May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
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Self Publishers and On Demand Publishing

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An interesting quote from

To sell a book of any worth to a major publisher a writer needs a capable, professional agent. On behalf of thousands of writers without an agent or access to one via insider introduction, I will describe what it is like for an outsider to try to gain representation.

My over-all professional background: a writer of 20 books, published in New York (Morrow, fiction; Ballantine, nonfiction), and a freelance with a long record of achievement in print, broadcast and Internet media worldwide for some of the best corporations, magazines, media and similar interests.

Those credentials, plus $1, will buy you a really rotten cup of coffee.

Analysts aren't too bullish on self-publishing. "I don't think self-publishing will be big," says Jupiter's Hertzberg. "Everybody's a writer or a filmmaker, yes, but talent will still determine where the market is, and there aren't that many talented authors."

5 trends in open source documentation

Certain trends in tech documentation stand out. We round up five top trends from 2016.

Dec 15, 2016  Shaun McCanceFeed 


I've been doing open source documentation for a long time. Over the past decade, there have been a lot of attitude shifts regarding authoring and publishing. Some of these trends seem to go in cycles, such as the popularity of semantic markup. The latest trends move documentation closer to code, what many have called docs as code. Let's look at a few of the larger themes in documentation trends:

1. Git

When I first started doing documentation work for GNOME, we wrote our documentation in DocBook and stored it in CVS repositories alongside our code. These days, most GNOME documentation is written in Mallard and stored in a Git repository (after a brief stint with SVN). Although formats and tools have changed, the constant factor is that sources are stored in revision control, just like code.

It may seem odd to call this a trend when we've been doing it for so long, but a few things have changed, and some of that revolves around what Git has brought to the table. Git is one of the decentralized version control systems that arrived on the scene over the past decade or so. Some people continue to use decentralized version control systems the same way they used CVS or SVN, but that doesn't expose the real power of these systems. Documentation writers are increasingly proficient using Git for what it is. They're creating development, staging, and production branches, and they're merging disparate contributions. This wasn't as common just a few years ago.

Git is certainly not the only decentralized version control system. There are also Bazaar and Mercurial, to name just two, and you will find writers wielding the same power with those tools as well. But Git has taken the majority of the mind share, thanks in large part to popular Git hosting sites.

This is an area in which open source has lead the trend in the overall software documentation industry. A quick glance at technical writing forums will show plenty of people across the industry looking for information on how to effectively transition to Git. In the past, they may have stored their sources on a network drive with no revision control, or they may have used a proprietary management system. Git and tools like it have drastically changed the way the entire software industry deals with documentation.

2. Lightweight languages

There have always been plenty of choices for documentation source formats. There are semantic XML formats, and SGML formats before that. There are TeX dialects and troff dialects. There are the source formats of word processors, page layout tools, and help authoring tools. There are the internal formats of various wikis and content management systems. There's HTML. And there are a handful of lightweight markup languages that are designed to be easy to type in a text editor.

People are increasingly choosing lightweight markup languages for a number of reasons. They are usually easier to write, at least for simple things. They tend to play better with version control systems, because they're generally line oriented. And they can help lower the barrier to entry for new contributors, although you should be careful not to expect a change in source format alone to drive lots of contributors to your project.

Lightweight markup languages have their downsides, too. The tools for working with them tend to be limited in scope, and don't often provide the kind of data model you need to write other tools. They also don't usually provide as much semantic information. With XML formats, for example, there are a wealth of tools for translation, validation, link checking, status reporting, and various types of testing and data extraction. This kind of tooling isn't currently as extensive for lightweight formats. So although lightweight formats might ease the barrier to entry for new contributors, they can also create new barriers to long-term maintenance. As with all things, there are always trade-offs.

The three most popular lightweight formats right now are Markdown, AsciiDoc, and reStructured Text. Markdown is the simplest, but it doesn't offer much for anything but the most basic documentation needs. It also comes in many different, slightly incompatible flavors, depending on which processing tool you use. AsciiDoc offers more semantics and more types of elements. It originally focused on being a front-end to DocBook, but it has grown to natively support lots of output formats. reStructuredText came from the Python community, and for a long time its use was largely limited to Python projects. It has grown in popularity lately due to hosting sites, such as Read the Docs.

3. Static site generators

Five years ago, the trend was to use wikis and blogging platforms to create documentation sites. They were easy to set up, and giving people accounts to contribute was easy. Particularly brave people would even open their wiki to anonymous contributions. These days, the trend is to keep sources in version control, then build and publish sites with mostly static HTML files.

Generating static sites isn't new. My first job out of college was working on internal tools used at a software company to build and publish static files for tens of thousands of pages of documentation. But static sites have become increasingly popular for projects of all sizes, for a number of reasons.

First, there are increasingly good off-the-shelf static site generators. Tools like Middleman and Jekyll are just as easy to deploy as a wiki or a blog. Unless you have specialized needs, you no longer have to write and maintain your own site-generating tool. Static site generators have become increasingly popular among web developers, and technical writers get to ride that wave.

Another reason static sites are more popular is that source hosting sites are easier to use, and a growing number of technical people use them. One of the draws of a wiki was that somebody could contribute without downloading anything or installing special tools. If your source files are stored in a hosting service like GitHub, anybody with a GitHub account can edit them right in their web browser and ask you to merge their changes.

4. Continuous integration

Continuous integration is the key that ties the previous trends together. You can write your documentation in a simple format, store it in Git and edit it on the web using a Git hosting service, and publish a site from those sources. With continuous integration, you don't even need a human to kick off the publishing process. If you're brave, you can publish automatically after every commit to master, and you'll have a nearly wiki-like experience for writers.

Some projects will be more conservative and only publish from a production branch. But even when publishing from a branch, continuous integration removes tedious human intervention. You can also automatically publish staging sites for development branches.

Continuous integration isn't just about publishing, either. Projects can use it to automatically test their documentation for things like validity and link integrity, or to generate reports on status and coverage.

5. Hosted documentation services

Automatically publishing documentation sites with continuous integration is easier than ever, but now there are hosted services that take care of everything for you. Just pass them a Git repository, and they'll automatically build, publish, and host your documentation. The most well-known example is Read the Docs. Originally coming out of the Python community, its ease of use has made it popular for all sorts of projects.

Whether free hosted documentation sites can be financially viable remains to be seen�to keep sites like that running costs money and people hours. If the sites can't maintain a certain level of quality, people will take their documentation elsewhere. If you benefit from one of these free services, I encourage you to see how you can help financially.

I believe the hosted documentation services trend will continue. Smart people will figure out how to smooth the bumps. I also suspect we'll start seeing paid hosted documentation services for proprietary software. Open source has led the way on documentation technology over the past decade, and it will continue to do so.


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[Jul 03, 2021] The Rotting Internet Is a Collective Hallucination - The Atlantic

Notable quotes:
"... By Jonathan Zittrain ..."
Jul 03, 2021 |

The Internet Is Rotting

Too much has been lost already. The glue that holds humanity's knowledge together is coming undone.

By Jonathan Zittrain
Computer with screen glitching out
Getty / Valerie Chiang
JUNE 30, 2021 SHARE

Sixty years ago the futurist Arthur C. Clarke observed that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The internet -- how we both communicate with one another and together preserve the intellectual products of human civilization -- fits Clarke's observation well. In Steve Jobs's words, " it just works ," as readily as clicking, tapping, or speaking. And every bit as much aligned with the vicissitudes of magic, when the internet doesn't work, the reasons are typically so arcane that explanations for it are about as useful as trying to pick apart a failed spell.


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Underpinning our vast and simple-seeming digital networks are technologies that, if they hadn't already been invented, probably wouldn't unfold the same way again. They are artifacts of a very particular circumstance, and it's unlikely that in an alternate timeline they would have been designed the same way.

The internet's distinct architecture arose from a distinct constraint and a distinct freedom: First, its academically minded designers didn't have or expect to raise massive amounts of capital to build the network; and second, they didn't want or expect to make money from their invention.

The internet's framers thus had no money to simply roll out a uniform centralized network the way that, for example, FedEx metabolized a capital outlay of tens of millions of dollars to deploy liveried planes, trucks, people, and drop-off boxes, creating a single point-to-point delivery system. Instead, they settled on the equivalent of rules for how to bolt existing networks together.

Rather than a single centralized network modeled after the legacy telephone system, operated by a government or a few massive utilities, the internet was designed to allow any device anywhere to interoperate with any other device, allowing any provider able to bring whatever networking capacity it had to the growing party. And because the network's creators did not mean to monetize, much less monopolize, any of it, the key was for desirable content to be provided naturally by the network's users, some of whom would act as content producers or hosts, setting up watering holes for others to frequent.


Unlike the briefly ascendant proprietary networks such as CompuServe, AOL, and Prodigy , content and network would be separated. Indeed, the internet had and has no main menu, no CEO, no public stock offering, no formal organization at all. There are only engineers who meet every so often to refine its suggested communications protocols that hardware and software makers, and network builders, are then free to take up as they please.

So the internet was a recipe for mortar, with an invitation for anyone, and everyone, to bring their own bricks. Tim Berners-Lee took up the invite and invented the protocols for the World Wide Web, an application to run on the internet. If your computer spoke "web" by running a browser, then it could speak with servers that also spoke web, naturally enough known as websites. Pages on sites could contain links to all sorts of things that would, by definition, be but a click away, and might in practice be found at servers anywhere else in the world, hosted by people or organizations not only not affiliated with the linking webpage, but entirely unaware of its existence. And webpages themselves might be assembled from multiple sources before they displayed as a single unit, facilitating the rise of ad networks that could be called on by websites to insert surveillance beacons and ads on the fly, as pages were pulled together at the moment someone sought to view them.

And like the internet's own designers, Berners-Lee gave away his protocols to the world for free -- enabling a design that omitted any form of centralized management or control, since there was no usage to track by a World Wide Web, Inc., for the purposes of billing. The web, like the internet, is a collective hallucination , a set of independent efforts united by common technological protocols to appear as a seamless, magical whole.

This absence of central control, or even easy central monitoring, has long been celebrated as an instrument of grassroots democracy and freedom. It's not trivial to censor a network as organic and decentralized as the internet. But more recently, these features have been understood to facilitate vectors for individual harassment and societal destabilization, with no easy gating points through which to remove or label malicious work not under the umbrellas of the major social-media platforms, or to quickly identify their sources. While both assessments have power to them, they each gloss over a key feature of the distributed web and internet: Their designs naturally create gaps of responsibility for maintaining valuable content that others rely on. Links work seamlessly until they don't. And as tangible counterparts to online work fade, these gaps represent actual holes in humanity's knowledge.

Before today's internet, the primary way to preserve something for the ages was to consign it to writing -- first on stone, then parchment, then papyrus, then 20-pound acid-free paper, then a tape drive, floppy disk, or hard-drive platter -- and store the result in a temple or library: a building designed to guard it against rot, theft, war, and natural disaster. This approach has facilitated preservation of some material for thousands of years. Ideally, there would be multiple identical copies stored in multiple libraries, so the failure of one storehouse wouldn't extinguish the knowledge within. And in rare instances in which a document was surreptitiously altered, it could be compared against copies elsewhere to detect and correct the change.

These buildings didn't run themselves, and they weren't mere warehouses. They were staffed with clergy and then librarians, who fostered a culture of preservation and its many elaborate practices, so precious documents would be both safeguarded and made accessible at scale -- certainly physically, and, as important, through careful indexing, so an inquiring mind could be paired with whatever a library had that might slake that thirst. (As Jorge Luis Borges pointed out, a library without an index becomes paradoxically less informative as it grows.)

At the dawn of the internet age, 25 years ago, it seemed the internet would make for immense improvements to, and perhaps some relief from, these stewards' long work. The quirkiness of the internet and web's design was the apotheosis of ensuring that the perfect would not be the enemy of the good. Instead of a careful system of designation of "important" knowledge distinct from day-to-day mush, and importation of that knowledge into the institutions and cultures of permanent preservation and access (libraries), there was just the infinitely variegated web, with canonical reference websites like those for academic papers and newspaper articles juxtaposed with PDFs, blogs, and social-media posts hosted here and there.

Adrienne LaFrance: Searching for lost knowledge in the age of intelligent machines

Enterprising students designed web crawlers to automatically follow and record every single link they could find, and then follow every link at the end of that link, and then build a concordance that would allow people to search across a seamless whole, creating search engines returning the top 10 hits for a word or phrase among, today, more than 100 trillion possible pages. As Google puts it , "The web is like an ever-growing library with billions of books and no central filing system."

Now, I just quoted from Google's corporate website, and I used a hyperlink so you can see my source. Sourcing is the glue that holds humanity's knowledge together. It's what allows you to learn more about what's only briefly mentioned in an article like this one, and for others to double-check the facts as I represent them to be. The link I used points to . Suppose Google were to change what's on that page, or reorganize its website anytime between when I'm writing this article and when you're reading it, eliminating it entirely. Changing what's there would be an example of content drift; eliminating it entirely is known as link rot .

It turns out that link rot and content drift are endemic to the web , which is both unsurprising and shockingly risky for a library that has "billions of books and no central filing system." Imagine if libraries didn't exist and there was only a "sharing economy" for physical books: People could register what books they happened to have at home, and then others who wanted them could visit and peruse them. It's no surprise that such a system could fall out of date, with books no longer where they were advertised to be -- especially if someone reported a book being in someone else's home in 2015, and then an interested reader saw that 2015 report in 2021 and tried to visit the original home mentioned as holding it. That's what we have right now on the web.

Whether humble home or massive government edifice, hosts of content can and do fail. For example, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in the spring of 2010. In the fall of 2013, congressional Republicans shut down day-to-day government funding in an attempt to kill Obamacare. Federal agencies, obliged to cease all but essential activities, pulled the plug on websites across the U.S. government, including access to thousands, perhaps millions, of official government documents, both current and archived, and of course very few having anything to do with Obamacare. As night follows day, every single link pointing to the affected documents and sites no longer worked. Here's NASA's website from the time:

In 2010, Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion in a case before the Supreme Court, and his opinion linked to a website as part of the explanation of his reasoning. Shortly after the opinion was released, anyone following the link wouldn't see whatever it was Alito had in mind when writing the opinion. Instead, they would find this message : "Aren't you glad you didn't cite to this webpage If you had, like Justice Alito did, the original content would have long since disappeared and someone else might have come along and purchased the domain in order to make a comment about the transience of linked information in the internet age."

Inspired by cases like these, some colleagues and I joined those investigating the extent of link rot in 2014 and again this past spring.

The first study , with Kendra Albert and Larry Lessig, focused on documents meant to endure indefinitely: links within scholarly papers, as found in the Harvard Law Review , and judicial opinions of the Supreme Court. We found that 50 percent of the links embedded in Court opinions since 1996, when the first hyperlink was used, no longer worked. And 75 percent of the links in the Harvard Law Review no longer worked.

People tend to overlook the decay of the modern web, when in fact these numbers are extraordinary -- they represent a comprehensive breakdown in the chain of custody for facts. Libraries exist, and they still have books in them, but they aren't stewarding a huge percentage of the information that people are linking to, including within formal, legal documents. No one is. The flexibility of the web -- the very feature that makes it work, that had it eclipse CompuServe and other centrally organized networks -- diffuses responsibility for this core societal function.

Read: Raiders of the lost web

The problem isn't just for academic articles and judicial opinions. With John Bowers and Clare Stanton, and the kind cooperation of The New York Times , I was able to analyze approximately 2 million externally facing links found in articles at since its inception in 1996. We found that 25 percent of deep links have rotted. ( Deep links are links to specific content -- think, as opposed to just The older the article , the less likely it is that the links work. If you go back to 1998, 72 percent of the links are dead. Overall, more than half of all articles in The New York Times that contain deep links have at least one rotted link.

Our studies are in line with others. As far back as 2001, a team at Princeton University studied the persistence of web references in scientific articles , finding that the raw number of URLs contained in academic articles was increasing but that many of the links were broken, including 53 percent of those in the articles they had collected from 1994. Thirteen years later, six researchers created a data set of more than 3.5 million scholarly articles about science, technology, and medicine, and determined that one in five no longer points to its originally intended source. In 2016, an analysis with the same data set found that 75 percent of all references had drifted.

Of course, there's a keenly related problem of permanency for much of what's online. People communicate in ways that feel ephemeral and let their guard down commensurately, only to find that a Facebook comment can stick around forever. The upshot is the worst of both worlds: Some information sticks around when it shouldn't, while other information vanishes when it should remain.

So far, the rise of the web has led to routinely cited sources of information that aren't part of more formal systems; blog entries or casually placed working papers at some particular web address have no counterparts in the pre-internet era. But surely anything truly worth keeping for the ages would still be published as a book or an article in a scholarly journal, making it accessible to today's libraries, and preservable in the same way as before? Alas, no.

