Chris Frederick

750 Words

January 09, 2013

I stumbled across 750 words some time ago and thought that it was a great idea. As is often the case, I forgot about it shortly thereafter. It’s a new year, though, and I have resolved to write more. 750 words seem like a good place to start.

Here’s a quick overview:

I’ve long been inspired by an idea I first learned about in The Artist’s Way called morning pages. Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in “long hand”, typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day. Unlike many of the other exercises in that book, I found that this one actually worked and was really really useful.

How much can one say in 750 words? How long will it take? You and I are about to find out together.

After a hiatus of many years, I finally started reading science fiction novels again last year. The catalyst? The Humble eBook Bundle.

As it happens, a coworker of mine had recommended Old Man’s War as one of the titles on his shortlist of great contemporary science fiction. I filed the name away for later—which of course is a euphemism for “more or less forgot it entirely.” Nevertheless, the seed had been planted.

As it also happens, I purchased my first iPad early in 2012 in preparation for my impending move from the United States to Japan. I had been an avid reader of (non-fiction) books through my local library, and I was afraid of losing easy access to all of that great English literature. Ebooks, I thought, were the solution that I was looking for. Although I had considered buying a Kindle, I ultimately decided on the iPad because I already owned an Apple laptop and felt that a “general-purpose” device would probably be a better use for my money in the long run. Be that as it may, I didn’t use my shiny new iPad as much as I had hoped, mainly because I didn’t want to buy any books encumbered by digital rights management, and those proved difficult to find.

Anyway, when I saw Old Man’s War in the Humble eBook Bundle, I knew that the stars had finally aligned and I had to grab it. I enjoyed the book so much, in fact, that I wanted to read the rest of the series. But how could I find DRM-free versions of those books?

Once again, I got very, very lucky. Unbeknownst to me, in April Tom Doherty Associates—the publisher of Old Man’s War—announced that they would remove digital rights management from all of their ebooks by early July 2012. Note that the Humble eBook Bundle went up for sale on October 9, three full months after Tom Doherty Associates’ announcement. In other words, I could get the sequels to Old Man’s War entirely DRM-free! This was pretty exciting news to me.

Unfortunately, this being the real world, there are still a number of kinks to work out.

  1. I can’t buy ebooks directly from The Tor/Forge DRM-Free E-book Store. The site is advertised as “coming in summer 2012”, but that target clearly came and went a long time ago. I have no idea when or if the store will eventually materialize.
  2. Even though I can buy DRM-free ebooks through the iBookstore, I don’t have any way of knowing which ebooks are actually DRM-free until after I buy them. Thankfully, I have at least seen disclaimers like the following added to the end of the descriptions for DRM-free books: “At the publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.” I can only hope that Apple will eventually begin selling ebooks DRM-free just as it eventually began selling all of its music DRM-free.

I will say this, though: after reading a few ebooks on my iPad, I never want to go back to physical books again. Ebooks are infinitely light—or at least as light as your ebook reader of choice—and easily searchable. I can carry an entire library in my pocket. I can’t count the number of times that I agonized over whether to sell old books of mine because they were taking up too much space, or, conversely, wished that I could re-read a book that I once owned when I was much younger but has since been lost to time (and which may, in fact, still be languishing somewhere in my parents’ house). Honestly, what’s the point of a bookshelf full of books other than as an antiquated trophy case of written ideas trapped in awkward, temporary physical relics? I realize that I may be in the minority here, but I honestly believe that in the war between bits and atoms, bits are going to win.

And that’s all I have for today! 836 words, 83 minutes. Thanks for reading.