Monday, April 28, 2008

back from Boston!

Yes, we were in Boston for most of a week. I went there to go thru the impressive Fred Allen collection which the Boston Public Library owns, and owns the rights to (thanks to Fred's wife giving them the legal rights). More on that later. I'll make this episodic, to keep y'all reading!

What do you think of the picture? Would you believe we had to fly to Houston from Tallahassee? Yep. And Mr. Bush has a statue in the airport. Frankly, I'm surprised it's still standing.

It was an uneventful flight. I bought and read the first New Yorker mag that I've read in years. Interesting, long article about China, and the problems they face as a growing nation, letting progress spoil their environment. Sad reading, actually. It's a good mag, I forgot how good. Though I did recently buy the Complete New Yorker Cartoons hardback because it was a mere $20 on the reduced shelf in Barnes & Noble. Yes, I do browse bookstores even though our books aren't carried by them. But one of my goals IS to change the biz a little - somehow - and make a better middle ground between stores and publishers.

More tomorrow!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

We saw this yesterday. We saw 88 Minutes today and are saving the Jackie Chan for next week - to savor that one. :) It's all in the anticipation!

Anyway, I know the FSM kind of comedy is all the rage now and it was good, but not great to me. A lot of praise was heaped on Knocked Up, but my wife and I both thought it was only ok. And now FSM is getting a lot of great reviews (more than the other 2 films starting yesterday). I don't get it. Frankly, 88 Minutes was better. True, it could've been made 20 years ago (minus all the cell phone stuff), but since when is it bad not to be original? The quirkiness of FSM is hardly original now, after so many versions of it. And when a film is filled with "okay, I'm going to sit down because I want to, not because you asked me to" lines, well, it tires itself out.

Also, one of the main, minute problems I had with FSM was its pauses. Being someone who doesn't watch TV, I am perhaps more sensitive to the quirks invading film from television. Such as the shaky camera. I don't know who directed FSM, but he seemed like a TV director, filling his film with a Lot of pauses where we should laugh. Such as the male nudity stuff. Which is fine with me. I just don't like being directed where to laugh, regardless of the joke. My wife and I saw it in an empty theatre. Perhaps this is a movie for a large crowd. But then, what happens when it ends up on DVD? Perhaps I'm too sensitive, but the lack of smoothness of jokes jumped out at me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

amazon says

Don't let amazon's PR talk fool you. The ONLY reason they're doing this is to squeeze out a
higher % from publishers. That's not my opinion. I belong to publisher's groups,
and we all realize this. Hence, I'll start changing our order links to


Dear Ben Ohmart,

My name is Adam Bader of's Executive Customer Relations.
Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked that I respond on his behalf.

Given your interest in Amazon Print On Demand, I want to make sure
that you had an opportunity to read a letter we published about what
we're changing and why.

The full text of the letter is posted on our website here:

One question that we've seen is a simple one. Is Amazon requiring that
print-on-demand books be printed inside Amazon's own fulfillment
centers, and if so why?

Yes. Modern POD printing machines can print and bind a book in less
than two hours. If the POD printing machines reside inside our own
fulfillment centers, we can more quickly ship the POD book to
customers -- including in those cases where the POD book needs to be
married together with another item. If a customer orders a POD item
together with an item that we're holding in inventory -- a common case
-- we can quickly print and bind the POD item, pick the inventoried
item, and ship the two together in one box, and we can do so quickly.
If the POD item were to be printed at a third party, we'd have to wait
for it to be transhipped to our fulfillment center before it could be
married together with the inventoried item.

Speed of shipping is a key customer experience focus for us and it has
been for many years. Amazon Prime is an example of a successful and
growing program that is driving up our speed of shipment with
customers. POD items printed inside our own fulfillment centers can
make our Amazon Prime cutoff times. POD items printed outside cannot.

Simply put, we can provide a better, more timely customer experience
if the POD titles are printed inside our own fulfillment centers. In
addition, printing these titles in our own fulfillment centers saves
transportation costs and transportation fuel.

