Book 2016…

Happy 2017! This is my fifth year of recording (and counting) my books read. Previous lists (and associated totals) can be found here: 2012 (85), 2013 (95), 2014 (106), 2015 (92). In 2016, I also tracked them by month although occasionally books would bleed from one month to another. The results were distinctly lopsided. So how many did I manage to read this year? Let’s find out…

January

The Happy Return C.S. Forester (1937)
Horatio Hornblower Book 5 – ebook;

A Ship of the Line C.S. Forester (1938)
Horatio Hornblower Book 6 – ebook;

Hornblower’s Charitable Offering C.S. Forester (1941)
Horatio Hornblower Book 6.5 – ebook;

Flying Colours C.S. Forester (1938)
Horatio Hornblower Book 7 – ebook;

The Commodore C.S. Forester (1938)
Horatio Hornblower Book 8 – ebook;

Today I Will Fly Mo Willems (2007)
An Elephant & Piggie Book – HC;

Lord Hornblower C.S. Forester (1946)
Horatio Hornblower Book 9 – ebook;

Bears Don’t Read Emma Chichester Clark (2014)
– HC;

Hornblower in the West Indies C.S. Forester (1958)
Horatio Hornblower Book 9 – ebook;

The Last Encounter C.S. Forester (1967)
Horatio Hornblower Book 10 – ebook;

Virtues of War Bennett R. Coles (2015)
Astral Force Book 1 – ebook;

February

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance Lois McMaster Bujold (2012)
Vokosigan Saga Book 13 – ebook; reread

A Book Editor’s Primer (What a Book Editor Does) Dr. Leslie Vermeer (2016)
-manuscript

Oath of Swords David Weber (1995)
War God Book 1 – ebook; reread

The War God’s Own David Weber (1998)
War God Book 2 – ebook; reread

Wind Rider’s Oath David Weber (2004)
War God Book 3 – ebook; reread

March

War Maid’s Choice David Weber (2012)
War God Book 4 – ebook; reread

Sword of the South David Weber (2016)
Nofressa Book 1 – ebook;

War Maid’s Choice David Weber (2012)
War God Book 4 – ebook; reread

Balance Point Robert Buettner (2015)
Janzen Parker Book 3 – ebook;

Fool’s Assassin Robin Hobb (2014)
Fitz and the Fool Trilogy Book 1 – ebook; reread

April

Fool’s Quest Robin Hobb (2015)
Fitz and the Fool Trilogy Book 2 – ebook;

Hell’s Foundations Quiver David Weber (2016)
Safehold Book 8 – ebook;

May

Unbreakable W.C. Bauer (2014)
Chronicles of Promise Paen Book 1 – ebook;

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Becky Chambers (2014)
Wayfarers Book 1 – ebook;

A Talent for War Jack McDevitt (1989)
Alex Benedict Book 1 – ebook; reread

Polaris Jack McDevitt (2004)
Alex Benedict Book 2 – ebook;

Seeker Jack McDevitt (2005)
Alex Benedict Book 3 – ebook;

Dauntless Jack Campbell (2006)
The Lost Fleet Book 1 – ebook; reread

Fearless Jack Campbell (2007)
The Lost Fleet Book 2 – ebook; reread

Courageous Jack Campbell (2007)
The Lost Fleet Book 3 – ebook; reread

Valiant Jack Campbell (2008)
The Lost Fleet Book 4 – ebook; reread

Relentless Jack Campbell (2009)
The Lost Fleet Book 5 – ebook; reread

Victorious Jack Campbell (2010)
The Lost Fleet Book 6 – ebook; reread

The Lion of Farside John Dalmas (1995)
The Lion of Farside Book 1 – ebook; reread

June

The Bavarian Gate John Dalmas (1997)
The Lion of Farside Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Lion Returns John Dalmas (1999)
The Lion of Farside Book 3 – ebook; reread

Madness in Solidar L.E. Modesitt Jr (2015)
Imager’s Portfolio Book 9 – ebook;

Alliance of Equals Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2016)
Liaden Universe Book 19 – ebook; eARC

Cauldron of Ghosts David Weber and Eric Flint (2014)
Crown of Slaves Book 3 – ebook;

A Princess of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs (1917)
John Carter of Mars Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Gods of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs (1918)
John Carter of Mars Book 2 – ebook; reread

Warlord of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs (1919)
John Carter of Mars Book 2 – ebook; reread

Dragon and Thief Timothy Zahn (2003)
Dragonback Book 1 – ebook; reread

Dragon and Soldier Timothy Zahn (2004)
Dragonback Book 2 – ebook; reread

Dragon and Slave Timothy Zahn (2005)
Dragonback Book 3 – ebook; reread

Dragon and Herdsman Timothy Zahn (2006)
Dragonback Book 4 – ebook; reread

Dragon and Judge Timothy Zahn (2007)
Dragonback Book 5 – ebook; reread

Dragon and Liberator Timothy Zahn (2008)
Dragonback Book 6 – ebook; reread

Terms of Enlistment Marko Kloos (2013)
Frontline Book 1 – ebook; reread

Lines of Departure Marko Kloos (2014)
Frontline Book 2 – ebook; reread

Angles of Attack Marko Kloos (2015)
Frontline Book 3 – ebook;

Chains of Command Marko Kloos (2016)
Frontline Book 4 – ebook;

July

Ring of Fire Eric Flint ed. (2004)
Ring of Fire Book 2 – ebook;

1633 Eric Flint (2002)
Ring of Fire Book 3 – ebook; reread

1634: The Baltic War David Weber (2007)
Ring of Fire Book 3 – ebook;

Cobra Slave Timothy Zahn (2013)
Cobra Rebellion Book 1 – ebook; reread

Cobra Outlaw Timothy Zahn (2015)
Cobra Rebellion Book 2 – ebook;

The Lies of Locke Lamorra Scott Lynch (2006)
The Gentleman Bastard Book 1 – ebook; reread

August

Red Seas Under Red Skies Scott Lynch (2007)
The Gentleman Bastard Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Republic of Thieves Scott Lynch (2013)
The Gentleman Bastard Book 3 – ebook; reread

Drifter William C. Deitz (1991)
Pik Lando Book 1 – ebook; reread

Drifter’s Run William C. Deitz (1992)
Pik Lando Book 2 – ebook;

Drifter’s War William C. Deitz (1992)
Pik Lando Book 3 – ebook;

Scholar L.E. Modesitt Jr (2011)
The Imager Portfolio Book 4 – ebook; reread

On the Trail of Space Pilots Carey Rockwell (1953)
Tom Corbett Space Cadet Book 3 – ebook;

Princeps L.E. Modesitt Jr (2012)
The Imager Portfolio Book 5 – ebook; reread

September

Imager’s Battalion L.E. Modesitt Jr (2013)
The Imager Portfolio Book 6 – ebook; reread

Antiagon Fire L.E. Modesitt Jr (2013)
The Imager Portfolio Book 7 – ebook; reread

Rex Regis L.E. Modesitt Jr (2014)
The Imager Portfolio Book 8 – ebook; reread

Revisionary Jim C. Hines (2016)
Ex Libris Book 4 – ebook;

Foreigner CJ Cherryh (1994)
Foreigner 1 Book 1 – ebook; reread

Invader CJ Cherryh (1995)
Foreigner 1 Book 2 – ebook;

October

Inheritor CJ Cherryh (1996)
Foreigner 1 Book 3 – ebook;

League of Dragons Naomi Novik (2016)
Temeraire Book 9 – ebook;

All my Sins Remembered Joe Haldeman (1977)
– ebook;

Old Man’s War John Scalzi (2005)
Old Man’s War Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Ghost Brigades John Scalzi (2006)
Old Man’s War Book 2 – ebook; reread

An Exchange of Hostage Susan R. Matthews (1997)
Jurisdiction Book 1 – ebook;

Prisoner of Conscience Susan R. Matthews (1998)
Jurisdiction Book 2 – ebook;

Angel of Destruction Susan R. Matthews (2001)
Jurisdiction Book 3 – ebook;

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter Elizabeth Moon (1988)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 1 – ebook; reread

Divided Allegiance Elizabeth Moon (1988)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 2 – ebook; reread

Oath of Gold Elizabeth Moon (1989)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 3 – ebook; reread

Citizen of the Galaxy Robert Heinlein (1957)
– ebook; reread

November

Oath of Fealty Elizabeth Moon (2010)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 4 – ebook; reread

Kings of the North Elizabeth Moon (2011)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 5 – ebook; reread

Echoes of Betrayal Elizabeth Moon (2012)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 6 – ebook; reread

Limits of Power Elizabeth Moon (2013)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 7 – ebook; reread

Crown of Renewal Elizabeth Moon (2014)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 8 – ebook; reread

Madness in Solidar L.E. Modesitt Jr (2015)
Imager’s Portfolio Book 9 – ebook; reread

December

Treachery’s Tools L.E. Modesitt Jr (2016)
Imager’s Portfolio Book 10 – ebook;

Far-Seer Robert J. Sawyer (1992)
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy Book 1 – ebook;

Fossil Hunter Robert J. Sawyer (1993)
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy Book 2 – ebook;

Foreigner Robert J. Sawyer (1994)
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy Book 3 – ebook;

The Magic of Recluce L.E. Modesitt Jr (1991)
The Saga of Recluce Book 1 – ebook;

The Towers of Sunset L.E. Modesitt Jr (1992)
The Saga of Recluce Book 2 – ebook;

Spellwright Blake Charlton (2010)
Spellwright Book 1 – ebook; reread

Spellbound Blake Charlton (2011)
Spellwright Book 2 – ebook; reread

Spellbreaker Blake Charlton (2016)
Spellwright Book 3 – ebook;

Legion of the Damned William C. Dietz (1993)
Legion of the Damned Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Totals

101 books read —8.4 books a month, 1.94 books a week, .28 books a day
46 new
55 rereads

January — 11
February — 5
March — 5
April — 2
May — 12
June — 18
July — 6
August — 8
September — 6
October — 12
November — 6
December — 10

Some Conclusions

Surprisingly my new books/reread ratio favours rereads for the first time —not the first time ever, but the first time since 2013 (2013 62/33, 2014 67/39, 2015 58/34). I attribute that partially to being on the boat half a year and also to the release of a lot of books at the end of a series—I often go back and reread the entire series if it’s been a while in order to get the full effect. Nonetheless it seems I did put off reading new titles since I have at least five or six in my library that have been there most of the year. I wonder what that means?

As you can see I have stuck mostly to fantasy and SF as usual. I did finish off the Hornblower books (very enjoyable) and read L’s manuscript for the Complete Canadian Book Editor (Woo-hoo! There is an author in the family!). Despite my reluctance to read any new fantasy (I am not a fan of the mega-series which seems to dominate the marketplace these days) I seem to be reading a lot more than I would have suspected. But new books are almost always from authors I already respect or as a result of recommendations by those selfsame authors. So I guess they have been more prolific than usual.

April was brutal. The month itself was fine but I chose to read two 1000 page+ books and Fool’s Assassin (another monster title) bled from March into April by a lot. As a result I technically only read 2 books. We did spend that month prepping the boat for departure from Victoria so that accounts for some of it, but I admit to a bit of shame when I look at the sparsity of titles. Ah well, c’est la vie… Other months made up for it though. We were in full cruising mode in June and the count soared, although I will admit that the Dragonback series is Juvenile SF and thus a bit shorter and of course Burroughs’ John Carter books are smaller than a modern book.

Speaking of Burroughs, I was astonished at how much my perspective has changed since Grade 8 when I first discovered and consumed these classics. It is so obvious to me now that they are such a product of their period, but none of that registered on me then. Like many others, Heinlein and Burroughs were my entry into the SF/Fantasy world and it’s a bit weird reading them now and reacting in such a luke-warm manner.

I had sampled a bunch of William C. Deitz a few years ago and am now making my way through a bunch more of his canon. Nothing spectacular but good solid stuff. And I’ve always liked L.E. Modesitt Jr, but for some reason had avoided the Recluse series (although I suspect I may have read the first book when it came out but it just didn’t ring any bells). So I made some headway there and will continue to work my way through the 19 titles that make up the (thankfully) non- linear series. It’s funny that he doesn’t really register as one of my “favourite” authors yet I consistently enjoy anything he’s written.

I also picked up a bunch of Robert J. Sawyer titles for free using my Kobo points, so I started my Sawyer introduction with this Canadian SF author’s Quintaglio Ascension trilogy. These were some of his first major works and the while enjoyable, the inexperience shows. I’m a bit ashamed that I have never before read any Sawyer, he being Canadian, a multi-award winning author and in fact the only SF author I have ever met in person. Funny story, I actually said something like “Wow, I am so excited to meet you—I’ve never read one of your books — but I am so excited to meet you!” Ask my brother, I have always suffered a bit from foot-in-mouth disease. I blame my not reading his stuff on his seeming focus on hard SF (not my favourite), a series of spectacularly bad (in my opinion) covers and that uniquely Canadian prejudice/insecurity that “Canadian”=The Beachcombers. Sad, I know. I will move on to some more of his recent stuff in 2017. I promise.

The Library

As for the state of the library, I am now up to 464 ebooks. Acquisitions have been slow but again, I have been sailing and not working, so expenses were definitely a consideration. 

I did give Shelfie a try. This is an app that allows you to scan your paper books and potentially download electronic or audio version for a much reduced price (or even, so they say, but I have not encountered, free). The software is pretty cool. You snap a picture of the spines of your books and it processes them — almost always accurately deriving the title and author — and then adds them to you library. You can also just go ahead and scan the individual barcodes, but that’s not as cool. Then it goes through the lists of publishers/titles it has deals with and tells you which books you can gain access to digital versions of. In order to use it you have to sign up for Goodreads (which was annoying since I was [sort of] already using Librarything as L is a big fan).

