Word of the Week: ePub

ePub is an open format for electronic books (known in the more popular sense as eBooks). Maintained by the International Digital Publishing Forum (aka the IDPF), the ePub file format has been around since 2007 and has gone through three major versions; the most recent update to the file format was in June 2014. It is structurally similar to a website as it uses CSS, HTML, and XHTML and is essentially akin to a website's files if they were to be zipped into a folder.

The appeal of ePub is that it is an open file format for electronic books, and can be easily converted from/to other file types. Due to its open nature, it can be read on just about any electronic device, save for the Amazon Kindle line of products (as they use their own proprietary file format, .mobi and .azw).

The ePub file format is sold at a variety of online bookstores as an alternative to the Amazon file formats, for readers who prefer open file formats.

My full presentation on ePub can be viewed here.

Works cited:

Word of the Week: E Ink

E ink, or electrophoretic ink, is a technology used with electronic paper displays (usually ebooks) that displays text in a fashion that mimics physical paper and ink. It's a bistable process, meaning when the source of power is taken away, the display will remain unchanged. Instead of an LCD display, which requires backlighting, e ink is used with ambient light. E readers have a much longer lifespan on a charge than LCD screens due to the lack of backlighting.

E ink particles are microcapsules of black and white ink. They are electronically charged and respond to the correct configuration with the load of each page.

It was invented by Joseph M. Jacobson, an MIT media lab professor, and Barrett Comiskey, an MIT undergrad, between 1995-1997. The technology was well funded, extremely successful, and is widely used with e reading devices. Color e ink has been explored, but with less vibrant and therefore less popular results than LCD display e reader technology (like iBooks on the iPad) due to the nature of e ink.




E Ink.com
Estimated E Book Sales
Amazon vs. Book Publishers
Color E Ink

Word of the Week: Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is pretty ubiquitous at this point. Do I really need to even explain the gist of it? A person or group announces a project, lays out an estimate of the money they’ll need, then ask supporters to throw some cash their way in hopes of reaching that goal. It also goes without saying that the biggest crowdfunding platforms include Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Patreon. In less than a decade, this form of fundraising has made its mark on a global scale. To many, the Kickstarter “K” is now as recognizable as MacDonald’s Golden Arches.

Crowdfunding as we know it came to be in 1997, the early days of the Internet. A prog rock band from the UK called Marillion asked fans to help them get the money for their next tour by sending the band funds online. The effort was a success, with Marillion fans giving $60,000. The actual term “crowdfunding” wasn’t coined until nine years later, when entrepreneur Michael Sullivan described the creation of his new site, Fundavlog: “Many things are important factors, but funding from the ‘crowd’ is the base of which all else depends on and is built on. So, Crowdfunding is an accurate term to help me explain this core element of fundavlog.”


This method of funding is used for the arts and new technology, from comic books to coolers. But crowdfunding has proven to be extremely popular in the video game industry. It’s allowed young up-and-coming developers with limited resources to make new games. It’s also brought many legendary retired devs to re-enter the public eye and work on a project that is either completely new, or (more likely) a spiritual successor to one of the games that made them famous.

The latter have been some of the biggest success stories in crowdfunding history, with Tim Schafer and Keiji Inafune taking to Kickstarter a few years ago for respective projects each getting over three million dollars in backing. The next of these huge game crowdfunding phenomena could likely happen just weeks from now, as new development team Playtonic Games, formed from the staff of classic game company RareWare, is bringing Project Ukelele, their spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, to Kickstarter on May 1st, already amassing 31.6K followers on Twitter and over 10,000 on Facebook.


If that recent example is any indication, the future of crowdfunding looks much like the present. It could hit some sort of critical mass and just be so overloaded that it goes away forever, but that seems very unlikely. I think more types of creations will be taken into the crowdfunding sphere, beyond the arts and novelty items such as carrying cases. I think that we may see everyday household utilities that were originally crowdfunded. Big corporations could emerge as a result of crowdfunding success. All in all, crowdfunding will have a major place on the world stage for many years to come.

Sources Cited:





This American Life

I've never really gotten into podcasts. Usually because I always prefer to listen to music. My only experience with them was a couple Italian language learning podcasts before I went to Italy and one news broadcast, both of which I quickly got bored of. Because of that, I never explored all the different kinds because I didn't think I'd be interested in them. I barely even have time to watch any TV, and so I felt like I couldn't waste an hour listening to a podcast. I also don't particularly like non-musical audio. If something is going on, I want to see the visual, and I've never liked listen to books because people tend to read out loud slower than I would. Even though I wouldn't have a book in front of me if I were listening to a audio book or podcast, that similarity between the two just kind of turned me off to them.
I downloaded Stitcher and started browsing through their popular podcasts and some literary podcasts. In my search, I found This American Life. Each episode is a based around a theme or issue that all American's face. For example, the most recent episode was called, "Need to Know Basics," which is about what information is acceptable, not acceptable, and necessary to make public. Each episode follows the same basic format: the prologue includes a personal anecdote and then there are between one and four acts, generally different guests.

