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Showing posts from December, 2012

RTFM

I spent a little time yesterday going through some of the software on my various computers. Help files and online documentation are wonderful things. Also, it never hurts to actually look at the screen, which often reveals useful menu choices. Sheesh. So Evernote (and the Ubuntu client Nixnote) turn out to have all kinds of wonderful features. They're all right there in the help files. Likewise, I find that when there's something that finally bubbles to the top of my consciousness as an annoyance that can no longer be borne, all I have to do is Google the problem, and someone solved it a few years ago. Example: after being irritated about how difficult it was to post links to my blog to Facebook and Twitter, I looked up a way to add that to my blogger template. I was very proud of myself. Except that just now I noticed that there's a little menu choice, "more," next to the blogger search bar that does exactly the same thing. It's probably been there foreve…

Android apps

I really do try to keep things simple. On my Android phone, I don't use all that much. Browser, email, Gtasks (to put tasks on my Google calendar), and Evernote for miscellany, some ebook reading software. But today I found two apps that are really kind of amazing. The first is called Pocket. It's like Instapaper -- a utility to grab a website and send it to a location where you can read it later. But it's all cleaned up - stripped of ads and multiple columns. You just scroll through it in a preset type size. Brilliant and simple. You can also download the app to your browser on a desktop. Available in Android and iOS. The second is called Swype. It was already right there on my phone, a separate "input method" that allows me to very quickly enter text just by swiping a single finger across the keyboard. It seemed a little weird, but I found after just a few moments practice that I could input both more quickly and more accurately this way than by using both t…

Newtown, gun control

On the same day that the Newtown, CT tragedy made headlines status in the Denver Post, there was another story: 22 kids, 1 adult hurt in China school knife attack. Terrible? Yes. Deaths? None. Why? Because the attacker didn't have a gun. In the past several days, many people have written all kinds of pithy statements, often pointing out the ready availability of weapons, and the heartbreaking difficulty of finding help for mental illness, as movingly told in "I am Adam Lanza's mother.". But I wanted to link to this thoughtful posting by Nicholas Kristof, Do we have the courage to stop this? Incredibly, I've already seen the wacko responses: "if only the teachers had been armed," as if our problem is too few guns. I've also seen, "God withdrew protection from children when we withdrew prayer from the schools," as if (as someone else Tweeted) the Holocaust was the result of too little prayer. We don't need stridency or posing. We ne…

Computer stuff

My inner geekiness speaks: First, OMG I want a Nexus 7. Let me be perfectly clear that I do not need one. But the combination of form factor, function, and price leaves me itching for the one device that does most of what I want, is both portable and essential. Thank you MicroCenter, for the chance to see and touch it. We really are getting close to the electronic notebook (anyone remember the DynaBook?) that actually works. I just might have to put this on my Christmas list. On the other hand, I suspect the right thing to do is wait until AFTER Christmas. Second, in the process of poking around to define availability of essential programs, I stumbled across Kingsoft Office for Android. It's free for that platform, and, like LibreOffice, a reasonably solid replacement for Microsoft Office. Today was the first time I'd heard of it. If you have an Android device, grab it. Third, after some disappointing downloads for office software for the iPad, I trashed two Openoffice.org …

Forbes on ebooks and libraries

David Vinjamuri, author of one book published through traditional publishing, and another self-published, wrote the first of what looks to be a provocative series. He calls it "The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Versus Libraries." I wrote him to correct the first version of this. I told him, I believe, "I saw a decrease in USE (not youth or youth readership) that was hard to explain because our libraries are busy." Vinjamuri is an astute writer, although I’d challenge this statement: "For better or worse, publishers are unlikely to adopt a pricing model for eBooks that mirrors how print books are sold to libraries." My library bought some 18,000 titles from publishers who DID agree to our Statement of Common Understanding. That Common Understand captures a lot of things close to the First Sale doctrine. I still think of it like this: the Big 5 (and shrinking) aren’t the only game in town, and what’s good for them isn’t necessarily good for the autho…

Creative destruction

I'm sure I'm jet-lagged. All of my thoughts and conversations of the day are running together. But here's the idea: in times of fundamental change -- whether the rise of digital publishing in a time of the Big 5 publishers in America, or the rise of the Internet amidst Russia's increasingly totalitarian state - you don't bet on the systems of control. You bet on the creators. Regarding publishing, why would an author give up 90% of the profit when without the author there's nothing to publish? Regarding politics, why would a new generation of workers agree to be penned into a closed, archaic industrial system when they've tasted an open global network? If the economic or political system can't accommodate the new and developing, then it is by definition old and decaying. So for the Big 5: your attempt to consolidate and lock down the market is doomed. The writers really don't need you anymore. And for Putin: to a new generation, it doesn't lo…

The Foreign Service

A quick note about the US Embassy people I worked with while in Russia. They impressed me. Quick with languages, knowledgeable and insightful about culture and customs, they all moved deftly and thoughtfully through a host of complex situations. I hadn't really imagined what it would be like to have such a career, with its frequent repostings around the world. But I believe our nation must be well-served by such persistent attempts to do nothing more than build friendly relationships among various professionals. At any rate, I was genuinely grateful for their professionalism and competence.

Russia reflections: censorship

I'm sure I'll have many more thoughts over the next few days about my experience. But now that I'm back in the US, I'll say what I really didn't want to say while I was there: there is a strong and widespread sense that anti-American sentiments are rising, aided and abetted by Putin's administration, and somewhat to my surprise, by the Orthodox Church. Many of the questions I received by Russians were about censorship. My stories - about overprotective parents who wanted stories of woods without wolves (lest they frighten the children) - seemed almost naive to the Russians. While I was there, as recorded on the front page of the English language Moscow Times (November 30-December 2, 2012), "a city court declared Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer' video extremist, meaning that media outlets can face closure for publishing the all-female band's famous performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Thursday's far-reaching decision also…

Non-fiction book fair

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Yesterday I had my final speaking engagement. It was at the Non/Fiction Book Fair, at a large hall just opposite Gorky Park. The traffic is USUALLY bad in Moscow, but it was particularly crowded around the fair. There were two incredibly long lines outside the building to buy tickets. But as a speaker, I already had one. I dropped by the coat check room (most building in Moscow seem to have one -- the legacy of cold winters) -- then went upstairs. Peter from the Embassy introduced me to Americans from the company Foreword Reviews, who represent many small and independent publishers. They knew about Douglas County Libraries because they'd met some of our people at the recent PubWest conference in Colorado. One thinks of such fairs as industry gatherings. But apparently there are so few retail outlets for books that the Moscow citizenry just swarms the place. Almost every space was elbow to elbow. A lot of book buying was going on -- really more of a consumer event. I've poste…