Hello!

Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art. Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography. Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost,  I Ate Tiong Bahru (a national bestseller in Singapore), Tiong Bahru Mouth, Obama Search Words and a few others. This post gives you some idea of my current projects. Thank you for stopping by. Stephen Black physical laborers
black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

two men smiling

If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat...

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.

To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.

Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life "interesting"... I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close... and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that's yet another story.)

In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do. However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don't remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas. They still are.

I've been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.

Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg

IATB in virtual gallery Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface

This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It's part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books. Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I'll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author's Guild.

Although I've done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy. Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About... And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers... The title of Guy Kawasaki's excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)

Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer...

....or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.

Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)

Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages...

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers. Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you're not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there...but the author's need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These "automatic partners" will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.

Consider: -the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)

-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets - the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles - writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking's first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James' book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW! However, the writing is..."not terrible" or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed. http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/

There are "indie success stories" about authors who "rode into town" on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these "indies" were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers. As the 'first mover'possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition... Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: "...was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."

There certainly are "ebook only" indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don't know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any "ebook only" awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this. Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3 visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks

 

24 hours in Shenzhen (360 VR): A Project by Leo Wei and Stephen Black

Suggestions for locations and story ideas are welcome. Interesting locations at interesting times, interesting people, interesting tech; we will consider anything.

24 hours in Shenzhen (360 VR): A project by Leo Wei and Stephen Black

Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China, will be documented for a 24 hour period on August 18th, in a co-production by Leo Wei (cinematographer) and Stephen Black(screenwriter).The starting points for the production are Wei's experiences as a Shenzhen resident and Black's international background as a writer, artist and producer. The two will co-direct.

Leo Wei: "VR is a fresh and powerful way to share the various feelings and experiences I have had while living in Shenzhen. It will be interesting to see what happens during the 24 hours. Shenzhen is always changing."

Stephen Black: "The last time I visited Shenzhen was in 1997, when I lived in Hong Kong. Since that time, Shenzhen has grown tremendously, as everyone knows. I would like to portray not only the high tech, entrepreneurial side of Shenzhen, but also the way it may symbolize China's unseen past and future."

Leo Wei demonstrating the Qoocam at the 2018 Maker Faire at Hong Kong Polytechnic.

Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire at HK PolyU.

AR, VR and Every R in between. An installation at the 2018 Maker's Faire at Hong Kong PolyU.

Wei and Black's first VR experience together was at the 2018 Maker's Faire at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Leo Wei's film and television experiences have been with Shenzhen Satellite TV, where he has been involved with productions that involved stars like Zheng Khai, Guo Caijie and Ru Changhu. He is currently the product manager at Kandao, a manufacturer of VR cameras.

Stephen Black's career has bridged television production, art and writing. He has worked for CNN, Cartoon Network, Fuji TV and Fox. His photographs and videos have been shown worldwide, including Beach Road, a 360VR film which was featured in festivals in Las Vegas, Brisbane and Singapore.He recently gave a number of presentations about AR at Hong Kong PolyU. He has written a number of books, including i ate tiong bahru, a Singaporean bestseller.

August 4, 2018 Hong Kong: From Blockchain to Noodles with Gluten and Black Fungus

Notes on today for Alphabet Spikes, my book-in-progress-as-experiment-on Amazon.

These images are from Dustin Stupp's quietly stimulating On Brink artwork, now on display at the Innovation Tower at HK PolyU. Very thought-provoking, Dustin's piece is a trustworthy way to begin an understanding of Blockchain. First at lunch, and then at the artwork itself, we discussed blockchain. To be most accurate, I asked a few questions and listened a lot. I recorded our conversation and took notes. Block chain is not something that can be written about quickly.Later, I will have at least one dedicated post about my time spent with Dustin and his piece.if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section.(BTW, Dustin is open to exhibiting On Brink elsewhere; please get in touch if you have any ideas. The piece is meant to be experienced in real time; those piles of dirt are visualizations of block frequency and size.)

invisible gold

eating electricity

the size of countries

My mother saw the real thing today.

