Rocket Bomber - site news

Update your feeds.

filed under , 13 March 2013, 23:25 by

For those who hadn’t heard, Google is killing off Reader — which apparently every blog & blogger I follow is using, in addition to being a personal favorite, though also apparently we’re the only ones since Google is going to kill it.

So two thoughts:

First, if you read this fine blog using my RSS feed, please update your link from to

Feedburner is a fine service, but it’s also owned by Google, and as recently pointed out by TechCrunch, its days are likely numbered. While this RSS-business is on your mind (and since you might be migrating anyway) please update that link so you don’t lose me in this mess.

Second, Yeah SURE, Google: I can always get my data via Google Takeout and go to another service. Except it didn’t work as advertised. Imagine that.

Oh, I got the file Google provided. I was able to upload said file to a new reader. 3 whole feeds populated – out of 133. Now maybe the new service encountered an error (oh… I don’t know, maybe a thousand people all trying to do the same thing at the same time or something) but I said, “eff me and eff that,” and just did it manually.

Here’s a tip: go to your Reader settings. Click on the ‘subscriptions’ tab (2nd to left). Highlight everything and copy (ctrl-c) the whole mess and paste it into a text file.

Now you have a listing of each feed, which folder you put it in, and the URL. You could use this information to manually repopulate all your feeds into a new RSS reader – I know this works because I just spent a good chunk of my evening doing it. It takes time, but it’s time I had and I queued up some podcasts to listen to while I was cutting & pasting URLs (no, I’m not so nuts I manually typed them) and that was that.

Even if something new comes along later that I like better, I now how 3 backups: the Google-generated xml file, a text listing, and a fully operational set on a 2nd reader app.

Never read the comments.

filed under , 6 March 2013, 12:36 by

Moving forward, I have decided to turn off the commenting function on RocketBomber. There are several reasons, the foremost of which is I don’t really care anymore.

Commenting does have a place on blogs – and for websites that operate as pseudo-forums (or actual forums and web-boards) or who, as part of their stated mission, attempt to “foster a community” of like-minded miscreants, well – you do kinda need that functionality. There are even tools and services out there (Disqus and Gravatar spring to mind) to make commenting either spam-resistant, more capable, or more useful to both commentariat and website alike.

None of that applies here. With just a couple of exceptions (shout out to BruceMcF, and JRBrown) the comments are just a place for very lost spammatons to drop inappropriate links.

As for reader engagement, I guess I have a twitter for that.

With only half-hearted apologies to readers who will miss the opportunity to comment, commenting here is now closed.

Thank You, handy-shorthand-title, but we're moving on

filed under , 8 November 2012, 15:24 by

SO my last “Rethinking the Box” column was, in fact, my Last “rethinking the box” column.

I think I’ve done as much damage there as I can. In looking at the origin of the Big Box Bookstore and then taking it to fairly exotic places, I’d say my infatuation with the Box is done.

In future essays, I’d like to focus more on bookselling and less on 4-walls-and-a-cafe. The business of books has already moved forward a whole century in just the last 10 years, and we have even more growth and adaptation ahead of us.


All essays of course remain for you to re-read (or newly discover), indexed on my Bookselling Resources page [] and the new set of long-form-thought-pieces will be added there as well. This isn’t so much an abandonment of principles as a change in focus and required mental readjustment.

Status update: since I haven't posted to in a month

filed under , 18 November 2011, 23:24 by

I’ve been working quite a while on a bookstore business plan; not only because I think it’d be a nice feature for this blog, BUT ALSO because, hell – I want to run my own damn bookstore. I’d be most pleased to entertain investors in such an endeavour.

But as per usual, I’m making a simple thing more complicated.

Instead of just posting my business plan, I’m going to post a guide — with many, many references and large blocks of previous research — so you [or anyone] can write your own bookstore business plan.

