Ben Crowder

Archive: June 2010

Crime & Punishment ePub (Russian)

My second book release for today is Преступление и наказание (Crime & Punishment). This is an ePub edition of Dostovesky’s novel (which I love) in the original Russian.

This marks my first attempt at creating an ePub from a text in a non-Roman script (Cyrillic), and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it all went. I should note that Stanza displays the book just fine, but I haven’t yet tested it in iBooks.

Note: In Stanza, the Russian hyphenation settings (which seem to only work if you have justification on, by the way) hardly hyphenate any words at all, so they’re basically useless.

I designed the cover in Photoshop. There’s a higher resolution version available on Flickr.

And no, I don’t read Russian. Yet.

Book of Mormon reader’s edition ePub

The ePub edition of my reader’s edition of the Book of Mormon is now available. You can read it in Stanza or iBooks on your iPhone/iPad, in Aldiko on your Android, or using any number of other ePub readers. (For iPad reading, I should add that the PDFs work nicely in iBooks, and the typography is (ahem) much better than iBooks’ ePub display.)

Maker’s note: I’m finding that my md2epub script has made ePub production incredibly easy. Granted, I’m working with books that don’t involve charts or tables or images or pull quotes or anything complicated, just straight text, but it’s still a breeze.

One other note: The current version of Stanza has a bug where it displays the title of an imported ePub as a random hash string instead of the actual title. They’re aware of it and hopefully we’ll see a fix soon. In the meantime, you can edit the title in Stanza yourself.

Earplugs

My life often feels like a series of endless interruptions snatching at my mind, pulling it like taffy in a dozen different directions. It’s enough to drive a man crazy. In fact, I do feel a little crazy when it’s happening — just a tad insane, out of my mind, if you will. It’s not healthy.

The Internet is a magical place. I love the Internet. Much of my life revolves around it. Because of the Internet I was able to start an online magazine which led to my meeting my wife. My day job is web design, and I applied for it because of a LinkedIn forward I got. I’ve made a lot of friends over the Internet, through mailing lists and blogs and Twitter, and I value them.

But the Internet is almost too much, you know? Too many voices, too many things to do, to watch, to read. A steady patter of pings begging for my attention relentlessly, and if I turn my head every time they come, I spend my life turning my head instead of actually doing things and making things and being a real person.

I like this line from Jack Cheng’s article Habit Fields:

Just because you can have instant access at your fingertips doesn’t mean you should.

More and more, I’m finding myself turning things off, trying to silence the buzz so I can get some actual work done — and regain my sanity. I’ve disabled all incoming email and Growl notifications. And even then, I’m still checking Gmail and Twitter every two minutes hoping I’ll have shiny new emails or tweets waiting for me. I have to exit out of the apps entirely if I want to stand a chance at avoiding distraction.

What I’ve discovered: The longer I go in between checking Gmail/Twitter/Google Reader/whatever, the better I feel. I don’t know how long is ideal (a day? half a day?), but I’ll tell you what, it sure as heck isn’t every five minutes.

It’s not just Gmail and Twitter, of course. It’s the whole idea of multitasking. Peter Bregner’s article on how and why to stop multitasking is beautiful. Also, if you haven’t already read the Nicholas Carr’s Wired article on how the web is rewiring our brains, go read it. Now. I’m not convinced that this rewiring is entirely a bad thing, but I do find that it’s harder and harder to finish reading books (which are so much longer than blog posts). And the more I multitask, the less I get done and the worse I feel. (This is one of the reasons why I like the iPhone and iPad — you’re effectively forced to singletask, and it’s an oh so beautiful thing.)

Big blocks of focused time are delicious. Spurts of attention timesliced every which way, not so much. I want more quiet, less noise.

Unplugging is hard for us Internet junkies. After all, feeling the pulse of the world in your fingertips is heady. No man is an island, and extricating ourselves from the web, even for a short time, can be sticky.

But people have been doing just fine for thousands of years without the Internet, and a few more hours away from my email or Twitter really isn’t going to make anything blow up, much as I’d like to think it would. A couple years ago, I couldn’t for the life of me understand people who didn’t have email or who only checked it once every week or two. Now, though, I envy them.

