Cheeseburger Gothic

So shiny. So precioussssssss...

Posted May 6, 2011 by John Birmingham
Well it took a while, involved about four false alarms, and in the end I had to skip lunch to race across the city to lay hands on mine, but I finally, finally managed to place within my possession, Master's shiny, new iPad2.

Oh yes. It shines, brothers and sisters, it shines with the holy awesome within.

There's been about umpty billion reviews of the 2 so far and I don't intend to add to them, other than saying I chose a 32gig, wifi only, black model. Having traveled thru the US with the kid's v.1 pads hotspotted to my ipwn I'd determined that 3g was unecessary. It also adds a few grams to the weight and of course subscription costs for a 3g connection.

I chose the 32gigs because that's enough memory to hold some serious media, especially films and tv shows while I travel. But I dont keep that stuff on board permanently because once you've watched it, there's no need. It can either sit on a server at home, or on the physical media in which it arrived. So 32 is more than enough, while 64, perversely isn't nearly enough. At 64 gigs you're starting to think about whether you could load up whole seasons of shows like the Wire or Firefly, when there's no need, and you probably can't anyway.

16gigs is for little girls.

I chose the black because black is always cooler, but it also provides a much better surround when watching vids. With a white bezel you never get past the framing of the image. With black, particularly when the lights are down, you can fall into the action on screen much more easily.

For apps, I've leaned heavily towards media and especially news consumption. Hearst have just inked a deal with Apple to put a few of their mastheads on iPad, one of which, US Esquire, is an old fave of mine, so I will be subscribing to that, along with Wired and maybe, just maybe, The Daily, from the Murdoch Deathstar. I would have transferred my other subs across from the Kindle but that's not yet allowed.

My other news apps are all freebies. The ABC's HD app is a fucking killer, as is most of their digital delivery gear. CNN, NYT, NPR, al Jazeera, The Independent, BBC, the Economist's 'Intelligent Life', they're all good. In addition to them I've got a couple of heavily trafficked specialty tech portals like Engadget, IGN, Cnet and so on.

Most interesting however are the 'bespoke' magazine apps like Flipboard and Zite which sweep thru your social media connections, your RSS feeds, and, if you let them, your email, to craft a digital magazine just for you. The results are amazing, and the more you use them of course, the better they get at predicting and searching for the sort of stuff you would normally seek out yourself. You can lose hours in these things, especially if, like me, you have thousands on feeder links coming from twitter and facebook.

I have to severely limit my time on the pad lest I lose whole days to those two.

For working while I travel I've got Pages, but will probably swap that out for a different program sometime soon. There's a great little note taking app called Penultimate which turns the pad into a giant old fashioned notebook. Bought a stylus to use with this and for something so simple it is the fucking schnitzel. I love it. Especially for jotting down thoughts about story arcs, characters etc. Orin put me onto some mind mapping apps which I haven't really got into, but a related story mapper called Ruminate has proved itself invaluable while I was plotting out Angels of Vengeance. I've loaded Blogpress and WordPress and a bunch of photo editors for work on the go.

There's a folder full of games, natch, and another with half a dozen fitness apps, the best of which is Nike's amazing effort. Hundreds of workouts, all with video instruction. Totally worth getting even if only for your phone.

The thing I'm coming to fully understand about these devices is how personal they are. We use to speak of 'personal computers', but really there was a huge amount of commonality between most peoples machines. Word processor. Spreadsheet. Coupla other big time programs. Maybe a game or two. Some music.

The explosion of the app ecology, not just at iTunes but over at Android and soon enough at Amazon really lets us invent a new machine on a literally blank skate. Once of I finish my book edit I'm gonna take a few days to reinvent mine all over again.

 

42 Responses to ‘So shiny. So precioussssssss...’

fknvty puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
until you chuck a havsy .... did he ever get his cell phone returned? pz.v.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
First thing I did was fire up the locator function and login into Mobile Me. Now my Master can follow my every move.

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Monster Yuppy mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2011
Me & the Mrs now use our 64g V1 iPads for pretty much day to day work use, leaving the MacBook at home.
Was gonna grab a V2, but will prob wait for V3.
And yes, I do spend an inordinate amount of time playing Angry Birds.
Don't you judge me.

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sibeen mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2011
I got hold of one a week or two ago. The 64 gig version with the 3G, anything less appeared to be, well to be blunt, a little woossy.

My favourite app so far is GoodReader. I load all my site diagrams on as a PDF and can walk around and annotate the drawings as I go. Saves me lugging around a tonne of A1 drawings.

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Darth Greybeard asserts...

Posted May 6, 2011
Apps are indeed wonderful. Adobe Photoshop Express, Google Docs, Dropbox, Firefox all get a workout (as does Angry Birds). Norton Utilities is not only useful but looks incredibly cool. My favourite app at the moment is Gesture Search (Google). Instead of swiping past 5 pages of screens to get to an app or contact, you draw the first letter on screen and there's an instant list. Only once had to include the second letter but it is so fast, easy & intuitive. Hierarchical menus are history man, history!

Fellow Androids might like Identity Sweeper. Set your password and you can remotely lock the phone, tell it to SMS its location or wipe everything back to factory specs. And (dons Sneer-proof Jacket) I hear Windows 8 will have an App store? (Exit stage left, pursued by pelted Apples.)

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
JB what about Dragon?

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Naut asserts...

Posted May 6, 2011
Did you buy it in the US and then get it shipped?

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Havock would have you know...

Posted May 6, 2011
Virty, NAH, fkn things goneski!, got another V 3 unit. But gotta say, the whole Apple, sync, recover fkn thing is FKD! beyond belief. And as for the TRACKING SOFTWARE, Jobes can get fkd on that too, fkrs should have it activated when ya get the phone or TELL YA! about the stuff. Fkn PHONE STORE MUPPETS!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
"blank skate." ?

Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. There are more than 200 described species in 27 genera. There are two subfamilies, Rajinae (hardnose skates) and Arhynchobatinae (softnose skates). [wiki]

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
I fear new consumer technology. I have a client that insists I have an Iphone and is buying me one. I don't want it. But how do you say no to such a thing?

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Rhino puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
for games try Flight Deck Freedom. Free and will chew up hours and hours. We have a running contest at the cigar shop ... bunch of middle-aged men sitting around with iPads landing planes and helicopters on ships ... and if you get high score you get to lord it over the rest.

I loves me shiny .. I does I does.

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fknvty is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
@ boylesy ... simple .... repeat after me N ............. O ................ there now ..... wasn't so hard was it?
we often give the equivalent of no in a foriegn language just to give people the proverbials ...... my favs are pas (french) noi (schwabisch) or ?? (korean) .... you'll have to grab a sample from google translate to get the gist.
beer oclock v.

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Unpossible mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2011
Do you earn commission for promoting the wares of mister Jobs? 'Cos I thinky I will go and get one if I get some good news on the employment front. Drool.

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
Uh oh ... Shiny is now obsolete. Can't wait to get my hands on this:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110504111147.htm

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 6, 2011
boylesy?

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
PNB, this is a traditional Oz form of affection & respect. Thus Rhino would become Rhiny and Murphy would become, er, Murphy. Some of our Prime Ministers are accorded this honour but by no means all. Bob Hawke was often Hawkey but Paul Keating was generally "that bastard". And Julia is never Gillie.

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Nocturnalist mutters...

Posted May 6, 2011
Actually Murph would probably become "Murpho".

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Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
And Jobs paying a commission to the likes of JB would be like Scientology paying Travolta & Cruise. I wonder if he's ever thought of just tithing the faithful instead of charging for each new shiny?

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Bangar would have you know...

Posted May 6, 2011
Congratulations and enjoy, I still think I'll go with this, ASUS Eee PC T101MT-BU27-BK 10.1-Inch Convertible Tablet. It's not perfect (what is), a SSD would be better but that I can fit.

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Damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2011
Hmm. Yes, 16GB is for little girls (got the 32G iPhone 3GS myself, will only upgrade when either it dies or I start carrying around devices that support WiFi but not Bluetooth). Yes, black is cool (we did in fact spring the extra couple hundred bucks to replace the wife's iBook with the black Macbook), yes your master will track your every move... me, I'm forced to rely on the fact my home-and-contents insurance covers phone idiocy (and frankly, I'm as likely to fall in the pool with it as I am to lose it somewhere out and about, so this is probably a better solution anyway).

There was some point to me posting, something I meant to talk about, can I remember it? Nooooooo......

Oh, that's right. I jailbroke my AppleTV (2nd generation) the other week. This is after months of seeing blog posts about how an ABC iView app for the Samsung network-capable TVs would be available in "2011 Q1". There were even updates confirming this *during* Q1. Since we were well and truly in Q2, I gave up waiting. The AppleTV itself was a bit of a disappointment in terms of the things it could potentially do, but had always justified itself as a "network speaker" for the various iTunes instances about the house. However, some fine people released a port of XBMC to the AppleTV back in January, and I'm in a position now to confirm that the iView plugin for that works nicely.

Along with XBMC's other functionality (and very accessible plugin API in Python), this more or less obviates any need to set up a media centre computer at the television. A $130 AppleTV beats a lot of other options quite smartly.

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Moko reckons...

Posted May 6, 2011
FKN Apple.

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Brian reckons...

Posted May 6, 2011
Ehhh . . .'bout time.

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beeso is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
Why can't you blog about something I'm interested in?

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Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2011
Yeah . . .what Beeso said. I mean IPads . . so last year man.

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fknvty asserts...

Posted May 6, 2011
like if you can fall into the pool with your i-fkn-lookat-me-spazz- phone then you can afford to fkn buy another one can't you ... grrrrrrr some grunts around here ......
like as if i've enough problems trying to install a wave machine (that tubes out) in the dam without this glossy hummingbird black bs.
much worse than a fkn country womens association arvo tea WITHOUT pumpkin scones if you ask me
pz.v.

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damian reckons...

Posted May 6, 2011
Don't get me started on the pumpkin vines, virtster

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2011
You need iVine 2.0

With the special pumpkin patch.

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fknvty puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
who's lurkin' in me pumpkin patch begorrah .... watchit or i'll haf to alert the lesbian colony next door, they got real mean ipads. pz.v.

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Murphy mutters...

Posted May 6, 2011
Birmo, can't you download a Kindle app for your iPad?

I have a Kindle app for my third gen iPod Touch and it syncs up pretty well with the Kindle 2. My only gripe is that I do not seem to be able to get newspapers downloaded onto the Touch.

The note taking app with a stylus sounds awesome. That said, I suspect I'm going to have to wait for the iPad 3.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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andy f reckons...

Posted May 7, 2011
surely an ipad for lesbians would be an Lpad?

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Moko puts forth...

Posted May 7, 2011
Please, Beeso's got nudes of Job's on his iPad ... iPhone ... Mac .... T-shirt ... and walls.

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Mat D would have you know...

Posted May 7, 2011
Hell yeah to the Firefly episodes for when you travel, god bless Joss Whedon!!!

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Big Pete is gonna tell you...

Posted May 7, 2011
the new iPad sounds like a nice device. If only I could think of a reason to own one.

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drej ducks in to say...

Posted May 7, 2011
Huzzah. Made for drunken tweeting in front of the box I reckon...

Don't mind my ipawn4 I have to say. Except the free rubber bumper from Apple lasted all of about 3 months before breaking. I guess you do get what you pay for...

