Tag Archive for reading

Booze and a Book: Scotch and Zen

The Booze: Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky

Scotch has been very hit and miss for me, with mostly misses. Some of them are overwhelmed by that smokey, peaty flavor Scotch is known for, and it generally turns me off. Fortunately that note is mellowed in Monkey Shoulder, allowing the malt and a bourbon-y sweetness to come through. It makes this whisky a mellower, more soothing drink.

Monkey Shoulder goes down smooth and easy, too, and I enjoy it both straight or on the rocks. I’m going to recommend larger cubes or whiskey stones for this one, though, as the melting ice waters it down quick.

At the moment I’m enjoying Monkey Shoulder with the last of my Gurkha Legends, and neither is overwhelming the other. Good times.

The Book: The Dude and the Zen Master by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman

“The Dude abides.” The classic The Big Lebowski character is a starting point in the conversations of life and Zen philosophy between actor Jeff Bridges and Zen master Bernie Glassman. In fact, the book is simply a transcript rather than a standard narrative.

I first ran into this book sitting at a friend’s basement bar. I was waiting for him to finish something upstairs, so I picked it up and read the first chapter, and I enjoyed it. A few days later, I saw several copies sitting on a remainder pile for around five bucks at our local Barnes & Noble, so I snapped up a copy for myself.

That was over a year go. It’s been sitting on my nightstand ever since, buried under my Kindle and a handful of martial arts-related books. I felt a bit angry and down the other night, so I pulled The Dude and the Zen Master out of the stack, dusted it off, and started reading.

In true Zen fashion, it was just what I needed, exactly when I needed it. It made me reexamine a few things and look at them in a new light, and it made me feel a hell of a lot better. A hundred pages later, I forced myself to put it down so I could get at least a little bit of sleep before my alarm went off later that morning.

I’ve harbored a minor interest in Zen philosophy while I’ve been involved in the martial arts these past ten years or so, but not so much its religious trappings. What I like about this book is it’s not preachy at all, and while Bridges & Glassman discuss meditation on occasion, they’re not telling the reader he must do this or that to reach enlightenment. It’s simply two guys discussing how they’ve found their paths and the things they’ve encountered in their lives, with a little sprinkling of The Dude for flavor.

Good stuff, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.

Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman on cigars in “The Dude and the Zen Master.” Word. #quote #cigars #books #zen

A post shared by Mike Oliveri (@mikeoliveri) on

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Booze and a Book: Zombies and Bourbon

The Booze: Straight Edge Bourbon Whiskey

This bourbon is finished in sherry casks, lending it a sweet flavor that is almost reminiscent of an old fashioned. It’s a smooth, easy drinker, and one I’ve put in my flask a time or two because it’s easy to share with friends. I put most bourbons on ice and sip them slow, letting the ice water them down a bit, but with Straight Edge my glass is often dry well before the ice can melt.

Side note: I picked up a spherical, silicon ice mold after the holidays. It makes a fat ball of ice to chill a drink fast, though the spheres are a bit smaller than I expected. They also tend to fracture along their equator, and the resulting hemispheres melt even faster. They last longer than standard cubes, but if you’re the type of drinker who doesn’t want your whiskey watered down, stick to whiskey stones or even these badass whiskey bullets.

The Book: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

In which I reveal I’m a Kindle reader. Shock! Horror!

Actually, I dig the Kindle Paperwhite quite a bit. It’s small and the backlight is easy on the eyes, which is important because I do a lot of my reading right before I fall asleep. I’ve also passed out and dropped it a few times without damaging the screen.

As for the book, I didn’t pay this one a lot of mind on release because it’s a zombie novel, and I had my fill for a bit. However, several of my friends raved about it, and then it got picked up for movie production (starring Glenn Close):

The earlier teaser trailer sold me. I’m not quite halfway through the book as I write this, but I’m hooked. Carey calls his zombies “hungries,” and the story is set some time after the initial zombie apocalypse rather than during. These are fast zombies for those who care, and Carey draws on nature for the cause of his zombies.

The other difference is the titular character, Melanie, is a smart zombie. Something is different about several child zombies, and as the novel begins the rest of the characters are there to study these kids. We get some background of the world and other characters through Melanie’s eyes, then the shit hits the fan and things start moving along at a good clip.

Carey’s prose is lean and engaging, and he shows good balance between Melanie’s innocence/ignorance and telling the reader exactly what’s happening. Zombie fans will find the usual hunger and chow-down horror here, though Carey doesn’t go overboard with it. Casual readers and horror fans should enjoy it alike.

