A Kindle of Kittens

So it’s Book Plug Friday time (past time again, it’s Saturday, dammit! And this is Charlie btw. Sarah is having connectivity problems. And if Peyton Manning had blocking like my recent writer’s block, he wouldn’t have needed neck surgery and the Broncos would be undefeated going into the Superbowl.)

(And insert some deflated ball jokes here, I got nothing.)

In any case, I’ve been thinking about the e-Book Revolution. You all realize it’s only a few years old, right? I wrote a review of the first Kindle only about 6 years ago. And while we’ve had several generations of Kindles, what we haven’t had is any real progress in the capabilities of e-readers and associated devices.

Well, it’s time. At this point, I’ve got thousands of books in my Kindle library, and I doubt I’ve got the biggest library. But when I look at my library on my Kindle, I’ve got three choices: I can list them according to what I read most recently on that device, I can list them in alphabetical order by title, and I can list them in alphabetical order by author.

Then I can scroll through those lists. Good luck if I’m looking for books by Roger Zelazny — I can scroll for a long long time to get to the bottom of a 3000 bool long listing.

I think it’s time for the next generation of actual thought about e-books and what should be done.

To start with, we need lots better ways to manage our own collections. This ought to be easy: Amazon already has keywords, reviews, and ISBNs as well as their own numbers — not to mention the collaborative filtering algorithms that let them cluster books so they can make suggestions. And if they don’t already store Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal numbers for the books, I’m sure there are APIs that can let someone access them.

Second, the e-book standards — and e-book publishers — need to provide better typography. Computer and math books in particular suffer, with math being just about the worst — often the only way to put complicated math into an ebook is by making an image of it. They mostly manage all right with European languages — I’ve got books in German and French and Spanish that look perfectly reasonable, but the Chinese and Sanskrit doesn’t make it at all. (My Esperanto books I figure are just the usual fannish incompetence, Esperanto doesn’t use any characters French doesn’t have.)

Aside: It’s not just the readers, though. Baen Books (sorry, Toni) are my particular annoyance here. For some reason, most Baen books are set up in such a way that they have a leeeetle tiny typeface on the Kindle. I just randomly picked Beyond This Horizon. At scale 7, it’s still uncomfortably small; most every other book at scale 7 can barely fit 100 words on the screen. C’mon, folks, this was all worked out by Ben Franklin’s time.

This leads to a third point: better e-book apps. It’s not instantly obvious to the reader, but all e-book apps are basically the rendering part of a web browser: all the ebook standards are based on storing HTML with some metadata, like a table of contents.

The fourth thing to come, I think, is to be able to access all your notes in one collection. When I’m researching something, I end up resorting to handwritten notes, because while I can make notes in the book, I can’t remember which book I made the notes in.

So that’s my wish list. What’s yours?


By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.

But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.

In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.


Perilous Chance
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

If only Mama were well. If only Papa were . . . not like this.

Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles to look after her younger sister and their baby brother. And longs for more than making do. If only.

Then, one spring morning, Clary and Elspeth visit the old bramble-grown quarry to pick wild cabbage leaves. Hidden within the rock’s cleft, Clary’s miracle awaits. But this miracle sports razor-sharp talons, world-shaking power, ravenous hunger, and a troll-witch to guard its sleep. When it cracks the egg, will Clary survive?

Something wondrous this way comes!