[with the appropriate caveats, not only to protect myself, legally, but also to make sure *your* efforts to fund a bookstore don’t repeat the obvious mistakes, or run into the obvious obstacles]

So I’m looking at 6 case studies: from non-profit book collectives through small storefronts, to landmark bookstores, to regional name-brand booksellers with a strong web presence.

[like I said: making a simple thing more complicated]

I’ll have to work out which chunks of my own business plan are bookstore-slash-retail universal, and such can be reliably copied/referenced by others, and then also outline specific plans for each case study. I also need to write up the appropriate introduction, educating and specifically directing the readers to do their own research and due diligence: even if you use my knowledge base as your own starting point [and constant reference] there is no replacement for getting into the numbers, getting dirty, and coming to your own conclustions.

SO: I’ve a lot of work ahead of me — Work for free, at that, because I’m weird that way.

Alas, there are no work-in-progress posts – or ‘thinking/talking aloud’ in a blog post [unless you count the past 33 months of rethinking the box.]

The final project can be parsed into chunks, but must post all at once – or in very short succession.


So the blog ‘radio silence’ is not a reflection of me giving up, but rather, an unfortunate consequence of my doubling-down. More to come, soon.

Ah. Yes. A brief note.

filed under , 18 July 2011, 00:14 by

I explicitly said I wasn’t looking for feedback

So of course I got feedback.


To address one point,

“You seem perfectly normal to me, why do you insist you’re so different, or that you’re ‘doing it wrong’? – isn’t _that_ normal? Why withdraw?”

So. If you’ve followed this blog to the point where you’d be compelled to comment, you know that I often try to explain difficult concepts in analogies and parallels:

Imagine going in front of a jury to defend your doctoral thesis.

You’ve done your research. You’ve rehearsed this. Maybe you even rehearsed this with a partner, having them ask you questions you think the jury is going to ask. You know this stuff, or you think you do. You’ve spent years in the field, you’ve done dozens of interviews, you’ve read thousands of pages, you’ve devoted hours — days — months of your life in an attempt to understand this strange new topic.

Before you started, you had no real experience in this particular area, only a vague awareness: but you’ve built on this basic understanding and have, over years, developed your own theories, heuristics, and formulas.

And that’s fine. You’re ready to defend your thesis and accept your PhD.


Imagine doing all that work, all that research — the interviews, the case studies, the sample cases, the baseline surveys — just to get to “normal”.

I’m not saying I’m autistic — I’ve never had the benefit of that diagnosis, and in daily life I operate and am functional, so ‘Rain Man’ doesn’t apply. Auspergers is the better fit anyway, but I was not given that as an option either — back in the day no one had defined that yet; I was ‘gifted’, as a student, and expected to excel and go to Harvard or MIT or Berkeley, and back in the 80s no one had a pigeonhole for students like me except ‘smart’

And many, many smart kids went to Stanford and MIT and they have certainly done well, and defined the new internet society we live in. And many, many kids like me are now engineers and specialists, and they’ve had kids of their own, and now these kids get diagnosed and we make arrangements and exceptions, for these exceptional individuals.

But I grew up in Georgia. Yes, Atlanta is a tech center and a decent place to launch a startup besides, but in the 80s Georgia was still Deep South — and I didn’t grow up in Atlanta, my home town is 60 miles south of there — and back then, in that backwater, any kid who needed or wanted more than the “3 Rs” was an aberration to be barely tolerated — not a light to be nourished.

My point [well, my point so far is to badmouth my primary & secondary education, because it kinda sucked, and I only learned anything because of my personal hunger for information, not becaused I was helped along the way] is that there was no program to help ‘gifted’ students learn social skills, and by pulling us out of class for the ‘gifted’ program, well-meaning educators only made a bad problem worse

Booksmart is different from streetsmart — and, alas, no one is doing studies on that particular dynamic.


Not only did I not ask for feedback — in fact, I chose to forgo feedback and explicitly denied it by closing out the comments — what amazed me is the extent some readers went to, to comment. I got private messages via Twitter, I got personal email, there was at least one comment on other posts to this blog — my fav, though, has to be the rumour passed along, friend-of-a-friend style, that I was going to stop blogging.

