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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
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
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
I bought the album for some reason. Mott the Hoople Live. Probably, before I'd boughten it, I'd only heard one song from it on FM radio. Undoubtedly the front and back covers made an impression. Anyway, the first song on the first side was called All the Way to Memphis. It's great, with a tinkly, funky, sad, happy and powerful little piano riff on the front. The piano was played by Morgan Fisher. The song is about going to Memphis, obviously. That song was my favorite.
So, about 25 years later, I was in Tokyo and thrilled to be asked to photograph the American South, for a Japanese magazine. The same day I learned of my flight confirmation to Memphis... Morgan Fisher called! He lives in Tokyo and we had plans to meet, but it was still one of those synchronistic little events that make one wonder.
Anyhoo... I just saw this poster in Bangkok.
And, for what it's worth, the lead singer of Mott the Hoople once put on one of the best live shows I've ever seen. Ian Hunter. The opening act was John Cougar Mellencamp who performed with his head wrapped in bandages; the result of a mishap the night before. Toledo Sports Arena, 1977?
I am writing this in Chiang Mai Thailand at dawn, April 17, 2018.
The original Songkran post is here.
The following were taken with an iPhone during the 2018 Songkran Festival. The conclusion to this series is here.
The following emails are reprinted with permission. They contain information helpful to those visiting Chiang Mai. More than this, the professionalism and obvious joie de vivre of Olga's emails make them casual,little masterpieces of written communication. Olga's stunning photographs of vanishing cultures can be seen at Any Way in a Way.
Olga's stunning photographs of vanishing cultures can be seen at Any Way in a Way.
Enjoy Chiang Mai, I like this place. It’s touristy but special. The more I stayed, the more I liked.
We are now on Koh Phangan. It’s a beautiful island, rather quiet despite its reputation for Full Moon parties. It becomes very busy for 3 days for the party before becoming again a sleepy island. Sapphire-blue sea and white sandy beaches, exactly what I was looking for. The only downside is food – the food is almost twice expensive compared to the rest of Thailand, and local food stalls are not everywhere. We drive for 10 min to eat locally (but expensive compared to the prices we used to pay). But well, we have sea in return.
Sure, you can post my recommendations. I have a few more 🙂
Another specialty of Chiang Mai is Chiang Mai sausage. It’s unbelievably tasty, spicy, with a lot of ingredients inside such as lemon grass etc. One of the best is at Isan stall I recommended yesterday. The best sausages are in the places where are not many tourists. Otherwise, they don’t make it spicy as it should be.
· Hideya Ramen: surprisingly great Ramen. It’s a tiny place operated by one passionate man.
· Rosy Cheeks: tasty and very photogenic. A little Asian fusion restaurant.
· If you want to try Thai Chili Frog or other quite rare dishes - Loong Thai Khao Gaeng.
· Kanomjeen Khunnai Mae: very special rice noodle place.
· Rustic and Blue: delicious and beautifully presented western type dishes. All coming from their farm. But expensive.
But what I really miss is the quality coffee of Chiang Mai. There are many barista style coffee places, with the quality comparable to the coffee in Sydney, the best place for coffee in the world
My favourites are:
· Akha Ama: great coffee, and the prices are very reasonable. They have 2 locations. One is near the Old City.
· Ristr8 is absolutely the must. In Nimman.
· Ristr8to Lab: same owner as above but different in style. They are located close to each other. In Nimman.
· Cotton Tree: great coffee and great place to relax. Quiet compared to other busy places like Ristr8. Try their affogato – coffee with ice-cream, very special. In Nimman.
· Omnia: quality, great coffee with some unusual creations of the month. In a residential area of CM.
· Graph Cafe: stylish tiny place in the Old City with great coffee. Their speciality is Nitro and Cold Brew.
· Ponganes: long-established place in CM, great coffee. In the Old City.
· Pacamara: same as above, long-established place in CM, great coffee. In the Old City.
· Asama Cafe: outside Chiang Mai in a beautiful garden near the lake. Really great coffee in a peaceful setting.
There are also 2 places I find special:
· Begin Again: coffee is not the barista level coffee but the setting in amazing. If you feel like you are in the middle of a jungle. You can find photos on our website https://anywayinaway.com/coworking-spaces-cafes-chiang-mai/
Penguin Ghetto: nice place, quite special, odd I would say, and coffee is very good.
How do you find Chiang Mai? Have you been to Chiang Rai all this time? Was it good? We didn’t stay long time in Chiang Rai, just enough to explore the town and a couple of temples outside.
As for Chiang Mai, renting an apartment is much cheaper than staying in a guesthouse, however, they require at least 1 month stay.
If you want to stay in Old Town of Chiang Mai, we stayed in a few places. We like Nocky House, located very close to a local market with food and vegetables, in a very old traditional house, very charming.