Because information is so readily placed online, the incentives for creating paper counterparts, and storing them in the traditional ways, declined slowly at first and have since plummeted. Paper copies were once considered originals, with any digital complement being seen as a bonus. But now, both publisher and consumer -- and libraries that act in the long term on behalf of their consumer patrons -- see digital as the primary vehicle for access, and paper copies are deprecated.

From my vantage point as a law professor, I've seen the last people ready to turn out the lights at the end of the party: the law-student editors of academic law journals. One of the more stultifying rites of passage for entering law students is to "subcite," checking the citations within scholarship in progress to make sure they are in the exacting and byzantine form required by legal-citation standards, and, more directly, to make sure the source itself exists and says what the citing author says it says. (In a somewhat alarming number of instances, it does not, which is a good reason to entertain the subciting exercise.)

The original practice for, say, the Harvard Law Review , was to require a student subciter to lay eyes on an original paper copy of the cited source, such as a statute or a judicial opinion. The Harvard Law Library would, in turn, endeavor to keep a physical copy of everything -- ideally every law and case from everywhere -- for just that purpose. The Law Review has since eased up, allowing digital images of printed text to suffice, and that's not entirely unwelcome: It turns out that the physical law (as distinct from the laws of physics) takes up a lot of space, and Harvard Law School was sending more and more books out to a remote depository, to be laboriously retrieved when needed.

A few years ago I helped lead an effort to digitize all of that paper both as images and as searchable text -- more than 40,000 volumes comprising more than 40 million pages -- which completed the scanning of nearly every published case from every state from the time of that state's inception up through the end of 2018. (The scanned books have been sent to an abandoned limestone mine in Kentucky, as a hedge against some kind of digital or even physical apocalypse.)

A special quirk allowed us to do that scanning, and to then treat the longevity of the result as seriously as we do that of any printed material: American case law is not copyrighted, because it's the product of judges. (Indeed, any work by the U.S. government is required by statute to be in the public domain.) But the Harvard Law School library is no longer collecting the print editions from which to scan -- it's too expensive. And other printed materials are essentially trapped on paper until copyright law is refined to better account for digital circumstances.

Into that gap has entered material that's born digital, offered by the same publishers that would previously have been selling on printed matter. But there's a catch: These officially sanctioned digital manifestations of material have an asterisk next to their permanence. Whether it's an individual or a library acquiring them, the purchaser is typically buying mere access to the material for a certain period of time, without the ability to transfer the work into the purchaser's own chosen container. This is true of many commercially published scholarly journals, for which "subscription" no longer signifies a regular delivery of paper volumes that, if canceled, simply means no more are forthcoming. Instead, subscription is for ongoing access to the entire corpus of journals hosted by the publishers themselves. If the subscription arrangement is severed, the entire oeuvre becomes inaccessible.

Libraries in these scenarios are no longer custodians for the ages of anything, whether tangible or intangible, but rather poolers of funding to pay for fleeting access to knowledge elsewhere.

Similarly, books are now often purchased on Kindles, which are the Hotel Californias of digital devices: They enter but can't be extracted, except by Amazon. Purchased books can be involuntarily zapped by Amazon, which has been known to do so, refunding the original purchase price. For example, 10 years ago, a third-party bookseller offered a well-known book in Kindle format on Amazon for 99 cents a copy, mistakenly thinking it was no longer under copyright. Once the error was noted, Amazon -- in something of a panic -- reached into every Kindle that had downloaded the book and deleted it . The book was, fittingly enough, George Orwell's 1984 . ( You don't have 1984 . In fact, you never had 1984 . There is no such book as 1984 . )

At the time, the incident was seen as evocative but not truly worrisome; after all, plenty of physical copies of 1984 were available. Today, as both individual and library book buying shifts from physical to digital, a de-platforming of a Kindle book -- including a retroactive one -- can carry much more weight.

George Packer: What '1984' means today

Deletion isn't the only issue. Not only can information be removed, but it also can be changed. Before the advent of the internet, it would have been futile to try to change the contents of a book after it had been long published. Librarians do not take kindly to someone attempting to rip out or mark up a few pages of an "incorrect" book. The closest approximation of post-hoc editing would have been to influence the contents of a later edition.

Ebooks don't have those limitations, both because of how readily new editions can be created and how simple it is to push "updates" to existing editions after the fact. Consider the experience of Philip Howard, who sat down to read a printed edition of War and Peace in 2010. Halfway through reading the brick-size tome, he purchased a 99-cent electronic edition for his Nook e-reader:

As I was reading, I came across this sentence: "It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern " Thinking this was simply a glitch in the software, I ignored the intrusive word and continued reading. Some pages later I encountered the rogue word again. With my third encounter I decided to retrieve my hard cover book and find the original (well, the translated) text.

For the sentence above I discovered this genuine translation: "It was as if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern "

A search of this Nook version of the book confirmed it: Every instance of the word kindle had been replaced by nook , in perhaps an attempt to alter a previously made Kindle version of the book for Nook use. Here are some screenshots I took at the time:

It is only a matter of time before the retroactive malleability of these forms of publishing becomes a new area of pressure and regulation for content censorship. If a book contains a passage that someone believes to be defamatory, the aggrieved person can sue over it -- and receive monetary damages if they're right. Rarely is the book's existence itself called into question, if only because of the difficulty of putting the cat back into the bag after publishing.

Now it's far easier to make demands for a refinement or an outright change of the offending sentence or paragraph. So long as those remedies are no longer fanciful, the terms of a settlement can include them, as well as a promise not to advertise that a change has even been made. And a lawsuit need never be filed; only a demand made, publicly or privately, and not one grounded in a legal claim, but simply one of outrage and potential publicity. Rereading an old Kindle favorite might then become reading a slightly (if momentously) tweaked version of that old book, with only a nagging feeling that it isn't quite how one remembers it.

This isn't hypothetical. This month, the best-selling author Elin Hilderbrand published a new novel. The novel, widely praised by critics, included a snippet of dialogue in which one character makes a wry joke to another about spending the summer in an attic on Nantucket, "like Anne Frank." Some readers took to social media to criticize this moment between characters as anti-Semitic. The author sought to explain the character's use of the analogy before offering an apology and saying that she had asked her publisher to remove the passage from digital versions of the book immediately.

There are sufficient technical and typographical alterations to ebooks after they're published that a publisher itself might not even have a simple accounting of how often it, or one of its authors, has been importuned to alter what has already been published. Nearly 25 years ago I helped Wendy Seltzer start a site, now called Lumen , that tracks requests for elisions from institutions ranging from the University of California to the Internet Archive to Wikipedia, Twitter, and Google -- often for claimed copyright infringements found by clicking through links published there. Lumen thus makes it possible to learn more about what's missing or changed from, say, a Google web search, because of outside demands or requirements.

For example, thanks to the site's record-keeping both of deletions and of the source and text of demands for removals, the law professor Eugene Volokh was able to identify a number of removal requests made with fraudulent documentation -- nearly 200 out of 700 "court orders" submitted to Google that he reviewed turned out to have been apparently Photoshopped from whole cloth. The Texas attorney general has since sued a company for routinely submitting these falsified court orders to Google for the purpose of forcing content removals. Google's relationship with Lumen is purely voluntary -- YouTube, which, like Google, has the parent company Alphabet, is not currently sending notices. Removals through other companies -- like book publishers and distributors such as Amazon -- are not publicly available.

The rise of the Kindle points out that even the concept of a link -- a "uniform resource locator," or URL -- is under great stress. Since Kindle books don't live on the World Wide Web, there's no URL pointing to a particular page or passage of them. The same goes for content within any number of mobile apps, leaving people to trade screenshots -- or, as The Atlantic 's Kaitlyn Tiffany put it , "the gremlins of the internet" -- as a way of conveying content.

Here, courtesy of the law professor Alexandra Roberts , is how a district-court opinion pointed to a TikTok video: "A May 2020 TikTok video featuring the Reversible Octopus Plushies now has over 1.1 million likes and 7.8 million views. The video can be found at Girlfriends mood #teeturtle #octopus #cute #verycute #animalcrossing #cutie #girlfriend #mood #inamood #timeofmonth #chocolate #fyp #xyzcba #cbzzyz #t ("

Which brings us full circle to the fact that long-term writing, including official documents, might often need to point to short-term, noncanonical sources to establish what they mean to say -- and the means of doing that is disintegrating before our eyes (or worse, entirely unnoticed). And even long-term, canonical sources such as books and scholarly journals are in fugacious configurations -- usually to support digital subscription models that require scarcity -- that preclude ready long-term linking, even as their physical counterparts evaporate.

The project of preserving and building on our intellectual track, including all its meanderings and false starts, is thus falling victim to the catastrophic success of the digital revolution that should have bolstered it. Tools that could have made humanity's knowledge production available to all instead have, for completely understandable reasons, militated toward an ever-changing "now," where there's no easy way to cite many sources for posterity, and those that are citable are all too mutable.

Again, the stunning success of the improbable, eccentric architecture of our internet came about because of a wise decision to favor the good over the perfect and the general over the specific. I have admiringly called this the " Procrastination Principle ," wherein an elegant network design would not be unduly complicated by attempts to solve every possible problem that one could imagine materializing in the future. We see the principle at work in Wikipedia, where the initial pitch for it would seem preposterous: "We can generate a consummately thorough and mostly reliable encyclopedia by allowing anyone in the world to create a new page and anyone else in the world to drop by and revise it."

It would be natural to immediately ask what would possibly motivate anyone to contribute constructively to such a thing, and what defenses there might be against edits made ignorantly or in bad faith. If Wikipedia garnered enough activity and usage, wouldn't some two-bit vendor be motivated to turn every article into a spammy ad for a Rolex watch?

Indeed, Wikipedia suffers from vandalism, and over time, its sustaining community has developed tools and practices for dealing with it that didn't exist when Wikipedia was created. If they'd been implemented too soon, the extra hurdles to starting and editing pages might have deterred many of the contributions that got Wikipedia going to begin with. The Procrastination Principle paid off.

Similarly, it wasn't on the web inventor Tim Berners-Lee's mind to vet proposed new websites according to any standard of truth, reliability, or anything else. People could build and offer whatever they wanted, so long as they had the hardware and connectivity to set up a web server, and others would be free to visit that site or ignore it as they wished. That websites would come and go, and that individual pages might be rearranged, was a feature, not a bug. Just as the internet could have been structured as a big CompuServe, centrally mediated, but wasn't, the web could have had any number of features to better assure permanence and sourcing. Ted Nelson's Xanadu project contemplated all that and more, including " two-way links " that would alert a site every time someone out there chose to link to it. But Xanadu never took off .

As procrastinators know, later doesn't mean never, and the benefits of the internet and web's flexibility -- including permitting the building of walled app gardens on top of them that reject the idea of a URL entirely -- now come at great risk and cost to the larger tectonic enterprise to, in Google's early words , "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Sergey Brin and Larry Page's idea was a noble one -- so noble that for it to be entrusted to a single company, rather than society's long-honed institutions, such as libraries, would not do it justice. Indeed, when Google's founders first released a paper describing the search engine they had invented, they included an appendix about "advertising and mixed motives," concluding that "the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm." No such transparent, academic competitive search engine exists in 2021. By making the storage and organization of information everyone's responsibility and no one's, the internet and web could grow, unprecedentedly expanding access, while making any and all of it fragile rather than robust in many instances in which we depend on it.

What are we going to do about the crisis we're in? No one is more keenly aware of the problem of the internet's ephemerality than Brewster Kahle, a technologist who founded the Internet Archive in 1996 as a nonprofit effort to preserve humanity's knowledge, especially and including the web. Brewster had developed a precursor to the web called WAIS, and then a web-traffic-measurement platform called Alexa, eventually bought by Amazon. That sale put Brewster in a position personally to help fund the Internet Archive's initial operations, including the Wayback Machine , specifically designed to collect, save, and make available webpages even after they've gone away. It did this by picking multiple entry points to start "scraping" pages -- saving their contents rather than merely displaying them in a browser for a moment -- and then following as many successive links as possible on those pages, and those pages' linked pages.

It is no coincidence that a single civic-minded citizen like Brewster was the one to step up, instead of our existing institutions. In part that's due to potential legal risks that tend to slow down or deter well-established organizations. The copyright implications of crawling, storing, and displaying the web were at first unsettled, typically leaving such actions either to parties who could be low key about it, saving what they scraped only for themselves; to large and powerful commercial parties like search engines whose business imperatives made showing only the most recent, active pages central to how they work; or to tech-oriented individuals with a start-up mentality and little to lose. An example of the latter is at work with Clearview AI, where a single rakish entrepreneur scraped billions of images and tags from social-networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram in order to build a facial-recognition database capable of identifying nearly any photo or video clip of someone.

Brewster is superficially in that category, too, but -- in the spirit of the internet and web's inventors -- is doing what he's doing because he believes in his work's virtue, not its financial potential. The Wayback Machine's approach is to save as much as possible as often as possible, and in practice that means a lot of things every so often. That's vital work, and it should be supported much more, whether with government subsidy or more foundation support. (The Internet Archive was a semifinalist for the MacArthur Foundation's " 100 and Change " initiative, which awards $100 million individually to worthy causes.)

A complementary approach to "save everything" through independent scraping is for whoever is creating a link to make sure that a copy is saved at the time the link is made. Researchers at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society , which I co-founded, designed such a system with an open-source package called Amberlink . The internet and the web invite any form of additional building on them, since no one formally approves new additions. Amberlink can run on some web servers to make it so that what's at the end of a link can be captured when a webpage on an Amberlink-empowered server first includes that link. Then, when someone clicks on a link on an Amber-tuned site, there's an opportunity to see what the site had captured at that link, should the original destination no longer be available. (Search engines such as Google have this feature, too -- you can often ask to see the search engine's "cached" copy of a webpage linked from a search-results page, rather than just following the link to try to see the site yourself.)

Amber is an example of one website archiving another, unrelated website to which it links. It's also possible for websites to archive themselves for longevity. In 2020, the Internet Archive announced a partnership with a company called Cloudflare, which is used by popular or controversial websites to be more resilient against denial-of-service attacks conducted by bad actors that could make the sites unavailable to everyone. Websites that enable an "always online" service will see their content automatically archived by the Wayback Machine, and if the original host becomes unavailable to Cloudflare, the Internet Archive's saved copy of the page will be made available instead.

These approaches work generally, but they don't always work specifically. When a judicial opinion, scholarly article, or editorial column points to a site or page, the author tends to have something very distinct in mind. If that page is changing -- and there's no way to know if it will change -- then a 2021 citation to a page isn't reliable for the ages if the nearest copy of that page available is one archived in 2017 or 2024.

Taking inspiration from Brewster's work, and indeed partnering with the Internet Archive, I worked with researchers at Harvard's Library Innovation Lab to start Perma . Perma is an alliance of more than 150 libraries. Authors of enduring documents -- including scholarly papers, newspaper articles, and judicial opinions -- can ask Perma to convert the links included within them into permanent ones archived at ; participating libraries treat snapshots of what's found at those links as accessions to their collections, and undertake to preserve them indefinitely.

In turn, the researchers Martin Klein, Shawn Jones, Herbert Van de Sompel, and Michael Nelson have honed a service called Robustify to allow archives of links from whatever source, including Perma, to be incorporated into new "dual-purpose" links so that they can point to a page that works in the moment, while also offering an archived alternative if the original page fails. That could allow for a rolling directory of snapshots of links from a variety of archives -- a networked history that is both prudently distributed, internet-style, while shepherded by the long-standing institutions that have existed for this vital public-interest purpose: libraries.

A technical infrastructure through which authors and publishers can preserve the links they draw on is a necessary start. But the problem of digital malleability extends beyond the technical. The law should hesitate before allowing the scope of remedies for claimed infringements of rights -- whether economic ones such as copyright or more personal, dignitary ones such as defamation -- to expand naturally as the ease of changing what's already been published increases.

Compensation for harm, or the addition of corrective material, should be favored over quiet retroactive alteration. And publishers should establish clear and principled policies against undertaking such changes under public pressure that falls short of a legal finding of infringement. (And, in plenty of cases, publishers should stand up against legal pressure, too.)

The benefit of retroactive correction in some instances -- imagine fixing a typographical error in the proportions of a recipe, or blocking out someone's phone number shared for the purposes of harassment -- should be contextualized against the prospect of systemic, chronic demands for revisions by aggrieved people or companies single-mindedly demanding changes that serve to eat away at the public record. The public's interest in seeing what's changed -- or at least being aware that a change has been made and why -- is as legitimate as it is diffuse. And because it's diffuse, few people are naturally in a position to speak on its behalf.

For those times when censorship is deemed the right course, meticulous records should be kept of what has been changed. Those records should be available to the public, the way that Lumen's records of copyright takedowns in Google search are, unless that very availability defeats the purpose of the elision. For example, to date, Google does not report to Lumen when it removes a negative entry in a web search about someone who has invoked Europe's "right to be forgotten," lest the public merely consult Lumen to see the very material that has been found under European law to be an undue drag on someone's reputation (balanced against the public's right to know).

