Have you ever written a book review?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas. A Short Music Gift From My Godson/Nephew

Nikkos Savas (l) and Alan Petterle (r) of JAXX playing jazz
and classical music at Veronica's Xmas Party, December 17, 2011.
Nikkos Savas is the guitarist in JAXX (you can search the site for posts on the band). He just sent this little beauty, performed on his new jazz guitar. Click and enjoy.

Enjoy. See you all in 2012.


Monday, December 12, 2011

As Kindle Fire Faces Critics, Remedies Are Promised

“I feel the Fire is going to be a failure,” Mr. Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, said in an interview. “I can’t recommend buying it.”

The Amazon Kindle Fire is going to find a place next to the Apple Newton and New Coke in the junkyard of history's failures? I doubt it. But . . . time will tell.

Click HERE to read the entire story (which you will enjoy if you are into these sort of things, and all readers should be).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Costly Kindle fight hurting Barnes & Noble


The battle for Middle Earth has, er . . . sorry. (Watched all three uncut HD Lord of the Rings the other night and can't get it out of my head. Let me start anew.)

The hardware e-wars are in full bloom, with gloves off as Amazon leverages its muscle by lowering its Kindle Fire price to a mere $199.00. That has really turned up the heat on Barnes and Noble, which has essentially bet its future on the success of the Nook. The Kindle Fire is cool, I admit, and I nearly bought one, but then read an interesting comparison with the Nook (which turns out is  better e-reader for the money. Click here to read that comparison.)

The effort and cost to market the Nook against Amazon has cost B&N substantially, even though product sales rose 85% to 220 million for the fiscal second quarter. Not too shabby, and a good predictor of where we are heading.

Read the full article here, which I recommend if you are interested in this sort of thing.


Monday, October 24, 2011

New Project: "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Final Official Reports Filed by Union Civil War Generals"

I am pleased to announce that Savas Beatie is kicking off 2012 with an exciting digital editing project.

We have tentatively titled this multi-volume series The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Final Official Reports Filed by Union Civil War Generals. It will be edited by Bruce Allardice and Theodore P. Savas. (Bruce is an adjunct professor at South Suburban College and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois, and the author of Confederate Colonels, and More Generals in Gray, and co-author of Texas burial Sites of Civil War Notables.)


Many years ago, Russel Beatie (he of Savas Beatie) discovered some 430 Civil War battle and campaign reports produced by 317 Union Army generals. Not only are they almost never used, but few Civil War historians seem to be aware of them.

The generals' reports of service represent an attempt by the AGO in 1864 to obtain more complete records regarding the service of everyone who held the rank of general. Think of it as a who-what-why-when-where, sort of request. Seeking both comprehensiveness and uniformity, the AGO requested each general include certain information, and as a result most of the reports consist of chronologically arranged narratives of activities associated with battles, campaigns, and other activities (including personal views on things from slavery to policy, strategy, blame for X, etc.). The lengths of these reports range from one paragraph (a stiff middle finger in the air saying "I am not doing this!") from Brig. Gen. Francis Vinton to Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham's hundreds of pages in reply. Most reports are 30 pages or less. Some contain newspaper clippings, great maps, and even pamphlets.

Alphabetically speaking, the generals begin with John J. Abercrombie and end with Horatio G. Wright, with 315 more in between.


Savas Beatie will be producing these reports in high quality digital format suitable for all eReaders. Each report will include a one- or two-page biography of each general, with specific insight into the report he filed, a photograph, cross references with the Official Records, and suggested further reading. The reports themselves are in the general's own handwriting, digitally adjusted for the best reading experience. This way there is no issue about who wrote what and whether the translation is correct. (I have seen many of the original reports that ended up in the ORs. The transcription errors are legion and sometimes significant.)

We will be issuing these reports alphabetically in separate volumes. Because of size and formatting restrictions, the number of reports contained in each volume will vary accordingly.

Hopefully you subscribe to our free monthly e-letter called Libri Novus. [No? CLICK HERE to jump to our home page, where you just type your email into the Libri Novus box and we can include you!] If you already get our newsletter, stay tuned because next month's edition will include a sneak peek at Brig. Gen. John J. Abercrombie's biography, and partial report, an update on the project, and much more. I will also be posting here on this blog, and our website will have a dedicated page with clickable links to purchase very soon.

Thank you for your continued support.

-- tps

Monday, October 10, 2011

The WORST Civil War Books?


We have all been asked to discuss, list, recommend, nominate, select, or otherwise thrust onto others our list of favorite Civil War books. Let's take a different route.

List the worst Civil War book(s) you have personally read, and explain briefly why you would slate them in that unwanted category.