Sometimes, they create the theme of the episode based on current events or issue in the United States. Two recent podcasts were about how American's view cops in light of the recent race struggles. Other stories are about regret, inspiration, and just some very odd, but entertaining stories.


The podcast "Reply All," co-hosted by Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, describes itself simply as "a show about the Internet… how people shape the Internet, and how the Internet shapes people."

Reply All podcast logo

I find this to be fascinating in two ways: first because of the simplicity, how relevant the topic is, how straightforward. Second, because when I dive into my brain and the way that I think about the Internet, if I am honest with myself, I do not really associate the Internet with people. The Internet goes in the part of my head that is distinctly anti-people. It's easy to imagine "it," the Internet, as some Vast and Unsettling conglomeration of thoughts and technologies that somehow exists external to humanity. Because sure, that's the point of technology, is to allow us to do things that by ourselves, we couldn't do. But the Internet shapes human behavior in bizarre and uncanny ways, and that is something that Reply All taps into, I think (even if they don't market themselves that way): how much of online behavior is human?

Big question. In order to answer that, I'd have to pass some pretty heavy moral judgments on what the essence of human behavior is, first in real life, and then compare to the way people act online and make some moral judgments on that too. And that's a lot. That is a lot of things. Wow. Where do you even approach something like that? The Internet is HUGE. The way people act on the Internet is not something you can boil down to one or two trends. THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE DOING A LOT OF THINGS ON THE INTERNET.

But this is what I got to thinking about when I listened to Reply All's most recent episode, entitled "Silence and Respect," about the Internet "public shaming" of Lindsey Stone, whose silly photo, an inside joke between her and a friend, caused a massive outbreak of viciousness against her online. The picture is pretty anticlimactic compared to the reaction: it's of Lindsey "disrespecting" a sign requesting silence and respect at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. — she mimes yelling and flips the camera the bird. But a month after the photo was posted to Facebook, the Internet exploded, comments quickly escalating from wow that's pretty inconsiderate to threatening her body, her job, and her reputation. Lindsey and her friend were fired from their workplace soon after.

The episode focuses on journalist Jon Ronson, who is releasing a book entitled So You've Been Publicly Shamed, in which Lindsey's story is featured. The episode continues to describe the incredible difficulty of online reputation management.

But what fascinates me most here is the psychology of the thing, which Ronson does discuss with the hosts for a few minutes. How at first the reaction to something online that's deemed offensive, like Lindsey's photo, is hey whoa that's not okay. And how within a shockingly short amount of time — the course of a night, in Lindsey's case — things escalate to horrific language and threats. People will say really disgusting and disturbing things when they're angry and they see that everyone else is angry too. Would anyone say those things to Lindsey in real life? Probably not. Something about the Internet, some combination of anonymity, righteous anger, and a hive mindset, makes people say nasty, nasty things.

That's something I want to think more about. So I'm definitely going to keep listening to Reply All.

Medieval Madness: The Medieval Archives Podcast

I'm not really a podcast person, probably because I have never really found the video game podcasts that my friends like to be particularly engaging. Perhaps it's because I've been spoiled in an era where Twitch and Let's Plays are rampant, I would rather watch video games and read articles about news rather than listen to a podcast.

It turned out that a change in topics was precisely what was needed. I scoured the iTunes directory for a podcast on medieval history, as a couple of friends in the SCA mentioned to me that listening to history podcasts was a fun way to learn about history.


I ended up finding the Medieval Archives Podcast, run by the self-titled Archivist, Gary. The Medieval Archives Podcast is devoted to talking about the medieval era in history, as well as related books, games, apps, and other media. Gary leads each episode in a gentle, guiding way, although this isn't to say that he lacks enthusiasm in the subject. He asks very intelligent questions in his interviews, and generally does not waste words when it comes to his interviews. The audio quality on his end is professional, but on occasion, a guest will have some audio quality issues, such as in the recent episode where Gary speaks to Kristie Dean on her new book about Richard III, where poor Kristie sounded as if though she was speaking on a low-quality laptop microphone. But the rest, including the portions of appropriate medieval music that open and close each episode, is good quality audio.