In those cases, there should be a means of record-keeping that, while unavailable to the public in just a few clicks, should be available to researchers wanting to understand the dynamics of online censorship. John Bowers, Elaine Sedenberg, and I have described how that might work , suggesting that libraries can again serve as semi-closed archives of both public and private censorial actions online. We can build what the Germans used to call a giftschrank , a "poison cabinet" containing dangerous works that nonetheless should be preserved and accessible in certain circumstances. (Art imitates life: There is a " restricted section " in Harry Potter's universe, and an aptly named " poison room " in the television adaptation of The Magicians .)

It is really tempting to cover for mistakes by pretending they never happened. Our technology now makes that alarmingly simple, and we should build in a little less efficiency, a little more inertia that previously provided for itself in ample qualities because of the nature of printed texts. Even the Supreme Court hasn't been above a few retroactive tweaks to inaccuracies in its edicts. As the law professor Jeffrey Fisher said after our colleague Richard Lazarus discovered changes, "In Supreme Court opinions, every word matters When they're changing the wording of opinions, they're basically rewriting the law."

On an immeasurably more modest scale, if this article has a mistake in it, we should all want an author's or editor's note at the bottom indicating where a correction has been applied and why, rather than that kind of quiet revision. (At least, I want that before I know just how embarrassing an error it might be, which is why we devise systems based on principle, rather than trying to navigate in the moment.)

Society can't understand itself if it can't be honest with itself, and it can't be honest with itself if it can only live in the present moment. It's long overdue to affirm and enact the policies and technologies that will let us see where we've been, including and especially where we've erred, so we might have a coherent sense of where we are and where we want to go.

Jonathan Zittrain is a law professor and computer-science professor at Harvard, and a co-founder of its Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

[Jul 04, 2020] Leanpub- Publish Early, Publish Often

Jul 04, 2020 |

Leanpub is a powerful platform for serious authors. This platform is the combination of two things: a publishing workflow and a storefront . Oh, and we pay 80% royalties .

Leanpub is more than the sum of its parts, however – by combining a simple, elegant writing and publishing workflow with a store focused on selling in-progress ebooks , it's something different. Leanpub is a magical typewriter for authors : just write in plain text , and to publish your ebook, just click a button . (You can click a Preview button first if you want!) Once you've clicked the Publish button, anyone in the world can instantly buy your ebook from Leanpub, and read it on their computer, tablet, phone or ebook reader. Whenever you want to distribute an update to all your readers, just click the Publish button again. It really is that easy.

Authors can sign up for our Free plan to create 100 books or courses for FREE! Authors can also get more features and unlimited previews and publishes by signing up for a Standard or Pro plan.

[Jan 21, 2020] Wikipedia is fine for non-political info. For political information it is CIApedia

Jan 21, 2020 |

NoOneYouKnow , Jan 21 2020 18:50 utc | 34

Wikipedia is fine for unimportant info. I hope anyone who relies on it for serious subjects reads this:
Also, in the penultimate sentence of Nebenzia's statement, "shelled" should be "shelved."

"talk-embed-stream-container"> hootowl 11 hours ago remove Share link Copy The CIA is funded, populated, and controlled by sociopathic dual-staters and drug cartels. They don't give a damn about Americans or real American interests.

17 so-called "Intelligence Agencies" are an existential threat, a clear and present danger to what remains of our constitutional freedoms and prosperity.

Who the hell can possibly control 17 intelligence agencies run by sociopaths and corrupt politicians (is that redundant)?

hootowl 11 hours ago remove Share link Copy The CIA is funded, populated, and controlled by sociopathic dual-staters and drug cartels. They don't give a damn about Americans or real American interests.

17 so-called "Intelligence Agencies" are an existential threat, a clear and present danger to what remains of our constitutional freedoms and prosperity.

Who the hell can possibly control 17 intelligence agencies run by sociopaths and corrupt politicians (is that redundant)?


[Feb 03, 2019] Google and Facebook broke publishing industry

Feb 03, 2019 |

Fred , 3 days ago

Do pink slippers go with pink hats? I heard a rumor that Huffington Post laid off all its opinion writers. Looks like its true:

""These giant platforms, they broke our industry. This is an existential challenge for every single publisher." HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen on platforms such as Google and Facebook""

I wonder what took her so long in figuring out the obvious.

[Oct 21, 2018] Camtasia Studio 8

Notable quotes:
"... What did you use to make the gif? ..."
"... That was done with Camtasia Studio 8. Very easy actually. ..."
"... @Zoltán you can use LiceCap, which is small size – ..."
"... GifCam is a simple to use tool, too: ..."
Oct 21, 2018 |

218 down vote

Adam ,Feb 7, 2014 at 22:20

Doesn't get any simpler than this! From normal mode:


then move to the line you want to paste at and


Zoltán ,Jul 2, 2014 at 7:42

What did you use to make the gif? Zoltán Jul 2 '14 at 7:42

Adam ,Sep 19, 2014 at 20:15

That was done with Camtasia Studio 8. Very easy actually. Adam Sep 19 '14 at 20:15

onmyway133 ,Feb 23, 2016 at 15:29

@Zoltán you can use LiceCap, which is small size – onmyway133 Feb 23 '16 at 15:29

Jared ,Jun 2, 2016 at 13:44

GifCam is a simple to use tool, too: Jun 2 '16 at 13:44

[Oct 15, 2018] Convert Screenshots of Equations into LaTeX Instantly With This Nifty Tool It's FOSS

Oct 15, 2018 |

Convert Screenshots of Equations into LaTeX Instantly With This Nifty Tool | It's FOSS LaTeX editors are excellent when it comes to writing academic and scientific documentation.

There is a steep learning curved involved of course. And this learning curve becomes steeper if you have to write complex mathematical equations.

Mathpix is a nifty little tool that helps you in this regard.

Suppose you are reading a document that has mathematical equations. If you want to use those equations in your LaTeX document , you need to use your ninja LaTeX skills and plenty of time.

But Mathpix solves this problem for you. With Mathpix, you take the screenshot of the mathematical equations, and it will instantly give you the LaTeX code. You can then use this code in your favorite LaTeX editor .

See Mathpix in action in the video below:

[Oct 02, 2018] Turn your book into a website and an ePub using Pandoc by Kiko Fernandez-Reyes Feed

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... GRASP Principles for the Object-Oriented Mind ..."
Oct 01, 2018 |
Pandoc is a command-line tool for converting files from one markup language to another. In my introduction to Pandoc , I explained how to convert text written in Markdown into a website, a slideshow, and a PDF.

In this follow-up article, I'll dive deeper into Pandoc , showing how to produce a website and an ePub book from the same Markdown source file. I'll use my upcoming e-book, GRASP Principles for the Object-Oriented Mind , which I created using this process, as an example.

First I will explain the file structure used for the book, then how to use Pandoc to generate a website and deploy it in GitHub. Finally, I demonstrate how to generate its companion ePub book.

You can find the code in my Programming Fight Club GitHub repository.

Setting up the writing structure

I do all of my writing in Markdown syntax. You can also use HTML, but the more HTML you introduce the highest risk that problems arise when Pandoc converts Markdown to an ePub document. My books follow the one-chapter-per-file pattern. Declare chapters using the Markdown heading H1 ( # ). You can put more than one chapter in each file, but putting them in separate files makes it easier to find content and do updates later.

The meta-information follows a similar pattern: each output format has its own meta-information file. Meta-information files define information about your documents, such as text to add to your HTML or the license of your ePub. I store all of my Markdown documents in a folder named parts (this is important for the Makefile that generates the website and ePub). As an example, let's take the table of contents, the preface, and the about chapters (divided into the files,, and and, for clarity, we will leave out the remaining chapters.

My about file might begin like:

# About this book {-}

## Who should read this book {-}

Before creating a complex software system one needs to create a solid foundation.
General Responsibility Assignment Software Principles (GRASP) are guidelines to assign
responsibilities to software classes in object-oriented programming.

Once the chapters are finished, the next step is to add meta-information to setup the format for the website and the ePub.

Generating the website Create the HTML meta-information file

The meta-information file (web-metadata.yaml) for my website is a simple YAML file that contains information about the author, title, rights, content for the <head> tag, and content for the beginning and end of the HTML file.

I recommend (at minimum) including the following fields in the web-metadata.yaml file:

title: <a href="/grasp-principles/toc/">GRASP principles for the Object-oriented mind</a>
author: Kiko Fernandez-Reyes
rights: 2017 Kiko Fernandez-Reyes, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 International
- |
<link href="" rel="stylesheet">
<link href="|Inconsolata" rel="stylesheet">
- |
<p>If you like this book, please consider
spreading the word or
<a href="">
buying me a coffee
- |
<div class="footnotes">
<div class="container">
<nav class="pagination" role="pagination">
<span class="page-number">Designed with</span> ❤️ <span class="page-number"> from Uppsala, Sweden</span>
<a rel="license" href=""><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="" /></a>

Some variables to note:

These are only some of the fields available; take a look at the template variables in HTML (my article introduction to Pandoc covered this for LaTeX but the process is the same for HTML) to learn about others.

Split the website into chapters

The website can be generated as a whole, resulting in a long page with all the content, or split into chapters, which I think is easier to read. I'll explain how to divide the website into chapters so the reader doesn't get intimidated by a long website.

To make the website easy to deploy on GitHub Pages, we need to create a root folder called docs (which is the root folder that GitHub Pages uses by default to render a website). Then we need to create folders for each chapter under docs , place the HTML chapters in their own folders, and the file content in a file named index.html.

For example, the file is converted to a file named index.html that is placed in a folder named about (about/index.html). This way, when users type http://<>/about/ , the index.html file from the folder about will be displayed in their browser.

The following Makefile does all of this:

# Your book files
DEPENDENCIES= toc preface about

# Placement of your HTML files

all: web

web: setup $(DEPENDENCIES)
@cp $(DOCS)/toc/index.html $(DOCS)

# Creation and copy of stylesheet and images into
# the assets folder. This is important to deploy the
# website to Github Pages.
@mkdir -p $(DOCS)
@cp -r assets $(DOCS)

# Creation of folder and index.html file on a
# per-chapter basis

@mkdir -p $(DOCS)/$@
@pandoc -s --toc web-metadata.yaml parts/[email protected] \
-c /assets/pandoc.css -o $(DOCS)/$@/index.html

@rm -rf $(DOCS)

.PHONY: all clean web setup

The option -c /assets/pandoc.css declares which CSS stylesheet to use; it will be fetched from /assets/pandoc.css . In other words, inside the <head> HTML tag, Pandoc adds the following line:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/assets/pandoc.css">

To generate the website, type:


The root folder should contain now the following structure and files:

| |---
| |---
| |---
|--- assets/
|--- index.html
|--- toc
| |--- index.html
|--- preface
| |--- index.html
|--- about
|--- index.html
Deploy the website

To deploy the website on GitHub, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new repository
  2. Push your content to the repository
  3. Go to the GitHub Pages section in the repository's Settings and select the option for GitHub to use the content from the Master branch

You can get more details on the GitHub Pages site.

Check out my book's website , generated using this process, to see the result.

Generating the ePub book Create the ePub meta-information file

The ePub meta-information file, epub-meta.yaml, is similar to the HTML meta-information file. The main difference is that ePub offers other template variables, such as publisher and cover-image . Your ePub book's stylesheet will probably differ from your website's; mine uses one named epub.css.

title : 'GRASP principles for the Object-oriented Mind'
publisher : 'Programming Language Fight Club'
author : Kiko Fernandez-Reyes
rights : 2017 Kiko Fernandez-Reyes, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 International
cover-image : assets/cover.png
stylesheet : assets/epub.css
... Update the Makefile and deploy the ePub

Add the following content to the previous Makefile:

@pandoc -s --toc epub-meta.yaml \
$(addprefix parts/, $( -o $(DOCS)/assets/book.epub

The command for the ePub target takes all the dependencies from the HTML version (your chapter names), appends to them the Markdown extension, and prepends them with the path to the folder chapters' so Pandoc knows how to process them. For example, if $(DEPENDENCIES) was only preface about , then the Makefile would call:

@pandoc -s --toc epub-meta.yaml \
parts/ parts/ -o $(DOCS)/assets/book.epub

Pandoc would take these two chapters, combine them, generate an ePub, and place the book under the Assets folder.

Here's an example of an ePub created using this process.

Summarizing the process

The process to create a website and an ePub from a Markdown file isn't difficult, but there are a lot of details. The following outline may make it easier for you to follow.

[Sep 23, 2018] English Tenses

Sep 23, 2018 |
tense Affirmative/Negative/Question Use Signal Words
Simple Present A: He speaks.
N: He does not speak.
Q: Does he speak?
  • action in the present taking place regularly, never or several times
  • facts
  • actions taking place one after another
  • action set by a timetable or schedule
always, every , never, normally, often, seldom, sometimes, usually
if sentences type I ( If I talk , )
Present Progressive A: He is speaking.
N: He is not speaking.
Q: Is he speaking?
  • action taking place in the moment of speaking
  • action taking place only for a limited period of time
  • action arranged for the future
at the moment, just, just now, Listen!, Look!, now, right now
Simple Past A: He spoke.
N: He did not speak.
Q: Did he speak?
  • action in the past taking place once, never or several times
  • actions taking place one after another
  • action taking place in the middle of another action
yesterday, 2 minutes ago, in 1990, the other day, last Friday
if sentence type II ( If I talked , )
Past Progressive A: He was speaking.
N: He was not speaking.
Q: Was he speaking?
  • action going on at a certain time in the past
  • actions taking place at the same time
  • action in the past that is interrupted by another action
while, as long as
Present Perfect Simple A: He has spoken.
N: He has not spoken.
Q: Has he spoken?
  • putting emphasis on the result
  • action that is still going on
  • action that stopped recently
  • finished action that has an influence on the present
  • action that has taken place once, never or several times before the moment of speaking
already, ever, just, never, not yet, so far, till now, up to now
Present Perfect Progressive A: He has been speaking.
N: He has not been speaking.
Q: Has he been speaking?
  • putting emphasis on the course or duration (not the result)
  • action that recently stopped or is still going on
  • finished action that influenced the present
all day, for 4 years, since 1993, how long?, the whole week
Past Perfect Simple A: He had spoken.
N: He had not spoken.
Q: Had he spoken?
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect progressive
  • putting emphasis only on the fact (not the duration)
already, just, never, not yet, once, until that day
if sentence type III ( If I had talked , )
Past Perfect Progressive A: He had been speaking.
N: He had not been speaking.
Q: Had he been speaking?
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect simple
  • putting emphasis on the duration or course of an action
for, since, the whole day, all day
Future I Simple A: He will speak.
N: He will not speak.
Q: Will he speak?
  • action in the future that cannot be influenced
  • spontaneous decision
  • assumption with regard to the future
in a year, next , tomorrow
If-Satz Typ I ( If you ask her, she will help you. )
assumption : I think, probably, perhaps
Future I Simple

(going to)

A: He is going to speak.
N: He is not going to speak.
Q: Is he going to speak?
  • decision made for the future
  • conclusion with regard to the future
in one year, next week, tomorrow
Future I Progressive A: He will be speaking.
N: He will not be speaking.
Q: Will he be speaking?
  • action that is going on at a certain time in the future
  • action that is sure to happen in the near future
in one year, next week, tomorrow
Future II Simple A: He will have spoken.
N: He will not have spoken.
Q: Will he have spoken?
  • action that will be finished at a certain time in the future
by Monday, in a week
Future II Progressive A: He will have been speaking.
N: He will not have been speaking.
Q: Will he have been speaking?
  • action taking place before a certain time in the future
  • putting emphasis on the course of an action
for , the last couple of hours, all day long
Conditional I Simple A: He would speak.
N: He would not speak.
Q: Would he speak?
  • action that might take place
if sentences type II
( If I were you, I would go home .)
Conditional I Progressive A: He would be speaking.
N: He would not be speaking.
Q: Would he be speaking?
  • action that might take place
  • putting emphasis on the course / duration of the action
Conditional II Simple A: He would have spoken.
N: He would not have spoken.
Q: Would he have spoken?
  • action that might have taken place in the past
if sentences type III
( If I had seen that, I would have helped .)
Conditional II Progressive A: He would have been speaking.
N: He would not have been speaking.
Q: Would he have been speaking?
  • action that might have taken place in the past
  • puts emphasis on the course / duration of the action

[Sep 23, 2018] Irregular Verbs ENGLISH PAGE

Sep 23, 2018 | has conducted an extensive text analysis of over 2,000 novels and resources and we have found 680 irregular verbs so far including prefixed verbs ( misunderstand , reread ) as well as rare and antiquated forms ( colorbreed , bethink ).

According to's text analysis of over 2,000 novels and resources, the most common irregular verbs in English are: be , have , say , do , know , get , see , think , go and take .