Just outside of Hong Kong PolyU.

Point A to point B, concluding at one of Bubiko's favorite places in the area.

If you like this, here is another day.

Appalachian Mindview Analysis 1975-80)

Hello Deborah,

Hope this finds you well.

RE: your post about cameras for 150 military families, I would like to suggest an exciting, new 360VR video/still camera, the Kandao Qoocam.

It does not require a HMD (head mounted device). The videos can be seen easily with a viewer or after it has been uploaded onto Youtube.

Here is a test that I did myself (scroll down). Photos of the Qoocam in action are here.

It is also capable of still photographs.

Here are three posts for your consideration:

Kandao launches QooCam

Qoocam review

Youtube stabilization demo

To clarify, I am initiating this on my own, though I have a strong and proven relationship with Kandao. I have worked as a producer (CNN, Fuji TV, Cartoon Network) and would act in whatever role necessary, my costs to be covered by Kandao.

Questions:

Total number of cameras

The Qoocam is quite new, and I have yet to learn of the official MSRP. To begin the discussion, I will use the price of US500. (This Forbes article says "Currently, the Qoocam is going on Kickstarter for $309, which the company says is a 27% discount from its retail price.") Using US500 per unit, this would be 20 Qoocams. Not enough for 150 families!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PRESENT THE 150 FAMILIES WITH QOOCAMS, I WILL GET ON WITH MAKING IT HAPPEN. To help with this, please let me know immediately estimated viewership, if the aired program will be shown again, on Youtube.... Hosts name? Talent associated with the show? Awards? The total value would be US 75,000 and I will need to get them excited!

Delivery

As Kandao/Qoocam is a new company based in Hong Kong, delivery needs to be clarified. Will the cameras be delivered to one address?

If so, where?

The 20 recipients of the cameras: would they receive their cameras in the US or at international addresses?

Schedule

When would the cameras be needed? When will the program air?

Looking forward to hearing from you. This is a wonderful opportunity for all parties involved, especially the families. 360VR shot with the Qoocam really is impressive!

Regards,

Stephen Black

Stairway to VR

From the AR, VR and Every R in Between event, part of the 2018 Maker Faire at Hong Kong Polytechnic This was a test by Stephen Black using the Kandao QooCam.

I wanted to experiment with the camera on the top of my head; will edit the awkward beginning and end later.

I will write about this in ALPHABET SPIKES.

Ani-Com and Games Hong Kong 2018: Photos by Stephen Black

To learn more about character goods for the Bubiko Foodtour AR project, we visited Ani-Com and Games Hong Kong. If you have a question, please ask in the comments section. I went because of Bubiko, because of Alphabet Spikes and because I wanted to see what was happening with AR and VR.

Stephen Black’s VR-related posts Part 2

A partial compilation of my VR-related posts. This is mainly for my personal reference. Later I will create a "greatest hits of VR blog posts" and of course the best parts of these will find their way into the book I am writing about 360VR.

\

Beach Road Press Release on blacksteps.tv

Beach Road Press release on LinkedIn

Jumpcut Workshop/Discovery Channel/Nicholas Reed

The potential of VR as a collage medium

AR/VR startup in Singapore: reasons why

http://www.blacksteps.tv/stephen-black-start-up/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/steves-vr-startup/

VC questions applied to a book and a VR startup

Self-portrait as a game

The Baby Steps of Bubiko Foodtour

Haptics: Giving the Finger to VR (Part 2)

With Bubiko Foodtour at the I Love Penang Festival in KL

Cone: Engadget Experience public document

Stelarc: the sound of three hands clapping (#3 in the Haptics series)

Hatsune Miku virtual character cafe experience

Haptics: Bubiko, Lei Cha and Data Science (Finger, Hand and Arm Movements)

Haptics: Bubiko, Lei Cha and Data Science (Ingredients)

A (VR/AR/Haptics+)-based book proposal for agents-like-Lauren-Appleton

Bubiko Foodtour Update: August 23, 2017

SB AR Startup GTM Foundation-building (a bit of crossover with VR)

EMU: Notes on a Promotional Tour for an AR Startup (again the ideas here work for VR as well)

Notes on a Million Dollar Budget for an AR Startup

Notes on AR Startup Business Model

Alphabet Spikes Z-T (notes from June 2018, Hong Kong)

Kandao Obsidian Publicity!

