Monthly Archives: August 2015

5 Favorite Free Fonts for Interior Book Design

31 August 2015

From book designer Joel Friedlander:

As I said a number of years ago, as publishers “we want our books to be as easy to read as possible while communicating the author’s intent. Style and fashion also play their part in many book designs, particularly in popular niches. The accumulated expectations of 500 years of book readers also come into play. Books are pretty conventional objects, after all.

“Some fonts really lend themselves to book design while others, which look good in a brochure or on a business card or billboard, make odd, unreadable books. Any idiosyncrasy in the type design will be magnified by the repetition of typesetting 75,000 or 100,000 words in thousands of lines on hundreds of pages.

“So the choice of your basic typeface looms large when you sit down to design your book.”

In that article I selected five typefaces that are favorites of mine, and that post has been one of the most popular here ever since.

Now, having spent the last couple of years designing with free fonts to create the book templates at BookDesignTemplates.com, I’ve developed a whole new list. This time, all the fonts are free and licensed for you to use freely, too.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to Deb for the tip.

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Is Amazon Trying to be Your Mom’s Streaming Service?

31 August 2015

From Decider:

Since it recently acquired the rights to Degrassi: Next Class, Fuller House, and Smosh: The Movie, Netflix has been making it clear that it wants to be hip for both teens and tweens. Amazon, on the other hand, seems to be more interested in courting full grown adults.

During a recent interview for Amazon Prime’s upcoming drama Hand of God(which lands on the streaming service on Friday, September 4), actor Garret Dillahunt dropped some juicy information about Amazon’s target demographic. When we asked Dillahunt, who has worked on everything from HBO‘s Deadwood to Fox’s Raising Hope to Academy Award winner 12 Years A Slave, how working for a streaming service is different from traditional television, he said this:

But what I love about the format is, you know, we don’t have advertisers that we have to please. We’re selling Prime memberships. You know, I’ve had people pitch shows to Amazon and they said ‘That’s great. Can you age it up a bit?’ Because kids aren’t the ones buying Prime memberships. How often do you hear that in a meeting? You want to make a show about adults?!?! You don’t want vampires? It’s interesting.

When you look at Dillahunt’s assertions logically, there seems to be a ring of truth. Traditional television makes the lion’s share of its income from selling advertising (that and cable carriage fees). Since Amazon doesn’t have ads, it can give its show runners a bit more leeway when it comes to content. But Amazon still has to make money off of its shows. How does Amazon Studios make money? By enticing people to buy Amazon Prime memberships. And who can afford to pay $99 up front in one easy payment? Hint: not teenagers.

. . . .

Each platform is seeking to define itself in a way that will appeal to certain viewers. With its eye on prestigious shows like Transparent and Downton Abbey, and quality programming for young children, Amazon is asserting that it wants to be the go-to streaming platform for full-grown adults.

Link to the rest at Decider

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There was a desert wind blowing that night

31 August 2015

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

Raymond Chandler

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Mobile Readers Abound; the Ads, Not So Much

31 August 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Traditional and online publishers are struggling to cash in on their surging mobile traffic, raising questions about their future growth as consumers increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets for media.

News and information outlets ranging from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to Business Insider and About.com all can point to rapid growth in mobile usage. Time spent on publishers’ mobile offerings jumped 40% in the 12 months through July and now accounts for 55% of total time spent on their properties, up from 42% two years ago, according to estimates by measurement specialist comScore.

The problem is that for many publishers mobile revenue isn’t keeping pace—by a long shot—creating what industry executives are calling a “mobile gap.”

Selling advertising on mobile devices is proving difficult: It is hard to show mobile users enough ads, traditional ad formats like “banners” perform miserably, and publishers can’t easily do sophisticated tracking and targeting of ads. These issues extend from publishers’ mobile websites to their apps.

. . . .

More than half of unique visits to The Wall Street Journal Digital Network—which includes the Journal, MarketWatch, Barron’s, and WSJ Magazine—now come from non-desktop devices, but mobile accounts for less than 20% of the network’s digital ad revenue, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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The digital debate is done, and the reading public are the winners

31 August 2015

From The Guardian:

When I started writing this column three-and-a-half years ago, the digital publishing revolution was just starting to filter down to public consciousness.

From a pub lunch where someone was showing off their new Kindle to the 8.53am slot on the Today programme, conversations revolved around the same old questions. Is Amazon intent on destroying literary civilisation or is it a well-oiled customer-focused machine? Are publishers greedy and conservative middlemen or gatekeepers upholding quality? Is the person opposite you on the train reading Middlemarch or self-published vampire porn? What happens if you drop your e-reader in the bath?

The answers tended to be very black and white. You were either an ebook zealot or a luddite refusenik. A heartless free-marketeer or a romantic economic illiterate. There was little room for nuance or ambiguity.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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Who owns your digital afterlife?