[May 20, 2018] How to Convert ePub to Kindle

May 20, 2018 |

By Shea Laverty

EPUB e-book files can be converted to a Kindle-compatible format using a desktop converter app or online conversion site. Since the Kindle doesn't natively support EPUB files, conversion is the only way to enjoy your EPUB books on your Kindle without a separate purchase from the Kindle store.

.... ... ...

Calibre Converter

Calibre Converter is an open-source e-book management program that works not only as a converter, but also as a reader. Calibre is free and can handle many file formats, including EPUB and Kindle formats.

[Mar 27, 2018] Top Linux tools for writers by Adam Worth

Mar 23, 2018 |
These easy-to-use open source apps can help you sharpen your writing skills, research more efficiently, and stay organized. If you've read my article about how I switched to Linux , then you know that I'm a superuser. I also stated that I'm not an "expert" on anything. That's still fair to say. But I have learned many helpful things over the last several years, and I'd like to pass these tips along to other new Linux users.

Today, I'm going to discuss the tools I use when I write. I based my choices on three criteria:

  1. My main writing tool must be compatible for any publisher when I submit stories or articles.
  2. The software must be quick and simple to use.
  3. Free is good.

There are some wonderful all-in-one free solutions, such as:

  1. bibisco
  2. Manuskript
  3. oStorybook

However, I tend to get lost and lose my train of thought when I'm trying to find information, so I opted to go with multiple applications that suit my needs. Also, I don't want to be reliant on the internet in case service goes down. I set these programs up on my monitor so I can see them all at once.

Consider the following tools suggestions -- everyone works differently, and you might find some other app that better fits the way you work. These tools are current to this writing:

Word processor

LibreOffice 6.0.1 . Until recently, I used WPS , but font-rendering problems (Times New Roman was always in bold format) nixed it. The newest version of LibreOffice adapts to Microsoft Office very nicely, and the fact that it's open source ticks the box for me.

Thesaurus More Linux resources Artha gives you synonyms, antonyms, derivatives, and more. It's clean-looking and fast. Type the word "fast," for example, and you'll get the dictionary definition as well as the other options listed above. Artha is a huge gift to the open source community, and more people should try it as it seems to be one of those obscure little programs. If you're using Linux, install this application now. You won't regret it. Note-taking

Zim touts itself as a desktop wiki, but it's also the easiest multi-level note-taking app you'll find anywhere. There are other, prettier note-taking programs available, but Zim is exactly what I need to manage my characters, locations, plots, and sub-plots.

Submission tracking

I once used a proprietary piece of software called FileMaker Pro , and it spoiled me. There are plenty of database applications out there, but in my opinion the easiest one to use is Glom . It suits my needs graphically, letting me enter information in a form rather than a table. In Glom, you create the form you need so you can see relevant information instantly (for me, digging through a spreadsheet table to find information is like dragging my eyeballs over shards of glass). Although Glom no longer appears to be in development, it remains relevant.


I've begun using as my default search engine. Sure, Google can be one of your best friends when you're writing. But I don't like how Google tracks me every time I want to learn about a specific person/place/thing. So I use instead; it's fast and does not track your searches. I also use as an alternative to Google.

Other tools

Chromium Browser is an open source version of Google Chrome , with privacy plugins.

Though Thunderbird , from Mozilla , is a great program, I find Geary a much quicker and lighter email app. For more on open source email apps, read Jason Baker 's excellent article, Top 6 open source desktop email clients .

As you might have noticed, my taste in apps tends to merge the best of Windows, MacOS, and the open source Linux alternatives mentioned here. I hope these suggestions help you discover helpful new ways to compose (thank you, Artha!) and track your written works.

Happy writing!

[Aug 10, 2017] Everything Wiki is CIA approved.

Aug 10, 2017 |

fast freddy | Aug 5, 2017 4:25:45 PM | 81

If you've got the means to print money (or to simply post it and jockey it plus or minus on electronic score boards) and you can maintain it as the world's standard instrument of trade, you'll have people lined up to get some. And what the hell, it's just numbers on paper. It's backed by "faith and credit".

Everything Wiki is CIA approved. They do have a sense of humor and a sense of irony. One can often find the relevant details buried within the deep layers of bullshit.

[Jul 25, 2017] 5 Easy Ways to Overcome Procrastination by Geoffrey James

Jul 07, 2017 |

Procrastination is like a sore throat; it's a symptom with many possible causes. Unless you know the cause, the treatment for the symptom might things worse. This column contains the five most common causes of procrastination and how to overcome them.

1. The size of a task seems overwhelming.

Explanation: Every time you think about the task it seems like a huge mountain of work that you'll never be able to complete. You therefore avoid starting.

Solution: Break the task into small steps and then start working on them. This builds momentum and makes the task far less daunting.

Example: You've decided to write a book. Rather than sitting down and trying to write the book (which will probably cause you to stare at the blank screen), spend one hour on each of the following sub-tasks:

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  1. Jot down as many ideas as possible.
  2. Sort the ideas into an outline.
  3. List out anecdotes you'll want to include.
  4. Write a sample anecdote to determine style.
  5. Review existing materials (e.g. presentations).
  6. Assign those materials to sections of your outline.
  7. Write the first three paragraphs of a sample chapter.
  8. Create a schedule to write 2 pages a day.
2. The number of tasks seems overwhelming.

Explanation: Your to-do list has so many tasks in it that you feel as if you'll never be able to finish them all, so why bother getting started?

Solution: Combine the tasks into a conceptual activity and then set a time limit for how long you'll pursue that activity.

Example: Your email account is being peppered by so many requests and demands that you feel as if you can't possibly get them done. Rather than fret about the pieces and parts, set aside a couple of hours to "do email." Schedule a similar session tomorrow or later that day.

Thinking of the work as an activity rather than a bunch of action items makes them seem less burdensome.

3. A set of tasks seem repetitive and boring.

Explanation: You're a creative person with an active mind so you naturally put off any activity that doesn't personally interest you.

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Solution: Set a time limit for completing a single task in the set and then compete against yourself to see if you can beat that time limit. Reward yourself each time you beat the clock.

Example: You're a newly-hired salesperson who must write personalized emails to two dozen customers. The work involves quickly researching their account, addressing any issues they've had with the previous salesperson, and then introducing yourself.

Rather than just slogging through the work, estimate the maximum amount of time it should take to write one letter (let's say 5 minutes). It should thus take you 120 minutes (2 hours) to write all of them.

Start the stopwatch, write the first email. If you have time left over, do something else (like read the news). When the stopwatch buzzes, reset, write the second email, etc.

4. The task seems so important that it's daunting.

Explanation: You realize that if you screw this task up, it might mean losing your job or missing a huge opportunity. You avoid it because you don't want to risk failure.

Solution: Contact somebody you trust and ask if they'll review your work (if the task is written) or act as a sounding board (if the task is verbal). Doing the task for your reviewer is low-risk and thus the task is easier to start. The reviewer's perspective and approval provides you extra confidence when you actually execute the task.

Example: You need to write an email demanding payment from a customer who's in arrears. Because you don't want to damage the relationship and yet need to be paid, it's a difficult balancing act--so difficult that you avoid writing the email.

To break the mental log-jam, ask a colleague or friend if they'll review your email before you send it to see if it hits the right tone. Writing the email then becomes easier because you're writing it for your friend to read rather than for the customer.

Problem: You just don't feel like working.

Explanation: You're feeling burned out and generally unmotivated, so you're finding it very hard to get down to work.

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Solution: You have two choices: 1) reschedule the activity for a time when you'll be more motivated or 2) motivate yourself in the short-term by setting a reward.

Example: You need to write a trip report but you're tired after a long day of travel. While you know that the report will be more accurate if you write it now, you decide to write it tomorrow morning after breakfast and coffee--a time when you're typically more motivated.

Alternatively, you motivate yourself short-term promising yourself that you'll buy and download a book that you've been wanting to read... but only if you write the report tonight.

[Jul 16, 2017] Calibre 3.4 Open-Source eBook Manager Makes Exporting of Books a Lot Easier

Jul 16, 2017 |

Calibre 3.4 is here only one week after the release of the 3.3 update, which means that it's not a major version and it only adds a few user interface improvements, along with the usual bug fixes. The most important thing introduced in Calibre 3.4 is the a new method of exporting books to your computer. In the Edit Book component, there's now an option called "Export selected files" if you right-click on the File browser, and it makes it a lot easier to export all selected books to your computer. In addition, there's now a configurable shortcut to move the focus from the Quickview component to the book list.

[Dec 26, 2016] Lawyer Sues 20-Year-Old Student Who Gave a Bad Yelp Review, Loses Badly

Dec 26, 2016 |
( 90 Posted by msmash on Friday December 02, 2016 @04:20PM from the empire-strikes-back dept. 20-year-old Lan Cai was in a car crash this summer, after she was plowed into by a drunk driver and broke two bones in her lower back. She didn't know how to navigate her car insurance and prove damages, so she reached out for legal help. Things didn't go as one would have liked, initially, as ArsTechnica documents: The help she got, Cai said, was less than satisfactory. Lawyers from the Tuan A. Khuu law firm ignored her contacts, and at one point they came into her bedroom while Cai was sleeping in her underwear. "Seriously, it's super unprofessional!" she wrote on Facebook. (The firm maintains it was invited in by Cai's mother.) She also took to Yelp to warn others about her bad experience. The posts led to a threatening e-mail from Tuan Khuu attorney Keith Nguyen. Nguyen and his associates went ahead and filed that lawsuit, demanding the young woman pay up between $100,000 and $200,000 -- more than 100 times what she had in her bank account. Nguyen said he didn't feel bad at all about suing Cai. Cai didn't remove her review, though. Instead she fought back against the Khuu firm, all thanks to attorney Michael Fleming, who took her case pro bono. Fleming filed a motion arguing that, first and foremost, Cai's social media complaints were true. Second, she couldn't do much to damage the reputation of a firm that already had multiple poor reviews. He argued the lawsuit was a clear SLAPP (strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Ultimately, the judge agreed with Fleming, ordering the Khuu firm to pay $26,831.55 in attorneys' fees.

[Dec 26, 2016] Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It's Too Much Like TV

Dec 26, 2016 |
( 220 Posted by msmash on Wednesday November 30, 2016 @11:45AM from the inside-look dept. Reader Joe_NoOne writes: Like TV, social media now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated "post-truth" as the word of 2016: an adjective "relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals." Traditional television still entails some degree of surprise. What you see on television news is still picked by human curators, and even though it must be entertaining to qualify as worthy of expensive production, it is still likely to challenge some of our opinions (emotions, that is). Social media, in contrast, uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it . Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative, mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society.

This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the notion of informed participation. Now what can be done? Certainly the explanation for Trump's rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch less television and fewer videos -- and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

[Nov 13, 2016] The Other Infrastructure

Notable quotes:
"... Newspapers exist to process and assess the rival claims of experts � politicians, governments, corporations, the professoriate, pollsters, authors, whistleblowers, filmmakers, and denizens of the blogosphere. When its own claims to authority are misplaced � a spectacular example having been the Monday before the election, when newspapers were still expecting a Clinton victory � the print press and its kith and kin correct themselves (the next day) and investigate the prior beliefs that led them to error. A free and competitive press resembles the other great self-correcting systems that have evolved over centuries � democracy, markets, and science. ..."
"... And as for social media, the new highly-decentralized content producers, to the extent they are originators of new information, the claims made there are slowly becoming subject to the same checking and assessment routines as are claims advanced in other realms. (No, the Pope did not endorse Donald Trump.) As for intelligence services, in which the experts' job is to know more than is public, it is the newspapers that make them less secret. More than any other institution in democratic industrial societies, newspapers produce a provisional version of the truth. So the condition of newspapers should concern us all ..."
"... In What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake? , in Politico , Jack Shafer speculated recently the newspaper companies had "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars" by building out web operations instead of investing in their print editions, "where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue still come from." As perspicacious a press critic as is writing today, Shafer was reporting on an essay by a pair of University of Texas professors, H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim, in Journalism Practice . ..."
"... More serious has been the lack of thinking-out-loud about the future of those print editions. No one needs to be told that smart phones have replaced newspapers, radio, and television as the tip of the spear of news. It appears that Facebook and Twitter have supplanted cable television and radio talk shows as the dominant forum for political discussion. ..."
"... The immense prestige associated with newspapers arose from the fact that for centuries they were reliable money machines, thanks to their semi-monopoly on readers' attention. ..."
"... In a world in which the gas pump starts talking to you when you pick up the hose and video commercials are everywhere online, the virtues of print are many-sided, for readers and advertisers alike. In Why Print Still Rules , Shafer laid out the case for print's superiority as a medium � "an amazingly sophisticated technology for showing you what's important, and showing you a lot of it." It's finite. It attracts a paying crowd, which is why advertisers are willing to pay more � much more � for space. ..."
"... The WSJ costs $525 a year for six days, including a first-rate weekend edition. The Times charges $980 a year for seven days a week, including a Sunday edition that contains much more content than most readers need. (Its ads bring in a ton of money.) That's why the WSJ decision to cut back to from four to two daily sections is significant: it acknowledges the reduced but still very powerful claim of print on consumers' ever-more stretched budget of time. It puts more pressure on the Times's luxury brand. ..."
Nov 13, 2016 |

The Other Infrastructure, Economic Principals : Bridges, roads, airports, the electricity grid, pipelines, food and fuel and water systems: all of these are underfunded to some degree. So are the myriad new arrangements, from satellites and ocean buoys to emission scrubbers and ocean barriers, required to keep abreast and cope with climate change. Which wheels will begin to get the grease in coming months? We'll see.

At the moment I am even more interested in the well-being of social information systems Last week The Wall Street Journal announced it would reduce its print edition from four sections to two, bringing it into line with the Financial Times . Should that be an occasion for concern? On the contrary, let me try to convince you that it is welcome news.

Although newspapers still carry crossword puzzles, comics, agony aunts, and churn out all manner of fashion magazines, they are mainly in the business of producing provisionally reliable knowledge. What's that? I have in mind propositions on which every honest and knowledgeable person can agree.

Not so much big judgement, such whether climate change is occurring or whether Vladimir Putin is a despot, but rather ascertainable facts, beginning with what parties to various debates are saying about themselves and each other and about their pasts. These are the foundations on which big judgements are based

A case in point: almost all of what the world knows about Donald Trump, that is, that we consider that we really know, we owe to The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , The Washington Post , the Financial Times , and various newspaper-like organizations, Bloomberg News, Politico , and the Guardian in particular. The Associated Press, Reuters and the BBC contributed a little less; magazines still less; the rest of radio and television, hardly anything at all, with the notable exception of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's lead off question in the first presidential debate . Someone will prepare a list of the fifty or a hundred of the best stories of the last year, I expect. I'll only mention a few memorable examples:

The Post's coverage of the Trump Foundation; the Times' many investigations, including those of his tax strategies and his practices as a young landlord; a Politico roundtable of five Trump biographers; the WSJ's pursuit of the George Washington bridge closing, coverage that changed the course of the campaign; and the FT's continuing emphasis on the foreign policy implications of the America election. The same thing could be said about newspapers' coverage of Hillary Clinton.

Newspapers exist to process and assess the rival claims of experts � politicians, governments, corporations, the professoriate, pollsters, authors, whistleblowers, filmmakers, and denizens of the blogosphere. When its own claims to authority are misplaced � a spectacular example having been the Monday before the election, when newspapers were still expecting a Clinton victory � the print press and its kith and kin correct themselves (the next day) and investigate the prior beliefs that led them to error. A free and competitive press resembles the other great self-correcting systems that have evolved over centuries � democracy, markets, and science.

And as for social media, the new highly-decentralized content producers, to the extent they are originators of new information, the claims made there are slowly becoming subject to the same checking and assessment routines as are claims advanced in other realms. (No, the Pope did not endorse Donald Trump.) As for intelligence services, in which the experts' job is to know more than is public, it is the newspapers that make them less secret. More than any other institution in democratic industrial societies, newspapers produce a provisional version of the truth. So the condition of newspapers should concern us all.

In What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake? , in Politico , Jack Shafer speculated recently the newspaper companies had "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars" by building out web operations instead of investing in their print editions, "where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue still come from." As perspicacious a press critic as is writing today, Shafer was reporting on an essay by a pair of University of Texas professors, H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim, in Journalism Practice .

Chyi and Tenenboim overstated their case, I think. Those dollars invested in web operations weren't wasted; they had to be spent. Most newspapers, all but the WSJ , made the mistake of making their content free on the Web for several years. Only gradually did they come round to the approach the Journal had pioneered: a paywall, with some sort of a metering technology designed to encourage online subscriptions.

More serious has been the lack of thinking-out-loud about the future of those print editions. No one needs to be told that smart phones have replaced newspapers, radio, and television as the tip of the spear of news. It appears that Facebook and Twitter have supplanted cable television and radio talk shows as the dominant forum for political discussion. But newspapers haven't gone away; indeed, by establishing beachheads for the content they produce on social media platforms, they have become more influential than ever.