I’m also pleased to see some of the scenes in the trailer are ripped straight out of the novel. That gives me hope the movie will be pretty great, too.

Now I just need to finish the novel before the movie lands.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

B&N: Remember Who You Are

Barnes & Noble has long been accused of squeezing out local indie bookstores, and today’s announcement that they’re slashing their Nook business suggests they’re feeling the same squeeze from Amazon and Google’s Play Store.

Giving their customers a week to save their content is, to my eye, an indication of just how bad the situation is. If they were just shifting focus, Barnes & Noble would make an announcement and give customers plenty of time to save their content. Less tech-savvy users are going to need as much time as they can get. To give users just a week suggest they’re bleeding cash—badly—and they’re shutting everything down immediately to stop the damage. I’m predicting a lot of panicked calls to family tech support over the next few days.

Then we read Amazon is opening a second brick-and-mortar store, and of course there’s speculation they’ll open up a whole chain of them and compete with Barnes & Noble directly. It seems unlikely, but of course that’s what the media seems to be looking forward to. The thing is, Amazon is a megastore that happens to sell books. Barnes & Noble is, despite their recent integration of games and toys, a bookstore.

Maybe all they need to do is start acting like one.

Barnes & Noble stores hold several events like readings, author signings, Q&As, and so forth, just like indie shops. Barnes & Noble has employees who genuinely care about books and who can cater to readers’ tastes, just like indie shops. Barnes & Noble is a place folks can hang out, just like indie shops.

Why, then, does their online storefront look like any other online store’s?

I get it, they have their algorithms and bestseller lists and blah blah blah. But why not leverage the in-store events as well? Use location-based recommendations to see what’s popular in the area is a quick start, but why not also steer location services to local employee lists or blogs that browsers can connect with and follow?

They should also be streaming events. Team up with Google Hangouts or Twitter/Periscope to tackle the tech side, so fans and readers can see or participate in Q&As, author talks, and so forth. Guys like Brian Keene would probably have a good online following. Greg Kishbaugh had over 50 people in-store when he launched The Bone Welder; how many more might have tuned in to his presentation and then clicked to make a purchase afterward?

That’s just a few quick thoughts. I’m sure there are other things they could do, but the point is, they should be differentiating themselves from Amazon in every way they can. Just like they forced indie bookshops to be more creative to hang on to customers, Barnes & Noble should be getting more creative to hang on to their own customers.

Otherwise they’re going to die, just like some of the indie bookshops who couldn’t compete with them.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

On Readings

I’m not a fan of readings. Not a fan of sitting through them, and not a fan of reading myself.

I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it. I’ve given readings large and small, and I’ve had folks listening close. I’ve also had one or two where I could tell I lost the crowd. Problem is, the work can’t carry it’s own; the writer has to carry the work. It’s as much performance as it is writing skill, which is why readings are a lot more difficult than most writers realize.

This morning, Anthony Neil Smith pointed out another complication:


A writer versus that reflex to check the phone every time it pings or vibrates? Competing with that urge to multitask and knock towers over onto cartoon pigs? Good luck.

It’s more than just that, though. To me, why should I listen to something the reader can read for himself? Why should I read something from the middle of a book, when the audience will have no clue what’s happening or who the characters are? Two more reasons for the audience to tune out.

For my money—as in, the money I’d spend to travel out to a bookstore, crash at a hotel, down a drink or two—the writer’s better off selling himself than selling books. Call it a talk, a Q&A, or a panel discussion, now the writer is directly engaging the audience. Even if he’s just giving a speech, he’s able to maintain eye contact and monitor the crowd, not just keep his nose in a book, and the performance pressure is off.

On the audience side, one of my more memorable readings was given by Andrew Vachss. First thing he did? He told us readings are boring and we’d be having a conversation instead. That hour went by in a flash because the whole room stayed focused. Then he signed a bunch of books for us and off we went. It’s gotta be eight years ago now, but it’s still the first one I think of.

Now, if you’re the type of writer who has that performance side nailed, by all means, keep it up. I have yet to see Brian Keene flub a reading, for example, but we’re not all former radio DJs. His readers expect it.

The rest of us? Sell what you’ve got, folks. Better sell yourself and all of your work than to read one chapter and hope the crowd buys one book.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Gone Digital

I’m responsible for the death of Borders and the decline of Barnes & Noble.

