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TBR Pile & economics

Posted by Q on December 24, 2009

Among other things, the TBR of January ’09 had me purportedly reading the following

  • Alan Furst – The Foreign Correspondent
  • Brent Weeks – Night Angel Trilogy
  • Don Wilson – California Fire & Life
  • Donald Thomas – Sherlock Holmes & The Voice from the Crypt
  • James M. Cain – The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy Of Dunces
  • John Levitt – New Tricks
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Breakfast Of Champions
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Malcolm Lowry – Under The Volcano
  • Matthew Woodring Stover – Heroes Die
  • Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Tobias Buckell – Sly Mongoose
  • Walter Jon Williams – Implied Spaces


Well then, in the 12 months since, I’ve managed 5 out of the 14 luminaries mentioned before. Which is a pretty decent strike rate (35% whereabouts). Putting on my 65%-rated economics hat, I can comfortably predict that people only really enjoy fruits from 35% of the total money that they spend on enjoying in the first place. I dub thee, the marginal happiness law


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Look what the IRC Cat dragged in this week…

Posted by Q on March 11, 2009

Okie, this is more like last week’s releases. But that’s ok, cover pr0n is always mucho appreciato 😀

Usually IRC dumps are 90% Torquere & Cousins/Project Gutenberg and 10% recent fiction. The trend continues this week; a few notables though

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Devil in the details, ebooks in India..publishers, wakey wakey!!

Posted by Q on February 2, 2009

Top 15 Fiction Bestsellers for upto Oct 2008  in India – take a look


1. Solve Your Problems The Birbal Way  – Anita S R {2005}
2. 3 Mistakes Of My Life – Chetan Bhagat {2008}
3. One Night @ The Call Center  – Chetan Bhagat {2005}
4. Five Point Someone – Chetan Bhagat {2004}
5. Inheritance 3: Brisingr  – Christopher Paolini {2008}
6. Story Of My Experiments With Truth – Gandhi M K {forever}
7. A Prisoner Of Birth  – Jeffrey Archer {2008}
8. Kite Runner  – Khaled Hosseini {2003}
9. Creation Of Wealth  – Lala R M {2006}
10. Wordpower Made Easy  – Norman Lewis {forever}
11. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho {1993}
12. Brida  – Paulo Coelho {1990}
13. Secret – Rhonda Byrne {2006}
14. Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin S Sharma {2003}
15. The Greatness Guide 2  – Robin S Sharma {2002}

Any name in that list that you havent been seeing for ages. Now, compare that with the NYT lot…

Top 5 at a Glance

1. MURDER GAME, by Christine Feehan
2. THE APPEAL, by John Grisham
3. THE PAGAN STONE, by Nora Roberts
4. GLITTER BABY, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
5. MARRIED IN SEATTLE, by Debbie Macomber

Top 5 at a Glance

1. SUZE ORMAN’S 2009 ACTION PLAN, by Suze Orman
2. TWILIGHT, by Mark Cotta Vaz
3. THE LOVE DARE, by Stephen and Alex Kendrick with Lawrence Kimbrough
4. SKINNY BITCH, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
5. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

Top 5 at a Glance

1. MARLEY & ME, by John Grogan
2. DREAMS FROM MY FATHER, by Barack Obama
3. THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, by Barack Obama
4. THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
5. TEAM OF RIVALS, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Clearly, there is a huge sync gap between what we read in India compared to what is being read in an English country. Barring a few major ups and downs, I don’t see this list changing drastically for any other country apart from US. Which is really weird because in all places where English is not native, you’d expect ethnic literature selling; which does not seem to be happening in India either. We seem to have been caught in some sort of time bubble as far as new book releases are concerned
Maybe we are less willing to spend that much amount of money on an activity as frivolous as fiction reading. As the table clearly shows, we tend to buy things that are cheaper and known VFM {Value for Moneys}. I’d hate to be a newly published author here. Here’s the pricing table

1. Solve Your Problems The Birbal Way  – Anita S R –> INR 80
2. 3 Mistakes Of My Life – Chetan Bhagat –> INR 95
3. One Night @ The Call Center  – Chetan Bhagat –> INR 95
4. Five Point Someone – Chetan Bhagat –> INR 95
5. Inheritance 3: Brisingr  – Christopher Paolini –> INR 600
6. Story Of My Experiments With Truth – Gandhi M K –> INR 30
7. A Prisoner Of Birth  – Jeffrey Archer –> INR 180
8. Kite Runner  – Khaled Hosseini –> INR 300
9. Creation Of Wealth  – Lala R M –> INR 295
10. Wordpower Made Easy  – Norman Lewis –> INR 95
11. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho –> INR 195
12. Brida  – Paulo Coelho –> INR 295
13. Secret – Rhonda Byrne –> INR 550
14. Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin S Sharma –> INR 185
15. The Greatness Guide 2  – Robin S Sharma –> INR 185

