Archive for December 2007


December 31, 2007

I’ve got a lot to look forward to in the coming year. I’m graduating from college; I’ll officially have my B.A. in English this May. Then I’ll be getting my first apartment- I have plans to move in with a friend of mine; we’re going to try and get a place together near White Plains. I’ll start full time at Pace in the fall. I’m already taking classes there part-time, thanks to Manhattanville’s joint program (The goal, in case you don’t know, is an M.S. in publishing).

This coming year will also see two of my traveling goals come to fruition. In May, as a graduation present to myself, I’m going for a 15-day trip to Europe. I’ve never been overseas (or, actually, out of the country other then a short stint in Canada that I don’t think should count, and a cruise) and I’ve wanted to go visit Europe in the worst way (I’ll post more on the trip later). I also have plans to go visit the Grand Canyon with my family during a 2-week road trip end of August. I’ve always wanted to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, and I’ve never been out west. I haven’t traveled much in my life.

During spring break, in March, my mother and I have plans to go to North Carolina. Not that that trip is a major goal, but my mother’s family all lives there and I haven’t seen them since I graduated from high-school 3-years ago.

I have a couple of ‘resolutions,’  or really goals, for the new year too. I want to pitch a magazine article and get it published. I’ve never written for or been publishing in a magazine before, although has taken several of my poems, Life and With the Fire Flies. Both won editor’s choice awards…. although I’m not sure how prestigious or rare those awards are; they can’t be too hard to get if I’ve submitted two poems and gotten the award both times.  But thats besides the point; the point is that I’d like to try and get some clips and start freelancing. I think, ideally, I’d like to be full-time with a book publisher and work part-time as a freelancer writing on writing and publishing. I’d love to write for Writer’s Digest or Publisher’s Weekly.

Doing all the things I want to do in 2008 isn’t going to be easy; I also need to find a ‘real job’ in the big open world. I’ve been working on my resume, and plan to rewrite my cover letter in the next couple days. I have about two dozen part-time jobs and internships that I want to apply for. I’d like to work 3 days a week this semester. I planned my school schedule so that I could. I only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If none of the jobs pan out I’ll pick up a couple more classes.

I wish all of you the best of luck with your own resolutions, and I’ll post updates on mine. See you again in 2008!

Merry Christmas – what is yet to come

December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas to all! I was reading over my blog today, and realized I haven’t posted much on my life – with the New Year around the corner, in the near future I plan to add a post on my goals for the New Year, and will post on my Resume and internships and the process of finding a my first *real* job.

The FCC – Newspapers going flat update

December 19, 2007

In a very controversial move, the FCC voted to remove the ban on broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership. If you haven’t heard, I recommend checking it out. I have two quick comments on this decision:

First, it is getting harder and harder to draw the line between the media industries. Take blogs for example; in most ways they are similar to a newspaper, but video content and feeds can easily be added. Can a broadcast company have a website that publishes news? Or is that too close to having an electronic ‘newspaper’? Can a newspaper have a website with video content or things that typically fall under ‘broadcast’ categories? The line was already getting blurry, although it hadn’t caused any serious problems yet (that I’m aware of).

Second, we discussed in my Financial Aspects of Publishing class that many newspaper companies are merging to limit the number of reporters they need to pay, since they aren’t earning as much any more for their product. This is would allow broadcast news companies to further merge with newspaper companies or radio companies. I know its wishful thinking, but with multiple budgets is possible to hire better reporters and allow them to go more in depth, isn’t it? I think this is probably what Kevin Martin had in mind. I’m skeptical about its likelihood but I’m willing to recognize it as a possibility.

All in all, I’m not as opposed to the decision as many others out there seem to be. I think that something needs to be done; I agree with many of the problems they see in todays media; but I don’t think that fighting change will fix the problems. The question is coming up with the right solution. I’m sure the FCC is open to suggestions – any one have any?