That’s right, me, and thousands of others like me who now do most of their reading in digital formats.

Some occasional research aside, I now do all of my reading through the Amazon Kindle app, Apple’s Newsstand, or digital comics apps like comiXology. I’ve gotten tired of the extra clutter on shelves and around the house, and of stacks of books I may or may not actually get around to reading. I like having my entire library available to me on demand at any time, so I can flip from prose to comics to magazines on a whim, and I never feel stuck with a book I’m not enjoying. Shopping for new material is a click away, and clipping a magazine article is a simple matter of grabbing a screen shot and pushing it over to Evernote.

I. Love. It.

I even appreciate simple gimmicks, like interactive ads. Take this one from an issue of MuscleMag, featuring a video:

A brain break to watch things get blowed up good.

A brain break to watch things get blowed up good.

For a product I’m interested in, I’m absolutely cool with extras like this. If it’s not something I’m interested in, I swipe on by as if I were turning the page on any other ad in a magazine. (One note: if these ever become pop-ups or autoplays, publishers, we’re going to have words.)

I’m waiting for it to be properly taken advantage of in the actual content. I could care less about digital extras in fiction. I’m there for the prose, not the gimmicks. However, things like maps and infographics in newspapers and magazines could be greatly enhanced with multimedia content, just like we’re starting to see in textbook apps in the education world. And have you ever seen some of the convoluted and clumsy explanations for simple movements in sports and fitness magazines? A simple, animated image would be great, and wouldn’t even require full video download. Something like a simple gif would be perfect.

Are there cons to going all digital? Sure. The big ones are the tales of entire Amazon libraries being wiped out, or hackers nuking digital accounts. Fortunately these incidents are few and far between, especially given the millions of Amazon accounts out there. I’m hopeful these are growing pains of the digital transition, and these companies are reviewing and updating policies as these incidents occur.

The rest of the cons, however, are far from insurmountable:

I need the feel of a hardcopy book when I read. I just feel more connected. Even the smell of the book is wonderful!

Get over yourself, precious. Yeah, I felt the same way for a time. Then I realized how much easier it is to hold a Kindle or a tablet. An iPad is a bit heavy if you like to lie down in bed and read, but no heavier than a fat hardback book. The 7″ Nexus—and, presumably, an iPad mini—is very comfortable to hold anywhere. iPod touch? The latest Kindles and Nooks? Cake. And anything with a backlit display means reading in the dark without a goofy book light.

In short: don’t knock it until you try it.

Those digital screens are just too small.

Teachers all said the same thing when I told them they would be getting 13″ MacBooks to work on. Since the MacBooks have been distributed, I have not heard a single complaint.

The problem isn’t screen size, it’s resolution. Digital displays of all sizes are now as sharp and clear as printed content, and their higher contrast makes them even easier to read for some people. A good friend of mine is legally blind and reads print books with his nose two inches from the page, but when I handed him an iPad with the Kindle app and turned it to white text on a black screen, he could read it from what most of us would consider a normal distance.

I used to say my cell phone was too small for long reading. While stuck waiting for something and bored out of my mind, I pulled out my phone and opened the Kindle app. Within just a couple of page turns, I forgot all about the fact I was reading on a tiny screen, and now I hardly know the difference.

And Whispersync saving my page between devices? Gravy.

I can’t read outside!

Again, not as bad as it used to be with anti-glare coatings and brighter displays. This is going to come down to personal preference, but I don’t read outside near enough to make this an issue for me.

I have to worry about battery life!

Poor planning is your problem. Yes, I’ve screwed up with the iPad. I just pick up the cell phone instead. And if you let an e-ink Kindle or Nook die, you clearly aren’t paying attention.

I can’t figure out all these new-fangled devices and all these passwords!

Learn by doing. Ask questions. This problem isn’t about age, it’s about stubbornness.

I’ve gone all digital, and I’m not looking back.

Which then begs the question, do bookstores and libraries still have a place in the digital age?

Yes, they do. But that’s a topic for another post.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

2011 Recommended Reading

Everyone should resolve to read more good books this year, and to help you along, I thought I’d post a list of some great reads available now or coming soon.

First up, I’ll start with a little shameless self-promotion: my very own The Pack: Winter Kill. People are digging it, I think you will, too. And hey, as of this evening, the publisher still has the Kindle edition at $4.99!

I discovered Victor Gischler this year, and my first read by him happened to be his first novel Gun Monkeys. I was hooked, and I’m currently halfway through Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse and am thoroughly digging it. I plan to check out The Deputy soon.