Note: 50 INR= 1 USD

Well, I suppose book publishers do have a business case for churning out reprints after reprints of back catalog instead of putting out newer authors. Which means that for a reader like me, who unlike the rest of the countrymen is abreast of what is happening around the world, has only one way of getting hold of a Pat Rothfuss or a Joe Abercrombie – and that’s ebooks. Sadly, no marketing/BTL push has been happening on the book front here. It still is very much a second-hand/pirate market than anything else. And we ALL know how many titles are available as ebooks 😛 So, if I say I’ve read all of Scott Lynch’s/Tobias Buckell books, you know where I got them from.

Posted in eBooks, Fresh Bubbles, Now Reading | 3 Comments »

Read ebooks or just start with one

Posted by Q on February 2, 2009

Teleread is one of the blogs that’s pretty much keyed into the whole ebook scene (note: ebook & not #bookwarez) and they’re promoting a Read An ebook Week in March. And i’ll welcome anything that lessens the upward eyebrows which get drawn as soon as i start speaking e-speak. I wish them the best. Here’s the banner (plz click, o! irregular reader)

read an ebook week

read an ebook week

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Books Read – November

Posted by Q on November 27, 2008

Okie, it’s still a few days before November ends. But i have free time only now 😉 was thinking of doing it for October also, but never got around to actually doing it; guess iwll update as soon as November ends

Peter V. Brett: The Painted Man (aka The Warded Man)

Brilliant fantasy debut. I’d say 8.5/10

Robert Charles Wilson: The Divide

Was the usual RCW Spin style book. Interesting, but the ending felt flat. 6.5/10

Simon R. Green: The Author of the month, i’d say. Read tonnes of his stuff. All of them would be 7-7.5/10

Nightside Series

Something from the Nightside
Agents of Light and Darkness
Nightingale’s Lament
Hex and the City
Paths not Taken
Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth
Hell to Pay
The Unnatural Inquirer

Deathstalker Series

# Deathstalker
# Deathstalker Rebellion

Hawk & Fisher Series

Hawk & Fisher; No Haven for the Guilty

T.A. Pratt: (YAUFA) Yet Another Urban Fantasy Author. 7/10

Marla Mason Series

Blood Engines
Poison Sleep
Dead Reign

Scott Lynch: Red Seas Under Red Skies (Book 2 of the Gentleman Bastards)

Did not have quite the flavor of the first book, Lies of Locke Lamorra…but still quite an entertaining read 7.5/10

Brent Weeks: Way of The Shadows

Good fantasy debut. Assassin, trainee assassin, court intrigue…all checks in place 😉 8/10

Michael Moorcock: Elric of Melnibone

somehow did not get into the book at all. a weak 4.5/10

Richard Kadrey: Butcher Bird

good writing and a stronger plot than the usual urban fantasy mess. i’d like to read more from this guy. 8/10

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The importance of being HTML

Posted by Q on November 4, 2007

HTMLOr, adventures in converting a saved-from-MS Word html file into a readable (& proprietary) BBeB format of Sony Reader.

Since taking the Reader to work everyday, my To-Be-Read pile, is under considerable attack – a one hour journey either ways is extremely good time for gobbling up a book in 2-4 sittings. Since the Reader cache memory is still too under-powered for instant viewing of new books, i try to convert each txt/html/lit/doc/pdf/etc. into .lrf for easy viewing

And, as Art Speigelman says, here my troubles began…

You see, the problem is conversion. My laptop currently plays host to a wide array of converting utilities which include:

  1. ABC Palm converter (for pdb into everything else)
  2. ABC Lit to htm converter
  3. BBeB Binder (for converting txt/html into BBeB)
  4. Book Designer (editing txt/html/pdb etc)
  5. CLit (hehe) (.Lit to html)
  6. Dreamweaver 8 (don’t ask)
  7. HTML Book Fixer
  8. v HTML merger (for combing 2+ html files into 1)
  9. lib prs500 (ofcourse)
  10. PDB Reader Converter
  11. Mozilla Seabird
  12. Page Breeze Html editor