Another question we've seen: Do I need to switch completely to having
my POD titles printed at Amazon?

No, there is no request for exclusivity. Any publisher can use
Amazon's POD service just for those units that ship from Amazon and
continue to use a different POD service provider for distribution
through other channels.

Alternatively, you can use a different POD service provider for all
your units. In that case, we ask that you pre-produce a small number
of copies of each title (typically five copies), and send those to us
in advance (Amazon Advantage Program—successfully used by thousands
big and small publishers). We will inventory those copies. That small
cache of inventory allows us to provide the same rapid fulfillment
capability to our customers that we would have if we were printing the
titles ourselves on POD printing machines located inside our
fulfillment centers. Unlike POD, this alternative is not completely
"inventoryless." However, as a practical matter, five copies is a
small enough quantity that it is economically close to an
inventoryless model.

Might Amazon reconsider this new policy?

Only if we can find an even better way to serve our customers faster.
Over the years we've made many improvements to our service level for
consumers. Some of these changes have caused consternation at times,
but we have always stuck with the change when we believe it's good for
customers. An early example: many years ago we started offering
customer reviews on our website. This was a pioneering thing to do at
the time. The fact that we allowed *negative* customer reviews
confounded many publishers -- some were downright angry. One publisher
wrote to us asking if we understood our business: "You make money when
you sell things! Take down these negative reviews!"
Our point of view was that our job was to help customers make purchase
decisions. It made sense to us to stick with the customer- centric
position of embracing customer reviews, even negative ones.

Another example: a few years ago, we made the decision to offer used
books, and to make those used copies available directly alongside the
new editions. This caused significant consternation, but we stood by
the decision because we were convinced it was right for customers.
Sometimes a used book will do and it can sometimes be had at a
significant cost savings relative to a new book. We stuck with the
customer-friendly decision.

Our decision with POD is the same. Once a book is in digital format,
it can be quickly printed on modern POD printing equipment. It isn't
logical or efficient to print a POD book in a third place, and then
physically ship the book to our fulfillment centers. It makes more
sense to produce the books on site, saving transportation costs and
transportation fuel, and significantly speeding the shipment to our
customers and Amazon Prime members.

We hope this helps those who are interested understand what we're
working to do and why. We believe our customer-focused approach helps
the entire industry in the long term by selling more books.

Thank you again for your interest in Amazon Print on Demand.


Adam Bader
Executive Customer Relations

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ben Ohmart []
> Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2008 6:38 AM
> To: Bezos, Jeff
> Subject: Paul Frees
> I have written over 10 books, more coming, and have publishing
nearly 200 via my company, BearManor Media.
> I use Lightning Source almost exclusively because they Help the
small business owner. I was going to have all my titles linked via
amazon so that more people would order from you. But if you continue
with this amazing tactic of forcing us littler guys to use a different
printer, which could force us out of business, I'll be linking to
> Ben Ohmart

Sunday, April 13, 2008

nice film noir blog

I found out about this old film blog, One Way Street, thru our author, Stone Wallace, whose excellent bio on George Raft is getting some good attention now. I love the old films. You know, they always kept the camera steady? Not Too much editing? Both of those together let you SEE the details of the scenes, not just feel the general emotion. I like that.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Smart People was good

We saw Smart People in Columbus, GA yesterday. Good film. Not great (I prefer a plot, to character driven or slice of life), but good. Intelligent. Worth seeing.

Better than Margot at the Wedding (which Mayu and I both didn't like, though we're fans of Jack Black and Nicole Kidman), and Sideways (which I can't remember at All now, though I like the star). I wonder why Hollywood is making more of these kinds of films, which have such limited audiences. And giving them more Oscars. To try to change how popular audiences think? I wonder. It will be a Long time before certain kinds of films become mainstream.

