Wednesday, November 21, 2007, An Old Obsession and American Born Chinese

Last night I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It is a graphic novel or large format comic book. The book was a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Michael Prinz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. The book has very beautifully designed color panels throughout. The central theme is being true to yourself and who you are.

The story is broken into three interrelated stories that come together in a very solid finale. The first story is the story of the Monkey King and His Journey to the West. I've always really liked this story, when I was younger I read the story about the fight between the White Bone Demon and the Monkey King.  Monkey King is a classic trickster. The second story is about Jin Wang a second generation chinese kid who gets picked on a lot and just wants to be happy and fit in. He wants to not be bullied and do what the other kids do. The third story is about a visiting uncle called Chin-Kee who embodies all the American stereotypes of Chinese people and is visiting Danny, a Chinese American kid who tries too hard to fit in and has given up on his heritage.

The graphic novel is very much about growing up and accepting who you are. This is a very good graphic novel. It might be hard for some people because there are some messages about racism and some strong language. The ending is the best part. I enjoyed it very much.

Later today, I will get back to you on Contentville.

Article on Contentville:
I've been fascinated by the idea of Contentville for years. I first saw it in 2000 when they were opening and even applied for a job there. I never heard back from them. Maybe, I was lucky. I was working at an ISP at the time as a sourcer finding people for the HR department which is a kind of strange job. They actually sometimes hire librarians to do this in the more focused recruiting businesses. I never got rid of my original email  -- although, I am not using it for sourcing anymore. I am back to being a librarian with books. I like finding books much more than finding people. A lot of people did odd things during the dot com boom.

I still am very much interested in the idea of content and content super sites on the web. Contentville looked like a merger between a bookstore, a magazine store, and a document delivery service. I find this fascinating. One of the killing factors was lawsuits. Some of the writers objected to having their articles sold as individual pieces. The writers wanted more money to have their works published. Some of the writers of theses from college were very surprised to find their college papers for sale on a commercial website. This of course caused legal problems.

The idea was to sell high quality content in multiple formats. I think as an idea this was great but impractical. I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about whether this would be possible and how to do it without losing your shirt. I haven't found a satisfactory answer.

Ebooks are still not mature enough to make a lot of money at. People still prefer the print version of a book. It is a physical thing which does not require extraneous devices, ink is still easier to read than the electronic medium, and some people learn better when they have a physical object in front of them. Also, books still are a lot cheaper. This also goes for comic books and magazines. If a person is purchasing a magazine article, they will still probably want to have it printed up in a physical format. Technology often proliferates older technologies.

I think the idea of having a contentville style marketplace will eventually be revived. I don't just follow book downloads, mostly looking at ebooks. I think there are too many formats of ebooks.

Ultimately, it won't be the format which causes ebooks to succeed but a change to a newer form of screen technology called electronic ink. Both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader use electronic ink. Electronic ink is much easier to read than traditional lcd screen technology. However, because it is in its infancy, it will be too expensive initially for most people.

I find that ebooks are fine to read in the regular html format. I really don't have a problem with it. It is the screen that is most bothersome. I also think of content as content. People have to stop thinking of media as being separate. Pretty soon, ebooks will start merging with games and it will become hard to categorize the different types of materials. For example, Hanako Games calls this a visual adventure novel, which is an intriguing idea . I really did enjoy the demo. It is a game which girls might like.

The most successful form of download is not books, it is downloadable audio. Audible appears to be king in this category. Libraries tend to have many more downloadable audio books than ebooks lately. MP3 files are including multiple audio formats, everything from poetry readings, podcasts, newscasts, radio, and music. This is the real success story of downloadable content.

People are also starting to download video as well now. I don't really get the point of downloading a video to a tiny little video reader. I find it bothersome, but other people like it so who am I to complain.

It is the literary part that interests me most. I know there are places like where you can share your libraries. I also got invited to by Katherine where they review fantasy books. It is a very nice site. What I like is the cover displays. It is a reviewing site.

What I am really interested in is something much more completely like a social network for books with a variety of features. There, the cat is out of the bag, I have been wondering how to do this. The closest thing which looks like it might be a place to start with a model is the African American Literature Book Club . Baen does a fantastic job with their site for selling books as well. .

I would like to see and participate in the building of a true quality content social networking site with book reviews, videos of author readings, writing instruction, bookselling, forums and other activities. This is a kind of dream that has stayed in the back of my mind for a while. This is what I thought Contentville would have become if it hadn't lost focus, been designed badly, and folded.

It is funny going back to this post after three years have passed.  There are now kindles, ipads, and new forms of book communities.  It looks like super content sites are becoming a reality now.

I had to go back and edit this page a little bit.  My writing has changed considerably for the better, I think.  Three years of blogging nearly every single day will change your ability to write.

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