publishing


The Conlanger’s Lexipedia is now available at Amazon.

http://www.zompist.com/lexipedia.html

The paperback is out now; the Kindle will be available in a few days.

Perfect for conlangers, conworlders, language freaks, firefighters, actuaries, Methodists, snipers, spies, baritones, lepidopterists, Mind Flayers, and gnolls!

The proof copy of The Conlanger’s Lexipedia arrived last week, and I’ve been proofing and revising.  Then my wife started reading, which is adding time to the process, but it’s valuable.  She worked as a Spanish editor, so sometimes her instincts are wrong (e.g. on capitalization of titles); however, she pointed out a couple places where I demonstrated a somewhat deficient mastery of the alphabet.

The Lexipedia nestled in a pile of its sources. My floor looked like this most of the last year

The Lexipedia nestled in a pile of its sources. My floor looked like this most of the last year

(Huh.  My camera is not only poor at capturing indoor scenes, it lives in the past.)

This weekend I hope to get the final PDF files together, so hopefully the sales page will be up in about a week.  Behind schedule, but as alert reader John Cowan helpfully pointed out, not by nine years, like Johnson’s Dictionary.

So, where’s the book? I ordered the proof copy today. As soon as it comes, I’ll do some intensive editing and correcting, and then GET IT OUT THE DOOR.

Each step seems to be taking just a little longer than I expect. But the end is near. Tell all your loved ones to buy you a copy!

Finally got all my Lexipedia text in one file. I wrote most of the text in the 20-year-old Word 5.1, which is blindingly fast, but did the etymologies in New Word, which handles Unicode. Plus the etymologies were alphabetical, and they had to be divided up by section. Anyway, it’s all in one place now, and reformatted for 6×9, and I can finally see how many pages I have: 388. That’s longer than the PCK, and I haven’t done the diagrams yet.

As a break, and to balance all this book stuff, I decided to put up a new Almean story. It’s a bit of a trifle called “The Multipliers”.

Matt Yglesias has a snarky column today about how the printed book is an obsolete technology whose only plus is “a nostalgia-soaked experience”.

He mentions some advantages of e-books (quick access, less bulky), but fails to think about any disadvantages.  Here’s a few:

  • Low resolution.  I read a lot on my computer, but it’s still a fraction of the resolution of print, and it’s bad for high-res graphics: comics, maps, diagrams, art books.
  • Screen size.  Not a problem for reading a novel, but a double-page spread can provide a lot of information, and it’s just not the same thing to thread that data through the small screen of an e-book reader.
  • Price.  I don’t have a Kindle because I can’t afford one.  At $199 for a color Kindle, it’s a significant loss if you lose it on a trip or drop it in the bathtub or whatever.  There’s much less sense of loss if you misplace a printed book.
  • Eyestrain.  Print is still the most comfortable way to read long texts.  (If you don’t think so, wait till you have middle-aged eyes.)
  • Reliance on dubious megacorporations and changing technology.  I’m still using books I bought 40 years ago; Random House can’t do anything to interfere with my enjoying them, plus the NSA is certainly not checking which parts of what physical books I’m reading.

Edit: Alert readers Carsten and JDHarris offered two more points:

  • It’s easy to put several books next to each other, hard (or at least very expensive) to do the same with e-readers
  • Books will never stop working mid-story because you forgot to plug them in last night
Searchability works differently for e-texts and physical books, and each has its advantages.  I’d hate to have to consult the OED in physical form: it’s way too big, and some types of searching (e.g. by language) would be impossible.  On the other hand, a book you know well, as a physical object, affords quick access you can hardly even define for an e-book.  You can flip immediately to a dog-eared page.  You know that a certain passage is this far into the book, top of the left-hand page.  You can make marks on the edges to point to often-consulted pages, and make notes in the margins which themselves become searchable by riffing the pages.

Plus, I’d say a bunch of people agree with me, because my print sales are pretty healthy.  For the LCK, this year, my sales are 57% print; for APAF, 42%.  Given that the print book is twice as expensive, I’d say that indicates that people still find the format valuable.  It’s probably significant that for the novel, the majority prefers the Kindle: genre books are a good match for e-books.

Yglesias is no doubt correct that print books are not likely to be a growth industry.  But print is far from disappearing, and people are going to continue to make money off it.  Especially that Jeff Bezos fellow.

Now that I’ve finished my client work, I’ve gone back to my Next Project.

The working title is The Conlanger’s Lexipedia.  Does that sound like something between a lexicon and an encyclopedia, for conlangers?  Because that’s exactly what it is!

The idea is, if you’ve read the LCK and ALC, you know how to create a grammar.  But you still have the lexicon to create.  And you can totally just generate a thousand roots using gen and give them meanings and call it a day, but I’m hoping to convince you that there’s a lot of pitfalls and you should buy a book, something between a lexicon and an encyclopedia for conlangers, to help out.

