An E-book Cometh

kindle_bmttggSometimes hordes of fans demand an e-book version of a publication which prompts the publisher to pull out all the stops and produce one immediately. Sometimes one or two people casually ask about an e-book version and probably forget about it by the time one appears a year or so later. One of these sentences describes my situation perfectly.

It’s not too tough, of course, to figure out which one. It was just a little over a year ago that By Mopar to the Golden Gate was published as a paperback. I was immediately and understandably asked if an electronic version was or would be available and I had my answer ready. Nope, I said. It was too much work. I suspect those who asked were as surprised by my answer as I had been surprised to learn that making a document completely comprised of digital computer files available to electronic readers wasn’t simply a matter of checking a box and clicking a button. After all, I had published through Amazon and anyone somewhat familiar with their collection of services might be more inclined to believe that than those knowing nothing at all about them. The Kindle side of Amazon’s website clearly states “Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.” That’s not a lie. It’s just not the whole story.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s e-book publishing component. There really is a button that will transfer a book produced through Create Space, Amazon’s hard copy publishing arm, to KDP in “less than five minutes” and I don’t doubt in the slightest that it would be “on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours”. It will even be readable if — and here’s the rub — it is formless and free flowing. Most are. Most, in fact, are 100% text. Fiction, they say, is what drives e-book sales. If, on the other hand, your book has, say, 160 or so carefully sized and positioned photographs, it’s a different story.

This topic came up recently in an e-versation with a couple of friends heading down the self publishing trail. The discussion benefited from some expert insight that reinforced the fact that, for certain books, there is no single box to check or magic button to click. And it prompted me to revisit the issues I’d ran away from a year ago, work through them, and produce an electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate.

The central issue — it can’t really be called a problem — is the variety and flexibility of e-readers. Content designed for a specific sized sheet of paper just doesn’t get along well with all the different hardware variations and the ability of users to customize things like font style and size. Publisher types talk about two styles of e-books, reflowable and fixed layout, both of which are pretty much described by their names. Reflowable documents make few or no assumptions about the devices used to display them. When a bigger screen is available, more of the document is displayed on each “page”. If the user selects a larger font, less is displayed at one time but the entire document will ultimately flow across the screen if the user just keeps scrolling. That’s different than with a fixed layout document. It may be possible to zoom the display so that characters are larger and more readable but zooming magnifies a portion of the “page” and other portions may never be seen by scrolling. If you’ve ever used an e-reader for something digitized by capturing an image of each page, you’ll immediately understand. Reading a zoomed fixed layout document can sometimes seem like reading a billboard with a jeweler’s loupe.

kindle_bmttgg2Other than correcting a couple of spelling errors, absolutely no text was changed in generating the e-book. The same pictures are in the e-book as in the paperback with essentially the same dimensions. I did utilize color versions so they ought to look a little prettier on some devices. To make things reflowable, I unhooked the pictures and their captions from fixed positions on the pages and placed them between paragraphs. If you think of the sizing and positioning of a book’s non-text elements within the text as design, then what I did was undesign the book. To be honest, there wasn’t very much “design” in it. I placed pictures where I thought they looked good and I chose sizes to spotlight those I particularly liked or to allow some to be grouped together. Design is too kind a word. At best what I did was layout. I arranged some block images so that they looked alright, appeared near any text that referenced them, and didn’t disrupt that text too much. But other books truly are designed and their designers agonize over scaling and placing elements so that a page — a physical page with fixed dimensions — looks good and works well. That sort of design is no better accommodated in the e-reader world than my clunky picture layouts.

