Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The e-Book Chronicles, Part I

Sometime in the early 1990s, I swore I would be the last person on Earth to get a cellular phone. Bear in mind, this was when "handy" meant a bag phone roughly the size of the trade paperback edition of War and Peace, and you had to keep it plugged into the cigarette lighter of your car (most of the time).

Of course, we all know the end of the story; it's the same ending experienced by all the other technologically hesitant: I eventually got a cell phone and quickly realized I couldn't live without it. Ditto my laptop, my broadband Internet, etc., etc.

These days, I'm considering joining a support group for the iPhone-dependent. Clearly, I am not an Early Adopter, but I eventually cave. Most of us do.

But then came the rumblings preceding the digital book revolution. And here, friends, I dug in my heels. "A book is paper and glue and binding, with pages you can turn," I sniffed. "I want to smell the ink; I want to run my fingers along the spine. I don't want to boot up my book."

Last Christmas, my daughter and my wife ganged up and got me a NOOK Color. You can probably guess the rest.

Concurrent with my gradual immigration to the Digital Promised Land, content megasources like Amazon and others have been making it cheaper and cheaper to produce and publish e-books (and they've had a few nasty spats with Big Publishing along the way). If we know one thing about technology, it's that over time, it makes certain things cheaper. Thanks to Gutenberg and his intellectual heirs, you no longer have to be a feudal lord to be able to acquire a wide variety of reading material.

The process that required five centuries or so in printed books is happening with e-books in a couple of weeks, it seems. Now, you can download free programs that will convert your properly formatted word processing files into e-book files that can be sold online ... or forced on unsuspecting friends and family members, as the case may be (assuming they have e-readers, that is).

As an author with a few books that have come to the end of their life cycle in print, lately I've been thinking about ways to try and squeeze a little more income out of my currently fallow intellectual property. My notion is that I should be able to scan some of my out-of-print books (for which publishing rights have, by contract, reverted to me), do a little reformatting, and, by means of some free software, convert them to e-books that can be uploaded to Amazon's Kindle store,, and maybe, with a little luck and persistence, to other online stores like Whether anyone will buy them ... well, that's another story.

So, this is the beginning of my foray into e-book self-publishing. If you want, you can come along for the ride. I'll document the process, including my frustrations, my successes, and how it all turns out. I'm pretty sure I'll learn something, if only how it shouldn't be done. But who knows? I may locate a vein of milk and honey. We'll see ...

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Thomsblog (a weblog) by Thom Lemmons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Butch, Sundance, and Jesus at the Top of the Cliff

I noticed a news story the other day that suggested perhaps Butch Cassidy didn’t really die in a shootout in Bolivia: that he actually lived to a ripe old age as a business owner and solid citizen in Washington state. It was an interesting coincidence, running across that story, since I had been thinking about a line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for a couple of days previous.

You remember the scene: Butch and Sundance are pinned down on a mountainside, their implacable pursuers closing in (“Who are those guys?”). They decide that their only chance for escape is a leap off a cliff into a rushing mountain stream. Butch notices that Sundance is reticent about making the jump.

“What’s the matter with you?” he asks.

“I can’t swim,” Sundance says.

“Are you crazy?” Butch hollers, “the fall will probably kill you!”

Then they both rush to the edge and fly out into thin air, shouting a word that many of us might use under similar circumstances.

For some reason, Butch’s opinion of Sundance’s priorities about the dangers facing him reminds me of something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:34, he says, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I’ve heard this verse paraphrased as, “Why worry about tomorrow? Today will probably kill you.” And with these words, we arrive back at the top of cliff, standing beside Butch and Sundance and staring down into the gorge.

In times like these—or I don’t know, maybe in all times—it seems like Butch and Jesus have a pretty good point. Not that it’s a good idea to live carelessly; quite the opposite. In uncertain times, we should live with our eyes wide open, with every sense engaged, savoring each moment as it goes by, because after all… there aren’t any guarantees about tomorrow, are there? Why would you want to miss anything, as long as the ride is still moving? Besides, the fact is that borrowing worry from the future is a debt with no amortization schedule.

Now, the people who know me very well—especially the ones who live with me—are probably rolling their eyes as they read this. I am pretty lousy at not worrying. But I want to get better at it; I really do. In fact, greater trust and less anxiety are consistently on my Top Ten request list for God. And, they do say that knowing you have a problem is the first step toward a cure…

My guess is that, especially in the current unsettled environment (and again, aren’t all environments unsettled, to a greater or lesser degree?), lots of folks would like to learn to “travel light,” as my friend Max Lucado might say. To allow each day to worry about itself, rather than packing so much future worry into the present. To seek to notice more, and seek to control less. To live right now, listen to what’s around you, see all the colors, and smell all the smells.

So go ahead… take the leap.

I’m right behind you.

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Thomsblog (a weblog) by Thom Lemmons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License