February 12, 2010

E-book Abomination Index

Posted in books, e-books, production, Rants, technology, typography at 4:40 am by India

Deprecated!

India, Ink., has moved. The live version of this post is now located at http://ink.indiamos.com/2010/02/12/e-book-abomination-index/. Sorry for the inconvenience!

I’ve been reading a lot of e-books in the past ten days or so, and I have seen a lot of messy formatting. But the latest one takes the cake: a McGraw-Hill Professional book in which the first letter of every paragraph appears on a line by itself. Thus:

T
he quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Hella annoying. And there was an egregious typo in the book, repeated three times in one paragraph. Annoying enough that I dug around on the McGraw-Hill site until I found a place to lodge my complaint.

But then I got to thinking, as I filled out their lengthy incident report form, that if I want to report every fucked-up e-book I come across—which is most of them—I could spend the rest of my life chasing around on publishers’ websites for the buried feedback addresses or forms. And then I thought, Why not set up a sort of Hall of Shame where not only I but anyone else who finds a crappy e-book can post the gory details?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the E-book Abomination Index submission form?
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February 1, 2010

Clarifications

Posted in books, business, e-books, production, Rants, technology, Typesetting at 2:42 pm by India


Left: Eirik Newth. Right: Me.
Easy mistake; could happen to anyone, we’re so alike. Except that, y’know, he’s a genius.

Here (with some corrections), in case anybody else interpreted my posts from this weekend in similar ways, is a way-too-long comment I just posted in response to Doyce Testerman’s Publishing, Charlotte*, and John*. You should start there, or it won’t make much sense. The part of Doyce’s post where poor Eirik gets dragged into things and where my grumbling gets taken somewhat out of context is at the very end:

In the postscript to this piece, Eirik Newth explains why Big Publishing consistently cites costs to create ebooks that fall miles outside my experience and expectation.

Short version: they’re doing it wrong.

Long version:

Publishers are still producing paper books the “X-Acto–and–wax” way and then outsourcing their e-book production to other companies, which probably automate the conversion process, and then they’re not practicing any kind of QA on what comes back, because nobody gives a shit, because the people who make the decisions don’t read e-books.

No wonder they think making an ebook is an expensive, time-consuming process.

Yes, you read that right. Publishers aren’t producing workable electronic files when they produce a paper book — their product essentially has to be OCR’d by a third party company to get an ebook out of it. They start with a hardcopy and make someone else turn it into an electronic version, which they’ll never read.

Oops. So I sez to him I sez, No, actually, you didn’t read that right:
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January 30, 2010

What’s been gnawing at me lately

Posted in books, business, e-books, hardware, Rants, Reading, technology at 7:23 pm by India

cat chewing on an e-reader

One of the things that I find gets more difficult year after year—and I can’t tell if this is more because I’m getting older, or because I’m letting myself be pelted with information faster and harder than ever before, or because I don’t write as regularly as I used to—is synthesizing ideas. I spend hours each day gathering information, and some days it seems like for every page I read on the Web, I open or bookmark two more to read later. Yet when an occasion arises for me to state what I think about what I’ve read, I most often end up blurting out whatever my gut tells me, rather than what’s the result of deliberate analysis and consideration—because who has time to ruminate? I’ve heard the rumor, of course, that our guts know more than we think they do, but as I haven’t yet had time to read up on the subject, I can’t say to what extent or in what circumstances that’s true. My gut is whispering to me, however, that my gut is often misguided or misinformed.

For at least the last few months, as I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do (a) for my master’s thesis and (b) to pay back my student loans after I finish the damn thing, I’ve been trying to absorb as much information as possible about e-books, e-readers, and the future of the book in general. I’ve read articles, essays, and tweets; listened to podcasts, panels, and lectures; watched videos and (sorry to have to use this word:) webinars; and talked with a lot of people. I’ve done a lot of talking at people, too, pushing and no doubt breaking the limits of courtesy with dozens of unfortunate friends, acquaintances, and strangers as I try to articulate what my gut tells me about all this partially digested input. And I’ve written about a few small things, trying to finely chew at least some corners of the subject.