One reason is that there’s a lot of conworlding that’s buried in the lexicon.  Take a word like oxygen.  You can simply add a root for it, or look up the etymology and calque that (‘acid-maker’).  But really you ought to know some of the basics of chemistry, and know when a culture is likely to isolate oxygen as a gas, and what salient characteristics it has that might be used to name it.  So that sort of thing will be in the book.

Or, take color terms.  I’d briefly go over Kay & Berlin’s work on color, and talk about opponent-process color theory so you know why humans have the primary colors they do and you can design totally different color schemes for aliens.

I’m also trying to address the perennial question “What words do I really need?”  I’ve been assembling a corpus of fantasy/sf works and creating a frequency list– a list of roots rather than word forms.  The end result will be a list of 1500 or so words that are guaranteed useful in conworlding.

I’m not very far in, so this is all subject to change.

I still want to get some Almean novels out there, but the clamor for Zompist fiction hasn’t been deafening. But that’ll probably be next.

I updated the print version of the Planet Construction Kit to the revised text, edition 1.1.  (The Kindle version already has the revised text.)

The biggest changes are to divide up the over-long Culture chapter, fix the index, and add revised some pictures in the Illustration chapter.  I’ll create a PDF of the changes so readers of the old edition don’t miss out on anything.

A big smoochy thank you to everyone who’s bought one of my books. The total units sold for all books just went over 4000.  The largest fraction of that is linguistics, something that always amazes my parents who think the LCK is too hard.

I’m also grateful because with the new book, royalties have risen from “hobbyist” to “poverty” level.  But that’s pretty much OK.

Part of me still feels that real writers write novels… plus I feel that Almea only fully comes alive in stories.  But with APAF still under 100 sales, I don’t feel I can concentrate on that quite yet.  And I have an idea for another nonfiction book…

 

 

When the PCK came out, I didn’t create a Kindle verson, because, well, I dunno.  It seemed like a lot of work to convert all the illustrations.  But I just did that for ALC and it took just a day or two, so this really wasn’t a great excuse.

So!  As of right fricking now, you can read The Planet Construction Kit on Kindle, for a paltry $6.25.  If you do, note that the climate maps are here, in color… even though I divided the Earth map in three, I think maps don’t work so well on that little screen.

I took the opportunity to update the text.  Nothing really major, though I divided up the over-long Culture chapter, and redrew some of the instructional pics on drawing clothing.  I expect to update the print version in the next few weeks.

I got the final proof copy of Advanced Language Construction on Wednesday, and it passed my extensive tests on whether my name was spelled correctly.

So, it’s available now in print and Kindle editions!  Go get some!  Also it’s my birthday, so if you were wondering what to get me, the answer is, royalties.  Treat yourself to a copy of ALC, you deserve it!

Actual book in its native habitat (my desk)

This is the most thoroughly vetted book I’ve done yet… the total number of pre-publication readers of the LCK (besides myself) was one; of this book, twelve.  Plus I’ve paid a lot more attention to typography, as it trips up some readers.  I changed the text font to Linux Libertine, which looks nice and more importantly supports all the very many Unicode characters I use.  (There may well be some embarrassing errors left, but I’m hoping they’ll be obscure, at least.)

I was kind of dreading the Kindle conversion, as every illustration has to be redone as a GIF, but before I could even finish whining about the process, it was done.  (In more detail: I created the illustrations in Adobe Illustrator, and that’s all that’s needed for the print version.  But Kindle wants JPG or GIF.  I think it used to accept only JPG, so this is an improvement.  Also, it can’t handle embedded fonts, so some bits that used Almean fonts also had to be converted to illustrations.)

As I write, the Kindle version is #7 in the Linguistics category.  Which doesn’t translate into a very high actual number, but it’s still cool.  I’m beating Lakoff & Johnson, man!  (Lakoff can console himself with being #4 as well.)  Also beating Particle Physics, which is presumably about how particles behave when smashed onto the ends of words at near-lightspeed.

I may have a slightly biased viewpoint, but I’m really happy with the book.  It ended up with a focus on morphosyntax, which was covered fairly breezily in the LCK.  It’s a pleasure to cover topics like morphosyntactic alignment, aspect, and polysynthesis in the detail they deserve.  Plus there’s new stuff that I think will interest experienced conlangers, such as predicate calculus, pidgins, ongoing sound change, and Sign.

I showed the proof copy to my parents, and I think it scared them.  But don’t let that stop you!  They think that about quantum mechanics too, and how hard is that?

BTW, in case it’s not obvious, the giant robot is making one of the signs from the book. Also, I think there’s kind of a clever pun in the lower left illo.

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