Have at it.


(And sorry for being so late with my posts. I had shoulder surgery and am just getting back to the keyboard full time.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

San Diego: A Wild Time at Camp Pendleton!

My son Demetri (DT) is 15 and has been talking about the Marines lately. My good friend, decorated Marine (Silver Star, Purple  Heart) and author Nick Popaditch (Once a Marine) accommodated my request for a favor by pulling strings and getting us onto Camp Pendleton this past weekend. His son Nick Jr. went with us.  

The day before we went to the Recruit Depot and watched recruits learning to jump off towers and rappel, learn various maneuvers, and others who were now official Marines in their dress uniforms with moms proudly hanging on their arms. It was inspiring.

The next morning we drove 30 or so miles to Camp Pendleton, and then to a small area where a group of of reserve M1A1 battle tanks (six or eight) were parked and being worked on. We watched as mechanics and others cleaned, repaired, and otherwise maintained them and the support vehicles needed to keep them moving. We spent some time inside a tank learning the basics about each position, how the gun worked, where the shells were stored, and so forth. Each tank carries four people (Commanding officer, gunner, loader, and driver).

Gunnery Sergeant Pittsley (left) and Gunny Pop (right).
Gunny Sgt. Pittsley arranged for a ride, and it took quite some time and effort to prepare a tank to move. They didn't have to do it, but really did it for Gunny Pop. He is well known and a legend in the Corps--as more than one Marine told me without any prompting from Pop's proud publisher.
A very tired and aging publisher up in the Loader's hatch, taken by DT from his position in the Gunner's seat.

DT in Gunner's position with Com helmet and flak jacket on, thermal and regular sights next to his head, and gun and turret controller to his front. He is flashing the V for Victory sign after being complimented by Corporal Bath.
The view outside the tank from my position in the Loader's hatch.
In a word: wow.
Once all was ready, the tank fired up (they are incredibly quiet) and moved about 30 yards to a gate, where DT and I climbed aboard. Corporal Bath served as the Commander, and took a position in the Commander's hatch next to the 50-caliber machine gun mount. I assumed the Loader's position to his left, and instead of remaining inside, stood up through the open hatch to see outside. DT sat down in the right front of the tank to serve as the Gunner. He got to traverse the turret at speed, move the gun up and down, use various sites (thermal, etc.) and more. The driver is in the front of the tank and out of site, locked up tight in a small area that would have driven me crazy.

Corporal Bath giving orders to his 15-year-old Gunner.

The ride was about 40 minutes, up and down hilly terrain, through high weeds, etc. It was scary, exhilarating, and like a massive shot of adrenalin all at the same time. To show how the gun optics work, we sited on a truck on a freeway maybe 2 miles distant, tracking the vehicle with a laser that kept the tube locked on target even as we moved. It was incredible.

I tried the gun position for five minutes and could barely operate the thing. I also got very nauseous because everything is right in front of you and bouncing around like crazy. When I moved back to the Loader's position, Corporal Bath laughed and said that when that happens in the field, we hand them an MRE bag and spin the tank until new gunners puke, and puke again. And again. "Eventually they get over it," he laughed. "Can't have a sick gunner."

We had communication helmets on, and could easily speak back and forth. Video games have their place, I guess. Corporal Bath gave orders to DT (center the gun over the front, etc.) or "Fix on XYZ target." DT did it easily and quickly. Corporal Bath complimented him and said he was very surprised he could do it so easily and quickly. "You would make a great gunner," he told my son. DT looked up at me and flashed the V for victory sign. (see photo).

The final day (Saturday) we spent on the water. First, we spent an hour packing care packages for troops at Veteran's Memorial Hall in Balboa Park. That was a great experience as well. Every young American should try it. My niece Alyssa, who lives in San Diego, joined us for this part of the trip.

DT boxing it up. When all was said and done, he filled 10 boxes and taped up dozens more.

DT and Gunny Pop on Pop's boat getting ready to tube out on the ocean. Priceless.
DT holding on for dear life. Somehow he held on despite Pop's best efforts to throw him. Eventually he pitched headlong into the sea.

Ted Savas and Gunny Pop at "Club Pop" (read his book to understand that), enjoying steaks, cigars, and great beer.
Our day included fishing, tubing, and general sightseeing. It was a grand day all the way around. The night before we had a great dinner at the Popaditch house (thanks April!).

Thanks Popaditch's and USMC for a great visit to San Diego. It is one we will never forget.

-- tps

Monday, July 18, 2011

Borders Calls Off Auction, Plans to Liquidate

A sad day in the publishing industry. Thankfully, Savas Beatie is well diversified. Other publishers, however . . .