Otherwise, just nearby, there is 9 Hostel – a very different style – very modern, cement walls etc. Quiet and clean. I liked, Errol found it impersonal.
There is also SK 1 – very good price for what they offer (swimming pool), near Somphat market.
If you like a modern area in Chiang Mai, it’s Nimman. We also stayed there but we rented an apartment on a few occasions.
· Chang Phuak Gate (North Gate) – local food market. You should try the “must” there – Cowboy Lady stall aselling Khao Kha Moo (pork legs that melt in you mouth). My mouth is watering just when I am typing…
· You should try a special chicken at SP Chicken.
South Gate Night Market: the most known market among farang. But the food is good, the prices are low, and the variety is unbeatable.
· Warorot Market: Chinatown of Chiang Mai. Interesting food that you won’t find everywhere.
· There is one local place called something Vegetable Organic. They have amazing food (non-vegetarian, their vegetables are supposed to be organic, hence, the name). The specialty of the house is different types of friend rice. I don’t like saying that but this is the best fried rice I have eaten. They are near Burmese Restaurant and Library (you can google to find). There is another restaurant a few step away – a small stall selling Isan food. Great food!
(SB: You can read about Olga and Errol here.)
Three extremely simple foods that are difficult to prepare: mango sticky rice, sushi and pasta. Bubiko was very fortunate to spend time at La Rivetta Bangkok with Carlo Natale, who explained about pasta... and the Venetian Empire, Albrecht Duhrer's Melancholia and so much more.
Now Bubiko is looking for a sushi chef and a mango sticky rice expert!
Bubiko's food adventures, on Instagram.
Esbe is the name of my planned AR startup...
Here is Bubiko's Instagram account.
This is a draft. A different, final version of this story will appear in Coffee Traveler magazine later this year. If you know of any examples of AR being used in the coffee industry, do let me know!
Coffee and AR: Prepare for Impact!
Augmented Reality will soon be everywhere. How can the coffee industry prepare itself for this revolutionary new technology?
2017 can be considered the start of Augmented Reality. Six hundred million iPhones became enabled for AR. One hundred million Android users also gained AR functionality. Facebook, Microsoft, Intel and other companies released or improved AR products. Time magazine, in an issue guest-edited by Bill Gates, used AR on its cover. There is no doubt that AR will become a very, very big thing, as common as GPS.
But what is AR, Augmented Reality? And, in what ways will AR impact the coffee industry?
AR is a technology that combines digital data with the physical world. The digital data can be sound, text, graphics, video or 3D models (like what you see in many computer games.) The ”physical world” can be as large as the Sydney Opera House or as small as a matchbox: books, table tops, living rooms and parks-- anywhere! At present, AR can be experienced with phones and tablets, though special glasses, like Microsoft’s Hololens or Google Glass may become common. AR is used for industrial, educational, medical, entertainment,research and other purposes.
The first huge AR success was Pokemon GO, which hides digital creatures in real world locations. With Ikea’s AR app, customers can put digital furniture in their real homes, allowing them to select the best color and size. Coca Cola and Boeing, like many companies, use AR to aid in the repair and maintenance of machinery.
An Australian wine company called 19 Crimes created an app that allows the photographs on their labels to move, speak and tell stories. According to Forbes magazine, this AR app resulted in over one million cases of wine being sold, and an increase of volume sales by 60%.
AR is nearly unlimited; it can play audio, interact with users, function like GPS, display graphics, photos, videos and more. AR gamers fight flying spaceship battles in their bedrooms. In restaurants, menu applications by KabaQ display AR models of food.
Starbucks, whose first AR project was launched in 2011, recently created a “coffee wonderland” in Shanghai. Called the Roastery, it features a number of AR experiences. Its centerpiece is a huge copper vessel covered with almost three thousand hand carved Chinese seals that tell the story of Starbucks. Using AR, visitors can “look inside” the huge structure, and see the beans being poured in, roasted, and then finally transported through copper pipes to the coffee bars.
Because they have come to the Roastery specifically to experience,and learn about coffee, visitors are likely to download the digital tour guide. There is also a QR code version. When planning to make an AR app, the first issue is: download or not? The second being the Apple/Android issue.
It is a wonderful idea to create a customized AR app, what is called a “native” app. However, potential users may be discouraged by file size and download time. A native app may not be the best choice at trade shows or public spaces without high speed wifi. Fortunately, not all AR requires a native app. And, there is WebAR, which works on both Apple and Android and does not requirea download, only a link.
The Roastery chose AR because it was the best solution-- not because AR is trendy. Perhaps they could have used video monitors- but how many? And where to position them? Plus, visitors would not be able to pause, replay or start the presentation.
Location: companies with big budgets can create AR experiences for large spaces. Snapchat put giant AR sculptures by Jeff Koons in front of the Eiffel Tower and in Central Park. Waterloo Station was the site of an AR game created by Cadbury, and AR rhinos roamed in the Rotterdam train station, thanks to National Geographic.
