Spoilers: it’s in the bag

I like this idea. Bryan Talbot’s new graphic novel, the latest in the Grandville series, has an unusual anti-spoiler device. A black plastic wrapper and seal prevents the reader from flipping though to certain pages at the back of the book, and thus spoiling the surprise…

Perhaps we need a digital equivalent. Tick a box on your Amazon Kindle account, and authors who put a snippet of anti-spoiler code in their ebooks / graphic novels / audiobooks get their story protected from ‘jump-ahead’ readers.

That might also be accompanied by a code-of-conduct for troll-reviewers on Amazon: you hide your plot spoilers in a cloaking code-wrapper, and those who don’t want to read huge spoilers don’t have to. It would be in Amazon’s financial interests to do that, as if the plot is spoiled in a big way, someone is then far less likely to buy the product.


Office 2019

I’m pleased to hear that Microsoft has announced a proper standalone desktop Office 2019, and for a one-time payment. The preview version is due in mid 2018. Very welcome, especially for those who use Word daily, and hopefully there will be all sorts of new ebook friendly features.

Maybe Office 2019 will even be available in a box/USB, for those lacking the capacity to download Gbs of software and the inevitable patches. Which these days still amounts to a surprising amount of people in the USA. In fact, it’s kind of difficult not to see the Office 2019 announcement as some sort of sweetener for President Trump, aimed at swinging the ongoing tussle over Microsoft’s plan to bring decent flat-rate broadband to America’s rural millions ($8-$12bn+) vs. phone company cell-phone towers ($20bn+++) doing the same. Trump must be aware of how much a top-flight desktop productivity suite still means to productivity in much of the USA, for people who can’t or won’t use the Cloud.

Bulk delete for your Kindle 3’s “Archived Items” folder

If, like me, you have a trillion Instapaper editions lingering as useless ghost files in your Kindle 3’s “Archived Items” folder, it’s annoying that you can only delete them one by one. You need a Bulk Delete option, which Amazon doesn’t provide. Pepa’s Check and Delete to the rescue! It works perfectly, as a simple browser bookmarklet.

A Soft Landing on Normandy

Peter Brantley reports on the future of ebooks for Publishers Weekly, A Soft Landing on Normandy

“Almost every single startup that is delivering authoring tools — either for designing and producing content, maintaining a full-bore content management system, or simply supporting an interim level of annotations or fragmentation — is building their own proprietary web-based layer that is largely HTML5-based yet also capable of linking to software development kits and libraries needed to support the export of rich app experiences. In other words, everything is baroque, and nothing in the standards space works well enough across the range of possible uses to be a default rendering environment. It is very much as if we are back in the Middle Ages scribbling on parchment, whittling our own quills from feathers we have on hand, drawing up whatever ink we have available. Our 21st Century parchment is a world-wide digital canvas, but our quills are hand-crafted.”

That can potentially make sense for presenting high quality specialist non-fiction/textbooks with complex layouts, which I’d suggest is where these startups are going with these tools. If they can create something that is easy enough for publishers to use, but which can produce good looking easy-to-update expensive non-fiction in iPad editions, then they stand a chance of a buyout by a major publisher.

Scivener 2 for Windows, due any week now

Scivener 2.1 for Windows should be landing fairly shortly. It’s one of the most acclaimed Mac suites for authors, and it certainly does look shiny and it gets good review mileage. It offers outliners, research snippet management, all the usual writing tools including daily wordage target-meters and snapshot-ing, and a variety of output options including ePub. It gets pretty good puffs from some big-name authors. The current free beta demo expires on 7th November, and the Scivener developers have promised a 2011 release for Windows. So a release sometime in early/mid November would seem like a good bet. It will cost just $40, and they accept PayPal. Sadly Kindle output seems clunky — via HTML output, then third-party post-processing with some alpha tools that are not yet even in version 1.0.

Blurb adds ebooks

The quality photobook print-on-demand service Blurb has made its first move into ebooks. Although at the moment it’s only added tools for creating £1.49 ebook previews for the Apple iPad and iPhone. The new “single click” tool for this is embedded in Blurb’s existing bookmaking tools ‘Bookify’ and ‘BookSmart’. Adobe InDesign users who uploaded a PDF to the service are left out of the loop.

Word 2007 for HTML output

Here’s a simple experiment newcomers to Kindle publishing can do to show you the kind of bloat that Word adds to HTML output, if you were tempted to take that route. Save a big book-length Word file as ‘filtered HTML’ in Word 2007. ‘Filtered’ removes all the cruft, right? Wrong. Open your filtered HTML with Notepad or your “doesn’t hide the scary code” HTML editor. I had 3,500 lines of utterly superfluous code, before I managed to scroll down to the actual content.