31 August 2015

From The San Jose Mercury News:

When a landlord discovered the body of bestselling novelist Marsha Mehran last year in a seaside Irish cottage, the 36-year-old had left behind a trove of literary work.

Some of it, such as the international hit “Pomegranate Soup,” can be found in libraries and bookstores around the world. Other writings were stuck in the Internet cloud, including a password-protected account that only Google knew how to open.

What happens to our emails, online searches, or — in Mehran’s case — digital manuscripts, when we die? It took costly legal maneuvers this summer stretching from Australia to Silicon Valley for her grieving father to find out.

“I wanted to know if Marsha left any notes, anything about her sickness, or about what was going on in the last year or two,” said Abbas Mehran. “What’s the difference between the notebook my daughter left for me, with all the secrets of life, and the digital account that Google has?”

A surge of families struggling with similar questions is driving a behind-the-scenes political battle between tech companies and estate lawyers over who gets the keys to someone’s digital afterlife.

In California, lawmakers will vote in September on a bill backed by Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and a lobby group that represents Google, Microsoft and Apple. Assembly Bill 691 would deny families access to emails of someone who died unless a court finds the person had consented to passing them on to heirs; other digital assets such as photos and documents would also be restricted, with an exception for recent files that affect an estate’s finances. By favoring personal privacy over a family’s wishes, the companies hope to appeal to the unspoken will of their users while also lessening the bureaucratic hassle of complying with millions of posthumous requests.

. . . .

“Many of our privacy rights expire when we pass away,” Carroll said. “Sometimes a family says, ‘I don’t want to read his or her emails. I want my memories the way they are.’ That’s completely valid. But certainly an archivist would argue that often just as important as the manuscript (are) all the notes and correspondence. It reveals more about the author’s thought process and the decisions that were made, how the work came together and what the author was thinking.”

Some companies, such as Yahoo, destroy everything and reveal nothing after a user dies. Others take a case-by-case approach. Facebook and Google now have online tools that allow users to choose their digital heirs and how much they want preserved or deleted upon death.

Link to the rest at  The San Jose Mercury News and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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Mutiny at the Hugo Awards

31 August 2015

From Real Clear Politics:

The latest pitched battle in science fiction is not between space pirates and alien monsters but between fandom factions, with the Hugo Awards as the battlefield. Depending on where you stand, this fight pits either forces of progress against reactionary barbarians or the elitist establishment against anti-authoritarian rebels. The progressive elites have decisively won this round; but was it a pyrrhic victory? One thing is certain: this culture war is here to stay.

The Hugos are science fiction’s Oscars, selected by fans—anyone who pays the $40 World Science Fiction Convention membership fee is eligible to nominate and vote—and presented at the annual WorldCon. Earlier this year, a large share of the nominations was captured by the so-called “Sad Puppies” slate, organized by a group of writers opposed to what they saw as a politically correct domination of the Hugos. It was the culmination of an effort that began in 2013.

. . . .

When the nominations were unveiled in April, the science fiction fandom and much of the popular culture media had a meltdown. The Puppies were accused of “gaming the system” by voting as a bloc—and portrayed as a right-wing “white boys’ club” reacting to the growing prominence of female, nonwhite, progressive voices in the field.

At the 73rd WorldCon on August 22, the empire struck back. Not one Puppy nominee won a Hugo. In five all-Puppy categories, the top choice was “No Award,” just as progressive sci-fi bloggers had recommended. At the presentation, each “No Award” was met with applause and cheers, which Puppy supporters saw as unseemly gloating at sticking it to “WrongFans.” Of course, the “Puppy Kickers” (as the Puppies call them) and their mainstream media backers saw it very differently: as a defeat for ballot-stuffing reactionaries and a victory for both quality and diversity.

. . . .

Then there are the politicized “message” stories. Thus, last year’s Best Novel Hugo went to “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie, whose protagonist belongs to a futuristic human civilization with no concept of gender distinctions and with “she” as the universal pronoun. The Best Story winner, “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu, dealt with a Chinese-American man’s struggles with coming out as gay. (The “fantasy” part was a clunky plot device: a mysterious phenomenon that causes anyone telling a lie to be instantly doused in water.) Also high on the gripe list is last year’s nomination for “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, a short story that even some of its fans concede is not really science fiction or fantasy. It is the internal monologue of a woman who daydreams about her comatose fiancé—the victim of a hate crime by men who apparently thought he was gay or transgendered—becoming a human-sized dinosaur.

. . . .

Perhaps the real issue isn’t the quality of any specific work, or even the prevalence of “message fiction” in the genre; it’s that, as cautiously Puppy-sympathetic nonfiction writer and data scientist Nathaniel Givens has argued on his blog, “the message has never been so dogmatically uniform.” What’s more, Givens argues, the current crop of pro-“social justice” authors who dominate the field not only use their fiction as a vehicle for ideology but seek to enforce conformity throughout the fandom, posing a genuine threat to intellectual diversity. He points out that, by contrast, the Sad Puppies “went out of their way to put some authors on the slate who are liberal rather than conservative.”