Yeah, and yeah, ha ha, but actually: No.

This blog is my sole safety valve in a retail world gone mad.

I’m not posting much at the moment because I don’t do the “daily journal” blog thing — most of my posts require research. Some require math. With charts.

So even as I withdraw from social media like Facebook and Twitter, I cannot silence the blog — I choose to do less on Twitter so I can write more for the blog. And Facebook kinda sucks. [in fact, Twitter is the only social media platform I felt any affinity for — my reasons for using it less are in the last post]


The current lack of updates to the blog is because I am working very hard to bring my sporadic Manga Bestseller Lists up to date, and up to a professional standard — more on that front later, as the project nears completion.

And on the bookselling front: I am crafting a “nuclear bomb”, a set of blog posts on the future of bookselling to be combined with an open letter to my employer.

Both projects make demands on my time – time I don’t have. Because work sucks. Because I’ve been forced for years to ‘do more with less’ and this will turn into another rant if I don’t cut things off here.

Both projects are also best served if I post MASSIVE UPDATES AND MULTIPLE POSTS ALL AT ONCE — so the day-to-day low-level grumbling and occasional-but-typically-weekly blogging is also going to take a hit, for however long it takes me to catch up.

And thank you for your concern, even when I say I don’t need the feedback.

BookNom.Net Book Review Summer Challenge

filed under , 19 May 2011, 00:06 by

It’s an idea that occurred to me yesterday morning, before I had to go to work:

And that’s about as simple as I can make it — 101 Days, 101 Book Reviews.

Some clarifications and caveats:

Yes, I’m doing this for It’s my other site, the one I just launched 3 months ago. I’m not posting this announcement over there because RocketBomber is my chosen venue for drunken posts of all types: from rants to data analysis [you wouldn’t believe how much beer that takes] — to bravura boasting and throw-down-style blogger challenges.

Yes, this is a Stunt. But it should be fun anyway.


I’ll will now open the imaginary floor to supposed questions from theoretical readers:

Why are you posting this challenge here?

I answered in part above, but let me fill in some some more blanks: I personally would like to keep as focused as possible on its mission, with the possible exception of one tiny little fiction exercise just because Lissa’s art concepts for the site were, honestly, really damn good (I felt inspired) — but past the occasional instalment of an ongoing illustrated story: it’s all about the book reviews.

And if you all were reading BookNom, we wouldn’t need a summer publicity stunt, now would we?

I’m looking to bookstrap bootstrap new content for BookNom, build up it’s archives, and populate its tagcloud while also giving search engines lots of toothsome content to index, to increase the ‘nom’s profile and overall exposure. Even if I’m the only blogger who accepts the challenge, that’ll still be 101 new reviews—posted daily—and I think both I and the blog will be better for it.

Wait, is this actually a real thing?

Serious as a heart attack. Look, I even have a graphic:

Can I participate?

I *said* we have a graphic — ↑↑↑ — and that makes it a participatory web-like-thing, right? Am I right? Amirite?

I don’t write for BookNom, though. Is that a requirement?

Ah. well. [mumble, mumble] …no. [/mumble] – You could post to facebook, honestly. I’m not on facebook, so I couldn’t read your reviews, but use whichever platform you have

BUT your lack of participation at BookNom is a temporary handicap, a lack that can easily be fixed!

[shameless plug]

I’ve several resources already posted to BookNom, so take a look. When developing the concept and building the site, my first thought was to make it as easy as possible for my fellow bloggers — we all have a blog already (or two, or three) plus facebook, plus twitter, plus actual human contact and friendships and family and obligations and crap [should you insist… ludite] so BookNom is meant to be an extra — a place to review things that you still enjoy but which might not fit on your own site, and a handy platform to post synopses of previously written material that fit the BookNom mission [] and which could use a little extra exposure.

