Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More on GooglePhobia

New York Magazine columnist John Heilemann has written a scathing/funny/pathetic tale about GooglePhobia which reflects life and reality a lot more than the Authors Guild and American Association of Publishers would prefer:

Scathing: "And then there’s the book business. Now, it’s fair (albeit unkind) to say that publishers have earned a reputation as the most stubbornly analog of media concerns: If music and movie companies are dinosaurs in the Darwinian scheme of electronic evolution, publishers are moss-draped invertebrates still sloshing around in the primordial soup. Compared with book people, even newspaper people are a more Web-savvy species."

Funny: "In France, Jacques Chirac has ordered his minions to gin up a French and German search engine—on the grounds that Google is (wait for it) a tool of U.S. cultural imperialism."

Pathetic: What the publishing industry is showing, actually, is that its own stance is about more than books as well. It’s about posturing and pride, ego and vanity, about the defensiveness of an industry that’s been called “flat-earthers” one too many times for its liking."

Read this article. Every word of it. The future is here regardless of whether the writing/publishing world wants to acknowledge it. But then you knew I felt that way if you read Publisaurus Rex, my previous post on this

Monday, November 28, 2005

THE Times (of London) Weighs in on Google

In a great article, Is Google Books going to kill publishing? The Times offers a series of rational comments from writers, readers and others on the debate as well as an opportunity to add your own thoughts.

Remarkably free of the polemical demonization that dominates the debate in the U.S., Times readers offer an ability to discuss the matter in a way that seems calculated to point toward a solution, rather than to polarize.

Two of the many perspectives in the article include:

"As a small academic publisher I think people are missing the point. I am required by Law to give six libraries in England copies of every single book I publish. This requirement does not give these libraries permission to reproduce the text in any way. If libraries such as the BL or the Bodleian then allow Google to scan the text of my publications and reproduce the contents whether in total or by index they are allowing my copyright to be infringed." Steven Halliwell, High Wycombe, Bucks

"William Rees-Mogg does Google a disservice, in my opinion. The new book search service is a amazing facility to search for new books and to be able to read a representative sample of pages. Not all of these pages are available, as to meet the copyright rules a certain number of pages are restricted. As a researcher into the history of molecular biology in this country, I have found Google book search invaluable. It will surely promote the sales of new books by providing would-be purchasers with the means of sampling them online before buying them." Martin Packer, Birmingham, West Midlands

You, Blog Reader, Are Invited to the Launch of a New Wine

You are cordially invited to attend the unveiling of General Clark Braxton’s release of Castello Da Vinci’s Xantaeus.

This first ever Xantaeus, Cabernet Sauvignon (produced to his demanding palate by Cline Cellars) will be released to the general public on the evening of Wednesday, December 14th, 2005.

It's not unusual for to have a character sipping one of the novelist's favorite vintages. But what's never been done (before Xantaeus) is for the wine to start in the book and end up in a bottle.

What's more, General Braxton (Chairman of Defense Therapeutics) is featured as a major character in my new thriller, Perfect Killer.

The event will be held from 1700-1930 in the Barrel Room at Cline Cellars, 24737 HWY 121, Sonoma.

RSVP by December 2, 2005; 707.940.4082.

Light hors d’oeuvres and Castello Da Vinci Xantaeus 2003 will be served.

Please download and print out the official invitation and present it at the door.

A map of the event location may be found here.

How the Castello Da Vinci Brand Came To Be

My newest investigative thriller, Perfect Killer, is as much fact as it is fiction.

Perhaps more fact than fiction as evidenced by

- the Freedom of Information Act documents,
- the bibliography,
- Col. Gabriel's Afterword,
- the Virtual Tour and
- especially by the real people in the book. I interviewed many people including General Clark Braxton (U.S. Army, Retired)

One afternoon, following one of the many sessions with Gen. Braxton at Castello Da Vinci, he took me on a tour of his remarkable wine cellar carved out of his estate's the volcanic knoll overlooking the Napa Valley. We tasted one of the rare bottles of his own privately vinted wine.

General Braxton mentioned that he had many demands for his wine, many more than he could possibly fulfill. Besides, he stressed, the government regulations, permits and bureaucratic torture associated with selling wine to the general public was more than he wanted to deal with. "I will not be held hostage by some power-hungry bureaucrat," were his exact words.

Over the next several months, we talked about this and I suggested that perhaps we could find a fine vintner willing to make a limited amount of specially made wine for retail sales.

That led me to Cline Cellars. I've known Fred and Nancy Cline for years. Their children go to school with mine. And significantly -- my wife and I have probably consumed more Cline Cellars wine than any other single winery in the world.

The current release of Xantaeus Red 2003 is the joint venture that resulted. While most wineries and wine brands start with a fantasy of some sort, the Castello Da Vinci, Xantaeus 2003 is the first to make the transition from fiction to fact.

Cline Cellars, General Braxton and I are all partners in this new venture which we hope will bring you great pleasure, sipped thoughtfully as you read your copy of Perfect Killer.

