As you know, he swore under his breath. Wednesday, Mar 14 2007 

The line ‘as you know’ should never, ever occur on the first page of a book. Or even any page of a book. It’s always used as a rather contrived way of providing setting or back-story:

“Well, Prince Bob, as you know, your parents are the king and queen of this country, and as you know, they gave birth to you precisely seventeen years ago, because as you know, today is your birthday, etc.”

I don’t mind so much the strategy of introducing an outsider into a well-established world so that someone can explain to them everything the reader needs to know. It may be a rather obvious device, but at least it makes sense. People in normal conversation never say ‘as you know’ any more than they ‘swear under their breath’. I think it’s another case of people writing what they’ve read other people write without thinking it through properly.

Machines that read for you so you don’t have to. Tuesday, Mar 13 2007 

Browsing an article about revolutionary new products and stuff, I noticed something called a Sony Reader, a digital book. The first thing I think is, why is a ‘digital book’ still a revolutionary idea? I was hearing about the concept last decade.

Then I wonder how this technology will affect books in general. Since you don’t have to chop trees down to make them, they’re more environmentally friendly than books. They take up much less space than a collection of books. As long as they’re not a strain to read — and this Sony Reader allegedly has the same resolution as print and an anti-glare screen — I don’t see how they’re not superior to books in every way.

The only problem is piracy of books, which I think is a problem for two reasons. Firstly is the loss of profit to authors, although I only think this is a problem to the most popular authors. For smaller authors, to have their work available over the internet would be a huge boost to exposure, although this in turn presents the problem of oversaturation — if you went to a library that had every book ever written, how would you ever find anything interesting to read?

The second problem with piracy would be the anti-piracy mechanisms they’d build into the digital books. Anti-piracy measures are generally so incredibly infuriating that they’d vastly reduce the enjoyment of reading. Since books only have copy protection until they’re retyped on a computer, the digital book would have to be restricted to reading ‘authentic’ files, so you’d only be able to read books that are available through the online shop. I don’t think most people would want a digital book unless it could display anything they want to read.

I don’t think that digital books will ever replace paperbacks, though. The bicycle never replace walking and the car never replaced the bicycle. Especially when it comes to literature, there’s far too much online and not enough indicators of quality — at least in a bookstore or a library, everything there has won the competition to be published.

The fine line of doom. Thursday, Mar 8 2007 

I find it interesting how thin the line can sometimes be between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ writing. Take ‘overwrought’ writing, for example, where nothing is said in a straightforward way and everything is elaborated with polysyllabic linguistic talent. On the one hand it can be very smug, self-indulgent and irritating, sounding like the writer is indulging too much in what they think is their own cleverness. On the other hand, with a subtle tweak, it can be whimsical, charming and sophisticated.

Looking through the parts of my book I’ve worked on the most, I’m worried I fall too much into the former category. So when I’ve finished my current draft I’m going to go through the whole thing with my red pen and wearing my ‘toning down’ hat. I can’t wear my ‘toning down’ hat yet because I’m currently wearing my ‘fleshing out’ and ‘fixing up’ hats, and there are only so many hats I can wear at the same time.