Drop me an email at either site — matt @ rocketbomber or matt @ — and I can get you set up with a login [END /shameless plug]

What are the ground rules?

101 Days. 28 May to 9 September — Memorial Day Weekend [Saturday Next, in fact] to Labor Day — ah, those are the US holidays. …sorry, forgot to mention that. Kind of US centric as these are the laws and holidays provided to me.

Post One Book Review a Day.

That’s it.

I might go one step further and say that *I* certainly don’t plan to write long essays or analysis or much more than 5 or 6 paragraphs for each. At BookNom, I’ve proposed a ‘friends recommend’ review style — casual, to the point, & only the stuff you like.

Do I have to *read* 100+ books?

Only if you want to. Please feel free to recommend/review old favourites, though — especially if they’re books that you enjoyed.

Can I repost old reviews?

Hm. Tough call.

I’ll allow it, if
1. You wrote it for another site but said site is now defunct. In this case, I think you really should repost old reviews where someone can now read it. I’d almost call it an obligation on your part. or:
2. You merely link to an older post, but take at least a few minutes to revisit the work, explain why it’s still a good book, and put the old review in context. OR:
3. You find yourself in a situation where there’s just so much other fun stuff to do and you want to keep up with the Challenge but you need a ‘free pass’ and here’s this old review, just sitting there…

fine. So long as you post One Review A Day, I’ll give you 3 free passes to repost old reviews. But only 3. And you should feel guilty, and maybe feel compelled to make up for it with a truly fabulous new review when you have more time.

If it doesn’t start until 28 May, why bring it up now?

While I could just drop this on you alongside my first review [“Oh btw there’s this thing and I’ll be posting daily kthxbye”] well, at that point it’d be too late for you to join in.

I would have given you more than 10 days notice, but I just thought this thing up yesterday morning.

The other reason to give all of you a little advance notice is so everyone can start writing now. The Second Corollary to what I’d previously called The Tayler Principle [see note] is that if you need to post something once a day, you’re going to need a buffer.

Say you go gangbusters, write at least a review a day for the next week—and 2 each on your days off—by the time Saturday next rolls around you can post your first review and have ten or even 12 posts in the queue, ready to go should you slip a day or forget or whatever.


I personally need the challenge, and the structure, and the deadlines — and a really good excuse to get off of my butt and actually working […or onto my butt, in a chair, at a desk, at the computer writing; but anyway…]

I love books, I have at least 30 things already knocking around the apartment that need to be reviewed, and another 30 that need to be read.

I’m looking forward to the BookNom.Net Book Review Summer Challenge, 101 days of books [Books I Love — or at least those I like, as I won’t bother to write about the bad ones] and while yes, I’m sort-of-joking and tongue is planted firmly-in-cheek:

I Dare You to Try It Too.

A New Start for Two Sites

filed under , 26 February 2011, 21:05 by

Just this past week, I launched a new book-oriented blog, which leaves me to wonder a bit about what to do with the old book-oriented blog—

—this one.

## is different – first up is focus: BookNom is just for reviews. Books are the only topic and I’m doing my best to make it look both inviting and professional. While the basic framework is a blog [in fact, it uses the same CMS as RocketBomber] the concept & eventual execution are much more ‘site’ than ‘blog’ – if that distinction means anything to you. RocketBomber is a platform for me to post drunken rants to the internet, while is… not.

I’ve already opened up the BookNom concept & platform to 3 other contributors – maybe 4 [Lissa is working hard on the art for me — IT'S FANTASTIC, TELL HER THAT — but we still haven’t talked about her writing anything for the site] so from the very beginning, BookNom is not just my project.

In fact: click, read, and consider – Submission Guidelines : Style Guide : Reviewer Resources : Call for Contributors

And BookNom is much more an idea than a website: way back in June the idea for BookNom grew organically out of… me posting drunken rants to the internet

In fact, hell, we could sign the whole thing up as an Amazon affiliate, let them worry about procurement & shipping & margin, and just take our cut from the internet sale. I don’t need a warehouse and fulfillment protocols for millions of titles if I can get Amazon to do that for me — I’ll take the booksellers, thanks, the ones who know and love the product, and we’ll do just fine.