AR, VR and Every R in Between

AR, VR and Every R in Between (July 7, 2018)

AR, VR and Every R in Between (July 8, 2018)

Alphabet Spikes P-S (notes from July 2018, Hong Kong)

Stephen Black’s VR-related posts Part 1 /

Stephen Black’s VR-related posts Part 1

A partial compilation of my VR-related posts. This is mainly for my personal reference. Later I will create a "greatest hits of VR blog posts" and of course the best parts of these will find their way into the book I am writing about 360VR.

SPOKEN

SPOKEN Eugene Soh/Stephen Black open notebook

Angelic Visions (this, at one point, was to be the title for a book on cinematography)

Towards a New Cinematography (same book idea, a different title)

Towards a New Cinematography (notes)... yet another name, for the same book idea, though this title signifies a more philosophical approach.

Beach Road short film (360 video)

Wall Clouding preproduction notes. Beach Road was called Wall Clouding in preproduction.

Virtual Reality for Beginners/Simple Chart/Designer Project (a bit naiive)

Stephen Black exhibition at Mettle Works Art Space

Norm Black: Before Probably the first exhibition of VR art in Singapore.

Norm Black VR exhibition notes

The Cinematography Book/Notes and a Reviewer (again the book has a different title!)

The Cinematography Book/Notes and Eugene Soh

The 2016 Sudden 360 Festival (360 Videos on Youtube)

everything (one of those unusual little projects I sometimes do)

Secret Donut World: a deck of 52 playing words

A brief introduction to Michael Naimark, media art guru

Virtual Reality for Artists Workshop/Michael Naimark/Objectifs

A typical conversation (perhaps) about VR, circa 2015

My terrible book promotional flyer made me happy

As you may know, I have not yet done any serious marketing--though I do have a bestseller. I believe that books sell because of word of mouth, not advertising. Of course, at some point I will do serious advertising, but that day has not yet come. For now, I am most interested in connecting with readers with a sense of adventure.

What follows is something I greatly enjoy.

Hi Stephen, I am one of the guys taking your leaflet when you were in HK for the book exhibition on the bridge.

One thing I want to mention is, sorry for the frankness.... Your leaflet is lousy😅

These are 2 other leaflets I have acquired while on the bridge, and they are objectively and subjective better.......

1. Your leaflet is in black and white.

2. The text and images are pressed together and too small for normal people to read.

3. And most importantly, I don't know what you want to promote in this leaflet..... There is no focus. Is it "book merah", "Obama search words", or Bali Wave Ghost? I was thinking along these lines when I read the leaflet: "What are these books? Why I would want to read them? And why is there some strange circles drawing overlapping with the images and text in the centre? 😵😵😵"

Hope u can improve on your presentation so more people can read your good book on different cultures and places 👍👍👍

"FANTASTIC," I say! The link to the books which are now on sale/free is here.

More about the HK Book Fair is here.

Publishing Magnates

Stephen Black , Book Merah CEO/author , with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.

July 21, 2018

6:30 AM Woke up in a black and white photograph of Chung King Mansions.

10:07AM Brilliant photo of a not so brilliant breakfast.

10:45 AM Passing out flyers. This. is. DIY.

Made in 10 minutes, yesterday afternoon, barely in time to get it to the printers. It has a charm I would not like to repeat.(Two days later.. I was scolded! Hurray!)

Ponti discussion

Sharlene Teo and Chip Tsao discussing Ponti.