The immense prestige associated with newspapers arose from the fact that for centuries they were reliable money machines, thanks to their semi-monopoly on readers' attention. It is no longer news that the revenue model has turned upside down, Advertisers used to pay two thirds or more of the cost of publishing a successful newspaper; today it is more like a third, if that. Attention was slowly eroded away by radio, broadcast and pay television, until the invention of search-based advertising in 2002 turned decline into a seeming rout. The basic business model is still the same, as Tim Wu explains in The Attention Merchants; The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (Knopf, 2016): "free diversion in exchange for a moment of your consideration, sold in turn to the highest-bidding advertiser." It's the technology that has changed.

In a world in which the gas pump starts talking to you when you pick up the hose and video commercials are everywhere online, the virtues of print are many-sided, for readers and advertisers alike. In Why Print Still Rules , Shafer laid out the case for print's superiority as a medium � "an amazingly sophisticated technology for showing you what's important, and showing you a lot of it." It's finite. It attracts a paying crowd, which is why advertisers are willing to pay more � much more � for space.

The fancy newspapers are in good shape to refurbish their printed editions. Three of the four have new owners with deep pockets. Rupert Murdoch, a maverick Australian, now a US citizen, bought the WSJ in 2007; Amazon's Jeff Bezos, thought to be the second richest American, after Bill Gates, bought the WPost in 2013; the Japanese newspaper group around Nikkei bought the FT in 2015. The NYT is the shakiest of the four, but there seems little doubt that the cousins of the Sulzberger/Ochs clan will find a suitable partner, the oft-expressed enmity of President-elect Trump notwithstanding.

Pricing, meanwhile, is all over the map, as is the appropriate size of the paper edition itself. The FT delivers two sections of tightly-written no-jump news over five days and a great weekend edition for $406 a year. The WSJ costs $525 a year for six days, including a first-rate weekend edition. The Times charges $980 a year for seven days a week, including a Sunday edition that contains much more content than most readers need. (Its ads bring in a ton of money.) That's why the WSJ decision to cut back to from four to two daily sections is significant: it acknowledges the reduced but still very powerful claim of print on consumers' ever-more stretched budget of time. It puts more pressure on the Times's luxury brand.

It's the regional papers that worry me, as much for their roles as distributors of news as producers of it. When the Times , WSJ and FT are placed on the stoop in the morning, my old paper, The Boston Globe , is not among them. At around $770 a year, it simply costs too much, especially considering the meager local content it provides. Assume that the "right" price for a year of a fancy paper today is somewhere between the FT and the WSJ , at around $500 a year. At around half as much, or even $300, a print edition of the Globe would be highly attractive. My hunch is that circulation would again begin to increase, and, in the process, shore up the metropolitan area's home-delivery network. Instead I buy digital versions of the Globe (for $208) and the Post (for $149). Want to know what a year of the print Post costs? So does the copy editor. But I stopped looking after interrogating the web page for five minutes. Newspapers are notorious for gulling their subscribers. Not even the FT is straightforward about it.

Like the other leading papers � the Chicago Tribune , Los Angeles Times , Philadelphia Inquirer , and Baltimore Sun � the Globe was sold for a song to a non-newspaper owner in the course of the panic that followed the advent of search advertising in 2002. These publishers no longer seem to see themselves as part of an industry that was quite tight-knit before the fall. That's another disadvantage with which the big national dailies must cope. For many years, newspaperfolk considered that their businesses were mostly exempt from the laws of supply and demand. Price cuts play a big part in the lore of its past. Today, the future of the industry depends on the recognition that price/performance is everything.

[Mar 16, 2016] Out of Print Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age George Brock 9780749466510 Book
"This book was a pleasurable, gripping, interesting read...It is academically focused with lots of bibliographic notes and references, yet it is clearly written for the general reader too. This skills of a journalist shine through: collect, curate and create a clearly understandable text from a seething mass of ideas." (Darren Ingram Darren Ingram Media )

General readers, media and publishing professionals, journalism students

"[A] hard-hitting examination of the future of news and reporting - and a 'must' for social issues and journalism collections alike." (California Bookwatch, The Journalism Shelf Midwest Book Review )

"The book is essential reading for many journalists today who must prepare themselves for the digital dilemmas of tomorrow." (Geoff Ward All Voices )

"The book is optimistic without being sentimental, thought-provoking without being pretentious and realistic without being harsh, which makes it comforting for someone with a keen interest in seeing journalism prevail and hopefully eye-opening for those who wish to better understand it." (Madeleine Maccar Chicago Center for Literature and Photography )

"Commendably well written and annotated, this volume will be valuable to anyone interested in journalism, mass communication, or digital media. Summing up : Highly recommended." (R.A. Logan CHOICE )

"Brock's writing is crisp, concise, and clear and his research extensive. The book is impeccably edited and presented in a very reader-friendly fashion...As reference material, Out of Print is an essential addition to any media-related collection. To members of the journalism field who've endured years of angst over the future of their profession, it's so much more. Brock's analysis is too well-reasoned and supported to be easily dismissed as blind optimism, lighting a beacon of hope to those interested in seeing journalism right itself from its current state of upheaval." (Rich Rezler ForeWord Reviews )

"[A]rgues that the experimentation and inventiveness of the new news media are cause for greater optimism than the red ink on the balance sheets of media companies.Seeking to reassure the doom-mongers, he delves back into the history of journalism and demonstrates the shaky beginnings and rapid innovation that powered news journalism for three centuries before the maturation and slow decline of the business in the 20th century. His pr�cis of the history is fascinating and elegantly done." (Emily Bell New Statesman )

"A brief survey of journalism's history and evolution leads toward modern transformations that are forcing people to rethink how journalism can be accomplished, both ethically and profitably... Out of Print is a 'must-read' for anyone in today's journalism or periodical industries, and is worthy of the highest recommendation for public or college library Media Studies shelves." (Library Bookwatch, The Journalism Shelf Midwest Book Review )

"[P]rovides an insightful and detailed analysis of journalism through history and reviews the effects of the digital age on journalism's current state, as well as its potential future... By working through the history of journalism starting from its uncertain beginnings with the development of the postal service in the 15th century, Brock emphasizes the fact that journalism has never been fixed, but has continued to develop and evolve in a fluid manner and has undergone radical periods of change before the development of the internet in the 1990s... Although arguably an overly positive analysis of journalism today, Brock's stance is refreshing and the book is a pleasure to read."

"A good overview of the problems--and some of the opportunities--facing those in the world of media. While the book paints a picture of where the newspaper industry has gone wrong, which is a sad story that tends to dominate the media (surprise!), it also makes the oft-overlooked point that print media is just one stage in the evolution of journalism. Therefore, it's possible to come away from this book, which is ostensibly about the death of a great industry, feeling upbeat and even excited about the possibilities for the next stage of media's evolution. What exactly that will be is uncertain, but it's clear--from the book and just by surveying the current media landscape--that it will be a lot less centralized, more democratic and, likely, much less profitable for those in charge than in print media's heyday. Which is probably a good thing." (Phil Stott)

"[Brock's] particularly good at analyzing the changes which have taken place, such as digital technology, and showing that they should force a complete rethink of journalism rather than attempts to adapt old ways to fit new technology. The chapter on 'Rethinking Journalism Again' is a thought-provoking look at what is changing and how it should be regarded both within the industry and as a consumer." (Sue Magee The Bookbag )

"[A] comprehensive look at the history of the news. getAbstract recommends [Brock's] historical overview to those in and out the news business who believe that a free society prospers when journalism does." (getAbstract Inc. )

" Out of Print does what 'think books' about contemporary journalism do best: It addresses a larger public who might not know about the problems facing journalism but also offers an academic discussion rooted in a conversation about the past, present, and future of journalism. Brock's work makes a significant contribution in the field." (Nikki Usher International Journal of Communication )

"[A]n unsentimental look at the fall of the 'golden age' of newspapers as much as it is an optimistic take on the future of the news business...Brock's frank, level headed take on business models, ethics, and other tenets of journalism is approachable and refreshing." (Karen Fratti Media Bistro, 10,000 Words )

"Its greatest virtue, by far, is in seeing the changes in journalism throughout history as a ceaseless process. Brock refuses to fall into the trap of technological determinism. He accepts that technological developments lead to change but rightly understands that, even between the inventions which have influenced how news is gathered and transmitted, journalism has always been in a state of flux." (Roy Greenslade The Guardian )

"All journalists and certainly journalism students should read this book. And bloggers and technologists interested in the media biz should, too." (Hope Leman Critical Margins )

Top Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons in digital disruption By John Gibbs on September 5, 2013 Format: Kindle Edition Many busy people take journalism for granted, but the disruption of journalism should be a matter of urgent concern to democratic societies because the free flow, integrity and independence of journalism is essential to citizens who vote, according to journalism professor George Brock in this book. The book aims to explain why the news media is undergoing radical alteration, and what the result ought to be and might be.

The book provides an entertaining overview of the history of journalism, from its messy and opinionated beginnings featuring sensational and unreliable news stories through to the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 and 2012 into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal. In a 2000-page final report, Justice Leveson made a range of recommendations which would improve the protection of privacy in the UK and restrain the excesses of the press.

However, it is not the Leveson recommendations which provide the greatest threat to the press; rather, it is the digital disruption brought about by the Internet. Shrinking subscriber bases and advertising revenue have resulted in the crumbing of the established business model. Experiments have been made with paywalls and meters, but so far no-one has established a clearly viable new business model. Read more � Comment 7 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback... Thank you for your feedback. Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again Report abuse 5.0 out of 5 stars Journalism: Past, Present and Future By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on December 26, 2013 Format: Paperback This is a book which in a sense is written in the hope of revitalizing Journalism. It provides a history of the business and tries to contend with the general pessimism which has come to the profession in recent years with the contracting of Print Media and the ascension of Digita formats of expression. It points out that the centralized powerful Print world many think of as the only face of Journalism is a relatively recent development in its history. The Golden Era of Journalism which began in the 1890's Brock suggests had already begun to fade somewhat in the fifties of the twentieth century. Brock tells the story of the Digital Transformation the drastic loss in Advertising revenues , the contraction in personnel and outlets which came to the Print world once the Computer began taking over. He indicates however that News as we think of it was not necessarily the primary business of that grab-bag creation the Newspaper. All in all he provides in this age of Abundance of Information a great deal of information and clear thought about Jounalism its idea and ideals. He suggests that much of its future is open to experimentation and that new developments will come which will help strengthen the free flow of ideas, the objective reporting of reality, the investigating of and keeping honest government and business officials. This is a book for the General Reader but it should be of course of first interest to all who practice and would practice the trade of Journalism. Comment 1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback... Thank you for your feedback. Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again Report abuse 3.0 out of 5 stars Clear-Eyed Dissection of the Contemporary Newspaper Industry (with a British focus) By Dr. Laurence Raw on January 17, 2014 Format: Paperback OUT OF PRINT takes a long, hard look at the British newspaper industry - its past, present and future. The author, a former journalist with many years of experience - for example, at the London SUNDAY TIMES - looks at the way in which newspapers acquired a position of considerable primacy in British cultures from the mid-eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries, a position that is now under threat through digitization. Brock is well aware of how the internet has changed the ways in which readers consume news - looking for outlets other than that of the newspapers and exercising freedom of choice, as well as making the news themselves through blogs. On the other hand, he believes that there is a future for the printed newspaper - perhaps the circulation figures will not be as substantial as they were in the past, but Brock understands how many readers prefer paper to the screen, even if they own an IPad or a smartphone. Ultimately OUT OF PRINT calls for the newspaper industry to become more flexible, to reject its antediluvian practices of the past, both in terms of news-gathering and distribution, and adapt itself to changing practices. A combination of the tried and tested, the reliable and the trustworthy, allied to new, innovative methods of delivering the news, both in print and online, seems like the formula for future success. Perhaps the book is a little too parochial in focus (there is too much on the Leverson inquiry, and not enough on developments within the American newspaper industry), but it is nonetheless well written and highly accessible.

[Aug 16, 2009] Reader Update on ECONNED by Yves Smith

Writing book is a grueling long, long job. And chances that your book became a hit are slim even if you manage to find a publisher -- too much depends on advertizing...

Dear patient readers,

Loyalists may have noticed that I am still not back up to my old level of posts. That is because I still have heavy duty book responsibilities. I now know why Spaulding Grey called one of his books "the monster in the box" (in the box in those days because manuscripts were typewritten).

The manuscript was in to my editor August 4. I still don't have her edits back, but I have tons to do anyhow (this is typical, BTW) particularly because one chapter still does not work and needs to be rewritten yet again (9th time, 7 of 8 previous rewrites were major. It does not want to submit). And aside from cleanup and nailing down some very important open details (to say anything about CDOs, you need to do primary research, the media did not get deeply enough into that one, no doubt because it is a difficult product and data does not converge neatly), I need to worry about continuity and redundancy (for instance,when I talk about CDS and return to it 4 chapters later, how much do I have to reintroduce the concept for a lay reader?).

The book was supposed to go to copy edit August 18, which was clearly nuts. I had to make myself obnoxious to get that pushed back a mere six days. I get half the book back out of copy edit Sept 2, the rest the following week. The overall deadline is still the same, which is the manuscript is pretty locked down on Sept 23.

I review copy edits and can still make changes till then, and will keep editing while in copy edit. I also need to get some permissions for a few charts I use before Sept 23..

The manuscript then goes for a proofreading (an extra step most publishers don't take) and goes into page proofs, which I review again, but you really cannot change page proofs much at all (you can maybe artfully change a line if if does not change the rest of the page).

The book goes into galleys as of mid October and galleys are ready Nov. 1.

And you may remember the book is not out until late Feb-March. Why such a long lead time? They want to send galleys to long lead time publications. It takes time to assign books to reviewers. To get reviews in some magazines for Feb-March, they need galleys 4 months plus prior.

Now this book is a big historical sweep, but I wonder what happens if this ides of September is even a pale shadow of the last one.

And I have a client project starting the day the book goes into copy edit (Aug 24), so even if I wanted to take a few days off then that is not in the cards. Readers Journal - KISSING FROGS THE GREATEST RISK

KISSING FROGS: THE GREATEST RISK (John Joss, August 20, 2007)

"Ability is of no account without opportunity"
≈≈Napoleon Buonaparte

Career choices remain, for most of us, the highest life risk. Bad decisions, early, may spell doom. The rot may set in while we are still in our teens, picking poor study specialties that become dead ends. Though we will each have ten or more separate jobs during our working life, it's better to work into areas with genuine career potential. Buggy whips are no longer made in quantity. Repairing typewriters is not a growth trade.

The most significant risk I ever took was trying to become a writer. To be accepted as a writer is to offer one's most intimate self≈≈the mind and heart≈≈for public appraisal. If this leads to authentication, so much the better. If not . . .

After years spent slaving in the corporate world and creating soulless promotional and business writing, I decided to take the plunge and write a novel≈≈well, three. Because the mortgage payment fell due every month, I wrote them between three and eight AM while working full time (for a freelance, around 60-80 hours a week). Each novel took nine months, a pregnant period to consider. When my first, SIERRA SIERRA, was taken by William Morrow in New York, I was elated. I was launched as a novelist. No longer would I need to slave over commercial 'writing,' with its intrinsic limitations and its lack of creativity. Now I could let my brain, heart and imagination soar in a series of novels already planned in my mind. I could not have been more wrong. How naОve! What delusions! One accepted book, especially a first novel, does not begin to approximate a writing career.

People who have chosen wisely not to take up writing for a living often ask me 'What's it like to be a writer?'

I sometimes detect a hint of envy, for reasons that escape me. These are, as far as I can tell, people≈≈seemingly sane≈≈already receiving a regular paycheck. My counsel to them is invariably to keep working at that salaried job they now hold and study to remain current, or become a home hobbyist with a working spouse.

Many people apparently imagine that writers enjoy a glamorous life: lots of partying, approached by agents, directors and producers eager to produce articles, books, films or TV series based on their work, traveling to exotic locations, being wined and dined by publishers who sit at their feet and press huge advances and lucrative contracts on them, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, receiving adoration from Beautiful People, being interviewed and lionized by the media, earning pots of money.

For a few of the world's scribblers, this is reality. You read about them everywhere: their latest work or three (already accepted, based on a working title, huge advances paid), their brushes with the law, their drugs, sexual proclivities and conquests, their current partner(s), what they are wearing and eating, their travels≈≈to Venice for Carnevale, to Tibet to meet the Dalai Lama, to the Vatican (private audience with the Pope).

For the vast majority of writers, this existence is fantasy. The real writing life is solitary, often lonely, with (for me, anyway) endless hours spent trying to assemble words correctly, failing frequently. And badly paid. Perhaps one of the riskiest and most precarious activities on earth, especially if you enjoy eating and drinking, clothing and shelter. I have had years in which I have earned six figures (once, years ago commerce pays, art doesn't). But I have had years, an embarrassingly large number, in which my writing earnings were in four figures.