So just received in the mail this week shiny new protector case thingy - the Vapor4 from ElementCase. Its wicked : aircraft-grade aluminium surround (yeah, wank) with carbon fibre backing cover. Very happy, just hope it protects as good as it looks, although it ranked pretty high on the net.

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MickH asserts...

Posted May 7, 2011
And of course you're with Telstra because any other network just can't cut it for speed and coverage.

Right?
Right!

:)

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ConspiracyCat would have you know...

Posted May 8, 2011
Yeah, real funny MickH, (smartarse). I would have said so much, much sooner, but I'm with Telstra.

FKN intermittent broadband errors.....

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Damian mumbles...

Posted May 8, 2011
Personally I am sick of losing phone+internet 4 times a week while they mess with the pits in the street. We are so switching to cable when this contract expires, and perhaps is we get telstra cable, there's some package deal with mobiles we can work towards also (as contracts run out there).

I am sure I grazed the phone cable with the shovel when I was re-planting a palm tree yesterday. I mean, it's in galvanised pipe ffs. How long did they expect that to last? It's been there for 40 years...

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lostatlunch puts forth...

Posted May 8, 2011
Game app splode... I have lost weeks on it..

And gravity HD... It broke my brain..


And osmos HD... SO PRETTY

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Brian mutters...

Posted May 8, 2011
Strangely enough . . .I'll be swapping from Vodaphone back to Telstra.

Yep . . .Teltsra has problems . . . I'd love to have those problems. In fact I'd love to have the connectivity.

Example.Drove to Canbera up the Hulme. Telstra - good. Vodaphone? Had a Havoc moment. I have lots of those.

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DrStrangelove reckons...

Posted May 8, 2011
Good grief, I feel so behind the times. I think I'll move out West Texas and raise jackalopes.

Doc

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted May 8, 2011
Did I say shovel? I definitely meant spade.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted May 9, 2011
Yeah man, you should download season 1 and 2 of Archer. Its funny funny funny shit and perfect for watching on a tablet.

Like James Bond meets Mad Men via The Office.

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Respond to 'So shiny. So precioussssssss...'

Some other things I did on my holidays.

Posted April 27, 2011 by John Birmingham
I don't have a huge amount of time to write this entry. Got deadlines out the wazoo and I have to go pick up a tire I put in for puncture repair this morning. But I found the kids blogs accepted pics from within blogpress and with that in mind thought I might try a quick entry here. Below is the theatre in San F

ran that was a couple of doors down from our B&B. I'm pretty sure every tourist who passed along that way snapped a similar photo.

Alcatraz, which we visited on a night tour one cold and very wet evening, had a real concentration camp feel I thought.

It was a great tour but we were glad to get across to the water and into a warm bar. Hillstone, I think it was called. The ferry left from a terminal across the road and naturally there were any number of shitty, fast food dumps waiting to lure the unwary in over there. But it's always been my experience that if you just look around and walk a few hundred metres there'll be somewhere else worth going.

Of course it wasn't all dingy bars and wind swept ruins. We did some walking up and down the many hills of the city.

In New York, we stayed near the Park and spent a lot of time either walking through there, or exercising, or just hanging out.

And there were those occasions when the lads would go their own way. Leaving the ladies to shop while we toured submarines...

Inspected aircraft carriers

Or shot things down.

As in SF we did a lot of walking.

A bit of shopping...

And some fine dining...

17 Responses to ‘Some other things I did on my holidays.’

Melbo is gonna tell you...

Posted April 27, 2011
Thanks JB - love the pics. So you did the Nob but did you get to the Coit???

It must have been the worst kind of torture to be imprisoned on Alcatraz with that stunningly beautiful city right outside your window. So close yet so far.

New York - have to go. Your photos have just made me kick myself again for not making the trip the last two times I was there. What was I thinking?

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Brian puts forth...

Posted April 27, 2011
You are so getting a serve from H.

Strange . . . I spent some of my hols. looking at old warclobber as well. There''s a rule there I think.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted April 27, 2011
Nice one JB, thanks for sharing.
Just one small question; is that young man ready for a 50 cal?
Ok and another larger one; How TF did they get a SR71 (?) on an aircraft carrier?

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Rhino mutters...

Posted April 27, 2011
Where did you stay on Nob Hill ... the HLDW and I stay at a little boutique hotel by name of The White Swan when we are there. Wonderful little place.

NBob ... the answer to your question about the Blackbird is, "Carefully".

R.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted April 27, 2011
Thanks Rhino, I just googled me up some Airgeek action, they sugested crane & barge.
If I cared I'd find out the difference between an A12 & a Blackbird, as some airgeeks insist that the one on display on USS Intrepid is an A12.

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pitpat would have you know...

Posted April 27, 2011
mmm bacon in a bar. What will they think of next

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 27, 2011
Chocolate covered bacon in a bar.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted April 27, 2011
Rhino, we were at the Golden gate Hotel. A really lovely little place about two blocks up from Union Square.

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abigail would have you know...

Posted April 27, 2011
"Golden Gate Hotel--lovely little place to stay"--making mental note.

Lovely pix JB.I can never believe how extraordinary Central Park is.

So clever you chose to stay close to it--that and hiring the limo at the airports was very sane; that's the deal about travelling with kids, make it simple, why make it any more tiring than needs be? . All looks fabulous.

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girlclumsy reckons...

Posted April 27, 2011
Lovely shots! Such gorgeous weather too, really helps make a holiday shine. :)

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abigail asserts...

Posted April 27, 2011
Oh, btw--did you ever mention how the baseball game went? sorry, can't recall. Was everything good?

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ConspiracyCat mumbles...

Posted April 27, 2011
Wonderful pictures, JB. Thanks for sharing. (I'm insanely jealous).

I'm not jealous of your 'merican accent, though. Hope your "tire" got plenty of rest!

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 28, 2011
How very wonderful. Do you feel your children's horizons got a bit more distant due to their experiences?

Although it is surely unlikely, you have now created a greater possibility that at least one of our children will aspire to attend film school in NYC.

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jennicki puts forth...

Posted April 28, 2011
Thanks for sharing the pics! They're very nice.

I am a little jealous that you got all that exercise in walking around hilly San Fran!

I need to find me a route with lots of hills this summer for my walking.

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted April 28, 2011
looks cold

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DrStrangelove mumbles...

Posted April 28, 2011
My wife keeps threatening to take me to NY City sometime when we're up visiting her parents in PA. Sounds like y'all are having a great time!

Why the heck does it look so cold there? We're already in the 80s and 90s down Texas way.

Doc

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted April 29, 2011
What I want to know is why the Essex Class carrier I went to visit did not have an SR-71 for me to inspect?

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Respond to 'Some other things I did on my holidays.'

What I did on my holidays

Posted April 17, 2011 by John Birmingham
Yes, daddy's home.

So clean up this damn mess, mix me a drink, and fetch my slippers. First up a tip of the propeller beanie to Havoc for looking after things while I was away, although I'm not quite sure why I found one of the bunnies suspended by her suspender from the flagpole on the front drive. I shall have to look into that.

While I'm on the thank you wagon, I needs to dip me lid to Prof. Boylan for looking after us in San Francisco. He and his lovely, scary-smart wife went to considerable trouble to drive down and give us a tour of the old town. It was very much appreciated.

We flew in on a damp, gray morning that reminded me of the opening paragraph to The Big Sleep. The rain held off for most of the time, however, allowing us to walk around and do the tourist thing while adjusting our body clocks to the West Coast. We stayed in a bed-and-breakfast a couple of blocks from Union Square and enjoyed that most American of peculiarities, sharing the accommodation with pets. In this case a couple of dogs and a cat that had lost its tail. The kids loved that.

Having flown out on the day of the iPad launch in Australia I just had to go put my head in the San Fran Apple Store on the off chance that I might be able to score one where millions of Americans hadn't.

No luck.

Oh well. I picked up a few bits and pieces from my masters catalog of minor shiny precious trinkets–so cheap, so cheap–before doing some clothes shopping. We'd packed light, figuring to get the winter clothes we needed over there. A wise move. It's hard to believe how much cheaper everything is in the US until you get there. Of course that depends on maintaining a massive, poorly remunerated wage slave workforce, but that's not my problem. I shopped!

We also ate well, with a particular highlight being an Italian restaurant in the city center called Kuleto's. We first pulled in there a couple of hours after getting off the plane, horribly tired and jetlagged and in need of a decent feed and a stiff drink for the grown-ups. The meal and the service were so good we went back a couple of times more. I tend to do that when traveling. I know you're supposed to strike out and investigate new things but when I find something that's really good I like to invest in it. Kuleto's was really good.

As I mentioned above, the magnificent Boylan appeared on Saturday with his better half to whisk us away to Russian Hill for morning tea and then down to the waterfront where they spent some time at the markets before repairing to a seafood place for oysters and champagne. Huzzah! The afternoon found us at cocktails high above the city, a session I wrote up for Blunty, before we kicked on to dinner at John's Grill, a San Francisco institution featured in the Maltese Falcon.

The next day we did a bit of walking. Back down to the Ferry Building, around the inner city, hopped the ferry out to Alcatraz for the night tour, which was awesome, then back to the city for dinner and drinks at a place called Hillstone, a very agreeable little bar and restaurant. I had reason by this point to be grateful for having broken the spirits of my children many years ago when it came to dining out. They know how to behave themselves in a grown-up setting, even if they'd rather be somewhere else, and it makes traveling with them infinitely more enjoyable. For Jane and I, if not for them.

We did four days in San Francisco before heading across to New York for a couple of weeks. That was our only instance of domestic air travel on the trip and it went pretty well. I got the full body scanner, which pleased me immensely as I listened to the shock and awe of the security personnel when confronted with the awesome power of JB's Old Persuader.

We flew American Airlines across to New York, an all-day flight that passed pleasantly enough thanks to a few more drinks and recently restocked Kindle. That was another thing I bought up on while in country. Lots and lots of titles from the US Kindle store.

I spent a bit of extra money to have a private car and driver waiting at the airport for each leg of the trip, which made the transfers a lot easier.We were staying in the Beacon Hotel in New York, and I would happily recommend it to anybody traveling with kids. They have a two bedroom apartment that's bigger than a lot of apartments your average New Yorker would call home, and the upper West side location two or three blocks back from Central Park is pretty much perfect when you're traveling with kids. There's a couple of brilliant food markets just across the road, and of course hundreds of great cafés and restaurants and diners within a few minutes walk.

I had some work to do in Manhattan, a few meetings to go to, some interviews to do, and as always deadlines to meet, so Jane and the kids looked after themselves for a bit. But there was still plenty of time to enjoy the city. And it is a very enjoyable city. You forget just how unbelievably big it is until you're back there. Naturally, the New York experience you have when you're traveling with children is very different from the experience you have without them, but still awesome. We bought ourselves memberships to the Natural History Museum a while ago, and that alone was worth a week of return visits. The space center in particular was brilliant. Thomas and I took yourselves off to the USS Intrepid one morning while the ladies get their lady thing. I think it involved shopping. And we ate some quite beautiful meals at both high end fine dining restaurants and cheap neighborhood eateries.A couple of standouts were Jean George's on Central Park West, where Thomas inhaled my foie gras Bruleé, and a really lovely Italian place called Ceska around corner from the hotel.

