Tonight I went to the launch of The Bluff Detector by W. Thomson Martin at the Solstice Cafe. It was lovely – Thom has a melodious voice with more than a hint of his Northern Irish accent, and started us off with the slyly whimsical tale of the first time he was accused of irreverence. The rest of the reading showcased the thoughtfulness and quiet joy in life that infuses a lot of the rest of the book.
I’ve recently gotten involved with a brainchild of a friend of mine; starting an ezine. It’s coalesced, over the past few weeks, into Theory Train, an online literary magazine specializing in poetry and speculative fiction. As the second literary magazine I’ve been involved in – the other being Island Writer, and different in being a print magazine, and local – I feel not completely adrift in helping launch it. It’s exciting, and interesting, looking into the myriad factors of it. We lucked out in a major way in that another of the people involved with setting it up is able to provide us free hosting and a domain name. And now we have the basic infrastructure set up, so it’s just a matter, now, of drumming up submissions, advertising, drumming up advertising on our site, sorting and selecting from submissions, and getting the magazine itself together. Oh, plus registering it with the Canadian ISBN Service System. No big deal, right?
At least we have until December.
And while I can wait for that, and enjoy the time we have until crunch time, I’m currently caught up in anticipation for the results of this contest. It’s been going on all summer; a round every two weeks, and I’ve made it to the final round, going for the championship. All of the entries have been in since last night, and, even though not much time has passed, I’m incredibly anxious for the results. A fun sort of anxiety, in that I’m up against a formidable opponent who won in one category while I won in another, and I know we both put a lot of effort forth. But I want to know! Really, it’s so inconvenient, the judge (also, coincidentally, Theory Train’s webmaster) having a life outside of judging the writing contest.
I’m on the intermission of my journey to Chicago, IL for a two-week vacation, and very much appreciating the free wi-fi. I have with me Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio’s collection of short stories simply entitled Stories, which includes, among others, a story by Chuck Palahniuk. There’s a sort of meta-pleasure referential to his cult hit Fight Club in reading Palahniuk on an airplane.
Yesterday I finished a book cover for the wonderful Sheila Martindale’s forthcoming book, Here, There, and Somewhere Beyond. I’m immensely happy to have been involved in the project.
In other artistic news, the webcomic I started in college with a friend of mine (I write it, she does the art) is undergoing somewhat of a revival. Here’s hoping for more to come!
I’m volunteering all weekend at the CanWrite! 2010 conference. I’ll be at registration, and then doing signup for the blue pencil sessions. I’ll probably be everywhere, but I can be tracked down there, if anyone is so inclined. I’m excited at the prospect of my first writing conference, and this one is focusing on something dear to my heart – applying technology to your writing.
It’s interesting how technology is changing the industry. People are experimenting with storytelling via Twitter the mind-bogglingly broad spectrum of webcomics. Two of my recent discoveries have been Metaphysical Neuroma by Attila and FreakAngels, written by the iconic Warren Ellis.
Comics are their own separate world from writing and publishing books, but they have strange and sometimes beautiful overlap, such as that personified in Neil Gaiman, who has written everything from the screenplay and then novel of the BBC’s Neverwhere to the children’s book Coraline to the fantastic graphic novel Sandman to the novel American Gods. He’s amazingly dynamic, and has had a definite impact on both my writing and the variety of vectors my interests follow.
Open source is more than a way to get great software like web browsers Firefox and Chrome, word processor Open Office, art program GIMP and antivirus program ClamWin. It’s a movement towards freedom of intellectual property – towards intellectual communism.
Open source software isn’t new, though – the GNU Project, the precursor to Linux (a family of open source operating systems), was started in 1983. But in the past few years, open source has moved from a computer thing to a culture thing. Creative Commons took the idea of open source and applied it to intellectual property other than code.
Now some of the same principles – not being forced to pay for interesting things – are being brought back to the physical world through things like Decentralize Dance Paries. Which looks completely awesome.
Went to a very interesting talk by the estimable Ruth Linka of Touchwood Editions and Brindle and Glass about the effects of ebooks on the publishing industry. This was a couple of weeks ago, but it took me some time to both process the information in her very informational talk and examine my own feelings about it.
It’s a complicated subject, the role of ebooks in the world of publishing. I read a lot of ebooks, and a lot of books released free online under Creative Commons licensing. Ruth mentioned something about the new “Cult of Free” that I wish I’d written down, about how my generation very much believes in free things, and how that’s not exactly harmonious with the publishing industry. More on that later.
Ruth also said very definitively that ebooks are not a trend. They are here to stay. The difficulty lies in that there are easily two dozen separate and unique file formats that someone at a publishing house has to convert them to.
There is a movement, of course, towards some sense of uniformity. And PDF, of course, never goes out of style, though it’s less than ideal for several platforms. And a different ISBN is needed for each individual e-release. All of which takes man-hours, which contribute to the price of a book. This leaves aside the fact that the cost of editing remains the same, and one of the biggest components of book price. There is a general feeling that ebooks should be cheaper than paper because there are no associated printing, storage, or delivery costs, but those are much smaller factors for small printers. For large distributions, like that of bestsellers (Harry Potter, Twilight, or anything else people dress up and wait for hours in the rain for the release of), editing and other man-hour costs become a much smaller part of the cost, which allows them to keep the cost of ebooks low. Given the low cost set as the standard for ebooks, it is harder for small publishers to keep up with low prices.
On the other hand, ebooks are ideal for self-publishers. The cost of a print run can be hugely intimidating for an individual, but ebooks have, wonderfully, no printing costs. With no initial capital outlay (other than an editor, of course, and a graphic designer), epublishing allows many more authors to get their work out there. There is still, of course, the attendant hard work and devoted marketing required of any self-publication, but it makes it more accessible. But part of that accessibility is that the market for ebooks is flooded, and not everyone is willing to pay for an ebook by an unknown author, especially a novel, when there are novels available for free under Creative Commons and public domain. Novels by noted authors, too, including Cory Doctorow.
Part of that is my own devotion to the Cult of Free (backed up, you’ll note, by there being no price tag on any of the stories I have up). But it will be interesting to see how the Cult of Free and other market forces affect the future of the ebook and the publishing industry.