September 28th, 2010

_Eternal Kiss of Darkness_, Jeaniene Frost (kindle)

This is another series supernatural. Jeaniene Frost's main series involves a vampire named Cat and nicknamed Kitten (it's amazing what a cliche this is) and her Twoo Wuv, Bones. It is violent. It has amazingly graphic sex. It has been successful enough for Frost to spin off a series of books set in the same universe, and in which Cat and Bones make appearances (sometimes significant), but which are single book romances involving secondary characters from the main series.

This entry introduces Kira, a private investigator who wanted to be a cop. That didn't work out for her, because she was married to a dirty cop and turned him in. One night, as she's walking home in Chicago's Loop, she hears a scary ruckus and calls 911 on her phone. The response by the operator does not inspire her confidence, so she pokes her nose in and discovers a small number of ghouls (she doesn't know this) trying to kill a master vampire (ditto). The vampire thinks he is feeling like he's sick of being undead and hoping the ghouls will kill him. Instead, he feels bad that a human who has no idea who he is is about to die horribly doing him a (dubious) favor. He rescues her, heals her of a mortal wound, kills the ghouls and decamps to his current residence.

He cannot, however, greeneye her into forgetting the whole thing. And he's not sure why. He thinks maybe if he lets a little time go by, and for his blood in her to weaken, etc., it'll work. He's wrong.

Kira's sister Tina has cystic fibrosis and has a bad spell that lands her in the hospital. Mencheres (the master vampire) takes Kira to visit her and gets her sister back to her baseline level of health. He also gives Kira a bag of vials of his blood so Tina can live a normal lifetime. Then he figures he'll go find a way to commit suicide.

Mencheres is familiar to readers of the main series as the slightly creepy and very angsty Pharaoh with the visions and knowledge of black magic. He used to have a _really_ creepy wife, Patra, but she's dead now. This means Mencheres can, in theory, get laid. Kira figures that Mencheres leaving her with all the blood and trusting her to keep her mouth shut about vampires and so forth is a sign that he loves her, and decides to try to track him down. She pulls all the cases in her agencies files that have a supernatural element, however wacky, and more or less reopens them. They doesn't find her Mencheres directly, but does find some other vampires, who do unpleasant things to her in an effort to find out who sent her. This brings Mencheres back into her life, as well as Mencheres uncle and old enemy, Ratjedef. What with one thing and another, Kira is killed, brought back as a vampire, survives the blood lust. Ratjedef frames Mencheres et al for arson destroying the club and the other vampires and exposing the existence of vampires etc. This brings the Law Guardians in; antics ensue.

Did I mention Disneyland? No? Well, that'll be some incentive to read this.

Frost's vampires have a _lot_ of power: humans do not do well in this world. Thus, her human heroines tend to wind up converting to one supernatural form or another before the book is over, so they can their their beastly lover's world. I kind of liked that in this outing, there was such an emphasis on Kira being able to maintain her relationship with her sister, and planning to continue her human career and so forth. It didn't quite work out that way (sister, yes; career, no -- but she gets to be a vampire cop, instead, so that's okay), but it definitely helps with the creepy becoming-a-supe-is-like-joining-a-cult factor.

Should you read this? Only if you're already reading Frost.

I Love Eugene Robinson

I see him often on Countdown and TRMS, but when I stumbled across the Eddie Long scandal, I was curious what Robinson would say in his column.

Read it here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/27/AR2010092704679.html

Really. It won't take long.

"But meanwhile, African American preachers and worshipers across the nation are watching -- and, one hopes, learning...Nothing he [Long] learns about himself can negate all the good works he has done in his ministry -- all the people whose lives he has changed with a message of faith and hope. Maybe he could forgive himself. Then maybe he could forgive all the gays and lesbians he so coldly condemns."

Wouldn't it be great if all that actually happened?

itunes curation

Yeah, curation is really a word, and I'm pretty sure that's what I meant to say.

