Reading a Novel on the iPad

Last weekend we headed down to Chicago for a road trip and I had the chance to sit back and read a full-length novel on the iPad. The experience was pretty interesting, because this was a case where I was simply reading for pleasure.

What I Liked

I enjoyed being able to make the font larger and smaller and change the typeface. For whatever reason, I felt that the larger the text was, the easier the book was to read. I also liked that the book automatically re-calculated the number of pages depending upon whether I held it landscape or portrait, too. I could easily see where I was in the book and how far I had to go. When I needed to pause because I was doing something else, the book automatically opened to where I left off.

The battery life was great, though. I had the iPad on for about 3 hours and I never had an interruption in the actual reading experience.

What I didn’t Like

Just like most vampires, direct sunlight really killed the experience for me. Also, the iPad screen had a nice consistent page-turning smudge from where I was flipping through pages. Yes, I could have “double-tapped” to turn the page, but I preferred actual page turning to that. The screen really made an impact, because it smudged so easily any time the light hit it the wrong way I started to feel like I need to keep cleaning the screen.

The Verdict?

I would use the iPad to view digital comics, because I feel that they actually render better on the device than in print. (You can download free comics and check them out for yourself through For trade paperbacks and other books, I would probably use the iPad in a pinch or plan on using it on a trip if I needed to bring several books with me.

My Guest Post at SFWA: An Overview of Writing for Print vs. the Web

As a writer, I’m often asked to describe the difference between writing for a print publication and writing for the web. This month, I had the chance to write an in-depth article for that provides you with some insight as to why writing for an online publication is so different from writing for print.

Here’s a quote from the article:

Many, if not all, online content providers know about search engine optimization and how powerful well-created content can help lift a site in the search engine rankings to attract visitors. This content, however, doesn’t come “free,” which is why there is such a huge need for good content written with SEO in mind. SEO is one of the reasons why there are places online that want your writing; many companies are looking for good, keyword-driven articles that they can use on their website. Some of you may feel that SEO isn’t really important all the time; in my experiences, SEO is a component of your online writing toolkit but it isn’t the only one.

Be sure to read the full article entitled An Overview of Writing for Print Vs the Web. If you have any questions, feel free to add your thoughts over there.

My Guest Post at Apex: Are You a Believer or a Skeptic?

This month for Apex Book Company I posture the question “Are You a Believer or a Skeptic?” and provide some online resources for you to explore.

Here’s a quote from my article:

As a skeptic, I find myself unable to get into a science fiction story when it doesn’t offer me any explanation as to why things are happening. I also have a really hard time getting into stories that are poorly retrofitted into an existing setting, because I look at continuity as being an important part of a creator’s ability to suspend disbelief.

Be sure to check out the article and provide your two cents. Read Are You a Believer or a Skeptic? at Apex Book Company.

Guest Post: Why Mixing Content is a Bad Idea

For today’s post, I’d like to turn my blog over to Jonathan Bailey, a copyright and plagiarism consultant and CEO of CopyByte. Be sure to read is bio after the post below.

In the music or video world, remixing can often be a very good thing. People take short samples of music or short clips of videos and create entirely new works of incredible creativity.

However, creating a proper remix takes a great deal of talent and effort. It is more than simply a process of splicing together various elements, it involves the creation of a brand new work using pieces from others that usually offers commentary or adds to the original works.

Unfortunately though, some have tried to use a form of remixing as a shortcut to creating content for their site. This usually involves copying and pasting various passages of content from various sources and stringing them together to create a new work that is meant to replace the original, not expand upon it.

This practice, often called “splicing”, is a form of plagiarism that is not only unethical, but also is illegal and, frankly stupid.

If you are are considering engaging in this kind of behavior here are a few good reasons to avoid it.

Copyright Law and Splicing

Legally speaking, most well-done remixes are viewed as safe because they rely on fair use, which allows artists, reviewers and others to use small portions of content for the creation of new works and for the purpose of commentary and criticism.

The problem with fair use is that there are no hard and fast rules as to what is and is not a fair use. The law was written to be flexible and each case is handled on an individual basis. However, the four factors used by courts to determine fair use are as follow:

    1. the purpose and character of your use
    2. the nature of the copyrighted work
    3. the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
    4. the effect of the use upon the potential market.

Factors one and four are the most important and it is easy to see why splicing is very likely to run afoul of the law. Since the intent of the use is to create a replacement for the work and not a wholly new one, that hurts splicing seriously on both the character of the use, which looks to see how transformative the use is, and the effect on the potential market.

So, for example, using snippets from various articles to create a new work, is likely to be considered an infringement. Copyright holders who have had their content used in this manner are free to file DMCA takedown notices and, in extreme cases, file a lawsuit against the person doing the splicing.

How Search Engines See It

Search engines crave original content and value it very highly. Sites that prominently feature original works are ranked highly in the search engines and those that have duplicate content are pushed either way down in the rankings or, even worse, in the the supplementary index where almost no visitors see it.

The problem with splicing is that it doesn’t create original content. Since all of the content is lifted verbatim or nearly verbatim from various sources that Google already indexes, the search engine can trivially detect this and works to reduce the ranking of these pages.