Some recent critics have voiced some displeasure with the show's occasional foray into discussing television shows and books that are not strictly history, but certainly inspired by it. If you require 100% history in your podcasts, then maybe this isn't for you, but I enjoy the parallels that are drawn back to history in these unconventional pursuits. Besides, there are only so many times you can talk about William the Conqueror's rule of England.

I would personally recommend this podcast to anyone who has a passing interest in fantasy literature and medieval history, as it is approachable to the layman but goes into enough detail to satisfy any knowledge-seeker.

BackStory: Say Hello to History

Podcasts have been a part of my life since the seventh grade. Originally, I focused on finding podcasts to satisfy my nerd interests (think: discussion and theory podcasts about Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and TV shows like Heroes and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Actually, I still listen to many of those podcasts that are still around.

I’ve also branched into some general discussion podcasts, so when I was trying to find a new one, I was trying to find one that was a little more contemporary and political. It’s semi-ironic, then, that I settled on a history podcast: BackStory.

However, BackStory is more contemporary than you’d think. Each week they focus on an important topic in the news, and explore its historical roots. For example, following the growing concern over drought and water shortages in California, their most recent episode focused on the history of fresh water and irrigation. They looked at the history of fresh water and who owns it in California, as well as different approaches in Jamestown and New England when the Pilgrims first settled in the Americas.

History, to the rescue!

History, to the rescue!

They’ve also recently done episodes based around the color green in U.S. history (in honor of St. Patrick’s Day), relations between the U.S. and Russia (not just since the Cold War, but going back to the nineteenth century), and changing nutritional advice.

Each podcast is hosted by three U.S. historians, who bring on other experts and historians to interview about specific segments within the larger episode. They also encourage listener input, which is where their website comes into play. Their homepage shows the latest episode, as well as topics that are “in the works,” so that listeners can pose questions or add information about the topic.

I like BackStory because it’s intelligent and well-structured, but not overly scholarly or rigid. The hosts are down-to-earth and will joke around with each other or their guests. The guests are well-spoken and tell a story well about their specific topic.

The only problem I can find is that while overall the quality of the show is very high (they integrate music clips well and the hosts’ audio quality is great), sometimes the audio quality of the guests is not great. This is to be expected, because they don’t have the same recording equipment, but this is the one problem I noted.

BackStory releases one episode a week, and they average in length between 50 minutes and an hour. Sometimes they rebroadcast shows if they become important in the news again, but their episodes date back to 2008, so there’s plenty to listen to. I like BackStory because it covers a wide range of topics and is easy to listen to. It also fulfills two of my cravings at once: important contemporary discussion and fascinating stories from history.

Come On, Get Happy: "Happier with Gretchen Rubin" Podcast

Being happy is one of my favorite pastimes. Unfortunately, in this busy world of school, work, and internships, it can get shuffled off to the side on my "to-do" list. This podcast (which I've listened to every episode of) is the best prescription for a stressed, hectic lifestyle.


"Happier with Gretchen Rubin" is a very new podcast on the Panoply network, with it's first episode going on the air in February. Gretchen Rubin, the author of the NYT bestseller "The Happiness Project" hosts the show, along with her sister, Elizabeth Craft (a producer/writer in Los Angeles). They divide the show into several sections, all of which are stupendous:

  1. "Try This at Home," where you learn a small, easy habit that can help boost your happiness level for the whole day. For example, one of their topics was taking advantage of the smells around you, which helps you stay present in the now and live for the moment.
  2. "Know Yourself Better," where you learn about some things that you might be doing that are causing you unhappiness without you even knowing it. For example, they talked about the people you envy in your life. You can flip the envy mentality around, and look at why you envy them. You can then use that to make your life happier, by doing whatever it is you envy them for.
  3. "Happiness Stumbling Blocks," where we think about the daily parts of life that aren't ourselves that cause us unhappiness, and how to avoid them.
  4. "Grill the Guest/Listener Questions," where they take questions or talk to guests about happiness-related topics.
  5. "Happiness Demerits/Gold Stars," where either Gretchen or Elizabeth shares a demerit or gold star they had that week in terms of happiness.

This leads to around a 25 minute podcast, which always makes me feel better after listening to it. You can easily contact the hosts in many ways, and their topics are always fresh and relevant. I can't wait to hear the next episode! It's released every Wednesday morning, and it's perfect to listen to on a long, terrible T-ride.

Discovering the Classics: Radiolab

The only podcast I had ever listened to up until last week was Welcome to Nightvale. It is, of course, a classic, and was one of the first (or so I've heard) to use the platform as more of a storytelling medium, which I found cool as a writer. In wanting to keep with the storytelling factor that I liked so much with Nightvale, I came across Radiolab. I can remember my boyfriend in high school being very into podcasts, and his favorite was this one, which is why I picked it up now. I never listened to it while we were together (radio was stupid! I was a writer! What could radio possibly offer me?!), but after listening to a few episodes the appeal was evident.

