Kindle the Second

Amazon’s Kindle 2 will be released on Feb 24. I’d like a Kindle, but not at $350+. That’s similar to my reaction to the first Kindle, but it’s moved up from “It’s clunky, but I’d kind of like one” to “I’d really like one.”

The Boston Globe emphasized the Stephen King connection: he’s written a novella for, and featuring, the Kindle. It also covered the reservations expressed by Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. The Wall Street Journal reported other objections from the same source.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Niniane posted a valentine to the Kindle 2. And at GigaOm, Kevin surmised that Amazon’s ebook business will be dating hardware other than the Kindle, based on the announcement that the new “Whispersync” technology will sync with “a range of mobile devices in the future.”

Back here, I’m wondering how what sort of price a gently used Kindle 1 will go for as Kindle fans upgrade. I’m also wondering when the Kindle 3 will arrive, what features it will have, and what the price of gently used Kindle 2s will be at that time.

The Monkey Wrench Gang

My introduction to Edward Abbey was Desert Solitaire, his memoir of the American Southwest – although memoir is far too genteel a word for that book. I asked for, received, and have just finished his novel The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Uniting the novel, the memoir, and the life of the author, is the theme of resistance to intrusion on the southwestern landscape by highways, reservoirs, dams, and the like. Here are the thoughts of “Seldom Seen” Smith, one of four members of the monkey wrench gang.

Like Hayduke [another of the four] his heart was full of a healthy hatred… He remembered the strange great amphitheaters called Music Temple and Cathedral in the Desert. All these things now lay beneath the dead water of the reservoir, slowly disappearing under layers of descending silt.

The quote illustrates a couple of things about Abbey and the novel. First, he really could write. Second, he, Abbey, is the main character. If he really wanted Seldom or Hayduke, or Doc or Bonnie, to be the main characters, he wouldn’t have qualified hatred with healthy. There are many other quotes I could have used to illustrate these points. I chose the above quote because it is the first I found that illustrated both well.

So, if you want to read an Abbey book, I recommend Desert Solitaire. If you want to read a sprawling novel about eco-sabotage, I recommend Monkey Wrench Gang. I should admit now that I have yet to read any of his other books.

Finally, a few words about pictures. First, credit and thanks to Kris for the photo. Second, it seems as though the Monkey Wrench movie will be made soon. I wish I could have higher hopes for it.

BookSprouts, GoodReads, etc.

There are already several book-oriented social media sites. I favor Goodreads these days, while others prefer Library Thing or Shelfari.

My first impression of BookSprouts was that it’s entering an arena in which there are already several strong contenders. But I followed the link from the TechCrunch article, signed up, added a few books to my collection, and otherwise tweaked my BookSprouts profile.

BookSprouts differentiates itself from the other sites mentioned above with its emphasis on book clubs. In fact, for those steeped in social media, I might liken it to a book-specific Ning (and in fact, some of the social networks at Ning are book clubs).

BookSprouts is of course also different because it’s newer. In fact, BookSprout emphasizes its beta-ness and love of feedback. So I wasn’t surprised to find that it currently lacks some of the features I sought first, such as:

  • Import from other bookish sites, where many already catalog their books.
  • About page: who’s behind BookSprout?
  • Help: there is a link, but it doesn’t seem to lead to any help.
  • An API.

I mention the (lack of) API because the time may be ripe for a way of spanning the bookish sites, a sort of Book Connect. I note that Goodreads has an API. I also note that Goodreads has groups, which look rather like book clubs.

Goodreads Widget

WordPress.com, the host of this and millions of other blogs, does not allow Flash. That makes it impossible to use widgets such as the one that shows the books I’ve told Goodreads that I’m currently reading.

But is it really impossible? You never know until you try…

[clearspring_widget title=”Widget” wid=”491d034eec108fe6″ pid=”491d18bd94f24381″ width=”400″ height=”500″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Desert Solitaire

Here’s a lovely thought, well-expressed.

I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.

It’s from (p. 16 of) Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey’s account of his time as a ranger in the Arches National Park. He was there about 50 years ago. He died in 1989, and so was spared the last two decades of the “industrial tourism” he so despised.

The book provided my bathroom reading for a while, and so helped me get away from it all (or at least from some of it). That copy was a present from my old friend Richard, who received his copy as a gift. I may in turn buy it for my father for Christmas, or I may just draw his attention to my copy during next year’s visit.

Having started with a quote from Abbey, here’s a quote about him. Only a man deeply in love with life and hopelessly soft on humanity would specify, from beyond the grave, that his mourners receive corn on the cob. Richard’s most recent visit coincided with corn season.

So, I highly recommend Desert Solitaire, and, with the holiday gift season coming up, I’m putting The Monkey Wrench Gang on my wishlist.

Totoro Book Available

The Totoro Forest Project book is now available at the project website. See my previous post for an account of the project, and a sample of some of the lovely illustration contributed to it.

The very limited supply of books is expected to go soon. I wish that more had been printed, and sold through an existing online channel. That might have raised more money and awareness for the Totoro cause. Well, at least my order seems to have gone through.