Though it is difficult to tell how much content one needs to include for Google to be able to detect it as duplicate, anything over a few sentences typically is discovered and is treated as duplicate content. As such, if you splice together a story using a few lines or paragraphs at a time, Google will most likely detect it and penalize you accordingly, making the effort worthless.

Quality of Work

However, even if Google and the other search engines are fooled by the splicing effort, your human visitors most likely will not. Different articles, even from the same source, have different styles, tones and structure. Stitching them together creates a mash that doesn’t flow and seems very awkward.

Real remixes and mashups take advantage of this, using the juxtaposition to create commentary. Spliced works, on the other hand merely come across as poorly-made creations that are inconsistent and awkward.

If one wants to take the time and energy to fix this problem, they need to dedicate so much to it that it would, in most cases, have simply been easier to create a new work from scratch. However, since creating a completely unique work avoids the copyright and duplicate content issues as well, it is by far the best approach to take when trying to craft high quality content for your site.

Bottom Line

Though there is a place for legitimate remixing, using splicing as a shortcut to create content for your site is not only probably illegal, but also stupid.

Not only does it produce content that is not widely-accepted by the search engines, it also produces poorer-quality work that won’t be well-loved by human visitors. Any attempt to edit content to avoid these issues will require more work than simply writing a new piece, making the entire purpose for splicing content moot.

In the end, if this is an approach to content generation you are considering, you would be wise to abandon it and either use content legitimately, for example under a Creative Commons License, or, even better, create your own work from scratch and only quote/cite material you need to bring into it.

Doing so not only keeps other bloggers and search engines happy, but is by far the best way to build and grow your site online.

About Jonathan Bailey

Jonathan Bailey is a copyright and plagiarism consultant and the CEO of CopyByte, a consulting firm specializing in copyright on the web. You can also find him at his blog Plagiarism Today, a site dedicated to helping content creators protect their work, and stomping around the New Orleans area looking for geocaches.

My Thoughts on the iPad

I have never been an early adopter of new technology. In fact, I just went through the excruciating process of upgrading some of our hardware to fit the times. So, when I had the opportunity to check out my SO’s new iPad to see what the fuss was all about, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. At the very least I wanted to get a feel for how this shiny toy would hold up against my netbook.

First? I can’t really make a hard comparison between my netbook and an iPad, because I feel that they are two different tools meant for two different uses. A netbook is a fully-functional (fully-compatible) mini-laptop that is perfect for writing on-the-go, traveling, etc. and the one I purchased was $350. An iPad is an electronic media device designed for the general public (a.k.a. the “non” technologically savvy) to watch movies, read electronic books and digital comics, share photos, listen to music and participate in popular social networking sites. This tool, which again I feel was designed more for media consumption, has a base price of $499. While the iPad can be much more than a fun tool to interact with digital media, I feel that this is its primary function.

My biggest complaint about the iPad is that it doesn’t come as a plug-and-play sort of a tool. If you want to do more with it, you will need to customize it. This particular WiFi model only has a 32G hard drive, no webcam and doesn’t have any ability to connect to other devices via USB. The touch screen keypad isn’t made with writing in mind, because the buttons force you to hunt-and-peck for the characters that you want. (Not to mention, not all of the characters are exposed on the one screen, so putting in complicated passwords was an exercise in insanity.) Again, here you would have to purchase the extended keyboard and the case in order to use it like you would a regular computer. I feel that the case is outrageously expensive at $40, however I do like the design because it allows you to stand or hold the iPad in any number of ways.

In terms of accessing digital media, not everything will work on the iPad. First, the iPad doesn’t support Flash. If you don’t think this is a big deal, try browsing the web without it. Several websites had big, gaping holes in them because Flash didn’t work in the browser. Additionally, not every website works on a Safari mobile browser.

As I mentioned earlier, I really feel that this is a good device for people that aren’t technologically-savvy because everything that you would ever want to access for electronic media is available at the touch of a button. The iBookstore is really slick and I enjoyed reading some of the free downloads to try it out. The Table of Contents in the free, public domain books from Project Gutenberg are all hyperlinked and there’s a nice status bar at the bottom. Probably one of the best features, is that you actually “turn” the digital page so it feels like a real book. Depending upon how you hold the iPad, the book turns to face you so you can either read one page or two at a time.

Digital comics look amazing on the iPad. You can re-size the art with your fingers and scroll with ease; it’s definitely a new way to appreciate comics. Movies also look pretty cool, but here’s where you start to get into additional application mode.

The applications are organized in a way that will help you find what you’re looking for pretty easily. Applications can either be free or paid; I feel that they will be a vital part of the iPad experience, because developers might figure out a different way to use the iPad’s core functionality. Just as one example, the Sketchpad HD app allows you to use the iPad as a drawing tool. The preview displays four different kinds of paper, including graph paper, and looks like it would be pretty awesome for students to have on hand. If I was in college, I’d totally consider getting one just so I wouldn’t have to haul around all kinds of notebooks and textbooks.

All in all, I feel that the iPad has a definite market, but that market is more for the user who wants a device to experience digital media in new ways. Will it replace my work computer? Absolutely not. Would I consider buying an iPad? For me, I want to wait and see what new apps are around the corner that fit my lifestyle to justify the $499 minimum price tag.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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