Posts Tagged ebook

Following WebRTC

WebRTC, Web Real-Time Communications, is a fast moving topic these days!  Here are a few of my suggestions for how to keep up.

First a note about terminology.  Although Google named their open source project webrtc, WebRTC is not just a Google project, it is a major industry initiative involving open Internet standards being developed by many participants.  Don’t confuse these two!

1. Follow Browser Announcements and Releases

Google and Mozilla are the browsers most actively implementing WebRTC today.  WebRTC is available in Google Chrome Beta browser. Download and give it a try for the latest WebRTC extensions.  Some future WebRTC capabilities may be in Google’s Chrome Canary which is the developers preview version of the browser.  To experiment with Mozilla Firefox, you will need to use their nightly build.  Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari don’t yet have anything available, but you can track their future announcements here and here.

2. Follow the Standards

WebRTC is not just about browser deployments, it is about standard APIs and standard protocols.  To really follow what is going on in WebRTC, you need to track the standards being developed in the W3C and IETF.  This can be a bit tricky, but if you start with the W3C WEBRTC Working Group and the IETF RTCWEB Working Group, that is a good start.

If you have an eReader, try this out.  Here is a link to download the entire set of RTCWEB IETF Internet-Drafts in EPUB format  and here is the set in MOBI format.    Various other sets of IETF documents and RFCs is also available at http://tools.ietf.org/ebook/.  The conversion is done using a script written by Tero Kivinen – nice  job!  The formatting of the ASCII art is not 100%, but this is a difficult problem.  The MOBI format worked better for me than the EPUB version, but YMMV.  Perhaps one day the IETF will adopt a friendlier format for Internet-Drafts and RFCs, but I’m not holding my breath!

3. Try WebRTC sites and applications

There are a number of sites and applications already taking advantage of WebRTC features.  One of my favorites is FrisB, a cool new way to think about browser to PSTN communication.  You can find plenty of others by searching the web.  Also, many developers announce and discuss their WebRTC projects on Twitter, so searching with the #webrtc hashtag can find lots of cool things.

There are some interesting blogs out there on WebRTC, including a blog by Tsahi Levent-Levi.

WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web Book CoverFor background on WebRTC, there are some decent resources.  You might enjoy this video presentation by one of the editors of the W3C WebRTC specification, Cullen Jennings.  If you like books, you might like “WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web”  written by myself and Dan Burnett, also a co-author of the main WebRTC spec and also the Media Capture and Streams specification.

Best of luck in following WebRTC!  Feel free to share your own favorite ways and links to follow this work.

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My New Book – WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web

WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web Book Cover

WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web

Today, I’m excited to announce the publication of my new technical book entitled “WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web”. The book introduces and explains Web Real-Time Communicatons (RTC), a hot topic in the web and Internet Communications industry right now.

Many of us enjoy services such as Skype, but you have to download the app and install it before you can talk to anyone. WebrRTC browsers have all this built into them – no download, no codecs, no Flash, no plugins needed! This will be really popular with web users. Imagine what Google or Facebook could do with this?

If you are a developer wanting to add voice or video communication to your site or app, in the past it was a complicated business. You needed to write or license a media stack and signaling stack and then integrate them into your own plugin. With WebRTC, you just add a few lines of JavaScript and you are done!

Oh, and I can’t forget gaming! WebRTC allows peer-to-peer data channels to be established between browsers. And again, just a few lines of JavaScript is needed.

If you want to try WebRTC today, it is already in Google’s Chrome Canary (developers version). There are sites out there today live – I’ll share them in future posts. It will be available in most browsers starting next year.

If you want to learn about WebRTC, you might find my book, written with my co-author Daniel C. Burnett from Voxeo), useful. I enjoyed writing it!

Feel free to interact with us on social media, Google+ or Twitter. Comments, suggestions, and opinions are most welcome.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Amazon

Today I ditched a long time partner, Smashwords.  I feel really, really bad.  I remember clearly the day I found the site and realized I could use this one excellent site for distributing my eBook on multiple platforms: iBooks, Nook, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, etc.  I loved the way I could generate free download coupons for my eBook.  I raved about Smashwords on this blog.  Between Smashwords and Amazon KDP  (Kindle Direct Publishing), I had my eBook publishing bases covered.

As of today, I am using Amazon KDP exclusively to distribute my eBook, Counting from Zero.

Why?  Because of the terms of the new KDP Select program Amazon launched today.  In exchange for forsaking Smashwords (and all others), my eBook will be a part of Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a brand new part of their Prime service.  Users of this service get to “borrow” one eBook per month for free.  Authors and publishers get no royalty, but instead will split a slush fund from Amazon based on their books share of lending.  How much will this be?  No one knows – it depends on the degree to which users adopt this new model.  There is also the opportunity to offer my eBook for free promotions, as well.

Why did I decide to participate?  Well, the financial calculation was trivial.  As the pie chart shows, 88% of my sales have been eBooks on KDP, with 7% paperbacks (on Amazon and B&N), and just 5% eBooks through Smashwords.  To give up those 5% sales to add a new distribution channel is an easy calculation.  Also, I just love being able to participate in the disruption of the publishing industry, and it will be a very interesting ride the next few months to see if this takes off.

