Round up #154: writing length, Trekifying Alexa
The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.
On the Alexa front
Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant available on the Echo family, current Fire tablets, the Fire TV family, and more, is undoubtedly a big part of Amazon’s future. It is (or can be) already part of our literary lives, reading books to us with text-to-speech (when not blocked by the publisher), playing audiobooks, answering questions about authors and works, and more.
Even though there is growing competition (Samsung’s next rumored flagship form is reportedly going to include a new assistant, Bixby, with a lot more capabilities…I took a quick look to see if the name could be inspired by author/screenwriter Jerome Bixby, but I’m not seeing an immediate connection), Alexa is going to be prominent for some time to come.
Amazon is spending a lot on development, clearly, and users are getting some good results.
One simple thing: you can now use “Computer” as a “wake word” (what you say to get the device’s attention). People have wanted that from the beginning, because of the Star Trek connection (that’s how people on the Enterprise activate their computer for voice-based interactions). You can change that in your Alexa app and settings. I could choose it for our Amazon Echo and our Echo Dot, but not our Amazon Tap.
The Tap, though, has an extraordinary, game-changing update (which I just got yesterday…it’s been rolling out). It allows you to put the
in “Hands-Free Mode”.
That’s right: the Tap, which initially required you to push a button to talk to it, can now hear you from across the room, just like the original Echo.
That’s a giant change!
Now, as you can see in the above screenshot, they recommend that you put the device into sleep mode if you aren’t actively using it. That’s because listening takes power (as humans know…it’s an active function to be quiet and listen, and it takes energy). The reason why the Tap was portable was because it didn’t listen all the time, to some extent.
The real question here is why anybody would now pay $50 more for the original Echo, which can only work when plugged in (although there are some third party battery options). The sound is probably somewhat better, but the Tap can get quite loud. You could also supplement by Bluetoothing or cabling to other speakers…not an option with the original Echo.
Do you hear the characters when you are done reading the books?
As regular readers know, I don’t “hear” the voices of characters when I read books (and I don’t visualize the scenes, unless they are particularly…unclearlywritten and I can’t figure out what’s happening without that). One of my regular readers who is an expert on reading has told me that’s unusual in someone who reads well (which I think I can objectively say I do), but it’s always been the case for me, at least for decades.
Once I found out other people (including my Significant Other) do hear the voices, I was intrigued.
was even more fascinating to me. It’s about a study where many people reported continuing to interact with fictional characters (including hearing them) after finishing a book.
Has that happened to you?
I am inspired by fictional characters (Doc Savage, for one), but I would describe it as “pull” rather than “push”. In other words, I might consciously think about what Doc might do in a situation, but the character doesn’t appear in my life unbidden.
How long does it take to write a masterpiece?
I thought this was an interesting infographic reported in this
It shows you how long it took authors to write certain well-known books. It varies widely. I do think I can write quickly…but I haven’t written a new book in some time. The shortest one listed took 2.5 days, and the longest 16 years…
Emerald City on TV and L. Frank Baum
As a long time Oz fan, I’m enjoying and am impressed with the NBC series
It’s based not just on the first book, but on various books in the “Famous Fourteen” original books by L. Frank Baum, and shows a depth of knowledge.
There have been a couple of (I think perhaps ill-advised) references to the 1939 MGM musical with Judy Garland, but in many ways, it is closer to the original books.
I’ve started to analyze that in-depth, comparing the three (Baum, EmCity, and MGM)…by its nature, that work is spoilerific (as all analysis will tend to be), but if you are caught up or don’t care about spoilers, I think you’ll find it interesting as it grows:
New “His Dark Materials” booking coming this year
You can order
for Kindle delivery October 19, 2017.
It should be a bestseller…and if there is another “Game of Thrones” book this year, it could be a very good year for tradpubs (traditional publishers) and brick-and-mortar books indeed. They might also spur more e-book adoption, in part because big books can be a lot easier as e-books…and listening to part of the book may also be attractive.
Visual media has seen some real success with returning to older properties in the past couple of years (Star Wars, The X-Files), but I don’t think that necessarily had a lot of impact here. Books often go back for sequels, although that may have been more true with public domain works (there are Dracula sequels perhaps every year).
One last note today: it was nice to see a book by Hans Holzer, author of
on Stranger Things. 🙂 I’ve been watching Stranger Things in Virtual Reality while I exercise during lunch at work (I’m not done yet, so please, no comments on plot points). Holzer is a great writer, very amusing, regardless of whether or not you “believe in ghosts”. 😉
Enough for this morning…I may write pretty quickly, as I said, but I could always write more with more time!
Opinions/questions on/about any of these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
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