Now, the usual sequence of events, if i were to be lucky enough to find & download the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone trilogy by Gregory Keyes would be:

first up, i’d discover that the gentle soul who has scanned and proofed the release has done it in three different formats for all three. So the first book is MS Word-to-html, second is RTF, third is non-garbled HTML. So, my ubermensch el geeko instincts kick in:

  • the first book is first opened in MS Word> saved as RTF>> Results in file size ballooning to 4 MB
  • Second approach, Open file in Mozilla Firefox> Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C>New html page in Dreamweaver 8>Ctrl+V>>Says insufficient space to handle operation
  • Third approach, Open file in Mozilla Firefox> Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C>New html page in seabird Html composer>Ctrl+V>>>>Results in an inactive Laptop for 2 mins>character entity reference kicks in> tad difficult to read a character set of &
  • Fourth approach, Open File in Book Designer>clean up HTML>Prepare for second pass surgery from HTML book Fixer (which doesn’t allow _ or [ in filenames)>File rejected for too many errors
  • Fifth approach, Open File in BBeB Converter to try direct conversion>System stalls for a couple of minutes and Operation exits
  • Sixth & Final, Open file in IE> Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C> New HTML page in Page Freeze>Ctrl+V>Save As Keyes, Gregory – The Briar King (v1.1) .html>>Open in BBeB Binder>Save As LRF>Save successful!

Total time taken in figuring out the proper way = 45 minutes

The second and third files did not take as much time. I prefer using the two-pass approach of Book Designer > BBeB binder, whenever it works out. But eventually, it takes me 1 hr to completely transfer 3 files from my Laptop to the Reader in a format of my choice. phew! talk about work.

The same story repeats over a Dozois Gardner Sci Fi collection (16th edit.). The file is a humungous, horrifyingly huge 6 MB unpacked RTF. i pass it through Wordpad to clear unnecessary formatting, save it as a new file from Sea-bird HTML composer, and then manually edit the html to add a Table of Contents and then convert to lrf from BBeB.

Which brings me to the whole point. HTML is without a doubt my favored format for storing files, it has the neatness of a simple txt, gets your formatting done like an RTF, keeps images in check like a PDF and does not change styles. It’s no wonder that idpf, the Open Source format now accepted as the Industry de facto standard is based on an XML architecture (basically XHTML + CSS).

In ebook piracy also, fans usually prefer to bring out new releases in HTML. The only problem being that multiple editors with various degrees of efficacy abound, leading to a huge chunk of files having dirty formatting.

For the reading device makers, i hope some thought into input device formats is also being undertaken. It’s clear that the versatility of html makes it stand head and shoulders above other formats (and no DRM too, hurray!), but unless the pains of conversion are brought under control, there is very little scope for the ebook market – it shall remain a playground for us enthusiasts.

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The e-Idiotproof Solution

Posted by Q on September 30, 2007

Sony ReaderIt’s been a halcyon month for ebook-enthusiasts – esp. this one as he finally managed to shack himself up with his new Sony Reader over the weekend. In other major news, the ebook revolution has also inched a couple of paces forward with the adoption of an international standard (ePub), Amazon.com’s declaration (not the DRM free music) of entering the devices market with an e-ink based device called Kindle and miscellaneous other equipment manufacturers making proper sounds (IRexiLiad, Bookeen-CyBook et al) including Sony which has brought out an update for its PRS-500 series with a PRS-505 to be shortly available for enthusiasts.

More on Sony than the others…Electronics innovator, owner of the walkman phenomenon and darling of engineering schools around the globe, when Sony announced its foray into ebook devices, everyone stood up and took notice. Many hailed it as the ipod for ebooks (including this author) and the coming generation of ebook publishing. A year down the line, the buzz still hasn’t quite been as infectious as was believed. It hasn’t been a failure, but it has a long way to go before it revolutionizes ebooks the way ipods did for music.

As a device, the Reader is phenomenal. Crystal Clear view (not an LCD), zero strain on eyes, looks and feels like ink on paper, reads better in bright (or sunlight) than shade, is comfortable to hold, even packs in a music player in its tiny frame and provides a extra Memory slot – Adding a 2 GB SD Card (≈$30) to its equipment cost of $249, makes it a clear steal over any 2 GB iPod Nano(≈$200). Not only that, the device is also remarkably petite and easy to carry. If only it had a backlight, and could be read at night without any external sources of light, it would replace my Laptop as the insomniacal device of preference.