At present, the electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate is available for Kindle through Amazon and Nook through Barnes & Noble. Whether it ever goes to other platforms or distribution channels is undecided. It’s my impression that software supporting one or both of these formats is available for most devices. At Amazon, By Mopar to the Golden Gate is part of the MatchBook program which means that all past and future purchasers of the print version can get the Kindle version for just $1.99. I haven’t yet figured out how to provide Kindle versions on the cheap to those who purchase the book elsewhere but I’m working on it. Click on the images below to go shopping.

amzkindle bnnnook

But It’s Really Nice Ice

hif01Even though Ohio doesn’t experience the months long freezes of places farther north, finding ice here in January is hardly rare. Of course, it isn’t always welcomed and finding it in your path is sometimes disastrous. But every two years, ice and the folks who carve it are invited to Hamilton, Ohio, “The City of Sculpture”, and made to feel very much welcome. With the theme “Hamilton Goes Hollywood”, this year’s IceFest features more than 80 movie related ice sculptures. I attended Friday. In 2011, I attended the second of the event’s two days which includes the fun-to-watch carving competition. This year, Saturday’s 50 degree temperatures threatened to take a little of the edge off of the existing sculptures but I’m sure they still looked good and watching the carving was no doubt exciting.

hif02hif03I started at the east end of the sculptures and found one carver at work. I later spoke with someone who works in the building in the background who said the man had provided wonderful entertainment for most of the day and even later I got a shot of the finished product.

hif06hif05hif04As you might expect, there were several sculptures representing movies with which I was completely unfamiliar but there were plenty that I recognized immediately. The remarkable detail that some of these artists achieve with the ice is even more impressive when you consider how fragile it can be.

hif07They had just started unpacking the blocks for the Wall of Ice when I arrived but it was complete by the time I walked past all of the sculptures and returned. There were quite a few pairs of blocks and several two block sequences that were properly matched and placed. When I first spotted what turned out to be the second of a three block sequence and did not see an appropriate block immediately following I thought it might be lost or at some far off point in the wall. Nope, missed it by only that much.

hif10hif09hif08When I first walked the display area, only two of the three blocks were filled. Because of temperatures in the 40s, sculptures for the third block, the courthouse block, were not put out until after sundown. These are the sculptures that are illuminated from behind to create the Technicolor Walk.

hif11hif12hif13I’ve not been here at night before so don’t know if the spotlights are normal or part of the Hollywood theme. The tents are where the carving takes place on Saturday. After grabbing what I believe is my first nighttime shot of The American Cape, I slipped into a coffee shop to warm up and pretend to be Puss in Boots.

hif14This is Hamilton’s ninth IceFest and there’s little doubt that they have a real winner. Some 25,000 people were expected to attend over the two days. They got a pretty good start on Friday with a whole bunch of smiling folks of all ages.

2014 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2013 values in parentheses:

  • 7 (6) = Road trips reported
  • 80 (77) = Blog posts
  • 77 (57) = Days on the road
  • 1972 (1437) = Pictures posted — 384 (406) in the blog and 1588 (1031) in Road Trips

