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April 17, 2010

Dear Apple iBooks Store:
Posted by Patrick at 09:07 PM * 76 comments

If you are selling e-book editions of public-domain classics like Great Expectations or Wuthering Heights—which to say, asking people to pay $5.99 or $7.99 for digital texts they can get on Project Gutenberg for free*—you are presumably hoping people will conclude that the editions you offer for sale feature a level of accuracy, editorial quality, and attention to detail that is superior to that found in texts keyboarded by random free-culture volunteers.

If this is indeed your value proposition, it really doesn’t help when your pitch is directly underneath a banner ad hawking The Sun Also Rises by “Ernest Hemmingway.”

In the words of the old sports-announcer line that’s become a favorite quote at Making Light: You hate to see that kind of thing at this level of play.**

* Indeed, even in EPUB-formatted editions readable by Apple’s rather nice “iBooks” app, alongside the other digital books you may have bought from Apple’s iBooks store.

** Yes, dear readers, I’m enjoying my new iPad; yes, I’m glad Apple is in the e-book business; yes, Apple has a bunch of policies and practices with which I don’t agree. If you absolutely can’t bear to not re-enact arguments over Apple And All Its Pomps that have been taking place online since there was a place called “online,” then by all means, re-enact away. There’s just one condition: you must do it in formal verse.

Comments on Dear Apple iBooks Store::
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 09:40 PM:

I think it's up there with grocery stores selling 'Worchestershire sauce'.

#2 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 10:10 PM:

I look forward to putting iBooks on my iPhone. I don't expect to pony up for an iPad in the near or medium future. (I'd rather have a pony, but that's a different discussion --)

#3 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 10:17 PM:

. . . then by all means, re-enact away. There’s just one condition: you must do it in formal verse.

You realize that's almost challenge enough to make me want to find fault with my current computing model.

#4 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 10:35 PM:

Which ebook edition of Great Expectations are you talking about? There appear to be over a dozen of them.

#5 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 11:04 PM:

Apple And All Its Pomps? Like psychopomps? Is the iPad going to lead me out of the underworld, like a shiny rectangular glowing Orpheus?

...I guess that's why it doesn't have a back-facing camera.

(Mine is on order.)

#6 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 11:18 PM:

I tried the iPad but alas,
I am in the wrong character class
With a DEX of 13
I could work with that screen.
I rolled lower, so gave it a pass.

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 11:32 PM:

Coming soon, Jane Austin's Enema...

#8 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 12:10 AM:

Well into my second bomber of St. Bernardus Abt 12 so I shan't confess how long it actually took me to see the problem, but I will admit that I love my iPad. I've read more SF/F this month than I have year to date.

#9 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 12:15 AM:

The golden halo of Steve the Saint
Makes the iPad the only toy worth your time
And developers take it with righteous complaint

An increasingly ironic iron-fisted taint
To those of us who won't give Gates a dime
Dims the golden halo of Steve the Saint

He wagers we'll put up with any restraint
For a shot at the app that's a hit pastime
And developers take it with righteous complaint

By developers' lights, the logic is faint
But a Flash in the pan can never outshine
The golden halo of Steve the Saint

The most Apple-happy pundit cannot paint
This as treating developers any better than slime
And we bend and take it with righteous complaint

The alternatives bog down in Steve's churned ruts
As we all drool at the sound of his chime
And the golden halo of Steve the Putz
And developers take it right in the nuts.

#10 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 12:59 AM:

A Brief Discourse on Steve Jobs, His Absolute Gall, His Abuse of Copyright, His Arbitrary Restriction of Competition and Innovation, and the Resultant Cognitive Dissonance and Absurd Apologies From the Sleeping Fourth Estate.

(Anne Limerycke)

There once was a company called Apple,
Whose competitive stance was quite crapple,
With utter caprice,
The public they'd fleece,
To the press they'd just say rapple-dapple.

#11 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:18 AM:

There once was an app from Nantucket...

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:22 AM:

Does the iPad have a nice bookworthy PDF viewer so you can take advantage of the Gutenberg files?

#13 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:30 AM:

It's reported that the Apple bookstore already incorporates the Project Gutenberg catalog for free. Hopefully, it contains no books by Ernest Hemmingway.