I’d love to hear comments on the decision that were more analytical and less bashing.

eBooks – why they got it all wrong

December 19, 2007

The idea of eBooks is an appealing one – being able to access any information immediately, electronically, just by typing a word or two into a search bar on a hand-held device. Flipping through reference books with a couple of key strokes, or as I used eBooks, being able to download the next book in a series in a heartbeat, seems ideal. That is, until you add in reality.

What file format are you going to read them on? Despite efforts to standardize eBook formats, most sites offer at least three, if not more, formats. Do you have the appropriate reader for the format you downloaded? Does your reader work? Or are you going to run into problems like Kassia Krozser talks about on Book Square, where companies are so intent on making their books invulnerable to pirates that they make them impossible to access?

Makers of the Kindle should have at least read reviews on Sony’s device before creating their own. If they did look at them, they only considered the positive ones telling them to jump feet first into the market – without making sure there was a market for them to land in.

One of the nicer critics mentions only these bad points:

– PDF viewing is a waste of time. I understand this is not Sony’s fault since most PDFs are not created to be ‘reflowed’ for a smaller screen. But I do blame Sony for implying it has any use in their marketing material.
– Word documents work OK, except I have tried quite a few that could not be viewed since the text wouldn’t get big enough.
– speaking of which, there isn’t enough control over text size. Just S,M,L. And a few Word docs I imported mysteriously didn’t offer the large option.
– The Connect store is OK to use your $50 gift certificate in, but selection is very limited. If Sony wants to make this th iPod of ebooks, it will have to address this quickly.
– The newsfeed feature is useless. One is limited to the dozen or so preconfigured in the Connect store, the user cannot add their own. And even the preconfigured ones are a waste of time since one has to hit the page button a dozen times just to get to the text (it looks like a crude import of the web pages, except links cannot be followed). And then hit page button a dozen more times to get to the next text block.
– If you want/need to switch pages with your right hand, you are out of luck. All the page advance controls are on the left hand side.

(reproduced from by jbmartin6)

But I have also seen reviews discussing Sony’s lack of attempt at any visual appeal. Not to mention the very valid argument that its simply cheaper to buy a paperback then an ebook reader – and then the ebook.

Kindle is, although I didn’t think it possible, uglier then the Sony device, and its biggest improvement is the internet capabilities via Sprint.

Narsil, on, just about sums up the problems with the Sony device when he posts:

1)Why is it better than paper?
2)Why buy a digital book that is copy protected when you can buy the paper version for hep and have it forever?
3)Why use a product that has none of the ruggedness of paper? (Books can be put under heavier books. Books survive falls and moisture. Books need not be charged up. Let’s see your product do that.)

It doesn’t seem to me that the Kindle addressed any of them. Before ebook readers are going to succeed – and I do believe they will succeed – makers are going to have to look at what reader’s want. They are going to have to find ways to make their readers better then a paperback book.

Some ideas? Well, first I would add lighting. A small light, allowing you to read in the dark seems to make sense to me, since e-ink isn’t back lit. You can’t read paperbacks in the dark. Allow one free book a month, or ebook reader book clubs that allow certain genre discounts.

Create a ‘tab’ feature, like mozilla firefox uses, so a reader can have open both a book, referencing a definition or doing research, while also having open a commentary their favorite blog has done on the book. Create something that is waterproof (wouldn’t that be better then paper?) or fire proof or both (no one said I had to be practical). Or, in the opposite direction GIVE it the ruggedness of paper, the feel of a book. Cover it like a hardcover novel; does it really need to feel like plastic? Use both sides of the device, so that a reader ‘opens’ it the way they do a book.

Sell a way to charge multiple batteries and switch between them if you need to (though I think that the number of page turns per charge is pretty impressive). Make extremely hard to damage; allow ‘post-its’ to be inserted into text, perhaps with a toggle to turn your comments on or off (so if you need to you can still see the un-commented on work).