It is not easy to live on a four-figure salary in the U.S., well below the poverty line, especially not in the high-cost-of-living Bay Area of Northern California. Once, in a burst of masochism, I calculated that I had earned less than $1 an hour in one particularly bad year; that calculation did not include work done but not sold. For the sake of your mental health, try not to indulge in such math. And stay out of the cooking sherry: alcohol is a depressant and most writers are already depressed enough.

The great, Oscar-winning screenwriter William ('Butch Cassidy') Goldman wrote famously: "No one knows anything." He was referring to Hollywood green-lighters' inability to predict movie popularity, the confusion and rapid head-lopping surrounding costly failures deemed certain winners before production and the surprising success of films despised and predicted to fail, often rejected by dozens of the industry's supposedly finest arbiters of quality and box-office potential.

The same phenomenon applies to every artistic field. The history of art in every form is littered with examples of artists now accepted as great who were spurned when they first emerged. Mozart, Van Gogh . . . the list is endless and I am not comparing myself to them. Since writing is applied thought and thought precedes any physical manifestation of worthwhile art, I confine my comments here to writing, specifically to the writing of books, though I've written in many other forms during my so-called writing life (for some unaccountable reason, non-writers always equate writing with books). So, risk takers, go for it and try to be a writer. You have nothing to lose but the roof over your head and the ability to eat regularly. 'Trust me.' Ooof.

To sell a book of any worth to a major publisher a writer needs a capable, professional agent. On behalf of thousands of writers without an agent or access to one via insider introduction, I will describe what it is like for an outsider to try to gain representation. My over-all professional background: a writer of 20 books, published in New York (Morrow, fiction; Ballantine, nonfiction), and a freelance with a long record of achievement in print, broadcast and Internet media worldwide for some of the best corporations, magazines, media and similar interests. Those credentials, plus $1, will buy you a really rotten cup of coffee.

Before evaluating the agent perplex, consider the basic dynamics of book writing in this age of bottom-line, 'pull' publishing in which publishers rarely support new authors:

If you get a great, original idea for a book≈≈fiction or nonfiction; And if you have the skill, energy and dedication to write it; And if, preferably, you're young and of 'desirable' gender and ethnicity (translation: not old, not male, not Caucasian); And if you manage to hit a cultural 'fad' window successfully; And if you know a friendly editor to straighten you out before you attempt to submit your oeuvre; And if you have the courage, skill and will to edit your own work meticulously to punctilious standards of quality; And if you can find the 'right' professional agent (see below) to represent your book; And if that agent reads your work, likes it and agrees to represent you; And if that agent knows, by first name, publishers' editors who might like it; And if one of those editors likes it enough to put in on his or her work list and supports it enthusiastically; And if it survives vs. the house's numerous other projects; And if the book acquires production values and a publicity budget to promote the work (i.e. publisher investment based on estimated potential revenues); And if the critics, reviewing maybe one in 100 books, like it and the review is published in a publicly visible place; And if the distribution system, down to major chains such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders and their equivalents outside the U.S., selling 95% by volume and taking ~5% by title of all books offered (mostly from 'name' writers and the major publishers), accepts and distributes the book; And if enough public word-of-mouth buzz creates decent sales numbers and long-term attention for you and your work; Then maybe you might have published a successful book. Maybe. I say again: maybe. Might. I repeat: might.
Don't try to spend the money until the check has cleared. The odds of the above happening≈≈ all must, for success≈≈are hundreds of thousands to one against and may take years or decades. The odds are higher that lightning will strike you or that you will win the lottery, or more likely shrivel and die meantime of old age. Welcome to writing reality. Never forget the difference between amateurs and professionals, especially when it comes to writing: amateurs can perform brilliantly on occasion; professionals must deliver well, fast, consistently, no matter how they feel, or starve. Professional writing is merciless and deadlines or writers' blocks are relentless meat-grinders.

Publishers are under immense pressure to be profitable: many or perhaps most are now owned by conglomerates run by accountants focused on bottom-line profits, based on evaluations suitable in, say, the manufacturing or service industries. They cannot afford to staff with enough competent editors to read submissions from authors and consign all unsolicited material to 'slush piles.' Supply far outstrips demand. They are receiving enough from writers they are already publishing and rely on agents as gatekeepers. Much great writing dies on slush piles (an agent reportedly picked Billionaire J.K. Rowling's first Potter randomly from his slush pile). By contrast, dead authors such as Ludlum have 'new' books ghost written and earn millions from the grave. Brands sell regardless of quality. All Ludlum's book were reviewed at once, in TIME: "The Ludlum Formula."

Publishers know that only one in ten offerings will succeed, even from known sources, but don't know which one that might be. That's why agents can rarely get new writers accepted regardless of quality. A typical agency receives 500+ submissions per month (25+/day, but sometimes four or five times as many) and rejects >99.5%. An aspiring writer could query 250 agents (about the right number of the 2,500 listed in specific genres) and get perhaps one positive response≈≈but don't bet on it. My favorite, probably apocryphal tale in this area is about the chairman of a huge conglomerate who bought a New York publishing house.

"How many books did you publish last year?" he asked the CEO of the acquired publishing house.
"About 650," said the CEO.
"How many made money?"
"Oh, maybe 65."
"Well, next year you should publish 65≈≈the ones that make money." Brilliant.
The paradox: as Goldman explained, "no one knows anything." Many best-sellers were rejected dozens of times (Richard Bach's Seagull went to 30 publishers before Eleanor Friede at McMillan took it). Jerzy Kozinsky's Painted Bird was submitted as a test under another title soon after publication; Doris Lessing, probing the realities for unknowns, sent two of her best-sellers under other titles. Result: all were rejected, by form letter. This experiment has been repeated many times, with identical results, and reported widely in the Press. There were no follow-up accounts of writers' suicides in which the suicide note cited these awful realities.

Writing correctly is basic and essential, but for any of us but geniuses it takes a long time to learn. Experienced readers, starting with agents looking at queries, reject incompetents outright. Flawless spelling, grammar, syntax, vocabulary and style are vital to anyone trying to write professionally. It's akin to the need for job applicants to dress and behave properly for interviews≈≈inappropriate speech, manner and dress close interviews almost before they start. Cap on backwards? Bad idea.

Writing competence is obvious to a capable agent in the first few pages, or in the first paragraph. Note: this does not apply to best-seller junk from established 'authors' who are accepted regardless of literary skills≈≈one well-known and financially successful 'writer' of flash trash for a big house sends in her 'work' hand written in pencil on un-numbered legal-pad pages, leaving an editor to assemble the mess and turn it into a book. The 'writing' is barely readable, I might say. I do say.

[May 11, 2007] theShepler How to publish your book for a dozen friends

Paper is cumbersome to deal with when it is great quantities but many people still find it helpful (comforting?) to have documents printed on paper instead of reading them in electronic forms.

As you have noticed by now, I am involved with the NFSv4.1 effort and the resultant document which is currently at 464 pages. While a great majority of those NFS engineers interested in this document will opt for either a soft copy or the html formatted version there are those engineers that like to have a stack of paper to inspect.

Well, printing the 464 pages on your printer is likely a hassle; toss in getting the pagination correct or binding the result then it is a real pain. The audience for this type of technical document is very limited. The audience is limited even further given that the protocol is still evolving. How does one get something like this easily printed. Drop it off at Kinko's? Maybe. How do you share the result with your engineering buddies? Especially when they are spread around the world? Well, one example is (I am sure there are others but this is the one I bumped into first).

Create a simple account and resultant store, upload a PDF of your document in the page size that is preferable for your material, generate a little cover art and voila -- you have your own NFSv4.1 Draft 10 Book. Printed, bound, and shipped to your door. What a great deal!

In my particular case, I am not in it for the money. Just the convenience. The resultant price is the cost charged by and there is a nominal shipping fee. Very cool and helpful to the 12 or so NFSv4.1 friends that really care.

And yes, I chose the genre for the book very late at night with little patience for choosing something more appropriate.

Wikipedia founder remakes Web publishing economics Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Monday December 11, 7:06 am ET

By Eric Auchard

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Free software is about to get freer.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said on Monday his for-profit company, Wikia Inc., is ready to give away -- for free -- all the software, computing, storage and network access that Web site builders need to create community collaboration sites.

Wikia, a commercial counterpart to the non-profit Wikipedia, will go even further to provide customers -- bloggers or other operators who meet its criteria for popular Web sites -- 100 percent of any advertising revenue from the sites they build.

Started two years ago, Wikia ( aims to build on the anyone-can-edit success of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Using the same underlying software, called MediaWiki, Wikia hosts group publishing sites, known as wikis, on topics from Star Wars to psychology to travel to iPods.

"It is open-source software and open content," Wales said in a phone interview. "We will be providing the computer hosting for free, and the publisher can keep the advertising revenue."

That could prove disruptive to business models of Web sites that provide free services to customers but require a cut of any resulting revenue in return.

Wikia gives away the tools and the revenue to its users. It requires only that sites built with the company's resources link to, which makes money through advertising.

Wikia calls the free-hosting service "OpenServing" ( It runs on an easy-to-use version of MediaWiki software developed by, a sports fan community site Wikia recently acquired and plans to extend.

Wales is betting the plunging cost of computers and networks can help Wikia support the free services offer. "It is becoming more and more practical and feasible to do," he said.


"We don't have all the business model answers, but we are confident -- as we always have been -- that the wisdom of our community will prevail," he said.

The move follows the announcement last week that (NASDAQ:AMZN - News) had become Wikia's first corporate investor and is acting as the sole investor in Wikia's second round of funding. Terms were not disclosed.

Wikia took $4 million in funding in March from Bessemer Venture Partners, Omidyar Network, high-profile Silicon Valley "angel" backers including Marc Andreessen, Dan Gillmor, Reid Hoffman and Mitch Kapor and Joichi Ito of Japan.

In recent months, has revealed an ambitious strategy of its own to offer a range of low-cost computer, data storage and Web site hosting services to companies large and small, which could come into play for Wikia.

Wales said using Amazon to supply Web services is not part of Wikia's deal with Amazon. "Potentially, but this is really completely separate," he said when asked if there was a tie.

Wikia aims to become is a clearinghouse of free software.

Armchair's software is the first of hundreds of freely licensed software packages to be hosted by the company in the near future, Wales said. These could include popular open-source publishing software such as WordPress and Drupal. Consumers would then have a single password across all sites.

"The real concept is to become much broader, to host lots of different free software and free content, Wales said.

Thirty-thousand users have posted 400,000 articles so far on Wikia sites. The San Mateo, California-based company employs 38 people, including top volunteer editors from the Wikipedia.

Warnings and Cautions for Writers--Print on Demand

What is Print on Demand?

Print on demand (POD) is the commonly-used term for the digital printing technology that allows a complete book to be printed and bound in a matter of minutes. This makes it easy and cost-effective to produce books one or two at a time or in small lots, rather than in larger print runs of several hundred or several thousand.

POD has a number of applications. Commercial and academic publishers use it to print advance reading copies, or when they can't justify the expense of producing and warehousing a sizeable print run--for instance, to keep backlist books available. Some independent publishers use it as a more economical fulfillment method, trading lower startup costs against smaller per-book profits (due to economies of scale, digitally printed books have a higher unit production cost than books produced in large runs on offset presses). Last but not least, there are the POD-based publishing service providers, which offer a for-fee service that can be described, depending on one's bias, as either vanity publishing or self-publishing.

The "POD Publisher" and the POD Stigma

Strictly speaking, "print on demand" is simply a term for a kind of printing technology, and doesn't describe any particular business model. Over the past few years, however, digital technology has become so firmly associated with a particular complex of business practices that the term "POD publisher" has taken on specific meaning.

What defines a POD publisher?
Most of these practices, including the fee, are characteristic of the POD-based publishing service providers discussed in the next section. However, they're increasingly common among POD-based independent publishers, whose often inexperienced staff may not have the skill to rigorously select and edit (never mind market and promote) their books, and whose shoestring budgets force them to keep costs as low as possible.

Not all POD-based independents employ these practices, of course. Unfortunately, a great many do. Together with the aggressive policies and poor-quality offerings of the POD-based publishing service providers, this has tainted print on demand in general. Many booksellers, reviewers, and readers are wary of POD on principle, and may assume that a publisher that relies exclusively or mainly on digital technology is a POD publisher, even if the publisher is entirely professional. This is the POD stigma, and it's something that anyone who's thinking of signing a contract with a POD-based independent publisher needs to take into account, because it can make marketing extremely difficult.

Slashdot Examining the Era of Print-on-Demand

IMHO Lulu is too expensive... I saw one book from it was overpriced and badly written.
You need to read deeper into the article. Different publishers are accepting source materials in different formats. Blurb has their composer on a web site, Picaboo gives you a free download of their software, and Lulu takes PDFs. Shop around, and find the one willing to work with you. They all seem comparably priced for the end product, which isn't much more than you'd pay for an ordinary hardbound edition from a well respected author.

Experience with

(Score:5, Informative)

by rdwald (831442) on Friday July 21, @04:44PM (#15759869)

I played around with's print-on-demand service a few months ago; it was surprisingly easy. I layed out the book in OpenOffice, saved it to a PDF, checked it in xpdf, and sent the file to them. A week or so later, I had a hard copy with a professional-looking cover and everything. One thing to note before ordering from them: Lulu's 6" x 9" format is actually larger than most paperback books; if you want yours to look "normal," don't use it. Anyway, overall it was a fairly positive experience; I'd recommend them for low-volume book printing.

Technology Rewrites the Book - New York Times

When Steve Mandel, a management trainer from Santa Cruz, Calif., wants to show his friends why he stays up late to peer through a telescope, he pulls out a copy of his latest book, "Light in the Sky," filled with pictures he has taken of distant nebulae, star clusters and galaxies.

Steve Mandel, above, created his book "Light in the Sky" using software from; the cover image is of the Hale-Bopp comet.

"I consistently get a very big 'Wow!' The printing of my photos was spectacular - I did not really expect them to come out so well." he said. "This is as good as any book in a bookstore."

Mr. Mandel, 56, put his book together himself with free software from The 119-page edition is printed on coated paper, bound with a linen fabric hard cover, and then wrapped with a dust jacket. Anyone who wants one can buy it for $37.95, and Blurb will make a copy just for that buyer.

The print-on-demand business is gradually moving toward the center of the marketplace. What began as a way for publishers to reduce their inventory and stop wasting paper is becoming a tool for anyone who needs a bound document. Short-run presses can turn out books economically in small quantities or singly, and new software simplifies the process of designing a book.

As the technology becomes simpler, the market is expanding beyond the earliest adopters, the aspiring authors. The first companies like AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse and others pushed themselves as new models of publishing, with an eye on shaking up the dusty book business. They aimed at authors looking for someone to edit a manuscript, lay out the book and bring it to market.

The newer ventures also produce bound books, but they do not offer the same hand-holding or the same drive for the best-seller list. Blurb's product will appeal to people searching for a publisher, but its business is aimed at anyone who needs a professional-looking book, from architects with plans to present to clients, to travelers looking to immortalize a trip.'s design software, which is still in beta testing, comes with a number of templates for different genres like cookbooks, photo collections and poetry books. Once one is chosen, it automatically lays out the page and lets the designer fill in the photographs and text by cutting and pasting. If the designer wants to tweak some details of the template - say, the position of a page number or a background color - the changes affect all the pages.

The software is markedly easier to use - although less capable - than InDesign from Adobe or Quark XPress, professional publishing packages that cost around $700. It is also free because Blurb expects to make money from printing the book. Prices start at $29.95 for books of 1 to 40 pages and rise to $79.95 for books of 301 to 440 pages.

Blurb, based in San Francisco, has many plans for expanding its software. Eileen Gittins, the chief executive, said the company would push new tools for "bookifying" data, beginning with a tool that "slurps" the entries from a blog and places them into the appropriate templates.

The potential market for these books is attracting a number of start-ups and established companies, most of them focusing on producing bound photo albums. Online photo processing sites like Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto), Snapfish and Shutterfly and popular packages like the iPhoto software from Apple let their customers order bound volumes of their prints.

These companies offer a wide variety of binding fabrics, papers, templates and background images, although the styles are dominated by pink and blue pastels. Snapfish offers wire-bound "flipbooks" that begin at $4.99. Kodak Gallery offers a "Legacy Photo Book" made with heavier paper and bound in either linen or leather. It starts at $69.99. Apple makes a tiny 2.6-by-3.5-inch softbound book that costs $3.99 for 20 pages and 29 cents for each additional page.

The nature and style of these options are changing as customers develop new applications. "Most of the people who use our products are moms with kids," says Kevin McCurdy, a co-founder of in Palo Alto, Calif. But he said there had been hundreds of applications the company never anticipated: teachers who make a yearbook for their class, people who want to commemorate a party and businesses that just want a high-end brochure or catalog.