#14 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:33 AM:

The well-known Dutch author. With three n's and a silent q. Have you tried Smith's?

#15 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:57 AM:

Duh, missed Patrick's footnote. Oh, well.

#16 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 02:00 AM:

There are several ways to save and view PDFs on the thing. (Air Sharing is the one I use.)

#17 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 02:40 AM:

"You see, you don't get, the iPad's not free."
But, said the people, what's freedom to me?
Freedom to struggle with things that ship broken?
Made by nerds who think hard decisions verboten?

(Just make it an option! In fact make it two.
Setup takes an hour, but that time's not spent by you.)

"You see, you don't get, the iPad lacks features."
Yes, said the people, and say it more, preacher.
Bullet-point checklists are great for geek fights
But what counts in the end is if devices work right.

(A million hot features that are buried in dross
Is fewer than twenty shined to a bright gloss.)

"You see, you don't get, the iPad's a toy."
Cool! said the people. Were you ever a boy?
I don't think it misses the mark by too wide
To say this device is a Hitchhiker's Guide.

(Douglas Adams is not here to confirm or deny
But would you take the word of his friend Stephen Fry?)

"You see, you don't get, the iPad can't create."
Oh, said the people, that'd be a terrible fate.
But I'm playing with Brushes. Or my iPad's a flute.
Or I can write a novel in Pages - mayhap score some loot!

(It's true that the iPad won't run GCC.
But most folks aren't C coders, he said pointedly.)

"You see, you don't get, the iPad's not cheap."
And, said the people, you sow what you reap.
I could live on ramen and two-dollar wine
But quality product is worth money and time.

(A netbook's less dear, but a Moleskine's more neat
If all that matters is the end of the receipt.)

"You see, you don't get, their App Store censors."
Wait, said the people, the web is full of dissenters.
Because I'm looking at 4chan and it's loading just fine
Are you sure that censorship's not just in your mind?

(I wish I had words that rhymed besides "atari"
for the couplet about how there's always Safari.)

"You see, you don't get," repeated over and over
Won't convince the masses to turn a new clover
If you wish to burn down Steve's apple-tree wood
Then offer up products attractive, useful and good.

#18 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 04:13 AM:

I was under the impression that Apple had already put the entire Gutenberg catalog (or that portion which has been converted to ePub) on their iBook store for free...Like so.

I know you can get them through Stanza on the iPhone. Complete with nifty covers and stuff.

#19 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 05:00 AM:

I've got nothing to say about iPads, or Apple more generally. But thanks to Patrick's link, I now know what a ghazal is. (Its been something I've wondered about since encountering the word in a Sherlock Holmes story). Thanks Patrick! (PS - what a great verse form!)

#20 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 07:46 AM:

praisegod barebones #19: I didn't even know what a pantoum was, but having read about them, I promptly found that Earl Cooley recently provided an example.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 08:23 AM:

You want formal verse, Patrick?

There was a product called the Woz machine
I hear that people liked it, so that's nice,
but I'm not sure about this new device
emerging from a corp that's large and mean.
What is it good for, this too-pretty screen?
Why should we punters pony up their price?
Their deadline turns out not to be precise,
and profit margins seem just so obscene.
There is a deeper purpose, I am sure
behind the hype, behind each great alliance.
Not just to make the shareholders rich,
nor even keep the dratted OS pure
(although they might blind lesser folk with science),
but to make each of us Steve Jobs's bitch.

#22 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 09:17 AM:

I won't buy an Apple I-Pad.
The reason: their service is bad.

The I-Pod I had it died quick.
Less than a month did the trick.

With the "geniuses*" I had no appointment.
They said, "You're a fly in our ointment!"

So I made a date,
But was two minutes late.

They said, "No, no you must go!"
I said, "I drove 20 miles each way to get here, you cretins, and this is my second trip just to replace this stupid two-hundred-dollar I-Pod that committed suicide at only three weeks of life-OH!"

They said, "We don't make that model any more.
You must have gotten it at the Amazon store."

Because of my crime,
They refused to return my dime.

But they had no choice,
I have a loud, raucous voice**.