Despite the title of this blog (apologies to Dr. Strangelove), I do still worry about Amazon.  Their power in the publishing industry is growing exponentially.  If the Kindle Fire takes off and lending as well, it will give Amazon even more leverage.  I really, really don’t like the exclusive requirement for Kindle Select.  It feels awful to say goodbye to Smashwords, a site that has been extremely useful to me this year.

So, here it is – it will be interesting to see how it goes!

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Free Ebook Giveaway at LibraryThing!

I have an eBook giveaway of my cyber crime mystery thriller ‘Counting from Zero’ underway at LibraryThing.  Until June 17, 2011 you can enter to win one of  100 free eBooks!  Winners will be able to download an eBook in all the formats supported by Smashwords.

Enter today!

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Good Reading with Goodreads

goodreadsI’ve learned a lot over the past three months since I threw caution to the wind and self published my first novel, Counting from Zero. One discovery that is likely to have a lasting impact is the social reading site Goodreads.

I discovered Goodreads, along with Scribd, and Shelfari in the weeks after I launched my book. At first, all these sites seemed similar, and just another site to promote and do publicity. But Goodreads has really grown on me.

For one thing, it is fun to have Goodreads ‘friends’ and to read their updates. Reading is solitary by nature, so to find out about others reading in real-time is really quite addictive. Some even give progress on a page-by-page basis. Others go into the future with their to-read lists.  It can encourage and inspire you to read more, and provide a new way to discover great books.

I’ve previously written about electronic bookshelves in Books vs Bits, and how important this is. With Goodreads, when you lookup another reader, the site compares your bookshelf to theirs, showing what you have in common, just like I do when I visit someone’s house! It is amazing the breadth and range of some people’s reading.  If you love to read, you should sign up and give it a try, then add me as a friend!  One note: there is an option to sign in using Facebook, Twitter, or Google.  I tried this once with Facebook, and when I added a book to my bookshelf Goodreads posted it on Facebook without warning me… so be careful of this option.

Reading about other’s reading, getting ideas for future reading is all great, but as an author, a few features of Goodreads really impressed me. For one thing, you can message and interact with your readers.  By finding reviewer of similar books, I was able to get my book into the hands of some good reviewers. I’ll never forget that feeling when I first realized I could find and interact directly with like-minded readers…

Then, I discovered the Goodreads publisher giveaways. As a publisher, I just had to agree to give away a certain number of books (had to be paper books, not eBooks – this was actually a major motivator in getting my book out in paperback.) and Goodreads would find me interested readers. I also had to agree not to contact them in any way, just ship the books. The giveaway winners are encouraged, but not required to write reviews.

Counting from Zero

I happily signed up to give away ten copies. I chose a date for the end of the giveaway weeks out, when I would return from a trip to Australia for a conference and to visit friends and relatives. Then, an amazing thing happened. Goodreads started contacting like-minded readers, some of whom indicated they would be interested in receiving a copy of my book. I watched in amazement as two hundred signed up after a few days. By the end of the first week, nearly five hundred had requested it! Excited, I blogged about it. More requested it. At the end of two weeks, over a thousand people had requested a copy of my book! Prior to this Goodreads giveaway, I’m sure that fewer than a thousand people even knew my book existed!

So, when I returned from my trip, I got the list of ten names and addresses and mailed the books. Now, as a result of this, 90 people as of today have marked my book on a shelf, mostly their to-read shelf.

Now, I can follow as readers begin reading my book, marking it as ‘currently reading’ then watch as reviews and ratings show up!  Just amazing!

Social reading sites are definitely a great tool for an author, and so far I’m really, really impressed with Goodreads!

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Books vs Bits


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about books vs ebooks, or books vs bits. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, as reading is undergoing a mini revolution due to technology.

I admit that I came to the ebook party fairly late. I read my first ebook after I got an iPhone and discovered Stanza and Project Gutenberg. I was amazed at all the books that were available. I think the first thing I did was download then read every novel by Jane Austen!  I hadn’t read a book on Kindle until just a few months ago, as I describe in my first blog entry My First Foray into Fiction.

Since then, I have published my first novel, Counting from Zero. The advantages and disadvantages of books and bits has become even more clear to me. For example, some advantages of ebooks:

  • It is wonderfully easy to give away copies of my ebook – I just email the EPUB file or a coupon to download it from Smashwords (BTW, a fantastic site for ebook distribution).  The recipient gets it immediately at no cost to me!
  • It was terrifically quick to get my book out there – Amazon only took a few hours, Smashwords took a few days, and it was even on Barnes & Noble and iBooks within a week or so!
  • One can carry an entire library in the palm of your hand, and it is always with you.  I love to just pull out my iPhone and read when I am stuck somewhere waiting, very pleasantly filling in what would otherwise have been wasted time.
But there are some disadvantages, too:
  • Some people just don’t have any reading devices for ebooks, and printing out pages on an inkjet printer, or trying to squint at a computer screen is no way to enjoy a book.
  • Your ebooks don’t end up on your bookshelf when you are done.  How will you rediscover them years from now, or how will friends or family happen upon them and ask about them and perhaps borrow them?  How will do you learn about friends and acquaintances without nosily browsing their bookshelf when visiting their house?
  • How do you loan or give away an ebook?
  • In some ways, an ebook doesn’t quite feel ‘real’.  I know it is silly, but there is nothing like a book in your hand.

