Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Amazon Puts 70% Royalty in Place for DTP Publishing

Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase
Amazon Puts 70% Royalty in Place for DTP Publishing

Well, it looks like Amazon might be dragging the big publishing companies into the new technology once again.

One of my main complaints with eBooks has always been that the publishing companies were raking in extra cash at the expense of both the artist and the consumer: with eBooks being sold at the same or similar price as physical books in most cases, publishers were successfully eliminating printing and shipping costs, but without passing the those savings onto to the artist through larger royalties, or the consumer with lower prices.

Tackling this issue has been a long time coming. The massive writer's strike in the entertainment industry a couple of years ago was over very similar circumstances; distribution companies were tapping into extra income streams through new media distribution channels (such as streaming video and video on demand), but were being extremely vague about these new ventures when it came to sharing royalties with writers under contracts written up before the explosion of communications technology advancements. It is actually shocking that book publishers have been able to deflect similar arguments and concerns for so long.

Now, with Amazon offering 70% royalties for sales on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon is effectively forcing the publisher's hand on their sketchy pricing policies regarding new technology book sales, while also easing criticisms of their price reduction policies. This should not only improve writer confidence in releasing works in eBook format, but the lower pricing involved with the royalty shift should also result in increased book sales. Of course, Kindle sales might also increase a bit, which I'm sure is one of the main motivating factors behind the move.

I'm sure a lot of people in the industry will have some very persuasive and logical arguments on why this new royalty scale for eBook publishing is a bad thing. But I seriously doubt any of them will be able to convince me that either the publisher or the artist will stand to lose any money.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review - My Footprint by Jeff Garlin

Having never watched Curb Your Enthusiasm (yeah, I'm THAT guy), my only familiarity with Jeff Garlin in the past has been recognizing his voice as the Ship's Captain in Wall-E. So when I picked up his book, My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World, I did so with no preconceived notions or expectations, other than that I was about to read a humorous story about one man's quest to lose weight and 'Go Green'. I give this disclaimer only to separate myself from those familiar with Garlin who have gone on to either devotedly praise the book or trash it because they expected so much more.

As someone who has struggled with weight loss, I found a great deal of sincerity and honesty in Garlin's writing. Unlike many books on the subject, Garlin focuses more on the ease of failure rather than success, and how hard it can be to change ingrained and previously unrecognized habits formed over a lifetime. Like most comics, Garlin turns as harsh an eye onto himself as he does others, and he is the first to make a joke at his own expense, adding a glaring truthfulness to the recording of his attempts at weight loss. Without this kind of sardonic and insightful self-awareness, the book (and his journey) would ring hollow. In this respect, Garlin's book is a resounding success. Where it falls short, however, is the overall reading experience. Despite the author's obvious desire to take the reader on a journey through his own experiences, there is no real flow to the novel, and progressing through it feels more like a stumble through disjointed thoughts and anecdotes than it does a trip through one man's story of self-discovery.

Perhaps what hurts Garlin's book more than helps it is the diary format. While this approach might seem like the logical choice for the author's desire to bring his readers along on his journey of self-improvement, it can often feel as random and disjointed as, well, a diary. Much of the ground covered within the book is spread thin and jumbled nonsensically, resulting in a disjointed structure that continually fails to draw the reader in. If Garlin had taken the time to arrange his thoughts and experiences into whole chapters dedicated to a particular focus, like a chapter about the pitfalls of dieting on set ("How to CURB Your Appetite") or his experiences with Ed Begley Jr. ("My Green Guru"), then perhaps his struggles would have had more of a literary impact. Even more importantly, he might have been more successful in thematically joining his desires to lose weight and decrease his carbon footprint, rather than have them continue to feel like two almost unrelated personal goals. If the idea behind the format was that our increasingly Twitter-truncated communication culture would make a book in bite-sized segments more popular, it was a bad idea. Most readers, despite the popularity of text messaging and Facebook status updates, prefer to read books that are more than just random thoughts and musings jotted down throughout the day and faxed to an editor.

This isn't to say that Garlin's book is bad. As I said earlier, his struggles with weight loss and environmental awareness are inspiring as they are humorous. But the way in which he tells his tale makes the book feel like little more than an afterthought. In the end, as endearing and humorous as it might be in spots, My Footprint comes off as haphazard and unstructured as Garlin's admittedly slipshod approach to dieting, leading to the wish that he had struggled to improve his writing before writing about his struggles to improve.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Holocaust Ended? In Jeannette Katzir's "Broken Birds", Her Mother Brings It With Her To Los Angeles

Jeannette Katzir's struggle to get Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila published serves as yet another example of why "self-publishing" should be treated as a legitimate form of literary output, and not looked down upon by industry insiders. Publishers more concerned with market trends than exceptional writing or storytelling are constantly passing over books and authors that do not easily fit in whatever niche markets the publishers and agents are gearing towards that particular quarter.

This focus on markets is understandable as far as the business end of publishing is concerned, but adds doubt to the argument that self-published authors aren't "real" authors because they haven't proven themselves by passing through the various filters of the system. For every book rejected for inferior writing, there is undoubtedly one (if not more) passed over merely because it isn't the right time, or sales in that genre are currently lackluster.

