Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wagner's Ring: Turning The Sky Round - Book Review

Polished this book off tonight after working on it for about a week. At only 120 pages it could be read in a matter of hours, but is instead the type of book that requires considerable contemplation to draw out its deepest meaning. 

Based on a series of radio intermission talks given by classics professor Father M. Owen Lee during the 1988 and 1989 seasons of the Metropolitan Opera's Ring of the Nibelung productions, the prose is crisp and conversational, yet immensely deep and filled with brilliant insights into Wagner's life and work.

Beginning each of the four sections with a plot synopsis of the individual operas of the cycle, Owen then proceeds to analyze and evaluate both the external narrative of Wagner's work, as well as its inner philosophical and mythological significance, demonstrating over the course of the performance how Wagner came to envision, create, and ultimately be changed himself by this enormous masterwork of operatic metaphysics.

Drawing inspiration from a broad range of revolutionary thinkers from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche - and anticipating the confluence of psychology and myth soon to come with Jung and Freud - Owen shows how Wagner's own comprehension of his work evolved over the course of nearly three decades as he came little by little to understand its true meaning only as it unfolded before him. That revelation is mirrored in the compact pages of this stunning book, where nothing short of the fate of mankind and the death of God is discussed. For both a look into the making of a major work and a philosophical evaluation of its import, few books will stimulate greater conversations than this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"How To Make Kindle Comics & Children's Books" Version 3.0 Released

A new "3.0" edition of my Kindle fixed layout formatting guide has been released, and is available for download either from my website or from Amazon. The new edition includes both editorial revisions and content updates throughout to bring it into line with the current state of Kindle operating systems across devices and apps, based on the latest round of testing I have done.

Both the data and discussions of features and functionality have been revised, most noticeably in the Fixed Layout Functionality Chart that makes up Appendix A, where each function has been broken out into its own section so that the table data, footnotes, and commentary are all together, and inclusive of just one feature at a time, making it much easier to get a comprehensive overview of where that function stands. Moreover, the antiquated Kindle 3 has been removed and its place give over to data gleaned from recent testing of the Kindle for iOS app. The chart on the website is still in one piece as before, although I may change it at some point as well.

If you have purchased the bundle from Fantasy Castle Books you can download the updated files using the original link you were given. If you need to have the link resent please send a note via the contact form on the website and I'll get it to you. All three files in the bundle have been revised, and even if you bought the book before the PDF or EPUB versions were added, all three are now included in your download for no extra charge.

If you bought the book through Amazon you can get the update from the link provided on your "Manage Your Content & Devices" page. Amazon will not automatically send the updated version to you if you simply delete the title from your device or app and re-download it; you must do this from the Manage Your Content page in order to approve the update, since it will remove any bookmarks, highlights, or annotations you have added.

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Kindle Sample Files

Two new Kindle sample files have been added to the free downloads over on my main website. All of the sample and template files have been collected together on the Tutorial Index & Resources page for easier access, and I've made all of them free now, rather than requiring a download code.

The two new files are based on the Simple and Advanced templates, but both been slightly revised with new content and notes to augment and illustrate the features available in that particular format.

The 8-page "Basic Layout" sample uses the "comic" book-type with the auto-orientation function enabled to showcase the fact that it includes both single and two-page spreads, with and without an inner margin between them. It has no active text, no hyperlinks, and no text or image pop-ups, which cannot be added if you want these two-page layouts. It also illustrates how the Virtual Panels feature works to zoom a page, or page spread, in equally divided sections that can be swiped in sequence.

The 16-page "Zoom Features" sample is based on the Advanced template, but with the orientation locked to portrait, since in order to have region magnification you cannot have page spreads, so there's little point in making landscape available (unless the pages themselves are landscape, which these aren't). This sample showcases all of the more complex features that are currently available in Kindle fixed layouts with no book-type value added. These include both text and image hyperlinks, a linked Table of Contents page (as well a menu TOC), live text with full functionality, several methods of switching text and images for "interactive" animations, a new bilingual text example, comic panel zoom with live text in both the default and magnified regions, and "lightbox" shading both within and outside zoom areas, as well as others. Note that the interactive features do not work well on the Kindle for PC app due to its incorrect positioning of active links, so this sample must be read on an actual Kindle device.

While the companion templates have previously included both the epub source code file as well as a pre-converted mobi for reference, they will henceforth only contain the template epub file itself. Since it can be converted easily into a mobi file itself there's little reason to waste the bandwidth. And while I make these available for free, I still have to pay for file hosting and delivery, which is why I had previously charged a minor fee to those who have not purchased my formatting manual. Splitting the epub and mobi files into two separate downloads will allow me to better track what is being used and what not to waste my time updating further.

My ulterior rationale for doing this is to make these sample files more readily available for potential ebook formatting clients, to whom I send the file if they're unsure what features they want included in their project. It's often just easier to show than to explain how something works.

Finally, for those who have purchased my Kindle formatting book, there will be a new revised edition released shortly, with several updates due to the changes caused by the latest Kindle firmware upgrades, as well as some editorial revision for clarification and the elimination of a few sections that are no longer relevant. I will post when the new edition is available, and send out an email to those who have purchased though my website. Those of you who have bought the book on Amazon will have to deal with their tedious file replacement process, which has not gotten better. But more on that when the time comes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kindle Fixed Layout Functionality Chart Update 2015.2

For the second time this year the Kindle Fixed Layout Functionality Chart has been updated due to changes in the various Kindle reading systems. I've just completed another round of testing to determine how the latest system updates have affected functionality in fixed layouts, and some of those changes are significant, whether for good or ill.

I've also added a Change Log just above the chart to make it easier to see what's happened since the last updates, as well as adding a row denoting the latest OS version tested for each device or app.

These tests involve loading a minimum of nine different Kindle test files (more if some new variable needs testing) - each of which contain over a dozen pages that have been created specifically for this purpose - onto the seven different Kindle apps and devices I currently own. This creates a series of 72 iterations of a Kindle fixed layout file on a Kindle reading system, requiring a total of 1044 page loads (if each page is only viewed once on each system), and countless orientation changes of each device (which for the Paperwhite is a pain, to say the least), each page of which must be run through a battery of tests to determine what is working and what is not, pursuant to the ten items listed on the chart (only 8 of which I now test), and carefully noting any anomalies that occur. This tends to get somewhat confusing if one is not quite awake, and thus requires a lot of coffee (donations gratefully accepted).

The primary variables involved are the three "book-type" values (comic, children, or none), and the inclusion or absence of region magnification code in a given file. In addition, the orientation-lock variables have generally been included in the testing, with respect to page-spread functionality, which in any case has made no difference, but still has to be tested to determine that this is still true. This, of course, as with the book-type, requires a change in the metadata value, and thus the creation and conversion of a separate Kindle file for just that instance (delineated by titles such as Kindle-FXL-Comic-NoRegMag-Landscape.mobi). Region Magnification itself is dependent on its inclusion or absence within the publication itself rather than the metadata value entered, which is entirely irrelevant.

As mentioned in the notes, and obvious by the data included, I am still only testing these seven Kindle reading systems, due to lack of resources to procure more, or time to deal with it in any event. I plan eventually to get at least one HDX device, but at present just can't justify the investment, not only due to the financial expense, but as much because it frustrates me to no end how poorly the software is designed, and I'd almost rather not know what features are unsupported - or flat out broken - on yet another version of the Kindle OS. If just one feature worked the same on all devices it would make things so much easier.

UPDATE: The 'layout-blank' property has now been tested thoroughly, and the results noted.