Just in the last week, thanks to the Digital Book World conference and Apple’s iPad announcement, I’ve skimmed, read, watched, heard, or bookmarked thousands of chunks of content—most of them tweets, since I wasn’t present at either event but followed along through hashtags and Twitter lists—having to do with books in the digital era.

And what do I think about all of it?

I don’t know.
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July 6, 2009

Please, Mister Postman

Posted in advice, humor, Rants, typography at 2:26 pm by India

post office

Oh, I think I need to make a field trip to the 11215 post office . . .

Dear Postmaster Potter:

I am writing to ask if you would please consider redecorating my local post office. Maybe you have heard of it: 11215. It’s the Park Slope Station in Brooklyn, New York, and I believe that a great many novelists spend time there, waiting to mail their manuscripts and galleys and quarterly estimated tax payments and whatnot, so perhaps it is the source of a great many written complaints. Or perhaps not. Anyway, may I elaborate on the nature of the problem?

The nature of the problem is choice of font.

Rudolph Delson, “An Open Letter to John E. Potter, Postmaster General” (PDF, 127 KB), February 12, 2007

Oh, but that is not the only problem, as it turns out. And these issues have been observed not only at the 11215 post office, as I’m sure many can attest. I particularly recommend the 10009 (Tompkins Square) location for psychotic signage (not to mention patrons).

I think I also need to get a copy of Mr. Delson’s novel, Maynard and Jennica.

(Via Manhattan Users Guide)

December 2, 2008

Hitler’s subtitler gets a cheap font CD

Posted in humor, Rants, typography, Video at 4:24 pm by India

One of dozens of Downfall parody videos. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, but if you haven’t been subjected to them yet, you may find this instance amusing.

October 14, 2008

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

Posted in advice, books, Design, Rants, Typesetting, typography, Work at 9:47 am by India

pond scum

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I should feel jazzed that a person I used to work with, who at that time did not know InDesign from Address Book, is still using my files as templates for new books today in his busy freelance design business. Being a spiteful, negative, unforgiving person, however, I instead find it just kind of disgusting. Because even though this person is apparently now making a nontrivial chunk of his income by designing and typesetting books (and perhaps double-billing for it, too), he clearly still doesn’t know typography from a hole in the ground.
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August 8, 2008

Job application tips

Posted in advice, business, Rants, Work at 9:33 pm by India

help wanted

I’m in the process of hiring an assistant, someone who can toil away at the work thing while I’m at school making crafts, and I’ve finally dug down to the bottom of the pile of résumés that began pouring in thirty minutes after I posted the job. (And if you haven’t heard from me yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t—I’m still sorting and procrastinating, as will soon become more obvious.) And do you want to know what’s the most striking thing about most of these hopefuls? They are completely wasting their time. And mine, of course, but mostly their own. Because they’re not only not going to get a job with me, they’re not going to get a job with anyone unless that person is as slovenly and illiterate as these applicants.

Howlers spotted among the hundred-odd submissions include

  • Misspelling or camel-capitalizing my company’s name
    • Notebook
    • Next book
    • Nextbbook
    • NextBook
  • Misspelling the name of a past or present employer
    • FexEx
    • Merril Lynch
    • Pareksy Ctr. [This is at my own college, so I know it’s Paresky]
    • BabyAlpalca.org
    • Rollingstone Magazine
  • Misspelling a degree or job title
    • bachelors | masters
    • B.F.A | G.P.A | F.I.T | C.U.N.Y
    • assitant [I feel that this should be a word, but if it were, it would denote someone who is an undesirable employee]
    • photo- retoucher
    • Communication’s Coordinator
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of a piece of software the applicant supposedly knows inside out
    • PhotoShop
    • Quark Express
    • the In Design program
    • Word Press
    • In-Design CS3
    • Abode Photoshop / Abode Illustrator / Abode InDesign [this is presumably marketed as a hamlet]
    • Indesign
    • word, excel [but the same person managed to type PowerPoint]
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of the site where the applicant found the listing
    • Media Bistro
    • media bistro
    • MediaBistro.com

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April 30, 2008

“If I spike you, you’ll know you’ve been spoken to.”

