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Comment: Re:I want one (Score 1) 109

by thomas.galvin (#39508703) Attached to: Canadian Man Releases Open Source Star Trek Tricorder

The biggest flaw is that this is an expensive piece of custom equipment. No criticism of Dr. Jansen intended; he made the gadget he wanted to have. But I would like to see a design that is less expensive and mass-produced

Dr. Jansen agrees with you. From the Mark 2 Design Philosophy section:

Accessibility (cost): "To create something that was as inexpensive as possible, so that people might easily have access to them without having to worry about the cost".
Comment :: This is something I don't feel I did very well on. A ballpark estimate for the component cost of a single Mark 1 was about $500 when I constructed it, which feels like too much. For every household to have their own Tricorder, it feels like something around $100 to $200 is a more accessible price range, and to have one in every child's hand such that they might easily learn more about their worlds both in and (especially) outside of school, that number likely has to be under $50. Thankfully, much of the cost comes from sensors (which are rapidly decreasing in cost), and from PCB production (which is almost negligible in quantity).

Comment: Re:The problem with college textbooks (Score 1) 396

by thomas.galvin (#38737864) Attached to: Apple Intends To 'Digitally Destroy' Textbook Publishing

And what really makes them expensive is that there might be three or four thousand copies printed total, so that everything that went into writing that book has to be recouped off of just three or four thousand copies, instead of the millions of copies for pulp fiction titles.

Millions of copies? For the rare best-seller, maybe. More like thousands for the popular titles, and hundreds for the rest.

I would argue that a text book is actually more likely to earn out than a novel, because a text book (probably) has a guaranteed audience.

Comment: Re:Give to 1 area, ur taking from another (Score 1) 112

by thomas.galvin (#38436480) Attached to: Researchers Create "Mighty Mouse" With Gene Tweak

There's a very good long-term reason: starvation.

In centuries past, there was a very good probability - almost a certainty - that you would undergo occasional, extended periods of lack. An animal that has too much unnecessary muscle mass would be less able to survive this deprivation.

Modern, industrialized humans don't have this problem, though. If anything, we suffer from too little lack. We never fast, and the genes that carry out repairs during times of fasting never get turned on.

From a health perspective, people with more muscle mass are more likely to survive, period. When someone dies of "old age", it's generally because they don't have enough body mass to support their organs.

There might be some other long-term problems with these modifications - fucking around with the genome is kind of a novelty right now - but on the face of it, this seems like it could be a good thing. Particularly to people with a muscle wasting disease.

Comment: Re:Aw hell... more standards for me to publish to. (Score 1) 76

by thomas.galvin (#38391786) Attached to: Taking a Look At Kindle Format 8

Smashwords is so frustrating.

On the one hand, it lets me reach Kobo and Sony, which I just wouldn't have access to without a middle man. Their coupon system makes it easy for me to do promotions and giveaways. And their royalty sharing is very fair.

But their formatting ... the Meatgrinder software has earned a special place in one of the deeper circles of hell, as far as I'm concerned. I have no idea how they thought it was acceptable to throw out eBooks that don't even have chapter breaks, but that's what they do.

And their insistence of calling everything the "Smashwords edition" and inserting a special "Smashwords license note" and refusing to acknowledge the existence of Amazon just seems ... petty. Understandable, but unprofessional.

So, yeah, even though I get a higher royalty from Smashwords, I direct my readers to Amazon or B&N first, because they sell a nicer looking product, which makes my writing look more professional. Or at the very least, detracts from it less.

Comment: Re:Aw hell... more standards for me to publish to. (Score 3, Informative) 76

by thomas.galvin (#38383460) Attached to: Taking a Look At Kindle Format 8

I think the fact that Amazon uses a proprietary format is a heaping pile of crap, but that's as a user, not an author. As an author, I just upload the ePub I generated for B&N and let Amazon handle the conversion to whatever they call their zip file full of HTML.

I use Scrivener to do my writing, and it exports to ePub directly. There's also a plugin that will export to Kindle format, if you want to do that. And it exports to Word, which is what I have to use for Smashwords. And it exports to PDF, which is what I use to edit. It's a fantastic piece of software.

But, yes, the rest of the world needs to get on the ePub train. It's a really nice format, very fit for what it does.

Comment: Devil's Advocate (Score 1) 150

by thomas.galvin (#37939532) Attached to: Amazon Launching eBook Lending Program, Publishers Unenthusiastic

Well, maybe not the devil, but a minor imp.

The Big Six are afraid of the Kindle Lending program because "fuck you, how do we get paid?" And right now, the answer is pretty simple: Amazon either buys the rights to lend a book, or buys a copy of the book every time they lend it out to someone. From the publisher's perspective not a whole lot changes, and from the buyer's perspective the only difference is that you only have temporary access to a book you probably weren't going to re-read anyway.

But I don't think it's going to continue that way. Amazon Prime is $79 per month. Let's say the majority of users borrow six books a year -- half of what they're allowed to do. If Amazon is buying a new copy every time, that's $60 right there, leaving $19 to pay for all of the streaming video, free shipping, and other stuff that comes with Prime.

That's not a lot of room for profit, which means Amazon has to drive the cost of lending books down... and that's why this is spooking the Six. Amazon has already created an expectation that eBooks will be less than ten dollars, and that isn't an astonishingly profitable price point. Contrary to mainstream belief, the physical material is actually the smallest part of a book's cost. Author royalties, copyediting, cover design, and marketing are all much bigger chunks of that ten dollars.

The Six are worried that Amazon is going to commoditize their product entirely: rather than an expected price of ten dollars or less, Kindle users are going to expect books to be free. Which means Amazon is going to have to acquire them for almost-free. Which means that already marginally-profitable books are going to become even less profitable.

Now, I don't have a whole lot of love for traditional publishing. They're not as bad as the music industry, but they're still digging their heels in and refusing to join the rest of us in the twenty-first century. However:

As a self-published author, this makes me a bit nervous, too. I spent hundreds of hours working on the novel I just put up on Amazon (and Barnes & Noble, and SmashWords, and...), and those hours were all unpaid, on my own time. And then I had the cost of setting up a sole proprietorship (which was technically unnecessary, but still cost me a hundred dollars). And then I dropped two-hundred-fifty dollars on ISBNs (also technically unnecessary). Copyediting, if I hadn't cajoled friends into helping me out, would have run a thousand dollars. Cover design, if my wife wasn't a graphic designer, would have been another five-hundred to one-thousand dollars.

I'm selling the book for $2.99, and pocket 70% of that. I have basically no room to profit on this book -- and I'm actually treating it as a loss leader for future titles. But it would still be nice to recoup some of my costs, and I would like this little adventure as a whole to eventually become profitable. If Amazon succeeds in making books "free", that's going to be harder and harder to do.

And I'm not an Evil Big Publisher. My book is available in damn near any format you like, DRM free. I've even sent free copies to people that have written to me saying they can't afford to buy it, or were prevented from buying it by $BULLSHIT_POLICY. This was a labor of love more than anything else. But still: as an author, Amazon's move has me just a little worried.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.

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