I believe there has been some unseemly talk about all the fat I would be stacking on while away. Allow me to introduce you to Equinox, a boutique gymnasium chain that touts itself as the finest gym in America. And indeed it is. It was also just around the corner from the hotel and offered massive discounts on temporary membership to guests of the Beacon. I spent quite some time there. And in Central Park breaking in my newly purchased running shoes and ridiculously cheap exercise gear.

And, as I may have mentioned, Manhattan is very, very big. We walked all over it.

So I'm afraid some of you owe Abigail some money.

My belt is notched exactly where it was when I left and although the scales say I gained 300 g, I weighed myself before performing my morning ablutions.

My ablutions are considerable. Pay up. (If this all seems implausible, allow me to soften the blow. The last time I was in New York I lost 2.5kgs. That didnt happen this time. I suppose the bush lawyers here might want to argue that's a net gain of some sort).

I would like to be able to go into some of the work meetings I had while I was in New York, but unfortunately they involved discussions about publishing plans for the next 3 to 5 years. Some of those details are fascinating. But confidential.

I can talk about progress on Angels of Vengeance, however. I had lunch with Betsy, my publisher at Random, and we worked through some of the usual first draft issues, all of which I'm now in the process of dealing with. That should hopefully be wrapped up by the end of the month, at which point I'll fly across to Perth for a couple of days of R&R.

You know.

To get over my holiday.

36 Responses to ‘What I did on my holidays’

abigail would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
JB , your trip sounded awesome, truly awesome., just wow. And thanks because I'm going to fleeece it for restaurant/ accom. references for when we go over. I thin k the private limo is a GREAT idea.
Anyway,it's really great to have you back.
And. I accept the following currency: AUD, Yen, Euros.

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Moko mumbles...

Posted April 17, 2011
FKN Abigail.

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Orin would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
So, still iPadless?

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 17, 2011
Yes. iPadless. It is enough to make me doubt my master's love.

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Orin has opinions thus...

Posted April 17, 2011
Well, you can always wait until iPad version 3.0, which would make you recoil in horror from your 2.0 just as the faithful recoil in horror from their original iPads. Cos the next one is going to make the current ones totally look shite ;-)

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NBlob mutters...

Posted April 17, 2011
Good yr back in 1 piece.
This omniscient omnipresent Havoc thing was begining to wierd me out. In a good way.
Junior Birmo must have been pretty impressed by his old man laying on the aerospace & USS Intrepid for him.
In good & vaguely related news you may have heard the the Dimantina @ the Bris Maritime museum got pretty much filled with mud during the flood, Nuke US sub ( 'USS Don't Even Fkn Think About It' I think ) is on a port visit & the crew has "volunteered" to clean her out.

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Melbo is gonna tell you...

Posted April 17, 2011
Welcome back JB and congrats on the lack of gain. I lost weight in the US too so I know it can be done. I'm green with jealousy about the Museum of Natural History. I've heard it's ace.

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Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted April 17, 2011
I'm just green.

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fknvty would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
rather you than me, happy families on the road tend to have me thinking of national lampoon movies and a large dimeatap bottle.
amanda palmer recently moved from boston to manhattan, she reckons it's so 1999.
pz.v.

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
Orin, but of course! Come iPad3 I shall hand my worthless iPad2 off to the kids. Altho at this rate I fear I wont be able to get one until a week before the next gen is announced.

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 17, 2011
This is gonna be weird, getting used to "johnbirmingham" actually being, you know... just when we'd got used to the other.

Sometimes 2-3 times a night, too.

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damian would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
And is it a bad thing that my mental geography of Manhattan relies, at least in part, on GTA4?

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abigail ducks in to say...

Posted April 17, 2011
Damian, haha.

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Murphy would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
You LOST WEIGHT during your NYC 2009 trip? Really, John?

Ah, I've got an app for that. It is called a BS Detector and it is threatening to buzz my iTouch to pieces.

How the hell did you LOSE WEIGHT after that massive blueberry cheesecake and pastrami sandwich at Carnegie's?

There is just no justice in this world. I GAINED WEIGHT while I was in NYC, though I think most of it was snot in my sinuses.

Oh, Manhattan in very walkable, for those wondering. I will say this, unlike Birmo's impression, Manhattan seems to be HUGE and small at the same time. Ten blocks in NYC is manageable. Ten blocks here in the sprawl of say Kansas City is a death march.

As for the bunny, she got lippy with Trinity and that is all I can say about it.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted April 18, 2011
Per the iPad, someone in the SF community managed to wrangle one by finding a rural outlet for the devices where demand would be less. They ended up with a 32GB wifi black model. I suspect that if I had $500 plus laying around, I'd probably follow the same strategy.

Something to consider. I suspect if I had two to three thousand dollars in spare change, I could probably make a tidy sum picking up stateside iPad2s and shipping down under for a modest handling fee.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted April 18, 2011
Thank you for not describing the fist fight between me and that old lady. Laying on the sidewalk holding my bleeding nose was extremely undignified, and I want nothing more than to put the unpleasant episode behind me.

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Puma reckons...

Posted April 18, 2011
the old persuader, LOL

Is Frisco not the shit or what? I'd move there but I'd probably need 3 roommates to afford it. NYC rocks too.

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MickH would have you know...

Posted April 18, 2011
Welcome back JB
I think we need a lunch time burger bash to welcome you back properly...(and get all the good goss)

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Bangar mutters...

Posted April 18, 2011
Welcome back, sounds like a great time was had. Glad I was wrong.

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ConspiracyCat ducks in to say...

Posted April 18, 2011
Old Persuader... snh, snh, snh, snh.... Sounds like somebody was channeling Derek Smalls....

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Big Pete has opinions thus...

Posted April 18, 2011
@PNB
"Thank you for not describing the fist fight between me and that old lady."

I hear the video is quite a hit on YouTube. Though you have to turn the sound down as the screaming and sobbing is very disconcerting.

Oh, it's good to have you back JB. Though the other Fake JB was doing quite a good job, I was quite enjoying the daily rants on various subjects.

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pitpat ducks in to say...

Posted April 18, 2011
I learnt not to bet on JBs weight last time. Holiday sounds cool tho, will have to try one of those one day.

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abigail mutters...

Posted April 18, 2011
Big Pete, Yes it is on YouTube but it's Sony therefore we get just 4 precious minutes of PNB action.

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted April 18, 2011
Yep, 2.5kgs, Murph. Apart from the cheesecake and that obscenely large salmon bagel, I pretty lived on fruit, salad and grilled fish last time. A few more boutique donuts made their way onto the menu for this trip.

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Chaz has opinions thus...

Posted April 18, 2011
Welcome back Scribe.

Just when were you going to let me know you were coming over here, eh?

Just hope you don't bring crap weather like you did last time.

BTW just a reminder, those acid like stains in the study Not.My.Fault. No matter what Mr Pink Giant Squid says. Ok? *bloody shoggoths*

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Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted April 18, 2011
Is Perth a destination for rest and relaxation? I need to know.

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abigail would have you know...

Posted April 18, 2011
Totally is, PNB. Got great beaches, Chaz, wine country.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted April 18, 2011
I think R&R suits Perth. I'm not sure whether they're producing decent beer yet but there's always imports from the east. Don't go to Rottnest Island as its infested with quokkas.

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Chaz swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 18, 2011
And we all know how vicious & grumpy Quokkas are...

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Paul Nicholas Boylan asserts...

Posted April 19, 2011
Reasons enough. I will attempt to include it.

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Albion Love Den ducks in to say...

Posted April 19, 2011
Perth is only a destination for R&R cos there's fuck all else to do there.

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Rhino has opinions thus...

Posted April 19, 2011
Good to have you back. It was getting difficult to read the blog entries with all of the Havock spittle sprayed across every entry. Only man in the world that can make e-ink run.

I do like NYC but never had a yen to live there - it is a 'visting place' For living I think that it is a young man's town and about 2 years would be all that I could hack. I'm just a suburban Rhino now and have no desire.

Also love S.F. but haven't been back for several years ... last time I was there was during Chinese New Year the year that Hunter Thompson committed suicide and it just seemed so right, and wrong, to be in that town at that time. The HLDW and I walked all the way from North Beach through Chinatown to our hotel on Nob Hill on that trip. Amazing experience.

I've been working all of the angles on the homefront to justify my purchase of an iPad2 only 7 months after my acquisition of the first. Nothing has worked so far. I'm thinking that feigned carpal tunnel from having to lift this obnoxiously heavy tablet will be my next tactic.

When are we going to get another snippet?

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 20, 2011
When I get time to upload photos via blogroll.

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 20, 2011
eep.

I meant blogpress.

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Brian puts forth...

Posted April 21, 2011
Still IPadless? Shame. Went to Canberra Center Apple store and had a play. Got the wifes IPhone sorted . . . . fckn legacy software.
Saw a guy at Creams doing a job interview on a Chickie babe with IPad MK 1. Mostly I see the little suckers being used as games machines on trains.

Completely happy with my 12 inch slate thanks.

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Savo mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2011
welcome home Mr Birmingham

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Respond to 'What I did on my holidays'

And so it's away.

Posted March 22, 2011 by John Birmingham
I hit 'Send' on the manuscript submission email at 10.05 this morning. As always it took longer than I imagined to iron out the last few wrinkles. And as always there'll be more to do in the coming weeks and months. Although not in the next 2-3 weeks, because I'm going on holiday.

First up, thanks are due to Murph.

He's been the researcher on my previous four or five books and with each title he's taken on more editorial responsibility. The manuscripts now arrive at the publishers in a much more advanced state because he's run the blue pencil over them first. (Or the highlight and delete function. Same thing)

With part of this book being set in Kansas City, and part in a post-Wave Darwin that bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing, Murph also took on some fine detail work for me, describing street scenes in KC, and adding detail to an imagined Bladerunner style red light district in Darwin. Indeed, he seems to have an astonishing affinity Bladerunner style red light districts. It makes one wonder...

Anyway, I was exchanging a few emails with my local publisher, Cate, this arvo, and it occurred to me how much happier I was with this draft than any previous one. Normally I fall across the line at the end of a book, especially late in the series. But I finished Angels of Vengeance wanting to know 'what happens next'. Always a good sign.

There's a number of reasons for this but I think one of them is a change in the way I went about this stroy, pulling in much tighter on a couple of the characters. Angels is every bit as action driven and violent as the previous books, but the violence is much more personal and intimate.

You'll see.

For now, I'm gonna rest. There'll be more late nights before I take my hands off this, but not for a while. Instead of working today I did some easy prep for our trip to the US later this week, and took Anna to lunch at Cafe Pearl. Her class is on camp this week but she decided to come to New York instead so has the added bonus of extra days off.

If you want an interesting perspective on how it came together, Murph has blogged about it from the POV of a narrative galley slave.

31 Responses to ‘And so it's away.’

drej has opinions thus...

Posted March 22, 2011
Nice work JB! Can't wait to read it.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted March 22, 2011
*Steepled fingers* Excellant

or is the more apt image, patting the sweaty neck of a lead bullock after the team climbed a steep pitch?

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Melbo reckons...

Posted March 22, 2011
Good one - looking forward to reading it too. Hope you enjoy your holiday (don't give yourself RSI with those computy games though will you. Oh the irony).

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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted March 22, 2011
I blame crass friends, soldiers and my time in Korea for the Red Light Districts. :)

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted March 22, 2011
Well done JB and Murph.

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Scott reckons...

Posted March 22, 2011
Looking forward to reading. Projected publication date?
Btw enjoy the trip, by the sounds of it you have earned it.