Finally DONT LIMIT SHARING. It doesn’t stop those determined to do it anyway, and unlike music the ebook is not a product with a decisive following already. It is not just another step of technology. If it is going to sell and catch on, it needs to become better then the book; if ebook readers are going to catch they need to become better then reading on a laptop or PDA. Market to college or even high school kids. The device is lighter then carrying textbooks. I would probably also make it slightly larger, but still smaller then a laptop. Perhaps half the size of one. Allow infinite zooms on anything that goes on the device. Small text is tough to read even if it isn’t back lit and is portable, no one will want to read it.

Most important, ask average readers what they think. If you want a device that will be limited to top level professionals, make a device for that purpose. It probably wouldn’t take much work, most positive comments were from those who plan to use it professionally, but if you want a mass market universal device, design it with that market in mind.

Newspapers – Going flat?

December 6, 2007

This past Wednesday, Professor Rabinowitz had a friend of his involved in Newspaper publishing in to talk to the class. His name was James Lesserson, and he has worked for the Daily News and The New York Times. The focus of our discussion ended up being the affect that the internet has had on newspapers and the newspaper industry.

He began by telling us about the way Newspapers operated financially before the internet. Generally, Newspapers have three categories of expense: “people”, “paper”, and “all others”. The “people” category includes paying reporters, editors, and people like Mr. Lesserson; it normally accounts for about 50% of a newspapers expenses. “Paper” includes the cost of printing and the paper itself, and it accounts for approximately 10-15% of expense. Finally, all other expenses take up the remaining 35-40%. Before the ‘internet bubble,’ as Lesserson called it, burst in 2000, The New York Times had a circulation penetration goal of 50%. This means they expected to place their paper in 1 of our every 2 households.

However since 2000 things have changed drastically. Goal of circulation is more like 40%; newspapers are losing money in advertising and sales. Most people get their news from internet sites like google. This is causing a major problem. Most of the news we read online is still being gathered and the articles written by newspaper reporters; however, newspapers are no longer seeing the benefits of this work. Google and other internet news sites gather the information, and prioritize it for readers according to the readers’ interests. These companies aren’t spending anything to produce the product, and the articles are gathered and sorted automatically by machine.

Despite the drop in revenue, expenses aren’t decreasing. People don’t want to be paid less, and paper and printing isn’t getting any less expensive. If anything, expenses are increasing. Many newspapers are having to cut back on their newsrooms. As a result, news reporting is slowly becoming less in depth; each reporter is worked harder and every employee has more on their plate.

Is it really any surprise people like Marda Dunsky are arguing that the news is becoming unreliable? That reporters aren’t doing their job?

After talking about these serious issues, all of which the newspaper industry is facing the conversation in class turned to e-book readers and potential ways newspapers might adapt to the future. Mr. Lesserson was of the opinion that newspapers can’t go digital unless they make a large e-book reader that can be folded like a newspaper. I disagree. I think that one about the size of a magazine would do the trick. It would require newspaper publishers to seriously rethink their formatting, and to try and create a digital format visually more like a magazine; it would require learning to present information differently. I suggested that editors and reporters should be encouraged to blog; opinions are important these days and who better to give them then those who are doing research and presenting us with ‘facts’. Think of the advantages to newspapers on an e-book reader, especially one such as Kindle – it could download automatically. You wouldn’t even have to stop outside your door to pick it up. If something was extremely interesting to you, or if you wanted to know more about an article you could do research on the spot. It could include links to other sources of information, original documents, other articles on similar topics.

Mr. Lesserson expressed surprise that magazines hadn’t caught on to digital versions much quicker. He thought that with their industry/interest specific information they would easily make the transition. However, their habit of publishing monthly editions has held them back. They don’t publish fresh information quickly enough. Newspapers publishing daily. Although much broader in content, they have frequency as an advantage over magazines. They are used to producing new content around the clock. Yet they have been just as slow to adapt. Perhaps in the end, those who will be successful are those who take the best of both worlds and meld it together. Maybe in the future we will have a daily news-mag. Or maybe it isn’t too late for these two industries. There is time yet; perhaps they will seize it, and learn to adapt. Either way, there is no doubt; the future is coming.