Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Too Soon Old

It is said that humans grow “too soon old and too late smart.” Compared to our “smart” devices, however, we’re immortal. For example, I have an iPod touch that I bought two years ago. It still functions perfectly well, so I have no desire to replace it (and given my current economic condition, replacing it isn’t in my budget until at least 2014).

Unfortunately, both Apple and the people who write applications for iPod, iPhone, and iPad seem to think I should be replacing it. Actually, they seem to think I should have replaced it six months ago. Four of the applications I use (three of them on a daily basis) have upgrades that will not install on my current operating system, and the operating system they think I should have will not run on my device. Another app, which I used at least once a month, wiped itself out, which was really annoying. At least the Kindle app simply doesn’t install the update, and the old version continues to work.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to this (it’s November, so at lot of my attention is on National Novel Writing Month) until the notifications came from Fictionwise. I knew, of course, that Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise back in 2009. The Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust published a lot of books and stories (over 700 of them) on Fictionwise, and some of them became available on the Barnes & Noble site then. A couple of years later Barnes & Noble came up with PubIt, which is close enough to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing that the same source files can be used for both. This is not, of course, the file format used for Fictionwise. Because I’m the Trust’s IT department, I’ve spent a lot of time converting Fictionwise stories into Kindle/Nook format. It’s a long, slow process.

Then, on November 15, Fictionwise sent an e-mail to the Trust, informing us that they were ending sales on December 4, 2012. Because even the Fictionwise books that were transferred to Barnes & Noble did not take their metadata with them, I just spent several days copying search keywords, book/story descriptions, and reviews from the individual item pages on the publisher side of the Fictionwise site to a text file. Now at least I have all the data in one place as I continue to convert the books.

I also have a second relationship with Fictionwise. I bought over a thousand eBooks from them during the past decade. I now have until December 21 to download the ones I want to keep and then convert them to Kindle format. This involves the unlock codes for a lot of .pdb eBooks (that being the format that worked on my Palm Treo last decade). It’s a good thing I kept my old credit cards, because I’ll need my Waldenbooks Preferred Reader Visa card to unlock some of the older ones. (Remember Waldenbooks?)

This is not, of course, what Barnes & Noble expects me to do. They want me to opt-in to have my Bookshelf transferred to a Barnes & Noble Nook Library. As they put it: “With your NOOK Library, you will have access to an expansive and ever-growing eBookstore. You can read NOOK Books on NOOK's free mobile app for your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, NOOK® for Windows 8 PC or Tablet, as well as reading your eBooks with your PC/Mac web browser, or on the award-winning NOOK® devices.”

Well, (1) Nook’s free mobile app for iPod doesn’t run on my operating system, (2) I don’t have an Android anything, (3) I don’t have an award-winning (what award?) Nook device, and (4) I don’t want to sit at my computer to read eBooks. I spend way too much time sitting at my computer as it is. For me, the whole point of having eBooks is that I can keep them on a device that fits in my pocket. That way I always have something to read with me.

So, as soon as I finish National Novel Writing Month, I’ll be downloading my Bookshelf from Fictionwise. It’s a good thing I did my Christmas shopping early.