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yankeedog mumbles...

Posted March 22, 2011
Congrats, JB! Looking forward to the book. If it's on par with the first two, it should be one for the ages.

Well done as well to Murph. If you get on I-35 around North Kansas City, you can see most of the places mentioned in 'After America'.

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Stevo 73 mumbles...

Posted March 22, 2011
Woo Hoo! I have been hanging out for this one. Congrats JB and Murph.

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Bunyip would have you know...

Posted March 22, 2011
Is "Explodedy goodness", is good.

Looking forward to it, include the Bladerunnery Darwin.

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted March 22, 2011
yeah..def about fkn time,,,,talk about draggin ya bloody feet!..sheeez!

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sparty mumbles...

Posted March 22, 2011
"Angels of Vengeance"
Now thats a TITLE!

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mckinneytexas would have you know...

Posted March 22, 2011
I'm with Havock. Now git sum FKN REST!

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Rhino mutters...

Posted March 23, 2011
YES!

As much as I loved it I'm glad that you didn't use the original working title, The Rhino of Vengeance. That would have made Mrs. Havock a widow when H's head exploded.

All joking aside I can't wait for this one.

R.

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Murphy would have you know...

Posted March 23, 2011
Tis gonna be some good stuff coming down the pike.

Birmo gets to rest, the bastard. I get to grade papers. :)

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted March 23, 2011
Well done JB & Murph. Enjoy the break.

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abigail puts forth...

Posted March 23, 2011
How long you in the US for,JB ? or maybe that is a secret...

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MickH mutters...

Posted March 23, 2011
Well done guys
I must say I've been impressed with your dedication to the deadline. Amazing stuff!

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Timmo has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2011
Sweet! Looking forward to this. So is this definitely the conclusion of a trilogy? Or is there the possibility of more in this series?

Good work on hitting the deadline JB & Murph.
Now go enjoy a well-earned break.

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David T swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 23, 2011
Congratulations JB, and good one Murph. Murph's comments on how the narrative/s got put together were useful too, even if his blog did eat itself right when I posted on it...

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted March 23, 2011
Fkn yeah. Sept release hopefully, in time for my fkn birfday. Good job JB and Murph.

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Big Pete ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2011
A few weeks ago, I handed over some of the hard earned folding stuff, for a copy of 'Without Warning', and so far, I'll have to say, I'm really enjoying the story. Little did I know of the horrors lurking between the covers though, I mean, 'The Shark' gone, only his hat and golden putter marking the spot where he once stood. The Horror, The Horror.

So well done JB, and congratulations on finishing the latest one. It may take me a while, but I look forward to reading the next two.

And for Murph, a hearty Aussie slap on the back accompanied by a rousing 'Onya Murph'.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2011
Damn, David, I don't like the sound of that. What happened exactly?

I'm looking forward to seeing this in print. It is the first complete trilogy I've seen put together from scratch. It has been an interesting and educational experience.

I'm pretty lucky to have the opportunity.

Thanks, everyone.

Yankeedog is right, by the way. If you drive down I-35 you'll see most of North Kansas City, including the nine story tall brick building which is in many ways, the tallest building in Northtown (not counting the Hospital). It sorta stands out.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted March 23, 2011
I remain unhappy that my suggestion that the whole "end of America" thing turns out to be the dream of a 12 year old precocious girl was rejected so quickly, and with such vehemence. I continue to believe the idea lent a much needed sense of whimsy to the story.

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MickH ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2011
hey Paul! Have you ever wondered that you might actually be the dream of some precocious 12 year old?

That's scary isn't it!

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DrStrangelove swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 23, 2011
To Murph:"I blame crass friends, soldiers and my time in Korea for the Red Light Districts"

I had to laugh at that. Reminds me of the time when my former USMC dad told me of his "exploits" while on leave in Seoul. Those things tend to stun a 17 yo.

Can't wait to get my hands on it, JB! Take some well deserved rest!

Doc

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Guru Bob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 23, 2011
As a reward you should go and see Battle: Los Angeles...

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2011
Yes, Mick, that is a frightening concept.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2011
Some 'xplodey goodness to keep us going 'till publishing date.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32b9m7CeJfQ&feature=player_embedded#at=33

Why? because we can.

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Rhino mutters...

Posted March 24, 2011
All .. John Scalzi was away from his blog today and invited people to post links to other writer's blogs. Of course, I commented with a link to this one. Be nice if newbs stop by.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 24, 2011
Oooh, Scalzi might not be too thrilled. This entry mentions my name. I'm considered The Nemesis of the American Science Fiction Community by some of his readers.

:) I like that. Nemesis. It is almost as good as another title I lay claim to.

The Dream Crusher.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Murphy reckons...

Posted March 24, 2011
Oh, I see it is a general citation. Well, that won't bother them too much until I make a post. :)

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Respond to 'And so it's away.'

Dictation software update.

Posted February 27, 2011 by John Birmingham
I should have listened to Orin. You never tempt fate like that. I was smashing my deadline flat on Friday. Really cranking out the words. So what did I do? Bragged about it of course. Hopped on Twitter during one of my 5 min. Pomodoro breaks and boasted about just how big a can of whuppass I was opening on my deadline.

He tweeted me back a couple of minutes later on, warning me against such arrogant foolishness. Honest to God, it couldn't have been five seconds later that I pushed my chair away from the desk, ready to get going with some more dictation (which meant standing up, of course, thanks Jennicki). The lead from my USB headphones was tangled around the wheel of my very expensive office chair. Long story short, the was a loud crunch as I ripped the USB dongle out the back of the computer, completely destroying it.

Most of the rest of the day was spent replacing those headphones.

There was one upside to it, however. While I was searching online for a replacement, I discovered that MacSpeech Dictate had gone through a major upgrade which I hadn't noticed. It was now Dragon Dictate 2.0 with all sorts of massive improvements promised. As I found the original Dictate to be such a great program, up until the moment I destroyed my dongle, I was intrigued by just how massive these improvements could be.

So, since I was already spending money, I handed over an extra hundred bucks to download the upgrade. I agree, it is a massive improvement. For the moment I'm using a cheap Logitech USB headset, although I have ordered a more expensive Bluetooth headset from Plantronics which I'm hoping to lay hands on in the next day or so. This will allow me to venture even further as I stalk around my office mumbling to myself. Conceivably I might even be able to sit in my nice leather recliner chair and dictate from there. Although there is always the chance of falling asleep doing that.

So, what's the upgrade like?

Well the first thing that's noticeable, it is more accurate. A lot more accurate. The previous version I would have put at maybe 94 or 95% accurate. This one feels much closer to 99% accurate. That might not seem like much, but over the course of the 200,000 word manuscript, it is. That 99% accuracy, by the way, is right out of the box.

The other thing that's noticeable is the stability. I have the preferences set up so that autosave kicks in every 30 seconds. That's a legacy from MacSpeech, which would crash at least once or twice every day, mostly because I insisted on pushing its performance envelope way beyond the recommended maximum.

How so?

It's all about the golden rule with dictation software. Once you start dictating, the programs do not like you to put your hands anywhere near the keyboard. It confuses them. Within the program's memory cache it stores not just the text document, but a recording of your voice. And the two have to mesh together perfectly. If you start moving the cursor around with your mouse, and doing edits and corrections by hand on the keyboard, it puts the zap on the program. Confuses the hell out of it, actually.

Try this a couple of times and the program will crash, taking your work with it if you have not set up a robust autosave.

There is a major caveat, however. If, like me, you work within the very simple text box provided by Dictate, you can push the limits of the Golden Rule a little further. Quite a bit further actually. And I do. Because editing via voice command sucks dog's balls.

What I'm finding with this new version of Dictate is a pleasing combination of a much more robust piece of software, which really lets me push against the limits of The Rule. And, just as importantly, a much more accurate transcription algorithm which means that I have to do heaps less editing anyway.

The program also seems more stable in that if you're standing staring into space for a few seconds trying to think of what comes next, it's much less likely to pick up on your breathing or a cough and transcribe that as a word–usually as a false definite article or indefinite article. It wasn't unusual for me to have to delete three or four of those things in a row when using MacSpeech Dictate.

So, is it worth the hundred bucks? For the upgrade, sure. I'm happy to have spent the money. Would I recommend that someone who's never used dictation software run out and spend a couple of hundred dollars more buying it off the shelf?

I don't know. We all remember that I had no choice but to use this software, so I was willing to put in a couple of weeks climbing a very steep learning curve. A lot of people would give up. And the problem is I'm now so familiar with the program, with what it can do, and with what I'm required to do to make it work properly, that I'm not really the right person to ask.

For me dictation software has been the goose that laid the golden egg. And this latest version of DragonDictate would seem to offer even more in the way of productivity gains. Would it work for you? Yes, if you are willing to spend the time reading the manual and training yourself to use it. But if you're not, it's a pretty fucking penny to drop on a program, especially if you pay even more for a high-end wireless headset.

26 Responses to ‘Dictation software update.’

FKNHVK mumbles...

Posted February 27, 2011
Yeah but does it have FKN Thunderbolt!?!

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted February 27, 2011
Tsk. One should pay careful attention when (one who shall not be named) gives warning.

The man has serious spooky like tendencies.

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tqft has opinions thus...

Posted February 27, 2011
Don't forget to print the receipt and put it with your tax stuff. While I am sure you are happy to fork over the cash, claiming at least some back from the ATO will undoubtedly make you happier.

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Jonathan Dowler reckons...

Posted February 27, 2011
I just got it 3 weeks ago and it rocks! Agree on everything you're sayin' and learned the hard way not to mix keyboarding and speech. While not dictating 20,000 words, my productivity is rocketing up!

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JG mumbles...

Posted February 27, 2011
Dictation software sounds amazing--if you know how to use it. Sounds like you're on top of it all now. Glad you like your upgraded version.
Joanna :))

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fknvty has opinions thus...

Posted February 27, 2011
still prefer a p.a. at 90 wpm with decent shorthand. always will i guess, especially when she smiles that smile :)
- one also wonders how many real live industry workplace people scansoft/ nuance have completely ratfucked to date. - then there's the ramifications of entrusting all your hardly crunched inspiration to the ether/ box of tricks/ multiple backups not to mention the ongoing relationship problems your gonna have with all those 0's & 1's.
pz.v.

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Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted February 27, 2011
The don't-touch-the-keyboard tip may explain the instability I was getting with the earlier DNS. Voice correction never worked properly & always used the mouse & keyboard. The disabled kids I was installing it for were more successful than, possibly because they weren't using mouse or kb at all. Or because they were more patient.

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yankeedog ducks in to say...

Posted February 28, 2011
If Pro/Engineer could work with dictation software, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. But when using Pro/E to do a project, often one uses interesting vocabulary as the program shows its various limitations.

I could see for authors and report writers where dictating right to the computer would be preferred over typing manually.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted February 28, 2011
First, "dongle" is American slang for unasthetically bent male genitalia.

Second, on your prior recommendation, John, I purchased Dragon for my son to use in University. He loves it and I believe it is helping him get better grades. I don't believe he edits by voice, though. By tonight he will have the upgrade.

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Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 28, 2011
Paul, I have a large collection of dongles which I have found very useful in the past. I can get almost anything connected to anything else with the right dongle. Is this wrong?

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MickH reckons...

Posted February 28, 2011
Does it have a Microsoft version?