Radiolab cover art

Radiolab, which is an NPR brainchild sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is one of the most popular podcasts out there, and after a few listens it's not hard to hear why. The hosts–usually three per episode, sometimes with the special appearance of the producer–weave together reporting, interviewing, sound, and music to create a journalistic adventure that masquerades as narrative. Episodes are between thirty minutes to an hour in length. The production quality is very high; transitions between soundbites are smooth, even as they intersplice the hosts' storytelling prose and their guests' statements on whatever scientific or historical topic they're discussing. Music is all over the place in Radiolab productions, in between segments, underneath dialogue, and of course, opening and closing the show.

Besides the incredible production quality, the stories are just amazing. Radiolab seeks to, in their own words, "[blur the boundaries] between science, philosophy, and human experience." (From their About page.) My favorite episode I've listened to so far is their bit about Fu-Go, which refer to (somewhat ineffective) Japanese bombs that were parachuted to the United States during World War II. Give it a listen; it's 36 minutes of haunting storytelling featuring interviews by historians as well as an emotional recount by a woman who was 16 during the war. Perhaps it's because it's the first podcast I've actually listened to–but Radiolab feels like the height of podcast quality to me. It sounds great, the website and cover art aesthetic is clean and simple, and it makes me feel things. What more could you want?

Discovering Stuff You Should Know and How Podcasts Work

As someone who can multitask, but chooses not to, it is difficult for me to get invested in podcasts. I've heard that business professionals and the like listen to podcasts while in transit or a student might put one on in the background while doing "homework"/lollygagging on Facebook. For me, if I am going to watch a Youtube video or listen to a podcast, I want to be able to focus on it, so I don't do anything else in the meantime. It is the same with music; the only time I have it on is when I'm traveling around the city.

With that being said, it is difficult to find a podcast that allows me to feel like I am doing more than sitting and listening to people talk. I get that that is the point of podcasts, but I feel so useless sitting there for 45 minutes just listening. There is no visual element for me, so I'm mostly turned off to the idea.

Josh Clark and Charles Bryant

Image courtesy of stuffyoushouldknow.com

Stuff You Should Know is an exception to this rule. This podcast allows me to feel like I am involved in the conversation as hosts Josh Clark and Charles (Chuck) Bryant cover the how-tos and whys of virtually any topic (ranging from What is Folklore to How Cinnamon Works). Josh and Chuck engage in polite yet informal conversation with one another in a way that makes me, the audience, feel like I am sitting in the room watching a couple of friends have a conversation. What I enjoy most about their podcast is that I am learning while listening, so it is a more productive experience.

The podcasts are usually between 30 to 50 minutes and rotate from every other day to every four or five days. SYSK is incredibly popular and is being brought to television, as well.

To listen to some stuff check out this little link here (or should I say, hear).


P.S. It doesn't count as a podcast (unfortunately because it is SO COOL and actually something I get super excited about), but I would recommend checking out that YouTube link posted above. 

SleepyCast: A Group of Tangential Animators Talking About Whatever.

SleepyCast image


First off, as the title suggests, don't expect to learn too much about anything by listening to the podcast. There are plenty of others that can fulfill that requirement for you.

To try and summarize SleepyCast is a laborious task in and of itself. Imagine some of the  most profane and boundary-pushing animators from Youtube and Newgrounds got together around a table and, without any kind of format, recorded themselves talking and shouting at each other for a bit more than an hour every week. Many people may be deterred by the idea of this podcast, but I find it absolutely and utterly hilarious.

One of the major quips that has me coming back and downloading ever single week is just how sincere and unadulterated the podcast is. These guys do not censor themselves, and do not care about what anyone has to say about them, be it good or bad. They speak their minds with confidence and most of the time get into tangential arguments with each other for a majority of the podcast.

There's something quite endearing about the context of podcast. Each of these animators has known each other for years now, and share millions upon millions of Youtube views per each of any of their videos. The fame does not show in any of their personalities, though. At the end of the day, the podcast is just a bunch of best friends sitting around a table and laughing with each other about topics like Paul Rudd, what messed up stuff happened on their respective buses when they were kids, and their own genitalia. This podcast is by all means immature, but that doesn't take away from its hilarity.

So if you want to give it a listen, join hosts Stamper (StamperTV), Chris (Oney), Zach (PsychicPebbles), Mick (RicePirate), Cory (SpazKid), and Jeff (JohnnyUtah) as they disagree and talk over each other for an hour. Also, check out any of their animations on Youtube!

Listen here: SleepyCast