Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blackpool's Comedy Carpet

Created by artist Godron Young, Blackpool's Comedy Carpet is the town's latest public art project aimed at improving the promenade and changing people's perception of the town.
It features jokes, catchphrases and one-liners from over 1,000 comedy legends, from W.C Fields to Vic Reeves, and including Peter Cook, Dame Edna and any comedian you ever forgot.
Young was helped by Blackpool's comedy expert Barry Band, historian and writer Graham McCann, and on the typography and layout by graphic designer Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates. It was installed by Andrew Sawyer and Russ Coleman.
The carpet is a great effort from Blackpool Council (ReBlackpool), easily the best thing they've done since the giant mirrorball which was unveiled in 2002.
And finally for you technical lovers, hard facts about the carpet: Five years in the making. Each of the 160,000+ letters has been individually cut from 30mm solid granite or cobalt blue concrete. They've been arranged into over 300 slabs and then cast into white concrete panels.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The complicated world of self-publishing an ephotobook

Self-publishing took a turn for the better almost a decade ago.
Digital printing presses enabled shorter than short print runs – you could now print and order a single copy of your own book for little more than the price of a paperback in Waterstones.*
The first of these new innovators were Lulu, which came to life in 2004. Two years later Blurb emerged. In my experience these two have been by far the cheapest self-publishers, Lulu giving greater versatility, Blurb slightly better quality (certainly in these early days).
I first used the services of both in 2007. From experience I can tell you that converting files to pdfs for printing was not an easy process. In some ways it still is not but the process has improved.
My first and soon to be re-published book, Flashes to Ashes, was designed on Microsoft Publisher (a program never used again) and led to many hours of headaches before I finally cracked the pdf-making process. This included a couple of frantic nights were the converted pdf size was out-putting at 150gb when 150gb hard-drives were like gold dust.
I have to say the quality of printing and cut for full-bleed Lulu books was hugely variable in those days. I was not impressed on numerous occasions and had to have orders reprinted on several occassions.
But soon the printed self-published photo book will be superceded  by the digital ephotobook – once the ability to produce digital editions is cracked.
And here we come to the big problem: photo books do not convert digitally anywhere near as easily as novels. The iPad, iPhone, Kindle and eReaders are crying out for photo books.
It was at the beginning of 2010 that Amazon’s digital book sales outstripped its paper versions for the first time. But photo books are conspicuous by their absence in the digital world.
Getting a photo book out there as a digital ephoto book for iPad’s iBook, Kindle (which has a colour Kindle Fire on its way) and Barnes & Noble’s absurdly-named NOOK is, to use my best English accent, a bloody nightmare darling.
So here is my what you can and can’t do digitally with photo books now (November 2011)
Blurb (since October 2011) allow you to produce epub photo books for the iPad and iPhone. This can be done ONLY through their Bookify or BookSmart software
As yet, Blurb can’t convert a pdf into an epub book.
And Blurb do NOT have the facility to sell the book for you on iTunes (although there are plans for this).
When they sort out these two issues, they will be THE place to convert photobooks.
Lulu are one of several official aggregators for iTunes, meaning you can convert an epub book with them and sell it on iTunes – but this service is not designed for photobooks. Books must be converted from Microsoft Word. Pdfs do not convert.
Other iTunes aggregators are: Ingraminscribe DigitalLibreDigital and SmashwordsBookwire is the only Europe-based official aggregator but those of us based in Europe do not have to use them. Which is a good job as their website is written in German.
Lulu supply an ISBN number 
You can create your own iPad book but it’s very complicated. And if you don’t have a MAC you can’t create the epub file or (if you don’t have an iPad) test it properly.
There is a great guide here from Blurb.
You must buy and supply your own ISBN number.
Amazon’s own self-publishing house allows you to sell directly to their website (the world’s greatest book seller) and around the world through it’s Expanded Distribution Channel.
Their book sizes are really designed for novels only. This means no real choice of paper and they don’t have many book sizes to chose from. If you opt for one of non-industry standard sizes, these books can’t be sold around the world in their Expanded Distribution Channel.
And as an aside, the profit margins for hard copy books sold through their EDC is poor.
CreateSpace supply an ISBN number. 
Perhaps the most non-user friendly application process which involves printing out several pdfs signing them and posting them to the office closest to you (yes, there is one in the UK). Yes, sending applications in the post does still happen. On the plus side, you do get friendly emails sent by real people.
You must buy and supply your own ISBN number.
You can submit your own books to iTunes Connect BUT you must pass a stupendous application process.
Just for starters you must have an American IRS tax number. iTunes support and advice in how to do this is appalling.
If you are not resident in the US this means sending a form (I think it’s a W-7 but their website and iTunes own advice is contradictory in places) by post. This process takes two months and includes getting copies of your ID (i.e. passport) signed by US notified officials. You may have to visit your local US Embassy to do this.
You cannot email the IRS or your US Embassy.
Once you’ve got your IRS number you submit to iTunes Connect. Success is at their discretion and also can only be done on an AppleMac running OS X 10.5.8 or later. I have to admit I find this stipulation very wrong and feel Apple should be forced to drop it by the Monopolies Commission, Competition Commission or any such similarly silly-named organisations in the free world.
You must buy and supply your own ISBN number.
*Waterstones is book shop a bit like the Barnes and Noble book store.
NOTE: You can buy my digital book, 6x9, for iPad from Blurb here: http://bit.ly/6x9iPad
It is available in hard copy format from both Blurb and CreateSpace – or from Amazon in the US

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Oi ya b*st*rds you've stolen my pug picture

[gallery]At the time of writing, this photo has had 992 comments on Facebook, 1,730 likes and been shared 210 times. It’s on the Facebook page of the ASPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The ASPCA did not seek or gain permission to use the image.
Using TinEye, the reverse image search engine, I found four other websites have published the image. There are probably more out there.
For any creative, copyright is crucial. It protects their work and helps ensure they earn money from it. If a photographer (whatever their level of ability or professionalism) lets any organisation use any image for free they are an idiot photographer.
They are allowing flattery – or vanity – to cloud their judgement and they devalue the commodity of the photograph for the entire industry. If anyone would like a more in-depth discussion on this then please get in touch.
That’s not to say I am draconian about my images. I have, on occasion, allowed free use of my images for what I deem worthy causes. Indeed I have allowed this image to be used by a dog blog website in Ottawa, Canada.
What I have never done is allowed commercial businesses or similar organisations to use my images for free and, believe me, I’ve had many requests.
I allowed the dog blog to use it because they asked nicely. And the important thing is that they do ask. Nicely.
The ASPCA, along with 5minute5.com, untoldenterainment.com, yazarkafe.hurriyet.com (don’t ask) and electricgrandmother.com never asked for permission to use the image. If they found it on google, they may have had difficulty discovering the author as the embedded IPTC information has been stripped out.
But that is no excuse for a failure to reply to emails when contacted about the use of unauthorised images. I emailed all four websites, asking them to contact me about publishing this image without permission. Only 5minute5.com replied, offering an apologetic email and the offer to remove the image or credit it.
I’m particularly annoyed that the ASPCA, a reputable organisation, has not replied to my email. Too busy searching for other images to steal?
I have reported them to Facebook and have yet to see the outcome of that. Don't fail me Facebook.
I took this photo several years ago at my parent’s house in Newcastle. The pug is called Arthur. The french fries are called chips.