*Boy, do they use the term "genius" loosely.

**They gave me a much, much better I-Pod just to shut me up.

***In case TNH doesn't recognize this genre of poetry, it could be loosely associated with doggerel.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 09:49 AM:

Why does the art for "Lord of the Flies" show Mothra? (Which reminds me of a discussion I had last year with scientist Ian Tregillis about the health hazzards of the dust that Mothra shakes off her wings every time she takes off.)

#24 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 10:26 AM:

Serge @#23: maybe Mothra is what happens when you expose a dead guy in a parachute to radiation.

#25 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 10:38 AM:

What's vexing to me is that so far I can't persuade my reader that the book I bought isn't called "The Canterburry Tales." Along with Mr. Shaxpur and a couple of others, these are books I opted to pay for rather than format such a volume of material myself. Since then, I've gotten better at doing it on my own, and I'll eventually get all the Shaks plays converted from the original spelling files I find via U of VA.

#26 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 10:59 AM:

David Harmon

I knew what a pantoum was - I just didn't know that that's what it was called...I quite fancy trying my hand at a ghazal, though, since it's a form local to where I live.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 11:11 AM:

Mary Dell @ 24... That doesn't turn him into a zombie instead?

Coming soon on the Skiffy Channel, "Operation DropDead", in which la Résistance fights off dead Nazi paratroopers...

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 11:18 AM:

On formal verse, I find this site an excellent guide:

#29 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 11:20 AM:

That Apple Steve! That Apple Steve!
I do not like that Apple Steve!
He's sneaky like you won't believe
With dirty tricks up in his sleeve!

He's arrogant, and sharp and mean
And pulls tricks like you've never seen.
I will not buy his Mac machine.
"But would you like an iPad screen?"

No! I don't want an iPad screen!
Its cunning tricks aren't worth a bean.
Admittedly, its looks are clean,
But it's too limited, I ween.

"Would you use it on your lap?
Won't you try this killer app?
Here's one that shows you on a map,
And turns the lights off when you clap"

No, Apple Steve! Just shut your yap.
I have a laptop for my lap.
I do not care about your map,
And apps you clap are mostly crap.

"Would you use one at the beach?
Would you use one that does speech?"
I would not use one at the beach.
I would not use one that does speech.

"Would you, could you, in a car?
Via wi-fi in a bar?"
I would not, could not, in a car.
I'd not use wi-fi in a bar.

"What if you were on a plane,
Or speeding, reading, on the train?"
I'd just get nauseous on a plane,
And on a train, text strains my brain.

I wouldn't use it in a bar,
Or at the beach, or in a car.
I wouldn't want it doing speech.
Just leave me be. Don't overreach!

"You say that we must disagree.
No common ground for you and me.
Perhaps I should just let you be.
But... what if I gave you one FREE?"

Oh, very well, I'll try it, Steve.
The price is right, I do believe.
We'll see what things it can achieve.
And if it's boring, will you leave?


O-MG, I was so naive!
It's fun like I could not believe.
I'm happier than Christmas Eve.
Why, this is super, Apple Steve!

I'd use this puppy in my car!
I'd wi-fi Twitter in a bar!
I'd watch old movies on a plane
And update Facebook on the train!

I'd take it with me to the beach
And eyes closed, read e-mail with speech.
I'd let it sit upon my lap
And brag about its killer app.

Its value I need not rehash.
(Especially for zero cash!)
This gizmo has become my pash.
Thanks, Apple Steve! Now... where's the Flash?

#30 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 12:04 PM:

The Gadgets

Longing for new gadgets haunts my poor heart
And many new trinkets try out for that part.
Through the years I've expanded my merry band
with devices that gladden my heart and my hand
Among those whose efficiency I've often enjoyed:

A Mac Laptop
PC Desktop
And Droid

Years ago I courted WACOM but alas, I could not
make my eyes leave my hands and my hands capture thought
The tablet responded to my touch both heavy and light
But keeping eyes on the monitor was ever a fight
and so I returned to note paper, no art tech employed

on Mac Laptop
PC Desktop
my DS
or Droid.

