Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Houston... We Have A Problem! eBook Formats and Delivery Channels.

My arms are tired.

Yes - you read it right... my arms are tired.  They are tired of lugging around all the books I'm reading right now.  "But Jason", you say... "you know the answer to your problem is a simple e-reader away!".  I'd agree with you on that... I was excited about picking up a Barnes and Noble Nook and then "the problem" hit me.  I don't own all the books I'm carrying around.  I've leveraged one of the best resources a community can give its residents - the public library!

So... to lighten my load, I'd need to purchase a reader, and then purchase the titles from content providers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Both of these main providers have proprietary formats which you need to use their software applications or hardware solutions to read the books you purchase.

Well - I don't want to purchase all of the books I'm reading right now!  I have access to a good majority of all of the worlds print, all that we have learned and that which has been passed on in written word and translated through the ages by simply showing my library card.  Now all I would like is to have all that information at my fingertips... without paying for it... in electronic format... on a device that won't tire my arms.  Why are you looking at me like I'm asking for a lot?  :)

There is already a format out there which is an open reader format - ePub.  Sure - it's not a perfect standard, but I think if there was a push for this to be a widely accepted standard that it could be improved upon and would eventually fit the need.

In the same way that I try to solve most of my problems, I start with a quick search to see what is out there.  What I found was that there are several sites that have books that are public domain published online for you to read.  If you'd like to read some of Plato's written work, you can. But, I'm having a harder time finding some of the later titles that I'm currently reading out on the "free" web.  I have to believe that this is because of some publishing rights / distribution rights issue.  Now I'm questioning how the library does it though... I can just as easily purchase a copy of any of the best sellers from Amazon right now, wait for it to arrive and bring it to my library and donate it.  With the purchase of that one copy, all members in my community and across Michigan can now enjoy that book, right?  Well - maybe... I need to research this a bit more...

While starting to research the e-books rights questions, I stumbled across what I think is a pretty good scam.  There are sites out there like that will sell you e-books with "resell rights" saying that when you buy them you have the right to resell them and even use any of the content as your own and repackage and sell your own e-book.  I think what these are are really just crappy articles with a few good tips.  I can see writers using this to beef up their own books with content that was not really written by them, but that feels kind of "dirty" to me.
Here is the link to the Internet Public Library which list free resources for texts and audio on the web, but these are things that have moved into public domain and won't cover many of the things that I'm reading.

The New York Public Library looks like they have a section of ePub books ready for download and enjoyment on your mobile device... now we're getting closer...ah, but wait.  It's powered by "OverDrive", and I remember this name from my local library.  OverDrive is a service that you can sign up for, download their software call the OverDrive Media Console and then you can access some of the online content that your local library has available in the form of e-books or audiobooks.  A very cool idea... but still not what I'm looking for... it seems like a digital rights management company for certain media... and actually - it is!

And it looks like OverDrive isn't the only option for digital media publishing - there's also NetLibrary.
I like this idea - but I'll be honest... it seems like the BMI / EMI / ASCAP etc, of the electronic book industry.  Don't get me wrong - if I'm the author of an e-book that I want distributed across many channels, including public libraries, this is going to be a great way to get my content out there and managed.  I'll likely come back to this when I have the need for such a thing, but today's issue is about something else...

Maybe this "something else" doesn't exist yet?  Maybe the cost for the infrastructure is too great to ever accomplish such a thing?  Maybe the digital rights management of all existing and new content is far too complex to manage through a single system? Maybe I'm chasing a dream that will never come to be....

I guess what I'm looking for is something similar to digital curation with a standard easily deployed format and distribution channels that allow that content to be delivered easily to today's devices, at no or limited cost to the consumers.  Perhaps "fresh" content wouldn't be added to this freely available resource until a determined timeframe on the sales channels... let's say a year or 18 months?

The current problem I see is that I can and do have easy access to books through my public library.  All of these books are not in e-book format, although if they were, I would like to be able to have access to them just as I do right now.  If I want to move completely to the e-book market, I have to choose a distribution channel that has the rights to publish the content I'm looking for to my reader or custom software has to be loaded on my device so that I can read what I purchase.

The question is - how do we move to a platform that allows for all content to be shared easily and to any device?

Let's discuss - maybe there are methods that I don't know about yet.
Let's collaborate and build this platform together.

The world's knowledge should be free to anyone who has the curiosity and passion to learn.

*image from stock.xchng - the best royalty free website around.  Photo by Lusi

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lost In The Books... But Really Feeling Enlightened

I have been reading a lot lately!  No really... I read when I first wake up in the morning, read while eating my lunch at work and read when I get home from work, right up until I go to sleep at night.  What has been keeping my attention you ask?

