Just Bitching

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby Doomo » 02/18/05 10:37 PM

Hi people... I publish as some of you may know a magazine called Channel One. Like it or hate it. I have done numerous sets of instructions, lecture notes and many different types of printed products. So I do in my opinion have at least some experience in the field. Printing that is. Hell, my previous wife was a professional proofreader and my current one is a graphic designer.

Lately I have purchased quite a few PDF/Instant download "books". The quality ranges wildly. But several things they generally have in common.

1) Boring layout and graphics. Usually they scream I just learned Microsoft Word! ". Come on people. With the medium you have chosen you have huge freedom to look interesting.

2) Incomplete text. Something I really hate.
"This effect depends on a repeated use of the Flatulence Palm, Which is described in issue 6 of the 3rd volume of Marlo's Stinky Palms Discovered series". If it were a printed book and every page counted towards the bottom line cost of the finished product, then I might cut you some slack.
But as you are charging printed prices without the printed overhead, then withholding ANYTHING is in my opinion cheap and lazy. If anything, you should be giving the customer a bit of something extra to make him glad he chose your method of publication.

There are other things, but damn it. I am just a cranky old guy.

Like I said, this is just bitching... You can go back to your regular stuff...
RFA Productions yeah... It is cool stuff.

www.rfaproductions.com
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/19/05 09:01 AM

Tony, pdf downloads are not made by professional writers and book makers like Stephen Minch, Todd Karr, or myself, but people think they can bypass the "old system" and make money a far easier way.
It's also possible that people who buy downloads simply don't expect "book" quality.
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Postby mrgoat » 02/19/05 03:04 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Tony, pdf downloads are not made by professional writers
Sorry Mr K, but that's nonsense.

It may be true in terms of magic publishing (I've never downloaded a magic one so I am not in a position to say), but certainly not in the online world per se.

I understand book publishers being just as worried as horse and cart manufacturers were when then pesky Ford chap had an idea about an automobile.

But to say that PDFs (which is after all just a format) are not professional is misleading at best.

For just one example of well laid out, easy to read and pass on PDFs see www.changethis.com
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/19/05 05:53 PM

Nice of you to quote selectively, Mrgoat, but you left out the second half of my sentence" ... and book makers ..."
Making a book is not just a matter of writing a bunch of stuff, converting it to a pdf with a desktop publishing program, and then posting it on the Internet for sale.
Not by a long shot.
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Postby Erik Hemming » 02/19/05 08:47 PM

When you see a truly ugly page, Tony, you're seeing job security.

I think the aesthetic is in flux and will evolve over time. The Guttenberg Bible wasn't as beautiful as most of the illuminated manuscripts that preceeded it. It was functional. That was the point.

And, just for the record, Tom Stone puts out a stunning PDF. It's fortunate for those of us who love books that he limits distribution. He clearly has an excellent sense of design, and I can't wait for Mr. Minch to bind it all up and publish it.

My hope is that ebooks don't evolve too fast. (A vain hope, I think, given the fast pace of digital evolution.) The ugliness and brute functionality of much of the stuff that shows up for PDF distribution is like the late 19th and early-to-mid-20th century distribution of magic manuscripts. Much of it was cheaply and quickly produced, and circulated almost privately, e.g. Vernon's early manuscripts and--near the pinnacle--Jarrett's cranky feat of composition/production.

Never fear. Over time, it will change and rationalize into a slicker, more consumable form, until that form loses ground to the next-- now unknowable--means of disseminating information.

In the meantime, it gives those of us who love--and live by--the typeset, printed and bound page some time to ease gracefully into whatever is coming.

So, I say we encourage 'em to keep it simple and ugly. Let art flourish in the ideas and leave the grace of the printed page to the printed page.


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Postby Doomo » 02/19/05 09:52 PM

I realize that it is a new form of expression. In fact I cheer it on. And yes, I am aware of Tom Stones E-books. I never said all were crap. Or even most. It just pains me to see poorly done production in ANY media. I am not saying that there are not talented individuals doing E-books. All I am complaining about is that if they want to be taken seriously when compared to the printed media, then they should meet print media standards whenever possible. Hell, in actuality, it should be simple for them to surpass print in several areas.

Like I said, just a bit of bitching. I am not trying to start a war or point fingers.
RFA Productions yeah... It is cool stuff.

www.rfaproductions.com
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Postby Erik Hemming » 02/19/05 10:23 PM

Amen.

No war in my heart, either.

Just a little lament....

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Postby mrgoat » 02/19/05 11:35 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Nice of you to quote selectively, Mrgoat, but you left out the second half of my sentence" ... and book makers ..."
Making a book is not just a matter of writing a bunch of stuff, converting it to a pdf with a desktop publishing program, and then posting it on the Internet for sale.
Not by a long shot.
Sorry if you think I was selectively quoting. I didn't think your whole post needed requoting. That was merely the section of your post to which I was referring. Repeating the list seemed unneccessary.

I could have quoted your whole post and still stand by what I said. I don't see how the section I cut changes anything.

But clearly you are feeling somehow attacked, which wasn't my intention.

And as this is your board, I will take this no further.

The ironic thing is that I hate PDF versions of books and have argued with mr.lybrary.com many a time about it. Nothing can replace the smell of the copy of Greater Magic I got from my Uncle. Ever. But Mr Close's are meant to be well designed as are Card College from what I have heard.
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Postby Matthew Field » 02/20/05 03:15 AM

My pal Doomo has a point. I think the difference between books and pdfs is that most books go through a long and extensive process of passing through several hands before publication, while most pdfs are the result of a lone author/publisher banging out the entire thing.

