Seattle Mystery Bookshop will be out of business in a year, maybe two

Sorry to say that we cannot offer you a signing. We cannot do anything to support, help or benefit Amazon. Theyre the enemy of independent bookshops and aiding them in any way – mainly ordering their books and selling them and promoting them – would be suicide. Things are tough enough without cutting our own throats. – JB Dickey, owner

via Seattle Mystery Bookshop: Cant Shake the Devils Hand and Say Youre Only Kidding.

Amazon is setting themselves up to be the world’s biggest publisher. They’re starting imprints for every genre. They’re signing big name talent like Barry Eisler and Ed McBain (well, the latter’s estate, anyway). Between their imprints and the indie author/publishers they distribute (myself included), they’ll account for a huge chunk of the “books in print”, perhaps a majority.

And this guy refuses to work with them.

He’s a sole proprietor, so at least he’ll only take himself and any employees dumb enough to stick around with him when he falls. But he’s refusing to carry the biggest publisher of the 20-teens, because they’re “the enemy.”

Hopefully, most independent bookstores will not follow his lead, and instead position themselves as community-oriented service businesses, focusing on discovery and recommendation. Just moving paper isn’t enough anymore.

Hug your helpdesk

Take a moment today and thank your IT people, because it’s a thankless job. The ideal of an IT Support person is to be invisible. If you never notice them because nothing ever goes wrong with the computers at your office, they are doing their jobs perfectly.

But, of course, that rarely happens.

Disclosure: I work in IT, and have, off and on, for two decades. We don’t get accolades. Even at our best, we’re a cost center, not a profit center. We bring no new money into the company. Our job is to make sure you don’t have to spend any more than you have to in order to remain competitive. It’s a game of attrition.

And when things do go bad, no one cheers us on for the work we’re doing. If a problem drags out over hours, even days, the users typically don’t think, “wow, that must be a tough problem, or they’d have it fixed by now.” Instead, they’re more likely to think, “those stupid geeks can’t do anything right!”

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t like having the CFO breathing down my neck, fretting over the money we’re losing while some crucial system is down. If I could get it fixed any faster, I would. We’re doing the best we can, and we know you can’t do your job until we finish ours. Reminding us of that every five minutes only slows us down further.

But here’s the catch of working IT Support. Even if you’re amazing at your job and you do keep the trains running on time, it’s not enough. Then they wonder why they’re paying you so much, when they never see you do anything. Couldn’t they just replace you with someone off the street for half as much?

So keep in mind that your IT Support folks work their asses off every day just to remain invisible. Thank them for their efforts and tell them how much you appreciate it. Trust me, they never hear it.

I’ve got a Droid on my back

My friend James Kendrick recent wrote about the Android Fiddling Ratio, the ratio of the time spent configuring/tinkering with an Android device versus the time spent using it. This has been a problem for me dating back to my Palm days (remember HackMaster?). Android and Windows Mobile are the worst for fiddling, but Palm OS and iOS certainly weren’t exempt (especially after jailbrraking the latter).

Last week I decided to try a different tack. A new leak of Gingerbread (Android 2.3) specifically for my Samsung Captivate landed on XDA-devs. I figured this was my best chance to return to running a “stock” ROM without all the fiddly bits without giving up the performance and data tethering I’d grown used to with Gingerbread.

That lasted a weekend, and only that long because I was still setting up my new apartment. I installed the beta of Cognition 5 by DesignGears this morning, which is based on the leaked stock Gingerbread I was running, but tweaked to avoid certain annoyances. A second beta is due out soon (edit: it’s out, and requires me to wipe and reinstall all my apps), which should support ClockworkMod Recovery, allowing me to flash further updates over the air rather than through my PC.

I need to break this habit. I have a LOT of fiction to write, and tinkering with technology is taking up time I really don’t have. How do you stay focused and control your technology, rather than the other way around?

Dancing with them that brung ya

Kristen Lamb is killing it recently on her blog. Great writing advice. Here’s one that I could have used years ago, and might boot me into posting here more regularly.

Fiction authors are not blogging to become experts. You are blogging to connect with as many people as humanly possible and recruit them to your team. Period. That simple.

I blog about writing and social media, but my blog is being used to establish me as an expert in my field. I write books for writers.

Do you write books for writers? No? Then you don’t have to establish expertise. Have fun. Connect with people via your shared passions. Isn’t that how friends have always been made?

via Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad « Kristen Lamb’s Blog.

I’ve enjoyed some of the writing articles I’ve posted here, and I’m glad they’ve helped some people. But really, most of the connections I’ve made online over the years have been tech related. And I’m still as active and opinionated regarding technology as ever. Yet I haven’t said a word here about stuff unveiled at Google I/O and WWDC this year.

I think the other big roadblock for me in tech blogging is I keep trying to write articles, not posts. Posts are smaller, centered around a single idea. I’m still writing long-form journalism, and it takes too long to write.

So, I’m going to try to write shorter, more frequent tech posts. If you like them, please link to them on Twitter or Facebook and help me reach more readers. Thanks!

Depression: a life without mana

For those of you who play World of Warcraft (and now that it’s free to play, why wouldn’t you), let me give you an idea of what a chronically depressed person like me lives with.

Let’s say someone hits you with a debuff that drops your mana (energy, focus, rage, whatever) regeneration down to maybe 10% of what it should be. How much fun would the game be? Everything you try to do is frustrated because you just don’t have the fuel to pull it off. Can’t cast a spell, can’t attack, can’t do much of anything. You want to, but there’s just nothing in the tank.

This is depression.

I want to be writing more, doing more out in the world with the three dimensional people. I took the train/bus to and from work yesterday, and despite the fact that the total amount of walking to and from stops was well under a mile, it still exhausted me. I’ve thought about blogging my thoughts about Google+ and some of the stuff going on right now in publishing, but I usually give up before I even open my WordPress app. Even the relatively passive act of reading has pushed my resources to the limit.

How do I get out of this? It’s a long, slow climb, like struggling up out of a gravity well. I drove today to give the blisters on my feet time to heal, but I’m buying a monthly pass and trying again next week. I’m writing this blog post, mostly just to prove I can post something. As I walk more and eat better (I bought groceries for the first time in years a few days ago), I should drop some weight, and gain more physical energy. As I keep writing, I’ll develop those “muscles” again and be able to write more.

And if I keep dragging myself back into the light, my neurochemistry should stabilize, and the depression will slowly lose its ability to siphon away my energy.