I want to try something radical, something completely crazy like, oh, checking my email and Twitter only twice a day. ;) Twice a day. Man, it feels almost impossible, but at the same time my heart wants to sing at the thought. I’m giddy thinking how much more I could get done each day with all that extra time — more time reading, more time with my family, more time just thinking. Peaceful time. Mmm.

Okay, I’m going to do it. From now on, I’ll check my email and Twitter once in the morning (around 9:00) and once at night (around 9:00), and that’s it. Period.

Which means I can’t check my email for another four hours. Goodness, this is already getting hard. (Yeah, I’ve got it bad.)

Here we go.

Recopyright

In the thoroughly disturbing department: Court Says It’s Okay To Remove Content From The Public Domain And Put It Back Under Copyright.

That’s right, they’re not only trying to stop adding to the public domain, they’re now actively attempting to shrink it. Sanity, where have you gone?

The more copyright extends its bloated tentacles, the more our culture starts to die. Lots of publishers rely on public domain content (look at all the different editions of David Copperfield or Crime and Punishment, for example), and if it starts hiding under copyright’s shadow again, poof, it’s no longer legal.

In an ideal world, copyright would last long enough to protect the author during his life and, say, until his children or other dependents reach adulthood. Or, at the very most, until his immediate family is dead, but as it is, the whole thing just reeks of greed and corruption.

If this goes any further, I’m going to start wearing black.

BenCrowder.net 3.0

Time for a new look. Lately I’ve been itching to focus this site back on the blog and start doing some longform writing, so this new redesign puts the blog back on the front page and makes it more reading-friendly.

Before

After

I’ve also gotten rid of the mullet. (No, not on my head, heaven help us all.) (By which I mean I’ve never had a mullet.) Instead of having a few full posts followed by lots of excerpts, they’re all full now. Translation: you don’t have to click through to read the posts anymore.

Anyway, this kind of post is boring to 99% of you, so let’s just tuck it away in the “for the sake of history” folder and move on to more exciting things like iOS 4 and the iPhone. :)

No more comments

As of today, I’m disabling comments on this site. I did this briefly a while ago, but this time it’s for real.

Why? The catalyst was John Gruber’s post and the responses by Ian Betteridge and Derek Powazek. As Ian says in his post, it’s better for the web if readers respond by writing on their own blogs. I believe this.

Also, getting rid of comments means one less distraction. I used to worry about how many comments each post would get (or not get), but that’s pointless and has basically no bearing on reality. I’d rather spend my time making new things.

So, from now on, if you want to comment on a post of mine, you can either email me (which is far more personal anyway) or write a post on your own blog and send me the link. It’s better this way.

Pearl of Great Price reader’s edition

Following in the footsteps of my reader’s editions of the Book of Mormon and D&C, here’s that reader’s edition of the Pearl of Great Price I mentioned earlier today.

It’s available in both PDF and ePub. You can also buy a hard copy on Lulu.

(If you download the ePub and it comes out with a .zip extension, just rename it to .epub and you’re good to go. I haven’t yet been able to get Apache to serve the application/epub+zip MIME type. Sigh.)

Let me know if you find any typos or if the ePub doesn’t work on your reader.

md2epub

An itch scratched: md2epub, a Python script for making an ePub out of Markdown files.

All it takes is a simple book file, which gives the script some basic metadata about the book and then lists the files that need to be included. The script runs Markdown on the files and makes an ePub.

# Sample book file for md2epub
# 9 Jun 2010

Title: My Sample Book
Author: John Doe
Language: en-US
URL: /books/my-sample-book/
CSS: content/style.css

# Chapters
Foreword | content/foreword.text
Chapter 1 | content/chapter_1.text
Chapter 2 | content/chapter_2.text
Chapter 3 | content/chapter_3.text

# Images to be included
Images: images/illustration1.jpg, images/illustration2.jpg
Image: images/illustration4.jpg

And then you just run “md2epub myfile.book” and voila, instant ePub. I’ve already used it on my Pearl of Great Price reader’s edition (which I’ll be releasing shortly) and it works like a charm.

Last but not least, the code is based on my friend Matt’s script GetBook.py. (And, in fact, that’s where I got the idea for this script.)