Why I don’t buy many Kindle books

I was just looking through my Amazon wishlist, and I see that most of the books on there are now available in Kindle versions as well as paper. But while I looked through it with every intention of buying one or more of them, in the end, I didn’t.

Why?

1. Several of them are more expensive on Kindle than paper. I can have a paper book printed, shipped to a warehouse and shipped to me for less than the cost of buying a few bits that take a fraction of a second to reach me over the Internet. That is insane, for obvious reasons.

2. DRM. Every one of those books has DRM which restricts them to my Kindle. So unlike a paper book, I can’t sell them, I can’t lend them to people who don’t have a Kindle, and I can’t read them on any computer which doesn’t have Kindle for PC installed (and, let’s face it, the Kindle software really sucks).

So the books are expensive and crippled. Cheap and crippled I could live with, but expensive too? No thanks. Hence I’ll be sticking to buying indie books for the forseeable future since they’re generally reasonably priced and DRM-free; I’ll borrow the others from the library.

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The psychology of political incompetence

There was an interesting thread on a web forum I frequent about the EU mess and how none of the politicians involved seem to know what to do or want to take charge to do anything about it.

This reminded me of a book I read some years ago, On the psychology of military incompetence, a study of incompetent military actions and the reasons behind them. The general theory was that in peace time the military promotes people who do as they’re told, and then when they reach the top levels and are expected to take command, they have no idea of what to do; most people capable of making independent decisions have been weeded out at much lower level. Only in war time does the need for effective action override the demand for obedience to higher ranks.

The same process would seem to apply to many professional politicians, who’ve spent all their lives doing what they’re told in order to progress up the party hierarchy to the point where they’re suddenly able to give orders. Then they don’t know what to do, and because giving orders means taking responsibility for them, they’re not even willing to try because failure gives their opponents ammunition to use against them. Putting off decisions or pushing them onto committees in order to pass the buck is far less risky.

Until they face a crisis where important decisions have to be made, and not making a decision becomes an important decision in its own right. The political system then works against promoting the very people who are required in such a crisis and they can’t be promoted as fast as military officers in war time.

Hence when we look around the world today we see a lot of political ‘leaders’ who’ve spent most of their life getting to that point yet most of them would prefer to play golf than actually lead. It’s no wonder we’re in such a mess.

Kindle

So I finally bought myself a Kindle; I have to say, it’s much easier to read on than a laptop screen and it also turns pages much faster than the other e-reader I’ve used (I forget whether it was a Nook or a Kobo, but it was an old generation model either way).

Two things I’ve found so far are that it doesn’t like being told to download hundreds of books in one go, and when you have a thousand books on the Kindle search takes forever and locks up the device with no way to abort it. Twice I rebooted it (hold the power switch over for thirty seconds) because I didn’t think it was going to come back, the third time I left it and eventually it did.

I do wish it had number keys, because entering a 63-character random Wi-Fi key was painful when I had to keep figuring out which key was which number. But at least that’s something that you only do rarely. Overall I’m pretty happy with it and it should help with book reviews as I can’t read more than a few dozen pages at a time on my laptop.

At last

Tartarus is finally up. It’s on Smashwords and Amazon and will take a while to filter through to the other sites.

Next step is NaNoWriMo where I’m planning to adapt another of my unproduced movie scripts. This is more of a historical story but told in a horror story style. I’d like to get that out by Christmas but I’m guessing it’s going to take more than a month to go from NaNo quality to worth publishing.

Last Lap

Finished the tweaks to Tartarus; in total it’s lost about two thousand words and gained another three, so it’s about a thousand longer than it was before the first readers got it and I think the changes they suggested were real improvements. Now just a final copy-edit over the next couple of days and I can get it out to Smashwords and Amazon by Halloween.

It also gives me the opportunity to write a prequel and at least two sequels if readers like it :).

Phew

Onto the last few tweaks to Tartarus, then I want to do a full read-through to copy-edit before uploading it.

Also, NaNoWriMo is coming up shortly so I’ll be adapting another of my old screenplays for that; it’s one that I never finished, so I have the start and end and some good ideas for what should go in between and hopefully it will work out. It’s really a war story, but the intention is to tell it in the form of a horror story.

Meanwhile, here’s a piece of writing advice I’m finding useful for revision, relating to the characters in the story, both major and minor:

They are each the hero of their own stories. They don’t know that they aren’t the main character and are only there to move the plot along.

I’ve forgotten where this came from: I think it’s James MacDonald, but I’m not entirely certain. However, it’s an important part of making the characters seem real, and useful for working out where the story should go. Each character should behave as though they are the most important character in the story from their viewpoint, not as someone who’s just there to provide plot for the major characters. Not only does that make them seem more real, it introduces more conflicts for the main characters to deal with.

Google sucks

Years ago, when Google was young, it was the best search engine around; you typed in some words, it looked for them and it displayed the results. It had the best coverage, the best performance, and the most useful results.

But that wasn’t good enough. Having little competition, the Google developers seem to have decided that they had to make the search ‘smarter’ to keep their jobs, because there wasn’t much point paying them to sit around with their feet up when the search was already pretty good.

And it’s all been downhill since then. Now, instead of searching for what I asked it to search for, it searches for what it thinks I wanted to ask for. That’s an absolute disaster for technical queries where it take acronyms then adds or removes vowels, adds an ‘s’ on the end, or searches for synonyms. So even when I know precisely what I want to look for and there are only a few pages on the Internet which have that information, it produces thousands of results which are nothing to do with what I’m actually searching for.

Even in non-technical searches it’s becoming painfully useless. Recently, for example, I was searching for information on Victorian-era Irish housing. Could it just look for those words? Nah, of course not. The results I was actually looking for were swamped by results for Queen Victoria and Irish Home Rule (since housing is kind of like ‘home’, right?).

Google search sucks, because it now believes it knows what I want to search for better than I do. Sure, that gives far more results, but I don’t want more results, I want results that contain what I’m looking for. Now, I can use magic to tell it to search for what I actually asked it to search for, but why should I have to do that? Why should the default be to not search for what I asked it to search for? Computers are dumb, any time someone tries to make them ‘smart’ it merely ensures they’ll annoy the humans trying to use them.

And this is before we get onto the disastrous new interface which tries to search before you’ve finished typing, steals the page-up/page-down keys so that instead of scrolling the page as they do elsewhere they move from one result to the next, and adds pop-up previews of pages from God knows where that I don’t want to visit whenever I happen to move the mouse in the wrong place.

Does anyone know of a search engine that doesn’t suck?

The perils of publishing

I’m about half-way through the final revisions to Tartarus.

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of blog posts at Elf Killing And Other Hobbies about a publisher not paying royalties, not releasing books and not returning rights to writers.

While self-publishing risks obscurity if no-one ever finds your novels, at least you don’t have to worry about losing rights to your books or all the royalties; one e-book retailer might get into financial troubles and not pay, but the odds of all of them doing the same are slim.

Which is not to imply that writers should never publish through publishers, but clearly life isn’t always as easy as signing a contract and then waiting for the publisher to send you money. Hopefully this isn’t a common occurrence.