I longed for a Netbook to fit in my purse
A place to store writing, prose and blank verse
To chat with my friends while away on a train
To watch netflix when picnics are cancelled by rain
But the price of connectivity left me annoyed

Stick with Mac Laptop
PC Desktop
And Droid

I thought a Nook would make travel less of a pain
'til I realized: most often I'm flying by plane
At low altitude electronics they won't overlook
So I always brought with me an old paper book
During take-off an e-book could not be employed

Like my Mac Laptop
PC Desktop
And Droid

Ipad offers not multitasking, so no browsing with AIM
No pressure sensitivity to copy WACOM's old game
No physical keyboard makes typing a chore
It loses features of the others, while it claims to do more
So that last spot stays empty, but surrounding that void:

A Mac Laptop
PC Desktop
And Droid.

#31 ::: Fuzzy ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 12:51 PM:

I've been overdosing on "Tim and Eric's Awesome Show Great Job" lately and am reminded of their Celebrity Zillions sketch, with its "Billy Crystals, Whoopsie Goldberg, Tom Cruizes..." Perhaps Apple has simply decided that it's easier to create their own versions of books than to pay all those pesky royalties for the real thing. Next we'll see great deals on books by Stephen Kinge, Isaac Asomov, J.L. Rowling, etc.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:07 PM:

Serge @27

I think Charlie Stross got there ahead of you.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 01:20 PM:

Dave Bell @ 32... Why am I not surprised? I was also thinking of Mike Mignola's BPRD miniseries "1946". Not only did it feature vampires and gorilla-cyborgs, but there was a Nazi-scientist-head-in-a-jar that went around on spider legs.

#34 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 03:13 PM:

A teacher friend of mine gave me a hardbound copy of Pride & Prejudice that was meant to be a teacher's guide. It had several homophonic errors, especially the it's/its swap and there/their. I wrote a horrendous review on Amazon, being very clear that the editing of a classic was at fault, not the text.

If they can't get an English classic typeset correctly, how do they expect anyone to learn correct usage?

#35 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 03:35 PM:

Malus Aforethought.

Today we have naming of Apps. Yesterday
We had daily cleaning with microfiber cloths
Next year we may have multitasking, but today
Today, we have naming of Apps. Cameras capture
cherry blossom in our neighbourhood parks.
And today we have naming of Apps.

This is the CNN viewer. And this
is the iBook, whose use you will see
When you are reading your Hobbit. And Hemmingway.
Which in our case we have not got. In the writers'
workrooms the keyboards clatter.
Which in your case you have not got.

This is the tiny text, which can be scrolled
with an easy flick of the thumb, and if I do not let my
finger brush over a link. You will can do it quite easy
if you have very small fingers. The laptop users
Google and Twitter, not needing to care
if they have very small fingers.

And this you can see is the Store. The purpose of this
is to close the breach, as you see. Our apps go
rapidly backwards and forward. We call this
vetting by Steve. And rapidly backwards and forward
free software spills over the Web
Without any vetting by Steve.

They call it vetting by Steve; it is perfectly easy
if you have very small fingers: and the Store and the EULAs
and the keyboards and the Flash and the Java
Which in our case we have not got; and the Apple stock
rising in all the exchanges, and the code going backwards and forwards
For today we have naming of apps.

#36 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 03:40 PM:

(footnote: since I haven't actually tried an iPad I have to slander the user experience of the iPod instead)

#37 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 03:41 PM:

Thomas @35
I show my approval by barking like a seal. Good job!

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 04:13 PM:

Thomas #35: I'm certain Henry Reed would approve.

#39 ::: mike ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 04:20 PM:

You should complain to the publisher who put that book on there, not Apple.

#40 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 04:23 PM:

Additional adoration, with cigarette lighters upheld alight, for Thomas's #35.

#41 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 04:40 PM:

forgive me my love
for Apples so delicious
this is just to say

#42 ::: Jodane ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 05:18 PM:

you are presumably hoping people will conclude that the editions you offer for sale feature a level of accuracy, editorial quality, and attention to detail that is superior to that found in texts keyboarded by random free-culture volunteers.

Maybe, but what I think they're actually hoping is that people are just uninformed enough to not know that projects like Gutenberg exist.