Click here to read the full story. Book lover? Grab some Kleenex first.

QUESTION: Who if anyone will fill the void?


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Borders Heading for Liquidation?

This is not good news. Worth reading:

Uncertainty over exactly what Najafi Companies intended to do with Borders if they bought it led to the collapse of their purchase offer by the end of Wednesday, and now the chain is headed to liquidation unless another bidder comes forward or Najafi prevails during the actual auction. The bid from liquidators that Borders had submitted to the court at the same time as the Najafi offer has been made the "stalking horse bid" for the July 19 auction, which just received Judge Martin Glenn's approval this morning in court, pending filing of revised papers. Glenn, whose patience was wearing thin in the hearing, said, "Right now all we have is one bid, which is a liquidation bid. I have a busy calendar." The judge postponed the deadline for any objections from 4:00 today to 4:00 Monday, thus deferring any ruling on the myriad of objections. If a going-concern bid is put forth, revised notice will need to be filed with the court.

Borders attorney Andrew Glenn told the court there are currently no other bidders, but he indicated that there are "some inquiries" in which interested third parties might team up with the liquidators. He also mentioned that Barnes & Noble has offered for "certain assets." (Earlier in the process Bloomsberg said that BN had bid to buy Borders' web site, customer databases and about 10 store locations.) Najafi's representatives indicated they may still participate in the auction itself. Meanwhile, the representatives for the creditors' committee told Judge Glenn that they support the liquidators' stalking horse bid, saying they "got what we wanted."

Also in court this morning, Judge Glenn showed little tolerance for the landlord's many conditional laments. "I'm very unsympathetic to many of the objections made by landlords," Judge Glenn said, particularly since the situation remains fluid. He appears more inclined to not address the landlords' objections until the final path for Borders is clear--and indicates that issues related to going-out-of-business sales tend to be negotiated outside of court anyway. Borders has asked for the currently-scheduled July 21 hearing to approve a sale to be split in two, asking for a second hearing on Saturday, July 23 in the event that any "going concern" bids come forward, but there is no resolution on this yet. (These updates have been relayed live from the courtroom via Sarah Weinman, and the hearing was just adjourned.)

The strong hand of the creditors committee was a driving force in much of the drama of the past 24 hours. In Wednesday's day's preamble, the creditors filed an objection in bankruptcy court to Najafi's offer, which was so open-ended as to allow the possibility that he would still cancel leases and liquidate the chain while keeping "valuable intellectual property (i.e., the Borders name and related intellectual property rights) and other assets for less consideration" than the current bid from liquidators would yield. (As we pointed out previously, the liquidation bid provides more cash up-front, and still leaves the intellectual property and other assets to be sold separately.)

What the creditors wanted was for Najafi to make "a firm commitment" to keep operating the chain as a going concern, which the creditors said they "in fact would welcome." But Najafi used that demand to put forward the same request that Borders management had failed with multiple times--asking major publishers to resume normal trade terms, once again providing the real operational financing for the bookstores. (As we also pointed out previously, Najafi's offer was closer to "taking" the chain rather than "buying" it.) As the WSJ reported, "Najafi was willing to drop his liquidation option if publishers agreed to grant him normal trade terms, according to people familiar with the matter. Some major publishers agreed, but by late Wednesday afternoon a couple hadn't, the people said. At that point, Mr. Najafi signaled he wouldn't alter his terms."

In their filing, the creditors committee also presented some slightly revised estimates of Borders' current situation. They owe the DIP lenders $211 million, and are estimated to have $417.5 million in inventory, with the liquidation bid worth "no less than between $252 million and $284 million."

So the contingent bid from liquidators was made the sole and official stalking horse bid, setting the floor for the auction on July 19. In a note to employees yesterday evening from Borders ceo Mike Edwards, he wrote: "Late this afternoon, Najafi informed us that they have decided to withdraw as the stalking horse proposal and therefore we will submit the Hilco and Gordon Brothers proposal to the Court for the purposes of serving as the Stalking Horse bidder at the auction next week. While we regret Najafi's withdrawal as the Stalking Horse bidder, we remain hopeful that they or other potential bidders who are interested in operating Borders as a going concern will choose to participate in the auction process on July 19. "

In their own statement, Najafi Companies said that their "proposed agreement to keep Borders operating is no longer supported by the deciding parties. The deciding parties' legal team and financial advisors have elected another option which is in contrast to what we had envisioned for the future of Borders. However, we remain willing, ready and able to move forward should the deciding parties instead choose to work with us and our existing offer. From day one, our intention had been to keep Borders intact and to provide the best long-term outcome for Borders' loyal customers, publishers, employees and the entire book industry. We are disappointed with today’s decision." In court Thursday, it became clear that Najafi is no longer seeking approval of the $6.45 million break-up fee that was provided for when they were set for approval as the stalking horse bidder.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Digital Books Sales Continue Apace . . .