For a good anti-hero, check Anthony Neil Smith’s Yellow Medicine. Kent Gowran turned me on to this book, and I loved it. Smith recently announced he’ll be writing other work under a pseudonym because Yellow Medicine and it’s sequel, Hogdoggin’, aren’t selling, and I think that’s a crime in itself.

I’ve finally gotten around to checking out Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard books, having read Savage Season just a few weeks ago. What a great pair of characters. The rest of the series has been added to my Amazon wish list.

Dig Westerns? Check out one with a supernatural bent with The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. This one comes out in trade paperback a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait. You may also want to check out their gangster-demon mash-up The Damned.

Cullen is also writing a young adult novel for Evileye Books called Crooked Hills. It looks like a fun read from what I’ve seen, and it’s one I hope to share with my oldest son.

I turned some folks on to Richard Laymon’s Savage last month, and I’ll do it again right now. This book is a Huckleberry Finn for the horror genre, and one of my favorite books from Laymon’s catalog. Hell, it’s one of my favorite books, period. Well worth tracking it down in paperback if you don’t have a Kindle.

I’m going to sneak in a fitness book I plan to re-read soon: The Abs Diet from the editor of Men’s Health, David Zinczenko. I hate the title of this book because it makes it sound like a fad diet, but it’s actually all about proper eating and getting exercise. The idea is you build muscle to burn fat, and you eat to maintain that muscle. It makes sense, and I lost twenty pounds in just two months following it before I started karate. It has a male point of view in several chapters, but there’s an The Abs Diet for Women, too.

We’re still six months out from Duane Swierczynski’s Fun and Games, but it’s probably my most-anticipated book of next year. I’ve been a fan of his work since I read Severance Package, and last year’s Expiration Date was pretty damn good, too. I’ve heard here and there that Severance Package has been picked up for the film treatment, and I think it would be perfect for the big screen. Here’s hoping it makes it all the way.

Tom Piccirilli’s Nightjack will be near the top of my 2011 reading pile. A Pic book for $4.99? SOLD! Pic made the transition from horror to crime some years back, and I think it’s been a great move for him.

Finally, one more book on my nightstand is Seth Harwood’s Young Junius. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Harwood’s writing, and the publisher, Tyrus Books, sent me a copy as part of a Twitter giveaway, so I’m all over it. They also published Gischler’s The Deputy.

Those are the stand-outs for me for now. I think they demonstrate where my reading tastes have been headed of late, but hey, given my own book has a strong crime slant despite the horror element, and I’d really like to get my thriller Sick Day written and published, it’s not surprising.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Kindle: Five Months Later

I bought the Wife a Kindle for Xmas last year, and it occurred to me I never followed up on the original blog post to see how the Kindle stands up to long-term use.

The short version? She still loves it. She now has 80 books on it (including mine, of course), she’s skinned it, and she uses it daily.

She’s gone back to a paperback book exactly once in that time, and only then because she didn’t feel like repurchasing a book she already owned. She’s read in bed, in the kitchen, on the couch, and outside, and she hardly ever has to charge it. It was weird seeing the sort of screen saver image on it all the time, but we’ve gotten used to it. Initial concerns over the contrast, eye strain, and so on have all proven non-issues.

She’s also found it’s easier to read than dead tree editions. Even modest mass market paperback begins to feel heavy after a time, and so does the Kindle. However, she’s found she can lay the Kindle flat on the table and keep reading. That’s just not going to happen with a book, and even if it did lay flat, on many pages you have to deal with reading around the curvature of the page into the spine. Bookmarking and navigating through books is a snap, and with Amazon’s setup she’s able to delete and re-download titles at will.

Most of all, she likes not having to wait for hardcover new releases to hit paperback and not having to pay hardcover price for them. At the rate she reads, the savings becomes well worth the investment, with or without the convenience of instant delivery and having less clutter on the bookshelves.

I recently got my hands on an iPad, and I look forward to comparing the experience. I first intended to use the native iBooks app, but I’ve actually been impressed with the Kindle app instead. I started by downloading my book for free, as I’d already purchased it for my iPod touch. Just for kicks, I downloaded it to my MacBook as well, and as you can see from yesterday’s post, I loaded it up on all three devices. Even cooler? The other devices recognized where I had left off on the iPod touch and asked if I wanted to jump to the same page. That’s a nice bonus for someone who hast to share a Kindle and wants to read a book on a mobile device or computer when the other person has the Kindle.