Posted in Rants, Tools, web development, Work at 6:02 pm by India

Camberwell Carrot

So, the other day, I was asked to set up HTML for an e-mail that someone else—let’s call them Agent B—is sending. Today Agent B sent us a preview of the e-mail, with the Agent B logo added at the top and the usual “Click here to unsubscribe, etc., etc.” at the bottom, but the middle of the message—my part—has become completely verkakte in the process. So I looked at the code and found that my nice, clean, valid HTML had been run through MS Word’s garbagealator. For example, this—

<p>Sunday, May 18, 2008<br />
11am to 5pm<br />
The Times Center<br />
242 West 41st Street</p>

—was converted to this—

<p =
style=3D'mso-margin-top-alt:0in;margin-right:7.5pt;margin-bottom:12.0pt;
margin-left:7.5pt'><font size=3D3 color=3Dblack face=3DHelvetica><span =
lang=3DEN
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Helvetica;color:black'>Sunday, May =
18, 2008<br>
11am to 5pm<br>
The<span class=3Dapple-converted-space> <st1:place =
u2:st=3D"on"><st1:placename u2:st=3D"on"></span><st1:place
w:st=3D"on"><st1:PlaceName =
w:st=3D"on">Times</st1:placename></st1:PlaceName><span
class=3Dapple-converted-space> <st1:placetype =
u2:st=3D"on"></span><st1:PlaceType
=
w:st=3D"on">Center</st1:placetype></st1:place></st1:PlaceType></st1:place=
><br>
<st1:street u2:st=3D"on"><st1:address u2:st=3D"on"><st1:Street =
w:st=3D"on"><st1:address
w:st=3D"on">242 West 41st =
Street</st1:address></st1:street><u1:p></u1:p></st1:address></st1:Street>=
</span></font><font
color=3Dblack face=3DHelvetica><span =
style=3D'font-family:Helvetica;color:black'><o:p></o:p></span></font></p>=

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January 30, 2008

Read the Fine Print

Posted in advice, art direction, photography, Rants, Work at 5:20 pm by India

broken image iconRTFM

Creative Commons licenses are a wonderful thing. Without them, I’d probably be unable to do my job, so I am extremely grateful to all who apply a CC license to their photos.

All, that is, except people who mark their work with a CC license and then get huffy when someone actually uses it.
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January 26, 2007

Thank you, Microsoft!

Posted in Editing, Rants, Tools at 12:37 pm by India

Now I will never have to buy any of your products again!

The latest issue of Editorium Update has arrived, and Jack Lyon reports the following:

Word 2008, for Macintosh, isn’t out yet but will be later this year:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/jan07/01-09MacworldPR.mspx

Like Word 2007 for Windows, it will feature the Ribbon interface, with all of the drawbacks I discussed in the previous newsletter:

http://lists.topica.com/lists/editorium/read/message.html?mid=1720752173

But there’s one more drawback that will be utterly devastating: No more recording, programming, or even running of macros.

(hysterical emphasis mine)

No macros.

No. Macros. At all.

According to this Macworld article, you’ll be able to do macro-type-things using Applescript and Automator and whatever—I confess that I have not tried to wrap my head around that stuff at all yet; go ahead; suspend my Geek license—but if I have to write my own scripts, why the fuck would I write them to control Word? If I’m going to put that kind of effort into something, obviously it would make more sense to trick out a free word processor than a piece of overpriced bloatware from a company that has demonstrated time and time again that it doesn’t want my business.

Duh.

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