Although the numbers are not in the same universe (yet), here are two disparate bits of information that have a nexus of commonality.

First, bestselling author Michael Connelly has now sold more than 1,000,000 Amazon's Kindle books. That is quite impressive. Click here to read more. He is just the 7th author to join this elite club.

Just yesterday I received a quick-hit email from one of our editors. Let's call him Robert. Here is what he wrote:

Ted --

Thought you might be interested to know the following, given the tenor of some of the recent posts on your blog: I just finished reading Hans Gobeler's Steel Boat, Iron Hearts, about U-505; am now reading Hunt and Kill, edited by some guy named Savas; and next intend to read Gary Moore's Playing with the Enemy. All on Kindle.

I never intended to get one. But when I retired from the CG, that's the gift my group of neighbors decided to give me, along with some Amazon credit. I didn't use it for the first couple of months, but then I found that for commuting back and forth to work on the train, it was more convenient than a print book. Often I have both a Kindle and print book (because I still have a lot of those...) going at the same time, and I read one or the other depending on the circumstances. Anyway, I thought you'd like to know, as an individual case study . . .


eBooks are here to stay.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Amazon Sells More Kindle Books than Hardcovers.**

This came sooner than I was expecting, but I was expecting it.

We are seeing a real spike in e-sales over the past three months--very strong and broad. What is more interesting to me than the steady uptick in e-sales is that we are not experiencing a concurrent drop in print sales. Many people in the industry were sure a rise on one side of the ledger meant a drop on the other. I wasn't convinced, and the data thus far suggest solid or increased print sales might be a beneficiary of the e-sale future. One indicator is that our strongest seller in both categories (print and e-book) for the past two months is the same title. The future looks bright for those ahead of the tidal wave. And we are ahead of that wave and riding it nicely.

For those of you who noticed the asterisks in the main title, there is a small "however" in that shout line. Amazon didn't disclose how Kindle e-book sales compare to its entire bookstore sales. With most Kindle books priced at $9.99, those e-books are often less expensive than the same title in hardcover, especially for popular new releases. But less-expensive paperbacks make up the vast majority of Amazon's book sales.


Click here to read the full article in Money Magazine.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

JAXX--WINNER of 2011 Sacramento Jammies!!!

Jaxx playing the Crest Theater with a Jumbo-tron behind them.

JAXX, in which my nephew and God son Nikkos shares lead guitar duties, placed first out of 30 or so acts from the greater Sacramento region last night in front of a packed Crest Theater in downtown Sac.

After weeks of competition, the grand evening featured the final ten bands. Jaxx played second. The competition was fierce, and frankly I was worried after hearing the last four bands.

JAXX was tight and as on the money last night as I have ever seen them--especially considering the large audience and pressure-filled performance. Nikkos pulled out his bright yellow Ibanez and shredded on their final original "Tongues" before meeting guitarist Alan in the middle to finish with a dual lead. Alan played one of his leads behind his back while bassist Kyle Maxwell ran the stage and often jammed next to the drum kit being hammered by Alan's younger brother John Bonham--sorry, Jack Petterle.

Another big step in the progression of a great band and wonderful group of young men.

Alan Petterle ("I am so glad I gave up football.") Lead guitar. Age 16.

Jack Petterle ("Don't let me near a microphone. Ever") Drums. Age 14.

Kyle Maxwell ("This Ampeg stack sounds awesome.") Bass. Age 15.

Nikkos Savas ("I could do this forever.") Lead guitar. Age 16.

Nikkos shredding on "Tongues."

Nikkos on the opening song--Mean Machine.

Finale: Nikkos and Alan performing a dual guitar lead while Kyle rocks on. Jack (not in the photo) was busy eyeing a young groupie hanging off stage left.

Here are a few more earlier posts on JAXX.

For more photos and information on the band jump over to their Facebook page.

Congrats, guys. Like anything in life, you make your own luck through hard work.

-- Uncle Sugar Pops

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jacket Design: Five Tips for What an Author Can do to Help . . .

I can't recall where I got these from (sorry), but here are a handful of tips authors can do to help sell their book (and by extension and implication, HURT their book sales). It centers around the jacket/cover design. At Savas Beatie, we almost always bring in the author for assistance, comment, opinion, and do our best to make him or her happy with the final product.