I have entered 70 books so far and it has let me know that 22 are available as ebooks and one as an audio book. The ebooks are almost all $1.99 (USD) and the audiobook is $8.99 (regularly $24.95). There are some old titles (the Rissa and Tregare books by F.M. Busby written in the late 70s) and some new ones (David Weber’s Safehold series) but it seems to be rather random. As an experiment I picked up Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades since I had some later books in that series as ebooks already. You have to sign the copyright page and submit a picture of it and a picture of the cover, then it charges your Apple account and sends you a link. The interface is a bit clunky and it can be hard to find the available purchases but all-in-all it works pretty smooth. I will start unpacking some books and seeing what’s available in the new year.

So there you have it. 2016. I guess it’s time to start reading….


Earl ( the cause of all this statistical nonsense) has his list up already here. Leslie’s can be found here.

 

 

DRM: Redefining Ownership

Why we should know what we are buying

Bruce Timothy Keith

(A shorter (and better edited) version of this article was published in the March issue of T8N magazine)

Everywhere you turn these days, you are surrounded by a lot of digital content. From movies to music, computer games to ebooks, even the software in our appliances and machinery, you will find you have bought and paid for many things that don’t really exist. Netflix, Amazon and iTunes are quickly becoming as big a part of our family expenses as Walmart, Home Depot or The Bay. And computers and software are everywhere, even your car can have up to 100 or more tiny computers. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself just what you’re actually buying; what you really own? And who decided what that is? The answer is not as straightforward as you think.

In the good old days, we had stacks of bulky vinyl albums, shelves of dusty books and boxes of video tapes that we bought from physical stores and counted as prized possessions. But today, in an age of faster and easier, many of us are more and more likely to just download the latest game from Steam or buy the latest Adele single from iTunes. But somewhere along the way we have all come to accept that when we want to lend Uncle James our copy of the Star Wars trilogy or sell our unread copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, well … we can’t. Product creators are business people and they expect, reasonably, to receive fair value for the things they produce. But in a digital world where simply saving a file to the cloud can produce an unlimited number of copies, they are justifiably afraid of not being able to stay in business anymore.

Copy Protection, DRM (Digital Rights Management) and other assorted Technical Protection Measures is their solution. The logic is that without protecting their digital files, the creators and rights holders of digital products won’t make any money and leave no incentive for them to create any more. While this may sound a little crass, artists, writers and creators of every stripe have always had a reasonable expectation of some remuneration and, as Glenn Rollans, President of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta and Vice President of the Association of Canadian Publishers and a Publisher in his own right at Brush Education Inc., explains “DRM is … more about facilitating use within the bounds of the sales agreement. It creates a kind of moral handshake on the transaction.” What that means is that we share an understanding that if I sell you a digital copy of my song, you agree not to redistribute it freely. DRM simply ensures that everyone complies.

Where Did This Agreement Come From?

All this originates with the idea of copyright itself. Copyright in English law goes back to the British Statute of Anne enacted in 1710, when London booksellers were increasing agitated at their Scottish counterparts for printing and selling books they felt they owned exclusive rights to. To resolve the issue, the law granted publishers of a book legal protection from illicit copying for 14 years and 21 years of protection for any book already in print. Since then the idea of copyright (the right to copy) has become entrenched in our societies as a way to protect rights holders. Copyright law has evolved over the years to cover almost all intellectual property (IP), and while the terms of copyright vary across the world, there are increasing global pressures to unify the laws.

But with the advent of digital IP it quickly became obvious that the law was not enough. IP was proving too easy to copy in a computerized world. It was still fairly impractical to copy a vinyl album or a paperback book, but the first mainstream digital product, computer software, was infinitely easier to duplicate. In fact, in 1975 when the embryonic Micro-Soft wrote a computer interpreter called Altair Basic, an enterprising member of the Homebrew Computer Club figured out a way of copying the paper tape software and distributed it for free to his club mates so they wouldn’t have to purchase the $200 software. This prompted a young Bill Gates to write the now historic Open Letter to Hobbyists calling those members thieves. ”As the majority of hobbyists must be aware,” he wrote, “most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid? … Most directly the thing you do is theft.” Mr. Gates wanted to be paid for the difficult work they had done writing the software that allowed the hobbyists to enjoy their hobby. Fair enough.

Unfortunately for Gates, at the time there was no way to prevent the copying. But with the advent of floppy disks that changed. Software companies were able to program in hidden files or deliberate errors that initially prevented copying. Of course someone eventually figured out a solution and thus began an endless and ongoing war between the software companies and would-be copiers. From secret codes to complex anti-theft software the only thing constant in the struggle was that no matter what copy protection was put in place, sooner or later someone would find a way to circumvent it. The result was increasingly product creators, distributors and even hardware manufacturers all joined together to create ways of blocking illegal copying.

As each form of intellectual property became digitized, it took on some new form of digital rights management to attempt to protect the rights holders. It can be as simple as the enforced Interpol message on a DVD. You can’t avoid seeing it; cooperation between the software and hardware manufacturers has made that impossible. But DRM has become increasingly more and more complex; it currently exists in so many forms and in so many products it is often impossible to recognize. DVDs have regional locks on them so they won’t play on DVD players manufactured in different regions. Music can be locked to a maximum number of playback devices. Computer software can be required to “check-in” online before it will run. The computer chip in your car has propriety code or a physical “key” so only authorized people can service them. The current issue surrounding Netflix and geo-blocking is another form of DRM; one that allows the rights holders to control who and where people can use content. And 300 years after the invention of copyright to protect book publishers, ebooks are a reality and publishers are no longer content to rely on the law for copyright protection. Ebook DRM does things like preventing us from moving or copying our books from one device to another and forcing library ebooks to “expire” after a certain amount of days and locking the book files to specific reading software.

In most mediums, DRM is become increasingly unobtrusive. Movies are moving more and more to a streaming model (Netflix), computer games are controlled by online distributors like Steam and lots of business class software like Adobe’s Creative Suite and Microsoft Office has moved to a cloud-based subscription model. We no longer have to add in our 30 digit code-key, but the copy protection is there nonetheless.

DRM Down on the Farm

These days modern farmers are essentially driving around a giant computer outfitted with harvesting blades. And only the manufacturers like John Deere have the keys to those boxes. Modifications or troubleshooting require proprietary software that farmers aren’t allowed access to. And even if they managed to get the right software, even calibrating the ECU (engine control unit) often requires a factory password. No password, no changes—not without the permission of the manufacturer. Gone are the days of farmers fixing and rebuilding their own equipment; the dealer-repair business is just too lucrative for manufacturers to cede any control back to farmers.

But once again, there’s a growing grey-market for diagnostic equipment, and some farmers have even managed to get their hands on the software they need to re-calibrate and repair equipment on their own.

Why Is DRM Controversial?

It’s complicated. Initially artists and publishers were reluctant to move into the digital market because of concerns of theft. And so the retailers and distributors became the motivating force behind the creation and maintenance of DRM to control how the digital products could be. The classic example is the digital music revolution that occurred when Apple convinced the music companies to allow them to open the iTunes store and sell DRM-locked downloads. By pointing to the history of copy protection in the software industry and promising that consumers would only be able to play the music on iPods and that the music would be locked by Apple so it couldn’t be played by unauthorized people, Apple was allowed to proceed with their experiment, which as we all know, has become a market-changing success.

But it is important to note, it is not the artists or the publishing company (who both have some claim to be the rights holders) who control the DRM. It is the retailer who dictates how the product can be used and shared. The infamous and ironic 2009 deletion of George Orwell’s 1984 by Amazon from customers’ Kindles without their knowledge or permission is the classic example of how DRM has skewed the concept of ownership. Amazon made a mistake and sold a product they had no rights to sell, so they corrected that error by removing the book from everyone’s devices with no notice. A now classic example of how DRM is changing the concept of ownership in the digital world.

Whose Interests Does it Protect?

It is important to ask who really benefits from DRM and what those benefits are. To find the answer you have to look to see who the players are. In book publishing, for example, authors, and their publishers, are generally the rights holders. They produce the product and move it through a distribution chain that places it in the hands of retailers. Retailers in turn sell to the consumer who ultimately pays for the entire process. To be able to produce more books, or music, or games, publishers and creators need to make money. To them, since DRM ensures profit, it’s a benefit to creators and consumers alike. Rollans believes this digital rights fence “around a digital product that was expensive to create and has to generate revenue in order for me to stay in the business of creating new products, ‘creates the stop and think’ moment for people.”

But John Maxwell, a professor at the Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University believes DRM, in the book world at least, isn’t that simple. “What seems to motivate the use of DRM in the book world is at least two different agendas. Publishers – those whose interests are in developing content for a market – seem to be motivated primarily by a fear of piracy, or that unprotected content will be shared on a massive enough scale online that it will damage the market for these works. The other agenda is on the retail side: big retailers (like Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and others) seem to be using DRM as part of a larger technical architecture aimed at enforcing customer loyalty; to prevent book purchasers from being able to take purchases outside of the original reading system.”

So Why Does This All Matter?

For those who are savvy enough, hacking DRM has become fairly widespread. While copying was prohibited, breaking DRM used to be legal in Canada. But in response to international treaties, the 2012 passage of the controversial Bill 11, the Copyright Modernization Act, it is now illegal to crack or alter digital rights management systems in Canada. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) had already made it illegal in the U.S. when it was signed into law by Bill Clinton. These pieces of legislation were part of an attempt to unify the world’s copyright laws in accordance with WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) an international treaty signed by the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1996. So now it not only illegal to copy IP outside of specific Fair Use clauses like book quotations, it is also illegal to remove or alter the digital locks that are applied to prevent such copying.

In his book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, digital media guru Cory Doctorow argues that the problem with DRM is that it now makes criminal out of consumers. Without a satisfactory way to acquire or move or even — in the case of vehicle electronics — repair their content, people believe they are forced to break the law. So as a result, there remains a healthy, albeit somewhat grey, community who continue to work on methods for managing digital properties and the now illegal practice of removing DRM.

So why does it matter? On the one hand, it doesn’t. At least if you are content to buy and read books and other digital content and then move on to the next big thing. Maxwell posits “I think most ‘serious’ ebook customers – the demographic that is dominant is baby-boomer women who read lots and lots of series-oriented genre fiction – don’t think about it very much. They just read the books; the user experience is good enough to satisfy what they want, which is convenient access to the next book in the series.” But this turns books from a treasured or collected possession into a disposable product. And whether or not that’s good for the book industry is open to debate. And if you are content to give over your personal or demographic data to retailers whose interest isn’t really selling you a book, then this might seem a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

Did You Know?

J.K Rowling retained her e-book rights to the Harry Potter series but chose, initially, not to release any of the books in a digital format. But in 2007, when the last volume of the series was released, ardent fans lined up to purchase a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and within 24 hours, made it available as an e-book by either retyping or scanning all 784 pages. In Germany, where the German edition had yet to be released, other fans translated the entire book into German and released their unauthorized version within only a few days.

Adversaries of DRM don’t accept the premise that DRM is necessary for the survival of artists and note that neither of these actions had any major impact on the profitability or success of the Deathly Hallows.

Sign on the Dotted Line

When you make a digital purchase chances are you were required to “agree” to a set of Terms and Conditions or an EULA (End User License Agreement). And chances are you didn’t read them. That’s not surprising. No one I asked while researching this article has. In fact when I asked scholar John Maxwell if has read them he replied “No, I haven’t. People don’t read pages and pages of legalese in tiny fonts. We have been essentially trained, over a couple of decades of computer use, to just click through the (EULA) in order to get to the content.“ So I decided to take a look at the big three ebook retailers (although remember 2 of the three sell a lot more than ebooks), Amazon, Kobo and the iTunes store.

All three big ebook retailers reserve the right to terminate the contract if you breach any of their conditions, which may be as simple as not keeping your customer data up to date (KOBO). That means you no longer have access to any products from their systems even though you have paid for them. Amazon goes even further and states while they grant you a non-exclusive right to display Kindle Content an unlimited number of times, it must be “solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application or as otherwise permitted as part of the Service, solely on the number of Kindles or Supported Devices specified in the Kindle Store, and solely for your personal, non-commercial use.” The last sentence is the kicker: “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.” The result is that if they terminate your contract you are no longer legally allowed to read any of the books you have acquired and Amazon has both the right and the ability (through DRM) to remove them from any devices you have stored them on. And the choice for them to terminate the agreement resides solely with Amazon and has been known to occur for such simple infractions like returning too many items. A lower court in Germany recently ruled the practice of removing digital content by Amazon was unacceptable, but we will have to wait and see how that plays out.

While the Terms and Conditions create an appearance of simply being a way for the retailers to protect themselves from hackers and black hats out to damage or corrupt their systems, they also all similarly insist that by agreeing to the terms “Customers may not modify, transmit, publish, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the content of any Digital Content, in whole or in part.“(Kobo) You can’t sell it, give it away or share it in any way.

They also lay claim to any information or data they collect along the way, even going so far as to claiming the rights to anything you may post on their sites.

