Predicting the future

 ebooks, Joe Moore, Publishers, Publishing, publishing business  Comments Off on Predicting the future
Apr 022014

By Joe Moore

In a recent article in THE TELEGRAPH, the founder of the famous Waterstone’s London book store, Tim Waterstone, stated that the “printed word is far from dead” and gypsey-with-crystal-ball (Small)the “so-called e-book revolution will soon go into decline.” He joked that insiders were generally “apocalyptic” about the book industry’s prospects but said he refused to believe the traditional physical book was under threat.

I tend to agree with Mr. Waterstone in as much as most bookstores I visit are packed with books and people buying them. I know it’s a simplistic measure of current trends, but when I start seeing large sections of empty shelves in book stores, I may change my viewpoint.

I disagree with him about e-books. So does Gaby Wood, who also wrote an article on the subject in THE TELEGRAPH. She states that “Booksellers are the group most threatened by the possible death of the printed book, and they have a reason to think wishfully of the digital book’s demise.” She also said that publishers have got to stop thinking of their digital products as “books”, and start imagining more expansive ways of communicating information. Until then, the digital revolution hasn’t even begun.

I think Gaby Wood has it right—this whole electronic publishing wave has just gotten started. The possibilities for industries like publishing, education and entertainment are endless. To say that e-books will soon go into decline is a prediction that may become laughable in the future.

To put this prediction business into perspective, let me share with you some famous visionaries of the past whose predictions carried a great deal of weight when first put forth, but didn’t stand up to the test of time. Enjoy.

"This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a
means of communication.  The device is inherently of no value to us."
— Western Union internal memo, 1876

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
— Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
— Bill Gates, 1981

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the
best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t
last out the year."
— The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what… is it good for?"
— Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
— Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay
for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
— David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible."
— A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
— H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

"I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
— Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind"

"We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
— Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
— Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895

"So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us?  Or we’ll give it to you.  We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come
work for you.’  And they said, ‘No.’  So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’"
— Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
— 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is named after Professor Gaddard.

"Drill for oil?  You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil?  You’re crazy."
— Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859. Drake was the first man credited to drill for oil in the United States

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
— Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

"Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
— Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
— Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

How about you? Any predictions on the fate of the printed book and the electronic book revolution?

Aug 142013

A couple of emails from the good folks at Road Media that I want to pass along to my readers.

First, Open Road has released as e-books thirteen books written by Mary Roberts Rinehart. She’s mostly remembered (rather unfairly, I think) as the queen of “Had I But Known,” whose stories often featured brave heroines (and some uncautious men as well) who insisted on venturing into dark cellars and the like with little regard for, or knowledge of, the dangers they faced. The books appear to be mostly from later in Rinehart’s career, and they include a couple of gems I have never read, such as The Swimming Pool and The Yellow Room. They don’t include her first two books, The Circular Staircase and The Man in Lower 10, but those two classics are out of copyright and available elsewhere. If you’ve never read Rinehart, whose books were tremendously popular during the first half of the 20th century, you have a treat in store.

Balancing “Had I But Known” with “Hard-Boiled,” Road Media has also announced plans to release stories from the original Black Mask magazine, now in digital formats. They’ll be publishing monthly, beginning on August 27th. If you don’t know Black Mask, it was one of the most influential pulp publishers in the first half of the 20th century, introducing and publishing Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Norbert Davis, and many other early hard-boiled writers. If you’re a fan of hard-boiled stories, this is major news. Here’s a link to a description of one of the reissued stories on the Open Road site.

As I’ve said before, I’m delighted to see and Open Road Media releasing e-book versions of so many classic authors in many different genres. Most have long been out of print. I hope a new generation of readers will discover these wonderful books and stories.

Canceling “Dead Pig Collector” by Warren Ellis

 ebooks, Mulholland News, Short Stories  Comments Off on Canceling “Dead Pig Collector” by Warren Ellis
Jun 062013

It is with regret that we announce that we’re canceling our publication of Warren Ellis’s digital short story, “Dead Pig Collector.” We were and continue to be very excited about the story—it’s brilliant, savage, and funny, and we hope you will have the opportunity to read it soon. However, we will not be coordinating its release with Mr. Ellis.