However . . .  Do you know what a camel is? It's a quarter horse put together by a committee. We don't want camels here. And with so many people stirring the pot, the actual book jacket may suffer from the compromises of consensus. (It doesn't here, but it does in some houses.) So if you are an author trying to influence the jacket design for your book, here are five tips:

1. Try not to assume that you know what’s best for the book, even if it’s true. Cultivate good relations with everyone at the company and maintain a position of modesty, humility, and cooperation.

2. Don’t bring in your 9-year-old child’s cute little pencil drawing of her horse for the cover, even if the book is about how to ride bareback Western Style. The only exceptions to this rule are genius-level kids with their own TV show.

3. Muster empathy for the sales and publicity people who may seem to be marching to a different drummer but have mutual interests to share. Keep in mind that they have to sell your book, and without their enthusiastic efforts, you’ll be severely handicapped.

4. Remember that in the end, this isn’t a science and we don’t always know what ultimately sells a book. Books with less than fabulous jacket designs have become huge sellers anyway. Take a book I published, The Scarlatti Inheritance, by Robert Ludlum. I thought the cover was boring and that it didn’t say anything about the book itself. Nevertheless the historical thriller was such a hit that the design was used again for subsequent titles.

5. Once the jacket is designed and chosen, put aside any regrets and do everything you can to help sell the book, including your own strenuous on-line web marketing, blogging, twittering, and other brilliant new techniques that emerge in these rapidly changing times.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Borders Said to Be Seeking at Least $50 Million in Additional Financing

More distressing (though not surprising) news  . . .

Borders Group Inc. (BGP), the bankrupt book chain, is seeking at least $50 million in additional financing as sales trail expectations and publishers demand cash in advance, said two people who have seen the chain’s plans to reorganize.

The funds are needed to help Borders emerge from its in- court restructuring, said the people, who declined
to be identified because the process isn’t public. The retailer already has a $505 million debtor-in-possession loan, which offers sufficient capital for the next few months, the people said. The retailer may risk liquidation without further investment, easier terms from vendors or a buyer, they said.

Some publishers are spurning the reorganization the chain proposed to them privately, said a person familiar with the publishers’ strategy. At least one deems the revenue projections unrealistic because Borders no longer has enough stores to generate those sales, said the person, who declined to be identified because Borders’s presentations aren’t public.

Annual sales may drop to $1.5 billion, according to court papers, less than half what the chain generated two years ago. Borders, which is winding down about one-third of its more than 600 stores, has yet to file an outline of its reorganization plan in court.

“As a matter of ongoing company policy, we don’t comment on rumors,” said Mary Davis, a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Borders.

Company’s Origins

The book chain, which once operated more than 1,000 stores, lost business as customers switched to e-readers such as Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)’s Kindle, introduced in 2007. Larger rival Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) invested in its own Nook device to attract customers.

Brothers Tom and Louis Borders founded the company four decades ago, building the chain to almost 20 stores before selling to Kmart Corp. in 1992. Three years later the retailer spun off the business, which had locations under the Borders, Waldenbooks and Planet Music brands.

Jefferies & Co. is a financial adviser to Borders. Josh Passman and Tom Tarrant, spokesman for Jefferies, didn’t return calls for comment.

Borders is seeking to reorganize, raise more capital, or find a buyer for all or parts of the company, according to Bruce Buechler, a lawyer for the unsecured creditors. New York-based Barnes & Noble isn’t viewed as a potential buyer for Borders, according to two people familiar with the process.

The lenders financing the bankruptcy reorganization are led by GE Capital.

This same article link can be found HERE.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ever Wonder Why Borders is Bankrupt?

Another author signing at Borders, another fiasco.

Sarah set up a book signing for Dan VanHaften, co-author of Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason. As I have written elsewhere on this blog (see here for but one example), Borders is rife with problems top to bottom. Here is the author's report of the event (with light editing, and my comments inside brackets):

Today I was at Orland Park (IL) Borders for the book discussion/signing. When I arrived I didn't see any signs, nor initially any books. I spoke with Sandra, the manager. She told me their shipment of Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason books had been delivered by accident to Lowes. They'd been working for a week and hadn't been able to get their hands on this shipment. [Of course, did Borders consider calling the publisher and/or author so we could bring books to the event or send a second shipment? No.] Apparently Lowes sent it back to FedEx. Thus they had only three copies of the book (which I had already signed--they were brought down from the Oakbrook Borders--they were the last three copies Oakbrook had).

I talked with various people in groups of 1 or 2, and sold the three copies. About seven or eight other people talked to me. I described the book and they showed interest. I gave them my business card. They seemed happy to have my card, and hopefully will pursue a purchase over the Internet or from another store. I told them the book was available in various eBook formats. One of them told me he just got an iPad.