(I once took a class on 18th century lit just over a year ago and didn't pay a cent for textbooks because I knew they were all on Gutenberg, but when I shared that with the class, no one had ever heard of it. I was kind of baffled, not gonna lie. It's not like this was some podunk school.)

#43 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 05:39 PM:

Okay, I wasn't going to join the debate, but with that gauntlet dropped I must now produce verse:

Why I Am Waiting for the Notion Ink Adam or Something Of That Sort

Convenient, hip, and bright of screen -
Flashy, sleek and runs real clean -
There's no doubt Apple's raised the mean.

Content, you say? Oh, sure, it's there.
Approved on high; no way to share.
Free speech is '00s and so square.

Users pay buckets, so shouldn't we
get to peruse what we want to see?
If I can't hack this, it's not to be.

Apple kinda makes me blue.
They have great tech, but it's still true:
In Soviet Russia, computer owns you.

#44 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 06:16 PM:

Did you know, Patrick, that your admonition would act as a lightning rod for verse? Was it all clever reverse psychology to draw forth an outpouring of poetry?

(and applause all around for the poets!)

#45 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 06:30 PM:

This "slap some cover art on a minimally-proofread OCR of a classic, charge $5" is sadly endemic to all the major eBook distributors at this time, AFAIK -- both Amazon and B&N have the same problem. I do expect better of Apple, and I'm disappointed to see that they don't live up to that expectation. (My understanding is that it's actually the publishers sending bad files to the distributors combined with the complicated web of legal rights surrounding ebooks that tie the distributor's and possibly the publisher's hands in terms of fixing typos. Also no one's yet set up a system to propagate bug reports back to the publisher. But if anyone can get their suppliers to line up and step in time, it should be Apple.)

The iPad looks shiny, albeit really annoyingly closed by my standards, but I don't have a compelling use-case for it now, so I can afford to do as I did with smartphones and wait a year for someone to clone it, probably in Android, with 90% of the features and twice as many bugs, but 75% less "app store minions are stupidly censorious". It's not a tradeoff I'm entirely happy about, but it's one I'm willing to live with.

#46 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 06:47 PM:

The app of my enemy has been rejected
And I am pleased.
Its remains are strewn like a failed startup's
When cash runs out.
What avail him now his tweets and blogposts,
The praise expended on his immersive design,
His web 3.0 style?
Knocked into the middle of last week
His brainchild now consorts with the malware,
The dregs fit but for jailbroken bricks,
The orphans of duplicate functionality,
That no reality distortion field supports,
The objectionable content.

#47 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 06:52 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @46, glorious!

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 08:00 PM:

Every time one of these discussions starts, it reminds me again of why I prefer to be a late adopter. This is not intended as criticism of anyone -- different people have different priorities, and I learn a great deal by listening to the byplay. But I probably won't even think about getting any kind of electronic reader for several more years; running well behind the curve has significant advantages for me.

#49 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 08:56 PM:

heresiarch: I personally doubt there was anything reverse about it!

#50 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 09:09 PM:

I have long been a fan of Apple.
From the era of Woz to the return of Jobs
There has always been one in my home.
Once, I learned to code from books
And dreamed of writing my own apps.
I never knew just what would lie in store.

Software used to be sold in a store.
A physical store, possibly displaying an Apple
Carried a few shelves of discs of apps.
One such store provided me with jobs.
I made money that could keep me buying books
That fill the shelves of this, my very home.

Fill the shelves and more, in just this home.
I must be more careful in the store
Not to buy so very many books.
Yet on my belt, a small device from Apple
Which I carry while working at my jobs
Can itself run a hundred thousand apps.

And so I own a plenitude of apps.
Only 16 fit on my phone’s screen “home”
Not all the ones that are praised by Jobs.
There are so many of them in his store.
For all but free ones, profits go to Apple
And to developers, filling their account books.

What numbers rise in some of those fat books.
Once again I dream of my own apps
That ride upon the devices from Apple.
Profits that could pay me for my home.
But reaching for such lucre in the store
Is only at the mercy of Steve Jobs.