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted February 28, 2011
Dragon was originally written for Windows, Mick. I think it's in its 11th iteration now, and called something like Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11. Google it up. My understanding is it's way more powerful in Windows.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted February 28, 2011
And yeah, Yankeedog, there are industry specific versions of the software, one for legal and one for medical, that come with all of the jargon. Interesting that they never seem to have done one for the engineering profession, perhaps because there are so many different schools of engineering.

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Big Pete would have you know...

Posted February 28, 2011
@MickH
Yes, I'm using it now. It's called 'Dragon Naturally Speaking'

A few months back I upgraded from DNS 10 to DNS 11, I think the latest Apple version is just version 11 of the Windows version. I will agree with what JB said regarding the accuracy, this version seems to be just that little bit better. I think I read somewhere that the voice sample rate has been increased with this version, so perhaps that's the reason for the improvement in accuracy.

My only gripe with the new version, is at times it seems to stall when I speak, like it's trying to work out what I said. I think it's a problem with caching its database in memory. I only have two gigs of RAM so I think its database is being swapped out into virtual memory when I use other programs that require lots of RAM, then switch back to using Dragon, it's then that this stalling happens. I might try adding a couple more gigs of RAM and see if that helps.

I find it is not only dictation where I find Dragon quite useful. I also use it just as much when reading long documents. I put Dragon into Command Mode, settle back nice and comfortable and start reading. To grab another page of text, it's just a matter of issuing a Page Down command.

All I need to do now is get it to understand commands like 'Warp Factor 7' and 'Fire Proton Torpedoes' and it will be perfect.

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Big Pete would have you know...

Posted February 28, 2011
While were on the subject of voice recognition software. You guys might be interested in Shoot. It's a voice overlay for games, so instead of pushing keys on your keyboard to do stuff like turn on your flashlight or reload your weapon, you can just say stuff like 'Flashlight on' or 'Reload' or my favourite 'Fire Proton Torpedoes', but only if you've got proton torpedoes, otherwise you'll just look stupid.

It seems to work quite well, go here for more information.http://clans.gameclubcentral.com/shoot/

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 28, 2011
Ooh, I can see a whole blog post out of that Shoot thingy, Pete. Cheers.

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yankeedog puts forth...

Posted February 28, 2011
One for people smarter than I am: do they sell different versions of dictating software for different regions of the English-speaking world? Australians sound different from Texans from Ontarians from Cockneys. There are a LOT of variations on vowel shifts, accents, and intonations. Or is the software smart enough to figure out stuff like that?

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted February 28, 2011
You can select one of thirteen major english language accents, including Australian, in the preferences.

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JP has opinions thus...

Posted February 28, 2011
Hmmm... I may be about sold, although I'd have to use it while SopranoGirl is not shaking my study furniture with her high F's.

I bought Dragon for my PC that I used for architecture study waaaay back in 1997 or 98, and it was a dog -- I'd call it about 80% accurate and that was with a fair amount of training time put in. I'd been tinkering on a Mac laptop at my first novel for nearly 3 years and thought that it'd be easier to dictate it in my downtime -- but no dice. I got through maybe 50 error-filled pages and gave up on the beast and returned to teh keyboard (which at 6'2'' and 100kgs gives me arthritis and RSI, not great to have at 31 and with another 16 novels due over the next 3 years). I've also felt since the Dragon experiment that I really need that mind-hand connection to getting my words on the page, but now I'm thinking maybe not. I love the idea that one could do a slightly diff voice in dictating each character, to really bring each alive via their speech. Then again, maybe that'd lead me back to a dark and slippery slope of method acting my way through novels and being drunk and drugged when my characters are.

And all that said, I'm wary to start using it in the midst of current series -- I reckon my narrative style would change to much from typed books to the dictated. Next project, I'll give it a crack -- I find I average 2k per day of good typed words, up to 5k when under serious deadline pressure or a day full of inspirado. Be great to get that average up from 2 to 3-4.

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havock is gonna tell you...

Posted February 28, 2011
YEP..its called DRAGON Naturally speaking and I HAVE THE FKN THING. Its loaded on the lappy. At this point in time, I am blaming the systems lack of FUCKING VOICE RECOGNITION on the lap tops fkn processing speed. NOW that I have me tower system back, free from fucking VIRUSES, I'm gunna load the fkr up. LOOK OUT DRAGON, IF this SHIT DONT FUCKING WORK, its gunna go back with an EXPANDING FUCKING ENVELOPE!

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted February 28, 2011
Read the FKN manual.

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Big Pete would have you know...

Posted March 1, 2011
@havock
the secret to voice recognition is a good quality headset. I'm not sure what sort of quality the standard headset that comes with Dragon is, as I didn't even bother unpacking it, I just went and bought myself a good quality USB headset, and haven't had any problems.

Also make sure you position the microphone well. If you have problems, then reposition the microphone and try again. It's amazing the difference in recognition you get by just moving the microphone into a slightly different position.

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BrianC reckons...

Posted March 1, 2011
Dragon on windows, is teh dom-didly-ohm as the kids say. Havock might say ITS FKN TOPS.

I'm glad you are using a Dragon product, you know who else uses Dragon. David Weber, he uses it so he can release 2 books a year.

Just sayin...

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havock has opinions thus...

Posted March 1, 2011
Big PETE and BRIAN C..thanks for the thoughts. I see they were sooo much more constructive than...READ THE FKN MANUAL.

Wait till I see YOU NEXT!

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havock has opinions thus...

Posted March 1, 2011
And yeah, its the standard head set that came with it!.

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havock reckons...

Posted March 1, 2011
JP..ya behind the curve..sheez man, I do 5 words per day..on a bad day, about 10 or even eleven words when on a roll!!!!!......

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Respond to 'Dictation software update.'

Borders, no more.

Posted February 17, 2011 by John Birmingham
So, Borders have finally gone under, here as well as in the US. Taking Angus and Robertson with them, and Whitcoulls in New Zealand. I am actually sorry to see them go, even though they haven't been the stores they used to be for a long time.

A lot of people in publishing and bookselling hated Borders for the obvious reason. They came stomping into a market, often crushing independent bookstores under foot, and applying a mass production sensibility to something which had once been a bit of a cottage industry.

All true. And yet I didn't mind Borders because, in the old days at least, they carried some amazing backlist. In the early days of that chain it was possible to wander in off the street and find whatever you wanted somewhere along the miles of shelving they maintained. They may have only kept two or three copies of backlist titles, but at least they kept them. Along with thousands of obscure titles you weren't going to find in other chains, or at the independents, which simply could not hold that much stock.

I'm not sure when this situation changed, but I was aware during my last book tour–what, eighteen months ago?–that everything had changed. I've done enough touring over the years that I'm allowed out on my own without a publicist these days. A lot of the grunt work of book touring, for instance ringing up bookstores and arranging visits, I would do for myself.

I remember very clearly being told, on the quiet, at the start of my last tour not to bother wasting my time visiting Borders. Some of them, franchises I think, were OK. But the chain as a whole run by Redgroup was considered to be toxic. Poor old Angus and Robertson, also caught up with the same venture capital smartarses was even worse.

I'm not sure whether you've been into an A&R store the last couple of years. Jesus, talk about depressing. They became giant dump bins for failed remainder copies imported directly from the US. Shit books by no-name authors, poorly printed on cheap stock.

So, what does this all mean?

Well, people will still buy books. It may hasten the acceleration towards electronic books which is already underway. It may shore up the position of the surviving chains, particularly well-run operations like Dymocks. What I would like to think might happen is something I've been predicting for a while. That we start to see something of a renaissance in the independent bookshop sector.

I did an interview with a journalist yesterday who was preparing a story for the Courier Mail, where we discussed this very issue. He specifically wanted to know about e-books, but we drifted onto the topic of the publishing industry in general. I told him what I've been telling people for nearly 2 years now.

Electronic book publishing is going to destroy the major chains. The sort of high volume disposable fiction which is their stock in trade, will migrate almost entirely into electronic form over the next 10 years. Their other income streams, recorded music and video are already drying up. It doesn't mean the end of the printed book. It just means printed books will be a much smaller segment of the market, and eventually much more of an elite item purchase. You can expect to pay a lot more for your paper books in future, but you can expect to buy only certain types of books in paper format because of that.

This isn't going to happen overnight, or even in the next two or three years. But it is going to happen over the next decade. At the end of that process I would expect to see most of the chains gone, but many of our much loved independent bookstores will still with us, doing what they do very well now. Providing a bespoke service, with a lot of hand selling of small print run high value books as part of a complete retail experience. What the fuck does that mean?

It doesn't mean sticking Gloria Jeans in the middle of your bookshop hoping that people will buy shitty books along with the shitty coffee. But it might mean something like my local bookstore, which is also a restaurant and café, and a really lovely place just hang out for a couple of hours. It's deeply embedded in the local community and appreciated not just for the books it sells, but the amenity brings to the neighborhood.

I can't think of a single Borders chain store about which you could say that.

93 Responses to ‘Borders, no more.’

Mr Ak mumbles...

Posted February 17, 2011
Are major chains going to die, though, or are they just going to become digital entities? I mean people like Borders have very recognisable brands in ways which publishers don't. Sure, you can brand by author or by series, but then it becomes harder to push something genuinely new at customers.

Or will it all just be Amazon taking 30% of your profits to distribute on a closed software monopoly.

Disclosure:I don't like Amazon.

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Mr Ak mumbles...

Posted February 17, 2011
Did I say people? I meant companies...

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DrYobbo mutters...

Posted February 17, 2011
Bit surprised Whitcoulls are being taken down, they seem to be in decent health over here.

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Matt asserts...

Posted February 17, 2011
A&R wasn't so great twenty years ago, either. If you wanted something a little odd getting them to order it in was like pulling teeth.

Or at least it was for me. Maybe you had better luck.

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Andy Thompson puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2011
I started to take note of the demise of Borders the day I noticed more and more DVD's being stocked in my local. I too, used to love being able to find rare copies of books that no one else had. Still, there was no atmosphere. It was like shopping in a hospital ward except the nurses were replaced with spotty teens with lip piercings who wanted to tell you all about the latest vampire novel. Unfortunately the shopping centre I generally frequent has both a Borders and an A&R. I am now a wee lamb...lost in the woods.

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Mirthisse would have you know...

Posted February 17, 2011
And Borders completely failed in their attempt to go online. Ordered a whole lot of speciality manga books for my daughter for Christmas - site stated they were online and I got an email 2 days later that they had shipped. The books actually arrived almost 6 weeks later - well after Christmas - and I swore to myself I would never use them again. And no recourse for the disappointment of my daughter at Christmas time.....so I wont be crying any tears.

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S has opinions thus...

Posted February 17, 2011
Have you seen the UK website Book Depository?

I've bought from this site a few times - the books are cheaper than you'd find in the stores here, and they don't charge postage.

Why would I bother going into Borders, when I can shop from home in my flannie PJs and slippers?

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tqft asserts...

Posted February 17, 2011
Pulp Fiction - no coffee shop there. Actually it isn't much bigger than a decent sized coffee cup. Ah, but range & service, at least of the stuff I am interested in.

Borders at Garden City is/was good precisely because it had a coffee shop - the only quiet place in Garden City to sit down and away from the horde.

But I have noticed Borders destocking. Garden City store now has a range of homewares in it as well, rather than books.

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Bookworm ducks in to say...

