5 eBook Apps that Amazon and Apple Will Fear

How do you autograph an ebook?

by Daedalus Howell
Dec 29, 2011 – 03:40 PM
Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell

  Given Amazon?s pre-Christmas blitz and Apple?s prowess with any object they care to precede with a lowercase ?i,? there?s a significant chance that you?re either reading this on a Kindle or an iPad. Dozens of e-reading devices have proliferated in the market. Even brick-and-mortar stores like Barnes and Noble proffer a book device some marketing type convinced them to call a ?Nook,? which sounds more like a place one might have breakfast or a word you?d repeat three times to summon the ghost of Curly from the Three Stooges.

  If you?re presently swiping and hyping the written word on your shiny new e-reader, let me personally welcome you to the 21st century. You?re evolution from pulp to pixel is not only saving the backs of hacks but some trees as well. But don?t worry, your media diet won?t suffer for lack of roughage. There will be much to chew on, from breathless editorials eulogizing the passing of print to the inclusion of paperboys on the endangered species list.

  It?s notable that in 2011, Kindle ebook sales overtook those of traditional printed books at Amazon. In an unmarked grave somewhere in Mainz, Germany, a man named Gutenberg is beginning to turn. Though this might betoken a critical shift in how we read books, it also changes how we handle books ? or, for that matter, mishandle books ? now that they?ve gone from physical objects to merely data on an expensive device.

  For example, how do you burn an ebook without having to visit the Apple Store afterward to replace your beloved iPad? There should be an app for that. In fact, there are several apps waiting to be born into this brave new world of reading without paper (it?s when we start reading without words that we should worry).

  Here are my prospective ?5 eBook Apps that Amazon and Apple Fear:?

  1. As mentioned: The ebook-burning app. This app allows you (or the fascist regime you live under) to ?burn? your ebooks by erasing their data with virtual fire without harming your device. As the author of a forthcoming ebook, I invite my critics to purchase and ?burn? as many books as they wish. Seriously, go big ? then watch your money burn a hole in my pocket.

  2. An autograph app. There?s nothing sadder than watching a fanboy trying to wipe Neil Gaiman?s scrawl off an iPad 2. Yes, you can effectively tattoo your tablet with a Sharpie but it makes using it similar to wearing glasses that have been tagged with graffiti (attention, ?cool hunters,? this could be a hot trend for 2012).

  3. An overdue library book app. Many libraries now lend ebooks but unlike printed books they don?t need to be returned, the data just evaporates from your device ? as does the library?s revenue stream in overdue fees. Using geo-location to virtually hide your borrowed ebook somewhere in your house, office, car, etc., the library can charge your credit card until you find it. If you find it.

  4. Smarty Pants eBook Covers. Change lowbrow Stephen King into highbrow Albert Camus with a mere tap of this app, which will stock your virtual bookshelf with a pile of ?trophy? books that make you look smarter than you are. 

  5.  The Used College Textbook app. This app adds a yellow ?used? sticker to the cover of your selected ebook, covers its text with erroneous notes and charges your parents and extra $50 for the privilege.

? ? ?

  Daedalus Howell?s “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country” is coming to an ereader near you in January. Learn more at FMRL.com.

The Rise of the eBook

Sure, 2011 saw a congressman inadvertently tweet his boner to the masses, Steve Jobs’ permanent departure from Apple, and Amazon’s overheated foray into the tablet market. The media and tech news of 2011 that will likely have the most enduring effect on our culture, however, is the rise of the e-book.

The Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group released a report earlier this year that indicated e-book sales in 2010 were 114 million. When sales data for 2011 rolls in, I expect it to have doubled.

Thank the iPad and the Kindle. Though e-books existed in various form long before tablet devices, the sales for Apple’s iPad (about 25 million sold by June of 2011) and Amazon’s Kindle Fire (reportedly selling 1 million a week) suggest cultural ubiquity.

Moreover, these guys are ruthless. Amazon recently raised the ire of indie booksellers and their patrons with its price-check shopping app, which enables consumers to scan a barcode and compare the prices of goods at brick and mortar stores with Amazon’s prices. This in itself wasn’t necessarily offensive; it was the 5 percent discount offered by Amazon for choosing to purchase from the online juggernaut instead of Main Street.

Predictably, an “Occupy Amazon” movement ensued among booksellers, which might seem like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. E-books now account for about 20 percent of all book sales, which is remarkable when one considers that movable-type press was created 561 years ago and the iPad only two years ago. At that rate of disruption, e-books will entirely supplant printed books within the decade. Real life, of course, doesn’t work this way. But still, the numbers are staggering.

Consider this: in 2011, a mere four years after the introduction of its first Kindles, Amazon reported that e-book sales have surpassed those of printed books. Even sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury, who’s been publicly skeptical about digital media (e-books “smell like burned fuel,” he famously opined to the New York Times) has finally permitted Fahrenheit 451 to be released as an e-book.

Of course, the revolution has not been without its casualties—like, perhaps, fair trade. The European Commission recently opened formal antitrust proceedings to “investigate whether international publishers” including Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Penguin, have engaged in “anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of e-books in the European Economic Area, in breach of EU antitrust rules.” Moreover, they allege Apple may be helping them.