Picaboo, like Blurb, distributes a free copy of its book design software, which runs on the user's computer. Mr. McCurdy said that running the software on the user's machine saves users the time and trouble of uploading pictures. The companies that offer Web-based design packages, however, point out that their systems do not require installing any software and also offer a backup for the user's photos.

As more companies enter the market, they are searching for niches. One small shop in Duvall, Wash., called, emphasizes its traditional production techniques and the quality of its product. Chris Hickman, the founder, said that each of his books was printed and stitched together by "two bookbinders who've been in the industry for 30 or 40 years." The result, he said, is a higher level of quality that appeals to professional photographers and others willing to pay a bit more. Books of 20 pages start at $39.95.

Some companies continue to produce black-and-white books. is a combination printer and order-fulfillment house that prints both color and black-and-white books, takes orders for them and places them with bookstores like

Lulu works from a PDF file, an approach that forces users to rely on basic word processors or professional design packages. If this is too complex, Lulu offers a marketplace where book designers offer their services. Lulu does offer a special cover design package that will create a book's cover from an image and handle the specialized calculations that compute the size of the spine from the number of pages and the weight of the paper.

A 6-by-9-inch softcover book with 150 black-and-white pages from Lulu would cost $7.53 per single copy.

These packages are adding features that stretch the concept of a book, in some cases undermining the permanent, fixed nature that has been part of a book's appeal. The software from, for instance, lets a user leave out pages from some versions of the book. If Chris does not like Pat, for instance, then the copy going to Chris could be missing the pages with Pat's pictures.

Blurb is expanding its software to let a community build a book. Soon, it plans to introduce a tool that would allow group projects, like a Junior League recipe book, to be created through Blurb's Web site. The project leader would send out an e-mail message inviting people to visit the site and add their contributions to customized templates, which would then be converted into book pages.

"Books are breaking wide open," Ms. Gittins said. "Books are becoming vehicles that aren't static things."

The Coming Ecology of Ebook Publishing

In a recent Salon story on ebooks, I was struck by the following comment: contends that Simon & Schuster's decision not to let join other online retailers like and in selling King's book was a way of punishing for presuming to poach on the venerable publisher's territory.

Here's what this story led me to say to Fatbrain CEO Chris McAskill:

S&S is right, though. Fatbrain put a stake in the ground, and started acting like a publisher rather than a reseller. As I've argued repeatedly on the StudioB mailing list, it's tough to be both a publisher and a retailer, because you end up with the worst of both rather than the best of both. Not only do publishers rightly see you asa competitor, but authors see you as a publisher who has only one outlet: your own web presence. So unless you get dominant share REALLY quickly, you're out of the game, because faced with a publisher with single-point distribution, or a publisher with multi-layer distribution, the multi-point, multi-layer publisher will appear to have significantly more reach.

Later on in the Salon story, this point is driven home:

[David] Gernert [John Grisham's agent] says that electronic publishers have approached Grisham, but none has succeeded in persuading him to go digital, partly because the needs of author and e-publisher don't, as Gernert sees it, entirely coincide. "For an electronic publisher to say that they're publishing Grisham is instant legitimacy and instant publicity and instant viability," he says. "As an author you would want a story to go on as many computers, Web sites and devices as possible."

Until we have a system where "publishing" is distinct from "distribution" and from "retailing", and "publishing" means being an intermediary between authors and a complex, multi-point distribution system, we won't have a market that is ready for prime time. (The nature of that publishing intermediary includes shielding retailers (and ultimately consumers) from the slush pile, and shielding authors from building relationships with thousands of resellers.)

It's OK to have a publishing arm, I think, but not OK to munge publishing and retailing together. It's OK for a retailer to publish some of its own books, but not to compete with publishers for original content by offering royalty levels that ignore what publishers bring to the table. It's OK for a publisher to have some direct sales, as long as they don't cut out their resellers by offering preferred pricing to direct customers.

Fatbrain has made some good progress by separating from That makes mightywords your publishing arm. Now, maybe you can find a way to get back into the ebook retailing/distribution space, where I predict all your competitors will soon be, using a format that reproduces many of the characteristics of print publishing:

  1. The author/publisher can produce the work once, and have it resold by many parties.
  2. Distributors will allow authors/publishers to reach specialty retailers, so that every retailer can participate without the overhead of one-to-one relationships with every publisher.
  3. Specialty distributors/retailers/publishers may make the work available in alternate versions.
  4. Third parties will catalog and review the various published works.
  5. To support the needs of libraries, companies like Netlibrary will make works available for "check out" rather than purchase.

There are a couple of other points I'd make, partly coming off #3 above:

There will likely be two or three branches of the online book tree.

3a. There is likely to be a format that is targeted for download, either to the PC or to a small device. The format that ultimately succeeds may well need to be easily transferable from one to the other.

3b. There is likely to be a format that is targeted for online/connected access, which benefits (e.g. in the tech book space) from integrated online searching across a library of titles, supports other ancillary materials from the web space, and so on. This kind of thing might be hosted by a publisher, by a corporate intranet, by a library, or by some new class of information reseller/integrator.

3c. The solution to prevail will include print-on-demand (and/or the bundled sale of print and online copies. In fact, the ideal Digital Rights Management solution would support the aggregation of a, b, and c, such that someone could buy a copy for download (which would take advantage of the ability to buy the product from a variety of retailers), but present some sort of credential representing that purchase to a central site (hosted either by a publisher or a third party) so that it can get access to that book in the context of other services provided by that aggregator. Such DRM solution would allowed tiered pricing (either up or down) for the purchase of added services (such as print on demand) or for some kind of repeat purchaser discounting.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The one thing I'm sure of is that we'll see a repeat of what we saw in the web space, where everyone started out thinking "disintermediation" but things didn't take off till we had reintermediation, with the development of a rich ecology of sites and services cooperating to make a fully functioning marketplace.

In the early days of the web (1993), when we had created GNN, the first web portal and the first web site supported by advertising, we had a huge uphill struggle, because we had to do everything ourselves. We had to get people on the web in the first place (equivalent to getting them to download some kind of ebookreader, but even harder); we had to convince advertisers that there was a market there (we commissioned the first ever market research study on Internet demographics); we had to evangelize the possibilities and experiment with different formats. The list goes on and on.

I contrasted this with my experience as a print publisher, where we fit neatly into an ecology, with manufacturers who already knew how to make our product, retailers and wholesalers who came to sign us up, natural places to advertise and create demand, known standards for pricing, customer expectations of what a book looked like, etc. etc.

I ended up going around giving talks saying that the web wasn't going to take off till it looked more like print publishing. When I was explaining this to Ted Leonsis of AOL, he "got it" with the memorable line: "You're saying 'Where's the Publisher's Clearinghouse for the Web?'" Exactly. There are all these crazy intermediaries who make any branch of print publishing work, from rack jobbers to remainder houses, to folks who've figured out how to make school children into a sales force :-(

Now, on the web, we're seeing the success grow in proportion to the richness of that cooperating ecology:

So the challenge I put out to all would-be ebook publishers is to envision a future in which they aren't the only party who succeeds. The market won't take off till it's a win for many parties.

This isn't to say that there won't be massive realignments of power and success in the new market (you only have to look at how much market share took from traditional booksellers to know that.) There will be new publishers, new retailers, new wholesalers, and new "manufacturers" (software platform providers) springing up, as well as new providers of various support services. But my suspicion is that anyone who tries to go it alone will be left behind by folks who figure out what niche in the ecology they want to own, and pursue it wholeheartedly.

Tim O'Reilly is founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, Inc., and an activist for Internet standards and for open source software. For everything Tim, see

What do you think about self-published books by Tim O'Reilly

Apr 15, 2005

At 37Signals, Jason Fried asks: "What do you think about self-published books?" There's a lot of great reader feedback. I wrote some comments myself, recounting my start as a self-published author to becoming one of the largest computer book publishers in the country. (My first print run was 100 copies. In the twenty years since, I've sold more than 30 million copies of a thousand odd titles.)

Anyway, to make a long story short, several people suggested I repeat my comments here. Here goes:

Well, I like to think of myself as a self publisher who grew up into a real publisher. So I've seen the world from both sides. I never thought when I printed my first run of 100 copies of Learning the Unix Operating System in 1985 that it would go on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, and start me on the path to being one of the largest computer book publishers in the country. It's been a long and fruitful ride, which took me in many unexpected directions, and with a huge number of mistakes, some of which turned out to be inspired!

Here are the differences between self publishing and working with an established publisher as I see them:

1) If you're not an experienced author, having a good editor can help you produce a book you'll be proud of. You guys have already written a book, so you know what help you got, and whether or not it improved your book. So scratch that issue.

2) If you're not well known, you may have real trouble getting visibility and distribution for your book. You guys are well known and have a built-in distribution channel and audience. Get your book on Amazon, plus sell it from your own site, and you'll probably move as many copies as most publishers would move of a comparable book from less well known authors. (Given your current notoriety, you might even be able to sell as many copies as New Riders sold of your Defensive Design book, or more.) My guess is that I could significantly more copies of your book via additional channels than you would sell yourself, but probably not enough to make up the difference in margin that you'd make by printing and selling the book yourselves. So scratch that issue as well.

3) If you sell a lot of books, you'll find yourself having to build a lot of the apparatus of a publisher. When we were small, we hired a temp to ship out books, and when a shipment arrived from the printer, all our employees would make a bucket brigade to carry the cartons to the basement. But that gets old fast. This is the biggest question for you: what business do you want to be in? A successful publisher (self or otherwise) ends up in the business of book design, copyediting and layout, printing (contracted out, but still a set of relationships and processes you need to manage), warehousing, shipping, order taking (can mostly be done self service), customer service ("where's my book?"; "my copy was damaged in shipping", etc.), and many other mundane but necessary tasks.

And of course, once you have more than a couple of books, you really need to start expanding your channels, your retail marketing (very challenging to get a foot in the door in today's market), and your sales force. So you start up the ramp, as I did, of becoming a full fledged publisher yourself.

Of course, there are alternatives to doing all the work. For example, you could become what's called a packager, where you establish a series and and brand, and deliver camera ready copy to a publisher, who pays you a higher than normal royalty because they provide no editing or development services, but still takes the inventory risk, and thereafter treats the book as one of their own products. Pogue Press (now wholly owned by O'Reilly) and Deke Press are two O'Reilly imprints that started out as packaging deals. To make something like this work, you need to have a strong brand (you do), a scalable publishing idea (rather than just a single book), and the ability to deliver completed books to the publisher.

The next step up is to publishing itself, which adds the element of inventory risk. That is, it's easy to say, "Wow, print a book for $2, sell it for $30, pocket $28." But what happens instead is "print 1000 copies of a book for $5 each, 5000 copies for $3 each, or 10,000 copies for $2 each." And then if you sell fewer than you expect, you might end up with a very different cost of goods than you expect. Many small publishers make the mistake of printing too many copies, and their cost of goods (and warehousing those goods) becomes much higher than they expect. So you might print 10,000 for $20,000, sell 1000 directly from your website for $30, and another 1000 from Amazon for $14 (which is about what you'll get after discount), you're netting $44,000 on a $20,000 investment, not the $300,000 that the naive math of $2 manufacturing vs. $30 list price would suggest. Still, not bad, and a real option - if you want to be in the publishing business for the long haul. Self publishing a single book can be fun. But I'd be that after the second or third, you either decide to be in the publishing business full bore, or look for a partner to take on some of the chores.

FWIW, many small publishers are distributed by larger publishers. When O'Reilly was small, for example, Addison-Wesley and later Thomson did our international distribution before we started our own international companies. And today, O'Reilly distributes smaller presses like the Pragmatic Programmers, No Starch, Paraglyph, Sitepoint, and Syngress. That leverages our sales force, our distribution systems, and our relationships with major retailers.

Note however, that in order to take either the packaging or distribution route, you really need to be thinking about more than a single book.

Tim O'Reilly is founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, Inc., and an activist for Internet standards and for open source software. For everything Tim, see

Beta Books RULE! Authors, please do this more often!

What the Pragmatic Programmers did with their new book on Rails is wonderful: they started selling it as a PDF when still in BETA - to please the eager, and get feedback/typos.

Now that I'm going through the book, this appeals to me on a few different levels:

#1 - I had a strong practical need for this book NOW - not in 5 months, but now now now. THANK YOU to the authors for making this available early. It has helped me immensely.

#2 - They have a wonderful error-submitting page that they respond to daily. I found a few typos as I was going through the examples, submitted them, and got a reply that they were fixed the following day. THIS IS BRILLIANT! Why wait until it's on the bookshelves to find out that there are typos?

#3 - I prefer technical books on PDF anyway.

Releasing books in beta-format takes advantage of the fact that there are different kinds of readers. Some, like me, need the info sooner, even if it's not "perfect" yet. We're avid fans of the technology. We'll hear on the mailing list that you are making this available. We'll be right there giving feedback daily, which will improve the book for when it's released to the much-larger public.

I hope more authors and publishers do this.

Derek Sivers is the founder, president, and sole programmer behind CD Baby, independent music distribution, and HostBaby, web hosting for musicians.

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Better writing skills for business, thesis, creative, and technical writing Publishing Inc.

The Culture of the Internet and Usenet

UpsideToday Ebiz

Write a book and Xlibris will (for free) format the file, design a cover, and tag it with an ISBN number --which means book sellers can track the title. The book gets posted on the website and sells for an average of $16. Extra service fees for design range from $300 to $1,200 per book. If someone orders a copy, Lightning Source prints and ships the title, and Xlibris and the author split the profit, typically about $3.

Xlibris - Where writers become authors.

The company charges writers $459 for formatting, posting and publicizing books, including arranging author appearances and posting audio books that can be downloaded from the Net. Audio books are the fastest-growing part of the publishing industry, a $2 billion annual market, according to the Audio Publishers Association.

"I don't have a publishing background," McCormack says, "which is great because it makes me think anything is possible."

Xlibris Bookstore

1stBooks Library...Where getting published is easier than you think! -- looks like more expensive that Xlibris

ZDNet eWEEK Boom time for online books By Grant Du Bois

Boom time for online books?
September 1, 2000 eWEEK

Author Stephen King's recent foray into e-book publishing has kicked off a new round of activity among book publishers and software developers looking to gain a foothold in the nascent market.

Since last year, well-known book publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Co., The McGraw-Hill Cos. and Simon & Schuster Inc. have hooked up with software companies to convert books into digital format and enable them to be read on screen.

Now Adobe Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are duking it out in the market for e-book reading software.

This week at the Seybold Seminars conference here, Adobe announced that it has acquired Glassbook Inc., a provider of e-book software that last week announced a beta version of its Reader 2.0 software. Terms of the deal were not released.

Features of Reader 2.0, due to ship in mid-September, include two-page views, text-to-speech capabilities, screen rotation, text annotation and highlighting with electronic sticky notes, searching and text enhancement to make content easier to read, said officials from Glassbook, of Waltham, Mass.

Adobe, of San Jose, Calif., also announced an expanded partnership with digital content services company to offer authors and publishers a faster and less expensive way to publish, manage and distribute their content as e-books.

Separately at the show, Microsoft announced a partnership with online retailer to create a customized version of the Microsoft Reader e-book software. The new version will enable consumers to purchase and download e-book titles directly from Microsoft Reader will be the preferred format for's future e-book store.

Microsoft and Adobe have similar relationships with Barnes&

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., also selected ContentGuard Inc., a provider of digital rights management software for content, to help booksellers, publishers and consumers easily adopt the digital format. ContentGuard will support Microsoft customers who want to build distribution systems using Microsoft's Digital Asset Server in order to launch digital offerings.

Adobe already has a similar relationship with ContentGuard.

ContentGuard's eBook Practice, announced this week, provides content preparation and management services to online bookstores and publishers so they can create digital offerings. The eBook Practice also provides an outsourced operation to manage the entire eBook distribution process and a consulting service to install and manage in-house e-book operations, said officials of the McLean, Va., company.

The stakes in the race to create standard e-book software are not small.

"If you get to be the provider of software for reading, essentially you get to be the toll keeper," said Jonathan Gaw, Internet research manager at International Data Corp. in Mountain View, Calif. "For every book or magazine article that uses this software, then you get to charge a toll, and if it's 5 or 10 cents per article, that adds up quickly. The question is, who will develop the best and most widely accepted standard?"

Boston-based Houghton Mifflin is working with several of the reading software vendors, including a pending agreement with Microsoft in the next few months, to reach more consumers and cover the different ways -- PC, laptop, personal digital assistant -- they want to receive e-books.

"We're working to do this as intelligently as we can," said David Jost, vice president of electronic publishing in the company's trade and reference division. "Every e-book company has their own reading or e-book format. We have to check each company's [digital] version of the book to make it consistent with our [print] version."

McGraw-Hill is also embracing the technology in this evolving market. It plans to have a total of 700 e-books on its list by the end of September, and 250 of them will be sold through the company's new online store.