And that’s where the other hand comes in. It’s not just ability to copy that DRM manages; it also creates a data collection access point for the retailer. Because not only are you paying for a product you don’t ultimately control; all the data you generate using a DRMed product such as whether you finished reading the book or not or what your buying patterns are, becomes a potential source of revenue for whoever controls the digital rights management system. Control of DRM can ensure that your car is serviced only by authorized, and licensed, mechanics and track all your usage patterns, it can create compete pictures of how and when you use the product, eliminating competition from resellers, enforcing brand loyalty and guaranteeing retailers a future market.

And this power may be fundamentally shifting how and why products are created. Rollans believes, in the book world, the new models for business will drivers behind DRM. Instead of selling large numbers of products for a small margins, the new model will be a race to come up with the next big thing and to make big money on a kind of a techno-lottery win. He concludes, “if you are going to have something to sell in those scenarios probably it is audience rather than product. And digital rights management is as essential for tracking your audience as it is for restricting the proliferation of the product.”

Music mostly removed its DRM a few years ago. Cory Doctorow believes that the removal of digital locks on music came as a result of Amazon promising music companies they could break Apple’s stronghold on digital music sales. Maxwell doesn’t believe this likely in the book industry, “I don’t think the same is likely with books. … The publishing situation is different; despite a level of paranoia, we haven’t seen widespread file sharing with books (except possibly in the already dysfunctional textbook sector); print sales are still really strong; and ebook uptake seems to break along genre lines. … but as long as we have a book market which Amazon controls (in both print and ebooks), I don’t think much will change anytime soon.”

Rollans agrees and thinks DRM is going to stick around but for wildly different reasons. “The drivers [for DRM] will be the new models for information businesses where instead of creating products and selling them for small margins and making a reliable income that sustains you over a course of years, its going to be an continuing struggle for people to originate new models to be the next big thing, to attract investors in buyout and the goal is making money on a kind of a techno-lottery win rather than the tweedy old business of creating one book at a time selling it to one reader at a time. So if you are going to have something to sell in those scenarios probably its audience rather than product. And digital rights management is as essential for tracking your audience as it is for restricting the proliferation of the product“

So Why Does This All Matter?

So here we are, in possession of a wide range of products that, by law, we are restricted from using outside the terms set by the people who sold them to us. Is that really an issue? In most cases, other than the frustration of trying to move files from one device to another, a limitation we are all coming to terms with, it really isn’t. But the true implications are vast and many people find the increasing degree of control held by companies determined to make more and more profit problematic.

In the end Maxwell agree with Rollans that in the world of books at least, the future isn’t yet here. “The other future of reading (aside from the survival of print, which everyone still actually likes), is a yet-unimagined innovation (or probably many innovations) in digital literature that will actually capture people’s imaginations and hearts. We haven’t seen that yet. The ebook we know so far is still a tightly constrained compromise between digital convenience and established business interests; it sets nobody’s imagination on fire. When the next innovation – a truly imaginative and transformative one – emerges, we’ll quickly stop thinking about these issues, because we’ll have moved on. “

It behooves us then to remember, as Rollans put it, “If I’m a system that applies DRM, I want to be in a relationship with you where I can find you and where I know what you’re doing.” Because the real value in a DRM-filled world is not control over the product. It’s control over the consumer. Rollans reminds us that “the rule of thumb in digital environments if you can’t tell what’s being sold then its you.” And now all we can do is simply be aware. We need to establish our personal comfort zones about how much control we are willing to exchange for our personal pleasures. And that takes a well-informed populace.

Books: 2015

This year’s reading. Hmmm….

Four years running I have kept track of my reading. For the previous three years (2012 (85 books), 2013 (95 books), 2014 (106 books)) I have been posting all the books I read. So as again not to break with tradition, my first post of 2016 will once again share with the world the bizarre list of literary crapola I fill my mind with. How many this year? Well you’ll have to scroll down to find out.

So here they are, appearing in the order in which they were read, with a few months as subtitles:

January

Strong Arm Tactics Jody Lynn Nye (2013 [2005])
— ebook;

The Sleeper and the Spindle Neil Gaiman (2013)
– HC;

Oath of Swords David Weber (1995)
War God Book 1 – ebook; reread

The War God’s Own David Weber (1998)
War God Book 2 – ebook; reread

Humans of New York Brandon Stanton (2013)
-HC;

Wind Rider’s Oath David Weber (2004)
War God Book 3 – ebook; reread

War Maid’s Choice David Weber (2012)
War God Book 4 – ebook; reread

Caliphate Tom Kratman (2008)
– ebook

War Dogs Greg Bear (2014)
– ebook

Fortune’s Pawn Rachel Bach (2013)
Paradox Book 1 — ebook;

Honor’s Knight Rachel Bach (2014)
Paradox Book 2 — ebook;

Heaven’s Queen Rachel Bach (2014)
Paradox Book 3 — ebook;

Fireworks in the Rain Stephen Brust (2014)
Incrementalist Novella – ebook;

The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold (2001)
Chalion Book 1- ebook; reread

Paladin of Souls Lois McMaster Bujold (2003)
Chalion Book 2 – ebook; reread

Stormdancer Jay Kristoff (2012)
The Lotus War Book 1 – ebook; reread

Kinslayer Jay Kristoff (2013)
The Lotus War Book 2 – ebook; reread

Endsinger Jay Kristoff (2014)
The Lotus War Book 3 – ebook;

Damnation Jean Johnson (2014)
Theirs Not To Reason Why Book 4 – ebook;

Dragon in Exile – eARC Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2015)
Liaden Book 18 – ebook;

Strands of Sorrow John Ringo (2015)
Black Tide Rising Book 4 – ebook;

Karen Memory Elizabeth Bear (2015)
– ebook;

The Armor of Light Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett (1988)
– ebook;

Ender in Exile Orson Scott Card (2008)
Ender’s Game Book 4 – ebook

Dauntless Jack Campbell (2006)
The Lost Fleet Book 1 – ebook

Fearless Jack Campbell (2007)
The Lost Fleet Book 2 – ebook

Courageous Jack Campbell (2007)
The Lost Fleet Book 3 – ebook

Valiant Jack Campbell (2008)
The Lost Fleet Book 4 – ebook

April

Relentless Jack Campbell (2009)
The Lost Fleet Book 5 – ebook

Victorious Jack Campbell (2010)
The Lost Fleet Book 6 – ebook

Unbound Jim Hines (2014)
Magic ex Libris Book 3 – ebook;

Stark’s War Jack Campbell (2000)
Starks’ War Book 1 – ebook;

Stark’s Command Jack Campbell (2001)
Starks’ War Book 2 – ebook;

Stark’s Crusade Jack Campbell (2002)
Starks’ War Book 3 – ebook;

The Future Falls Tanya Huff (2014)
Enchantment Emporium Book 3 – ebook;

Mutineers’ Moon David Weber (1991)
Dahak Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Armageddon Inheritance David Weber (1994)
Dahak Book 1 – ebook; reread

Heirs of Empire David Weber (1996)
Dahak Book 1 – ebook; reread

Warning Do Not Open this Book! Adam Lehrhaupt & Matthew Forsythe (2013)
-HC

A Fire upon the Deep Vernor Vinge (1992)
-ebook;

The Hub: Dangerous Territory James H. Schmitz (2001)
The Hub Book 4 – ebook;

June

Old Man’s War John Scalzi (2005)
Old Man’s War Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Ghost Brigade John Scalzi (2006)
Old Man’s War Book 2 – paperback; reread

Monster Hunters International Larry Correia (2007)
Monster Hunters Book 1 – ebook; reread

Monster Hunters Vendetta Larry Correia (2010)
Monster Hunters Book 2 – ebook; reread

Monster Hunters Alpha Larry Correia (2011)
Monster Hunters Book 3 – ebook;

Monster Hunters Legion Larry Correia (2012)
Monster Hunters Book 4 – ebook;

Monster Hunters Nemesis Larry Correia (2014)
Monster Hunters Book 5 – ebook;

Ancillary Justice Anne Leckie (2013)
Imperial Radch Book 1 – ebook;

Ancillary Sword Anne Leckie (2014)
Imperial Radch Book 2 – ebook;

Green Jay Lake (2009)
Green Book 1 – ebook; reread

July

Endurance Jay Lake (2011)
Green Book 2 – ebook; reread

Kalimpura Jay Lake (2013)
Green Book 3 – ebook; reread

Lord Penric’s Demon Lois McMaster Bujold (2015)
Chalion Book 3.5 – ebook;

Space Viking H. Beam Piper (1963)
– ebook; reread

The Cloud Roads Martha Wells (2011)
Books of the Raksura Book 1 – ebook

The Serpent Sea Martha Wells (2012)
Books of the Raksura Book 2 – ebook

The Siren Depths Martha Wells (2012)
Books of the Raksura Book 3 – ebook

A Call to Duty David Weber & Timothy Zahn (2013)
Manticore Ascendant Book 1 – ebook; reread

A Call to Arms -eArc David Weber & Timothy Zahn (2015)
Manticore Ascendant Book 2 – ebook;

Fire with Fire Charles Gannon (2013)
Caine Riordan Book 1 – ebook

Earth Unaware Orson Scott Card & Aardon Johnstone (2012)
The First Formic War Book 1 – ebook

Live Free or Die John Ringo (2010)
Troy Rising Book 1 – ebook; reread

Citadel John Ringo (2011)
Troy Rising Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Hot Gate John Ringo (2011)
Troy Rising Book 1 – ebook; reread

Earth Afire Orson Scott Card & Aardon Johnstone (2013)
The First Formic War Book 2 – ebook

Earth Awakens Orson Scott Card & Aardon Johnstone (2014)
The First Formic War Book 3 – ebook

His Majesty’s Dragon Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire Book 1 – ebook; reread

Throne of Jade Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire Book 2 – ebook; reread

Black Powder War Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire Book 3 – ebook; reread

Empire of Ivory Naomi Novik (2007)
Temeraire Book 4 – ebook; reread

Victory of Eagles Naomi Novik (2008)
Temeraire Book 5 – ebook; reread

Tongues of Serpents Naomi Novik(2010)
Temeraire Book 6 – ebook; reread

Crucible of Gold Naomi Novik (2012)
Temeraire Book 7 – ebook; reread

Blood of Tyrants Naomi Novik (2013)
Temeraire Book 8 – ebook; reread

1632 John Ringo (2000)
Ring of Fire Book 1 – ebook; reread

Between Planets Robert Heinlein (1951)
– ebook; reread

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – eARC Lois McMaster Bujold (2015)
The Vorkosigan Saga Book 15 – ebook;

November

Arrows of the Queen Mercedes Lackey (1987)
The Heralds of Valdemar Book 1 – ebook;

Arrow’s Flight Mercedes Lackey (1987)
The Heralds of Valdemar Book 2 – ebook;

Arrow’s Fall Mercedes Lackey (1988)
The Heralds of Valdemar Book 3 – ebook;

An Ancient Peace Tanya Huff (2015)
Peacekeepers Book 1 – ebook;

Ancillary Mercy Anne Leckie (2015)
Imperial Radch Book 3 – ebook;

Uprooted Naomi Novik (2015)
– ebook;

The Human Division John Scalzi (2013)
Old Man’s War Book 5 – ebook; reread

The End of All Things John Scalzi (2015)
Old Man’s War Book 6 – ebook;

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower C.S. Forester (1950)
Horatio Hornblower Book 1 – ebook;

Hornblower and the Big Decision C.S. Forester (1951)
Horatio Hornblower Book 1.1 Short Story – ebook;

Lieutenant Hornblower C.S. Forester (1952)
Horatio Hornblower Book 2 – ebook;

Hornblower and the Hotspur C.S. Forester (1962)
Horatio Hornblower Book 3 – ebook;

Hornblower and the Crisis C.S. Forester (1967 – unfinished)
Horatio Hornblower Book 3.5 – ebook;

Hornblower and the Atropos C.S. Forester (1953)
Horatio Hornblower Book 4 – ebook;

Total: 92 books,  7.66 books a month, 1.77 books a week, .25 books a day
58 new books
34 rereads

92 is down from the last two years, but considering we spent half the year sailing, I think its not too shabby. There is much less leisure time available on the boat and generally what leisure time you have you dedicate to experiencing new things. And, since you are generally a bit more tired, the evening reading is much shorter than usual. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.

All but four were ebooks. On the other hand, that means my ebook collection is up to 429 ebooks. W00t! And with the Hornblower collection I moved away from my Sci-Fi/Fantasy fetish a bit more than I have in previous years. Good for me.

Interestingly, all but 11 books were part of series of some sort. I guess I am a lazy reader and once I find something I like I don’t want to explore further afield. And it gives me an excuse to go back and reread the first few books in a series to get caught back up.

Books that are part of a series: 81
Total different series: 30
Series read/reread in their entirety: 16
Total authors: 35
New authors: 6

Books published in 2015: 10
Oldest book read: 1950

I pretty much stuck with my Kobo Aura. It is a pretty damn good little reader if you can get over the proprietary nature of the hardware—and obviously I still haven’t. I really can’t understand why the publishing industry is letting booksellers control distribution like that; it marginalizes one of the more significant aspects of publishing and leaves them increasingly more prey to the booksellers’ predatory instincts. Yup, still not over it.

Speaking of the Aura, one of the boons of the ebook is that I can remain in denial about my need for glasses. With adjustable text size and backlights I can comfortably read in bed in the bad light and pretend  its all like it used to be.  A print book however necessitates the use of reading glasses in anything other than perfect lighting. Sigh. I do have a few print books on my pile—I just keep putting them off.

And that was 2015.


As for the people who started this nonsense, here is Earl’s list for 2015 and Leslie’s limited contribution as well.

