Ready Player One is the best book you’re not reading

If you grew up in the 80s like me, especially as a teenager, Ready Player One is a book for you.

For fans of retro arcade games, 80s music and movies, MMOs, cyberpunk, roleplaying and early computers like the TRS-80, it weaves them all into a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I can’t do it justice, so read the summary here. ¬†And then buy it and read it, you won’t be disappointed.

eBook Readers & the Publishing Industry

I’ve been wanting an eReader for a while. When the Kindle first launched, I was in awe. I quickly sat down and calculated the number of books I buy in a year and compared that against the cost of a Kindle and the savings of buying an e-book for $10 vs. the hardcover price. Let’s just say there wasn’t much of a savings. I finally got to touch a Kindle at GUADEC this summer, and my mind was made up that I had to have an eReader in the near future.

I love tech gadgets and am an early adopter. I also love content and media, and own hundreds (if not over a thousand now) music CDs, hundreds of movies (including Blu-Ray that I bought over 2 years ago), and tons of books. My bookshelves are full to bursting in my office, and I have boxes of books stored in my closet without room to display them.

I’ve waited patiently debating an eReader. I travel once or twice a month for work, and having an eReader would definitely save space. This week, my flight was delayed hours on Tuesday, and then canceled later that night. I had finished the book I had brought an hour after getting to the airport, and then bought another one swearing in my head the whole how I wished I had a an eReader.

The good news is that when Barnes & Noble announced the nook last month that I pre-ordered one. As much as I love Amazon (I buy almost everything there now – movies, music, books and electronics) I found the nook more aesthetically pleasing as well as it was running Android, and the formats they’re using seem a bit more open than the Kindle. (My nook is supposed to ship tomorrow, still crossing my fingers with all the delays they’ve had for the last week or two!)

But now comes word that the publishing industry doesn’t get it and is fears change and the changing financial models. It’s rumored that Amazon loses $2 per eBook bought, and now we are hearing the publishers want to delay new releases 4 months after the hardcover comes out but before the paperback comes out. When will content companies figure out that not giving consumers what they want is bad for business?

There are authors (Iain Banks, Chuck Palahniuk, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman) that I will always buy the physical copy. I want to continue to build on my collections and there is a tactile difference in having a physical book. But I will buy many more books once I have my nook. I’ve already been adding to wishlist on for the moment my nook arrives. I have dozens of posts tagged “books” in my RSS reader that I want to buy. The fact that they’re slightly cheaper as an eBook and no shipping is nice, but having immediate wireless delivery right to my eReader is even better.

So the publishers are worried that Amazon (and to a lesser degree Barnes & Noble) have set a pricing ceiling of $9.99 per book. We’ve been through this argument before – the record industries felt Apple had set a similar ceiling that songs were only worth $0.99 and now we’ve seen new releases and popular tracks increase to $1.29 this year. And that’s ok. I worked in the retail industry for 15 years and have been through anti-trust training a couple of times. The publishers can set their price and the retailer can sell it for whatever they want.

If the publishers are so worried, why are they not raising the cost of the books? If Amazon is losing $2 per book, that means the cost to Amazon is $12. If the publishers raise it to $15, it will make the retailers re-consider whether losing more money is acceptable. While the publisher can’t dictate the actual retail price sold, they do have options. And lowering the cost after it’s been released a while happens all the time across all retail categories. There is no reason that months after the release the cost comes down and the retailer can re-price, at say, $9.99. This is seen all the time in the movie space, though rarely in music. Now that we are starting to have competition in the eReader space there are all kinds of tricks the publishers can do to partner with the retailer to save the retailer money on the back end as well, including marketing development funds, sell through credits and more.

But for the publishers to flatly state “We won’t release an eBook for 4 months” won’t make consumers happy. Nor, in my opinion, will it make consumers buy a hardcover once they’ve invested $200-$400 in an eReader. I’ve learned this lesson – I rarely buy a movie on new release day for $20-$30 when I subscribe to Netflix and know if I wait 3-6 months I can probably get it for $10-$15 on sale (I just got Watchmen on Blu-Ray for $10 last week!).

At this point, it’s difficult to read the future. These statements from the publishers could just be posturing as they dig in for negotiation with the retailers. But I’m not hopeful. There are plenty of lessons for content providers to learn from in the music battles of the last 10 years. And if there is one lesson they should employ, it’s to extend and embrace the new models rather than try to prop up a dying business model. Change is hard – and if consumers want to buy more books because they have an eReader, it’s in the publisher’s best interest to figure out how to do that, rather than making it harder for consumers to buy from them.