The first of the books is "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" by Matt Ridley.  This book was suggested by a friend and he had said that it would "blow my mind" and it basically has...  it's quite an interesting read and really sets out to answer the question "Why Sex?". Why is that the method that we use and why do we partake in this as a pastime more than mainly to procreate?  It's a really interesting book and it pulls from a ton of different research done by various scientists across all species in an effort to understand more about why we do what we do...

In the first part of the book he talks about genes and that the primary goal of the two sexes are to exploit each other to procreate.  He calls out studies that show that it's about gene survival and passing on to future generations.  He notes that sex is just our way of gene blending.  Each of our cells is made up of 150,000 genes (pairs of 75,000) spelled out on 23 ribbons of chromosomes.  At the point of conception, a man can choose to take all 75,000 from our mother or 75,000 from our father to pass along, but usually it's a mixture of the two and each sperm will contain that 75,000 genes to be passed along. The woman's egg will also contain 75,000 genes made up from what her parents passed on to her.  The two will come together to make a full 150,000 (pairs of 75,000).  Meaning that we have an equal amount of our parents genes and their parents genes that have been passed along to us.  There are many other things that will happen along the way, but it goes far too deep into what I want to get into here.  The interesting point to me was genetic make up of our cells, and how this may affect the characteristics that evolve through us as we grow. 

Enter the next book, "The Biology of Belief" where Bruce Lipton puts out the idea that cells and outer influences on them, including our positive or negative feelings can change the way they evolve and well... you've got yourself a couple of very interesting reads and a bunch of questions to research deeper to understand more about the inner workings of the human body, mind and spirit!

So these books and several others have been keeping my attention and have left me scratching my head a bit as well.  Both give some interesting insight on "love" that I'll have to follow up on, research and post my thoughts on as a follow up post to my "Is Love Real?" post.

I've been wishing that I had more time to post about some of the creative aspects of what's been going on in my life, but for now reading is taking up the majority of my time outside of work.  I'm ok with this though, as I feel like I've been learning so much about how people "work".  It's been great!

I've also picked up a couple books suggested by our CEO as good reads and I'm making my way through "The World Is Flat", but I must admit, reading this 3 years after it was written / updated is kind of like trying to teach someone how to draw after they graduated with their Masters in Art.   :)

On with the learning... bring on the books!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Leveraging Your Dreams For Creative Inspiration

This year I've read a couple books that talk about dreams and the unconscious mind.  The first I read was "The Undiscovered Self" by Carl Jung.  In the book it mentions that Jung was a follower, believer of Sigmund Freud's studies around the unconscious and that early on they were friends.  Apparently Sigmund didn't take too kindly to those to studied his work closely and then started to have their own opinions that may vary or move in a different direction than his original ideas.  Jung and Freud parted ways around 1912. The Jung book peaked an interest in me to find out more about Freud and his ideas.  What I found was a man that wasn't afraid to dive inwards and analyze himself to the fullest extent possible so that human kind might understand and benefit from the information shared. I'm finding that much of the information that he shared has either been built upon and understood more fully or cast as having flaws and pushed aside.

One of the areas that I found very interesting is that Freud would analyze his own dreams.

From Wikipedia: "Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious". This meant that dreams illustrate the "logic" of the unconscious mind. Freud developed his first topology of the psyche in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) in which he proposed that the unconscious exists and described a method for gaining access to it. The preconscious was described as a layer between conscious and unconscious thought; its contents could be accessed with a little effort."

I've been using a method to capture my dream content over the past several months.  If I have a vivid dream and I awake, I instantly reach for the computer / my handheld phone and type as much about the dream and the surrounding as I possibly can remember.  The more detail the better as when I read it the next time, I'll be able to get myself back to that dream and the memories in it, while I'm in my conscious state.  I can replay the dream and either analyze it, or just use the content for inspirational purposes.

One dream that I had back in April is the inspiration for a new fiction novel I am writing called "Hurt".

I've also written several songs with lyrics based on the content of my captured dreams.

In years past, I would have a dream, awake and then fall right back to sleep and when I tried to remember the content in the morning it was near impossible.  I've had much better results with the method I am now using and I am finding much more inspiration from the content than I ever thought that I would.

If you want to give this a try, put a pad of paper and a pencil or pen by your bed this evening.  When you awake through the night, jot down ideas that are in your head.  Just let your mind go free, don't censor the ideas, just write... most times I have trouble keeping up with my thoughts and getting all of them down on paper, but do the best you can... and then fall back asleep not even thinking about what you wrote.  The next morning, read over what you wrote, but don't judge or look for deeper meaning, there is plenty of time for that later.