Posted February 17, 2011
Well hooray I say. Sick of the shopping mall mentality which seems to pervade every retail experience these days. Been in anything owned by Westfields lately? No wonder half the population is on anti-depressants.

Can I recommend a really good old-fashioned outlet run by a couple of grumps in Avalon called Bookocinos? Now that really is a bookshop!

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Ross asserts...

Posted February 17, 2011
Don't forget the bonus this is for Dymocks in Australia, the stout, continuing defender of their campaign to dump the Parallel Import Restrictions.

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Darryl Mason reckons...

Posted February 17, 2011
As e-book readers, tablets, come down in price and become as common as TV remotes, those who want the fast, disposable read will go for e-books, paying little more than $5 to $7 for top titles. If you read a book you really like, or love, something special you want to have on a shelf or give as a gift, then you'll order a print-on-demand copy.

But a whole new world of minor book markets will open up, where authors will be able to publish small run, limited editions 'packs' around their hardcovers, beautiful maps, photos, toys, art, whatever, as bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails do with their releases now.

Those who want to quick read the new JB thriller on holidays will go for a $5 e-book.

The diehard fans will pay $60 for the hardcover kit, with posters, a memory stick full of digital goodies & author interviews, whatever, and a hardcover copy handnumbered by JB, with a thumb print or perhaps an actual drop of blood splashed onto the title page.

The future of creative book publishing is bright. The future of turning bookshops into overpriced Woolworths is fucked, as it should be.

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Jacob Martin reckons...

Posted February 17, 2011
It's pretty sad, I know. I bought my rare copy of the out of print Japanese gonzo classic Welcome to the NHK by Tatsuhiko Takimoto there when nobody else had it. But those days are gone I guess. I just hope Kinokuniya in the Sydney CBD hold out a bit longer, since they deserve to stay open for providing a unique book loving environment. Galaxy Bookshop is worth a look too for sci-fi that even Kino doesn't have.

I'm only 21 years old, and I'm worried bookshops will go away faster than I can have children to enjoy them with me. I mean, it's not like I'm The Situation from Jersey Shore either. Nobody's gonna get pregnant fast enough for me to become the father of kids who remember a world with bookshops. Besides, the upside is that in a paternity trial where I'm falsely accused I can submit my D&D rulebooks as critical evidence.

In any case, in the same session my shrink told me that the supposed Road Warrior future was nothing to fear because of how tame the reaction to natural disasters is down here, the iPad is nothing to fear either even though it is a sort of technological Plato's Cave that I can't afford either financially or emotionally to cross out of yet.

Maybe in the next decade I will, just like what happened when I was a late adopter of the iPod because I grew up with less money than sense compared to other kids at school.

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted February 17, 2011
I think that believing that there will be a rennaisance in independents is wishful thinking. How many independent video shops are there these days?

Amazon.co.uk now offers free shipping to Oz. A strong dollar and free shipping to Oz remove the last barrier to going online to get your stuff. Free shipping from Amazon and an 8 day turnaround - how on *earth* can a non-established independent bookstore compete with that?

With Apple doing its best to destroy Amazon and rampant ebook piracy - look for a scorched earth ebook war to break out and there to be little clarity in this area until one side wins. Most likely what will happen is that with an ongoing inconclusive war, buying ebooks will become a bit like buying TV shows online - something you only bother with if you are unable to find what you want on a pirate site. This works for Apple because they make a profit even if you read pirated content on their device. Amazon takes a hit because they give you the razor but make money on the razorblades.

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Bill is gonna tell you...

Posted February 17, 2011
That's a very good point about the backlist. In January last year, I was looking for a gift to take to my father-in-law in the US. Since he takes a keen interest in World War 1, I thought the perfect book for him would be The ANZACs by Patsy Adam Smith. I was appalled to learn that not a single major store in Melbourne had it in stock.

I used to like Borders because they created an atmosphere that made me want to buy books much more than A&R or Dymocks. Not so much any more.

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CC swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 17, 2011
While I see JBs point about Borders - i agree with tqft. Borders at Westfield Chermside was/is a nice place to have some time off, think about possible book purchases, browse magazines - a lot of which could not be bought from local newsagents - and have a coffee (as good as a Gloria Jeans one can be). I for one am going to miss it. I guess once they started stocking homewares the writing was on the wall that book selling was no longer their core product offering.

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Emma has opinions thus...

Posted February 17, 2011
Yay for the independent bookstore. Like Riverbend in Bulimba, my favourite local, Avid Reader, dishes out the great coffee and snacks as well as beautiful books. The kids section is a favourite of ours, and Fiona is always onto it when we want to order in some obscure title from some strange part of the world! I hope you're right, JB, but we don't need a renaissance, we need a revolution!

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Moko has opinions thus...

Posted February 17, 2011
FUCK. There goes my rewards card.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted February 17, 2011
The diehard fans will pay $60 for the hardcover kit, with posters, a memory stick full of digital goodies & author interviews, whatever, and a hardcover copy handnumbered by JB, with a thumb print or perhaps an actual drop of blood splashed onto the title page.

As many an author who has tried to get something like this funded through Kickstarter can attest, even if you are Terry Pratchett there are a very small number of people willing to fork over for premium content that is priced at a level more than $5 more than what they can get it for without premium features.

Don't believe me? Google Warren Ellis Transmetropolitan Kickstarter. This is an art project for a very famous series of graphic novels. There were multiple subscription levels - one of which got you the book, another of which got you the book with a personalized signature. Of the 600 who signed up for the project, less than 20 went for the signed premium product.

There is a fantasy out there that there is a business model where content creators get by selling personalized fan content while taking a loss on their normal books or music. The reality is that there is a minescule number of people who will pay more than $30 for something they can get for $5 and that number won't make up for the losses incurred by selling content at a price that is lower than the cost to produce it.

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ConspiracyCat is gonna tell you...

Posted February 17, 2011
The last three times I've gone to Borders, their computers have assured me they had several copies of the book I was after. All three times, even the assistants couldn't locate the alleged in-store copies. (This includes AA).

Kinda makes those cosy reading corners defunct, if you can't find the books you want to read.

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted February 17, 2011
To put the Warren Ellis figure in context:


400,000 followers on Twitter
Less than 600 willing to pay for specially produced unique book
Less than 20 willing to pay for personalized specially produced unique book

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Adam mumbles...

Posted February 17, 2011
Agree with everything you say, except to point out A & R (as Redgroup) bought Borders off the US brand, not the other way around. That's when the end began.

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Taka would have you know...

Posted February 17, 2011
Amazing news. I buy Australian but I always buy from Booktopia. They are pretty cheap.

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abigail asserts...

Posted February 17, 2011
Feel sorry for the employess; 'twas a good factory for starving uni students. About my only regret. Never went there, well, hardly ever.

Empirical only but independent book stores have always been the subject of our desire because of what they represent, which is encoded in the two words. Independent. Books. Borders = franchise, we don't like franchises.

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abigail puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2011
...meant, franchise and books together feels like an uncomfortable marriage of mass commercialism and intellectualism.

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Chaz puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2011
Did nearly 6 years in Book retail in the UK before the NET book agreement came to an end and the market rushed for the bottom.

I agree with JB in that Borders were a breath of fresh air when they first arrived. Their backlists were the main drawcard, much better than WH Smith, Books Etc and Dillons.

Of course it's the mainstream inprints that will suffer most. Niche markets such as Sci-Fi,Fantasy & Horror already have their specialist stockists as do sports books.

So its the mainstream Australian authors who will suffer plus your high level imports Amis, Archer, etc etc

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mrblenny mumbles...

Posted February 17, 2011
I second the shout out to Book Depositry in the UK. I wonder what sort of royalty JB makes on an $8 book delivered such as "weapons of choice" here http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780345457134/Weapons-of-Choice compared to someone paying ~$20 for the same thing here in Australia?

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Ken Burgin reckons...

Posted February 17, 2011
Well remember the first time I went into their South Yarra store and the thrill of their massive range. Same in Chicago - buying things you knew you'd never find elsewhere. But their policy in the last few years of marking most books UP by a few dollars beyond the RRP was nasty - now I snap the cover with my phone and check www.booko.com.au for the best price.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2011
I hear some doctors have been doing with out borders for years.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2011
Shouldn't this be a topic for The Geek or even BT? or is JB testing the waters after the frakstorm Tuesday's BT generated. Doesn't Andrew Bolt have an opinion on Borders, does he read? Can he read?

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ConspiracyCat would have you know...

Posted February 17, 2011
I think Mr Bolt is busy with a pork chop right now. You'll have to wait until he's finished gnawing the bone, and has safely buried it.

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sibeen puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2011
I just saw this on the ABC news website and thought to myself, "I bet JB's on this like shit on a goose". I seem to have been correct.

My nearest large shopping centre is Highpoint, in Melbourne. It contains both a Borders and an A&R, and until today I wasn't aware that they were owned by the same company. The Borders was split over two levels, with some form of coffee shop on the upper; no idea what 'brand' of coffee store it was, I never lowered myself to the franchise swill. But the bookstore, two levels of packed shelves, just waiting for a dammed good browse. Authors I'd never heard of, books packed check to jowl; it was a wonderland for a poor put upon husband dragged out on a shopping trip.

"I'll just be in the bookstore" was my frequent, plaintive cry, after being dragged through innumerable clothes shops, purveyors of nick fucking nacks , shoe stores and sundry emporiums selling goods of dubious quality.

The A&R at Highpoint just didn't cut it. A store that was smaller then my home office, stocked with a dingy array of casts offs and no names. How can you possibly have a section devoted to sci-fi, about one fucking metre squared grant you, and not have one Heinlein title? It'd be like having a record store and not having any Beatles. Unforgivable!

A&R just couldn't compete as a retreat from the wife and two pre-teen children, running amok in the wonderland of excess that exudes from miles, endless fucking miles, of shopfronts blasting out their tirade of specials - one day only.

Borders was my safe haven. My respite. A bolt hole from the purgatory that surrounded me. It was filled with people who liked to read, a touchstone who's magic powers faded at the front doors.

What am I to do now? Sit in the carpark, ensuring the wrath of the better half? Lurch around, following my family with an inane grin colouring my visage? Pretend to enjoy watching my fashinista 7 year old as she tries on her twentieth pair of shoes for the afternoon? Chortle with glee as the 9 year old ruminates over whether the striking pink or the pale pink dress goes better with the hair ribbon she'd recently acquired?

Whilst many here may cheer, nay celebrate, the demise of Borders, I for one shall shed a tear. A tear of remembrance, of quiet Saturday afternoons, the hours slowly ticking by as I relaxed, entranced by the words flowing around me, as the maddening crowds outside this scene of tranquility flocked in their capitalistic exuberance.

Shed a tear, aye, shed a tear, as the husbands of this world have lost a part, granted a small part but it's there non the less, of what keeps them sane.

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted February 17, 2011
Yeah . . .Borders.

It was quite something when they ran their in-house coffee joint. Could sit there for several hours. Then . . .they brought in Gloria Jeans. Prices went up, value went down.

The casual sitting . . .armchairs and couches dissappeared.

I'd occassionally drop in and spot check the shelves . . .but, the magic had gone.

Best I can figure , , I've got to go to Lygon Street to find anything similar. Subuurbia is a wasteland. Even Mary Martins has gone from Bourke Street. MacGills went 10 years ago. Melbourne's just about got zip now.

brian

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Blarkon asserts...