There is nothing stopping you from just taking this idea (and the links to handy resources I’ve already posted) and starting your own book-reviews-for-tips website. I Strongly Encourage You To Do So. Hell, if your version is better than mine, I’ll write for you and you can register the domain names and pay for hosting & web design & art and work part time as editor (I haven’t been an editor since college newspaper days, ah nostalgia, 17 years ago) and I’ll just take the points I get as an Amazon [and soon to be IndieBound!] affiliate and drink my beer and write my little missives to an uncaring internet.


I’m a Lazy Bastard.

No, it’s true. I spent 7 years (7½ – almost 8) at one of our nation’s finest educational institutions, treating a major research university like my own intellectual buffet. I changed my major almost annually; I studied physics, architecture, engineering; I took math classes as electives; I asked for (and got) permission to take graduate level courses as an undergrad. I squeezed Uni like a ripe fruit, and drank deep from the juice.

—and then spent five years in bars [as a consultant – getting paid, even; I’ve been spending decades in bars at this point] followed by my current employment as a bookseller. I like the bookstore, and working there gets me an employee discount.

Of Course I’m over qualified. That’s why they kept promoting me, year after year. But that wasn’t a bad thing: I’ve worked almost every job under the roof, and done every task you can think of: receiving, shelving, stock maintenance, and returns; stints in every specialty department – including music, DVDs, newstand, gift, bargain books, and most recently digital; the whole spectrum of retail management from hiring, training, evaluation, scheduling, Bookseller mentoring and development;

Not only have I spent the last ten years learning a bookstore up-down-and-sideways, I’ve spent my days off researching online book sales and publishing trends and drinking deep from the well, listening to Mimir’s murmurs and Delphic whispers.

Given my background, and education, I could be doing ‘important’ work. My thought at one point was to pursue a career in architectural acoustics, designing concert halls and other performance spaces. Instead, I ended up as a bookseller. My passions and inclinations weren’t amputated, however: As a bookseller, I’ve been analyzing the Big Box just as avidly as I tackled any academic subject while at university.

I’m a lazy bastard – I could have been an architect, or engineer, or physicist, or inventor. But that was work: I didn’t find my true calling until I was out of school for 4 years and took a part-time job as a bookseller.

## is it’s own thing, and I hope that from humble origins it will grow into a modest site — I don’t need the payday from a sell-out, and the bigger deal it becomes the more work it will be. But a book-recommendation site that some thousands visit, enough to make the affiliate links pay out at least enough for beer money for the reviewers, a website that makes a top 1000 or top 100 list? That would be grand.

BookNom is the site I would have launched in 2004 (back in Jan. 2004 when I wrote my first blog post) if I had understood the internet at that point, or more to the point had understood what it was I could contribute.

RocketBomber is the site that I, as a 37-year-old blogger with the odd hobbies and a bookselling job and too much beer and a 7 year blogging history — well, this is site I ended up with. RocketBomber may take a decided turn to the personal – relieved of the burden of being my ‘professional’ blog, I can share more insights without caring who the audience is, or what the reception to my posts will be.

Yes, I’ll still post online rankings and analysis of industry numbers. I’ll still post columns like rethinking the box. I’ll still post the free-form thought pieces. (& I do not doubt some columns will grow organically from the book-review-mission-statement of as well)

But I think I’ll post more often to RocketBomber, now that the onus of posting for the ‘permanent record’ is off. No doubt, some of you will consider this to be an improvement; the rest will remove the link, unfollow the RSS feed, and set up a filter to automatically delete me.

From this point forward: I will post.