I think it’s high time I checked out some of Victor Gischler’s work, so I’ll be starting there. His books Gun Monkeys and Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse: A Novel are both available on the Kindle and should make fine reading on the plane during a trip next month. Incidentally, Go-Go Girls is available on iBooks, as is Vampire a Go-Go, each for the same price as on the Kindle, but again, the wider availability of devices gives the Kindle app the edge and the general functionality appears to be the same. Being able to control the screen brightness from within the app is a nice feature of iBooks, but I’m not sure (yet) that it’s going to be a killer feature.

In any event, the continued fear of digital books from some readers amazes me. I’ll admit it’s counter-intuitive, but I think digital reading is now at least as convenient and comfortable as paper books, if not moreso. People are snapping them up, and now even Borders has jumped on the bandwagon with their own reader. As someone who continued to buy paperbacks while the Wife went digital, I’m now looking forward to trying it myself with both books and comics.

I’m sure I’ll ramble on about it again in the future.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Breaking the Silence

I seem to have fallen silent for a little while. What better way to break it than with an audio reading of a selection from The Pack: Winter Kill? Check out the dulcet tones of Mr. A.N. Ommus of Evileye Books:

The Pack: Winter Kill, Chapter 43


About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Read It! – Yellow Medicine

Like tough-guy anti-heroes? They don’t come much tougher or more morally ambiguous than Deputy Billy Lafitte.

I asked Kent Gowran to recommend a few good crime novels a while back, and Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith was on the list. I ordered it, read it, loved it. Smith’s first-person narrative is top-notch, providing a great picture of Lafitte’s character as well as sucking the reader into the story. The plot and action pull no punches, and my horror readers who enjoy a good thriller would do well to pick this one up.

The plot itself is simple: terrorists come to small-town America. Lafitte bends the law to his advantage from time to time, and when an old partner from New Orleans tells the members of a terror cell that Lafitte can help them make inroads into the meth trade, they waste no time proving they mean business. Lafitte soon finds himself stuck between the feds and the terrorists, but he’s not one to waste time catering to either.

I’d like to see this one hit the big screen, too. It reminds me a bit of Fargo and A Simple Plan, but it would hold its own. Assuming, of course, the Lafitte character makes it through the studio intact…

Give it a read, folks. You won’t be disappointed.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Slip & Fall: A Review

I was down to two choices last week: the latest offering from a popular crime author, or Slip & Fall by Nick Santora. The latter caught my eye with its red cover, “Borders Exclusive” sticker, and simple design. I’d glanced at it a few times in the past, so I finally gave the dust jacket a read and learned it’s written by the guy who produced Prison Break. The writing that finally killed the series for me this season couldn’t be all his fault, and the synopsis sounded interesting enough. I gave the Wife the same two-book option. She chose Slip & Fall and we rang it up.

The first few chapters concentrate on character development and are a bit slow, but things snowball from there. Rather than action (read violence), the plot is moved along by the way the protagonist, Rob Principe, digs himself deeper and deeper into this hole he’s created for himself. The first person narrative is very engaging, and I found myself sucked into the book yesterday rather than taking the time to work on my own projects. It was easy to feel like I was having a conversation with Principe directly, and I dug the way the prologue suddenly clicked into place as the book neared its climax. My only beef with the book was the ending: I liked it, but I didn’t quite buy it, mostly because I expected it to be a lot darker. It didn’t kill my enjoyment of the book, it was just a little too easy.

Slip & Fall is a good read if you enjoy crime drama. I got the impression Santora put a lot of his own legal experiences and background into the book, and it all felt very real. It’s a story about a guy dumb and desperate enough to go into business with the mob rather than the mob itself. Not so much a fall from grace as a nosedive.

Next time you visit your local Borders, give it a look.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Shaking Up the Reading

My reading habits have been as poor as my writing habits lately.

I think part of the problem is I’ve been reading a few books where nothing happens. Sure, they’re good books, and they’re horror books, but there are several pages at a time where nothing happens. Solid writing, great atmosphere, a dash of “look at this creepy stuff!”, but no real action. It’s really starting to bother me.

As such I’ve strayed once again into the suspense/mystery section of my local Borders. Doing so was a good diversion a year or so ago, and so far it’s headed that same direction as I’ve read a lot more in the past two weeks than I have the previous two months.