Posted February 17, 2011
So there is this post here and the same one over at Blunty.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted February 17, 2011
Yeah, I told them they could rip this one if they wanted.

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jennicki would have you know...

Posted February 17, 2011
I'm sad to see them go as well. In my city we have just one independent book store that I love to support but it just struggles to keep up. So my alternative is the Barnes and Noble which seems like the literary equivalent to Walmart, and then the smaller Borders.

Sigh.

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yankeedog mutters...

Posted February 17, 2011
Borders is planning to close I think 2-300 stores here in the States.

When they started up, they carried a lot of titles that B&N didn't necessarily have. Not so much toward the end. And while it's nice that they could always order a title they didn't stock, I could do the same thing by going to Amazon.

I don't know if our local Borders is closing or not. They always have a fair number of people in the place so it might miss the axe. I'm going to miss them if they do end up shutting down here. There's something about walking in to the bookstore, actually picking up a book or magazine, and pulling up a chair to look at a page or two before buying it. E-books and Amazon don't quite offer that.

Napoleon said 'Victory goes to the bigger battalions'. In business these days, victory appears to go to the faster ones.

Maybe better dig up those Borders gift cards and get them used-just in case.

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted February 18, 2011
The Borders in the Northland where I spent a sizeable amount of the last decade during the Uniguard Era is slated to shut down. Then again, service there went into the toilet at the end of that era.

I'll make a prediction. There is a bookstore chain here in the States which is doing pretty good. They are called Half-Price Books. Once my teaching peers put me onto it I found that most of my bookstore visits were to their locations in the area.

It is a two way street as well. They buy used books. Since my mom tends to chew through romance novels (present day sci-fi annoys her for the same reasons it annoys me) she'll give me a back of the books to run down there. The sad thing is that the romance paperbacks are worth more than textbooks.

I've managed to find some pretty good deals at Half-Price Books to include some hard to find historians.

I suspect what will happen is that Half-Price Books will not only grow, they'll expand into a limited offering of fresh off the press books.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Puma ducks in to say...

Posted February 18, 2011
It's Obama's fault for raising taxes.

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Chicken or the egg is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
I'm a little confused... I thought A&R took over Borders operations here in Australia a few years back? A friend quit not long after citing the introduction of poor management and poor stock systems. So locally, wouldn't it be more a case of A&R causing the demise?

Either way, nothing beats the addictive buzz of a fine book leaping out from the shelves of a character-filled indie store!

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abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
Personally I'd never suggest this will enable the rise (or indicate the fall) of indie book shops because I don't know how much money they make interstate, but here they power along. I think it's the Canberra demographic: we really like indie book shops--Paperchain booms (as far as I can tell).

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Monster Yuppy has opinions thus...

Posted February 18, 2011
I used to buy a book every time I got on a plane from the airport bookstore.
I have several hundred books.
Now, I sit in the lounge and download one before I board.
So my spend has gone from $800-$1000 per annum to about $200 odd.
Thats a bit of cash out of the till for the bookshop near the Qantas lounge....

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fknvty is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
reminds me of an old mate moses hadas (note the offspring has done quite well, euripedes, sappho & so on) quote "thank you for sending me a copy of your book, i'll waste no time reading it" endquote.
part of my seppo yiddish connection. larry taub et al
- re print, unless it lands on the ozzy cedar partners desk as a gift or for proof reading i tend to haunt second hand bookshops and have down so for 30 year or so. call me antiquarian, it's a great way to fill in the gaps of our rather ecclectic library ... from memory len peachey & colin steele (ANU) threw a decent reseller guide together late last century if anyone is interested. pz.v.

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robert reckons...

Posted February 18, 2011
What I find really distressing is that there is no substitute for these bookstores. First, we lost the local bookstores where the help actually read books, now we lose the chain bookstore where the help asks whether we are a member of this or that club.

What is really distressing is my complete inability to sort the wheat from the chaff as someplace like Amazon. At least with books in a bookstore there was some kind of editorial process that ensured the books were relative free of typos and, given a certain publisher one could assume the book was at least well done. I might not have liked the story, but it wasn't gawd-awful self-published un-copyedited drivel.

Amazon throws those self-published books at you every time you navigate to a new page. Distinguishing between something unreadable and something most readable is getting more and more difficult. I do end up going to places like Goodreads online to help find something good.

My other complaint about websites like Amazon is that they have joined the ranks of the "stalking advertisers". Say, for instance, I looked at a bag of cat food on Pets Mart's website, I then go to Amazon and there's an advertisement for cat food. I search for a book by that author Birmingham and beside his books are suggestions for cat books and cat foods and a self-published Kindle book called The Cats of Mars. Sheesh.

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Luke ducks in to say...

Posted February 18, 2011
I was just coming here to ask you about this but i see you already have an article.

It's not just the price of online stores, they get money out of me (both Amazon and Audible) because of their "other people also bought" section. That and simply being able to click on the an authors name and get all their stuff. I remained ignorant of anything that wasn't on the shelf and that I didn't already know about in a book store.

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David Crookes asserts...

Posted February 18, 2011
Borders,Angus and Robertson and Whitcoulls are probably only the beginning in this region.

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wolfcat reckons...

Posted February 18, 2011
The problem with a lot of these big chains which does lead to their undoing, is they aren't run by book store people.

They are run by Money People, who focus on only making money.

When people only focus on a profit motive, they can and often do come unstuck because they miss the market.

The massive horizontal integration of numerous "stores" across different brands means also when the money dries up a lot of smaller companies get taken down in the process.

But then if you look at http://www.redgroupretail.com/ the "latest news" they have on their website is from May 2010, so I guess web also was just not on their radar.

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Mark Duffett mutters...

Posted February 18, 2011
Guy Rundle over at Crikey has an interesting take on this. He reckons it's the beginning of the end of physical shopping, never mind just bookshops. Don't know if I buy it (ha!) but thought-provoking nevertheless. http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/02/17/rundle-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-bookshops/

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robbie smith reckons...

Posted February 18, 2011
the public library - try one

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abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
Ah Robbie, yes. You reminded me, actually--if iot's out of the way books you want you can some times join the university libraries as a non-student. A reasonable fee I suppose but for what you get...
Condition is normally , borrow but if an academic/ PhD needs it you have to return it and wait till they've finished and they have greater rights, of course. Still.

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jennicki swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
I love the library and use it frequently--just returned four books tonight and have another four sitting on my nightstand--but there are some books out there I'd prefer to own.

Sometimes I don't want to be on a six month waiting list when a new book comes out that I want to read.

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted February 18, 2011
If you look at the UK and the US, public libraries are being closed and amalgamated like a MoFo as it turns out that many of them are very poorly utilized by the wider ratepayer community.

The other real killer is the AUD. I picked up a Jaspar Fforde yesteday for $22.99 at Dymocks. Cost for the same book (free shipping) amazon.co.uk = 4.29 quid = 6.8 AUD.

So 7 bucks Australian for amazon.co.uk versus $23 from Dymocks at the current exchange rate

THAT is why local booksellers are fucked.

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Summary of stories on REDgroup entering voluntary administration « Fancy Goods has opinions thus...

Posted February 18, 2011
[...] ‘Borders, no more’, by John Birmingham, Cheeseburger Gothic, 17 February 2011 [...]

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted February 18, 2011
Speaking of libraries: Quoting from a recent article in the courier mail:

'About $750,000 worth of emerging artist grants have been cancelled and council's library book budget slashed by $928,000.'

I thought the council library budget slash was a bit higher than this, if I remember right I think they're reducing they're budget by 1/3, the guy I heard talking on the radio said that they'd upped the budget by a third last year but after the floods had decided to nix that.

Given that other local councils in Qld & other disaster areas are likely to make similar budget cuts, I can't imagine this will be a good thing for the book industry.

I too used to love going into Borders and that was our standard meeting place in town. I knew it was in trouble when I took the elevator to the second level, blinked, and wondered for a moment if I'd teleported into spotlight or lincraft. My reaction to the display of all that junk was to turn on my heel and run away, very, very fast, fearing that worse awaited me on the third floor.

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abigail would have you know...

Posted February 18, 2011
Yes well, if they're fucked, they're fucked; not a whole lot we can do about it,unless we WANT to.Wind back Amazon, and all online sales, stop students relying on quick internet searches to do their work... Not many poeople answer that description. Unfortunately. Not much point even analysing what we're not trying to halt.
Plan B/.
Just watch it all collapse and forget about it.
Seems to be the default plan.

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Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
Watching Nightline last night on this very subject they interviewed the owner of the little independant book shop at Bondi Beach that I patronise...they too will be closing up shop regrettably. Lower sales would be part of the issue there, as would the extortionate rents charged at Bondi Beach. Nonetheless this did sadden me. Further, it's lovely to be able to take my little bloke into a book shop and let him loose in the kid's book section. Inevitably we will walk out with a few books - in part because my wife and I encourage his reading, and also my wife can be a huge shopaholic! But she started her working life as a librarian and as such is quite addicted to the printed book. E-readers may be all well and good, but particulalry when it comes to richly illustrated kids or reference books, I doubt they can take their place.

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seven swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
So where to shop for books now, as a not-cool-enough suburbanite the indie shops are out. Say what you want about a sense of community at those shops it is most definitely a closed community. The big retailers are useless and I really hate online shopping for books. Its just not the same as the real deal. I like finding something on the shelves which I would never have thought to look for. Guess its now a choice between paying extra for poor service at the indies or going online.

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Durand asserts...

Posted February 18, 2011
I agree with Ken Burgin. www.booko.com.au is the best online bookshop, because it's not an online bookshop at all, just a portal. You enter a book name or ISBN, and it compares the prices of all the online bookshops in the world, including shipping cost to Australia. It includes overseas online stores like BookDepository, Amazon.com, BetterWorldBooks etc, as well as the Australian stores like Dymocks & Collins. I regularly save 60% on my obscure computer books.

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Borderless swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
[...] of independent booksellers can sprout. As John Birmingham states in his round-up of the issue, e-books will destroy the large chains. But there’s an opportunity over the next 5-10 years for communities –real, [...]

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Andy Thompson mumbles...

Posted February 18, 2011
So I just looked in my wallet and found a Borders Gift Voucher ($50) that I got for Xmas. I then looked online and found that Borders are honouring gift vouchers but are apparently demanding that the customer spend at least the same amount as the voucher...on top of the voucher. I shall test this out tomorrow. If you hear reports of a madman going 'a bit silly' at the Borders at Garden City, assume it is me. It'll take 15 coppers to bring me down...

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted February 18, 2011
I spent my chrissy voucher on Monday, so was lucky. Unfortunately this means that I'll have to come up with a new "no-effort" kris kringle present for my family to get me as the Borders Voucher was a reliable fallback.

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robbie smith has opinions thus...

Posted February 18, 2011
seven - agree with you about up yours indie bookshops - full of braying botoxed bookwankers

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
Lets have a LEVY I SAY!

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yankeedog reckons...

Posted February 18, 2011
The whole bookstore experience is a lot like another thing I'd bet most of us used to do-go to the record store. I know-you can order anything you want on iTunes. But I used to enjoy going to Musicland (don't know the Oz equivalent but you all will) and looking through the stacks of LPs and racks of cassettes. There are still a few independent music stores floating around, that have discs from local bands you can't get anywhere else, staffed by people who know their stuff. We might want to patronize their places after hitting the bookstores.