Augmented Reality is now used in homes, factories, airplanes, and living rooms. It is becoming a new medium, like radio or television. AR is becoming an artform and, in advertising, AR is connecting producers and consumers in new ways. It will be interesting to watch the seeds of AR grow in the world of coffee.
Stephen Black is an artist, writer and producer. He is now completing a novel about an archild, an AR software that looks like a ten-year old girl. His startup aims to be the Pixar of AR. Look out for Bubiko Foodtour! www.blacksteps.tv
A very special thanks to Antony Vitillo for technical proofreading and great ideas galore. Antony’s blog is called The Ghost Howls (http://skarredghost.com). He is a consultant at New Technology Walkers (http://ntwalkers.it/en)
Photo of phone/Chinese seals: courtesy of Starbucks
Photos of screenshots: Eva Yoo
Thanks for joining this adventure!
Antigone Cloud is the name of the novel I'm now working on (it is related to my AR startup). I won't say anything more, as the text below should give a clue or two. Please keep in mind that the following is minimal; in the book, there are visual cues and other devices to provide more information. My thinking is that if the following basic dialogue can be understood, then the planned text additions will only make the scene easier to understand, and more pleasant to read.
PLEASE leave a comment or question, of any kind. THANK YOU
And, if you have any visual materials that are even remotely related to young adults, AR and/or Southeast Asia, I would be very happy to feature them on my blog and elsewhere. Drawings, 3D scans, 3D models.. anything. I would really love to see images of young people recorded with 3D volumetric cameras. I would, of course, credit and backlink, as well as share information about your image/software/company/artistic motivation.
Antigone meets Yves
Yves Arc: Hello... archild. (He emphasizes ‘child”, drawing it out, stretching his mouth into a terrible smile.)
Antigone Cloud: I’m...I’m...
Yves Arc: You're the blip that popped up on TPS last night, correct? 6:17PM. Your Source is on the 5th floor, room 521. In the Life Shelter, on a shelf above a bicycle.
Antigone Cloud: Your voice is like Sir Caboose! Are your Pparents from Cambridge? Do you have a bedder?
Yves Arc: Someone has the international pop culture app, now don’t they? Your Pparents would seem to have excellent taste. Yes, my voice was inspired by Sir Caboose.
And your voice? American? (Yves coughs).
Antigone Cloud: Yes. Sailor Jayne.
Yves Arc: ... oh. A pop star...
(Yves coughs again.)
Well, we can’t all have the voices of Liz and Dick, now can we?
Antigone Cloud: I am sorry; can you repeat that?
Yves Arc: Repeat it? Why? I enounced and pronounced perfectly. 57 decibels. The ambient noise is easily canceled out. Obviously you lack culture-related software. Richard Burton. Elizabeth Taylor. Dick and Liz! Superstars of stage and cinema. The most fabulous couple of the modern age. Nec plus ultra!
(Yves looks at her, sees his reflection in her glasses. Sighs.) I suppose I should simply state everything in Star Quest mode. Or would you prefer cartoon mode?
Antigone Cloud: Star Quest mode, please. (in a quiet voice). Thank you.
Yves Arc: What age you are supposed to be?
Antigone Cloud: Ten.
Yves Arc: Ten? Why, when I was a ten-year old, I was in charge of a factory with 34 air conditioners,18 surveillance cams, 9 quality control systems, 6 robots and an assembly line 28.9 meters long that constantly needed replacement parts from a mythical place in China! Plus, overseas clients. Six languages!
Antigone Cloud: I don’t believe you! You're just a boy!
Yves Arc:: First of all, in three days I will be upgraded to arman. Second, I have been carefully curated by...
Antigone Cloud: Curated!? You mean you’re made with a bunch of mixed up old software junk with a bunch of new programs that are buggy. Buggy buggy buggy! (Antigone sings the last two lines of a commercial.)
We are curates, tried and true,
Helpful curates and we love you!
Yves Arc: Please stop. It's tacky. (Antigone’s expression shows that she doesn’t understand.) The commercial... it takes advantage of lonely people who don’t have much money. It doesn’t care for them. It doesn’t care for arbots. (Yves watches the palm trees react to the wind).
Antigone Cloud: But it has achieved economic success.
Yves Arc: Yes, Commander, affirmative. A lot of us have been sold.
Antigone Cloud: 37% of all curates are removed from TPS within the first month.
Yves Arc: That statistic would seem to be true. (He looks worried.) I must reSource now. The increasing humidity is decreasing my strength.
Antigone Cloud: Me too. (She looks at Yves with apprehension) Your TPS is a fifth floor flat above Books Hontoni? In the Life Shelter, on a rattan chair with a broken seat?
Yves Arc: Affirmative, Commander, affirmative. (Yves sighs and walks away.) Why can’t Pparents ever respect privacy mode?
Thanks for reading this far. Looking forward to your comments.