Sharlene Teo. Her talk was great. She talked about Singapore, read from her book. Story, sentence structure, insight, viewpoints and an agenda that is more lightbulb than bulldozer. Her book features a fictitious movie series about a Malay monster; a beautiful female who traps and mutilates men. I have yet to read it, but Ian McEwan calls it 'remarkable'. (Mental note to self: dig up the notes on Singapore-based artworks and texts that involve fictitious persons, books or organizations. Shubigi Rao, Michael Lee, Gilles Massot, Robert Zhou, Isabel Desjeux)

An interview with Sharlene in the Guardian.

3:18PM Tacos at Confusion./caption] [caption id="attachment_43092" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The shape of Delta Blues Audio in my old neighborhood

4:11 PMQ , balcony of Brinc

4:36 PM Not far from Hollywood Road

8:11 Shortly after a lecture on the English Class System, by M.A. Bennett.

9:20PM Dinner at Mr. Fresh Soup

All of the above were in orbit around the Book Merah ebook giveaway/discount, held during the Hong Kong Book Fair.

Book Merah Giveaways and Discounts for the Hong Kong Book Fair

On Amazon:

i ate tiong bahru

Fires

Furikake

Bali Wave Ghost

Ipoh: 88 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour

Obama Search Words

Alphabet Spikes

Flame Magnet

red dot SAD

Hello, and welcome to the world of Book Merah.

Here you will find our latest publications, as well as our classics. Although we have not yet started any organized publicity or marketing campaigns, we are very fortunate to be connecting with readers around the world.

Now, to celebrate the Hong Kong Book Fair, we are giving away, or discounting, all that is Book Merah, with two exceptions. Amazon does not allow us to discount the i ate tiong bahru audio book, and Contact With Shadow is supporting the mission of our friends at Unglue.

minimalist book cover

i ate tiong bahru

is a bestseller in Singapore.

The classic coffee mug reborn with a pop art, postmodern touch.

I ATE TIONG BAHRU IS IN A DISCOUNT CAMPAIGN ON AMAZON until JULY 29. The Sooner You Buy, the More You Save!

Fires is a collection of poems by Cyril Wong.

There is now a discount on Fires!

photography as part of book cover design

a photograph of a dancer on a farm, the title and the author's name

Furikake: a collectrion of short stories, all containing a reference to furikake, which is a Japanese rice seasoning. Some of the stories are spicy, some are tasteless, some are a fusion of East and West and Clementi, a community in Singapore.

Furikake... now on sale!

Publishing Magnates

Stephen Black, Book Merah CEO/author, with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.

black and white book covers

Bali Wave Ghost: reading it is like surfing through the mind of a character who is both guilt-ridden and hedonistic. A portrait of contemporary life in Bali; a meditation on the times we live in. Kinda romantic as well.

Bali Wave Ghost... Free download!

The basis for perhaps the world's first AR photo exhibition. These photos capture the spirit of Ipoh; especially its food culture.

Ipoh: 88 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour, now a free download.

Fact-based fiction about the 44th President of the United States. Includes stories about his time in Jakarta, Hawaii, Chicago and New York City.

Obama Search Words now on sale.

ebook now available on Amazon

As of this moment, this book only has stories about AR in it. However i the next few days, there will be essays about VR, and some surprises. After you buy this, send me an email so as to get the updates, free of charge. Yes, this is an experiment; trying to see if I can use Amazon as a basis for a cross between subscriptions and crowdfunding. Ultimately this will be a compilation of my experiences and stories as a digital nomad.

Alphabet Spikes... FREE

lance from Secret Donut World

Flame Magnet is go!
Art by David Severn

Flame Magnet! Another experiment... short stories, and the start of a long adventure. Send me your email and you'll receive the new stories, free of charge, of course.

Flame Magnet is priceless 'til July 24!

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

My own art experiences, as well as pieces that were written for magazines or fellow artists. Another project in which I will update this periodically; send me your email to get teh updated version. To give you an example of art in Singapore, take a look at this.

red dot SAD

THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST IN BOOK MERAH!

Bubiko says hi!

Bubiko's food adventures.. Aroi mak Mak!