Approvals, they must come from Mr. Jobs.
He can quickly close the selling books
And remove my projects from his very store.
There are, it seems, so many vanished apps
That I can no longer take to home
They’re lost, in the bitter grasp of Apple.

The store under the leadership of Jobs
Brings Apple to the land of selling books.
Will they, like apps, come home?

#51 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:12 AM:

During my regular Sunday pm chat, I mentioned my iPad poem to a friend of mine. He even illustrated it.

#52 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:26 AM:

The Apple iPad is a fearsome thing.
It cannot but be beauteous in my sight,
Though it's a piece of pointless techno-bling.

Sweet are the blandishments of marketing
That I cannot withstand, try as I might:
The Apple iPad is a fearsome thing.

So many Apple fans its praises sing,
"See? You can read the screen in broad daylight!"
Though it's a piece of pointless techno-bling.

Mere usefulness from it I cannot wring.
Why pay for this? Real books are quite all right.
The Apple iPad is a fearsome thing.

I feel my eyes upon its sleek lines cling,
An electronic fetishist's delight,
Though it's a piece of pointless techno-bling

At last my wallet feels the fatal sting.
I'll dine off Ramen noodles this fortnight.
The Apple iPad is a fearsome thing
Though it's a piece of pointless techno-bling.

(I de-lurked to post that? I must be daft.)

#53 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:34 AM:

One my "It's the future!" things: occasionally I look at a body of text, and think about how far back in time you'd have to go before its meaning would be largely opaque to an intelligent layperson, or even to an expert in the field. Looking at #46, it's about 10 years: a reader from early-to-mid 2000 would have gotten that it's a pastiche of Clive James, and maybe the word "malware", but very little else.

#54 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 03:20 AM:

This is just to say

I have recalled
the apps
that were in
the app store

and which
you were probably
for purchase

Forgive me
iPad customers
so sweet
and so pwn'd

#55 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 03:33 AM:

Elegy on Ongoing iPadlessness
With apologies to Wendy Cope

Some CEOs never think of it.
You did. You came along
And said you'd nearly sold me an iPad
But something had gone wrong.

The stocks were gone. Or you had doubts -
You'd rather fill the incessant glad
dreams of Americans. You thought
I'd quietly wait for your iPad.

It didn't make me smile one little bit
Though I'm smiling now, OK.
But look, the iPad you didn't sell me
Might turn up in May.

#56 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 10:37 AM:

On ghazals: I fear that Patrick's link has the definition wrong. The rhyme scheme is aa ba ca da . . . and the examples on that page seem to contradict the definition.

#57 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 10:52 AM:

@0: PAtrick! I'm on front desk duty. You cannot be causing me to spray my keyboard today. What will the customers think!?

#58 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 11:12 AM:


I saw the best geeks of my generation destroyed by
tech-lust, early adopter compulsive,
dragging themselves through the intartubes at dawn
looking for an angry app,
iPad-headed groupies burning for the future-shocky
connection to the 4G paradise with the gadgetry of blight,
who wealthy and wolf-moon'd and hollow-eyed and high sat
up tweeting in the supernatural pad-glow of
studio lofts surfing along the crest of ur-memes
contemplating Woz

#59 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:40 PM:

My main problem with the iPad future is that while the future's here, it's not sufficiently evenly distributed.

Mine gets here in a week.

#60 ::: mybadpants ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 01:07 PM:

I want one
but I cannot justify the indulgence.
I see them
everywhere I wouldn't expect to find one.
Is it lust
when you desire something that's merely digital?
They stalk me
and taunt me with an electronic siren's song.

So costly
just to watch Fringe in HD when I'm flying.
it is far cheaper than my first Apple IIc.

#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 03:57 PM:

God, I love Making Light.

#62 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 06:56 PM:

It bothers me small the formal verse demand,
With rhyme in mind and keyboard under hand,
Unlike an iPad which requires that
The user runs their fingers on the screen.

I do not like the policies of Apple
Although perhaps were I to pour some Snapple
Upon the iPad front the iPad might survive--
But for me the iPad does not thrive.


Slick books and slick toys are things which I do not like,
I value functionality on life's turnpike.
I tried to use an iPad with my mind not closed,
Of course I have the atitude that it is hosed.