Search Engine Spamming

Author and writing maven M.J. Rose has a recent blog entry about authors being slimed by search engine spamming. Not a new phenomenon, but one catching up to the writing craft.

The first perpetrators of this sleazy practice tended to be porn sites who'd load up their html with benign words, names and terms that ranked high on the most-frequently searched words lists

It was later picked up by penny-stock promoters who'd send out a news release containing the stock symbols of far better-known companies knowing that the search engines would pick them up in searches.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Spews (Review Spam): One Path to Honesty in Amazon Reviews

Review spam happens.

They're easily spotted and happen to most published authors.

They're easily spotted: all flame and trash-talk concentrating on blasting the author as much as the book, often more. They frequently go on for paragraph after paragraph, fixated on a typo or similar mistake. They often come in waves, reviews with similar words and syntax indicating their identical origins: an anonymous someone with a grudge and enough time and motive to register a lot of fake accounts.

A couple of years ago, when huge numbers of similarities were spotted between Da Vinci Code and my previous books, Da Vinci Legacy and Daughter of God, there was a blizzard of Amazon reviews trashing my books. It was determined that most of these came from a handful of people who were logging in with numerous fake accounts.

Amazon,to their credit, investigated and removed all of the reviews where they could determine that the reviewers were fake. Some suspect reviews remained, but they could not be conclusively determined to be fake. It was the best Amazon could do then, but they have better tools now.

This sort of situation (not just mine) is one of the key reasons that Amazon started the "Real Name" system.

With this existing system, Amazon could eliminate or curtail fake review flames by:

(a) Restricting reviews only to those with Real Name badges, or
(b) Allowing reviews by all, but only allowing ratings by Real Name reviewers to count toward the star ratings.

Obviously this is no guarantee against bad reviews, but it does help assure that the reviewers are real people and not robo-trashes and people with a grudge and no life.

Finally, is there a good word for spam reviews? I could think about "Spamazon" but that's too restrictive because the same spam reviews often get cut and pasted on blogs and forums.

We have "splog" for spam blog posts and "spim" for spam on AIM ... How about "spew" for "SPam reviEW?" It also has an appropriate connotation?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Publisaurus Rex Versus Google

I suppose if you don't have any useful or innovative ideas of your own, a company like Google can be pretty frightening. So, if you don't have any original ideas, then you need to sue to kill those who DO have them.

As you're probably read by now, Google is being by the Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers (AAP) for copyright infringement.

From all the misleading sturm, drang und hype coming from the plaintiffs, you'd think that Google was planning to out-pirate Johnny Depp by stealing every published word on the planet and posting it on a Kazaa or BitTorrent file-sharing service.

But ... no.

Google is being sued for having the good sense to scan books in order to make them searchable online much as Amazon has done. The books would then be available for purchase with appropriate payments to copyright holders.

Think back a little. When Amazon made books searchable, the industry freaked out, afraid of a new idea that had dropped from the sky like a Coke bottle in the African bush. I thought it was a good idea then and a better one now. My books are searchable on Amazon and, if anything, it has helped sales. I've used the Amazon searches for research and ended up buying books I would never have considered otherwise.

Google is just trying to do the same thing on a bigger basis. So why are the Authors Guild and the AAP really suing?

Well, fellow blogger, author and publisher John Battelle says it best:

"I have been both a publisher and an author, and I have to tell you, these guys sue for one reason and one reason alone, from what I can tell: Their legacy business model is imperiled, and they fear change. Of course, if they can get out of their own way, they'll end up making more money. But that never stopped these guys - the MPAA, the RIAA, and now, the AAP."

I have also been a publisher of books and periodicals and what I see here is a "dog in the manger" insecurity at work. The industry knows it's working with ideas that are SO last century, but persists in living in a state of denial rooted in literary arrogance.

In a Wall Street Journal OpEd piece, Cameron Stracher -- a writer and publisher of the New York Law School Law Review -- drew a solid conclusion when he wrote:

"[S]canning itself creates no revenue for Google and doesn't deprive copyright holders of income. It is only when a reader purchases a book that Google derives revenue.... Thus, its scanning ought to be protected by the "fair use" doctrine.

"Publishers....sound just like the music industry, which abdicated one of the greatest opportunities in tech history to the Napsters. Lawsuits can't stop innovation by bottling it up in court.... When corporate interests get in the way, the only people who are hurt are the public and the creators of that content. Authors may think they're protecting their rights; but they're protecting the rights of publishers to make another dime off their backs. Authors might even welcome such exploitation if publishers really had plans to make a dime (and pay them their 12% royalty). But history teaches us that you can't teach an old dinosaur new tricks."

With the exception of one or two publishing companies, I have a lot more faith in Google to advance my writing career that than I do in Publisaurus Rex.

Too Many Blogs

I've had people tell me that I have way too many blogs.

They're right.

Other than keeping the Da Vinci Code, Random House/Sony litigation mess separate at The Da Vinci Crock and the Dan Brown information at Writopia, this blog will take the place of all the others: Perfect Killer included.