Monthly Archives: March 2011

  •    Barry Eisler Explains Self-Publishing Decision:
    Some people have mistakenly argued that, for my move to make financial sense, I’ll have to earn $142,000 a year for three years. But this is one time when you don’t want to be comparing apples to apples. Because the question isn’t whether I can make $425,000 in three years in self-publishing; the question is what happens regardless of when I hit that number. What happens whenever I hit that point is that I’ll have “beaten” the contract, and then I’ll go on beating it for the rest of my life. If I don’t earn out the legacy contract, the only money I’ll ever see from it is $142,000 per year for three years.
    It’s an interesting corollary to Hocking’s traditional publishing decision. Hocking ‘doesn’t want to be a publisher’ and is willing to sacrifice some money to have that; Eisler is walking from a half-million publishing deal because he thinks he can make more on his own. #

To Diana

Dear Diana,

I’ve always struggled to put the (often dark) joy of reading your books into words. You aren’t as easy to describe as some of the other authors: “Do you read Diana Wynn Jones?” I’d ask my friends, in my childhood, and they’d shake their heads. “Well go read her. Go read the Chrestomanci series.” But they wouldn’t.

Your books, I realize, aren’t the teenage wildfires that the Hunger Games or the Twilight books are. They’re … different. Darker. Witty. More realistic, I feel. More difficult, too. had a call for letters late last year, when the editors found out that you stopped chemo. I considered sending a letter. I never did, and I regret that now.

I realize – in the wake of your passing – that I loved your books more fiercely than I did any other writer; if Stephanie Mayer or Rowling died I wouldn’t have felt as terrible as when Gaiman reported your death.

I found my first Chrestomanci book when I was 11; in the children’s section of the Sarawak Club library. It was on a bottom shelf by the large picture-windows facing the hallway, all of them HarperCollins reprints of your catalog. I didn’t borrow any other writer for quite a bit after my discovery. My sister and I fought over the only copy of Howl’s Moving Castle.

When the Sarawak Club burned down my mind leapt, almost immediately, to their collection of your books.

In my first semester in NUS, shortly after finishing Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, I took a chance and searched for your name in the NUS library’s cataloging system. There were only three books of yours in the catalog that I’d not read. I finished all three in three days, during the reading week, procrastinating when I should’ve been studying for my theatre exam.

I gave my youngest sister a copy of Wilkin’s Tooth as a 12th birthday present. It’s lost now, and I feel a little bad about that.

I don’t really know how to talk about your writing. I suppose I should, but I can’t. Too many layers. Cruel protagonists and unbelieving parents. Sulky dragons and self-absorbed enchanters. Broken marriages and young, vain lovers. I feel a bit better knowing that bits of you live on in writers like Neil Gaiman (whom you dedicated Hexwood to, how dare he!), John Scalzi, and Rowling (though she has not admitted it!).

I miss you already.

Rest in peace, Diana Wynn Jones. I promise you – when I have kids, your books will be amongst the first they read. Thank you for such a wonderful childhood.

Diana Wynn Jones, 19 August 1934 – 26 March 2011

PS: More tributes here, here and here. In particular, I loved this bit by Emma Bull:

She was passionate about what children want and deserve from their literature. Adults would approach her at signings, wanting to know why she wrote such difficult books. In one case, when a woman protested, the woman’s young son spoke up and assured Diana, “Don’t worry. I understood it.”

She had such faith in us.

  •    MCM is writing another novel in 3 days, this time at the Vooruit festival in Belgium! Watch him livewrite it here, or follow along with the #3D1D hashtag on Twitter. #
  •    Amanda Hocking Signs Four-Book Deal With St. Martin’s. Presumably for a couple million dollars. Worth thinking about: Hocking’s making less with this deal, but gets more time to write.
    Update: she’s written a blog post about it. #
  •    Shmuel has put together a “Lies-Publishers-Tell Themselves-Bingo Card“. Includes such gems as:
    With a new economic model, nobody will write books
    Cheap books devalue everybody else’s work.
    Also worth a look: James Bridle’s Stop Lying About What You Do, about publishers who say eBooks will never catch on and praise their Kindle in the same breath. #
  •    Here’s a beautiful little interactive book from the fine folks at the National Film Board of Canada. #
  •    Author Barry Eisler rejects $500,000 Publishing Advance to go Indie:
    The decision for Eisler, at its core, was pretty simple. On the basis of what he’s learned from his friend Joe Konrath, who seems to be banking in the mid-six-figures self-publishing annually after a career as a non-bestselling author for established publishers, and what Eisler learned himself by self-publishing a short story, he figures he can earn more, much more, in the long run by publishing himself.
    The move is purely economic. #
  •    Amazon adds ‘Real Page Numbers’ to Kindle eBooks:
    We wanted to be able to display real page numbers that have value and are useful for those who need to cite a specific passage in a book for class, follow along with their friend in a book club, or simply point a friend to a favorite part of the book.
    They’ve also found a way to distribute this new metadata to all previously purchased eBooks, so it matches up to the page numbers from a real book. I wonder how book editions are handled, though – three versions of the same book would have slightly different page numbers. #

I Was Wrong About The Kindle

It’s been a year since Apple first released the iPad. Back then, I declared the Kindle dead, and argued that the iPad was going to be the reading device of the future.

