Bob and Joy Schwabach

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August 2006, Week 3



                  Everybody says they could write a book, and quite a few people do. Sometimes one of those books turns out to be a lulu. That's a book from, we mean.

   This is a Web site that takes on all comers and stands ready to publish their books. What makes it different from a so-called vanity press, which charges authors to handle their books, is that Lulu charges for just the printing and LuLu distribution. You submit the book, and if anybody wants it, Lulu will print it for a cost of 2 cents a page plus binding, or 15 cents a page for color. Paperback binding costs about $4.50 per book, hardcover about $15. The final sale price is up to you.

   We contacted someone at, and she told us the company publishes over 1,500 new titles a week and sells almost 100,000 books a month. Lulu makes its money by taking 20 percent of whatever the author charges. It will also make CDs and DVDs of the books it publishes.

   An alternative to Lulu is CafePress, which we first wrote about three years ago. Its prices for finished books are higher than Lulu's, but the author gets to keep any profits from the sales.

   CafePress does only black-and-white books and uses color just for covers. Where it really makes its money is on related products like T-shirts, coffee Cafe Pressmugs, napkins, bags, housewares, drinking glasses, etc. It sells these decorated with whatever designs or words you want, which can be from your own books or any source you like. You'll find all this stuff at

A Delight for the Sansa-s

    SanDisk moves once more into the fray with a new MP3 player that is both beautiful and bountiful. We played with the new Sansa e260 for a couple of days, and this one is a keeper for sure.

   The player measures 1.73 by 3.5 by 0.5 inches -- smaller than a deck of cards -- and has a display screen covering half the surface. The weight is 2.6 ounces. SansaThe four-gigabyte version we used sells for about $180 from discounters and will hold 1,000 songs, or dozens of symphonic concerts. The sound quality is terrific.

   Like other players, such as the iPod Nano, the Sansa can also display photos and video clips. It can be used as a recorder, as well, taking your voice notes or the sounds of the world around you. The battery life tested out at 22 hours, nearly twice that of the iPod Nano.

   The Sansa e260 also has an FM receiver. We tuned in several stations, and they came in as clearly as they did on our Sony stereo. The same built-in circuitry that lets you record your voice can also record any broadcast you're listening to. If you're listening to a Latin concert or Beethoven concerto you'd like to hear again, just hit the tiny "record" button.

   And speaking of musical styles, the Sansa automatically categorized all of our music selections into "Latin," "classical," "rock" and "world" in a larger "genres" listing. Somehow it knew what they were. Beats us.

   Speaking of what it knows: If you plug its USB cable into your Windows XP computer, the Sansa can automatically download all your saved songs, pictures and video clips. For music, it will even download and display the album covers. If you want more memory, you can plug a micro flash memory card into a slot on the side. By the way, the same USB connection used to download the music and pictures or upload your voice also charges the battery. Most impressive, mama.

The Rain in Spain

   Hola! This is the best approach to learning Spanish we've ever found, short of spending time in another country. Joy spent a lot of time with the new Berlitz Berlitz Spanish Spanish Premier program for Windows and Macintosh because, after all, it was her duty. Then she spent a lot more time because it was so much fun.

   The program immerses you in the language, just as Maximilian Berlitz would have done were he still around. Berlitz became famous for teaching people other languages in a matter of days rather than months, by using total immersion. He came upon the method when a French teacher at the school he managed failed to show up. As an emergency measure he hired an elevator operator who knew only two words of English: "up" and "down." To his surprise, the students, faced with a teacher who knew only French, learned faster than they ever had under other systems.

   You can think of Berlitz Premier Spanish as your own private elevator operator. In addition to hearing the language and speaking it in return, you can watch videos, play word games, and solve crossword puzzles. You can record your voice and then compare your pronunciation with that of a native speaker. Wav files let you see how close your sounds are to those of the teacher.

   Berlitz Spanish comes as an eight-CD set and lists for $40 from You must supply your own headset and microphone. The programs are also available in Italian, German or French.


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