Two fairly recent satellite books
There’s a real need for an updated, reader-friendly book about the state of satellite TV, especially for us FTA viewers. In the continuing quest to find this book, I read a couple of small editions that attack the topic from different directions.
The most interesting was Start a TV Station by Brock Fisher. This is a very small book. It’s just 77 pages, and those pages are just 5.25 x 7.75 inches. To put that in perspective, the user manual that came with my most recent FTA receiver was half an inch wider, half an inch taller, and 108 pages. It appears to be a print-on-demand book; mine included the date I ordered it on the back page.
But it’s selling pretty well, a few dozen a year on Amazon alone. It addresses a wish that pops up again and again in my emailbox: How can I start my own satellite TV channel? As he promotes his web site (www.tvstartup.com) as a one-stop shop, Fisher lays out the pieces you’d need to get your satellite channel going. He also discusses alternatives via OTA broadcast and internet streaming. And the best part is that he includes ballpark price estimates with all of these pieces, so the reader can start to get a handle on what it’ll take to get started.
There are problems with the book. The text and illustrations are frequently amateurish. The first word in the book is misspelled. The first picture is a poor screenshot of a LyngSat channel page. Typos and awkward grammar litter the whole book. The book ends without a summary; it flows straight from the last chapter to the glossary. And it’s not cheap; you’ll pay around 50 cents for each tiny page of content.
Yet there are signs of an author who might know what he’s doing. For example, Fisher points out that if you choose a satellite that’s already popular with FTA viewers, you’ll have a larger initial potential audience. If you’re hungry for this kind of information, then maybe you’re willing to forgive the medium and buy this book for the message.
The other book was The Satellite Technology Guide for the 21st Century by Virgil S. Labrador and friends. Compared to the first book, it seems as huge as an encyclopedia, but it’s really just 200 pages and only a bit taller.
The Guide has lots of problems, too. First is its odd, distracting font with hyphens, colons and semicolons that float much higher than normal. Labrador’s chapters, the meat of the book, are very short. For example, he summarizes the history of satellite communications in nine illustrated pages. While not at Fisher’s level, the text is often awkward, and occasional typos pop up. The longest chapter, on VSATs (Very Small Aperature Terminals, the two-way satellite communication you see at some gas stations, for example), was written by a guy who has a company that sells VSATs.
This book is better written and less expensive, but who is its audience? Executives who need a really quick overview of the industry? Curious hobbyists who want a short description of the technology? I mean, I’d like to read Labrador’s earlier Heavens Fill with Commerce, which apparently spends a whole book on satellite history. Maybe this example applies to the rest of the Guide – for each section, you can probably find a better, more thorough treatment elsewhere.
No two ways about it, I need to write an FTA book later this year. What chapters and topics do you think it should cover? Post a comment and let me know.