Note: I’m taking a break and won’t be posting again until February 2015.

Category: BooksPage 2 of 57 (565 posts)

CreateSpace test picture book

It turns out that CreateSpace only charges $3.65 to print a 24-page picture book, color, full bleed. That’s…incredible. You do pay shipping ($3.59 in my case), but still — $7 to print a picture book for your kids? Very, very nice. I threw together a dummy book to test print quality, and my copy arrived today, ten days after ordering it.

In general, I’m quite pleased. Print quality is very good. I’ve taken some photos below (with no postprocessing, but my iPhone camera added a bit more contrast than there actually is in the book).

Notes

  • The book is perfect-bound, so it won’t open as flat as it would if it were saddle-stitched. I don’t think they have saddle stitch as an option.
  • The paper isn’t glossy.
  • Colors aren’t quite as vibrant as they are on screen — blacks aren’t as dark, etc. But for actual use — reading to kids at bedtime — they’re quite fine.
  • Colors that are similar to each other can be a little harder to distinguish, but anything with sufficient contrast should be okay.

Photos

Reading on screens

The other day I came across a Wired article about reading on screens vs. paper, and it touched on something I began noticing in my own reading a few weeks ago:

What I’ve read on screen seems slippery, though. When I later recall it, the text is slightly translucent in my mind’s eye. It’s as if my brain better absorbs what’s presented on paper. Pixels just don’t seem to stick. And often I’ve found myself wondering, why might that be?

That’s exactly what I’ve experienced, albeit only for novels. I can read blog posts and longform articles on my phone just fine, with no retention difficulties. Novels, however, are slippery. It’s harder for me to keep track of what’s happening in the book, and it’s consistently nowhere near as satisfying. And so I never read ebooks anymore. (Yes, this is ironic.)

People who have no problem reading ebooks: I’m so, so jealous of you.

When the aliens finally came

Five very short stories, based off a writing prompt my friend Jonathon Penny posted yesterday. (Things got a little out of control. Apparently I like writing about aliens.)

Story 1

When the aliens finally came, just a week before the rogue planet–the one we didn’t see coming till two weeks before that, when it was too late to do much of anything except arrange the deck chairs and say a few prayers–when they came, we thought maybe they could save us. Just maybe. But we were wrong. They came, not to save us, but to be saved. And the thing slithering through space after them–well, let’s just say we were grateful the planet got us before it did.

Story 2

When the aliens finally came, our xenolinguists were stumped. The aliens didn’t talk, at least on any frequency that we could see. They didn’t chitter. They didn’t make signs with their heads or the appendages we arbitrarily called hands. They didn’t seem to grok the equations the mathematicians showed them. They didn’t reverse the magnetic fields around themselves like the swimmers do down in the outer core. (Most people still think of the swimmers as aliens, by the way, and I suppose they are in one sense, but you could make a strong argument that they’re more native to the planet than we are.) Then we figured it out. It took us longer, you see, because they lived on the outside of their ship, and our suits didn’t pick up smells from the vacuum, and long story short, Milner–the one from New Canada–somehow noticed the constantly shifting scents, and one thing led to another. Heaven knows what the aliens thought we’d been saying to them all that time. Anyway, it wasn’t long before they were hugging the astronauts like long-lost relatives, and next thing we knew they’d taken a chunk of Brooklyn–a big one, too–right up into their ship. Haven’t seen them since.

Story 3

When the aliens finally came, they arrived not in large ships, but in a hail of small cocoons that fell scattershot across the East Coast. At sunrise the next morning they wriggled out, small like a grain of rice, and burrowed down, gnawing at the dirt and rock, growing bigger and bigger. We didn’t notice any of this, mind you, until buildings and subways started collapsing and sinkholes began showing up everywhere. Terrorists, we thought. By the time we realized what had happened, it was too late.

Story 4

When the aliens finally came, sir, no, I wasn’t at my post. I was…hiding. Yes, sir, I understand. No, not at all, sir. They appeared to be shapeshifters, sir. Knots of tentacles, shiny, all over the place. Real tall one second, short and stumpy the next. Sometimes they were in two or three or ten places at the same time. Weirdest thing I ever saw, sir. No, she’s doing fine, sir, thank you for asking. They say what I saw was, uh, fluctuating cross-sections of higher-dimensional beings. No, sir, I don’t think I understand it, and if I may say so, I don’t think I want to. Thank you, sir.

Story 5

When the aliens finally came, ribbons of light all a-dancing in the sky, they put the northern lights to shame. Some fools on the news said something so beautiful couldn’t be evil. Me and my folks, we bundled up quick and got out of the city, went down south into the jungles, to get as far away from other people as we could get. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. We’ve been holed up here for a month now, listening to the explosions up north. Lost my oldest to a snake bite. Lost my second oldest to a spider bite. My wife’s been down with the trembles for five days. I don’t know what those aliens can do, but it’s looking like it can’t be much worse than this jungle.

My new favorite blogs

First, Tom Simon, a Christian fantasy author. I first came across his essays, specifically the ten-part series on fantasy beginning with Quakers in Spain, and I’ve enjoyed his blog since then.

Then, back in February, Tom posted the following quote by John C. Wright:

The preference among biologists is to emphasize the similarities of man to other animals, and downplay their immense and categorical differences. This is not science or religion: it is merely a slant. The glass is half empty rather than half full.

Anyone can see the similarities between humans and apes. Apes are just like humans, as both human scientists and ape scientists agree. Ape cathedrals and human cathedrals both use flying buttresses. Ape operas and human operas both use four-point harmony. Apes crap in the woods and so do humans when we cannot find a toilet, and have not taken the time to dig a latrine. The Ape-Pharaoh of Ape City wears a pshent just like Ramses II of Heliopolis. (From Losing Religion II)

I loved that. John is a science fiction author who converted from atheism to Catholicism a few years ago. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but I plan to. (Same for Tom.)

