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  • 6 October, 2009

    Interview on Bibliophile Stalker

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 11:36 pm permalink

    I’ve been interviewed by Charles Tan of Bibliophile Stalker. He asks some cool questions, which allowed me to go into quite some detail about my personal background, my role at Tor.com, and Tor.com’s plans for world domination the future. My favourite bit, where I rant a bit about publishing, is below:

    In your opinion, how is Tor.com leveraging New Media and the genre? What are the things that you’re doing right?

    One of the things we’re doing the best, I think, is engaging with our audience, and listening. Publishing is a very insular industry, where insiders are constantly talking to each other, but very rarely do they actually talk to or listen to the actual end customer: the reader. There have traditionally been some very valid arguments as for why this is the case, but as digital media democratizes the world more and more, those arguments become much less convincing or even relevant.

    Tor.com is one way in which we’re talking directly with readers, listening to what they have to say, and we’re finding out a lot about them. And I do mean a whole hell of a lot—some of the very dearly-held assumptions of the publishing industry really don’t hold much water with the reading public, and it’s very sobering to compare and contrast what I see and read every day on Tor.com in particular and the internet in general with what I see and hear from within the walls of the Flatiron building.

    Read the whole thing over on Bibliophile Stalker.

  • 23 July, 2009

    Le livre du futur

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 11:10 am permalink

    Via the Book Oven Blog, an nifty little French video by Editis:

    I mostly agree with what I’m seeing here, and it gets me excited. Except for two things:

    1) When they get to the museum and scan the art book into their reader. I call bullshit. Art books are objects you own. They go on your coffee table, or on your bookshelf in a place of pride.

    2) In the bookstore, again, replace all those trade paperbacks with really nice quality, upscale, finely printed and bound codices.

    Quality, upscale, finely printed and bound codices will still have a place in our lives. Even more so than things like vinyl records. It’s the cheaply-made mass market (and to a lesser degree, trade paperback) editions whose days are numbered.

  • 5 May, 2009

    Little Brother Deluxe Edition by Voyager Books

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 7:40 pm permalink

    Voyager Books' Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

    I usually go on and on about ebooks, and I do most of my reading on my iPhone these days, but I also love me some finely-crafted codices.

    I learned of this British deluxe edition of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother by accident, almost—Voyager Books advertises on Tor.com, and I was mangling some newsletter copy related to a giveaway they’re having, which happened to mention the publication of this edition. Anyway, long story short: it looks beautiful, with a simple and elegant slipcase—I love the ‘security-cam-as-gun-to-the-head’ stamp—it features illustrations by Richard Wilkinson, and I want it very badly. Wilkinson’s modern linework combined with older-looking colours and textures echo the essence of the book: a modern take on Orwell.

    Richard Wilkinson cover to Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

  • 16 January, 2009

    Contrast – The Flex OLED VAIO Laptop Of Our Dreams? | Sony Insider

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:32 pm permalink

    I’ve been saying we’d see a proof-of-concept for a high-res, bendable OLED or similar display before 2009 was out, but I didn’t expect it to be announced this soon. I can totally see an e-reader being made out of this material:
    Contrast – A Sony OLED VAIO Laptop Concept from Sony Insider on Vimeo.

    The Contrast Vaio laptop uses a foldable seamless OLED for the display and the keyboard, but as the videos show the keyboard can fade away and the whole thing can display something else. This concept has no restrictions on layout and size, and is extremely durable and shock resistant. Like the other Contrast product concepts, it is made of high performance flexible bioplastic.

    And that will be the end of the newspaper and magazines as we know them.

    via Contrast – The Flex OLED VAIO Laptop Of Our Dreams? | Sony Insider.

  • 26 December, 2008

    On the Publishocalypse

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:02 pm permalink

    Salon.com’s got a nice post-game on the Publishocalypse that went down earlier this month in Jason Boog’s “Read it and weep.”

    Who will survive publishing’s Ice Age? Undoubtedly, the companies that can command developments in the impending digital book revolution.

    Well thanks, Captain Obvious. The word “book” in the phrase “digital book revolution” is unnecessary—the so-called digital revolution is upon, above, behind, around, inside, between and [insert more prepositions here] us, and it affects everything. To think that printed books are somehow immune to the sea-change that the information economy is imposing on our society is silly and near-sighted, to say the least.

    The question isn’t so much the “what”—it’s the “how ” of the matter that really has a lot of people stumped. For what it’s worth, I don’t disagree with Boog: the real winners here will be the small, agile shops. Hopefully the indies, like McSweeny’s, and Subterranean Press in the SF/F world, but also (and I admit I’m slightly biased, because well, I’d like to keep my job for now, thanks) small spinoffs from large, corporate publishers like HarperStudio and Tor.com.

