I wrote a long time ago about the changes in the publishing industry around how physical books would become luxury items of desire.

While out in Cheltenham, UK, today, as well as a book shop full of board games and pretty stationary, I saw this display which I took a photo of to share.

Sets of popular out of copyright novels, bound in hardback in beautiful designs. They look absolutely fabulous. But they are objects of desire – coffee table books if you will – and priced accordingly, I saw £15 or more price tags.

If you really want to read some of these works – they are out of copyright, which means public domain, which means this content is free (when you buy them in physical printed form you are only paying for the cost of making, shipping and storing the physical media, the publisher has no obligation to pay any money to the author, their heirs or estate, so the rest is pure profit for the publishing house) – then Project Gutenberg is the place to read them. In digital format for free.

If you prefer a physical book, there are cheaper options. Back when I was a student in the early 1990s I would purchase classics in paperback editions from Wordsworth for £1. They are still publishing and a quarter of a century later only £2.50, which is much more reasonable than the beautiful hardbacks I saw on display today.

Or you can scour what we call charity shops in the UK and from memory what are thrift stores in the USA. These often carry books at significant reductions on retail. Or eBay.

  • For the record I am not being paid to endorse anyone here, I would recommend Gutenberg which is free, but I would also suggest if you must have a physical book when you buy out of copyright, go with the cheapest option, whether that is second-hand or a reasonably priced publisher.
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First up, a quick declaration of interest. I am (slowly) working on a novel which looks at the possibilities of life extension.

I almost didn’t read Suicide Club for that reason.

But, I am really glad I did choose to read the novel. Heng can certainly write. Her prose is a thing of beauty and she can really hit the emotional high and low notes when she chooses to.

The narrative carries you along from a 100th birthday party at the outset through the ongoing investigation following a minor road traffic accident, covering off some family history, which is revealed later, with a massive emotional impact, to not be quite what we were led to think it was.

Heng creates a world which is believable, the descriptions of the crowded streets of New York are suitably claustrophobic. But, an area which could have been improved upon is the wider world building. I was not totally clear about the social structures in this near future world. Exactly what difference there is between the lives of those who have longer life and those who do not? At one point the narrative makes reference to the general population “wouldn’t touch a lifer” but it is not really clear why this might be the case. Where would this level of fear come from?

There is reference to the areas outside New York being unpopulated due to low birth rates, but it is unclear why this is the case. While I do believe writers should show rather than tell, I think Heng could have painted the wider world around her narrative in a richer way and this would have enhanced what is already an excellent narrative.

There were also a couple of instances where I was not clear why people with the potential to live forever might not want to. I guess everyone has their own reasons, but if Heng could have made it much more apparent why someone would go to the lengths required in her imagined world of healthcare, I think this would have strengthened the narrative.

Overall, the minor issues I have with the story, do not deter from the narrative enough to make it anything less than a good novel. Heng is a good writer, her style brings you along and the emotional ups and downs are enjoyable.

Her vision of life extension is based in the world of medicine and health care improvements, while my part written novel is very much not in this vein (I was worried this book would be too close to my creation, which is why I was considering not reading Suicide Club).

If you are looking for a novel which is sci-fi light, but depicts a future world with a deep emotional story, Suicide Club could be just what you are looking for.

Today is my favourite annual ridiculous day: international talk like a pirate day.

Oooo-aaaaarghh me hearties

😀⚔️

talklikeapirate.com

It has been revealed an Apple self-driving car had accident last month.

No one was hurt in the incident, reported on here.

It is not the first self-driving car to have an accident.

What is really telling in the report is that self-driving cars get rear-ended by humans a lot, allegedly because the machines are over cautious.

This Apple car is said to have been moving at 1mph and the human driven vehicle at 15mph.

I have long pondered the biggest challenge for autonomous vehicles would be the years when they share the road with humans.

We are unpredictable and prone to distraction.

In a ground breaking scheme in the UK, robots will dispense medicines for patients.

Full details here.

Feels like I have been saying the robots are coming for an age now (September 2010 was my first blogpost about robots).

And slowly, slowly they are.

In this story, it is keenly stressed 30 human jobs are also being created. Which is an important message when introducing robot labour to the work place.

Read this story about robots looking after children in Metro.

It is a good point and it is news that a futurologist said this.

And for some reason they refer to a 15 plus year old movie about a robot boy.

(Incidentally the only thing in this movie which I recall being in any way ground breaking for cinema was the idea sex robots, in this case Jude Law, would exist for women.)

In mu opinion it would have made more sense to refer to Issac Asimov’s short story Robbie which was the tale of a robot childminder first published in 1940 whom a child becomes attached to.

Exact same concept (AI is more Pinocchio) and 75+ years old.

This album, A Grand Don’t Come for Free, by The Streets, is in my top five of the noughties (others in this list White Stripes Elephant, The Strokes Is This It? PJ Harvey Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, The Killers Hot Fuss).

I used to listen to this album most days when I commuted a certain route for my work for almost a year. I happened to take the train on this route one day recently and I had an urge to re-listen to this album and re-discovered my love for it.

Mike Skinner wrote a concept album – he calls it a rap opera – about a regular guy’s life during the early part of the century in Britain.

The main focus is a relationship from start to finish and the apparent loss of £1,000 – the grand of the title. Alongside these, the album also covers gambling addiction “Not addicted” a holiday romance (well, a near miss) “Fit, But You know it” as well as drugs “Blinded by the Lights”. Within this story about the lives of working class people in the early  noughties there is true beauty within the lyrical construction, repeatition of lines as well as the ensemble of singing voices which take us through a range of emotions from joy and love through to bitterness, betrayal, rejection, regret and in the finish of “Empty Cans” finally hope for the future.

If you haven’t listened to A Grand Don’t Come for Free, I recommend you really should.

And if you like it, check out other albums by The Streets. They each have great tracks – such as, on The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, “Never Went to Church” juxtaposes alcohol and religion while lamenting Skinner’s father’s death. Pure genius.

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