Both have their heads on straight, and it’s very refreshing. They’re Chesterton fans as well, which is probably why their blogs appeal to me — how I wish more people read Chesterton.

Shutting down Mormon Texts Project

I know it was just a month ago that I was getting MTP going again, but I’ve found that I can’t run both Mormon Artist and Mormon Texts Project at the same time. (Which should be no big surprise, since MTP’s death rattle has been shaking for over a year now.)

So, no more MTP books. I’m sorry. If someone wants to take over the project, I’d love that, and I’m more than happy to pass on what I’ve learned and help get other people going with something like this.

Book of Mormon study edition: Lulu

Just a quick note: I’ve finished retypesetting the study edition of the Book of Mormon, and you can now get it on Lulu for $20.45 plus shipping (at cost with one penny profit to make it trackable). The PDF–which is 448 pages now, down from the original 538–is also available for free download.

Disclaimer: I haven’t ordered one myself, so it’s possible that something may be wonky. (Explanation of disclaimer: I don’t quite trust Lulu’s system for uploading and printing covers. It’s possible that the text on the cover might not be quite centered. But the body of the book should be just fine.)

My DMCA takedown request experience

FYI, I’m posting this in case other people publishing public domain ebook editions get similar notices.

Tuesday night around 8:30 I got this email (I’ve removed the contact info):

Subject: This is a verified DMCA Removal Request from Attributor

*** Sent via Email - DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement ***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized
to act on behalf of the owner of the intellectual property rights
and that the information contained in this notice is accurate.

I have a good faith belief that the page or material listed below
is not authorized by law for use by the individual(s) associated
with the identified page listed below or their agents and
therefore infringes the copyright owner's rights.

I HEREBY DEMAND THAT YOU ACT EXPEDITIOUSLY TO REMOVE OR DISABLE
ACCESS TO THE PAGE OR MATERIAL CLAIMED TO BE INFRINGING.

This notice is sent pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act (DMCA), the European Union's Directive on the Harmonisation
of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the
Information Society (2001/29/EC), and/or other laws and
regulations relevant in European Union member states or other
jurisdictions.

My contact information is as follows:

Organization name: Attributor Corporation as agent for Rights
Holders listed below
Email: ...
Phone: ...
Mailing address: ...

My electronic signature follows:
Sincerely,
/Eraj Siddiqui/
Eraj Siddiqui
Attributor, Inc.


*** INFRINGING PAGE OR MATERIAL ***

Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in
consideration of the above:

Rights Holder: Deseret Book

Original Work: Life of Heber C. Kimball
Infringing URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.epub
Infringing URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.mobi

Initial reaction: Oh crap. They’re going to force my hosting provider to take down my websites. And there may or may not be some maximum security prison involved. Also, is this a scam? It does look like one, but why on earth would they pretend to be an agent for Deseret Book?

Then it got more confusing, because Life of Heber C. Kimball was originally published in 1888 and is unequivocally in the public domain (all U.S. copyrights before 1923 have expired). I did some quick research to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding the law, and it was clear: Life of HCK was in the public domain.

So why was Deseret Book pretending to be the rights holder for something in the public domain? Seemed evil and greedy.

I responded to Eraj’s email explaining that there must have been a misunderstanding. I also dug up contact info for Deseret Book’s intellectual property person and emailed her as well. And I forwarded the takedown notice to Linode, letting them know that it was a false accusation and that I was working with DB and Attributor to clear things up, in case Attributor sent the same notice to Linode. (I’ve heard horror stories.)

Yesterday morning, I hadn’t heard back from Eraj or the DB person (understandably), so I found the DB person’s number online and called her. Apparently Deseret Book sends a list of titles to Attributor, who then checks for those titles online (title meaning the text “Life of Heber C. Kimball”) and sends out takedown notices when they find a match. The reason Life of HCK was on the list is that Deseret Book has reprinted it with additional material (images, etc.) that is copyrighted by them.

Anyway, the DB person said this is the first time this has happened (presumably because there aren’t really a lot of people making ebooks of old Mormon texts). She apologized for Attributor’s error and told them to stand down. Later in the day I got the following email from Attributor:

After further review of the matter, we would like to rescind the take down notice which was sent for the title and link in question. We have included a full retraction notice which follows.

*** Sent via Email – Retraction of DMCA Notice of Copyright
Infringement ***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would hereby like to rescind my take down request for the
content described below. My contact information is as follows:

Organization name: Attributor Corporation as agent for Rights
Holders listed below
Email: ...
Phone: ...
Mailing address: ...

My electronic signature follows:
Sincerely,
/Eraj Siddiqui/
Eraj Siddiqui
Attributor, Inc.

Original Work: Life of Heber C. Kimball
Retracted URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.epub
Retracted URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.mobi

Phew.

So, Deseret Book is not in fact claiming ownership of the public domain. And the Deseret Book person was nice and apologetic and asked for feedback on my experience and how they could make things better. I made the following recommendations:

  • For the public domain reprints that Deseret Book does, have a human check the supposedly infringing content first before they send out a takedown notice.
  • For titles in the public domain, where there’s more likelihood of a false positive, have someone at Deseret Book email the person first.
  • Add a line to the takedown request saying something like, “If you feel you are not in fact infringing, here’s the name and number of the person at Deseret Book you can talk to.”

Overall: scary at first but turned out not to be a horror story after all. Hurrah for reasonable people.