 

House of Books

I came across a link for a photographer’s website who has an ongoing project that involves shooting beautiful libraries: “Houses of Books” as he phrases it. franckbohbot.com/house-of-books

I’ve always had books and I’ve lugged them from home to home and whined when they have been packed away in boxes. Of course Leslie is even worse than I am — at both the collecting and the whining — so we’ve always shared that special feeling when gazing upon row upon row of loaded bookshelves. Even visiting the Rutherford at eh U of A was a great thrill. Now that I’ve been reading ebooks for the last few years, I’m not adding to my collection, but L has soldiered on. The dream of a library of our own is not yet realized (mostly because of me I admit) but someday the collection might hope to have a home as beautiful as these. Or at least a home. Be sure to visit the website for even more stunning images.

112700-6686059-Biblioth_que_Sainte-Genevi_ve
Bibliothèque Sainte Genevieve, Paris, France, 2012

Rome
Biblioteca Angelica, Roma, Italy, 2013

 I’ve not yet visited any of the great libraries of Europe but I’ve seen both the main branches of the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library. We here in Canada really can’t grasp the enormous wealth and philanthropy of the early 20th century that resulted in these magnificent edifices until you stand there gazing in awe.

P1000644.
The Reading Room of the New York Public Library

IMG_4103
Boston Public Library’s Reading Room

Books I have read — 2014

Another year another list. For the previous two years (2012, 2013) I have been tracking my reading habits and posting them and so as not to break with tradition, my first post of 2015 will once again share with the world the long list of mind-candy that kept me amused and distracted.

So here they are, appearing in the order in which they were read:

Books 2014

Lost and Found Alan Dean Foster (2005)
Taken Trilogy Book 1- ebook;

Wool Omnibus Hugh Howey (2011)
Wool – ebook;

The Black Company Glen Cook (1984)
Chronicles of The Black CompanyBook 1 – ebook;

Shadows Linger Glen Cook (1984)
Chronicles of The Black CompanyBook 2 – ebook;

On a Snowy Night Jean Little/Brian Dienes (2013)
– Hardcover Picture Book

The White Rose Glen Cook (1985)
Chronicles of The Black CompanyBook 3 – ebook;

Lost & Found Shaun Tan (2011 Omnibus)
– Hardcover Picture Book

Tangled Up In Blue Joan D. Vinge (2000)
Snow Queen Book 4 – ebook;

Cryoburn Lois McMaster Bujold (2010)
Miles Vorkosigan – ebook; reread

Necessity’s Child Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2013)
Liaden Series – ebook; reread

My Own Kind of Freedom Stephen Brust (2007)
Firefly Fanfic – ebook;

And I Love You Ruth Krause & Steven Kellogg (1987)
– HC picture book;

Apocalypse Troll David Weber (1999)
– ebook; reread

Bears Ruth Krause & Maurice Sendak (2005)
– HC picture book;

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter Elizabeth Moon (1988)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 1 – ebook; reread

Divided Allegiance Elizabeth Moon (1988)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 2 – ebook; reread

Oath of Gold Elizabeth Moon (1989)
The Deed of Paksenarrion Book 3 – ebook; reread

Terms of Enlistment Marko Kloos (2013)
Frontlines Book 1 – ebook; reread

Lines of Departure Marko Kloos (2014)
Frontlines Book 2 – ebook;

Tiassa Steven Brust (year)
Vlad Taltos Book # – ebook; reread

Blood of Dragons Robin Hobb (2013)
The Rain Wilds Chronicles Book 4 – ebook;

Overkill Robert Buettner (2011)
Orphan’s Legacy Book 1 – ebook; reread

Undercurrents Robert Buettner (2011)
Orphan’s Legacy Book 2 – ebook; reread

Armageddon 2419 A.D. Philip Francis Nowlan (1928)
– ebook; reread

Software Rudy Rucker (1982)
Ware Tetralogy Book 1 – ebook; reread

Wetware Rudy Rucker (1988)
Ware Tetralogy Book 2 – ebook;

Golem David Wisniewski (1996)
– HC picture book;

Freeware Rudy Rucker (1997)
Ware Tetralogy Book 3 – ebook;

The Truth of Valor Tanya Huff (2010)
Confederation Book 5 – ebook; reread

The Lion of Farside John Dalmas (1995)
Farside Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Bavarian Gate John Dalmas (1997)
Farside Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Lion Returns John Dalmas (1999)
Farside Book 3 – ebook; reread

The Airlords of Han Philip Francis Nowlan (1929)
– ebook;

The Yngling John Dalmas (1971)
Yngling Saga Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Homecoming John Dalmas (1984)
Yngling Saga Book 2 – ebook; reread)

Hunting Party Elizabeth Moon (1993)
Heris Serrano Book 1 – ebook; reread

Sporting Chance Elizabeth Moon (1994)
Heris Serrano Book 2 – ebook; reread

Winning Colors Elizabeth Moon (1995)
Heris Serrano Book 3 – ebook; reread

Trade SecretseARC Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2013)
Liaden Series – ebook; reread

Legion of the Damned William Dietz (1993)
Legion of the Damned Book 1 – ebook;

Imperial Bounty William Dietz (1988)
Sam McCade Book 2 – ebook;

Drifter William Dietz (1991)
Drifter Book 1 – ebook;

Wizard’s Bane Rick Cook (1989)
Wiz Biz Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Wizardry Compiled Rick Cook (1989)
Wiz Biz Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Wizardry Cursed Rick Cook (1991)
Wiz Biz Book 3 – ebook; reread

The Wizardry Consulted Rick Cook (1995)
Wiz Biz Book 4 – ebook; reread

The Wizardry Quested Rick Cook (1996)
Wiz Biz Book 5 – ebook;

His Majesty’s Dragon Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire Book 1 – ebook;

Throne of Jade Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire Book 2 – ebook;

Black Powder War Naomi Novik (2007)
Temeraire Book 3 – ebook;

Empire of Ivory Naomi Novik (2007)
Temeraire Book 4 – ebook;

Tongues of Serpents Naomi Novik (2010)
Temeraire Book 5 – ebook;

Crucible of Gold Naomi Novik (2012)
Temeraire Book 6 – ebook;

Blood of Tyrants Naomi Novik (2013)
Temeraire Book 7 – ebook;

The Republic of Thieves Scott Lynch (2013)
Locke Lamorra Book 3 – ebook;

Like a Mighty Army David Weber (2013)
Safehold Book 7 – ebook;

Scholar L.E. Modesitt (2011)
Imagers Portfolio Book 4 – ebook;

Princeps L.E. Modesitt (2012)
Imagers Portfolio Book 5 – ebook;

Imager’s Battalion L.E. Modesitt (2013)
Imagers Portfolio Book 6 – ebook;

The Meat Market James Chalk (2013)
Jonathon Harkin Adventures Book 1 – ebook;

Hyperion Dan Simmons (1989)
Hyperion Cantos Book 1 – ebook;

Defender Mike Shepherd (2013)
Kris Longknife Book 11 – ebook;

Point of Hope Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett (1995)
A Novel of Astreiant Book 1 – ebook; reread

Antiagon Fire L.E. Modesitt Jr. (2013)
Imager’s Portfolio Book 7 – ebook;

A Soldier’s Duty Jean Johnson (2011)
Theirs Not to Reason Why Book #1 – ebook;

Point of Dreams Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett (2001)
A Novel of Astreiant Book 2 – ebook;

Five-Twelfths of Heaven Melissa Scott (1985)
Roads to Heaven Book 1 – ebook;

Silence in Solitude Melissa Scott (1986)
Roads to Heaven Book 2 – ebook;

Empress of Earth Melissa Scott (1987)
Roads to Heaven Book 3 – ebook;

The Sleeping Dragon Joel Rosenberg (1983)
Guardians of the Flame Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Sword and the Chain Joel Rosenberg (1984)
Guardians of the Flame Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Silver Crown Joel Rosenberg (1985)
Guardians of the Flame Book 3 – ebook;

Point of Knives Melissa Scott (2012)
A Novel of Astreiant Book 3 – ebook;

Fairs Point Melissa Scott (2014)
A Novel of Astreiant Book 4 – ebook;

Crown of Renewal Elizabeth Moon (2014)
Paladin’s Legacy Book 5 – ebook;

Libriomancer Jim C. Hines (2012)
Magic ex Libris Book 1 – ebook;

Codex Born Jim C. Hines (2014)
Magic ex Libris Book 2 – ebook;

Trilisk Ruins Michael McCloskey (2005)
PIT Book 1 – ebook;

The Three Pigs David Weisner (2001)
– HC;

Dawn for a Distant Earth L.E. Modesitt Jr. (1987)
The Forever Hero Book 1 – ebook;

The Silent Warrior L.E. Modesitt Jr. (1987)
The Forever Hero Book 2 – ebook;

In Endless Twilight L.E. Modesitt Jr. (1988)
The Forever Hero Book 3 – ebook;

Hawk Steven Brust (2014)
Vlad Taltos Book 14 – ebook;

A Officer’s Duty Jean Johnson (2012)
Theirs Not to Reason Why Book #2 – ebook;

Hellfire Jean Johnson (2013)
Theirs Not to Reason Why Book #3 – ebook;

Hardship Jean Johnson (2014)
Theirs Not to Reason Why Book #4 – ebook;

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome
John Scalzi (2014)
Lock In Novella – ebook;

Lock In John Scalzi (2014)
Lock In – ebook;

Mighty Good Road Melissa Scott (1990)
– ebook; reread

Fool’s Assassin Robin Hobb (2014)
The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy Book 1 – ebook;

The Shadow Academy Adrian Cole (2014)
– ebook;

The Fire’s Stone Tanya Huff (1990 [2012])
– ebook;

Snow Crash Neal Stephenson (1992)
– ebook;

The Silvered Tanya Huff (2012)
– ebook;

Islands of Rage and Hope John Ringo (2014)
Black Tide Rising Book 3 – ebook;

Assassin Mike Shepherd (2014)
Vicki Peterwald (Kris Longknife) Book 1 – ebook;

A Call to Duty David Weber & Timothy Zahn (2014)
Manticore Ascendent Book 1 – ebook; reread

A Hymn Before Battle John Ringo (2000)
Posleen War Book 1 – ebook; reread

Gust Front John Ringo (2001)
Posleen War Book 2 – ebook; reread

When the Devil Dances John Ringo (2002)
Posleen War Book 3 – ebook; reread

Hell’s Faire John Ringo (2003)
Posleen War Book 4 – ebook; reread

Cally’s War John Ringo & Julie Cochrane (2004)
Cally’s War Book 1 – ebook; reread

Sister Time John Ringo & Julie Cochrane (2007)
Cally’s War Book 2 – ebook; reread

Honour of the Clan John Ringo & Julie Cochrane (2009)
Cally’s War Book 3 – ebook; reread

Starship Troopers Robert Heinlein (1959)
– ebook; reread

Eye of the Storm John Ringo (2009)
Legacy of the Aldenata Book 8 – ebook

The Stats

106 books; .29 books a day; 2.03 books a week
67 new titles
39 rereads

100 ebooks

I broke 100! I pushed a lot in December as I knew I was nearing the goal, so it probably skews the results a bit, but since the holiday break is typically a time to consume whole books in a day, in the end it doesn’t skew it all that much. I also added in a few paper books which were little more than picture books, but hey, a book is a book in my books.

This year I added a Kobo Aura reader to the stable because of the backlight. The old Sony (PRS-650) has pretty much bit the battery bucket and L was using my new Sony (PRS-T1) a lot on holidays so it was an excuse to make reading at night a bit easier without admitting I might possibly, just a tad, need glasses. Sony is out of the ereader business and there was no way in hell I was getting a Kindle with their proprietary formats so a Kobo was next easier choice. Subsequently I have discovered a raft of other ereaders online that are not tied to any particular retailer (a scam I so so hate) so that will probably be the way I go next time.

That was/is my only beef with the Kobo: it is intimately tied to the Kobo store. I had to get a new Kobo login so it wouldn’t try and take control of my previous purchases and I had to dance through a few hoops to get it set up to sideload through Calibre. Once again people, if you are not using Calibre or some other ebook management system then you are being screwed. Speaking of the Kobo Store, they have finally cleaned up their act and the site usability has gone way up. It is, for now, my go-to ebook store if I can’t buy direct from the publishers although, as I previously blogged about in October, they are on shaky ground with some of their practices.

I also dabbled some more in self-published books this past year and ran into my first serious disappointments. I started strong with Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus. I wasn’t surprised at how excellent it was as he has had great commercial success and rave reviews. But my first inkling of what was in store came when I finally got around to reading Stephen Brust’s fanfic ode to Firefly: My Own Kind of Freedom. I am a massive Steven Brust fan but this left me cold and disinclined to read any more fan fiction. I don’t know if it was because it was published without the benefit of a professional editor, or perhaps because his vision of the characters clashed with mine (I had just finished watching the whole Firefly series on Netflix), but I definitely was missing the warm and fuzzy feeling I usually get upon completing one of his books.

Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos, this was a follow up to his excellent Terms of Enlistment which I had read the previous year, was terrific and I enjoyed it as much as the first — Self Publishing Redeemed!— or so I thought.

Then there was The Meat Market by James Chalk. Ugh. Bad plot, bad characters, bad pacing, bad continuity… just bad. I had read reviews, visited his website (This is the home page for science fiction writer James Chalk, author of the critically acclaimed, pulp, cyberpunk technothriller, “The Meat Market.” NOT! I should have known from the quotation marks around the book title this want going to end well.) and done what I thought was my due diligence. And I was burned anyway. I am seriously thinking of deleting the book which, if you know me, is a most serious contemplation on my part.