Most of the books I've edited were thought to be in fine shape by the author, but there were errors I found and suggestions I made which, hopefuly, made the result better.

The errors in pdfs, the poor writing and layouts, these are often coupled with content that I find, for the most part, of marginal value.

There are many exceptions. Tom Stone is notable, and I love his stuff. Paul Wilson, Peter Duffie and Lee Asher have published some fine material. And there are many others, including Jon Racherbaumer who has done a fine job on his website updating and re-illustrating previous material as well as providing totally new content in pdf form.

The problem is not the pdf. I used to purchase many more individually published manuscripts (ala desktop publishing) than I do now, because I found so many of them of little value. I thought I'd be excited to read material by "new" magicians, but finally I decided the dross so far outweighed the gold that I couldn't afford that particular mining expedition.

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Postby Guest » 02/20/05 06:37 AM

I'm with Richard Kaufman on this. I think there's a certain 'easy buck' mentality that happens with ebooks - even well produced ones by famous magicians. Having amassed a large library of hardcover magic books, it rankles to have to pay the same price for a bitstream that I know took less time, resources and expertise to prepare than a decent book from Kaufman, Minch and others.

I also agree with Matt. Despite some of the hysterical hype that sprouts on forums, a lot of the new stuff is very disappointing. Probably because the authors are still in college and have little performing experience...
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Postby Bob Coyne » 02/20/05 06:42 AM

I have the opposite point of view. We live in an over-produced, over-packaged world. Frequently the easiest way to sell something of marginal value is to make it look good.

This is true in popular music, literature, presentations (powerpoint), movies, political discourse, and <gasp> magic publishing.

Of course it's not an either/or proposition -- and good design can be a great pleasure. But rather than complaining about low production values, I'd rather complain about the sea of over-produced trivialities that surround and deceive us. Pick your poision I guess.
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Postby Guest » 02/20/05 12:15 PM

A word processor and an Adobe Acrobat conversion can make publishing something as quick as it takes to type the text and hit convert.

Or if one respects the product they want to sell, they will take the proper time to do the thing right. Properly written, proof read by others, edited, re-edited, and properly credited, good drawings or pictures that are meaningful and helpful to the written explanations.

I thought it might be of interest to some reading this thread if I wrote a quick mini-chronicle of my personal experience self publishing

I have self published two books. I offer them two ways: Professionally printed on a $30,000 Xerox color print machine, or in .pdf format. I give a $5 discount on the .pdf version.

My most recent book is Coinvanish Volume 2 . I added the general description and explanations of the routines throughout the last few years. I started assembling them into a work during the summer of 2004. I had pictures taken and I personally digitally edited out every background to the picture so that the final pictures take on the clean look of illustrations, but have the clarity of photographs.

By September 2004 I had the book fully written and illustrated. I went through almost 4 months of editing, formatting, re-editing, peer review. After the primary 3rd party editing was complete, I sent the book to several well respected coin magicians for proof reading. I did not go to market until mid January 2005.

Take a quick peek at my Products page HERE , just wait for a few seconds and the images will pull back and show glimpses of the actual pages from the books. You can see my take on how I like to format my works.

I have received many compliments specifically on the production value of the books, the clarity of the text, the professional level of the photographs, etc. If you take the time to do the project right, it does not go un-noticed.

Maybe it is a personal thing, I take pride in what I produce, and I would not want to put my name on anything, or worse, charge money for it, if it was not done professionally.

The result is hopefully my customers find the work of value. The material properly explained and easy to understand, and will remain customers for any future works I may endeavor to produce.

People that put out sloppy stuff will ultimately have it come back and bite them.
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Postby Guest » 02/20/05 04:16 PM

Dan, I have seen your Coin Vanish volume 1. It is a very well produced product. But what you do is much closer to traditional publishing at least in spirit. My hubby was referring to ppl who go the strict downloadable road and then provide less then a good set of notes in some cases. I have seen the stuff he reviews for the magazine. To be honest most of it would make damn poor compost. But Tony is nicer than me.
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Postby Bill Hallahan » 02/20/05 06:28 PM

The advantage of modern technology is that anyone can publish.

The disadvantage of modern technology is that anyone can publish.
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Postby Van » 02/21/05 09:16 AM

It might be nice if the publishers of ebooks would factor out the printing and distribution costs when they price them.

They could also follow Mike Close's example and embed videos of the moves and effects. Closely Guarded Secrets is the best use of the ebook format so far and well worth the money.

And make it searchable.

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Postby Guest » 02/21/05 11:35 AM

Originally posted by Bob Coyne:
I have the opposite point of view. We live in an over-produced, over-packaged world. Frequently the easiest way to sell something of marginal value is to make it look good.

This is true in popular music, literature, presentations (powerpoint), movies, political discourse, and <gasp> magic publishing.

Of course it's not an either/or proposition -- and good design can be a great pleasure. But rather than complaining about low production values, I'd rather complain about the sea of over-produced trivialities that surround and deceive us. Pick your poision I guess.
Of course, you're absolutely right. However, in the examples I gave [Kaufman, Hermetic] the production standard and the value of the material is usually on a par. When I dislike a book from these companies it is usually a subjective one related to the style of the artist, rather than the potential value of the material. Even though I dislike the Duvivier book, for example, I can see that the content has appeal to some. French people, maybe. (On the other hand, I have seen Duvivier do the magic at the Double Fond and I have to say, for him it's terrific).

I agree with the comment that the best value for money in an ebook usually comes when a performer like Close imbeds vids with the text. Only then do I feel I might be paying the appropriate price.

As much as ebook producers whine about how hard they worked on the layout - I still know that book producers worked just as hard and finished (in the best cases) with a product that you will value for years to come.
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