I started with Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski. Brian mentioned the guy, I browsed the synopsis for Severance Package, and I decided it was right up my alley. Sure enough, I burned through it in no time. The plot is fairly simple, and it the action rolls right along from the first page to the last. The occasional humor is a nice bonus. I’ve now got his books The Blonde and The Wheelman sitting on the nightstand, waiting to be read.

Right now I’m halfway through Brimstone by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Everything I’ve heard about Preston & Child suggests they’re mystery/thriller writers with a horror/supernatural bend, and Brimstone definitely fits the mold. I can do without all the references to previous books in the series, and I think the main character, Aloysius Pendergast, is a stuck-up douche, but I like where the story is going and I can relate to the other main character (or is it sidekick?), Vincent D’Agosta, much better. The prose is very straightforward and leads the reader through at a good clip.

It’s good to be hooked on reading again.

Even better, they’ve both given my fingers the itch to be at the keyboard, working my own prose.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Reading the Future?

Sony Reader

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

The Wife and I spotted the Sony Reader at Borders last night and we stopped to take a look.

I’d heard a lot about the crisp, clean display, but the reviews really don’t do it justice; this thing is just plain easy to read. Hell, you can almost read the screen in the picture attached to this post! It’s a little wider than a standard paperback, but about the same height and quite a bit thinner and lighter. I took a look to make sure no Borders employees were watching and tried to flex it, but it felt sturdy (though I still woulnd’t try sitting on it). The screen didn’t distort when I pressed on it, either.

On the down side, there was a slight delay when turning pages, but it wasn’t too terrible. The controls weren’t very responsive, but I wonder if it was just the book in question (a manual for SD card from the look of it) or if there was really a problem with the software. And last but not least, it costs $300.

I think that price tag puts it well out of reach of most consumers. If it were cheaper, it might be more enticing, especially for someone who reads a lot of books. As it is, I’m thinking unless I did some extensive traveling, I could put up with the grief of carrying a paperback or two. You would also have to convince me I could save enough money to justify the cost.

If I were Sony, here’s how I would change my focus on this thing:

1) Bring the cost down. Assuming the tech and manufacturing allows it, this thing’s got to be sub-$100. At $300, iPods and similar devices look a lot more appealing than a glorified book, and really only appeals to (very) avid readers with a lot of extra cash.

2) I’d find a way to make it just a little more portable. Relocating the buttons along the right side would be a good start. In fact, I’d put a button in each of the upper corners, either along the top or side if not flush with the front, and leave everything else along the bottom. Readers are already used to reaching to the upper corners of the page to turn pages back and forth, so why not put the buttons in the same spot? Take advantage of what’s now instinct, and get this thing a little narrower so it can slip into a pocket.

3) Make a big push for commuters and travelers, and make it easy for them to obtain electronic books. Plus, make it easy for them to adapt their own documents to the book. If they can load it up with things like technical manuals, insurance directories, legal documents, maybe even schematics, it may become more attractive, even when compared to a Palm.

4) Make a bigger push in education. If they can make partnerships with textbook publishers and maybe even set some schools up with grants, they may see a lot of students taking these things home. I think it would have been great to carry one of these and a notebook to all my classes, both in high school and college, rather than lug around a heavy stack of books. And it’s a lot more affordable — be it at $300 or $100 — than a one-to-one computing initiative, both for the students and the schools.

5) If the e-book pricing allows it, demonstrate how much the average reader can save as well. With paperbacks up to $8 a pop and hardcovers floating in the neighborhood of $25, savings could add up quickly even for a sporadic reader. I would also demonstrate how it could make it more palatable to pick up new books. I might be more willing to take a chance on an author I’d never read if it only cost a buck or two.

6) Finally, talk to newspapers and magazines. If someone could subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and have it show up on their reader every morning before they get on the train, or have Cigar Magazine appear automagically, that might be fairly enticing.

You might say “But Mike, now you might as well carry a PDA!”

Not necessarily. First and foremost, the screen on a PDA is not near as conducive to extensive reading as the Sony Reader, and the power consumption is a lot more. This thing only draws a tiny amount of power when changing the page, so the battery lasts a long, long time. Those irritating moments where you’ve forgotten to charge the damn thing become a thing of the past, or at least very infrequent.

Furthermore, cell phones can handle most of the PDA tasks. Carry a smartphone for your communication and organization, and carry this thing for your documents when necessary. Sure, you can’t do much document creation/editing on this guy, but I still think people who do creation on a portable device like a Palm are few and far between, and the smartphone may still be an option there.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a consumer.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.