Showing posts with label eBooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eBooks. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The New Arabian Nights


The New Arabian Nights
Robert Louis Stevenson
Fiction, 186 pages

The "Arabian Nights" first appeared during the 10th century before evolving into its final form during the 14th. It’s said that this lengthy work is the greatest expression of fiction from the Islamic Golden Age, an age which arose during the reign of Baghdad caliph, Harun al-Rashid who ruled from 786 until 809. This golden age ended when Mongols overtook Baghdad in 1258. Harun al-Rashid had been dead several centuries by the time he was fictionalized as a ruler who intervenes anonymously in the lives of his subjects.

Robert Louis Stevenson created a more modern version of Harun al-Rashid in his Prince Florizel of Bohemia. The prince appears in stories set in France and England, and told in a mystery/espionage tone. The tale of the Suicide Club begins two cycles of stories involving the prince. After those stories, Stevenson addresses other characters and themes. In one story a scholarly scoundrel eaks out his living during the Middle Ages,

“The poet was a rag of a man, dark, little, and lean, with hollow cheeks and thin black locks. He carried his four-and- twenty years with feverish animation. Greed had made folds about his eyes, evil smiles had puckered his mouth. The wolf and pig struggled together in his face. It was an eloquent, sharp, ugly, earthly countenance. His hands were small and prehensile, with fingers knotted like a cord;”

While the story cycles featuring Prince Florizel resemble the mystery/espionage genre, the collection overall is genre free — or perhaps hinting of genre without being confined by it. The stories also have a fairytale-like quality as do the original Arabian Nights. However, fairytales tend to generalise, but these tales come with the details filled in. Still, like fairytales, they tug at the corners of reality enough to matter. Each story finds an unexpected destination, yet one that evolves naturally from what comes before.

Lost and found

 Many readers know that works from 1925 have recently entered the public domain. That means
you can read them for free -- if you can find them. So far I've only seen "The Great Gatsby" available as a free download. I didn't find a stand-alone version of that title, but I found something better, F. Scott Fitzgerald's collected works.

Works by George Orwell and Sinclair Lewis have also entered the public domain in the United States, but I haven't been able to find any freebies so far in my country. But literary works in the public domain here might also be so in other countries. And they are. Although Project Gutenberg hasn't released certain books on its American website, it has done so on its Australian website.

When a publisher releases a physical book, it must recoup the costs of paper and printing. Those costs remain even if the work is in the public domain. However because bandwidth is cheap, I believe many public domain eBooks are overpriced. To avoid being gouged, sometimes a little extra effort is needed. After downloading eBooks to my computer, I transfer them to the extra drive I installed on my Kindle Fire. In order to read those books, I use a file explorer application to open them. One of my new eBooks appeared in my Kindle's list of titles. The others didn't. I've no idea why. Regardless, I can always open eBooks with the file explorer. Thrifty folk sometimes have to use workarounds. I don't mind.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Something to rave about

World Wide Rave : creating triggers that get millions of people to spread your ideas and share your stories
David Meerman Scott
Nonfiction 194 pages
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  2009

The main theme of this book is that older advertising methods have gone stale and that the best way to get people talking about your product is to provide them with information that’s useful to them. Simply telling people how good your product is won’t work — they don’t care about your product  —  they only care about their needs. If you satisfy their needs, with information that is useful, novel, or humorous, then they will respond to, and spread, your message. When enough people spread your message, you’ve started a “world wide rave.”

The author calls his style of marketing a “world wide rave” in part because he wants to avoid the “sleazy connotations” of the ubiquitous term “viral marketing.” He believes that communication should be genuine and not generated by anonymous paid promoters disguised as objective reviewers.

“Viral marketing” refers to making your message infectious so that it spreads far and rapidly. Your information stands a better chance of being raved about when it is useful, novel, or humorous. The message should have a short, catchy title to engage viewer attention.

Sharing is a major key to starting a rave. Scott contrasts old-school marketers who lose sales by over-defending their copyrights with those who generate buzz by passing out goodies. More than one band has built its audience by giving music away while asking nothing in return. Many companies who offer eBooks and other information packages ask viewers to provide their email addresses. Scott claims that the practice of asking viewers to fill out forms discourages them from continuing to the downloading stage. He believes that better results are gained from offers with no strings attached.

Scott claims that anyone can start a rave and cites several examples of non-professionals who have done so. However, most of his example rave starters are large corporations. Scott provides no instructions for starting raves. There is no sure-fire method for getting a rave going — it’s a matter of trial and error — perhaps not the sort of basket to put all your eggs in.  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Arabian Nights – Gathered, Privately Printed, and Out of Print

While not all of us are familiar with the titles, “The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment” or “One Thousand and One Nights”, most of us have heard the story, “Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp”, and several others associated with the story collection informally known as the Arabian Nights.

Some of the collected stories are quite ancient and of Indian origin. Others relate the fictitious doings of actual historical figures from 9th century Baghdad. Still other stories contain historical fragments from 13th and 14th century Cairo.

Some of the most well-known Arabian Nights stories were not actually part of those stories collected in Arabic versions of the text. These additional Middle-Eastern stories included “Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp”, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”,
“Prince Ahmed and his Two Sisters”, and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor”. They were added by French translator, Antoine Galland, and his successors.

After Galland released his 12 volume edition of the Arabian Nights, scholars began to seek the most authentic version of the text. The lengthy Egyptian version came to be considered the standard one. One of the earliest English translations by Edward Lane was heavily censored.

Although Richard Francis Burton’s translation is the most well-known uncensored version, it was preceded by John Payne’s version. Both Payne’s and Burton’s uncensored editions were printed for private subscribers, rather than the general public. Although Burton’s edition is the best known, it has been criticized for dwelling excessively on sexual matters and for its archaic language.

Most available printed editions of the Arabian Nights are abridged, intended for children, or both. A printed set of Burton’s volumes would cost you dearly, if you could find one. Luckily it is available for Kindle and other eReaders. One reviewer of the Halcyon Classics edition sold by Amazon faults it for not having working hyperlinks between the table of contents and the stories. For a broad selection of translators, this omnibus looks like a good choice. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

An eSolution for Book Sellers

I recently attended a writer’s summit where several authors predicted that physical bookstores would soon face extinction. Some also predicted that eBooks would soon replace printed books. I am more doubtful about the second prediction than I am about the first, however eBooks are gaining momentum, and unless brick and mortar book stores have an easy way to sell them, their business will surely suffer.

Why should it matter? If eBooks are quickly and cheaply obtainable online, then who cares if book stores go the way of the dinosaurs? Well, some people do care. People are already complaining about having to read some of their books on a Kindle and others on a Nook. Additionally, if several large vendors dominate the market, consumers will have less influence on prices, and possibly fewer choices of reading matter.

Book stores serve social purposes. They provide places for authors to meet their readers and autograph their books (eAutographs?). They also provide meeting places for book clubs, and their well-read personnel help readers make informed purchasing decisions.

But there is a simple solution. If eBook publishers agreed to adopt a standard file format, and if an eBook licensing clearinghouse were created, then readers would be able to buy eBooks published by Amazon for their Nooks. Independent book sellers would be able to provide eBooks for every variety of eReader. Libraries and individuals could easily lend their books, and free markets would thrive.

The alternative future, in which a few large corporations control access to books, is not an option. Taken to extremes, a literary dark age would result. An impartial clearinghouse would assure that information remain broadly accessible, and a standard eBook format, like feet and meters, miles and kilometers, would assure a level playing field.