Trilisk Ruins by Michael McCloskey was next up. This is the first of a 6(?) book series by a “software engineer in Silicon Valley afflicted with recurring dreams of otherworldly creatures, mysterious alien planets, and fantastic adventures.” My thinking was if he wrote that many books then he must have the sales to support it, and if he had the sales to support it then the content must be worthwhile… right? Wrong. I think the actually logic should have gone, if he had 6 books in a series and still hadn’t been picked up by a publisher, then this was a man with more time and energy than actual skill and craft and probably someone to be wary of. Pure dreck. To be fair, the plot and world building wasn’t bad, but he just couldn’t grasp the nature of building a continuous story without whipping out new out-of-the-blue facts to cover his butt every time he got ahead of himself or dropping in big honking deus ex machina‘s from the heavens just to make the story work out. Disappointing enough that I am not even tempted to see if he got better in subsequent books. Which is kinda sad.

But the pièce de résistance of my disappointment was The Shadow Academy by Adrian Cole. This wasn’t even a self-published book but the first title I have bought and read by local Alberta sci-fi publisher Edge. I was so very disappointed. Adrain Cole has apparently written lots of books in the past, but I think he must of gotten lazy, gone senile or just plain forgot how to write. And I think Edge skimped on hiring a good editor. A good editor could have revived this dismal attempt at telling a good story; because the story was good and I was never tempted to stop reading it. I just cringed every 10 pages or so at the bad writing, poor plot development and outright laziness in character development. And nothing says bad book to me than being pulled out of a story. I wouldn’t be reading the brain candy I do if I wasn’t all about the immersion. I’ll probably give Edge another chance, but just not too soon…

One last disappointment was Mike Shepherd’s self-published (under the guise of GCU Press) novella Kris Longknife’s Assassin. I will let this Goodreads review speak for me in this case:

But it loses stars for sloppy newbie errors. Minus 1 star for poor layout and formatting. Minus 1 star for lack of editing & proofreading. The number of typos and other grammatical problems is astonishingly large. Someone who has been trad published really should know better. Minus 1 star for polluting 20% — Yes SERIOUSLY 20% — of the book’s space with promo material for the next one.

I am not sure if Penguin, Mike’s usual publisher, didn’t want to pick up this short work or if Mike himself decided to just give it a go, but the above comments mirror my own. As a designer and production person you got to know editors aren’t my favourite people in the whole wide world, but come on people, there is a reason besides greed that publishers exist and have the processes they do. If you’re going to do it yourself, then at least do it right.

The Library

I am up to 375 ebooks now. That’s 57 more than last year mostly thanks to Zak’s gift of gift cards and the fact that I realized I had points on my Visa that could be exchanged for even more gift cards.

I picked up some backlist Melissa Scott at a new publisher/retailer called Crossroad Press’s store. Check them out as they have a few good titles and while the online store isn’t all it could be, the publisher David Niall is really helpful and deserve some press for his attitude towards independent publishing. Their main site: Crossroad Press

I continue to to break all my DRM’d books and have yet to give away or distribute any title illegally so I still feel pretty righteous about it. I also discovered my first ebook reseller — Tom Kabinet — although they are in the midst of a legal battle. Unfortunately they are Dutch so of little use to me until I learn another language. The world is still in the throes of transition in regards to electronic media with all sorts of subscription models being thrown around in the movies and music worlds. And the first book subscription services are starting to appear, but have yet to break into the big time. Amazon continues their domination of the ebook world and poor ill-informed readers continue to fill Amazon’s pockets with money for books they don’t actually own in formats that they can’t read without giving Amazon even more money to acquire a Kindle. I don’t know how it will all end, but someday (I sincerely hope) the publishers are going to have to come to their senses and stop letting retailers dictate the terms of how their customers use their products. And the fact that they (the retailers) are enabling badly written and edited books to not only be sold in the same marketplace but also produced and ‘published’ is diluting the market and making it even harder to sort the wheat from the chaff (that still being the single biggest issue — in my opinion — that successful marketing of ebooks faces) is not going to end well.

Publishers

Here is a list of publshers of the ebooks as listed in my Calibre library. I find it interesting that I have many more small publishers represented than I do in paperback collection, as well as the fact that some ebook aggregators are taking over the slot of ‘publisher’ in the metadata. If I have time, one day I will go through all the epub buds and Feedbooks and see who the actual publishers are. I suspect — actually I know — that many of the epub bud books are not legitimate and I am slowly working on replacing them with properly acquired copies.

47North (self-publisher) 1
Ace 4
Baen 145
Baker & Taylor 1
Ballentine 15
Bantam 2
BookOS 3
Crossroad Press 4
DAW 2
Del-Rey 3
E-Reads 2
Echo Library 1
Edge 1
epub bud 26
epub books 3
Feedbooks 2
Fictionwise 2
GCU (self-publisher) 1
Gollanz 1
Grand Central 1
Harper Perennial 1
Harper Collins 8
InfoCOM 1
Jabberwocky Literary Agency 1
JRH Publishing (self-publisher) 1
Knopf Doubleday 1
Lethe 2
Little Brown 2
MacMillan 2
Manybooks.net 15
Melissa Scott (self-publisher) 2
Michael McCloskey (self-publisher) 1
Nightshade Books 2
Open Road Media 3
Orbit 5
Penguin 14
Project Gutenberg 8
Roberts Brothers 1
Scalzi Private Reserve (self-publisher) 1
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (self-publisher) 2
Signet Classics 1
St Martin’s Press 2
Steven Brust (self-publisher) 1
The Pennsylvania State University 2
The University of Adelaide Library 3
Thomas Dunne 1
Tor 44
Touchwood Editions 3
Wordfire Press 1

So there you have it: 2014 in a, albeit rather large, nutshell. First up for 2015 is a real book: Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle.


Leslie’s summary booklist can be found here: My Reading Rainbow. Not a complete list but all, I think, we are going to get out of her — except the totals which are found right here. Earl’s book list is now up here.

Kobo Stupidity

Anyone who has ever heard me rant about online ebook booksellers’ closed system (yes, I am talking to you Amazon) knows I think the way we are currently selling ebooks is ridiculous, immoral and dangerous. When I first started reading ebooks I almost gave up because I couldn’t figure out why my well-established sense of book ownership was being thrown away in the new commerce of ebooks. It was as if the booksellers/publishers were trying to lease me books rather than sell them to me. At one pint (although I am not sure if it is still true or not) Amazon was able to erase purchased books from your library without any permission at all.

I got over it, and with the help of Calibre, I set up a DRM-free system that allowed me to ‘sideload’ all my purchases to all my ereaders, iPhones and iPads and eventually to my Android-based Nexus 7. All I had to do was avoid Amazon (because they are a closed-system fount of evil) and iBooks (because their drm was too hard to crack).

I bought everything I could direct (and drm-free) from Baen and eventually settled on Kobo as my goto source of ‘other’. Recently Tor has joined the ranks of drm-free publishers and so now 90% of my purchases I don’t even need to strip the drm.

Well as of this week that has changed. For the worse. I bought Hawk, a new Vlad Taltos book from Steven Brust on the Kobo website as was my usual pattern but when I went to my Kobo library there was no way to download the actual file. The download link was gone. I did a bunch of googling but couldn’t see that anyone else had the same problem so I figured it was a glitch. After I got no response from Kobo’s auto-help mail form, I eventually broke down and called. I got some half-ass explanation that it was an epub3 file and that I would have to use the Reader for Mac app that my Sony (something I de-installed ages ago) came with or read it on a proprietary Kobo app. Uh, no… I don’t think so.

The follow up email they sent me:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for contacting Kobo Customer Care. It was our pleasure assisting you today.

You contacted us today as you could not download a book (“Hawk”) from the website. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused.

This is due to the fact that this book is in a specific format (ePub3). You can only download it via the software “Reader for Mac”.

To sign in using your Kobo account, Click on “Edit” >> “Preferences” >> “Account” >> “Sing in”

Should you have further concerns, you may visit our HELP section online at www.kobobooks.com/help. Or call us at:1 (800) 368-5390

For your records, here is your Reference Number: xxxxxxxxx

Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Kobo Team

I looked at Reader for Mac later and it had no such Edit::Preferences etc. Of course the software I have is years old as it resides on the e-reader itself. Sony Bookstore is defunct so I doubt there are any updates available. And I couldn’t be bothered.

Now that I knew what I was looking for the Google hits came fast and furious. Seem Tor, for some unknown reason, has begun to package their ebooks as epub3 files. When submitted to Kobo, Kobo then auto-converts them to a proprietary kepub format that is not downloadable. No one seems to know why Tor or Kobo are doing this and apparently if I went to another retailer I would be able to download the epubs easily enough. That didn’t help me as I had already forked out the $11 for the book and shouldn’t have to pay again for something I already owned.

The Digital Reader.com provided a solution. So it seems if you install the Kobo Desktop App and then download the file, you can then install a plugin called Obok (here is the  download link from the digital reader site) in Calibre and be able to import the ebook files that way. Didn’t work. Other books I had purchased from Kobo showed up but not Hawk. But a bit of comment reading showed that the issue was that Hawk was already DRM free so the plugin didn’t work. But is seems the kepub files had been downloaded to //Users/admin/library/application support/kobo/kobo desktop edition/kepub/ (on my Mac) and I merely needed to copy the file from that (hidden) directory and add the .epub ending to get my book.

This however means I have to use terminal and command line since the files are hidden. After a bunch of screwing around I came up with this:
cp -r //Users/admin/library/application\ support/kobo/kobo\ desktop\ edition/kepub/ /users/admin/documents/my\ books/

This copies the contents of the kepub folder to my Documents/My Books folder in the admin account I usually use. Then I manually added the .epub and imported the book into Calibre. Worked like a charm.

As for Kobo, I am very likely to go elsewhere because this is nonsense and I shouldn’t have to read my books in their ecosystem for no other reason than they are trying to force me to use them as my sole provider of reading material. I will likely fire off an email to Tor as well as there is no apparent reason for this file format.

Find the solution and the comments here:the-digital-reader.com/2014/09/25/download-kobo-ebooks-including-ones-wont-allow/

Books in my Life

As many of you may or may not know I have worked much of my professional life in publishing. But it occurred to me I have never catalogued the books that I worked on. So I did. Here is a chronological list of the ones I remember; it’s possible I missed a few. I know I did at least one book with Jean Poulin at Duval House, but darned if I can remember what it was; I just remember the dobermans that would circle my desk hungrily. There are also a lot of newsletters and corporate type stuff I didn’t list: if it didn’t have an isbn or issn it’s not here.

Oh, and the total comes to 129 publications.

Disclaimer:
At the end of each publication I listed roughly what I did for each publication. Revisions indicates that the book was original done by someone else, but I worked on changes, corrections or updates to the new edition. Team means I was a contributing part of the department and my role was likely limited to checking proofs or doing a last minute change or two. Production means I worked on a bunch of pages, if not the whole book. Later in my career I was less hands on and more involved with overall strategies and management so it gets a bit confused between Publication Management and Production Management or Editorial Management etc. Publisher indicates it was produced under the aegis and initiative of the department I ran.

Be aware that my choices may not necessarily agree with what may be printed in the actual book or with the opinions of those who worked on the books with me. It’s tender area for many people and opinions vary from job to job about how much credit is due to whom. I’ve added the notes purely as a method of showing what kind of work I contributed and not as a statement of ownership. So if any of my old companions ever read this; rest assured I remember what you guys did… mostly… I am getting old you know…

Books

Canoeing Alberta
Janice E. MacDonald
1985 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433286
Revisions

Mosses Lichens and Ferns of Northwest North America
Dale Vitt
1988 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433413
Revisions

Northern Bushcraft
Mors L. Kochanski
1989 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433510
Revisions

Attracting Birds (Homeworld)
Elaine Butler
1991 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433871
Team

Mushrooms of Western Canada
Helene M.E. Schalkwijk-Barendsen
1991 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433472
Revisions

Nature Alberta: An Illustrated Guide to Common Plants and Animals
James Kavanagh
1991 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 091943391X
Revisions

The Canadian Rockies Access Guide
John Dodd
1991 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433928
Team

Alberta Trivia
Don Blake
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050242
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Backroads of Northern Alberta
Joan Donaldson Yamey
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433979
Production

Backroads of Southern Alberta
Joan Donaldson Yamey
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050218
Production

Battling the Bay
Jordan Zinovich
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433960
Team

BC Trivia
Don Blake
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050250
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Canadian Heritage Bread Making (Homeworld)
Debra Rebryna
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050161
Team

Christmas Survival Guide (Homeworld)
Kathleen Vanderlinden
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050196
Team

Fraser River Delta: The Discoverer’s Guide: Exploring the Living River
Don Watmough
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050145
Team

Furniture Refinishing Made Easy (Homeworld)
Dave Sands
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050226
Team

Herbs for Northern Gardeners (Homeworld)
Dave Sands
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433995
Team

Jams and Jellies (Homeworld Book)
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433901
Team

Living on Your Own (Homeworld)
Kathleen Kole
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050188
Team

Northern Balcony Gardening (Homeworld)
Brian Andrews
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433987
Team

Ocean to Alpine: A British Columbia Nature Guide
Joy Finlay
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050137
Production

Pickles and Preserves (Homeworld Book)
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 091943388X
Team

Plants of Northern British Columbia
Andy MacKinnon Jim Pojar & Ray Coupé
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050153
Revisions

Shadows in the Sun: Essays on the Spirit of Place
Wade Davis
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050269
Book Design – Illustration – Production