The only difference between the two – iTunes Vs Connect. Game Over!

To explain, let me take up an average music collection –

  1. Size – 20GB
  2. Number of files – 6000
  3. Formats – .cda, .mp3 & .wma (ogg/aac/flac anyone?)
  4. Meta tags – IDv3 (mostly unfilled and/or incorrect)

Average time taken to transfer/sync iPod with iTunes music library – 2 mins/GB (the highest data transfer rate from a USB 2.0 port is 3.6 GB/min). This average time includes the time taken to encode tracks to iPod, generating gapless playing information etc.

Average time taken to edit Meta tags – as fast as you can type.

The important thing here is that an iTunes library is scalable, I can put all my 100GBs of music on it (which would be around 30,000 tracks) and the library will still function as perfectly ok. Contrast this with the behavior of a Sony Connect

Average ebook collection –

  1. Size – 1GB
  2. Number of files – 3000
  3. Formats – doc, rtf, txt, pdf, pdb, html, lit, chm, cbz, cbr, rar
  4. Meta tags – File properties

The real trouble begins here. The reader converts all books to its proprietary format (BBeB) but it only supports conversion of rtf, txt, pdf & doc. Let me take up these formats first. Every non-BBeB book takes up about 30seconds to 1 min to transfer, every book. So, if all my books were to be transferred, it’d take me a cool couple of sleepless days before my device is fully loaded and operational. Also, don’t forget that I have to manually tag the file info because the reader does not have any support for picking up Meta from filename itself. So if I have to update my library, I’d really have to think really hard before committing such a timeless folly. And I haven’t even covered books from other formats yet.

Right, now since I’ve had the temerity to have a few books in html format, I’d have to CCP to RTF and say sayonara to its Table of Contents (which was why the book was in the damn format to begin with). Which is alright if you have one book, but isn’t so hot if it’s a short story collection and you have already read some part of it…think turning 657 pages is fun ?

Now, I am using a grand total of 6 applications – Kovid Goyal’s better than Connect’s libprs500, BBeB Binder, Book Designer, ABC Amber LIT/Palm converter & Softsnow’s HTML Book Fixer, which has made my life and reader simpler to use, easier to operate. Above all, I have decided to keep only my To-Be-Read pile in the reader, which amounts to a grand total of 30 books. But I still am stuck with a version of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptomonicon, which is one huge folder of linked html files – now this has defeated me totally. Unless I CCP all those 30 chapters individually to rtf and then convert to lrf, or generate a PDF from these and then convert the PDF using pdftolrf app, I am stuck with an insurmountable barrier of agonizing labor before I can end up reading it on screen.

Which makes me come to my point, finally. There’s no doubt that this is an outstanding device which really has been done in by a lack of understanding about the service requirements for it. The only way devices succeed is it if they are idiotproof and not a test of mental, analytical & technical acumen (can I throw in a Mensa test as well?). I cannot even begin to imagine this device being used by anyone except nerds…wonder what Sony learnt from the Librie experiment..Surely nothing that I can see.

Some DRM rumblings next time, I guess 😉

Posted in eBooks, Gadgets, Secrets of the Web | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Stairway to [link] Heaven..ah!

Posted by Q on September 4, 2007

Music Pirates! Rejoice!!! Stairway to Heaven is back, or rather should I say that I have found it yet again 😀 Musical nirvana ahead. Vixen, Stevie..here I come. Although I can see the inexorable march of HDTV links here as well, but no complaints.

SF readers rejoice too. A couple of fantastic links; freesfreader & notfreesfreader are a couple of websites run by a guy who claims to give     

Science, Speculative, Superhero, Swords, Sorcery, Supernatural, Scary and Sleuth Prose Fiction Ratings

Now comes the good part…apparently, he’d only review books by authors which are free to download.
Otherwise, he just gives a helpful rating and that’s about it. The ratings are pretty much on the ball too; I got one Accelerando from Charles Stross'(author) own site, a 5 on 5 rated book. Deserves every single bit of those stars too.

Posted in eBooks, Secrets of the Web, SF | 2 Comments »

the ebook revolution

Posted by Q on May 31, 2007

..yeah, the same one that’s been coming for so long, but not quite arriving all the same.