Givens’s observations are echoed by Hoyt, who has written on her blog about the “state of fear” that has existed for a while in the speculative fiction community—the fear of being blacklisted for having the wrong politics. While Hoyt says that this fear has lost much of its grip now that independent publishing has allowed writers to make a living outside the “establishment” sci-fi presses, the elites still control recognition and legitimacy within the fandom. Hence, the Hugos rebellion.

Link to the rest at Real Clear Politics and thanks to Julia and several others for the tip.

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30 Reasons Why I Write

31 August 2015

From Medium:

1. If I don’t create, I won’t affect the world around me.

2. Writing is the minimum viable product of my life.

3. There’s no despair that can’t be held at bay with words.

4. When people ask what I do, I have something to point to.

5. Having a career and paying bills is treading water for me – writing gives me a purpose.

. . . .

17. Right now, we are drafting the future of digital publishing – I wouldn’t trade my place in that for anything.

18. Writing is its own form of innovation.

19. Writing is a skill that can be applied to and is needed by every industry, technology and platform.

20. Being able to write is one of the greatest accomplishments of humanity.

Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

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Rousting the Book Pirates From Google

30 August 2015

From The New York Times:

The Haggler will now don his professorial tweeds because he starts this episode in teacher mode. All of the action below revolves around the Google Play store.

. . . .

In Forbes recently, Erik Kain called Google Play “an ugly, poorly organized store filled with myriad knockoffs, dubious ‘games’ and other apps.” That sounds a bit harsh to the Haggler, a Google Play regular who has had mostly positive experiences.

That said, the site has problems.

Q. Book piracy has taken a new form. Someone scanned my entire e-book, “Graphic Design Solutions,” created a new cover and is selling it on Google Play. It is the same e-book, verbatim, and inside are the same images, same layout and the same interviews. The only difference is the name of the author. A person named Jazmin Bonilla gets the credit.

My royalties have plummeted, which affects my ability to donate to scholarships for my university students. Both my publisher and I have notified Google, but no action has been taken. Maybe the company will listen to you.

ROBIN LANDA, NEW YORK

. . . .

[The Haggler’s] first thought was that if e-book piracy were a serious issue on Google Play, there would be other examples. There are many. A quick search led the Haggler to a site called The Digital Reader. There, the writer Nate Hoffelder detailed “rampant” e-book piracy, as he put it in a May post, in Google Play. He found that one shop was selling more than 100 pirated versions of best sellers by authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Sidney Sheldon and Ellery Queen.

They cost $2.11 each. But even these oddly priced bargains were kind of a rip-off. Mr. Hoffelder downloaded a few and found they “were clearly inferior copies with missing formatting, generic or outdated covers, and other problems,” he wrote.

. . . .

Mr. Hoffelder said that Google was aware of the problem but responded slowly to complaints from authors and publishers and sometimes did not respond at all. As bad, when the company acted, he stated, it would often remove pirated e-books but allow e-book pirates to remain on the site.

. . . .

So the Haggler contacted Google. He included a link to both the authentic “Graphic Design Solutions” in Google Play as well as the fake. A guy named Matt McLernon immediately got in touch. Like many members of Google’s public relations staff, Mr. McLernon was exceptionally pleasant — and hamstrung. Google is forever worried that the details of its inner workings will be used to game its algorithms and filters and secret sauces by an assortment of miscreants. So its P.R. team is filled with really bright, really friendly people who dearly wish they could be more helpful.

That said, we have enough light to see what happened. About 18 months ago, Google Play started selling self-published e-books. Any author could post and sell his or her work on the site. But in February — and why this started then is a mystery that Mr. McLernon did not explain — a wave of piracy was spotted by book publishers.

“It was mostly e-books in the science fiction genre,” said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins. “So we had a number of calls with Google.”

It emerged that the pirated books were being uploaded by people using Google Play through its self-publishing channel. People were opening accounts, ostensibly to publish their own work, and then selling digital copies of popular, and not so popular, e-books that they had not written.

“I don’t know if it is my immense power,” Ms. Restivo-Alessi said, “or if they were having similar conversations with other publishers at the time, but they listened to me, and they shut down the point of entry for these pirates.”

Mr. McLernon confirmed this. In May, Google stopped enrolling any new self-publishing authors. At the same time, a team of employees went through all of the complaints filed by publishers. Pirate accounts were deleted. (The company eventually plans to restart the program.)

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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Across the street somebody had delirium tremens

30 August 2015

Across the street somebody had delirium tremens in the front yard and a mixed quartet tore what was left of the night into small strips and did what they could to make the strips miserable. While this was going on the exotic brunette didn’t move more than one eyelash.

Raymond Chandler

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