Skiing in Ontario
Gary Horner
1992 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433936
Team

Annuals for the Prairies
Edgar W. Toop
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 155105034X
Team

Hoofed Mammals of Alberta
J. Brad Stelfox
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
hardcover — isbn 1551050358
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Hoofed Mammals of Alberta
J. Brad Stelfox
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050374
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Northern Vegetable Gardening: A Guide for Cooler Climates
Lois Hole
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050293
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Nature BC: An Illustrated Guide to Common Plants and Animals
James Kavanagh
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050366
Production – Maps

Winemaking Made Easy (Homeworld)
John Whittaker
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050307
Team

Winter: A Guide to Nature Activities and Fun (Knee High Nature)
Dianne Hayley
1993 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050382
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

100 Years of Cowboy Stories
Ted Stone
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050544
Team

Fall: A Guide to Nature Activities and Fun (Knee High Nature)
Dianne Hayley
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 155105048X
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Layman’s Guide to Contracting Your Own Home
David Caldwell
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0969805608
Team

Lois Hole’s Northern Flower Gardening Bedding Plants: A Guide for Cooler Climates
Lois Hole
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050390
Book Design – Production

Plants of Coastal British Columbia Including Washington Oregon and Alaska
Jim Pojar
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050420
Book Design – Production

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington Oregon British Columbia and Alaska
Jim Pojar
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050404
Book Design – Production

The Canadian Mountaineering Anthology
Bruce F. Farley ed.
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050412
Book Design – Production

The Land Before Us: The Making of Ancient Alberta
The Royal Tyrrell Museum
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050536
Team

The Penny Tree
Will Reese
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050501
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Trees of Guyana: A Seedling Identification Guide
A. K. Hellum
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050471
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Trees of Guyana: A Seedling Identification Guide
A. K. Hellum
1994 Lone Pine Publishing
kyvar edition — isbn 1551050471
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Forest Plants of Northeastern Ontario
Karen Legasy
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050641
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Perennial Favorites
Lois Hole
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050765
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Perennial Favorites Northern Flower Gardening: 100 best for cooler climates
Lois Hole
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050560
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland
Derek Johnson
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050587
Book Design – Production

Trail North: A Journey in Words and Pictures
Robert Guest
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
hardcover — isbn 1551050528
Team

Trail North: A Journey in Words and Pictures
Robert Guest
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050277
Team

Trees and Shrubs of Alberta
Kathleen Wilkinson
1995 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 0919433391
Revisions

A Travel and Site Guide to Birds of Costa Rica: With Side Trips to Panama and Nicaragua
Aaron D. Sekerak
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050846
Team

Amphibians of Oregon Washington and British Columbia
Charlotte Corkran
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050730
Production

Backroads of Southern Interior British Columbia: From the Rockies to the Coquihalla Through the Kootenays and the Okanagan
Joan Donaldson Yamey
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050706
Book Design – Production

Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area
Joseph Morlan
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050803
Team

Birds of Seattle and Puget Sound
Chris C. Fisher
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1991950780
Team

Forest Plants of Central Ontario
Brenda Chambers
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050617
Book Design

Forest Plants of Central Ontario
Brenda Chambers
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
kyvar edition — isbn 1551050617
Book Design

Hiking the Ancient Forests of British Columbia and Washington
Randy Stoltmann
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050455
Production

Lois Hole’s Bedding Plant Favorites
Lois Hole
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050749
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Rose Favorites
Lois Hole
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 155105079X
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Tomato Favorites
Lois Hole
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050684
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Vegetable Favorites
Lois Hole
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050722
Book Design – Production

Nature Wells Gray
Trevor Goward
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 155105065X
Cover Design

Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia
Robert Parish
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050579
Book Design – Production

Rediscovery: Outdoor Activities based on Native Traditions
Thom Henley
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050773
Team

Snow Camping: The Complete Guide to Enjoying the Back Country
Jo Ann Creore
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050110
Team

West Coast Birds
Chris Fisher
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050498
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Wild Game Cookbook (Homeworld)
Doug Kazulak
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050668
Cover Design

Woodlot Management
Bruno Wiskel
1996 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050676
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Animal Tracks of the Rockies
Ian Sheldon
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050897
Team

Animal Tracks of Washington and Oregon
Ian Sheldon
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050900
Team

Birds of Coastal British Columbia
Nancy Baron
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050986
Team

Birds of the Rocky Mountains
Chris Fisher
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050919
Team

Butterflies of Alberta
John Acorn
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050285
Production – Maps

Lois Hole’s Favorite Trees & Shrubs
Lois Hole
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050811
Team

Lois Hole’s Rose Favorites
Lois Hole
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 155105079X
Book Design – Production

More Ghost Stories of Alberta
Barbara Smith
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050838
Team

Ontario Birds
Chris Fisher
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050692
Team

Prairie Birds
Chris Fisher
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 155105051X
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

Riding the Northern Range: Poems from the Last Best West
Ted Stone
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050552
Team

Trees Shrubs and Flowers to Know in British Columbia and Washington
C. P. Lyons
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050447
Production

Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington
B. Jennifer Guard
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050609
Production

Wildflowers of the Tahoe Sierra: From Forest Deep to Mountain Peak
Laird Blackwell
1997 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050854
Team

Plants of the Rocky Mountains
Linda J. Kershaw
1998 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050889
Book Design – Production

Roses for Northern Gardeners (Homeworld)
David Harrap
1998 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050315
Team

Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants
Kathleen Wilkinson
1999 The University of Alberta Press
paperback — isbn 0888642989
Book Design – Cover Design – Production

I’ll Never Marry a Farmer: Lois Hole on life learning & vegetable gardening
Lois Hole
1998 Hole’s
hardcover — isbn 0968279112
Book Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Bedding Plants: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It (Questions & Answers Volume 1)
Jim Hole
2000 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 0968279155
Production Management – Publisher

Herbs and Edible Flowers
Lois Hole
2000 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 0968279139
Production – Publisher – Art Direction

Perennials: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It (Questions & Answers Volume 3)
Jim Hole
2000 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 0968279171
Production Management – Publisher

Rhubarb: More Than Just Pies
Sandi Vitt
2000 The University of Alberta Press
paperback — isbn 0888643489
Production – Publisher

Roses: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It (Questions & Answers Volume 2)
Jim Hole
2000 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 0968279163
Production Management – Publisher

The Best of Lois Hole: Advice & Inspiration for Gardeners
Lois Hole
2000 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 0968279147
Book Design – Publisher

Trees and Shrubs: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It (Questions & Answers Volume 5)
Jim Hole
2000 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 0968279198
Production Management – Publisher

Zucchini: You Can Never Have Enough
John Butler
2001 The University of Alberta Press
paperback — isbn 0888643799
Production – Publisher

In the News: The Practice of Media Relations in Canada
William Wray Carney
2002 The University of Alberta Press
paperback — isbn 0888643829
Book Design – Production

North of Everything: English-Canadian Cinema Since 1980
William Beard
2002 The University of Alberta Press
hardcover — isbn 0888643985
Book Design – Production

North of Everything: English-Canadian Cinema Since 1980
William Beard
2002 The University of Alberta Press
paperback — isbn 088864390X
Book Design – Production

Lois Hole’s Favorite Bulbs: Better Choices Better Gardens
Lois Hole
2003 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728009
Production – Publisher

Vegetables: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It (Questions & Answers Volume 4)
Jim Hole
2003 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 096827918X
Production Management – Publisher

Locations: What Grows Here? Volume 1
Jim Hole
2004 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728025
Production Editor – Publisher

Bulbs: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It (Questions & Answers Volume 6)
Jim Hole
2005 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728041
Production Management – Publisher

Problems: What Grows Here? Volume 2
Jim Hole
2005 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728033
Production Editor – Publisher

Hole’s Dictionary of Hardy Perennials: The Buyer’s Guide for Professionals Collectors & Gardeners
Jim Hole
2006 Hole’s
hardcover — isbn 1894728017
Book Design – Production – Publisher

Solutions: What Grows Here? Volume 3
Jim Hole
2006 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 189472805X
Production Editor – Publisher

Create an Impression: Landscaping for Curb Appeal
Maggie Clayton
2007 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728076
Production Management – Publisher

Indoors: What Grows Here? Volume 4
Jim Hole
2007 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728068
Production Editor – Publisher

Lois Hole Speaks: Words that Matter
Lois Hole
2007 The University of Alberta Press
paperback — isbn 0888644884
Consultant – Research

Wetland Plants of Ontario
Alan G. Harris
2007 Lone Pine Publishing
paperback — isbn 1551050595
Book Design – Production

Enjoy Life Outside: Inspired Projects
Linda Bodo
2009 Hole’s
paperback — isbn 1894728084
Publication Manager – Publisher

The Art of Upcycle (Repurpose Reclaim and Redefine Leisure Time)
Linda Bodo
2010 Absolute Bodo
paperback — isbn 1894728092
Publication Manager – Publisher

Magazines

Spring Gardening 1998
1998 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 1999
1999 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2000
2000 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2001
2001 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2002
2002 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2003
2003 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2004
2004 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2005
2005 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2006
2006 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Spring Gardening 2007
2007 Hole’s
Design – Cover Design – Production – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Spring 2008
2008 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Summer 2008
2008 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Spring 2009
2009 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Summer 2009
2009 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Spring 2010
2010 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Summer 2010
2010 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Spring 2011
2011 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Enjoy Gardening Summer 2011
2011 Hole’s
Consultant – Publisher

Best Fantasy? Ever?

Round about the end of last year I came across this article on someone’s Top 20 Fantasy novels over the last 20 years. I looked through it and was immediately struck by how much I disagreed. He was just plain wrong. So I thought I would make my own to correct the record.

Huh. Well that was easier said than done. What constituted best? Was something written first (Lord of the Rings) always better because it was ground breaking? Was a most excellent series best because, while no one book stood out, the whole was a magnificent feat? What actually constituted a fantasy book anyway? I’ve read through all the  pseudo-scholarly crap of high fantasy and low fantasy and ridiculous sub genres of sub genres etc. ad nauseum, but frankly I don’t think that way and don’t agree with most of it anyway and besides, I had my own system.

It turns out I don’t — not really.

So given that I was finding it so hard to decide based on genre, literary value, etc., I therefore focussed on the most read, most remembered and most influential fantasy books that I have read. I am generally a read and move-on kinda guy, so I figure that if I either a) remember it in detail, b) have read it many, many times, or c) remember the title and author as making me want to read more, then they must have been among the best. Sound right?

I was loathe to unpack my books from their boxes for this little exercise (yes, they are still packed. No, I haven’t finished the shelving yet. I know… I know…), so I did this from memory and using my Google-fu. So I might have missed a few. If (or when) I get around to trying this with SF, I will have to unpack them. My memory just ain’t that good.

One last note. I am not a real avid reader of fantasy. While I have read a lot of it over the years, I think it gets a bit too precious sometimes and I generally want something original or uniquely interesting before I will pick up a new title or author. Or, as you will see, assassins. I like assassins.

My ‘Best’ 25

Jhereg Steven Brust  (1983) Vlad Taltos Series
This was the first Brust I read. I have read  all in the series multiple times and I love the character, love the world and love the writing. And I love all of his other stuff. And he’s a socialist so Leslie likes him too — hard core marxist… really. And really, what could be cooler than an assassin with his own ‘mini-dragon’ (sorry Loish).

Assassin’s Apprentice Robin Hobb (1995) The Farseer Trilogy
Again, the first Robin Hobb book I read and I have followed along as she has built out her world in many different series. A rich place with lots of room to explore and one of the better orphan-makes-good tales. And I have to say, I have a real soft spot for Assassins with a conscience.

The Shadow of the Torturer Gene Wolfe (1980) Book of the New Sun (4 books)
Weird, wonderful and awesome in the real sense of making me full of awe. I read these many years ago as a young man and while I have not reread them all that many times —in fact don’t even own them — they stand as an example of all fantasy can aspire too. And no, a torturer isn’t the same thing as an assassin, but still…

The Warlock in Spite of Himself Christopher Stasheff (1969)
I wasn’t prepared to accept this as fantasy, but a lot of online lists did so I thought I would put it in as one of my first split genre experiences. Magic and science: they are a lot alike aren’t they?

Her Majesty’s Wizard Christopher Stasheff (1986)
Mr. Stasheff is the only author on my list twice. Not because he is a particular favourite, although I read quite a lot of his stuff, but because he checks off two of my favourite themes. The Warlock in Spite of Himself covers the intersection of magic and technology and Her Majesty’s Wizard covers the blend christianity and fantasy. A good tale, and my first real introduction to the explicit mixing up of a dose of Catholic guilt, devils and classic fantasy.

The Lord Of The Rings J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
Really? You want to know more? How about this: the movies suck. Just read the damn books already and discover the joy of Tom Bombadil. And don’t think of the movies while you do.

Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series Stephen R. Donaldson (1977)
Apparently this series is on quite a few people’s most hated list. My first real anti-hero, Thomas Covenant was someone you spent the entire series wanting to dive into the book after, grab by the ears and boot him in the ass until he smartened up. Every time you thought he might, he managed to sink back into his stupid depression again. Would probably have been a different read if Wikipedia had been around to do some research on leprosy, but the picture of society’s  rejection that Donaldson paints is pretty horrific.

Apprentice Adept Series  Piers Anthony (1980)
There were 7 books in this series but frankly only first 3 were that good. This definitely falls into the ‘not such good individual books’ category, but I enjoyed the introduction to the world crossover genre and they inspired me into a real Anthony kick for quite a few years before I tired of him.