htv50s_cvrrWhen days on the road increase, an increase in pictures posted is sure to follow. Last year an additional twenty road days yielded an additional 557 road trip pictures. 35% more days resulted in 54% more photos. Blog pictures decreased slightly. In addition to the 52 regular weekly blog posts, there were 16 reviews, 7 road trip links, and 5 miscellaneous asynchronous posts. The number two and three blog posts from 2013 moved up to one and two. Last year’s most visited post stayed in the top five at number four leaving just two of the top five slots for new posts. The most popular item posted in 2014 was the review of an ebook.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    When I started the My Wheels series of articles on vehicles I’ve owned, I really had cars and motorcycles in mind and started the series with a bicycle as something of a lark. It stands today as testament to just how bad a prognosticator I am. It was the most popular new post of 2013 and the second most popular overall. This year it moves on top. Hardly a day goes by without at least one visit to the article and there are usually several. Most are from search engines and I don’t believe many of the readers stick around for much of anything else but it appears that a lot of people had, have, or dreamed of having J. C. Higgins Flightliners.
  2. Route 66 Attractions
    This review appears in the top five for the third time moving from fifth to third to second. The subject is a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.
  3. How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips
    The most popular new post of 2014 was a review of a free ebook. Terri Weeks wrote the book partly to promote her website and a “real” book, Adventures Around Cincinnati, she co-wrote with Laura Hoevener. I suspect Terri and her friends sent as many readers to the post as the search engines did and that’s OK by me.
  4. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    After two years at number one, this article on an endangered historic building dropped to fourth. The building was demolished more than a year ago so I’m not surprised that the ranking dropped but I am a little surprised — and a lot delighted — that it still cracked the top five. I’d like to think it and the post on the demolition (Roadhouse Down) are being used as cautionary tales to help save other buildings. A gas station has been built on the corner where the building stood. There is absolutely nothing within the building’s actual footprint.
  5. Don’t Worry Be Hoppy — or Gene or Roy or…
    This is the report of my visit to the Hopalong Cassidy Festival in Cambridge, Ohio. I’m thinking that, like me, some of those Flightliner fans are also Hopalong fans.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Englewood
    For several years, an oddment page on a 2006 visit to the site of the town of Tadmor was the most popular pages on the site due largely to a reference in a Wikipedia article on ghost towns. The link never seemed all that appropriate (I had not placed it.) and I believe it has been removed. That post ranked seventh this year. This post describes a visit to Englewood Park that took place a week following my visit to Tadmor. Both parks contain dams on the National Road but I have no theory on why this post shot to the top in 1014.
  2. AMA Hall of Fame Museum
    This Oddment page covers a 2010 visit to the museum. I have no guesses as to what brought the increased interest this year. At four years old, it is the most recent item to make 2014’s non-blog top five list. Last year only one article from 2013 made the list. Does that mean I’ve already covered everything worth covering and that I might as well stop posting new journal entries? Maybe, but I won’t.
  3. Natchez Christmas
    This is the journal of my 2006 Christmas trip which included driving the full length of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Day 5, which involved a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park seemed to be the main focus so the visits may have come from an interest in the Civil War.
  4. Kentucky Short Loop
    This was a rather spontaneous 2004 day trip to Kentucky with nothing in it that suggests why it became an attraction in 2014. There is, however, an odd coincidence connected to it. One of the things I do whenever I’m unable to post a new blog entry on Sunday is post a canned “Trip Peek”. These are short articles pointing to completed trips. On January 4, the first Sunday of the year when I should have posted this look back, I was on the road and had to use a canned article. Four days after these rankings were frozen and before I’d actually looked at them, the randomly selected article posted was the Kentucky Short Loop “Trip Peek”.
  5. Lincoln Highway West
    The 2009 trip on which I clinched the Lincoln Highway for the first time completes the top five and I’ve no idea why. The focus seemed to be on a day spent in Iowa and I’m pretty sure I can’t attribute that to Civil War interest.

Visits to the website increased to 248,033 from 170,809 last year and page views rose to 741,404 from 467,084. WordPress’ Jetpack reports 8,062 views (up from 6,863) for the blog in 2014.

The increases are modest. Heck, the total traffic is modest, but I’m happy with it. I wouldn’t object to a little more feedback but that’s not the same as being unhappy. I’m a little disappointed that nothing I added to the journal in 2014 generated more interest than stuff from 2010 and earlier but I’m definitely not unhappy about that. It’s rather nice, in fact, that four and more year old articles still get read. I made no structural changes in the website in 2014 and I anticipate none in 2015. From here, it looks like another non-jiggy year has just begun.

Trip Peek #27
Trip #23
Kentucky Short Loop

pvd10This picture is from my 2004 Kentucky Short Loop day trip. The trip was prompted by good weather and was fairly spontaneous although I did have a few places in mind to visit. It was basically a day spent driving around Lexington, Elizabethtown, and Versailles, Kentucky. The picture is of a horse farm near Versailles. Apparently this was the trip where my attraction for US-62 began.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.