Category Archives: Books

Novel Futures

Link: I am offering 60% of the U.S. royalties of my second novel to “the public”

Shareholders will receive checks (and copies of the royalty statement from my publisher) in the mail every 6 months after the book’s publication (probably Fall, 2009 or Spring 2010). Shares can be resold at any price at any time, I will facilitate trading and promote it on my blog if that is what a shareholder wants. I accept Paypal.

I think this is a terrific idea but I fear the novelist (Tao Lin) won’t get the outcome he expects because of the execution. Selling 6 shares at $2,000 each locks out a significant portion of the market; why not sell 60 shares at $200 each or 600 shares at $20 each? (If the answer is “bookkeeping” then it would seem as if there’s an opportunity here for a technology entrepreneur, cough cough, to create an online marketplace to facilitate this kind of transaction.) In general it would seem like having an honest broker (not the content creator, and not the publisher) to manage these kinds of investments would be better all around; one of the things that would facilitate is the secondary market (investors reselling their shares to other investors) that the author alludes to in his post.

I also wonder if a more general-purpose media futures marketplace would facilitate the creation of other kinds of media. I know that The Guild funded itself this way, are there others?

Soon I Will Be Invincible

I’d been meaning to recommend this book since before the time I became the holistic accidental accountant to the stars, but now’s as good a time as any, I guess. Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible is an excellent novel in the suddenly-omnipresent post-modern superhero genre. It tells the story of the super-villain and the cyborg hero babe in alternating chapters. It has wry humor. It has no singing, though. But you should still check it out.

Clayton Christensen’s Innovation Brain

Link: Clayton Christensen’s Innovation Brain.

"Christensen doesn’t criticize managers, as many ivory tower professors do in their books. Rather, a major theme is that great managers miss disruptive innovations precisely because they’re focused on their customers, working hard to create returns for shareholders, and trying to do everything right."

There’s an excellent interview with Clayton Christensen, the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, today in Business Week. His seminal work on the nature of disruptive innovation is now ten years old. One particularly interesting thing he addresses in the interview is the way that the notion of "disruptive" has been somewhat hijacked by corporate managers to describe any new, bold initiative, with the implicit understanding that the initiative is going to return huge growth (which Christensen says is not often the case with truly disruptive technologies).

He also predicts that the iPhone won’t be a game-changer for Apple since it’s what he calls a "sustaining" technology (as opposed to a disruptive one).

O’Reilly Rough Cuts

While perusing some information about Atlas on Scott Guthrie’s blog, I ran across this: O’Reilly has started releasing "Rough Cuts," downloadable technical books released while the book is still a work in progress. You pay a lower cost to download the prerelease version of the book (for the Atlas book it’s $17.99) and they send you updates as the book is updated.

$17.99 seems a bit steep to buy a book sight unseen, but I think I’ll give it a whack just this once to see how it goes. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to have some interaction with the author before the book is committed to dead trees. If I were calling the shots, I’d be generous with providing free/discounted print editions of the book to prerelease customers who report bugs and contribute content. When I was knee-deep in the book-writing thing I’d always thought that there was a lot that the book-writing discipline could learn from the scalability of open-source projects; hopefully this is a step in that direction.

I should say that I like the Safari subscription service (and I’d hoped to you can get a look at the Atlas book there) but it always bothered me that books on Safari are formatted in a way that makes it nearly impossible to download/print. I’d always though of this as a subtle form of DRM (which, to my way of thinking, is fine as long as you know what you’re getting into — I don’t think of myself as a purchaser of Safari books, I think of myself as renting clumps of pages).

If the Rough Cuts idea catches on, it might compel me to do another book at some point in the future.

Update: If you’re a Safari subscriber you can indeed read the book online (I wasn’t originally able to find the book in there using keyword search). Log in to your Safari account and click here to view the book.

Benjamin Franklin, Rugged Individualist

I’m reading this book, a biography of Benjamin Franklin. It kind of rules. Here’s a quote:

“Tocqueville came to the conclusion that there was an inherent struggle in America between two opposing impulses: the spirit of rugged individualism versus the conflicting spirit of community and association building. Franklin would have disagreed. A fundamental aspect of Franklin’s life, and of the American society he helped to create, was that individualism and communitarianism, so seemingly contradictory, were interwoven. The frontier attracted barn-raising pioneers who were ruggedly individualistic as well as fiercely supportive of their community. Franklin was the epitome of this admixture of self-reliance and civic involement, and what he exemplified became part of the American character.”