Keep this story in mind the next time you consider passing over a Self-Published book because it isn't a "real" book. Some might resort to self-publishing because they couldn't get past the editor, but there are just as many that couldn't make it past the publicist.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MovieSucktastic Episode 16: The A-Team and Drive-Ins

Yes, the MovieSucktastic podcast is back on schedule, after an extended hiatus so I could (unsuccessfully) attempt to track down co-host Joey, who was abducted last month by militant Avatar fanatics in retaliation for my past anti-Avatar reviews.

But the hunt is over now, and I am back in action and well into the MovieScottastic swing of things with my full-on review of The A-Team, which I screened at Becky's Drive-In. This, of course, also leads to a brief rant about moviegoers and drive-in moviegoers, and their never ending quest to ruin the movie-going experience for the general public. Here's a quick preview: what do you do when a crying baby isn't loud enough to disrupt the film? Bring the dogs along as well, of course.

So tune in and check out the latest on the A-Team, as well as my opinion on the film's lack of a Mr. T cameo. I pity the fool who doesn't listen to the latest episode, either at iTunes, Podcast Alley, or Current plans for the next episode include reviews of Killers, The Human Centipede, and Deadtime Stories..

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Cover Update!

Head on over to the Official Author Website of S. Michael Wilson and check out the cover for the upcoming anthology Butcher Knives & Body Counts: Essays on the Formula, Frights, and Fun of the Slasher Film, due out in October from Dark Scribe Press, featuring work from over seventy authors, including yours truly!
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oil Rig Safety or Zhu Zhu Pets? Hmmmm...

I realize that the focus of this article over at HuffingtonPost is on the GOP acting as giddy as schoolgirls over news coverage of the economic impact the drilling moratorium will have, and that I should probably be ranting about the concept of arguing that we should overlook safety issues critical to human life and ecological purity. But I really can't get beyond this one quote halfway through the article:

Peter Duet, in a thick Louisiana accent, tells the assembled crowd that he is a single father and that his daughter recently asked him why he works so much at Port Fourchon. "Baby, so daddy can take you to Wal-Mart and buy you toys[.]"

Why is daddy begging the President to bypass the investigation of safety regulations that could potentially prevent another massive oil rig disaster just so he can go back to working so many hours that his daughter asks why she rarely sees him? Does he instinctively explain that he is trying to support them financially, or working to provide a comfortable future for her? No, first thing out of his head is that he slaves away for one massive corporation because he needs lots of money so they can buy lots of cheap crap from another massive corporation that makes its money by selling products made overseas by overworked wage slaves for yet another massive corporation.

I understand that this is a highly consumer-based culture, but to see it stated so shamelessly is kind of unsettling. Not only is the pursuit of amassing piles of poorly made plastic (and potentially poisonous) possessions the first thing to pop in this guy's head when "Baby" asks why she never sees him, but it doesn't even occur to him to change his reply to something more rational before sharing this anecdote with a national television audience.

Are we that twisted as a nation that we instinctively put the pursuit of the mindless accumulation of physical possessions ahead of the obvious concerns of food, shelter and well-being? I have no doubt that Peter is a good man that is actually working hard to provide for his daughter. I can even understand that his reaction to the massive BP oil spill and rig explosion has more to do with his personal needs than global concerns; as a single father, his world begins and ends with his daughter. But it still bothers me that the first thing he can think of to explain to his daughter why he works so hard s because they need to Buy More Stuff. We have lost something integral to our existence as human beings. As a nation, as a culture, as a people, we are in danger of losing ourselves.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

McDonald's Recall: "Shrek" Glasses Contain Toxic Metal Cadmium

Cheaper is better! Cheaper is better!

*Massive oil spill caused by cutting corners*

Cheaper is better! Cheaper is better!

*underpaid workers killing themselves in China*

Cheaper is better! Cheaper is better!

*McDonald's almost poisons millions of children*

I think I see a pattern here...
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rash Of Suicides at iPhone Factory Inspire Pay Raise, Safety Nets

How to create an iPhone app online?Image by dianagavrilita via Flickr

Enjoy your iPhones, people.

You know you are in trouble when your company installs safety nets because of the high suicide rate among workers. The article mentions that the average worker pay is roughly $130 a month. What it doesn't mention is that the minimum cost of living in China is $400 a month. The 30% pay raise that the heads at Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group approved won't even increase their base income to half of that. "With the pay raise, we hope workers don't need to work overtime as much and thus gain more time for leisure and have a happier working environment." Yeah, that ought to do it. He goes on to say that the meager pay raise will also help reduce the turnover rate. Do you think they include the replacement of suicidal employees in those numbers?

With all of lip service being paid to the environment with our newly found "green" attitudes, it would be nice if we could start admitting that our consumer habits effect more than carbon footprints. Half of the world's population is being slowly worked to death so the other half can update their Facebook status from the coffee shop.

Maybe we can create an iPhone app that allows users to send a buck or two to the wage-slaves overseas producing their electronic toys for them.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
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