    Working in publishing, being relatively new to it, and being involved in one large publishing corporation’s efforts to make sense of this series of tubes, I have some thoughts about how things should maybe play out in order for publishers to adapt to modern times.

    On the role of the Publisher

    I think publishers (and editors) need to start thinking in slightly more media-agnostic terms, and they need to embrace the opportunities afforded by being shoved into the digital age (sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes not), where your cost-per-unit is not dependent on bulky, expensive, and wasteful physical manufacturing processes (which, in essence, is what commercial book-printing is). While there are other costs associated with eBook production that may not be evident at first look (especially at the onset), electronic always trumps physical when it comes to the accessibility of the means of production.

    Additionally, I think fiction editors need to look beyond the novel—or even the book as we know it—as the final product of their efforts. To paraphrase a co-worker, the truly great editor is an advocate for his authors and their ideas, and I think that this advocacy needs to extend into as many realms as necessary. Upon acquisition, an editor should ask themselves not what kind of book should this piece of intellectual property become, but whether it should become a book at all! Should it instead be an information-dense website; or a live-action movie; or a serialized, episodic narrative on the internet (see how far I’ll bend over backwards to not say “TV show”?), or a video game; or a presentation (think Al Gore); or a work of graphic narrative; or an animated movie (these last two most definitely NOT being the same thing)? Once the editor and the author have decided what this piece of IP should be, media-wise, it’s then the editor’s job, with the backing of the publisher, to find the correct producers for that idea, be they printers, eBook-makers, film-makers, game designers, comics artists, etc.

    On books, specifically

    As a book lover and collector, I do think there will be a space for printed and bound books for a long time to come1. I just think that it will be a very limited market: for people who like books as objects, for art or photography books (including graphic storytelling), or beautiful collections.

    On the technological side, however, things are moving fast. People are starting to read on their iPhones and other smartphones, the ePub format is gaining some serious traction, and devices like the Kindle and the Sony Reader are also becoming more sophisticated (think about the current iteration of the Kindle and similar devices as the same as the 13-inch, black and white tube television prevalent in the fiftes ans sixties). I wouldn’t be surprised to see colour, increased resolution, and maybe even rudimentary animation on eInk technology by the end of 2009, at least in proof-of-concept form.

    This very well may be wishful thinking, but my vision for a holistic book publisher of the future is one which concerns itself with both the analogue and the digital life of a work of fiction, and works at or around three editions of a work that probably need to be published at the same time—this whole business of waiting a year to publish a mass market edition of a book is nonsense in a digital world.

    1- Premium Printed Edition—The first edition would be a physical object: a beautifully-designed Premium Printed Edition, exquisitely-printed, bound in small numbers, destined for a small market of higher-end customers and collectors—much like music and movie boxed-sets.  Accompanying this tome would be a Unabridged Digital First Edition, which would include any multimedia elements that make up a part of the book (such as embedded movies, music, maps, illustrations, etc); as well as ancillary material that is not necessarily part of the book itself (think documentaries on related subjects, interviews with the author, etc). This would sell for a premium price, let’s say $50-$602.

    2- Unabridged Digital Edition—At the same time as the Premium Printed Edition is released, you release that Unabridged Digital Edition that you included with the Premium Printed Edition as a stand-alone purchase, priced at around $10-$20 bucks. I think this price range is justifiable for a first electronic edition that is chock-full with additional elements that you don’t have in a regular, printed edition of a book. Additionally, buying this edition automatically entitles the buyer to download future, updated editions of the same book, either for free, or for a ridiculously low fee (I’m thinking like a dollar). Once you start including multimedia content with a work of fiction, and packaging it all together in an attractive way, editions become version numbers, and books truly become software in an ideological sense. This changes the work of an editor and an author: if an author so chooses, their work is never finished, and the author retains a very accessible way of adding, amending, and otherwise iterating on a previously-published work in a timely manner; likewise, an editor becomes even more of a shepherd, and the act of editing a book can become an ongoing curatorial pursuit. But I digress. Moving on…

    3- Abridged Digital Edition—Still at the same time as the Premium Printed Edition and the Unabridged Digital Edition are released (remember, staggered publishing is for suckers in the digital age—you only need to walk Canal street on a movie’s theater release date to see the DVDs on display, and the fallacy in that model), you release the Abridged Digital Edition at mass-market prices: Say, $2-6 bucks, tops. This Abridged Edition is just the plaintext of the work in question—well-designed, nicely typeset, but no multimedia, no maps, no art, no entitlement to future iterations, no nothing. Words on a screen. Hell, if it were me, I’d offer this edition as a free download.

    An aside: While incredibly nifty technology, I see Print-on-Demand as a stopgap measure between the phasing out of mass markets and trade paperbacks, and the true ubiquitousness of e-reading, so it doesn’t really fit in this model.