Friday, April 11, 2008

this is Funny

Speaking of corp. manipulation.... :)

My main page is I don't watch tv, so I get my news there. Well, nearly every day or at least OFTEN, Yahoo has had a news story up about Microsoft wanting to buy their company. Here it is again today and I just think it's amazing. They are using a front page site link to adjust their position. To get them more publicity for their cause. Whether we care (I don't) about the story or not. Others have to Pay for news placement (yes, that's why you won't see Yahoo show our press releases in their Book section), but when you own the company...!

I know, I know, that seems like sour grapes. It's not Really, because I know that's how the world works. I just tend to think I can change the world a Little bit by drawing attention to the self-servers of the world. :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

what do you think?

I'm slowly working on a 2nd edition of my Paul Frees book, the book I'm most proud of. And I'm doing a 2nd edition because 2 of Paul's missing wives found me since the 1st edition came out in 2004. Well, 1.5 wives. I heard from Jeri, his wife in the '60s, and she's been giving me a Bunch of great info from that missing era of his life. And I also heard from the family of Paul's first wife, and wow, I hit lucky there! Letters between Paul and his first wife during WWII. To be honest, I haven't even read them yet, because I want to Savor the experience! You know, I haven't been to London in more than 10 years, and I still haven't read all the British comedy books I bought there, because I savor that stuff, knowing that the amount of the things I like is limited. :) Reading has been intentionally sllooowww.

So what do you all think of this picture as an author photo for the back of the 2nd edition Frees book? It was taken at Universal Orlando recently.

Friday, April 4, 2008

further amazon action

A quote from Publishers' Weekly:

PMA Calls for Amazon to Reconsider POD Stance

-- Publishers Weekly, 4/3/2008 3:27:00 PM

PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association, has added its voice to those against Amazon’s move to make publishers print their print-on-demand titles through its BookSurge subsidiary in order to sell directly through the Web site. In a statement released yesterday, PMA executive director Terry Nathan said the policy “imposes a significant financial burden on tens of thousands of small and independent publishers who can least afford it. Without the opportunity to benefit from competitive pricing, small publishers risk at best an expensive and needless overhaul of their manufacturing process, and at worst, the loss of their livelihood.”

Nathan urged Amazon to reconsider the policy, observing that it was Amazon that provided small publishers with a level playing by providing them an opportunity sell their works to consumers. The pod action, Nathan added, converts the playing field to a “members only club to the detriment of those very publishers that have contributed to Amazon’s success.”

you want another car?

Okay, here it be! From the same area. Making you hungry?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

rabbit car

Here's a fun car we snapped on International Drive during on our last trip thru Orlando. Cute?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

a message from our printer

April 1, 2008

Dear Customer,

Lightning Source has been following the recent press coverage and discussions about
and BookSurge. We are aware of the concern this is causing the publishing community. The issue centers around tying the availability of your books and terms of sale at to the production of books at the subsidiary BookSurge, specifically requiring you to use BookSurge in order to sell on Amazon.

Like you, we are very concerned about any conduct that would serve to limit a publishers choice in supply chain partners and to negatively impact the cost of your products to consumers. We believe that choice and selection of best of class services are critical to the long term success of publishers and a vibrant book market.

Lightning Source continues to provide the highest quality digital on demand print and distribution services for every one of our customers. All your titles continue to be available to all of our channel partners, including, with immediate availability for shipment within 24 hours.

We are committed to providing you with the best of class quality product and fastest distribution service in the market, and will continually work to develop new channels and new offerings.

Lightning Source will continue to monitor this situation and let you know when we have more information.
Please feel free to call your Lightning Source point of contact, if you have any additional questions.

J. Kirby Best
President & CEO
Lightning Source Inc.

petition to sign

I've never signed an online petition - until today. Actually, I'd love to sign more on issues that mean something to me, but I don't have a lot of time for surfing (to find petitions). Wish I did.

But someone posted this on the publisher's list I belong to, so I thought I'd pass it along. If you read my post about the rumor, please click on the link below. Thanks.

"Stop the BookSurge Monopoly"