I try to come back to my night writings three to seven days after and look at them in a more critical and constructive way.  What was going on at the time of the dream?  Was I under stress?  Was I in a positive or negative mood?  This is usually the time I'll look for a story in the night writings and I'll look for how to use my conscious imagination to fill in the blanks and come up with something to create or put into action.

I've learned much more about myself since I've been capturing these dreams.  Maybe you'll learn something about yourself that you didn't know.

Until next time, sweet dreams.  :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Next Level Challenge - August 2010

It's that time again and I need to work on challenging myself physically this month.  Last month I threw down a challenge to complete a 4 mile hiking trail by my house and I was able to accomplish this task.  Below is one of the pictures I took on the hike.

There is a larger trail that I could challenge myself to completing, but I'm not sure if I want to do that or perhaps look in another area to challenge myself.  Perhaps a bike ride?  Perhaps a longer walk?  Perhaps something else new?

I don't have much time, so I'll look to decide on something this week.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Mid Year Check In - 2010 - Part Two

Hello again, Hello!

In the first part of this post I spoke of my photography goals for the year.  Now it's time to take on the larger life goals that I set for myself on February 1st and see how I've done.

  1. No more fast food.  Since January first I have not had any fast food.  To tell you the truth, I don't really miss it. Well I have had some fast food since February, but I can honestly say that I can count the times on one hand.  I'm still going very strong on this one and I think it's helped greatly with my weight loss that I've seen through the year.
  2. Workout every weekday before work.  In January I managed to do this and work up from a thirty minute workout each weekday to my current workout which is one hour.  Although I haven't lost any weight, I'm ok with it, as the goal that I made was to get up and workout every weekday morning in January and I did it!  This will continue into February. Although this did continue through February, in March some things happened that really de-railed this goal.  I have since adjusted my thinking and my overall weight loss goals to be more in-line with a life change instead of working out everyday and burning myself out.  I am still working out regularly, so I think I'm doing just fine on this goal and I'm on track to lose 75 lbs by the end of the year.
  3. Dive back into the technical side of things on the web world and re-learn Flash and Flex.  I've done a great deal and even completed my first freelance job in January.  I'm back folks. I was back - and now I have some ideas, but I haven't executed them.  Fail.
  4. Post a blog entry per day every day of 2010.  If you've been following, then you know I've managed to do this through January as well! This is another fail, but I feel that I've been doing a much better job and I think the real goal of this should be to keep posting as it will help me improve my writing skills and since I enjoy it, there is no reason to stop, right?
  5. Begin immersing myself into technology and business by reading more and listening to podcasts instead of music on the way to work.  Done. And Done - I still do this and have found that this has been a great source of ideas and inspiration both physical and mental.
  6. Start to take my photography hobby a bit more seriously and learn more about the art and what makes a good picture.  I'm well on my way for this one, I do have lots to learn though, but I think it will be great.  If you've seen my Photography Goals for 2010 then you know just how much work I have ahead of me. I'm working on this one and the goals I've set forth for myself.
  7. Cut down on going to the bar.  I've cut this back quite a bit and what I've found is that I like being at my house and feeling productive.  Go figure. I quit drinking for good as of March 16th.  I've learned from experience and from reading that this type of habit will lead to nothing good, in fact it actually helped put me in some situations that I would have not rather experienced.
  8. Re-learn French.  I'm proud to say that with the help of Rosetta Stone, January has seen me make it through the first Unit of French.  There are four units per level and I plan to make it through a unit per month.  There are five levels total. As of March I stopped taking the French course, I will promise myself to begin this again before the end of August and complete the first level before the end of the year.
  9. Take a moment or two to do a mental health check on myself.  Work on building self-esteem and self-confidence.  Courses like "The Psychology Of Achievement" and a couple from David DeAngelo have been helping out on that front.  I'll look to continue with these classes in February. This is an area that I've really dove into head first.  (no pun intended) and I've started studying the mind and why people do the things they do, what motivates us and how to be more socially confident. 
  10. Launch a local user group.  I have been given the ok from Adobe to try to launch the Chelsea Adobe User Group. I look forward to this challenge and I'll that I'll learn by doing it. Still on the list, and I'm working on it.
 So out of the ten goals - I'm doing six well.  I think that's pretty good.  I'll keep working on the others and set some new goals to shoot for before the end of the year.  These will focus around my career and relationships.

Let the fun begin and Happy Birthday to me!