Gregory Mcdonald, RIP

Gregory Mcdonald, most famous for being the author of the Fletch series, has died at age 71 from cancer.

I’m not a big mystery reader, but due to Kevin Smith‘s praise for McDonald’s dialogue in his novels, I picked up one or two of his books, and then quickly bought them all a number of years ago.

You thought the Fletch movies (well, at least the first one) were funny? Each and every one of these books will have you chuckling and laughing out loud at some point, and the mysteries weren’t half bad either.

They’re light, quick reads, and the next time you’re looking for a book to read, I highly recommend any of his books, including both the Fletch and Flynn series.

Via John Scalzi

Philip K. Dick

I mentioned a few weeks ago a link from Total Dick-Head, a blog dedicated to all things Philip K. Dick. Today’s post covers the new Library of America release of four of Dick’s most original novels that is released today in one hardcover edition. The novels are:

  • The Man in the High Castle
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Ubik

The Library of America’s mission is to “preserve the nation’s cultural heritage by publishing America’s best and most significant writing in authoritative editions is as strong as ever.”

Their goal is to publish books to last the test time:

  • The paper is acid-free and meets the requirements for permanence set by the American National Standards Institute; it will not turn yellow or brittle. The books are bound with the grain of the paper to ensure that they open easily and lie flat without crinkling or buckling.
  • The binding boards are flexible yet strong and make the book light, easy to carry, trim in appearance, and a pleasure to hold.
  • The page layout has been designed for clarity as well as elegance. The typeface, Galliard, is exceptionally readable and easy on the eyes.
  • The binding cloth is durable woven rayon, dyed in the thread for richness of color. Handsome endsheets match the binding cloth and add to the visual unity of the series. The books are Smyth-sewn for permanence and flexibility, and each includes a ribbon marker.

Apparently the street date for the book is today. I actually picked this up almost 3 weeks ago in Milwaukee at a local book store. The book is gorgeous – it came shrink wrapped, and the paper quality and presentation is top notch. I own a lot of Dick’s short fiction, and look forward to reading some of his early novels.

Off the Grid

I’ve been off the grid most of the weekend, as I took the family home to Wisconsin to visit the in-laws.

My father-in-law has a wireless broadband connection (supposed to be about 1 meg down, but feels much slower). It’s connect to a Linksys 802.11b router. I’ve been unable to to get my Toshiba laptop to connect to the net, though my work laptop running XP didn’t have a problem nor did my wife. My Toshiba gets an IP address and saw the nameservers on the wireless (eth1), but has horrendous packet loss. Pinging resulted in 66% packet loss, and web pages wouldn’t pull up at all. I don’t know if it was a Linux thing, Foresight, or the ISP itself.

It has reminded me how much I loathe not being connected. So much for tackling learning docbook this weekend for the Foresight user guide or the blog theme on WordPress MU.

Having some time on my hands, I did do some shopping yesterday, stopping at a local bookstore, who hosted John Scalzi just over a week ago. I missed him in Minneapolis last week, and was able to pick up an autographed copy of his latest book, The Last Colony, which oddly isn’t featured on his Books page yet. The Last Colony is the third book in his Old Man’s War trilogy.

On a recommendation, I picked up You Suck by Christopher Moore, which was good and as funny as promised. I finished it yesterday, and I love books that make me laugh out loud, which this did a few times. An odd note about the book: One of the characters is from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, about an hour north of where I am visiting right now in Milwaukee. I was born in Fond du Lac, and most of my extended relatives live there. It’s fairly small with about 40,000 residents, and I was surprised to see it in a book. (But not as surprised when Oconomowoc, where I am right now, was featured in Cryptonomicon).

I also picked up a nice hardcover edition of four Philip K. Dick stories – The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik and The Man in the High Castle. I own a number of his short stories, and since it was featured on Boing Boing, the Total Dick-Head blog has been a favorite of mine to read, so it was good to pick up a couple of Dick’s classics.

I enjoy supporting local bookstores, it’s always worth the premium I pay in my mind. I enjoyed visiting Harry Schwartz Bookstores. They had a fairly good collection of books in all genres, and had recommendations for books by their employees all over the store, which I loved.

Now it’s off to lunch and a 6 – 7 hour drive home today.