I have been extremely hazy on exactly how things would work if I bought something on one device and wanted access to it on other devices: specifically, if I bought an app on an iPad, would I have to syn both iPads to my MacBook to move it from one iPad to the other. One day, I decided I just couldn't be bothered, and attempted to rebuy an app (specifically, bubbles, altho I don't know why because my children are shockingly uninterested in it). R. had bought it through my account for T.'s iPad. When I attempted to rebuy it on my iPad for A., it gave me a prompt saying I'd already bought that one, did I want to re-download it.

Now _that_ is the way it should work.

I have not yet explored how the whole book and music thing works out.

blog over at TR did a silly

http://technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/25783/

Some samples of the silly:

"In Clearwater, Florida, the principle of the local high school recently replaced all his students' textbooks with latest-gen Kindles - without, apparently, any awareness that formal trials of the Kindle as a textbook replacement led universities like Princeton and Arizona State University to reject it as inadequate."

Here's the embedded link:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/clearwater-high-prepares-to-hand-out-kindle-e-readers-to-its-2100-plus/1120428

It is clear from the embedded link that (a) the principal (spelling!) did not replace _all_ the textbooks:

"they'll find electronic texts for English, math, some science and novels, with plans to expand to other subjects next year."

(b) The principal has at least recently become aware of the kindle trials at the college level.

Students have the option of not using the kindle at all.

I have to wonder why this blogger is hostile to the idea. Kids backpacks are awful heavy, and textbooks are pretty useless anyway. Why not try something new?

"Then you have pundits like Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab, making statements..."

Dude, it is _Negroponte_. Have you been paying attention?

There are embedded links to things that I have mocked in the past: that ebooks "only" make up 6% of the book market. Also to efforts to de-emphasize just how big a player in the book market Amazon is ("only" 19% of the total book market). Silliest, however, is that he figures if Amazon has such a "small" part of the book market as a whole, and such a large fraction of the ebook market, that makes the ebooks outselling hardcovers on Amazon basically not that exciting, certainly not any kind of ominous portent for physical books or anything.

Mims may know a thing or two about technology (I don't feel like trying to answer that question in this post), but that conclusion betrays a fundamental -- and pervasive -- misunderstanding of how trade publishing makes its money. Or rather, _who_ it makes its money on. It's a tiny group of people who buy lots and lots of books -- and those people are switching fast. Given that switch is associated with a strong wind of disintermediation, it's hard to imagine a course change any time soon.

"The backlash against ebooks by those who aren't so in love with technology for its own sake has yet to begin"

So what was that year plus of commentary about loving the feel and smell of paper books?

Mims seems enamored of large format devices like the Kno. In an earlier post (which he links to in this one), this gem appears:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/25590/

"In contrast, the attempt to cram a textbook onto a smaller screen is a primary reason that previous trials with replacing textbooks with e-readers such as the Kindle DX were abject failures."

Uh. No. That was _a_ problem, but by no means the main problem. There were issues with availability of texts (notably the lack of a french-english/english-french dictionary for the french class), the way annotating worked (and one professor who was concerned about comprehension as a result), and accessibility concerns for the visually impaired were significant problems. The Reed college experiment picked classes where color diagrams and pictures weren't going to be an issue.

Mims' argument concludes that people who love buying cheap used books (made even more plentiful by early adopters switching to ebooks and unloading their libraries) aren't going to want to pay $10 for a new ebook. That's a pretty fascinating argument. It sure doesn't help publishers of _new_ paper books out at all. I particularly love the idea that there's a segment of the book market that only buys paper books because they expect to be able to recoup part of that cost when they resell the book. I used to be one of those sell books to the used book store people, or trade them in for even more store credit. I buy _way way way_ more books now (paper and ebooks) than I used to then.

