We are talking basic stuff, not fancy gimmics to keep track of characters in one’s novel, insert comments from multiple people on a document and other corporate-man office suite crap. “Software for the author-publisher” means the tools needed to word-process and pdf one’s book to the PDF/x1a standard required by my printer, the world’s largest Print On Demand printer in the world, Lightning Source with the least possible waste of time.
Let us start with spelling and Montaigne. Montaigne, the great essayist sometimes called the first modern man in the best sense of the word – rational yet compassionate, curious and tolerant of difference – was not in my MS-Word dictionary which seems to have a smaller vocabulary than the one in the Nissus-writer that came with my first computer, a tiny mac bought in Japan where I worked in 1995! When I got back to the US and no longer had tech-support (the designers at the publisher I worked for), and could not find anyone to share my Nisus-writer documents with, I got a pc which meant MS-Word. With each blowout or forced upgrade of pc brains, I got another Ms-Word and recall writing down some of the unbelievably basic words (for an intellectual, at any rate) not found in that dictionary. I wish I had a few dozen to share with you but who knows what file or scrap of paper they were typed or scribbled upon. And that is why I mention Montaigne. I love Montaigne so I remembered my shock at his absence. I also recall that the first suggested replacement was Montague. So, the family name of a love-besotted youth in a play was judged more important than the first modern man. So Bill Gates and gang read Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet, anyway – in high school but never essayed further. So much is obvious. One need not be the well-read humanist to make a trillion dollars. Then again, I recall that the adjectival form of some of my favorite basic scientific terms such as neoteny, ontogeny and phylogeny was missing.
The son of a writer who boasted being a poor-speller, and only an average speller, myself, I often found myself wasting time checking words my Word did not recognize in the dictionary only to learn I had them right to start with and my pc, or at any rate, my MS Word was an ignoramus. If that were not bad enough, even when it has a word, its ability to guess it from your poor spellings is simply horrible. I often find myself leafing through a dictionary after half a dozen misspellings still won’t get the damn spell-check to cough up the correct one, which I know it had since the one I finally found in the dictionary did not trigger it. So, here I am with a thousand times more computing power, almost ten years later (actually 14 years later, but my Ms-Word is 2003 and I do not know if the dictionary has been improved) and going nowhere or even regressing! And, if you think the English dictionary is ridiculously puny, you should see their Japanese one! (More on Japanese, in part 3).
OK. The average man may not need to know Montaigne even if he should, and not knowing what neotony, ontogeny and phylogeny mean, will not care to use them as adjectives, but are there not, say ten million literate people left in the English-speaking world who believe a large vocabulary to be worth preserving? Why cannot we pay a small premium to have our Ms-Word dictionary up-graded? The idea that one must teach everything to one’s dictionary is ridiculous, especially when one can lose a pc and with it one’s dictionary (as I did two years ago). Do not tell me about some on-line dictionary. I am out in the country paying a fortune for a satellite connection which does not work when rain clouds pass by because the best phone connection is 23bps (impossible for decent internet) and no tower reaches us. And, don’t tell me about buying some CD-rom. It is too much hassle not working with a built-in program.
If Microsoft gave a damn about high-level literacy, it would either supply us with dictionary add-on or call for others to make them (giving them whatever keys they need to program for Ms-Word) and market them to us. Or, do I have this wrong? Is it possible that Microsoft has an agenda to make most of our vocabulary obsolete? Is this some sort of plot not only to rationalize spelling ala Bernard Shaw but to reduce choice of words and thereby make-up for their failure to make progress with AI, a spectacular failure for them when you consider that already in the mid-nineties Ichitaro in Japan was a thousand times smarter than my Ms-Word is)? Or has it been determined that the literate are too small a percentage of the buyers to be worth even an add-on? Or, are the hard-science majors surreptitiously exacting their revenge on English majors?
I may joke, but truth be said, to see the tremendous number of complex and often ridiculous things Ms-Word (and Office suite) can do for corporate man, while we who are writers, the content creators of the word, are treated like crap infuriates me. If Microsoft does not bring Ms-Word up to the standards of those of us who love words, maybe Google needs to do it.
I welcome advice. But, before suggesting I use some obscure software, please remember that my doc. files must be easily pdf’ed and embedded to the standard demanded by my printer, Lightning Source (PDF/X-1a) and include mixed one, two and three-column text that is full of Japanese that I must be able to write easily (as an Asian-language-enabled pc can).
Part 2 will concern the pagination nightmare which has caused me more trouble/time than everything else combined.
* Author-publisher? For those who feel that musicians can produce themselves without shame while writers must be chosen by an established publishing house, here is the lead for a large page on my work published 2 June,2008 at his large Japan Navigator by a Dutch scholar of Chinese and Japanese (Leiden) with, among other things, a degree as a sake somelier license:
The publishing industry is unfair, especially in our day, when only superficial bestsellers count. There is only one solution for serious authors: self-publishing. That is what Robin D. Gill has been doing with a vengeance and so far he has seven beautiful books to his account. (my bold+italic emphasis).
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Causes Robin Gill Supports
I have been told by readers inspired by my books that they went to work for NGO's because they read my book, but I have been a pauper for so many years now...