It was disappointing there were no signs up and only three books. [We have seen this over and over with Borders, who have routinely greeted our authors with, "Your signing is today?] They did seem to know Orland Park Borders had been publicized on the Friday WGN TV midday news. I'm hopeful some of the discussions with people who did not buy the book at Orland Park will lead to sales. On my way back, I stopped at the Oakbrook Borders. Even though there are now no books there, the two signs are still up. The manager (John Conger) told me that they would be getting more copies of Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason for my April 30th book discussion/signing, and we would have even more space on the display at the front in the store (as shown in the pictures I took) after Caroline Kennedy's April 19th book signing.

Orland Park seems slipshod compared to Oakbrook Borders.

TED: If I ran Borders, I can guarantee you sales would increase and authors and publishers would never encounter this sort of nonsense. Alas, Borders is about to go under and the reason is obvious: the help doesn't know how to help, the management doesn't know how to manage, and the bookstore doesn't know how to sell books. What a great business model.

New investors anyone? Looks to be about as safe as buying US Treasury bonds these days.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kindle or iBook? An Author Discusses . . .

Kindle v. iBook

Co-authoring a book (Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason, with Dan Van Haften: see http://www.thestructureofreason.com/) puts one in a unique position to evaluate Kindle v. iBook.

Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason is $9.99 on Kindle. It is $16.99 as an iBook. That relative price difference seems generally within the range of other similar newly published books.

The price difference is even greater because for $9.99 one can load the Kindle version on three platforms: For instance, a free Kindle reader on a Mac desktop, a free Kindle reader on an iPhone, and a free Kindle reader on an iPad. I don’t own a Kindle machine but one could substitute the Kindle machine for an iPad.

There is no desktop iBook reader. So forget about displaying an iBook on a Macbook or a PC.

iBooks can be used on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and can be synched to all iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches you own. But most people do not need more than one cell phone; and if you have an iPhone you don't need an iPod touch. Nor does one normally need more than one tablet. But, it is useful (for limited purposes) to be able to view a book on a desktop computer. So, in my view, Kindle’s three loads that work on three different kinds of hardware (small cell phone, a book-sized reader, and a full-sized computer) are more valuable than iBooks’ infinite loadability on an infinite number of iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches. You probably have no more than two of those three that you use, and you are restricted to Apple hardware (nice as it is).

But what about features.

Kindle sparkles on Apple hardware. However, as one might expect, there are some little touch, look, and feel aspects to iBooks that make iBooks marginally superior to Kindle. Except for one such feature, most of these pluses, though real, are trivial. But there is one iBook feature that to me is significantly more than trivial. Both iBook and Kindle have a slider on the bottom of the screen to quickly move through a book. But the Kindle slider is kind of like the old UNIX command line game of "Find the Wumpus," being blind in a maze of caves. An iBook shows chapter names as you slide. This is a huge plus.

If Apple wanted to improve that advantage, it would be great if there were a click when the slider reached the first page of any chapter. Usually that is where you want to go when you use the slider. Then, even better, would be a human factor automatically going to that chapter’s first page if one’s finger is lifted within the appropriate fraction of a second (since one is nearly always going to go just past that click).

David Hirsch

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday Jam Session

OK, I lied. This is the last music post (for a while). Then on to e-books and a few other odds and ends.

Uncle Sugar Pops (inside band joke) with Nikkos' full stack of Marshalls. He just got a bottom cabinet, and together it is a wall of sound that blows you away. That's my new Rickenbacker 4003. My 4001 (which I used in Abalone and Disciple in the late 1970s and early 1980s) was stolen some years ago. I know who did it, but I forgive him.

 Enjoyed Sunday dinner with my brother Anthony and his son Nikkos (of JAXX) and then we moved into "the studio" (formerly the dining room--boy my brother has a great and understanding wife) for some real fun. 

Nikkos and I jamming. Nikkos is playing his bright yellow Ibanez, which is a guitar built for shredding (speed). It is lighter than his Les Paul and has a much thinner neck. I think he is looking into new DiMarzio pickups for it. Nikkos--use this guitar for "The Jammies" competition! Thanks for making this old man happy.

Nikkos has a looper (see the pedal board on the floor), which allows you to play and record, and then play back out of your amp while you play something else. So he laid down some jazzy chord progressions, I picked it up, and then he played it back (with a drumming background) and experimented with some great leads. It was challenging because I have very little jazz experience. Even with all the piano I played it was 95% classical. Now I wish I had worked in the jazz arena more deeply.

(Sigh) God I wish I was 20 again. Nikkos has no idea how good his life his right now at 16. I have high hopes for this one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

JAXX at Blacksheep: Back-to-Back Gigs (OT)

Don't Worry! Will be back to publishing matters tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy the fruits of youth . . . (Not sure about yours, but mine passed way too quickly.) Click on photos to enlarge.

