Seven Swords = 44,000 words, Amazon Kindle Sucks

by Mike Shea on 22 November 2007

I'm at my mothers house tonight and full on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and two slices of pumpkin pie.

I brought my book with me and wrote eight pages on the plane and another twelve pages here so far. I'm a little past 44,000 words with a measly six thousand to go. I should be done by Sunday. Six thousand is just enough to have all the big battles and aftermaths that are needed to close the book out. I love this book but I'm ready for it to be over now. This has been a hard trip.

I realized at about page 200 that the 34 pages left in my large lined Moleskine wouldn't be enough to hold it all. I wanted to have it all in one book, I didn't want two separate volumes, so I ended up sewing in my own two extra signatures (the collection of double-folded pages that make up a book) for a total of 40 extra pages. That takes the total size of the Moleskine to about 280 pages. I cut out the Moleskine's back pocket and the elastic strap as well to make extra room. Then, with the signatures sewn to one of the Moleskine cardboard endpapers, I glued it to the back of the book and it looks just fine. It was a little hairy to cut apart a novel I was in the middle of writing, but I had faith.

Next year I'll be writing in something with a few more pages than a Moleskine. It's a great notebook and short story book but not a good novel writing book.

Yesterday was also the first day I had to do any editing to the book on the first draft. Normally one should never really edit their work on the first shot, but I had killed off a main character that didn't come really naturally and didn't make a lot of sense in the story, so I yanked it and he lived...at least until tomorrow. There's also a big section I had planned that I might skip since I'm coming to the end and I want to end close to 50,000 words.

Everyone I tell about my little project here asks me what I'm going to do next. After all, the book is hand written, it's not like I can send it to a publisher. My answer right now is "put it in a box and forget about it" since trying to think about typing up 50,000 words sounds painful enough to get me to stop writing it in the first place. I don't want to do that, so I just worry about my ten pages a day and not worry about what comes next. Likely, though, I'll start by putting it into a box for a few months while I recover and get reacquainted with my true hobby of surfing Ebaum's World for videos of people hurting themselves in all sorts of new and creative ways. Once I can stomach looking at it again I'll start typing it up piece by piece. When that is done, I'll go through a third edit and send it to some friends. After that, I'll format it, put it up on my website, hopefully get a cover from Dragon Snail, and sell it on Lulu.

Right now, though, I worry about the next 2000 words and the 2000 after that and the 2000 after that.

The Amazon Kindle hit the streets last week and it's been quite a buzz. I'm pretty philosophically opposed to E-book readers since they always seem to make the same mistakes:

  1. They're too expensive.
  2. They worry too much about DRM and not enough about customer freedoms.
  3. They seem to solve a problem most people don't have.

First, let's talk about the cost. It's $400 for the reader (as much as an iPhone that can do a whole lot more) and the books cost $10. That's $10 for the right to download a copy of text from a website. There's no binding cost, no shipping cost, no storage cost, no cover cost, yet the book costs about $3 more than a paperback. What sense does that make? Oh yeah, and it's less usable since I can loan a novel to a friend but I can't loan him the $10 DRM copy for his own Kindle.

I don't care what Neil Gaiman says, the Kindle seems to try too hard to beat back paperback novels and not hard enough to change content into something else. Instead of worrying about DRM, the makers of these devices should learn how to properly convert digital text into digital speech with a sound that doesn't make me yearn for the sound of my alarm clock. They should focus on reference material rather than fiction. I usually only need a single fictional novel for any trip. I don't need a library on me. And if I need a reference citation or information, I can almost always find it with Google on my iPhone. Kindle is a solution without a problem.

Audiobooks are my e-books. When I had a two hour commute every day, I loved my iPod and all the Stephen King audiobooks I had loaded on it. Not only did they save my sanity but they made me really enjoy the time I spent in my car, as long as the book was good. Audiobooks take the content from a novel and turn it into something else - something I can use when I can't read a novel. That's what these e-book readers seem to miss. I want to search text, transform it, cut and paste it, and listen to it. If I want to sit and read it, I'll go with the actual book. They're about fifty times cheaper, more durable (do you think you can read a Kindle if you bury it in the mud for 1000 years?), and far more lovable than some plastic box with a bunch of buttons on it.

It would be improper of me to discuss this topic without referencing Cory Doctorow's excellent paper on e-books entitled Ebooks, Neither E Nor Books. It's an excellent read on the failures of the vision of e-book manufacturers.

Leave the digital devices to wireless internet, digital music, and portable gaming. I'll stick to my paperback copy of Old Man's War, thank you very much.

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