Now, some of these things are slowly being solved.  For example, most people will have a tablet or phone with an ereader soon – I think the days of everyone owning a conventional desktop computer or laptop are really numbered (sorry Microsoft…).   Most people do not create content, they just consume it, and the computer requirements for this are much different.  Also, the security of these devices is so much better than a Windows PC, so this will really help with problems like botnets, but that is a topic for another day…

I recently discovered Shelfari and started putting up my bookshelf online, which I found kind of fun.  Goodreads lets you do this as well.  I’m not sure how well it works, but here is, my virtual bookshelf.

Loaning now is possible on Kindle and some other devices.  However, DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected ebooks will continue to be a problem.  Could you imagine a conventional book that wouldn’t let you read it unless it could verify your purchase license?

As for the feel and look, I’m not sure how this one will go away.  Perhaps paper books will always be with us, as a ‘backup’ to our digital versions.  If only the Library of Alexandria had backup stone or clay editions of those books…

This discussion leads me to today: I just opened a box containing the first printed version of my novel, Counting from Zero.

I did it using the print-on-demand service CreateSpace.  I must say, the process has been very smooth and nice so far.  I was able to upload a PDF of the interior and a PDF of the cover.  I created both with template files provided, and some work in Word and Photoshop.  There really are NO upfront costs.  As in none.  Zero, if you like!  This was the hardest thing for me to believe – I was sure there was some hidden fees or costs, but there aren’t.  Of course, most of the website describes various packages that provide support and services which do cost money.  However, look carefully and you will find a do-it-yourself option where you prepare and format all the files  yourself!

The only fee I have paid was a $39 Pro Plan which allows my book to be included in book store catalog distributions.  Otherwise, I only paid for copies of the proof book ($4) and shipping ($12 2nd day).  Once I OK the proofs, my book will be ready and can be purchased at Amazon!  Just amazing!

So, my proof copy looks really, really good!  CreateSpace has done an excellent job, and they have printed exactly what my PDF files showed.  I do need to fix a few formatting issues that I didn’t notice in the PDF files (and typesetting in Word is just awful!) Here are pictures of my ebook and my book…

Both books and bits have their pros and cons, and I expect both will be with us for a long time.  I’m just really, really excited to have Counting from Zero as a paperback now.  Look for it on Amazon in about a week or so!

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Enjoy “Read an E-Book Week”

Read an E-Book WeekThis week, March 6-12, 2011, is “Read an E-Book Week”. As a promotion, I am offering 50% off my techno thriller Counting from Zero on Smashwords. For this week, you can download it for $2.99 by using the code RAE50 at checkout for 50% off. Go to Smashwords and you should see it. This promotion expires on March 12, so don’t wait!

My first e-book experience was when I first got my iPhone and discovered Stanza. Using Project Gutenberg, I downloaded and read all kinds of 19th century fiction that I loved. I was surprised how much I liked reading on the iPhone, despite the screen size. I did not get a Kindle until a few months ago, when my daughter got one for Christmas, and again I was surprised. It really is similar to paper. For me, the proof of this came during a week when my laser printer was down, and I was deep in edits in the manuscript. Careful proof reading simply cannot be done on a computer screen – I always must print it out on paper. In desperation, I started using the Kindle for this proof reading, and it worked! I still missed being able to scribble notes and changes right on the screen, but it really was as good as paper. Then, I borrowed the Kindle to take with me on a trip, and I was able to proofread my new text and edits on the go when I was no where near a printer! My biggest issue with the Kindle is the lack of a backlight for nighttime reading, but there must be a technology reason why they could not provide this on the device.

So, I guess I am a convert to E-Books. There are still two areas in which ebooks come up short in my opinion. The first is being able to lend the book to others easily. Some of my favorite book discoveries have come through loans. However, this is changing in that Amazon now permits book lending if the publisher allows it, which is a step in the right direction. The other issue is that of a bookshelf. I don’t know about you, but when I walk into someone’s home or office for the first time, I always look over the bookshelf. You can learn a lot about a person, and it can be fun to see how many books you have in common. Perhaps we need a bookshelf app that displays our e-book shelf on the various flat screens throughout our house, or as a screen saver on computers. What do you think?

Some readers have also asked me about the irony of publishing my novel only as an e-book, while the protagonist in the novel, Mick O’Malley, does not read e-books for his personal reading. I must point out that Mick does read e-books for his professional and technical reading, but prefers paper and ink for his literature. I think he does this as a way of escaping from his immersion in the cyber world, where he spends so much time. Perhaps as his life changes, he may discover, as I have, how much fun e-books are.

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