Nikkos Savas out on the dance floor rocking out.
I have to say the past Thursday and Friday evenings were a riot. The first time JAXX played two nights in a row, and two big gigs. Made me feel (almost) young again.
Wish I had a better picture of Jack Petterle on his drum kit. Jack was beating up a storm that night, with the green laser lights cutting through the wisps of fog. Looked and sounded awesome!

Alan Petterle with his new black Les Paul. Alan blew something in his Fender amp that night. Hey Bart! (Alan's dad). Time to buy that matching stack of Marshall amps!
I brought my new Rickenbacker 4003 for Kyle to play (at his request). Here is the old guy himself holding it during warm-ups. Kyle was kind enough to ask if I wanted to light it up with them. I declined. No need to make a fool of myself in public when I can do it in private just fine, thank you. Still, that itch is getting worse . . .
Kyle Maxwell jamming on Uncle Ted's Rick on two special songs: Rush's Necromancer, and UFO's Rock Bottom. Gotta love that unique Rick sound.

Good job lads! I am very proud of all your success. Your achievements are the clear result of all the hard work you put into it. Keep it up!

--Uncle Ted

Friday, March 4, 2011

JAXX at the Legendary Rock Club Boardwalk in Orangevale (OT)

JAXX, from their Sacramento Style Magazine article. Left to right: Alan Petterlee, Nikkos Savas, Jack Petterle,
and Kyle Maxwell (who needs a Rickenbacker full time).

My nephew and godson Nikkos Savas plays guitar in JAXX, an amazing group of teenagers (14, 15, and 16) who write their own music and are developing a strong following in the Sacramento area. They played last night at the Boardwalk, and rocked out. A DJ / producer from a major classic rock radio station came to hear them and was blown away.

Here are a few photos from my Blackberry. The quality varies, but they suffice. Jack Petterlee (Alan's 14-year old brother) plays drums. Sorry, Jack, no decent photos of you last night!

Nikkos Savas playing his cutting lead on the original "Waterfall."

Alan Petterle with his new black Les Paul on the opening original "Mean Machine."

They play again tonight in a small rock club up the hill in Cameron Park.
Kyle Maxwell and Nikkos jamming on War Pigs (Black Sabbath).

No more war pigs have the power / Hand of God has struck the hour / Day of judgement, God is calling / On their knees the war pig's crawling . . .
Nikkos finishes. Now it's Alan's turn.

Nikkos soaking in the reaction of the crowd.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Savas Beatie Author Wins Best Book of 2010 Award

The Richard B. Harwell Book Award 2010:

David A. Powell

This prestigious award is given annually by the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta “for the best book on a Civil War subject published in the preceding year.” Consisting of $4,000 and an engraved plaque, the award honors the late Richard B. Harwell, nationally recognized librarian, bibliographer and historian, as well as the first President of the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta. The winning author is invited to appear as a speaker before the CWRTA, usually at the November meeting, during which time the award is presented.

Congratulations David (and to David Friedrichs for his outstanding maps in this title). You deserve the honor bestowed upon you.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

U.S. Book Sales Up in 2010. Sort of.

An interesting article on book sales for December 2010 vs. December 2009, with a brief discussion of e-trends. Worth a look: U.S. Book Sales Up in 2010.

The photo I used (with the  blue sky) demonstrates our positive outlook. Growth through innovation, marketing, and cutting-edge technologies (with the same high quality titles you have come to expect from Savas Beatie) gives us a comfortable feeling of optimism.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Live from Military History Fest, Illinois, February 19, 2011

David Farnsworth of Casemate Publishing, which distributes our titles, shot over this great photo of author Dan van Haffen "hard at work promoting his newly released book" (with co-author David Hirsch) entitled Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason (Savas Beatie, 2010).

Other than what can only be characterized as a gratuitously harsh "hit review" (wonder who arranged that?) in an online Civil War publication, every review has been uniformly positive and excited about what these two authors have accomplished. Some clicks don't like outsiders treading around their manure pile . . .