I was wrong, of course.

The lesson I learnt here is that one technology very rarely replaces another – or, as David Pogue calls it: “things don’t replace things, they just splinter”. Even if cannibalization happens, it takes years before you see no more of one technology: television didn’t kill radio, and mp3s didn’t kill CDs (or at least, not yet) – and so the iPad won’t kill the Kindle.

But I was wrong about another thing: the iPad is a different device altogether. See, for instance, this Kindle ad:

The value proposition is clear: the Kindle is cheap, readable under sunlight, and light enough to hold in one hand. None of which describes the iPad.

Now, I’m not saying that people won’t read on the iPad. I spent my last holiday reading five books and two web fiction serials on one, taking notes on the reading experience as I went along. The iPad is great on a sofa – and is even better when you’re using it to read what you would otherwise read on a computer screen. But it’s no paperback – and you can’t use it on trains or in parks or on beaches the same way you would a Kindle.

Yipeng's Kindle

Yipeng, one of the co-founders at Pandamian, is known to call his Kindle ‘shitty’. (He’s in charge of .mobi conversion, if you’re wondering, because he owns one: see above). And yet he’s read a ton of books on it, and downloads still more to load onto the device. The reason? The Kindle is meant for reading, and reading alone. No distractions. No web surfing. No addictive pig-killing games.

With speculation of a free Kindle to be released later this year, it’s now rather clear as to why the Kindle is built the way it is – cheap and plasticky, with a user interface that kind-of sucks. It doesn’t need to be amazing. It just needs to be good enough for book nerds – like me – who’re sick of lugging heavy paperbacks around.

(Incidentally, I find it interesting as to what the Kindle gets right – typography on the Kindle screen is gorgeous, and the fact that it’s got battery life of close to a month helps when you’re bringing it with you on a long-haul flight. Plus – and this is obvious – the Kindle store has all the might of Amazon behind it).

I’m not sure what the future of ebook reading is, but – seeing as Apple appears to be relatively disinterested in eBooks – I’m fairly confident that the Kindle, the Nook (and other devices like them, no matter how horrendously constructed) would be a big part of it.

  •    Mandy Brown on web reading:
    Likewise the design of these pages has come to serve the needs of the advertisers instead of the readers. The basic principles of good reading design—whitespace, an appropriate measure, considered typography—are not only absent, they are actively violated. We design pages for clicks—for movement from place to place—neglecting the fact that reading is an act of stillness. We intentionally distract, polluting the visual space until it resembles less a library than Times Square. And to add insult to injury, we cover up these ills by saying people don’t read online—as if the design of a space played no part in determining its use.
    One of the early design decisions we made at Pandamian was to prevent writers from adding ads to the sidebar. This can – and will! – change, when we implement theming, but there’s something to be said about standing up for the reader. #

Novelr Hacked; Back Up Now

Just a couple of quick announcements:

1) Novelr was compromised for most of today and part of yesterday. Those of you using Google Chrome (or a browser with a Google search bar installed) would’ve likely seen a warning screen telling you to STAY CALM AND WALK AWAY. If you didn’t, and you visited Novelr in the past day or so, I must say that I’m sorry about this, and I recommend that you run a virus scan on your computer, just in case.

(You won’t need to if you’re on Mac, or Linux, but I suppose I don’t need to tell you that.)

2) I’ve hardened up security on Novelr’s WordPress installation. If you see something funny over the next couple of days, do feel free to drop me an email. For those of you out there with WordPress installations of your own, I’d recommend you install this, this and this plugin, and follow some of the guidelines in this document.

2a) I’ve been running WordPress for close to five years now, and must admit that I’m very annoyed with a day spent on hunting down exploits. Annoyed enough to consider switching to a static site generator like Jekyll … though I’ll probably have to put that off till when I’m freer.

3) I’ve implemented Disqus comments. As some of you probably know, the last week or so saw some pretty rabid discussion in the commenting section of Novelr. The Disqus system allows you to flag comments you find particularly nasty, and it allows me to collapse comment threads I have no interest in reading. My thanks to L. Lee Lowe, Jim Zoetewey, and Chris Poirier for helping out with some of the more ridiculous commenters.

The best way to complain is to build things. Let’s do that, and carry on.

  •    Kevin Kelly on 99 Cent eBooks:
    I don’t think publishers are ready for how low book prices will go. It seems insane, dangerous, life threatening, but inevitable. I predict we’ll be there in 5 years, (before the marginal price drops to zero, but that is another story.)
    But the real story: Konrath slashes the price of his ebook The List, and sees sales shoot up to 800 a day. #