Update, a few hours later: sold out.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I’ve just finished reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. It is my favorite of the Michael Chabon novels I’ve read, which is saying something (I’ve yet to read Wonder Boys, by the way). The opening paragraph sets the tone wonderfully.

Nine months Landsman’s been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.

That Landsman is a detective establishes one genre for the novel. That it is set in an alternate universe establishes another; indeed, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union captured both of the major science fiction awards.

I found myself torn between lingering to enjoy the writing, and racing on to find out what happens – and what happened, since this is a fine example of suspense looking back as well as forwards in time. I don’t just mean that we want to know who killed the dead yid.

We want to know how detective Landsman got into the state he’s in: living in a crummy hotel is not the worst of it. We are also interested in the part of the state of Alaska he and many other Jews are in, and the alternate universe of which it’s a part. That said, I still found the writing itself, both narrative and dialog, the most interesting thing of all.

I recommend, not just the novel, but also the book. I like the trade paperback for the cover by Will Staehle, the included NYT article on Chabon and YPU and piece by Chabon on writing YPU, and for other things as well as the text itself. You can find the NYT article online, and may well be able to find everything else online, but a good book is a great thing, and this may well be a great book.

Groundswell Review

I should write something resembling a review of Groundswell, since I have a review copy. I’ve already given it 5 starts at Goodreads. Why?

The book is incredibly well crafted. Many times I found myself applauding decisions made by the authors and the rest of the team (editors, etc.). For example, although the book is to a large extent about how to succeed amidst the groundswell, there are failure stories as well as success stories. There are just enough to provide balance and to avoid too rosy a picture, but no more than that.

Another decision the authors made, and made very well, concerns the discussion of specific social technologies. Although technologies such as blogs and social networks are fundamental to the groundswell, the authors resist the temptation to provide a lot of detail about specific tools. They are right to do so, because the tools will change, while the basic groundswell of people using the social tools to hand at the moment will continue.

If there is one thing not to my taste about the book, it’s that it is so thoroughly crafted that I sometimes wished for rough edges to provide some texture. To illustrate this, I’ll follow in the footsteps of those who have placed Groundswell in a tradition going back through Naked Conversations to The Cluetrain Manifesto. (One such is Conversations co-author Shel.)

Cluetrain is wildly uneven. It’s like an album on which the central track is an all-time classic, but some of the other tracks serve best as warnings of the effects of drug use. Conversations is an excellent early mapping of Blogistan, complete with travel guide for businessfolk. (Perhaps I am biased toward it, since I provided feedback on the chapters as Shel blogged early drafts.)

Like Conversations, Groundswell is rich with case studies. However, Groundswell also includes more numbers. It also provides a more specific framework for action than does either of its forerunners. That POST framework is illustrated by my previous post. You might also want to see my Groundswell mindmap post.

So this is the third of three posts I probably wouldn’t have written were it not for getting a review copy. I like to think I’ve more than justified the publisher’s investment in my copy.

Energizing the Groundswell Groundswell

I have a review copy of Groundswell. The publisher, Harvard Business Press, sent a copy each to 100 bloggers (and I believe that their generous stock of blogger review copies is gone now).

Sending out blogger review copies provides an example of Groundswell thinking. So let’s use it to illustrate the POST framework developed in the book (and illustrated in the Groundswell mindmap I did yesterday).

  • People. The first question is who? Groundswell describes people in terms of their position on a ladder of social technology use. On the top rung are Creators of content. Bloggers are on this rung. (While the target audience of Groundswell includes many who don’t create web content, this example is about those who do. If you want a summary of the other rungs, there’s a short presentation giving more detail about the ladder.)
  • Objective. Having recognized the existence of these bloggers, HBP considered its objective. There are five main objectives; each gets its own chapter, as you can see from the book’s table of contents. We’re concerned here with energizing: helping your customers sell to each other. Selling here doesn’t mean hard-sell shouting. It means telling each other about the book, in this case via blog posts.
  • Strategy. How to achieve the objective? Send the books out! Strategy is a rather misleading term, implying a grander action that putting 100 books in the mail. More generally, I don’t think that strategy is the best word for this third step. I’d prefer action or tactics, but that would mess up the acronym (POST), and this is the kind of book that needs an acronym.
  • Technology. This is the most obvious aspect of the groundswell. HBP in giving away books to people like me is using a specific social technology: blogging. It’s also using some very old technologies: paper, and delivery to a building. In some ways it seems strange to use such old technology, rather than to offer us a download. I’m not complaining or criticizing: I probably wouldn’t have “read” Groundswell in any new fangled digital format.

There seems to be something missing from this example. The chapter on energizing includes an example of return on energizing activity, and there are other examples of return on groundswell activity elsewhere in the book. I don’t see evidence that HBP are tracking the blog posts and other web content generated as a result of energizing bloggers with free books. So it doesn’t appear that they are calculating return on their investment in blogger review copies.

I may be speaking prematurely. It may be that we the freebie-blessed bloggers are about to get an email asking us for links to content that has been energized from us. Then there might be a page at the Groundswell web site linking out to all that content, and presenting it as an example of energizing the groundswell. I think it’s a good example.