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Here is some news (or pre-news!)

I have been busy publishing the first ebook story collection by Jack Matthews, the first collection he has published in 23 years. Despite the somewhat small size, I consider this to be a major work — perhaps one of his best story collections. My company will be publishing his contemporary microfiction title, Abruptions this summer.

I have started to offer ebooks at Smashwords. Frankly I will be turning my focus more towards Smashwords; it has been on the cutting edge on ebooks; unfortunately it doesn’t get a tenth of Amazon’s traffic and it doesn’t have the Createspace infrastructure, but they are doing a lot of amazing things. Mark Coker seems to seem trends sooner than most; here’s his latest end-of-the-year prediction.

I plan to start posting a few small things on Teleread over the next few months. If you remember, I used to contribute lots of things between 2004-2009 or so, but then I had to put it aside. Now I’ll resume posting on a smaller scale. I still would like to start some kind of literary site which is something more than a blog. Every time I get ready to do this, I get sidetracked by real life events. Right now I’m of the mind that I should just publish SOMETHING and then over time add features and specific kinds of content so it accumulates more heft.

I’m a lot more experienced in deployments, so I’m reluctant to implement something unless I can do it right. I also want to create a method to test changes more easily; that’s the biggest problem with trying to add features to weblogs. Also, I want to create something which one person could run and maintain by himself because — guess what, collaboration is an extra not a vital feature for most literary sites.

Last night I created a static html page based on an annotated bibliography of Civil War fiction from the Soldier Boys ebook. (Take a look at it; it’s great!). I really just wanted to steal a simple template which uses responsive web design principles (and look good on various kinds of devices). But I realized a few things: responsive web design is hard! Even the simple templates are practically content frameworks because you have to incorporate NAV elements. Having designed ebooks for different readers and devices, I know all about css media queries and breakpoints and inspecting css; even though ebooks have NAV elements, my production method just spits them out via Docbook XSL.

Also, I know I could figure out breakpoints and screen dimensions, but I became aware of REMs which are kind of like ems, only they are not. Anyway, designing web pages only occasionally, I’m used to being behind a few years on standard practices, but I feel a lot more behind than normal. Maybe it has to do with the value I place on my time, but I’m quickly growing content with just inserting a store-bought or community-written template and hoping everything works. When inspecting these templates, I am more confident of my capability to ruin the css than to fix something….

That said, I grow weary of current web design, even unassuming ones for blogs. Everything is so focused on social media and signing up for newsletter and shaming the surfer for using an an-blocker. Third-party ad networks are draining your bandwidth and browser memory. Frequently Facebook and sites with videos cause my browser to choke — especially on Firefox. So much content is delivered in-process, so you constantly need to scroll down to fetch more items. The very thought of having to dig up some thing I posted on Facebook 4 months ago fills me with dread. I would spend a good 10 minutes just hitting the More button and waiting for Facebook to serve me another teaspoon of content. Suddenly every listicle must become a photo gallery — not for any functional reasons, but simply to increase the number of clicks you need to make and the time you need to wait.

Two exciting bit of news which I haven’t shared on FB or G+.

First, BBC announced that some listeners have found lost episodes of Alistaire Cooke’s Letter from America radio series. I’ve been listening to them religiously (I’m currently at about 1993, and I have noticed that the 1970s decade was missing a lot of weekly episodes!)

Second, I have become excited at some video essays which I have seen on youtube (usually about artistic or cultural topics). See Nerdwriter1’s playlists and Every Frame a Painting’s playlists. These are thoughtful, well-edited video essays; I’m tempted to try my hand at a few of these — although I honestly can’t imagine how much time is involved. By now, either video essayist can probably crank these things out daily, but novices might find it overwhelming and time-consuming. As good as those video essays are, writing essays is just a more efficient way to produce thoughtful ideas and a fast way to receive them. Sure, video essays can say things which videos cannot; at the same time, can you justify the extra expenditure of time?

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