Traditionally, ebooks have a lot going against them. Bookworms & readers tend to be a conventional lot. The printed book industry has an insidious agenda of minting fresh pine-smelling books which befuddle the brain and makes it addicted. Plus, there is that whole curling-with-a-good-book notion. Personally, i dunno anyone who does that and does not have back pain. And then, there is this whole subsidiary industry of dried roses and misc nice smelly flowers which subsists within the pages of a good old fashioned book.

But, the single biggest reason why we do not have a surge for ebooks, is that no geek ever made a napster or a kazaa for ebooks. Yeah, conventional p2p/torrent/edonkey networks do carry a lot of good stuff, but you’d rarely find the newest bestseller released on a network as you’d probably find a movie or a music album. And that’s just because scanning & proofing a book takes a hell of a time compared to ripping a CD or DVD. Plus, the whole process is manual. Hence, you do not have as many ebook release groups as you have warez groups.

So, here is a convenience guide on the road to become an ebook devouring monstah’. the only thing you need is an appetite for destruction (& Guns n’ Roses, ofcourse).

First, the search. Unlike the times bygone, where intrepid explorers and googling experts like me had to trawl through many a virtual sever, drudging through mindless chit-chat and sometimes foreign languages to get the directory of the choicest delicacies, the ebook searching principle these days is ridiculously easy.

First up, lets assume you are a Ground Zero internet user and you love Jeffrey Archer (which a depressingly high number of people i’ve known are). All you need to key in is “Jeffrey Archer ebook Rapidshare“. You can change the last part of the string to megaupload, depositfiles, filefactory etc in case you wanna get some other stuff.

Going  up from zero, lets assume you know a fair bit about the internet and wish to find out some more avenues for finding out stuff. Let’s say, you love comics and the rapidshare (or any other file deposit site) just doesnt work out for you (long waiting times, banned by the admin or whatever). So, now you ‘re trying to find good stuff, the index search way. All you do is key in  something like  “parent directory” cbr OR cbz “Comics” -html -htm -download -links and voila! you have a directory ready to rip ! 

Ofcourse, a smarter surfer would realise that putting in a bit more of filters might narrow down the search to even more relevant web-pages. The most common one which is use is “-xxx”, “-porn”, “-torrent” etc. An even smarter surfer would realise that changing the extensions to a more desirable one. like say..avi, would give him/her some more coveted stuff 😉 provided  he/she has the bandwidth for d/l’ing it.

Directory search, however exciting would never lead to anything on a sustained basis, unless you are a fiendishly intelligent folk like me. So, lets go on up on the ladder of knowledge and get into IRC, or to be more specific mIRC. these internet chat programmes provide the perfect setting for getting books on your desktop on a daily basis without any hassles. With one month of dedicated logging in to a specific (or as many as you want) channel(s); you could build up a sizable book collection that will be the envy of all the dogs in the neighborhood. Alternatively, you could scan Packetnews.com for IRC ebook channels.  I’d most certainly recommend ebooksdrop homepage for the n00b, who wants to get around in IRC. The only problem is that IRC still remains a slightly non-friendly to non-tech-friendly souls. So, just hang in there for a while, before you start getting anything good.

Now, i am not an expert at this, and thats because i do not get/afford a shell account from my service provider, but A.B.E.B (Alt. Binaries.Ebook) group is the holy grail, if you ever need to proclaim yourself as the knight of the realm. To get a feel of the 90-100 TB of stuff that Usenet makes available to you, just visit this search link and see for yourself. The humungous content available at this site just pales away in front of the grand pappy of networks, called Usenet. Only the geekest of the geek (and the ones willing to spend upward of €10 per month) can enter this place. To  make a long quest short, you need a Usenet news client to get releases (NZB or otherwise) and untar/unrar/unzip  them and make a hefty dent in the storage capability of your hard drive. There are very few people who i know personally, who are comfortable working with either ABEB or ABB (Alt. Binaries. Books) and the small number represent the real release groups out there. The one’s who scan books which we so comfortably read and download and make available on our ridiculous storage places like rapidshare 😉

So, it goes, the whole circle of the ebook revolution. One thing is certain. Unless you dumb down the technology, there is no way it would prosper. So, while the whole trend of rapidshare catches on, even to the smallest of small users, the whole ebook industry stays in stasis. It’s only after ebooks would be as ubiquitous as the mp3’s or movies on your hard drive, that we can move on from paper to random electrons obeying our will.



Posted in eBooks, Secrets of the Web | 6 Comments »