This is a much more detailed and comprehensive why-ebooks-aren't-going-to-take-over article than I think I've seen anywhere else (at least all collected into a single post/article). That's a fairly impressive thing all by itself. But it is basically quite silly. As long as the e-texts are available on multiple platforms (kindle text and ibookstore books can be read on multiple platforms, some of which are more friendly to the eyes and others of which are more portable and others of which are better at displaying color diagrams), and those platforms are available to students, the limitations of any one platform don't seem particularly important. Amazon has chewed the accessibility issues down to a point where the complaining groups are more or less satisfied. The last few months have demonstrated that people who only buy a few new books a year are perfectly happy going out and spending over $100 on a dedicated e-reader (and even more people are forking over for iPads). It would seem that the Reed College complaints about annotations represent the significant problem that must be overcome in an academic setting, and it is one that is largely irrelevant in the trade book market.

It'll be interesting to see if in fact:

"Finally, and most importantly, as a delivery mechanism, Ebooks are nothing like music or even movies and television, and the transitions seen in those media simply don't apply to the transition to electronic books."

I would argue that books have seen a lot more transitions than young'uns these days realize. One more transition, away from wood pulp, might be qualitatively different, but it certainly isn't unthinkable.

of rats and supermarkets and hardcore clientele

This is a little complicated.

First, Seth Godin posted this wonderful, wonderful (I am not being sarcastic) thing:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/12/its-not-the-rats-you-need-to-worry-about.html

Basically, what I keep saying.

I like Godin. I thought his book _The Dip_ was brilliant (altho I didn't keep it, because you really only need to read it once and you've got it for the rest of your life -- part of the brilliance, in fact).

Then there was this lovely post:

http://mikecanex.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/bookstores-now-selling-to-the-rats/

(All this h/t Digital Reader, btw.)

Those are great. Read them. Smart posts. No complaints. Here's what I'm mocking:

http://4oh4-wordsnotfound.blogspot.com/2010/09/rats-are-alright.html

Matt Hayler does _not_ like the term rats, partly because it applies to him. That's a fair point. Then he requotes Mike Cane:

"The fact remains, changing the terminology, that when your best customers leave, you can’t support a business with casual customers."

And Hayler responds:

"I agree, a business built on casual customers struggles to get going, but I’m not so sure that it can’t be sustained on them. Casual customers support supermarkets for instance (there’s not so much loyalty to a particular brand that people will travel for them, people tend to transition quite well), and I think this is a useful analogy to what music and book stores became long before digitisation."

Honestly? I read that out loud to R., and R. can often think of some weird interpretation to make something _maybe_ make sense. Even R. hit himself on the head repeatedly. If there is a business _defined_ by NOT CASUAL CUSTOMERS it is supermarkets. A C-store located next to a hotel may (not guaranteed, but may) survive on casual customers staying at the hotel. But a supermarket sees almost exactly the same people come one or more times a week to spend the better part of a c-note or more. Every week. Every year. Until they move. And then, odds on, they'll just go to the Stop 'n' Shop or Market Basket or Whole Foods or whatever next to their new home, because they are familiar with the way the aisles are laid out and like the brand names carried by the store and the prices charged for them.

Maybe this guy eats out most of his meals and never goes to the supermarket but once or twice a year. I don't know. But that piece of evidence does _not_ support that argument.

Let's ignore the supermarket thing. It's just too weird.

"Barnes and Borders and Blockbusters and Tower, I believe, are all in trouble because they never catered to a hardcore clientele"

!!!

First off, Tower is gone, so "are" isn't the right verb there. Whatever. The rest of them definitely existed to serve repeat customers. What does this guy think the coffee was there for? To help _convert_ people to being repeat customers. I used to be a regular customer at B&N and Borders and, for that matter, back in the day, Tower (I was pretty casual at Blockbusters). I haven't been in a B&N or Borders in months (altho I have been in an independent bookstore within the last month and I bought books, too).

The rest of the post degenerates. There's a bit about how maybe bibliophiles with a good bookstore nearby wouldn't switch to the kindle, which would clearly have to depend heavily on definitions of "bibliophile" and "good bookstore" and "nearby" to be answerable. There's also a truly weird theory of capitalism, and whether small or large is better and more sustainable and which aspects of reality don't count.

As for the bibliophiles? A lot of LibraryThing people converted early. *shrug*