A few select observations:

" . . . a book for Lincoln enthusiasts." --The Daily Herald

"The Hirsch-Van Haften book is an impressive contribution to Lincoln scholarship. It helps us understand how Lincoln developed and applied his magnificent analytical and persuasive talents in his more famous speeches and writings." -- The Iowa Lawyer, February 2011

"Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason is an excellent addition to any philosophy or historical studies collection -- highly recommended." -- The Midwest Book Review

"All students of Abraham Lincoln and our democracy are indebted to David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften. This is a brilliant study and this book should be added to the library of every serious scholar of American Civil War history."  -- The Lone Star Book Review

"This is a serious and complex book . . . and will appeal to Lincoln scholars and mathematicians, but is an informative read for our Civil War community." -- Suncoast Civil War Roundtable

"No one has examined Euclidian logic alongside Lincoln's rhetorical and written construction as thoroughly as Mssrs. Hirsch and Van Haften, and the results are startling. We continue to shed our shopworn image of Lincoln as a low-gear country lawyer as we learn more about his cases, and now with this study we see a wholly new angle of his brilliance -- which nevertheless must keep us wondering, How did Lincoln do it? Picking apart his Cooper Institute speech for its inner structure, for example, they reveal how deeply Lincoln had imbibed the classical principles of organization, and how it made him the lawyer and politician he was. Hirsch and Van Haften also offer a guidebook not just for attorneys bent on the same self-improvement, but the simple tools for anyone to do as Lincoln did: learn how to learn, and then demonstrate the rightness of your position."

-- James M. Cornelius, Curator, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Friday, February 18, 2011

Borders Bankruptcy Now a Reality

The collapse of the book retail empire Borders, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, is weighing heavily on the minds of many business leaders and observers. Though it came as a surprise to no one following the issue, the company’s stated plan to close 200 stores nationwide over the next few weeks kick-started a discussion of what went wrong and what it means for the publishing industry and business in general.

There has been something systemically wrong with Borders for a long, long time. I am tired of the pundit-experts telling us this company collapsed financially because Borders "was behind the digital book curve." Sure, that was part of the problem. However . . . we routinely experienced fundamental Bookselling 101 issues with this chain that we never experienced with Barnes and Noble. Here are a few examples:

1) Authors showing up for scheduled signings only to be asked by the manager, "Is that tonight?"

2) Authors going into a store to sign copies of their book, a sales clerk discovering several in-store per the computer system, and then waiting an hour as the clerk ran around unable to find them. "They are here somewhere . . ." was the constant refrain. "They are in the system." The books were never found.

3) Authors showing up for a scheduled signing only to discover that Borders had not ordered books for the signing even though they informed our staff they had done so.

4) Authors showing up for a scheduled signing only to discover that Borders ordered books for the event, had not put them out in advance, and then could not find them!

The list is longer, but you get the point. We had 3-4 authors who had these issues over and over and over in stores spread across the country. What are the odds this happened only with these few titles? Now, how many people looking for how many books over how many years have been unable to purchase them because of something rotten inside this chain?

Now, can you guess how this company is doing financially?

Stay tuned for more updates. And no, this is not good news for publishers or book readers.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Borders Won't Make January Payments, Either, And They Aren't Paying Rent

This Goes in the "Oh S**t" Category

(Hat tip Kevin Ahearn)

Borders officially announced Sunday night that it will not be sending vendors payments due at the end of January either. And they indicate that publishers are not the only ones being stiffed, saying they are also "delaying additional payments to landlords and other parties." Not paying rent is more drastic than holding off vendors, and indicates the company's liquidity crisis continues to worsen.

They say the non-payment (which they call a "delay" in the press release, but that's what you call it when you intend to pay someone in full a little while later, which is not what is proposed) "is intended to help the company maintain liquidity while it seeks to complete a refinancing or restructuring of its existing credit facilities and other obligations." The statement also adds, "Borders emphasized that it understands the impact of its decision on the affected parties, but that the company is committed to working with its vendors and other business partners to achieve an outcome that is in the best interest of Borders and these parties for the long-term."

From a practical perspective, anyone who was continuing to ship goods to Borders has likely learned their lesson, and it increases the likelihood of a bankruptcy filing--whether forced or voluntary--if the bookseller does not meet the many conditions of its new financing arrangement shortly.

The impact of not paying rent in particular may impose a timetable on how much longer Borders has to plead for concessions before seeking court protection. While we have no direct knowledge of their lease conditions and potential grace periods for payment of rent, and laws do vary from state to state, commercial landlords are generally able to petition for eviction within about two weeks after provided for non-payment deadlines.

According to a memo on an employee web site, Borders workers were told by management to expect inquiries from unpaid landlords and vendors as well as media and customers and asked to "politely but firmly state that all questions are being handled by the corporate office and refuse to offer any other comments." They were instructed to keep the media from photographing or interviewing within company stores, but the company also noted: "Do not suggest this, but it is acceptable for media to photograph/film the exterior of the store if they do so on public property, such as your parking lot."

Day traders are finally getting the message, too. This morning's share price plunge has taken the stock below 75 cents a share, its lowest point since early 2009.