It doesn't do things I want in ways sane to me
Those goddamn sliding effects drive me quite crazy.
There is no tactile feedback typing on the thing
It's devoid of USB ports for inputting.

The processor it uses, slow and lacking RAM,
With its quarter gigabyte not impressed I am.
Princeton University discovered in woe
iPad WiFi works at best so-so.

On DHCP they often don't release
Princeton and Cornell have accordingly yelled "Cease!"
Those two universities now will not allow,
iPads on their intranets--fin some other fad.

Mr Jobs heavy-handed in so many ways,
Try to surf the Internet the iPad it spays.
Flash is not my favor'ite thing it is very true,
Commercial sites use it and so force yout too.

But the iPad won't do Flash per Steve Jobs' ukase,
And no cross compiling into Adobe's space.
And watch out for those lawsuits which merit quite lack
Jobs isn't a patent troll, he stabs in the back!**

The patent troll merely wants large cuts from your sales,
Jobs wants competition under coffin nails.
There are some caveats, Apple's being sued too--
Samsung paid Kodak in court, has Apple a clue?

And Kodak alleging infringment is not alone,
Palm and HTC point at iPad and iPhone.
Apple' claims are bogus both of them are saying,
And for Apple to lose hugely I am praying.

I'd prefer an Android to Apple control freaks,
I like open systems and doing my own tweaks.
I dislike being ordered "Steve Job says do this!"
And so in summay, my attitude's a diss.


** Ask Motorola and IBM, among others....

#63 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 10:48 PM:

Let us go then, you and I,
Where the geek toys are laid out for us to buy
Like unused icons waiting on a desktop;
Let us go, to certain overcrowded stores,
The gleaming display floors
Of sealed boxes in big-box bargain shops
Arrayed at alternating traffic stops:
Stores that spam you with no opt-out option
Tempting early adoption
To bring home some near-obsolescent gadget...
Oh, do not ask, "Why grab it?"
Let us go and feed our habit.

#64 ::: Mark_W ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:45 PM:

I’m later here than someone who died centuries ago1, but:

David Harmon, all the way back there at #20:

I didn't even know what a pantoum was, but having read about them, I promptly found that Earl Cooley recently provided an example.

Indeed he did, and it was utterly marvelous (I particularly like the Witch/which switch).

As you know, Bob, in his The Ode Less Travelled Stephen Fry writes examples of the various forms which illustrate how they work. His pantoum-explaining pantoum is particularly splendid, I think, at elucidating the strengths of the form, and begins2:

The slow throb of an old pantoum
Resounding like a distant gong
To summon us to certain doom!
Repeating fragments of its song

Resounding like a distant gong,
The pantoum tolls in solemn weight
Repeating fragments of its song,
It sounds the measures of our fate.

And everyone: by Jove, you’re all brilliant...

1 This is an entirely unsuccessful attempt to rework the “late Dent, Arthur Dent” joke from Hitchers...

2 I’d quote all of it, but I’m not sure about how far fair use stretches with this sort of thing...

#65 ::: Mark_W ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:48 PM:

Bother. Despite three goes in Preview, I still messed up the italics. Heigh ho...

#66 ::: Mark_W ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:55 PM:


"Pantomb" indeed. What am I like? I could try and claim that the slow throbs of distant gongs (and summonings to certain doom) had made me think of tombs, but I fear it's just that I'm rubbish at reading what I've just written1.

1 Additional note to self: when computers say "opening port" that's not an instruction to start drinking...

#67 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:00 PM:

Mark W: Errors? I have no idea what you're talking about.

#68 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:10 PM:

i don't know if it's the most sophisticated, or the most poetically meritorious, but kip w's #29 definitely made me laugh the most.

#69 ::: Mark_W ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:31 PM:

Teresa @67,

Heavens bless you, and thank you. There was a moment(s) when I had no idea what I was talking about either, but you've tidied me up splendidly...


#70 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:39 PM:

Mark_W #64: I particularly like the Witch/which switch

Another thing that is neat to do (when it works) in poetic forms that feature line repetition is to have a bit of fun with the punctuation to alter the meaning of the words and lines. I don't know if there's a technical term for that.

