Amazon allow refunds on e-books for up to seven days after purchase. While I agree it is reasonable to allow someone to change their mind if they buy a book and then, reading the first chapter, realise it is not what they wanted or expected, I do feel that authors are getting a raw deal here. A 24 hour refund policy should be reasonable. Also, on Kindle, it tracks how far through a story has been read, surely it is not beyond Amazon’s programmers to refuse to refund if a whole book or substantial part has been read?

If you agree, check out this petition at


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