Tag Archives: books

Ebook pricing

I really love my Kindle, and I’m happy I bought it. I haven’t completely given up on real books though. One of the reasons why is evident below:

This is not a new book, it’s a year and a half old. The Kindle price is higher than a brand new hardcover. This isn’t actually Amazon’s fault, the price here was set by the publisher. If Amazon had it’s druthers all these ebooks would be $9.99 or less (and they were until they lost that fight with publishers).

I’ll probably read this book, but I won’t buy it for the kindle. I’ll either get this from the Library or buy a used hardcover which I can then give to my parents as reading material. No incremental revenue to publishers, no additional sales.

Book Review: Moby Duck

A couple weeks ago I went to a lecture by the author of Moby Duck, Donovan Hohn.  I was interested in this because of a story that I remember reading a few years ago. The story was about a flotilla of 1000 ghost rubber ducks, bleached by the sun, about to invade the coast of the UK.

That story turns out to have been false, part of the growing myth surrounding the Friendly Floatees. Much like the white whale, a figment of the collective imagination.

This book tells the story, as best can be reconstructed, of these toys. They weren’t made of rubber, and the ducks only accounted for 1/4 of the toys (lost in the creating of the myths were the turtles, frogs, and beavers).

The story is incredible. In an attempt to find the full lifecycle of these toys Hohn goes up and down the Alaskan coast looking for the toys cast upon the rugged north Pacific beaches. He goes to sea, many times, including joining scientific expeditions looking at the plastic content of the Pacific, meso scale currents in the North Atlantic, and crossing the North West Passage (now possible due to a rise of 5 degrees C at the poles) all exploring the possible tracks these toys could have taken. He even goes to China to find the birth place of these toys, and crosses the Pacific on a container ship not unlike the one the Floatees fell off of.

His style is very much like that of Bill Bryson, though his mind drifts and wanders in a really interesting way that gives you a sense of the drifting and wandering of these toys at sea. It’s an incredible lens to look at our Oceans, a largely unexplored part of our earth, the impact we are having on them, as well as the dangers that still lie out to sea.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: Drive

I’ve been on a bit of a non fiction kick of late, but been a little slow about getting reviews up.  A month or so ago I finished Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us, which I quite enjoyed.

The book, surprise, is about motivation. But what it’s really about is the fact that the Baby Boomer theory of motivation, which was pay people more money for more output, only really works for rote work. When people are engaged in creative work, not only does it not actually help with motivation, but it can actually damage quality and quantity of output. How and why it damages people’s work is the bulk of the book, and it comes down to external motivation crush internal motivation. Once internal motivation is gone, getting it back is really hard.

Some guidelines come out of the book, which are handy all by themselves. If you are in a field where creativity matters, pay people enough that money isn’t their main concern. Enough is defined as 10% above the average in your industry. Give them 20% time. This is something Google made famous, where in all employees get to spend some work time on a personal pet project. Also, shift rewards and recognition to after the fact surprises, instead of putting it on the table before the task at hand.

In my past 8 years as a team lead at IBM I’ve seen a lot of different management and leadship styles, and a lot of the ideas in this book were familiar. It was still handy to have it all bundled up in such a concise way, and worth the couple of evenings it took to read.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Ebook pricing

Dear Publishers,

I really do expect that your ebook pricing is going to be at least 50% lower than you list price for your print book.  O’Reilly’s 20% lower model just doesn’t do it for me, and the fact that I can buy the dead tree copy of almost any of ora’s books at Amazon for less than the ebook directly from the publisher, makes no sense.

Why is it that I demand this price differential?  Because the book is not lendable.  I’ll be a good citizen and not hand around your PDF to friends, at least not if I keep a copy, because I do get that that violates the spirit of the sale.  I’m actually ok with that, because I like your content and I want you to keep making it, and am happy to tell others they should buy a copy of the PDF as well.  But that limitation limits the value of the book substantially.

I’m also not buying anything with DRM, period.  There is no way I’m buying something that’s tied to a device that is going to go out of fashion some day.  And, if I buy something electronically from you I expect that you’ll keep a copy of it for me forever.  Pragmatic Programmers does quite a good job on most of these fronts.

Otherwise, I’m going to keep going to the library, like I’ve been doing.  It has many of the advantages of ebooks, i.e. not taking up space in my house, and it’s 100% discounted.  Plus, the Librarians are one of the few groups that are trying to ensure we have a sane copyright policy in this country.

Review: Memories of the Future

I just finished Wil Wheaton’s Memories of the Future Volume 1, and hope that Wil get’s writting fast to get Vol 2 out there.  This book is just too damn fun.

The book is an episode by episode look at Star Trek The Next Generation, wherein Wil provides a 6 – 8 page synopsis of the episode in the way that the Mystery Science 3000 folks would do one.  It’s incredibly funny, and has lines like “well as long as we’re not advancing the plot, why don’t we do a pod race?”.  For anyone that watched ST:TNG growing up, this book is a really amusing look back, especially on all the uneveness of the first season.  Each episode also then has Wil’s favorite quote from it, the obligatory technobabble, and his personal memories of shooting the episode. 

Vol 1 covers up through Datalore (the first 1/2 of season 1), and is constantly making comments about the disaster which is Angel One.  I can’t wait for Vol 2 which is going to start us there take us to the end of season 1.

Wil is really an incredible writer, and his great sense of humor comes through in this book in spades.  After reading Just a Geek in the spring, I was happy to pick this book up.  Honestly, I found it hard to put down.  It’s just too damn funny.  If you had any opinion at all on ST:TNG (loved or hated), do yourself a favor and get this book.  You will not be disappointed.

What have you changed your mind about?

New Year’s resolutions are broken by Feb, and New Year’s predictions always seem to be a lot of chest beating.  However this year’s edge question made me stop and think.  What have you changed your mind about?  It’s a much more interesting year end round up, as it requires admitting you were wrong about things in the past.

So here is my list of what I changed my mind about in 2008, please throw on your own comments, or put up your own posts and send me a link.

  • Facebook has no value.  I really did think this for a long time, then a couple of high school friends found me on it, and I realized how it really helps keep together groups that have long since seperated for time and space reasons.  Writing letters is still dead, but some new form of that is popping back up in facebook.
  • Non fiction books aren’t interesting, and the cliff notes give you everything you need.  After the number of times that I’d heard about disruptive technologies
    I didn’t think I needed to actually read Innovator’s Dilemma, then I
    did, while visiting Nick in WV, and realized how wrong I was about that.  A lot of what was really interesting and useful in the book never turned up in the chatter and buzz words I’d heard out of people in reference to the book.  After that I proceeded to read: The World is Flat, Blink, Here Comes Everybody, and The Big Switch.  Every one of them had some very interesting insights that I’d not gotten in the elevator pitches… insights that helped reshape how I think about certain parts of the world.
  • Java.  I really used to hate Java, then in 2008 I spent 2 semesters writing JavaME code for cell phone applications.  Java looked nearly elegant in that environment.  This got me even more positive about the Android platform, and hoping Sprint gets their Android phone out soon.