Luke Recommends: Stanza

A few posts ago I wrote about ebook readers for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Stanza is by far the best I’ve tried so far. The page turning is great (small taps on the sides of the screen, not a flicking motion like others), you can lock the rotation so you can read it laying sideways in bed, the formatting can be changed to make it easy on the eye, plus lots of other nice touches.

Most importantly, if you download Stanza Desktop, you can effortlessly make any text file (of almost any format) into an ebook that the Stanza iPhone app can grab via wifi. This combination is going to be hard to beat.

So, now that I have an ebook reader, does anyone have some public domain or creative commons or otherwise free novels they think I should check out?

So far I’ve found Accelerando by Charles Stross, which I’ll leave on my Touch for my next trip. See the star ratings page on the wiki to see the kinds of science fiction books I’d like to read, and those I’d probably want to skip.

Hot Sauce

As mentioned previously I’ve been trying out the photo sharing feature of internet startup They put out a video blog called Hot Sauce to highlight user added content. Check out the first 40 seconds of the latest episode to see who’s featured…

I should tell Pola about this one, she took half the photos that are shown on screen. The full album is here.

Reading on the iPod Touch

I recently bought myself an iPod Touch. First, I wanted an iPod with a more storage. Second, I wanted a smaller wifi device (smaller than my laptop) for web connection and email while I’m on the move. Third, I want a better phone, and would like an iPhone, but stumping up the cash for both the phone and the contract seems a bit steep. I got the touch to test out the idea of the iPhone, and if I like it I’ll maybe get an iPhone later in the year.

The Touch, by the way, is pretty cool. I keep finding new things on it that are really useful. A main thing is the seamless integration with iCal, which I use for calendar stuff. And lots more I won’t go into now.

I thought I’d use it as a book reader too. If I can get new releases cheaper, and I don’t have to carry the damn things around with me on multiple airline journeys, I’d be a lot happier. Also, I’d like to read through my own fiction writing on the go, rather than having to print it or scroll through it on my laptop.

My first plan was just to read html or text formats with the Safari browser. I knew I could get public domain books from Project Gutenberg so surfed on over. I wanted science fiction, so picked a The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.

After four chapters I found that scrolling down a huge page on a browser wasn’t the way to go. I needed to be able to flip pages.

So I went to the App Store and downloaded two free ebook readers. One was eReader, but that seemed strongly tied to an ebook store, and transferring files looked tricky.

The second was Stanza. I opened it for the first time on the Touch and it said “The Time Machine. Wells, Herbert George.” I was confused for a split second, thinking “Wait, I’ve not even tried to transfer the file across yet! The iPod Touch is just the best device EVER!”

Then my brain caught up and I realised the novel I wanted to read as a test of the Touch as a book reader was the exact same novel that Stanza provides to let people use the Touch as a book reader. The reasoning is the same, of course; a classic short novel in the public domain. It’s just one of those small coincidences that make life so interesting.

Stanza seems to have all the features I want, with direct access between the Touch and my Macbook via wifi for transferring text files. Maybe I won’t need a kindle afterall.

EDIT: Four hours before I began looking for ebook readers for the iPod Touch, Amazon released an app that lets you view kindle content. Another coincidence, and a product I’ll look at later.

Three quarters.

I’m writing a novel at the moment, a story idea I’ve been mulling over for ages. While it isn’t my best or even favorite idea, it’s very different from my previous completed novel. I think at this point in my writing career (if a career it even is), I need try out a wide variety of styles and story ideas and viewpoints.

I’m sure I’ll talk a lot more about these novels (or novellas depending on your definition) in the future.

To the point of this post: I’m about three quarters of the way through novel number two. While I know exactly where I need to take things, I seem to be having trouble pushing through to the end. I keep finding distractions (like this blog, you see), and when I do write, I can’t seem to find inspiration. My first novel had a non-linear structure, so I didn’t have to fill in the gaps. Now I’m having to ramp up the energy and get myself into the explosive and twist-filled final act, but my characters are pottering about, killing time, discussing stuff instead of actually getting on with it.

Then today I remembered part of a pep talk by Niel Gaiman, and looked it up. Sure enough:

The last novel I wrote … when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

This makes me feel better about the entire project. A bit. It doesn’t change the fact I’ve only written 23 words today.