    As it becomes more and more obvious that digital is the way to go for publishing (not that it ever wasn’t, really, it’s just that the big boys are now actually altering course on their big boats), many ideas will hit the market, and many will die before a successful model is found. This, I think, is a scheme that could be sustainable, and embraces the best of both the digital and the analogue worlds. Would it work? Is it too simplistic an approach? Is it going too much against accepted practices in the publising industry? Does it leave too many people that now depend on the infrastructure surrounding printed books out in the cold? I don’t know. What do you think?

    1 At least until people around my age all die off—children nowadays are consuming most of their media via digital interfaces earlier and much more often than before. I would be very surprised if a thirty-year-old of 2030 has a problem with reading off a screen, like many of my contemporaries do.

    2 All dollar values are purely off-the cuff, and more meant to reflect a relative pricing scale for different editions, than reflect any real costs associated with publishing—I’m just sayin’. A formal P&L is not part of this excercise…yet.

  • 15 September, 2008

    ePaper—Now we’re talking

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:30 am permalink

    It’s no secret that the Amazon Kindle has reinvigorated interest in dedicated ePaper-based reading devices (if not necessarily publishing industry profit margins, just yet). It’s also no secret that the Kindle is absolutely atrociously designed, and that its closest competitors, the Sony Reader and the iRex Iliad, are not much better (although aesthetically much more pleasing).
    Enter Plastic Logic and their as-yet-unnamed reader. It’s got almost everything that would make me want to buy a dedicated reading device. Let’s do the checklist:

    As large as a sheet of paper: Tiny is not always better. I don’t necessarily mind reading books and documents on, say, my iPhone, but it’s nice to have a decently-sized reading area. As long as I can stick this in my bag in place of reams of paper, it’s still a space-saver.

    Thin as all hell, and pretty light: This baby is 0.3″ thin. I could see myself slipping this into my bag along with my MacBook Air, no problem.

    Touchscreen: My iPhone has spoiled me—I want a touchscreen on everything now. I find myself reaching for the screen on my laptop all the time, especially when I’m using an application that’s also present on the iPhone, such as Google Maps. The fact that you can flip pages, use a soft keyboard, and even mark up documents with fingerstrokes is a big, big win for the Plastic Logic reader.

    Full colour, high resolution display: Still lacking, but give it time. Like televisions, personal computers, iPods, and other devices, I can see this reader’s first couple of iterations be black and white, but eventually move to colour, once price and technology make it feasable.

    Open platform: Here’s a place where Kindle and Sony particularly fail. They’ve locked their devices to certain formats. The Plastic Logic reader will be document format-agnostic, as it should be. The presentation at DEMOfall shows the reader explicitly handling PDFs and PowerPoint presentations.

    Here’s that presentation:

    This looks fantastic. Wrap it up in something other than PC beige, price it competitively with the iPod, and I’m pretty sure you’ve got a winner. I’ll be keeping a close eye on these guys as 2009 comes around.

    In the future I can see a device with the guts of the iPhone, or even the MacBook Air, adopting this kind of display, and becoming a full-featured input/output device. I can has touchscreen Mac Tablet?

  • 28 August, 2008

    New SF/F cover Review

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:48 pm permalink

    Over on Tor.com: Soon I Will Be Invincible

    And on The New Sleekness: More hand-waving.

  • 12 August, 2008

    Papercraft Camerahead from Little Brother print

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:44 pm permalink

    My inbox overfloweth with WIN today. Christopher Beaumont, one of the recipients of the Little Brother print I made (inspired by the eponymous book by one Cory Doctorow) created this kickass papercraft model of Camerahead, one of the characters in the print. He will be posting has posted a downloadable printout on his site, Cubeecraft.com, later on today, so that you can make your own.

    Go check out Cubeecraft, they’ve got a busload of cool papercraft figures for your crafting pleasure. My favourite (aside from this one, of course)? Why, Rusty Venture, hands down.

  • 5 August, 2008

    A Fantastic Idea

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 9:41 pm permalink

    invisible streetlight, solar streetlight, leaf streetlight, solar leaf streetlight, biomimetic leaf street lamp, jongoh lee, solar powered streetlight, led lamp, light-emitting diodes, bio-morphic, lighting
    Solar, LED, leaf-shaped, bendy ‘invisible’ streetlights, designed by Jongoh Lee. I don’t know how well they’d stand up to the harsh elements, but in theory it’s a fantastic application, especially for places that are still off the grid.

    Via Carey Tse’s twitter feed.

  • 5 August, 2008

    SF/F Book Cover Review, Hugo Edition, Parte Dos…

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 9:34 pm permalink

    Is live (and has been for most of the day, I’ve just been…busy. You know, with the day job and all). Check out my review of the cover for Halting State by Charles Stross here, along with a whole bunch of really insightful comments from the Tor.com community. It’s been fantastic to have a place where people can sound off, and react to my particular views on cover design.