Word of the Year: Free

It’s not yet March (check time: yes, we have another 23 minutes of this extra day of February, or at least, we did when I started this parenthesis), but I will state that the word of the year for 2008 is free. That’s free, not as in freedom, but as in $0.00.

Chris Anderson has just published an article in Wired explaining Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. It’s a preview of the book he’s writing. As I’ve previously noted, the book won’t be out until 2009. I don’t know what the word of 2009 will be.

So back to the word of 2008: free. That’s how much I’ll charge you for these links.

Much though I consider Harlan and Alex to be worth reading, I find my own views to be closer to those of Neil and Chris.


I love (semi-obligatory Valentine’s Day reference) books, and have a few book-related things to inflict on you. First, I have an account at Goodreads. Actually, I’ve had one for a while, but I’ve recently started using it, thanks to a couple of friend requests.

Second, I’m delighted to report the blog-to-book deal for Strange Maps.

Third, Adam Koford’s recent post at Drawn! might have been written for me. That’s not just because it recommends a Complete Idiot’s Guide. It’s because it concerns people who think that they have a children’s book in them (and there do seem to be an awful lot of us), realize that such books are usually illustrated, and think that this means that they need to find an illustrator before submitting to a publisher.

Adam states that “publishers never want to see unsolicited manuscripts with art.” He also refers to the problem of requests to provide illustrations for someone’s book, or idea for one. I’m glad I didn’t ask him if he wanted to work with me on mine. I’m also glad that he has already done an illustration for one of my stories.

Andy Grove’s Book Survives

A dozen years ago, Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive came out. I had cause to pick it up again today.

You can find (most of) the preface online at Intel. Here’s the key definition: “a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change.”

In order to describe the fundamentals of a business, Andy extended Michael Porter’s Five Forces of Competition model into a Six Forces model. The force he added was that of complements. For example, Microsoft Windows was an important complement to Intel’s chips, and remains so today.

OtPS is a Six Forces account of Intel and its environment. That said, it is a dozen years old, and that’s a long time in a tech industry. The risk of obsolescence is particularly acute when we realize that the last chapter is “The Internet: Signal or Noise? Threat or Promise?”, opens with the then-recent story of Netscape’s IPO, and goes on to explain what the internet is. But the chapter stands the test of time remarkably well.

So does the book as a whole. I expect to be able to rate OtPS as highly in another dozen years, for the clarity of the six forces framework and Andy’s exposition.

123 Meme

I’ve been tagged by Jen to do the 123 meme, which goes like this:

1. Pick up the book nearest you with at least 123 pages. (No cheating!)
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Count the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other bloggers.

Let’s see, the book nearest me now is the same one that was nearest me when I read Jen’s post: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation. The three sentences are as follows.

Not calling backup, I quickly learned, was considered a sign of strength, and for an intern there was nothing more flattering than to be considered “strong.” Once, I made the mistake of calling a third-year resident at her apartment in the middle of the night to ask for help performing a spinal tap. She roared at me on the phone for not taking care of the procedure earlier, before she came on duty at 10:00 p.m.

The five tagees are as follows: Brian, Constantine, Jonathan, Liz, Nicholas. I predict that 2.5 of the 5 will go for it.

The Pirate’s Dilemma

The Pirate’s Dilemma. It’s a slideshow…

… it’s a book that tells the story of how youth culture drives innovation and is changing the way the world works. Actually, I think of it mainly as a book, but that might be a sign of my age. So, back to the trendier stuff: it’s also a blog that identities the Mac Book Air as the end of the CD business.

Temeraire and Transformative Works

I recently finished Empire of Ivory, the fourth novel in Naomi Novik‘s excellent Temeraire series. It’s set in the time of Napoleon and Nelson and in an universe with dragons. Temeraire is a dragon.

His human sidekick, William Laurence, moves from the navy to the aerial corps when the newborn Temeraire becomes attached to him, toward the start of the first novel, His Majesty’s Dragon. The blend of fantasy and alternate history is wonderfully executed.

A further reason to applaud Naomi is that she is the founding chair of the Organization for Transformative Works, a pro-fanfic nonprofit. The T in OTW requires some explanation.

Transformative works are creative works about characters or settings created by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creators. Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction… A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the [source] with new expression, meaning, or message.”

The bulk of my fanfic involvement came about a decade ago, when I read some X-Files fanfic, some of it very good. I also wrote some. The first act of Two Agents of the Bureau, my blank verse drama, seems to have survived. The other four acts were never born.

Were I to write Temeraire fanfic, I’d start at the end, with how I think the series should end. It should do so with the death of Laurence, and with the grieving Temeraire wondering where he now belongs: with his friends in the aerial corps, in China, the land of his birth, or… Temeraire takes to the sky, and… roll the titles.

That said, I’m in no hurry for the series to end. It has yet to take us to the Russian front, or to the New World, and I suspect that Temeraire is due for a visit to each of them.

The Thirteenth Tale

I spent much of yesterday reading The Thirteenth Tale. If you love books, particularly gothic novels, and are looking for an engrossing winter read, I can recommend this novel.

I found it hard to put down, so it’s just as well that I started it while at the in-laws’ place for the holidays, rather than in more usual circumstances with more work and kid-care to distract me from fiction. Dear reader, I hope that you are finding time to read books as well as blogs this holiday season.

Blogging a Book

Joe Wickert, publishing executive and blogger, pointed out today that many authors and publishers are still concerned about potential cannibalization when book content is also available for free online, but that such concern is excessive. He drew on evidence from a recent NY Times article: Turning Free Web Work Into Real Book Sales.

Joe started blogging at the insistence of Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, as a condition of Wiley publishing their book Naked Conversations. That book was written on the blog of the same name (or rather, on the blog that used to bear that name).

His post was timely for me, since I intend to write a book next year, or at least, to write a book proposal in the early part of next year. It reminded me that the book should have its very own blog, and soon. The book in question will be about management, but it’ll be interesting and otherwise readable.

Also timely was an entry in the WordPress.com forum from Mark, Support Maven at Automattic. Advertising your own book is allowed at WordPress.com. It’s one of the few cases in which advertising is allowed on WordPress.com blogs. So that’s the likely site of my book blog.

Business Week: Show Me the Books

Business Week just published its Best Business Books of the Year list. I clicked on the link (the one I’ve just provided for you), expecting to be taken to a text-based page I could scan quickly.

Instead, I was taken to a slide show, and had to click through the books a page at a time. There were thumbnails at the foot of the slideshow pages, but most titles weren’t legible.

This seems like a mistmatch between content and presentation. The people most interested in business books can probably cope with text, and don’t need a slide show to tell them about books. More generally, BW Online seems over-fond of slide shows when more conventional web pages would be better.

I guess there’s always dead trees. But the print edition seems to be trying to ape the online edition, and not in a good way.

Back to the slide show: I really like the illustration for the 2007 best books list. I looked for the name of the illustrator, but did so in vain.