My First Mac

I have never owned a personal computer that was not a Macintosh. Even though I’d seen other PCs before I saw a Mac, I wasn’t interested in them. I had written two novels on my IBM Selectric III and really felt like it was all I needed. My first wife was in graduate school and she and I were living in Iowa City, and her typewriter broke. We decided to go looking for a new one. This was about 1984, I guess. We looked for a shop that sold typewriters. There was a shift underway that we were only marginally aware of. Writers we knew were switching to computers. I had had a run-in with a computer at Hollins when I was in grad school, and found the barrier to entry of the command line interface too high when all I wanted to do was write. Continue reading

What's Wrong with Jay McInerny is what's wrong with the rest of America — but it's not what you think

I’m in the midst of reading Richard Powers’s new novel, GENEROSITY: AN ENHANCEMENT. I’m a big fan of Powers’s work, and despite some not so great (and in my mind kind of ill-conceived) reviews, I’m liking it a lot so far. Jay McInerny reviewed the book in the Times Book Review this week, and I was surprised by his statement in the “upfront” section. Continue reading

EBooks Mean the Ascendency of Whom or What?

Quo Vadis the Book?

If the eBook is ascendent, who or what else is also ascendent?
The excessively simple narrative of the history of book publishing goes sort of like this: writers hired printing presses to bring their work into the world in book or other form. To protect writers from unscrupulous printers, there arose publishers who would pay the writers a fair rate and also make money. But the scruple-less roamed the land and so came literary agents to protect writers from unscrupulous publishers, and also make a buck.
And this model worked reasonably well for a while until hypertext came along and screwed up everything.

But it’s a way slo-mo earth quake, this screwing up of things that hypertext hath wrought. Continue reading

A McGonigal Game for Books

If you have never heard of Jane McGonigal, or even if you have, check this out:


McGonigal’s concept of alternate reality games is actually pretty fascinating.

Not long ago, I had the idea (way less interesting than hers) that it’d be a very cool thing to do to see what would happen if someone created a fictional book of fiction and then try to generate buzz for it.

This sort of almost happened when Sex and the City, the movie, came out there was a mention of a book in it. It was nonfiction, but nonetheless. (Read about it in the Times here.) And but so the mention of this book in the movie “caused real-life people to storm to their real-life online bookstores in search of” it. And it jumped from pretty much nowhere to very high on the Amazon sales list.

That book had a mention in a major motion picture, but what I’m thinking of would be way lower key. People just start talking about it. The _____ would be this great book that had everything, suspense, romance, horror, maybe some recipes for people who like that kind of stuff.

It would seem to me that there would be a web site for the book, with a cover, and blurbs, but no actual content except for the blurbs. Maybe there would be a synopsis, but it’d be better if there were not.

Someone way smarter than me would have to think up a way of tracking interest, so maybe people could “buy” the book, but in such a way as not to hurt them (i.e., they wouldn’t get charged anything and wouldn’t have to give a credit card number—maybe just a notify me when this is available kind of thing).

I’m no prophet, but I don’t think Amazon’s Kindle will do much for electronic books

Best that I can tell, the one thing that dedicated electronic book readers have going for them is convenience. You’re traveling, for example, and you want to take half a dozen books but if you cram them all in your carry-on bag, it’ll weigh as much as college cheerleading squad. And you don’t want to pack them in your checked luggage, because then you won’t be able to get at them during your mind-numbingly dull flight.

Continue reading