To the readers who have already preordered “Dead Pig Collector,” please accept our apologies for this cancellation. The vendor with which you placed your order will reverse the transaction.

Keep an eye on Warren Ellis’s many online platforms for developments about the story’s release. We wish Mr. Ellis the best on his future projects.

Download Jim Thompson’s The Grifters for $1.99

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Jan 082013

Did you luck out and receive an eReader or tablet over the holidays? If so, it’s time to fill those digital bookshelves, and we have a low-price suggestion for you: The Grifters by Jim Thompson (Kindle | Nook | Other Retailers).

If you’ve never read Jim Thompson, you’re missing out a classic American crime writer. You know how we lament the overlooked gem? This guy is one of them. In his forward to The Killer Inside Me, Stephen King says, “This anonymous and little-read Oklahoma novelist captured the spirit of his age, and the spirit of the twentieth century’s latter half: emptiness, a feeling of loss in a land of plenty, of unease amid conformity, or alienation in what was meant, in the wake of World War II, to be a generation of brotherhood.”

Andrew Gulli, the managing editor of Strand Magazine adds, “It’s a pity that Thompson’s legacy has been overshadowed by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett; both those authors were giants in the world of noir, but Thompson was every bit their equal. His books, though dark, gloomy, and at times nihilistic, probe the depths of human weakness and excess better than anyone else. Yet, despite his dim worldview, his books are addictive page-turners; it’s easy to know what the ending will be like, but the journey to the ending is captivating.” Despite raves like these, and despite being a sensation in Europe, Thompson has become nearly-forgotten here.

It’s time to change that. Join the Jim Thompson club. Let’s be the discerning readers who bring this great writer back into the spotlight. You’d only be risking $3 to dip your toes into this ingenious story about short cons…and when you’ve blazed through that, we’ve got 24 more eBooks for you:

Thompson eBooks

Already a Jim Thompson fan? Decidedly not a fan? Let me know in the comments!

Dec 272012

With 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite posts from the past year!

There are those moments in life so powerful and disturbing that they defy definition.  For me, Jim Thompson’s novels provide such moments.  Or maybe it’s more fair to say they knock me into them backwards—ass over applecart.

Apparently, I’m not alone in that.  Read what’s been said about Thompson, and you see that everyone is grasping: “If Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich could have joined together in some ungodly union and produced a literary offspring, Jim Thompson would be it….His work…casts a dazzling light upon the human condition.”

This is the first quote about Thompson’s work that many readers encounter, the Washington Post blurb splashed on the back of the Vintage Crime/Black Lizard editions that came out in the 1990s, after years when it was hard to find Thompson’s novels.  It’s evocative, and for fans of hard-boiled it has a dreamlike feel.  But ultimately it’s not very helpful.

Why?  Well, the problem with any definition that works by comparison is that it can only sketch around a thing: a chalk mark on a sidewalk, it misses the heart of the matter entirely—the heart that is so raw, so terribly visible, it forces you to work through analogy in the first place. “What does Hammett have to do with anything?” you might argue.  “There is none of his carefully-controlled and sleekly-styled disillusion here.  Surely the reviewer should have said Chandler, Cain, and Woolrich.  Or better, Cain, Woolrich and Chandler, in that order.”  In no time, what is Thompson’s is lost.

Yet such an approach is understandable, for to look at the heart of Thompson’s work… Well, it’s a hard place to look.  But in the end, the only way to get at it is to read, and then live with the consequences for a while.

Luckily, the new e-editions of Thompson’s novels from Mulholland Books will give you that chance.  With original introductions by top crime authors, they get to the heart of pulp so pure that you won’t even miss the feel of pulp under your fingertips.

Take the case of The Grifters, which is among my favorite Thompson novels. (That is, among those I’ve read. I still have others to go because Thompson is not someone whose work you can simply devour sequentially; or if you can, you have a stronger stomach than most.)  It’s the story of a triad of con artists: Lilly Dillon, who runs playback at the horse track for east coast mobsters; her son Roy Dillon, a short-con grifter so good at the basic tricks of the trade that he has managed to live at the same address for years without arousing suspicion; Moira Langtry, who throws her body (if not soul) into cons and is sometimes Roy’s lover and Lilly’s rival for his affections.  In each other, as in the world at large, they see an ever-shifting constellation of angles to be played: “Because grifters, it seemed, suffered an irresistible urge to beat their colleagues.”

