January 14, 2012

Awkward Angle over Archangel

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm all in favor of authors self-publishing -- even though all my own novels have been published by Big Publishing, and I really have no complaints about that paradigm either. There are advantages and disadvantages to each; but the bottom line is that unless you're already a bestselling author, you're very unlikely to make big bucks (quit-the-day-job bucks) self publishing a novel. (And of course if you are already a bestseller, then why do you need to self publish in the first place?)

Still, I'm not averse. I have a pitch for a new SF novel -- my first in a number of years -- under submission right now... to Big Publishing. But hey, if that falls through, I have enough confidence in the novel, via my 26 friggin' years in the novel-writing biz, to spend what it takes to publish it myself.

But not through Amazon Digital Services, however.

Comes to that, I would publish through an independent company (Amazon will still be happy to make it available through the Kindle, of course). And if I go that self-publishing route, I promise, as God is my witness, to contract to make the book available via "print on demand" in a regular dead-tree version, in addition to digital media.

There must be many others like myself who just can't bring ourselves to read novels on screen, or even on e-ink; at least until that technology improves markedly, particularly in the realm of pixel density.

A high-quality print job usually uses a density of 1,250 dpi ([printed] dots per inch, a linear measurement); that gives the human eye the illusion of continuous print, like an old-fashioned inked forme. Display monitors aren't that dot-dense -- or pixel-dense, as electronic displays are measured. High-quality monitors can range from barely over 100 ppi (pixels per inch) in large displays to a maximum of somewhat over 300, but only on very small displays, like some cell phones. 300+ ppi on a large display would be prohibitively expensive, due to the cost of the display technology.

It's tough to compare dpi to ppi, because the wider range of colors available to monitors generally makes up for the lower pixel density. Except in black and white, however, where the only color is (surprise!) black. By a curious coincidence, black and white is the normal "color scheme" of the interior pages of most books. In that respect, the comparison is direct: 1,250 dpi, or even up to 1,800, in actual print, versus less than 350 ppi on the best (and smallest!) screens. The Amazon Kindle, as well as the Barnes & Noble Nook, clocks in at 167 ppi.

A more useful measurement than ppi (dpi) might be ppsi (dpsi), pixels (or dots) per square inch; since letters, punctuation, and other characters are two-dimensional, ppsi/dpsi gives you a better idea how dense each character is: A 167 ppi Kindle screen yields just under 28,000 ppsi; but a 600 dpi printed book translates into 360,000 dpsi. And high-quality printing, 1,250 dpi, yields a whopping 1.56 million dots per square inch.

I don't own a Kindle (or Nook), and I have no plans to buy one -- until, that is, it can display black and white text at a minimum of, say, 600 ppi. At that pixel density, the number of dots/pixels alotted to an individual character would be about 13 times as many as in the same size character on an e-ink reader. (The full 1,250 ppi, mimicking high-quality, slick magazine print, generates character images using 56 times as many dots per square inch as a Kindle or Nook.) That is a big, big difference... enough to spell the difference between what's comfortable for me to read and what gives me a headache trying to resolve the text!

All of which is preamble to my quandry: I am very happy to publicize the first novel by Aaron Worthing, Archangel (click the link to take you to the novel's page on Amazon)... but I cannot honestly say that I have bought or even plan to buy it. Worthing, as many of you already know, is an erstwhile blogger at Patterico's Pantaloons who recently admitted that the name is a pseudonym (Aaron Worthing, not the blogname).

I have nothing bad to say about the novel; the only reason I haven't read it is that I cannot read low-quality displays without cranial pain. Alas, since Archangel is only available in Kindle format, I can't read the darned thing!

Aaron is a great guy; and as Beldar says, the conceit of the novel is certainly interesting: a superhero who appears on 9/11, rescuing victims of the most evil terrorist attack in human history -- and changing history itself in the process. Alack, the low level of e-ink display technology prevents me from being able to enjoy a book that exists only electronically.

Aaron's novel Archangel might be as fantastic as the immortal Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, by Gary Wolf. Lord knows I hope it is... because then Aaron might indeed earn the Big Bux for which we authors ever seek, as Parsifal sought the Holy Grail. And that would illustrate the triumph of Capitalism, in all it's small-business glory.

So if you enjoy reading books on Kindle, I strongly urge you to buy ($9.99) and read Archangel... then please let me know what you think of it!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 14, 2012, at the time of 5:05 AM


The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Aha! Points for the guy with the weak eyes! While having slightly soft vision hurts with the detail work in my photography, it helps with the composition. The most frustrating thing is that it makes reading less fun. Oh, I can read just fine... I just have zero focus over 10 feet away after sitting down with a good book for an hour.

On the other hand, not being able to see details 1/1,250 of an inch in size makes it easier for me to put up with reading electronic screens and monitors! HA!

Mind you, I don't have a Kindle, I prefer the tactile pleasure of a book, so I can't take your recommendation. But I CAN gloat! Take THAT, you sharp eyed peoples! HA!

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2012 11:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

I'm not convinced that all your analysis of ppi and ppdpsi or whatever is relevant to the matter. The real question is what your eye is able to resolve. I find my 21" screen perfectly adequate for reading this prose, but I would far prefer it in magazine or paperback-book format for ease of reading, not that we could do that. I could print it on my 300-dpi printer and, even in 8-point print, have it more legible than on-screen, for two reasons.

First, because he maximum possible visual contrast for black on white is -1, which most printed books come close to achieving (new). "Contrast" is adjustable on your monitor, but the maximum contrast, for technical reasons, is usually less than -1, meaning less contrast for your eye to work with. More importantly, for me, is that I simply cannot focus on all of the 21" screen and still see the whole page. I find that I read hop-scotching over the document, speed-reading and then backing up to savor some detail. You can't do that well as with linear electronic presentation. And despite all those Kindle-on-the-beach ads, they just aren't as comfortable to hold as a good book.

Bon chance on your latest.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2012 7:04 AM

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