Be assured, the outcome of this investigation is coming soon to an e-book near you.

Twas a Wine Country Christmas

’Twas a Wine Country Christmas

by Daedalus Howell
Dec 22, 2011 – 03:01 PM
Daedalus HowellDaedalus Howell

For me, fending off the holiday blues is like besting Death at chess. Good for you, wood-pusher, you won but (spoiler alert) you’re still going to die. This is how it ended for Max Von Sydow in “The Seventh Seal” and it’s how all games with Death eventually end. Chess, or whatever, is merely a distraction. Just ask Bobby Fischer. Oh, wait, you can’t – he’s dead.

This isn’t one of those deals where the proviso, “let the wookie win,” helps make sense of it all. The wookie has already won. The game is rigged. Boo-hoo. Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to put our pieces on the board and do our best regardless.

Here are some strategies for the chess game of life: Play nice, play well but don’t play to win. Play to play as one might live to live, love to love and drink to drink. You can also rearrange these: Love to drink, live to love, love to live and live to drink another day. That way we might all win the game of life.

I, of course, know where the “instant win” spot is located. At least in terms of my annual holiday column – I’ve got 400 words of ready-made Christmas-themed copy I roll out every year and reassemble like an artificial tree. It owes a debt to Clement C. Moore as well as the fine wines of Sonoma Valley. Despite this pedigree, it is something of a literary fruitcake. So feel free to re-gift it. Have a holly jolly holiday!

* * *

’Twas a Wine Country Christmas and all through his cellar

Were stowed bottles of vino and this lucky feller;

His name was St. Nick and Sonoma his pride

As his schedule permitted he’d come here to hide

My host remarked, “Now, don’t judge a wine by its label”

Which made me afraid of ending up under the table

“All things in moderation,” he said with glee

As he began opening bottles – one, two and three!

“Now, Ledson! now, Landmark! now, Kamen and Castle!

On, Gundlach! on, Bundschu! on Haywood and Hanzell!

Let’s pop some corks and fill up our cups

We’ll drink upside down just to say “Bottom’s up!”

Champagne gushed like geysers, merlot poured like rain

Zins went straight to my head and the cabs to my brain

He said, “Every bottle’s a vacation, every sip a holiday!”

As he washed down pinot with a fine chardonnay

My teeth had turned purple, my cheeks had gone red

I’d say, “Just a taste” but a carafe came instead

Now the cellar was spinning and my view was a blur

An eloquent drunk, I made poetry of slurs

“Damn, you drunken elf, I’m going to bed,”

as visions of cirrhosis danced through my head

I crawled on my knees, for I’d forgotten my swagger

I’d decline a straight line but would be happy to stagger

As I lumbered and lurched toward the cellar door

he brandished a corkscrew and simply said “More.”

He throttled a bottle and commanded me, “Drink”

“‘Tis the season,” I reasoned, as I drank to the brink

His generosity proved as grand as his cellar was vast

But who will drive the sleigh after our vintner’s repast?

He tugged at his beard, his sparkling eye winked

“That’s why I’ve got elves, why what did you think?”

Embarrassed as I was at my implied accusation

He guffawed from his belly and poured another libation

Now, I’m not one to moralize, especially in carol

But the fact remains when one’s over the barrel

Designate a driver or a get a taxi on the line

And Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good wine!

The Dangers of Mistletoe: 5 Reasons it’s a Holiday Menace

There are many Christmas traditions that will get one in a holiday mood. Decorating a Christmas tree, candy canes, consumer credit debt and, of course, mistletoe.

1. ?Species of mistletoe grow on trees the world over. However, it?s not living in perfect harmony with the tree.? In fact, it?s eating it.? Mistletoe is a hanging parasitic plant ??its root penetrates the host tree, drains it of its life blood, and eventually overtakes it.? Just like in Alien.

2. ?Etymologically, the word mistletoe comes from the German ?mist? meaning ?dung? and ?tang? meaning ?bough.?? So, in essence, mistletoe means ?branch of shit.?? This is because mistletoe is spread by bird poop.?The human equivalent would be having a florist shop grow out of one?s toilet.

3. ?Kissing under mistletoe remains a popular means by which one may inflict one?s lips on a co-worker at the office Christmas party.? In this regard, some consider mistletoe?to be a yuletide Spanish fly or a vegetal Viagra. Be assured, it’s far from an aphrodisiac.? Mistletoe is a date rape drug.? Its berries are chalk full of viscotoxins which lower your heart rate and can cause you to pass out, leaving you pray to the unwanted sexual advances of drunk guys in Santa hats.

4. ?Another one of the dangers of mistletoe?is the misconception that smoking it?will get you high.? This theory was developed by people who are already high.? Do not smoke mistletoe. That feeling of euphoria you may experience after a mistletoke is your soul leaving your body.

5. ?It?s for the above reasons that mistletoe is best kept out of reach.? This is why it is hung high under the doorways until the government sends dudes in hazmat suits to get rid of it. Or for that matter, get rid of the guy in the Santa hat when he hangs mistletoe from his belt buckle.