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Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
Where in the past we may have sought the expertise of wisened independant retailers, the "democratisation" of taste and expertise through the internet and social networking reduces the need for such advice. Consider that rather than seeking the advice of such a person, you can instead use social networking to become aware of people and works. This site is an example. Would you follow up on a recommendation from JB or another burger that you respect if they said "this book/movie/TV show is amazing". I am far more likely to try something recommended by someone I respect on Twitter or a blog than because a store owner made the recommendation. Heck the good store owners probably already have social media oytlets for their recommendations!

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lostatlunch asserts...

Posted February 18, 2011
Bondi... you are not suggesting the awesome G&A are closing?

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abigail would have you know...

Posted February 18, 2011
Seven and Robbie, I just read your thoughts on indie book places and I was thinking about it, trying to eb abit dispassionate given my own attachment. Yeah, I do see where you're coming from, you get an overall impression and that is how you form a decison about where to consume stuff. And w/o knowing what your indie places are like, of course, there's usually some very good stories (from the people working there)in such places, from the people behind the counter/. Well, that's my experience. One of the guys in my fave indie bookshop was a graphic artist originally and what he knew about book cover art was phenomenal. They also knew exactly who I meant when I needed something not on the best seller or common reads list and where to source it. I haven't had that in Borders because of the time pressures --rather than the people. The students working in Borders are really lovely, so it's not them, in fact there's something about bookshops in general that seesm to attract conscientious staff. Just the system is different in a small, one- off place. It's not automatically full of wankers, just people who are sick of an impersonal mass market way of doing business.

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abigail mutters...

Posted February 18, 2011
..anyhow, I just heard an interview with someone who said Borders could be back up and running again in 6 months time if they are able to resolve their problems.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
He probably means Zabriskie Booksellers of Bondi.

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Andy Thompson mutters...

Posted February 18, 2011
It has just been confirmed. If you want to redeem a voucher at Borders you need to spend the amount on the voucher first. This makes me a little angry. I hope I don't have to do the same with the "Free Sexual Disease Check Up" voucher I have from my local clinic.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted February 18, 2011
Re the vouchers, I had a $70 one for A&R or Borders and spent it on line last night. Total price was $77 and I had an email this morning confirming one book had been posted, so I'm guessing it worked as normal. That was on the A&R website. Maybe their web-monkeys haven't caught up yet.

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tqft is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
I am just wondering about Borders e-books - how long will they work for? Does their e-reader phone home to ensure activation?

Piracy
http://xkcd.com/488/

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nhamilton@iinet.net.au puts forth...

Posted February 18, 2011
We are lucky here in Central QLD we have two book stores K mart and Big W, personally I can't see the attraction of Book Depository.

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
Books shmooks. Just go and see the movie.

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NataliatheRussianSpy is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
I might just have to open a book store so I'll never run out of *new book* smell.

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abigail reckons...

Posted February 18, 2011
In case anyone interested:

http://bobcarrblog.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/2230/

BTW--Amazon UK are giving free delivery to Oz/ NZ customers for orders over 25 pounds. I shouldn't say that; Amazon is my natural enemy but others will like it.

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Indie Mebourne bookseller ducks in to say...

Posted February 18, 2011
Bill,

The ANZACs by Adam-Smith is reprinting. I imagine that is why you could not find it on the shelves at Christmas time.

Sometimes what seems like a glaring oversight on the part of the booksellers (i.e. not having extensive backlist) is just the smallness of the industry and books tend to fall out of print rather often.

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hughesy is gonna tell you...

Posted February 18, 2011
Boo fkn hoo for the book chains. I've got as much sympathy for them as I would if Coleworths or Gloriabucks were to go broke. Borders and A&R never lost any sleep over the number of indy bookshops they put to death. The model was never going to work out in this small market. I'm only surprised it took this long.

Berkelouw Books - excellent fast service and for orders over $50, free post! Even the stuff they source from OS! I don't know how they do it, but it works out cheaper than using Amazon. Gleebooks is pretty good online too.

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abigail mutters...

Posted February 18, 2011
Berkelouw and Gleebooks are guns, brilliant places. Christ I hope they never go broke.

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Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted February 18, 2011
I like to buy locally, but as I have little income while I study, I simply can't resist the prices from the Book Depository. I also once received one of my orders just 48 hours after I posted it (and the rest, rarely more than 2 weeks). I still visit bookstores, but they tend to be of the second-hand variety (and the Lifeline Bookfest is simply bliss - all those books and money to charity too!)
So personally, even without an e-reader, the big book chains haven't had any of my money for years. I still buy the occasional book, but mainly from speciality stores like Pulp Fiction or Comics Etc. I hope the speciality stores stick around - nothing like a good browse of a wall full of book covers, searching out that hidden gem.

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Trowzers swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18, 2011
*'still buy the occassional book from a physical bookstore" that was meant to read.
I buy far more than the 'occassional' book (packed shelves are staring at me right now reminding me of that)

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Moko mutters...

Posted February 19, 2011
Why the Amazon hate? The only thing I don't like about it is that not all sellers post to here.

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ConspiracyCat puts forth...

Posted February 19, 2011
My favourite bookstore is Abe's Books. They have an Australian on-line site as well as an American one, they do second hand as well as new, they're cheap, and they have rare and weird stuff, as well as best sellers and textbooks. http://www.abebooks.com/books/ANZ/

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Blarkon reckons...

Posted February 19, 2011
Independent booksellers make reading a bit of a secret club - you had to develop special knowledge to find the interesting works - Amazon and chains remove that. The argument for independents (that they stock stuff you can't get elsewhere) goes out the window when you can get anything and everything through Amazon. No more pandering to Bartholomew to get him to order in a copy of something that is getting a limited print run that he heard about - just go online and find it yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, you can get the same (if not better) book buying advice through social media.

Another reason for the disdain of chains is that they stock according to rigorous rules of popularity rather than the personal tastes of the owner (Amazon stocks everything, so this doesn't apply) - which means that the bookstores lack "character". We all know of brilliant authors who aren't popular and there is a supposition that if only there were more independent bookstores, these brilliant authors would be more likely to see the light of day.

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DavidFM mumbles...

Posted February 20, 2011
Rather than focusing on the retail end of the book industry I think it's more appropriate to look at the industry as a whole when considering it's future. There are lessons to be learned from the music industry in it's struggle to adapt to a new world order and new technology. The music industry (except perhaps iTunes) is still struggling to maintain its traditional model despite the public's enthusiastic acceptance of digital media.

The book industry can learn a lot from this. Traditional publishing methods have been rendered obsolete by technology and they need to adapt to this. The music industry has largely failed to successfully embrace digital technology and develop a successful commercial model. The book industry needs to avoid making the same mistakes and needs to look seriously at new digital technology. Ebooks aren’t the only game in town. Digital POD (Print On Demand) technology has huge implications and potential benefits for the book industry as a whole, including authors, publishers and retailers.

With POD, publishers don’t have the financial risks associated with huge print runs of books that may not sell - which should make it easier for authors, particularly new authors to be published. The role of publishers would shift to licensing more than production.

Retailers would have to invest in the POD technology instead of maintaining inventory, but this may not cost more than inventory, especially as the costs of the technology come down.

The biggest problem I see is the actual implementation at the point of sale but surely this isn’t insurmountable. Perhaps it’s as simple as having one copy of the mainstream books available to pick up and read through, ordering the book at the checkout, and having a coffee while waiting for it to be printed. Every retailer could maintain a huge backlists, ready for print on demand.

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abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 20, 2011
DavidFM,
If they could make that work it'd be truly fantastic I reckon.
If we can use 100% recycled paper to do this it ought to greatly reduce the environmental impact. But people don't seem keen on recycled paper, still. I also don't know if the technique works with that kind of paper.
But yeah, if they could retain bookshops, your idea is great.

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Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 20, 2011
+++Retailers would have to invest in the POD technology instead of maintaining inventory, but this may not cost more than inventory, especially as the costs of the technology come down.+++

I keep hearing talk about the so-called "Espresso Book Machine". It's a super-compact printing and binding device which takes a PDF file of the book and prints, binds and covers a copy for you on the spot. The process is supposed to take about the same time it would take to order and drink a cup of coffee, hence the name.

If/when these become viable they'd change retail bookselling significantly by reducing or eliminating warehousing and shipping. (Those are major considerations for Australian retailers given the distances involved here.)

Wikipedia page is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espresso_Book_Machine (Heh, it says Angus and Robertson had one but shut it down.)

Company ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q946sfGLxm4 I'm not sure I *quite* buy that its output is completely indistinguishable from a book off a full commercial press, but I'm prepared to believe that it could get there within a couple more iterations of the tech.

I can imagine bookshops looking even more like cafes if this catches on, since the main requirement is somewhere to wait and something to do while this thing is chugging out your book. The stock on the shelves would be there to provide hardbacks and any special formats the machine might have trouble doing, plus a small pool of browsables or popular books that people mightn't want to wait for.

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Abe Frellman mutters...

Posted February 20, 2011
I dig Abe's Books the most. And his sausages are the awesome. The former are better than the latter by mail order though.

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Bondiboy66 asserts...

Posted February 20, 2011
Those that asked, it's Martin Smith's bookshop that I think is closing - the one at the beach end of Hall St. - oh a quick look on google shows that they are also using the name Zabriskie's. Gertrude and Alice seems to be staying put at the moment. I love a little shop like that, enough quirky or interesting books to enjoy a good browse (and perhaps purchase) but not so big that you get lost or overwhelmed by choice. And the staff actually know what's in the shop.

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Bangar asserts...

Posted February 21, 2011
Mathew, from memory a store in Melbourne had that and it wasn't a success.

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abigail would have you know...

Posted February 21, 2011
Bangar--is that so? Interesting.
Maybe it just needs the critical mass element , change them mindset.
Bookshop/cafes are getting up now. In NZ a library had its own cafe. Sydney has a few great ones--Sapphos in Glebe for example. Does great trade.

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Andy Thompson is gonna tell you...

Posted February 21, 2011
I went to Borders on Saturday and saw the very small A4 poster put up in a rather inconvenient place in the store telling gift card holders that they had two options:

1: They could apply to the creditors for 'money' owed to them; or

2: In a 'goodwill' gesture, we could cash our vouchers in if we spent the same amount in the store.

I decided to do the latter and went to the counter with $102 worth of overpriced books. There was very little on sale. In fact, there was nothing on sale and I really enjoyed spending $28 on a novel. When I put my voucher on the counter the lip pierced girl with the monster fringe meekly told me about the voucher business. I said I knew about that and put on my best 'cats bum' face. She then asked if I wanted a bag for my books and when I replied in the affirmative she said they would charge me 10c for a bag.

I thought about bludgeoning her to death with a meaty Dan Brown tome but decided that this was no way for an ordinary human to die.

So yeah, I got butt-raped by the system. It was either that or waiting months for a letter saying I would get no money.

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Blarkon reckons...

Posted February 22, 2011
Nah, the POD stuff is kinda rubbish quality. Fine if you don't want anything better than a pulpy novel that will fall apart while or just after you read it, but not something that you'll be able to keep on your shelves.

It is the old equation [CHEAP][FAST][GOOD](Pick only two)

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Jonathon Campbell puts forth...

Posted July 11, 2011
I too am sorry to see Borders go. I have spent hours in their stores both in Qld and NSW over the years and found their general reference and special interest sections first class - much better than anything in my local indy bookstores.

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