The Dragon and the George Gordon R. Dickson (1976) Dragon Knight series
I didn’t know this was a series; just found out today. Gordon R. Dickson was a hard military Sci-Fi writer to me (the Dorsai books) and he was probably the first writer I ever read to hop genres like that. I still love this book for its characters and playful interactions, but I am unsure if I will go back and ruin that pleasant memory by reading the rest of the series; it might just not be as good as I remember.

The Belgariad David Eddings (1982) Series of 5
Another series on some people ‘worst ever’ list. I read it in late high school around the time we were discovering D & D and the like. Likely my first epic fantasy series and I fuzzily remember Mitch and I naming our PCs after  the books’ characters. I think. Or something. But it made a long-lasting impression anyway.

Another Fine Myth Robert Asprin  (1978) Myth Adventures series
Comedy and fantasy, who’d a thunk? I think Asprin invented the genre; he certainly did for me. There was another series I read about the same time by Craig Shaw Gardener, but that is dated 1987. Fun stuff and I was really sad when Robert Asprin died. And even sadder when I learned all about his tax troubles. The bloody state should just keep its nose out of my favourite author’s businesses: it screws with the output.

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter Elizabeth Moon (1988) Deeds of Paksenarrion
The blurb on this compares it to Lord of the Rings. Pah. A bit of fluff says I in my most offended tone. Yet as I read through the first book I was hooked and have gobbled up the whole multi-series collection of Paks books. It just grows on you. seriously. I just think the blurb writer was on bad drugs is all.

Liavek edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly (1985)
Not my first Shared World anthology (I had dabbled in Asprin’s Thieves’ World earlier) but it showed me what the new genre(?) was capable of. Actually this is probably a tie with Cherryh’s Merovingen Nights in the Shared World category, but I really preferred Cherryh’s stand alone introductory novel Angel With the Sword (1985) over the later anthologies, so Liavek wins.

Lord Valentine’s Castle  Robert Silverberg (1980) ‘The Majipoor Cycle’ (3 books)
What a world. SF? Fantasy? Who the hell cares! An epic journey, a loveable character, a seemingly simple device like juggling and a broad sweeping new world combine to make these some of my favourite books. And another great SF writer struts his stuff in the fantasy genre.

The Once and Future King T.H. White (1958)
Actually a series of 4 books, I encountered the omnibus long before I saw Disney’s Sword in the Stone. This was my first initiation into Arthurian fantasy and still one of the best of the genre in my opinion. It was also a catalyst to learning and reading much, much more about the  mysterious King Arthur. At the end of the day though, I still tend to think of T.H. White as the original Arthurian source and all others as deviations.

The Book of Swords’ Trilogy Fred Saberhagen (1983)
I have a love/hate relationship with this trilogy. Saberhagen obviously knew more than me about the trap of trying to sustain a 12 book story and so didn’t bother. The gods forged 12 powerful swords and the series starts out like it will trace the interwoven history of each sword, one per book. Then he wraps the story up in three books. Sure, sure he adds another series (Books of Lost Swords) to highlight 8 other swords’ tales, but still.  Not what I wanted. But he didn’t ask me and I still love the original three.

Kushiel’s Dart Jacqueline Carey (2001) Kushiel’s Legacy Trilogy
I read this book  based on a recommendation by Steven Brust on his blog. The post isn’t there any more, but it went something like this: “I don’t often recommend books but this one’s premise is super cool.” I’m pretty sure it sounded much more Steven Brust-y though. Since I don’t often take recommendations but like a super cool premise, I thought it was a good fit. It was. A book that builds on generations of fantasy tropes and worlds, it builds something new, exciting and oh so interesting to read.

A Companion to Wolves Elizabeth Bear with Sarah Monette (2007) The Iskryne series (3 books)
I just discovered the existence of the 3rd book, although the pub date of 2013 seems to be in error, because I can’t find the book for sale anywhere. A lot of the reviews of the second book were along the lines of ‘disappointing’ and ‘placeholder’ and I can’t disagree. But this was less because the sequel was bad than because the first was tremendous. Mind-blowingly original, full of adventure and excitement but at the core, a look at relationships, fear and acceptance. Read A Companion to Wolves. All of you.

Imager Portfolio L E Modesitt Jr (2009) 3 book series with 5 more featuring new characters
Another really cool, cool premise that makes a great read. This one reminds me very much of David Brin’s Practice Effect, which, come to think of it, should be on this list. One of my favourite things about SF and Fantasy is the practice of taking a unique or fantastical idea and then running with it wherever it may take you. Oh and wrapping it in a good tale at the same time. Both Brin and Modesitt do that extremely well.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms N. K. Jemisin (2010) First in a series of 3
Jemesin is one of my latest pleasant discoveries. Again I read this based on a recommendation and since I really like the super-cool cover and the word shape of the author’s name I read it. What? You have a better system for choosing titles to read? I am a visual guy, so give me break. Great first novel. Great novel period, and it is going to hold high place in my reread pile as the years pass (the count’s at 2 so far).

Assassin of Gor John Norman  (1970) #5 of the Gor series
Don’t read this one. Seriously. I can’t think of a single (current) friend or potential reader of this blog that could find any redeeming value in this trite, misogynistic and philosophically brutal series of books. But it was formative and I read the first 10 or so novels in the series before I finally gave up. I owned #5 in my poor days so it was on my reread pile for a long, long time.

Watership Down Richard Adams (1972)
These next three are additions that I hadn’t originally contemplated. It was what got me starting to question my definitions of fantasy, because none of the  three are/were really on my list of what I would shelve as fantasy novels. I was given the tale of  Fiver and Hazel in one of those books sets along with Shardik and Plague Dogs. I never read those other two (the danger of giving Bruce books he didn’t ask for), but for some reason Watership Down made it to my read pile—I actually think it was because I was expecting some sort of 20,000 Leagues thing, you know, a water ship. One of my first non-North American English books, I admit to being very confused with the language at times. I never really did get what a down was until years afterwards. Still, to this day I hold the tale very dear to my heart and would recommend it to anyone, anytime.

Tarzan of the Apes Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)
Any questions? 1914 people… 1914… and Tarzan. Ahhh-eyahhhhh!

The Screwtape Letters C S Lewis (1942)
I read this  because it was lent to me by a dear friend and teacher who happened to be a fairly devout Christian. I don’t remember if it was a result of a discussion we had been having or if he was trying to get me to see the error of my agnostic ways or if he just thought it was well worth the read. Well it was. A brilliant idea and a clever and absorbing look at Christianity’s tenants and the nature of humankind.

The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold (2001)
And lastly my favourite. Best Ever. It doesn’t make many other people’s top list, it was nominated for, but never won, a Hugo and a Locus and the general online buzz is that Paladin of Souls, the semi-sequel follow up, was the better book (It got the awards which I think was nothing more than guilt on the judges part at having missed Curse). But I think that’s all idiotic, asinine, misguided and fallacious bullshit. The Curse of Chalion is only slightly older than a decade and it tops my all-time reread stats. I have both a much-bedraggled paperback copy and an epub version and both have been read and reread and reread again.

I love the beginning. I adore the end, and I am astonished every time by the development in between. I have to say, that of all the heroes and protagonists I have encountered over the years of reading all the schlock I can get my hands on, Caz is hands down my favourite. And I hope Lois never writes a sequel for Caz, because frankly he’s tired. And he’s earned a quiet peaceful life. So leave him alone… do you hear me!

***

And so now, after this exercise in opinion, I find I can forgive my mysterious friend Dominick his choices and wish him well for another 20 happy years of fantasy reading. Best, it turns out, is such a slippery thing to define — even for one as opinionated as me. I found a few new books I think I will look into and learned a few things about some much-loved titles. And for the next 20 years, I  will be here, plowing through my Space Operas and laser pistol schlock, waiting for the next great fantasy title to wink in my direction. And I will relish it when it comes.

Tom Corbett: Space Cadet

Many years ago, sometime in the early 70s growing up in the English suburbs of Montreal, I started to read voraciously. I remember it being so bad that my mother would confiscate all the books we were taking on a holiday and then dole them out so I wouldn’t read them all in the first few days. The books themselves came from frequent visits to the used bookstore and the local libraries (one of which, in Pointe Claire I believe, was housed in an old mansion with broad wooden staircases and cool turrets to read in) and, of course, the dependable school-based Scholastic Book Club.

At the point I discovered science fiction we were still  on Roosevelt in our Dollard des Ormeaux house. I discovered it in my brothers’ room, sitting on the shelf under the window.

Although I was the youngest, my brothers shared a room and I had one to myself. The logic had been that since Dale (the eldest) had his own room in the old Roxboro house, that it was now my turn. In retrospect that doesn’t really explain why Doug didn’t get a room. Wouldn’t it have been his turn? I now suspect that in my somewhat notable precociousness (my mother had resorted to a leash for most of my terrible twos and threes), no one wanted to bunk with me and that having Dale and Doug together was the best solution for my parents’ sanity.

Be that as it may, I found the book in their room. It was one of those old green-turquoise, cloth-bound 6 x 9s with a foil line drawing on the cover and the embossed title Tom Corbett: Space Cadet. At least I remember it saying that; turns out I was wrong. But more on that later. I don’t believe I had ever read  a hardcover book of this nature & vintage before. Certainly the type is now ubiquitous  in every garage sale or (more horrifically) displayed in show homes or trendy restaurants with ripped pages and torn covers. But at this point I do believe it was the first book of that vintage I had come across aside from my mother’s old nursing texts. I have no idea whose book it was or who had obtained it from the used bookstore, but from that moment on it was my book.

I remember being reluctant to read it. There was no fancy cover with interesting images, no book blurb to tease, and frankly I had never read a science fiction book before and the idea didn’t seem as enticing as a talking mouse detective with a cool-sounding name like Basil. I think it was nothing more than desperation that prompted me to finally read the thing.

These were the days that I surreptitiously read beneath the cover with a flashlight perched on my shoulder so my parents wouldn’t know that I was staying up late. I am now amazed at the logic trail that led me to believe my efforts remained secret. While ostriches may not actually stick their heads in the sand to hide, I believe we humans continually do so from an early age: Look! I can’t see you so you can’t see me! While I can’t honestly state that was how I read the book that first time, I am quite certain it was a method employed in the second, third and many subsequent readings. I fell in love with that book immediately.

Not long after, we packed up and moved thousands of miles west to Brooks, Alberta, and I entered junior high school. There the library supplied many, many new adventures and there I discovered Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth and, to my still undying pleasure, most of Robert A. Heinlein’s juvenile novels. I read my way through  all those ratty sci-fi paperbacks often multiple times, while simultaneously working my way through every  horse book from Black Beauty to the Black Stallion in the public library. But mostly, it was in the wire racks of well-thumbed paperbacks in Brooks Junior High School that I found the best and the brightest. It is a still guilty/pleasure that I retain one or two yellowed  pocket books with BJHS stamped on the pages.

At some point or another in the three years of junior high, definitely not on my first read, I noticed some startling similarities between my first love, Mr. Corbett, Space Cadet of the Solar Guard, and Cadet Matt Dodson of the Space Patrol from Mr. Heinlein’s Space Cadet. I never really thought too much about it and by that time the original Tom Corbett hardcover had disappeared, perhaps in the move West, perhaps in an unthinking purge of possessions.

I had not yet acquired the pack-rattish fetish for owning books that I (and without exception, all of my closest friends) now have, although I can state from the books in my collection it happened sometime in junior high. That first glimpse at SF had been at least three long young-man years in the past. In fact, I don’t think I gave the Tom Corbett book more than a passing thought for years, so absorbed was I in reading the entire back catalogue from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. And then, when I got a job and a car, the trips to the city usually consisted of collecting new books to read and new authors to collect.

Sometime later, when I was in University studying fine and proper English literature and the internet was just beginning to become a useful tool, I  thought to look up the Tom the space cadet book of my childhood. By that time my recollection of it was very vague, and initially I thought I was looking for the popular Tom Swift books. Imagine my surprise when I found there was a whole series of them and none that I could find were about space cadets or rocketships or anything remotely sci-fi. In fact my boyhood inspiration seemed to be chiefly known for his inspiration of Tom Swifties, an adverbial play on words, e.g., “‘I lost my crutches,’ said Tom lamely.” With the still rudimentary nature of such online powerhouses such as Compuserve and usenet at the time, I pretty much gave up looking any further.

Another decade or so passed and, upon the umpteenth reading of the venerable Space Cadets, I again was struck with a desire to investigate the apparent plagiarism between what I remembered of Tom and his adventures on Mars and the plot of Heinlein’s novel. This time the internet brought to light the error of my previous research and revealed  was indeed a series of books written about a young space cadet named Tom Corbett by a fellow named Carey Rockwell. Wikipedia to the rescue and I soon discovered the series of books was apparently based on a radio, then TV, show in the 50s and there was in fact no such person as Carey Rockwell. The more curious of you can read more about it all  here.

The book I had read as a young’un was book one of a series of eight and had in fact been titled Stand By For Mars! The similarities to Heinlein’s Space Cadet were acknowledged, but the story for Stand by for Mars! had apparently been based on a script written in 1946, two years before Heinlein’s book was published. There is still a mystery there, but something obviously more complicated than mere plagiarism. Still the original mystery was solved and, except for the hollow place in my book-collecting soul the size of a small green hardcover, I was satisfied. I think it occurred to me at some point to search for a copy online when eBay was first on the scene, but it came to naught and I resigned myself to my memories.