"We're providing our customers with books in as many [digital] formats as possible," said April Hattori, a spokeswoman for McGraw-Hill in New York. "We want to be able to give our customers a choice. It's important to be in as many places as possible."

Although both Jost and Hattori believe publishing e-books will lower costs in the long run, they said it's too early to predict how much. While e-books will cut down on unused hard copy inventory, publishers will still have to pay software programmers to convert books into the proper electronic format, Jost said.

According to Billy Pidgeon, a Web technologies analyst at Jupiter Communications Inc. in New York, the market for e-books is in its infancy. "It's really early. Dedicated hardware is very iffy. ... Audio books as digital files with an MP3 player is a more immediate market."

Publishers have to develop consumer awareness for e-books, and vendors have to drive consumer adoption, Pidgeon said, noting that book printers are working with publishers to support common standards for text such as Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF.

"To a large extent the publishing industry is still in the Guttenberg era, and it's being dragged into the digital era," he said. "It's going to be a rough ride for some of these publishers. Fortunately, the market is still young, so there will be some time. But for publishers not looking at this space, they may be losing an opportunity."

[Mar 03, 2000] How do I publish my eMatter

Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau For Writers Writing

[Sept 20, 1999] Slashdot Interviews Interview Tim O'Reilly Answers

Dominican asks:
How often are books revised? Open to the author?

Tim responds:
In our early days, we revised our books constantly. For example, I did ten editions of Managing UUCP and Usenet between 1986 and 1991--about one every six months. The book grew in something much like an open source software process, where I was constantly incorporating reader feedback, and rolling it into the next printing. We didn't do a big marketing push about it being a new edition, we just had a change log on the copyright page, much like you do with a piece of software, each time you check it in and out of your source code control system.

Now that we're much larger (and many of our authors no longer work directly for us), it's harder to do that, but we still roll in a lot of small changes each time we go back to print.

The reason why it's harder mainly has to do with the inefficiency of retail distribution. When there are thousands of copies sitting in bookstores waiting to be bought, rolling out a "new edition" is a big deal, since you have to take back and recycle all the old ones. So you have to go through a process of letting the inventory "stored in the channel" thin out. This means that, especially for a very successful book, you can't do updates as often as you otherwise might like. We slipstream in fixes to errors and other small changes, but major changes need to be characterized as a "new edition" with all the attendant hoopla.

There is also the issue you advert to in your question, and that is the availability of the author to do the update. Sometimes an author like David Flanagan has a number of bestselling books, and he updates them in round-robin fashion. Sometimes an author loses interest in a topic, or gets a new job and doesn't have time any more, and we have to find someone else. Sometimes the technology is fairly stable, and so we don't need to do a new edition.

Sometimes we know we need a new edition, but we just get distracted, and don't get around to it as quickly as we should! At least we don't do what a lot of other publishers do, which is issue a "new edition" for marketing reasons only, where the content stays pretty much the same, but it's called a new edition just so they can sell it in freshly to bookstores.

t-money asks: has recently announced that it will offer an electronic publishing service, E-matter. What do you think about offering documents for download for a fee? Is this something that O'Reilly might be undertaking in the future?

Tim responds:
Well, we were part of FatBrain's ematter announcement, and we're going to be working with them. But I have to confess that the part of their project I liked the best wasn't the bit about selling short documents in online-only form, it was the idea of coordinating sale of online and print versions.

I know that there's a lot of talk about putting books up online for free, and we're doing some experiments there, but to be honest, I think that it's really in all of our best interests to "monetize" online information as soon as possible. Money, after all, is just a mutually-agreed ratio of exchange for services. When the price is somewhere between zero and a large number, based on negotiation, the uncertainty often means that the product is not available.

In general, I foresee a large period of experimentation, until someone or other figures out the right way to deliver AND pay for the kinds of things that people want to read online. We've seen it take about five years to develop enough confidence in advertising as a revenue model for the web (starting from our first-ever internet advertising on O'Reilly's prototype GNN portal in early 1993). Similarly, I think that the "pay for content" sites--whether eMatter or, or books24x7, or take some time to shake out. Meanwhile, we're playing with a bunch of these people, and doing some experiments of our own as well.

the_tsi asks:
Not to start a free SQL server war here, but I notice there is a (quite good) book on mSql and MySql, but nothing for PostgreSQL. Are there any plans to cover it in the near future?

Tim responds:
We're looking at this but haven't started any projects yet. We've had a huge number of requests for a book on PostgreSQL, and we're taking them very seriously.

Tet asks:
You've said that the Linux Network Administrator's Guide sold significantly less than would normally be expected as a result of the text of the book being freely available on the net. By what sort of margin? How many copies did it sell, and how many would you have expected to sell under normal circumstances? Would you release another book in a similar manner if the author accepts that they'll make less money from it? Did the book actually make a loss, or just not make as much profit as expected?

Tim responds:
Well, it's always hard to say what something *would* have done if circumstances had been otherwise. But on average, the book sold about a thousand copies a month in a period where Running Linux sold 3-4000 and Linux Device Drivers about 1500. Now the book is badly out of date (though a new edition is in the works), but you'd expect that there are more people doing network admin than there are writing device drivers. (And in fact, reader polls have actually put the NAG at the top of the list of "most useful" of our Linux books.)

Frank Willison, our editor in chief, made the following additional comments about the NAG and its free publication:

"We can demonstrate that we lost money because another publisher (SSC) also published the same material when it became available online. Because the books were identical, word for word (a requirement the author put on anyone else publishing the material), every copy sold of the SSC book was a loss of the sale of one copy of our book.

One interesting side note was that SSC published the book for a lower price than we did. Of course, we had the fixed costs: editing, reviewing, production, design. But those fixed costs didn't make the difference: when you took out the retail markup, the difference in price was equal to the author royalty on the book.

The above may be too much info, and isn't directly related to current Open Source practices, but it still chafes my butt."

If I had to quantify the effect, I'd guess that making a book freely available might cut sales by 30%. But note that this is for O'Reilly--we've got books with a great reputation, which makes people seek them out. And we cover "need to know" technologies where people are already looking for the O'Reilly book on the topic. For J. Random Author out there, open sourcing a book might be a terrible idea, or a great one. An author with some unique material that doesn't fall into an obvious "I already know I need this" category can build a real cult following online, and then turn that into printed book sales to a wider audience. We're hoping to do the same thing in publishing Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar (and other essays) this fall. Most of you guys have probably read them online, but there is a larger population who've probably heard the buzz, and will pick them up in the bookstore. On the other hand, an author who puts a lousy book online will only show this to the world, and sales will be 10% of what they'd been if the reader hadn't been able to see the book first.

Perhaps more compelling is the evidence from the Java world, where sales of the Addison-Wesley books based on the Sun documentation (which is mostly available online) are quite dismal, while our unique standalone books (as those from other publishers) do quite well. More importantly, though, programmers in our focus groups for Java report spending far less overall on books than programmers in other areas, because they say that they get most of the info they need online.

All of this is what tells me we need to tread carefully in this area, since I have to look out for the interests of my employees and my authors as well as my customers. In the end, free books online may look like a great deal, but it won't look so good if it ends up disincetivizing authors from doing work that you guys need.

And frankly, we have conversations all the time that go like this: "I'm making $xxx as a consultant. I'd love to write a book, but it's really not worth my while." At O'Reilly, we try to use authors who really know their stuff. So writing a book is either a labor of love, or it's a competitive situation with all the other things that author could be doing with their time. So money is an issue.

maelstrom asks:
(two out of three submitted) What books would you recommend a budding writer should read and study? and Do you read every book you publish?

Tim responds:
Books about writing that I like are Strunk & White (The Elements of Style) and William Zinsser's On Writing Well. But really, read any books that you like. Reading good technical books, and thinking about what works about them for you, is always great. We learn far more by osmosis than by formal instruction. So read, and then write.

Going back to the recurrent questions about free documentation--a great way to learn to write is to do it. Contribute your efforts to one of the many open source software projects as a documentation writer, get criticism from the user community, and learn by doing.

I would say that the ability to organize your thoughts clearly is the most important skill for a technical writer. Putting things in the right order, and not leaving anything out (or rather, not leaving out anything important, but everything unimportant), is far more important than trying to write deathless prose. The best writing is invisible, not showy. My favorite quote about writing (which came from a magazine interview that I read many years ago) was from Edwin Schlossberg: "The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think."

As to your second question: alas, I no longer have time to read everything we publish. We have a number of senior editors whose work I trust completely -- I never read their stuff unless I'm trying to use it myself. For new or more junior editors, I generally do a bit of a "sample" of each book somewhere during the development process. If I like it, I say so, and don't feel I have to look at it again. If I don't like it, I may make terrible trouble, as some of my editors and authors can attest.

howardjp asks:
One of the biggest compaints aong critics of the BSD operating systems is the lack of available books. Since O'Reilly is the leader in Open Source documentation, you are well positioned to enter the BSD market. With that in mind, why hasn't O'Reilly published any BSD books in recent memory?

Tim responds:
Every once in a while we make a stupid editorial decision, as, for instance, when we turned down Greg Lehey's proposed BSD book (now published by Walnut Creek CDROM). This was based on the fact that the BSD documentation, which we'd co-published with Usenix, had done really poorly, and the relative sales of our original BSD UNIX in a Nutshell relative to our System V/Solaris one. That was many years ago now, and BSD has emerged from the shadows of the AT&T lawsuit, and become a real force in the open source community. So I definitely think that there are some books that we might want to do there. Proposals are welcome.

That being said, so many of our books cover BSD (just like they cover Linux, even if they don't say Linux on the cover). After all, BSD is one of the great mothers of the open source movement. What is Bind, what is sendmail, what is vi, what is a lot of the TCP/IP utility suite but the gift of's so much part of the air we all breathe that it doesn't always stand out as topic that gets the separate name on it.

chromatic asks:
Would you ever consider making previous editions of certain books free for download when supplanted by newer editions?

For example, when Larry Wall finally gets around to writing the 3rd edition of the Camel (probably about the same time as Perl 6), would you consider making the second edition available in electronic format?

I realize this has the possibility of forking documentation, but it's hard to find anyone more qualified than Larry, Randal, and Tom, for example. It would only work for certain books.

Tim responds:
The previous edition of CGI Programming for the WWW is available online now, while we work on a new edition, as is MH & xmh and Open Sources. You can read these at We'd like to put more of our out of print books online, but it's a matter of man hours. Our Web team is organizing a new effort around this now, so look for more books to appear on this page.

And in fact, an awful lot of Programming Perl *is* available for free online, as part of the Perl man page or other perl documentation. It's not available in exactly the same form, but it's available. That's one of the big questions for online documentation: does the online version always look like the print version.

But this is a good question, and it's one we have certainly something we can think about. Might be another interesting experiment in understanding the ecology of online publishing.

Crutcher asks:
Not sure how to phrase this, but, well, what is the status of O'Reilley and marketing books to schools and colleges for use as textbooks. Our textbooks suck, and if there textbook versions of ya'lls books it would rock.

Tim responds:
We actually do quite a bit of marketing to schools and colleges, and they are used as textbooks in a number of places. If you know of a professor who ought to be adopting an O'Reilly book, please send mail to our manager of college and library sales, Kerri Bonasch, at [email protected]. We also have a Web site to support this effort at

Are there any specific things that you see as obstacles to use of the books as textbooks? What topics would you especially like to see as textbooks?

zilym asks:
Are there any plans to improve the binding on your future books? Many of us use O'Reilly books to death and the binding is the first to go. I know I certainly wouldn't mind pay slightly more for a stronger version of some of the most heavily used titles.

Tim responds:
Hmmm. We use a special high-cost binding, which allows the books to lay flat. It's quite a bit more expensive than the normal perfect binding used by most publishers, and we think it's worth it. I have heard lots of compliments on how great this binding is. I haven't heard complaints about it breaking down--at least not without use that would break down a normal perfect-bound book as well. I don't know of any way to make it more durable.

Maybe hardcover? It would be great to have a slashdot poll on how many people share your problem and would like to see O'Reilly books in hardcover. (One caveat: We tried an experiment once (for our Phigs Programming Manuals--real behemoths) to offer books in both hardcover and softcover, so people could choose. Despite polls that said people would pay more for a more durable hardcover, everyone bought the softcover to save the difference in price.) So, if there is a poll, how much would you pay for a more durable book?

jzawodn asks:
Given some of the recent discussion surrounding the Linux Documentation Project (LDP), I began to wonder about its long-term direction and viability.

I "grew up" with Linux by reading *many* of the HOWTOs and other documents that were part of the LDP. In many ways, I'd have been lost without the LDP. But with the growth of Linux mind-share and increased demand for texts that help newcomers get acquainted with the various aspects of running their own Linux systems, there seems to have been a stagnation in much of the free documentation. I can't help but to wonder if many of the folks who would be working on LDP-type material have opted to write books for publishers instead.

Where do you see free documentation projects like the LDP going? What advice can you offer to the LDP and those who write documents for inclusion in the project? Might we see electronic versions of O'Reilly books (or parts of them) included in free documentation projects?

Tim responds:
I don't think that the slowdown of the LDP is because of authors deserting it to write commercial books. In fact, I think you're going to see a reinvigoration of free documentation efforts, as publishers try to contribute to these projects. I think that the right answer is for those who are writing books to figure out some useful subset of their work that will be distributed online as part of the free documentation, and for there to be some added value only available in books. I think that this has worked pretty well for the core perl documentation, where an update to the camel and an update to the online docs are really seen as part of the same project.

When O'Reilly is directly involved in an Open Source project, this is fairly typical of what we do. For example, O'Reilly was one of the original drivers behind the development of the docbook DTD, which is now used by the LDP. (We started the Davenport Group, which developed Docbook, back in the late 80's.)

We're releasing a book about Docbook, by Norm Walsh and Len Muellner, called DocBook: the Definitive Guide." It will be out in October. Norm and Len's book will be also available for free online through the Oasis web site as the official documentation of the DocBook DTD. This is our contribution to users of DocBook; without our signing and creating this book, good documentation for DocBook wouldn't exist. (This is in addition to our historical support of the creation of DocBook.)

Our goal here, though, is evangelical. We want more people to use docbook (and xml in general), and we think that making the documentation free will help that goal.

CmdrTaco asks (on behalf of a friend):
I understand from a very reliable source that O'Reilly is moving their website from a single Sun and an inside developed webserver to an NT cluster and some barely functioning proprietary software. Their bread and butter has been Unix. They have been taking a more and more vocal position within the OSS community. Why are they switching to NT?

Tim responds:
Well, your very reliable source has only part of the story right, and that's because it's a long and involved story. It started about 18 months ago, when the people on our web team wanted to replace what had become a fairly obsolete setup whose original developers no longer work for the company.

This system--which was about five years old--involves a lot of convoluted perl scripts that take data in a pseudo-sgml format, and generate a bunch of internal documents (marketing reports, sales sheets, copy for catalogs etc) as well as web pages. We wanted to do something more up to date, and didn't have internal resources to devote to a complete rework.

So we went out to a number of web design firms for bids. The winning firm does work on both NT and UNIX, but they showed us all kinds of nifty things that they said they had already developed on NT that we could use. These were tools for surveys, content management, etc. There was also stuff around integration with the spreadsheets and databases and reports used by our financial and customer service people. To recreate these tools on their UNIX side would cost several hundred thousand dollars.

So I said: "We can either walk the talk, or talk the walk. I don't care which, as long as what we do and what we say line up. If you can do it better and cheaper on NT, go ahead and do it, and I'll go out there and tell the world why the NT solution was better."

I was prepared to have to tell a story about interoperability--after all, despite all our efforts to champion open source, we realize that our customers use many, many different technologies, and we try to use them all ourselves as well. We were looking at doing some things on NT--the stuff our vendor said they already had working--while incorporating other elements on UNIX, Mac, Linux, and Pick (yes, we run a Pick system too!). The whole thing was going to be a demonstration of ways that you can choose from and integrate tools from many different platforms.

Instead, I have to tell the story that is so familiar to Slashdot readers, of promises of easy-to-use tools that, unfortunately, don't work as advertised. As your source suggests, the NT parts of the system haven't been delivered on time or on budget, and what we've seen doesn't appear to work, and we're considering scrapping that project and going back to the safe choice. To put a new spin on an old saw: No one ever got fired for using open source.

I say that tongue-in-cheek of course, because unlike a lot of open source partisans, I don't think that all good things come from the open source community. We like to bash Microsoft with the idea that "no matter how big you are, all the smart people don't work for you" but it's just as true that they don't all work for the open source community either. There are great ideas coming from companies like Sun and Microsoft, and (most of) the people who work there are just like us. They care about doing a good job. They want to solve interesting problems and make the world a better place. And sometimes they do.

I consider it my job to give them a fair shake at convincing me, and if they do, to give you a fair shake at learning what they've done right as well as what they've done wrong. I'll keep you posted.

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