#71 ::: Mark_W ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:24 PM:

Kid Bitzer @68,

I agree completely with your comments on Kip W’s splendid #29.

Moving on to your use of the word “meritorious”, this can’t help but remind me1, while I have the works of Stephen Fry in my head, of his Xmas Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Laughing Jarvey,2:

“Bravo, Mr Holmes!” cried our guest, applauding with great energy. “Miraculous!”


“And a happy new year, my dear sir. Meretricious and a happy new year!”

I still think this is possibly my favourite pun ever, although I’m forced to reconsider this after each few weeks of lurking here...

Earl Cooley III @70

Absolutely. I’m not sure if there’s a technical term either, but (while I’m channeling Mr Fry!), his comments on the pantoum after his example were:

“Technically, the ideal is to push the normative requirements of the mode hard, sometimes to breaking point. Therein lies the knack – stretching the bubble until *just before* it bursts.”

You, and so many others here, are so good at this: almost all the examples I know of the maxim, “Don’t tweak with the rules until you know what they are” are from this site3....

1 They both, as will become clear, begin with “m” and stuff...

2 From the Christmas 1987 issue of The Listener and collected in Paperweight.

3 As are examples of hitherto original forms. The only times I’ve actually, right here in real life, come close to genuinely ruining a keyboard (as opposed to literally cheering and snorting), and have, actually, moved beyond laughing out loud and progressed to not being able to speak, have been after reading things on this site. (Recent (ish) examples: Abi’s LOLcatz versions of Pride and Prejudice and LoTR)4

4 Treebeard: “Hello.” Genius.

#72 ::: Mark_W ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:41 PM:

Hmm. Should have provided links in footnote 3 above. They are Rich man can has girl, and the 2 twrz

#73 ::: grendelkhan ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 12:43 PM:

you are presumably hoping people will conclude that the editions you offer for sale feature a level of accuracy, editorial quality, and attention to detail that is superior to that found in texts keyboarded by random free-culture volunteers.

While Project Gutenberg etexts have a history of amateur-level proofreading, the folks at Distributed Proofreaders have done some excellent work in improving the quality of generated texts. Rather than being proofed and formatted at the same time, checked by two proofers along the way, the current system separates proofing and formatting into a total of five rounds, which leads to a noticeable increase in text quality. See their work on confidence-in-page analysis for an example of the ongoing research.

For a rather nice example of a well-formatted complex etext, see this critical edition of The Tempest; the automatic ePub conversion doesn't properly handle the complex HTML, but it's a very impressively formatted book. There are also marvels like the Early English Text Society works, but those are for a much more specialized audience.

#74 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 01:59 PM:

I met a salesman from a modern land
Who said, "A screen just bigger than a book
Puts you on the net. Hold it with one hand,
Like this, and movies unfold as you look,
Or tap it, thus, to hear your favorite band
Or with another touch you may well read
Books, horoscopes, and leer at someone's breast
Or find a new recipe you might need.
And in the EULA, boilerplate is found
'Our name is Apple, Cupertino's King:
Accept our conditions: lawyers abound!'
Limits and all, the gizmo seems to pay.
Around its castle, littered on the ground
App developers' bones stretch far away."

(Sadly, I couldn't call this "Wozymandias")

#75 ::: Kaja ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 07:16 PM:

Mark_W @72: That linked thread is astounding. Heck, _this_ thread is astounding, and perfectly illustrates why I love Making Light. I'm particularly fond of Thomas' "Naming of Apps" @35.

#76 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2010, 06:15 PM:

To buy or not to buy, that is my question.
What gifts an iPad might on me bestow,
weigh less than does my Apple brand obsession.
Would'st take me to a new compute plateau?
But yet what use for such a techy toy?
I've laptop, iPhone, yes and iMac too.
Will multi-touch provide me much more joy
than UIs that I now use can accrue?
For in that purchase now what debt may come,
when we have signéd off this dear transaction?
To what slings and arrows might we then succumb,
thus losing more than gained in satisfaction?
Oh noes! I've missed my saving throw 'gainst shiny:
no choice have I and fanboy must I be.

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