Two years in, and still trying to find my place.

filed under , 29 June 2010, 00:23 by

It’s odd to celebrate an ‘anniversary’ (and only 2 years?) when one has been blogging more-or-less-continuously for six and a half years on a variety of platforms, and the blogging experiment was only the latest, most public permutation of a writing life. As experiments go, I’d have to say: I still need more data, and possibly a control group, to know if blogging is a worthwhile activity.

incidentally: I’m reminded how much the noun/verb ‘blog’ used to bother me. Now, (with the appropriate concrete derivational suffix) I’d be happy to take it on as my job title.

However, the end of June (29 June, in fact) is the anniversary date of this particular domain’s debut, so: Happy Birthday, Rocket Bomber!

[Actually, the first post dates to 26 May 2008 and imported archives predate that by another 18 months, but who’s counting?]

I didn’t bother with this last year, because honestly, I didn’t think about it. However, I’ve recently paid good money—in advance—for two more years of web hosting, so the idea of a minor celebration and some major reflection hit me the right way.

I’ve tried a lot of things over the past two years (some of them hold-over features from previous blogs) but nothing really stuck as regular weekly columns. It seems likely that so long as I hold a full-time job, I’ll never be able to post on-time or regularly. And that’s fine: as the bookstore job is a ripe vineyard, and many a post has been squeezed from those grapes, and I feel the ‘rethinking the box’ experiment is a vintage that will age well and will only get better over time. Some other attempted ‘tags’ and features haven’t done so well, but a blog is hard to do as a solo act and the exercise only gets harder if you attempt to compete with link bloggers and daily news sites.


I’d like to present, for you edification and delectation, My Best Posts for the first 2 years on RocketBomber:

& of course, the Emma MMF

…and you might have your favourites but these five (minus the pie chart) are the ones I find myself referring back to and linking to most. [the pie chart, not so much, but that was a fun use of the database]

And My Eternal Shame — the three most popular posts:

Looks like 2009 was a good year — and I have some more recent posts [4 to 10 June 2010 was a damn good week] that I also like quite a bit but it remains to be seen if they’re also as ‘classic’ as the ones above.


How to celebrate? well, I’m thinking of taking time off of work, and spending it porting over all the remaining reviews (and select columns) leftover from, so all my output is in one place.

I’d like to restart the weekly Manga Online Sales Rankings, using a brand new scoring system and with a couple of new sources.

I’d like to resume weekly manga reviews, and start reviewing more anime.

I’d like to actually make good on a longstanding threat and start the RocketBomber podcast netcast.

And I’m beginning to look at redesigning the site from scratch. Starting with some original art. Which means I have to teach myself how to draw.

so. busy week.

Stating some things explicitly:

filed under , 31 May 2010, 19:19 by

Just added this

to the top banner to make my position clear. I give you, and your friends (and the next guy) permission to take anything I post [like say, the charts or the 7 types of customer] and remix, remux, and re-process at will.

Just don’t steal. And link back; it’s only polite.

And of course, if you’d like to add a similar image (or the exact same image) to your blog graphics, I release the .jpg above without conditions for any re-use. This is what the symbols mean in plain English and the same in Legalese

← previous posts          

Yes, all the links are broken.

On June 1, 2015 (after 6 years and 11 months) I needed to relaunch/restart this blog, or at least rekindle my interest in maintaining and updating it.

Rather than delete and discard the whole thing, I instead moved the blog -- database, cms, files, archives, and all -- to this subdomain. When you encounter broken links (and you will encounter broken links) just change the URL in the address bar from to

I know this is inconvenient, and for that I apologise. In addition to breaking tens of thousands of links, this also adversely affects the blog visibility on search engines -- but that, I'm willing to live with. Between the Wayback Machine at and my own half-hearted preservation efforts (which you are currently reading) I feel nothing has been lost, though you may have to dig a bit harder for it.

As always, thank you for reading. Writing version 1.0 of Rocket Bomber was a blast. For those that would like to follow me on the 2.0 - I'll see you back on the main site.



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