Monthly Archives: August 2011

  •    Impeccable Petunia is the most beautiful web fiction site I’ve seen this year. It’s got some clever design going for it, and has gorgeous illustrations for each chapter. (Some background on the project is also available over at the Huffington Post). #
  •    “Game of Thrones” Author talks about Dwarves, Dragons and Delving into eBooks. At Authors@Google, no less:
    After the talk, I was able to chat with Martin a little about ebooks. The author says he carries his e-reader with him now whenever he travels, whereas in the past, he would incur overweight baggage charges because of the 10 or more physical books he would inevitably bring along. But he was also concerned that digital piracy might do to the book industry what it did to the music industry.
    Ah, the sweet irony about such things: on the one hand an ebook is small enough, and light enough, to carry in a thumbdrive; on the other it’s small enough, and light enough, to copy and spread. #
  •    Kevin Kelly on ‘Post-Artifact Booking‘:
    The primary shift is one of thinking of the book as a process rather than artifact. We are moving from the culture of the book to the culture of booking. Our focus is no longer on the book, the noun, but on booking, the verb — on that continuous process of thinking, writing, editing, writing, sharing, editing, screening, writing, screening, sharing, thinking, writing — and so on that incidentally throws off books. Books, even ebooks, are by-products of the booking process.
    This is, of course, not without its problems — Kelly mentions in passing how this new relationship is already allowing spammers to pollute the Kindle marketplace. (via John Tormey) #

The New Nook

This guest post is written by Jim Zoetewey, author of The Legion Of Nothing (my favourite long-running web fiction work). When I posted about the upcoming Nook, Jim contacted me and said that he’d probably get one. I asked him for a review, and here it is:

So first off, so you know where I’m coming from, I’m a web developer. I do some programming, and a minimal amount of graphic design. I’ve got a long term interest in user-interfaces, and did some coursework in designing and testing them in graduate school.

I’m no expert in usability, however, and so I’ll mostly be coming at this from a reader’s perspective.

The new nook is obviously an attempt at taking a bite out of the cheapest Kindle. While most nooks are $200 and above, the new nook is $139, just above the cost of the Kindle. Unlike other nooks, it’s black and white, Wi-Fi only, can’t be used as a web browser, and can’t use Android apps. In its favor, it’s got a touchscreen, a total of two buttons on the entire device, claims of a two month battery life, and e-ink screen technology.

The Kindle Vs The New Nook Touch

In short, the new nook is built to do only one thing well — read books.

I think it does that. This is mostly because of the touchscreen. All you have to do is click on the right side of the page to go forward, and the left side to go backward. Doing anything other than going forward or backward is done by either clicking on the bottom of the page, or by clicking the “n” below the screen.

Clicking the bottom of the page allows you to go to a book’s table of contents, find bookmarks, or get information about a book. Clicking the “n” allows you to go to your library, change the nook’s settings, or shop for books and magazines.

In short, it’s fairly simple and straightforward. The only complaint I have about readbility of the nook is that when you click the page, there’s a moment where you simultaneously see the last page you read and the next one simultaneously. That’s brief, however, and I only noticed it when I was poking around the device, learning where everything was. I barely noticed it at all when actually reading.

Outside of reading, there are a couple other things to consider about it–portability and ease of getting books to read.

It is portable. It’s small enough to fit in the front pocket of some of my pants. I assume it would fit in a purse though I don’t own one. Turning it on to read isn’t hard (click the “n” and then draw your finger across the bottom of the screen), but it does require enough deliberation that random objects in your pockets or purse probably won’t turn it on and lose your place.

  •    The Morning News has the story of Allan Seage: the forgotten writer behind the story of two men at a hospital, one with a window and one without. It’s a tragic, beautiful read. #
  •    Lev Grossman: How Harry Potter Became the Boy Who Lived Forever:
    Fictional worlds, while they appear solid, are riddled with blank spots and unexposed surfaces. There’s a moment toward the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Dumbledore suggests offhandedly that Sirius Black should “lie low at Lupin’s” for a while, referring to Harry’s former teacher Remus Lupin. What exactly did Sirius and Remus get up to there, chez Lupin, while they were lying low? How low did they lie? (Cough, slash, cough.) Rowling never says, but that one little gap has given rise to so much fan fiction that “lie low at Lupin’s” has become a recognized trope of Harry Potter fan fiction, a sub-subgenre in its own right.
    Fantastic essay, and wonderful research from Lev Grossman of TIME. #

Genre as Indicator

Michael Stackpole recently posted this great blog post titled Price Isn’t The Point — an argument that pricing isn’t the most important variable for book sales.

Hidden in that post, however, is an idea that I think is worth examining:

Another monster variable is genre. Romance outsells mystery/thrillers, and mystery/thrillers outsell SF and Fantasy—with huge gaps between them. I know of no pricing experiment that has tried to control for this variable. Heck, if you look at print books, Romance readers are willing to pay full price for a 50,000 novel; whereas an SF/Fantasy reader would get 2-4 times that much wordage for the same price.

Let’s tie that in with this Washington Post article — about romance authors, ebooks, and the same, valuable observation:

E-readers have been around in early formats for nearly two decades, but they have been drastically dropping in price and improving in quality during the past 36 months.

One of the first groups to embrace them were readers of romance fiction. These books were part of larger genre-based markets, such as thrillers and horror, that were populated by avid readers who chain-read books. They were avid fans, communicating with one another in any number of ways, including blogs and book clubs. Romance was tailor-made for the webs of social media.

“Romance novels are leading the way in e-publishing because romance readers are incredibly prolific,” says Malle Vallik, Harlequin’s director of digital publishing. “They understood [e-readers] immediately: ‘Oh, my God, in my purse, I can have 50 books.’ You like one writer, you can get their complete backlist immediately.” [Emphasis mine]

New marketing patterns of lower online prices and impulse buying created a perfect dynamic for authors like Belleville: Genre authors who were prolific but who had not been too successful. This peculiar level of accomplishment meant they had written books for print publishers, seen sales vanish and had the rights revert back to them, and even had completed manuscripts that publishers had rejected.

This left with the writers with just the right recipe: a small but devout core audience; a readily available backlist for new readers to discover; a knack for writing fast; and an inherent appeal to a fan base that read voraciously. [Emphasis mine]

What this means is that genre determines the median (and I suppose the upper-bound) of sales that any one writer might have. This does not mean that you have to switch genres; I wouldn’t be so silly as to propose that. What it does mean, however, is that when you next look at the sales figures of a hotshot indie writer, you should pause to take note of what genre he or she’s writing in.

Amanda Hocking sells thousands of ebooks every month. She also happens to be writing romance.

J.A. Konrath sells a little less. He writes thrillers.

The two demographics are rather different. They exist at different parts of the early-adopter spectrum — and ironically enough, romance readers are ahead.

But there’s another way of looking at this: if you’re in the publishing startup space, like I am, this bit of information implies that it would do to have some part of your service focussed on romance. I’m not exactly sure how I would do it, or how any digital publishing house would do it (have a romance-only spinoff, perhaps?) But it does make sense: romance readers are ahead of the curve with regard to ebooks. They were early-adopters, a result of the embarrassing semi-naked-man-on-book-cover problem, plus their buying habits — buying an entire backlog with one click — are factors worth thinking about.

Sidenote: I realized I haven’t been blogging here for the past 3 months. I’ve been spending that time working on Pandamian. We’ve got free ebook conversions up and running, along with a whole bunch of other features, and I’m eager to talk about them once the new redesign is up. Till then, consider this post an apology, and a signal that I’m back. Sorry about the break, folks. More publishing-related news in a bit.