One of the twisted pleasures that comes from reading the book is that we are always poignantly aware of the chasm between the simple financial profit each sees in the other and the rewards they might experience were they to focus on one another’s—or anyone else’s—humanity.  Time and again in their thinking, each sees the “something” before the “someone.”   It seems this is the defining characteristic of grifters, perhaps the only shared vision in their vastly different worldviews.

While many crime writers have cited Thompson’s fearlessness as an inspiration, I would suggest that he is a great novelist because he has such facility getting inside the thoughts of each character, and for that reason works his way into the reader’s head as well.  In other words, the power of his stories is not to be found at the (oft-discussed) operatic heights of his plots—the great taboos, the battles with the mob, the mad things people do—but in the deft clarity with which he reveals the tragedies of everyday living, as they take shape in our everyday thoughts.

Take this passage, the inner musings of a desk clerk at Roy Dillon’s cut-rate hotel who has just been on the wrong end of pointed remarks from one of Dillon’s lady friends (to avoid a spoiler, I won’t say which one):

Fumbling, he took the key from the rack and gave it to her.  Looking after her, as she swung toward the elevator, he thought with non-bitterness that fear was the worst part of being old.  The anxiety born of fear.  A fella knew that he wasn’t much good any more—oh yes, he knew it.  And he knew he didn’t always talk too bright, and he couldn’t really look nice no matter how hard he tried.  So, knowing in his heart that it was impossible to please anyone, he struggled valiantly to please everyone.  And thus he made mistakes, one after the other.  Until, finally, he could no more bear himself than other people could bear him.  And he died.

This is really all you need to know about The Grifters, or about Thompson’s work more generally.  I could relate to you the details of incestuous desires, love scenes that take shape at the crepuscular borders of pitch-dark sadism, infanticide.  But that would rob you of some of what you’re bound to feel when you read Thompson, and it would distract you from the very heart of what you’ve just read.  The all-too-human heart.

Some of Thompson’s characters might seem like inhuman monsters: Lilly Dillon in The Grifters, Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me, Nick Corey in Pop. 1280.  In fact, British critic Nick Kimberly has characterized such Thompson creations as persons “for whom murder is a casual chore.”  I couldn’t disagree more strongly. They’re so full of life, and the awareness that it’s fleeting, that they’d do anything to hang onto it—even take it from others.  If they seem to take pleasure in that act, it’s the pleasure of knowing they’ll live another day, of knowing they’ll only answer to Life itself to the very end and certainly not to any mortal.  But that’s not really pleasure, and it’s anything but a “casual chore.”  It’s a poignant understanding that one must fight to live, and that living is the greatest suffering of all for it is the surest and most powerful reminder of slow, constant dying.

That is Thompson.  That is why you must read his work.  Be grateful you now have the chance to do so, even if it hurts a bit.

Shannon Clute is the co-author of The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism (Dartmouth College Press, 2011) and the co-creator of two popular podcast series: Out of the Past, Investigating Film Noir and Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed.  He works for Turner Classic Movies in Atlanta.

E-book editions of all of Jim Thompson’s novels are now available from Mulholland Books, with special price promotions in effect for The Grifters as well as The Kill-Off and A Swell-Looking Babe. Find out more at our dedicated Jim Thompson website.

Dec 242012

Did Santa (or anyone else, for any reason or holiday whatsoever) bring you a new Kindle from Amazon this year? Yes, I know there are other models of ebook readers, but I have to stick to what I know, which is the Kindle. And if you have a new one, or even an old one, you may be looking for some ideas about Kindling books – that library of traditional mysteries you’ve always wanted to carry around with you but never had enough baggage room before.

Well, here are a few suggestions to help you load your Kindle with some fine reading material for a long winter’s night or two.