Skipping ahead another decade more or less and we find ourselves in the freshly minted era of ebooks and Project Gutenberg’s great dream. Not that long ago in the scope of things, I started to read ebooks and often found myself buying texts in epub format that I already had in paperback. It once again occurred to me that the long elusive Tom Corbett might be accessible online in some format or another. Much to my delight I found it on epubbooks.com and immediately downloaded it and dived right in. Not quite the sweeping in-depth vision of space cadetedness I had constructed in my mind’s eye over the years, it nevertheless sufficed to scratch that decades-old itch. I was pretty damned pleased with myself for recapturing a moment of my childhood.

A few months later I found the other seven books in Project Gutenberg editions and acquired them as well. I will admit that it wasn’t until this winter that I finally started in on the other seven books; they held no sentimental value and frankly were the kind of juvenile schlock that any semi-educated reader in this modern and sophisticated age will generally turn his nose up at.

But whenever I reread early SF or juvenile books (or see an old movie for that matter) I am always struck by the learning process we all go through and how one’s vision is always based on what came before. I am always grateful I read Lord of the Rings back in those Brooks Junior High School editions; what more recent writers have built on that foundation is often astounding, but without Tolkien’s first masterpiece none of that would have come to pass. I’m so grateful I read those first and he remains the master in my personal chronology.

So now I am trying to read the remaining Corbett books with that in mind. We all, readers and writers alike, have to start somewhere, and if our palate eventually becomes too refined to tolerate the plonk we were weaned on, we can’t ever forget that without those first precious tastes, we will lose the opportunity to grow into the connoisseurs we believe ourselves to be.

And now you know why I am such a SF-schlock nerd…

Books 2013

What I read in 2013
I recorded my reading in 2012 and decided to do it again in 2013.

The count is slightly higher this year, although given my lack of gainful employment for a portion of the year it really should be more.

The Books

(appearing in the order they were read)
Ghost Ship Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2011)
Liaden Universe – ebook; reread

Dragon Ship Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2012)
Liaden Universe – ebook; reread

The Shadowed Sun N.K. Jemesin (2013)
Dreamblood Book 2 – ebook;

Furious Mike Shepherd (2012)
Kris Longknife Book 10 – ebook;

Harlequins Moon Brenda Cooper & Larry Niven (2012)
– ebook;

Spartan Planet A. Bertram Chandler (1969)
John Grimes – ebook;

The Inheritors A. Bertram Chandler (1972)
John Grimes – ebook;

The Big Black Mark A. Bertram Chandler (1975)
John Grimes – ebook; reread

The Far Traveler A. Bertram Chandler (1979)
John Grimes – ebook; reread

The Clan Corporate Charles Stross (2006)
Merchant Princes Book 3 – ebook;

Green Jay Lake (2009)
Green Series Book 1 – ebook;

The Merchant’s War Charles Stross (2007)
Merchant Princes Book 4 – ebook;

Endurance Jay Lake (2011)
Green Series Book 2 – ebook;

The Revolution Business Charles Stross (2009)
Merchant Princes Book 5 – ebook;

Kalimpura Jay Lake (2013)
Green Series Book 3 – ebook;

The Trade of Queens Charles Stross (2010)
Merchant Princes Book 6 – ebook;

Honor Among Enemies David Weber (1996)
Honor Harrington Series Book 6 – ebook; reread

In Enemy Hands David Weber (1997)
Honor Harrington Series Book 7 – ebook; reread

Echoes of Honor David Weber (1998)
Honor Harrington Series Book 8 – ebook; reread

Ashes of Victory David Weber (2000)
Honor Harrington Series Book 9 – ebook; reread

the Jazz Melissa Scott (2000)
– ebook;

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance Lois McMaster Bujold (2012)
Miles Vorkosigan Series Book 13 – ebook; reread

The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold (2001)
Chalion Book 1 – ebook; reread

Paladin of Souls Lois McMaster Bujold (2003)
Chalion Book 2 – ebook; reread

Tuf Voyaging George R.R. Martin (1986)
– ebook; reread

Star Courier A. Bertram Chandler (1988)
John Grimes – ebook;

To Keep the Ship A. Bertram Chandler (1978)
John Grimes – ebook;

Matilda’s Stepchildren A. Bertram Chandler (1979)
John Grimes – ebook;

Star Loot A. Bertram Chandler (1980)
John Grimes – ebook; reread

The Anarch Lords A. Bertram Chandler (1981)
John Grimes – ebook;

The Last Amazon A. Bertram Chandler (1984)
John Grimes – ebook;

The Wild Ones A. Bertram Chandler (1985)
John Grimes – ebook;

Catch the Star Winds A. Bertram Chandler (1969)
John Grimes – ebook;

Poor Man’s Fight Elliot Kay (2013)
– ebook (self-published);

Terms of Enlistment Marko Kloos (2013)
– ebook (self-published);

For the Win Cory Doctorow (2010)
– ebook;

The Human Division John Scalzi (2013)
Old Man’s War – ebook;

Heroes Die Matthew Stover (1998)
The Acts of Caine Book 1 – ebook;

Cobra Slave Timothy Zahn (2013)
Cobra Rebellion Book 1 – ebook;

Agent of Vega and Other Stories James H. Schmitz (2001)
– ebook;

Dragon And Thief Timothy Zahn (2003)
Dragonback Book 1 – ebook;

Dragon and Soldier Timothy Zahn (2004)
Dragonback Book 2 – ebook;

Dragon and Slave Timothy Zahn (2005)
Dragonback Book 3 – ebook;

Limits of Power Elizabeth Moon (2013)
Legacy of Paladins Book4 – ebook;

The Blade of Tyshalle Matthew Stover (2001)
The Acts of Caine Book 2 – ebook;

Caine Black Knife Matthew Stover (2008)
The Acts of Caine Book 3 – ebook;

Caine’s Law Matthew Stover (2012)
The Acts of Caine Book 4 – ebook;

Trade Secret e-ARC Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2013)
Liaden Book – ebook;

Freedom’s Landing Anne McCaffrey (1995)
The Freedom Series Book 1 – ebook;

Deadman Switch Timothy Zahn (1988)
– ebook;

Monster Hunter Vendetta Larry Correia (2010)
Monster Hunters International Book 2 – ebook;

The Atrocity Archives Charles Stross (2004)
The Laundry Files Book 1 – ebook;

Manta’s Gift Timothy Zahn (2002)
– ebook;

The Paladin C.J. Cherry (1998)
– ebook; reread

The WarSlayer Rosemary Edghill (2002)
– ebook;

Tiassa Stephen Brust (2011)
Vlad Taltos Book 13 – ebook; reread

The Course of Empire Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth (2003)
Jao Empire Series Book 1 – ebook;

The Crucible of Empire Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth (2010)
Jao Empire Series Book 2 – ebook;

Dragon and Herdsman Timothy Zahn (2006)
Dragonback Series Book 4 – ebook;

Dragon and Judge Timothy Zahn (2007)
Dragonback Series Book 5 – ebook;

The Jennifer Morgue Charles Stross (2011)
The Laundry Files Book 2 – ebook;

Red Seas Under Red Skies Scott Lynch (2007)
Locke Lamora Book 2 – ebook;

Only Superhuman Christopher L. Bennett (2012)
– ebook;

Old Nathan David Drake (1991)
– ebook;

The Incrementalists Steven Brust & Skyler White (2013)
– ebook;

Seven for a Secret Elizabeth Bear (2009)
New Amsterdam – ebook;

The White City Elizabeth Bear (2011)
New Amsterdam – ebook;

A Passage of Stars Kate Elliot (1990)
Highroad Trilogy Book 1 – ebook;

The Warriors Apprentice Lois McMaster Bujold (1986)
Miles Vorkosigan Book 1 – ebook; reread

The Vor Game Lois McMaster Bujold (1990)
Miles Vorkosigan Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Hallowed Hunt Lois McMaster Bujold (2005)
Chalion Book 3 – ebook; reread

The Tyrant David Drake & Eric Flint (2002)
Raj WhiteHall – ebook; reread

March Upcountry David Weber & John Ringo (2001)
Empire of Man Book 1 – ebook; reread

March to the Sea David Weber & John Ringo (2002)
Empire of Man Book 2 – ebook; reread

March to the Stars David Weber & John Ringo (2003)
Empire of Man Book 3 – ebook; reread

We Few David Weber & John Ringo (2005)
Empire of Man Book 4 – ebook; reread

Draw One In the Dark Sarah A. Hoyt (2006)
Shifter Series Book 1 – ebook;

Stormdancer Jay Kristoff (2012)
The Lotus Wars Book 1 – ebook;

Come and Take Them Tom Kratman (2013)
A Desert Called Peace Book 5 – ebook;

Kinslayer Jay Kristoff (2013)
The Lotus Wars Book 2 – ebook;

Under a Graveyard Sky John Ringo (2013)
Black Tide Rising Book 1 – ebook;

To Sail a Darkling Sea eARC John Ringo (2014)
Black Tide Rising Book 2 – ebook;

Live Free or Die John Ringo (2010)
Troy Rising Book 1 – ebook; reread

Citadel John Ringo (2011)
Troy Rising Book 2 – ebook; reread

The Hot Gate John Ringo (2011)
Troy Rising Book 3 – ebook; reread

An Oblique Approach David Drake & Eric Flint (1998)
Belisarius Book 1 – ebook; reread

In the Heart of Darkness David Drake & Eric Flint (1998)
Belisarius Book 2 – ebook; reread

Destiny’s Shield David Drake & Eric Flint (1999)
Belisarius Book 3 – ebook; reread

Fortune’s Stroke David Drake & Eric Flint (2000)
Belisarius Book 4 – ebook; reread

The Tide of Victory David Drake & Eric Flint (2001)
Belisarius Book 5 – ebook; reread

The Dance of Time David Drake & Eric Flint (2006)
Belisarius Book 6 – ebook; reread

Stand By For Mars! Carey Rockwell (1952)
Tom Corbett Space Cadet Book 1 – ebook; reread

Galactic Bounty William C. Dietz (1984)
Sam McCade Book 1 – ebook;

Danger in Deep Space! Carey Rockwell (1953)
Tom Corbett Space Cadet Book 2 – ebook;

A Call to Duty eArc David Weber & Timothy Zahn (2014)
Manticore Ascendant Book 1 – ebook;

95 books; .26 books a day; 1.8 books a week
       62 new titles
       33 rereads

Once again my move to ebooks has been made manifest: I read zero bound books this year. It wasn’t my intention but I always reached for the convenience of an ebook when it was time to choose a new book. My eyes are getting bad and changing type size for light conditions is a bonus. I did take a few bound books along on trips as a backup but never needed them.

I added a Nexus 7 (Android) to my collection of readers and synch that from Calibre (still awesome!) using their wireless content server function. I also picked up a new Sony PRS T1 as the battery on my old Sony was starting to go. I have started to use its wireless function with the content server as well since it doesn’t need to be plugged in all that often. I do 99% of my evening reading on the Sony and most of the daytime on either the iPad or the Nexus. It took me quite a bit of experimenting with Android’s store to choose a reader but I settled on the Calibre Companion app to manage the books and FB Reader to read them. You can say a lot about the ‘open’ nature of Android but it is actually more of a pain to choose a good ereader from the dozens available than it is to be stuck with Apple’s default choice. I mean the reviews are worthless and you actually have to use it to read something to test out the functionality properly; that makes a quick and obvious choice almost impossible.

THe iPad’s Books app continues to drain the battery like hell but I didn’t upgrade to the iPad Air like I intended so I have no idea if that has been fixed in iOS 7. I also did more reading on my iPhone this year: generally when I was waiting in line or had a few moments to myself.

I also have been experimenting with audio books, listening to Isaac Asimov’s Foundations series in the truck. It has a bluetooth connection to my iPhone so I can just have it start up the book whenever I am driving alone. I suppose I might add another book to the total based on that experiment but we will leave that question to next year.

This year most of my purchases were either Baen or Kobo. I did pick up a few from a new venture Open Road Media but their list is still pretty limited. I am much happier with Kobo’s new store but seriously, what kind of book store won’t let you sort by Author? Ridiculous! I admit to spending time in Chapters for research and then coming home and downloading the books. Really… have the engineers and programmers at Kobo never been to a books store? Gah!

And I am still madly in love with Baen’s eArcs. It is totally worth the extra money to read a book early. To be true the best and worst thing about genre fiction (SF/Fantasy most especially) is the serial nature of the narratives. But damn, sometimes it hard to wait for a book to come out.

I also picked up two self published books based on online recommendations (Poor Man’s Fight by Elliott Kay and Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos) and was pretty satisfied. You can see that the lack of a good editor does affect the overall quality but all in all the books were definitely readable and nowhere near as bad as the worst of the traditionally published books I have encountered. I have picked up the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey for the new year and have great hopes; it has had rave reviews.

According to Calibre I made 77 acquisitions since January 1st 2012. There were a couple of freebies, some open source stuff from the University of Adelaide‘s excellent ebook library and the majority bought and paid for. I think my spending has actually gone up since I forsook paperbacks.

After a few Xmas purchases (thanks Zak!) my total ebook count is now up to 318:

    1 self published
    1 poetry (The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám)
    3 Drama
    7 non-fiction
    19 mainstream fiction
    59 Fantasy (3 Short Stories, 2 Novellas)
    229 Science Fiction (6 Short Stories, 1 Novella)

So there you have it, another successful reading year just shy of the elusive 100.

Ta-Da!

****

For information’s sake, find L’s end-of-year summary here