To begin at the beginning, why not “bulk up” and get The Classic Mystery Collection (100+ books and stories)
for just $2.99. That includes ALL of the original Sherlock Holmes stories – the four novels and the 56 short stories. It has Hercule Poirot’s debut appearance in Agatha Christie’s “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” and also her first book about Tommy and Tuppence, “The Secret Adversary.” Two of Chesterton’s books of Father Brown short stories are here, along with “The Man Who Was Thursday.” Ever read E. C. Bentley’s “Trent’s Last Case”? It’s here. And a whole lot more. Sure, there’s a lot of “stuff” you may not like – or you may discover some new authors whose works demand exploration. It’s worth a shot.

One of my all-time favorite mysteries, still at the top of most lists of “impossible crime” books, is John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man, originally published in the U. S. as “The Three Coffins,” now newly re-released as a Kindle book. if you have never read this one, you are in for a treat. What is it about? In the very first paragraph, Carr sets out this challenge to the reader:

“To the murder of Professor Grimaud, and later the equally incredible crime in Cagliostro Street, many fantastic terms could be applied – with reason. Those of Dr. Fell’s friends who like impossible situations will not find in his casebook any puzzle more baffling or more terrifying. Thus: two murders were committed, in such fashion that the murderer must not only have been invisible; but lighter than air. According to the evidence, this person killed his first victim and literally disappeared. Again according to the evidence, he killed his second victim in the middle of an empty street, with watchers at either end; yet not a soul saw him, and no footprint appeared in the snow.”

And that’s exactly what you will get.

Another of Carr’s impossible crime masterpieces, written as Carter Dickson and featuring Carr’s other great creation, Sir Henry Merrivale, is “The Judas Window,” with one of the nicest locked room explanations you’ll ever encounter. As Sir Henry reminds you throughout, the solution was simply that the murderer used a “Judas Window” to carry out the crime in a locked and bolted room. What’s that, you may ask? Why almost every room has one…if you know where to look…

And there’s so much more…for example:

  • The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers, my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book;
  • The House Without a Key, by Earl Derr Biggers, the book that introduced the great Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan;
  • The Roman Hat Mystery, starring Ellery Queen, the detective, and written by Ellery Queen, the writer (Frederick Dannay and Manfred B. Lee), featuring a murder in a crowded Broadway theater.

I’m sure you get the idea. There are lots and lots of mysteries eagerly awaiting placement on your Kindle; you can build a TBR pile that is the envy of those of us with teetering hard copy piles. The cold, dark and stormy nights are approaching – be sure your ebooks are ready!

(Disclosure to keep the gummint happy: if you should actually buy something via one of my links to Amazon, I get a few cents – literally – as a commission. Now don’t you feel better for knowing that?)

Dec 192012

If you’re looking for a definition of the word “eclectic,” I can offer you one in three words: Ramble House publishers. This small and very independent press publishes all kinds of books, including some fine mysteries. Fender Tucker, who runs the place, publishes all of Rupert Penny’s Golden Age novels, for example, as well as reams of Harry Stephen Keeler books (I’ve never read any, but I promise to get around to it very soon and report back).

More to the point, at this holiday season, when you or someone you love may be looking for great e-books as stocking stuffers for that new, or old-and-treasured, e-reader, Ramble House’s entire backlist is now available in several popular ebook formats at just six bucks a book.

Which brings me to my main point: I’ve posted here about “Rim of the Pit,” by Hake Talbot, one of the best “impossible crime” books I’ve ever read. It rivals John Dickson Carr in its ingenuity and its atmosphere; it requires a lot of bravery to read it at home alone on a stormy night. It opens with the line: “I came up here to make a dead man change his mind.” And it just keeps getting better – impossible murder, seances, footprints that begin and end in unbroken fields of snow, a giant flying…something…what’s not to like?

My point is, if you have an ebook reader that takes either EPUB (Nook and, I think, Sony?) or MOBI format, you can get it now from Ramble House for six bucks. It may be the best six bucks you ever spent on a traditional, well-written, truly terrifying mystery. Check out the “back cover map” – one of the best of its kind – here. Email Ramble House for details on how to get the ebook version –