digital books

E-book Netflix; Digital in Libraries and Schools; Six Word Twitterfest

E-book Netflix

There’s something new coming for people who can’t get enough e-books that’s going to be like Netflix is for movies. Those who are honest and don’t pirate books and movies will love this. With the leveling off of e-book sales, people who read e-books are now being called “heavy readers” compared to those who still read print books. According to this piece, the average person who reads e-books reads 24 books a year in comparison to the average person who reads print books, which is around 15 books a year.

So it makes sense that these readers might welcome new ways to feed their habits. The notion of “a Netflix for books” has been kicked around for a while. Oyster.com, a ballyhooed new venture backed by such digital glitterati as Sean Parker and Peter Thiel, just launched its beta version, but it’s not the only promising option out there.

You can read more here. The article goes on to mention a few more differences between readers. I still think some of this information is off, because I see more people reading on tablets and devices than ever before. I just don’t think they are buying as many books as they did in the past, and that’s partly because the price of e-books is still way to high for most people. If I were to decide on e-book prices they would range from 1.99 – 6.99, and not a penny higher. There’s this feature I’ve seen on my Verizon On Demand movie rental section where they pre-release movies. You can’t rent those for 4.99 or 5.99. You can only buy them for prices that range from 16.99 – 19.99. I pass every single time. I know I’ll be able to see it for less eventually. Consumers aren’t stupid.

Digital in Libraries and Schools

For those who think e-books are only a trend like the hoola hoop was, you might want to reconsider. I don’t know a single kid in my circles who isn’t reading e-books, who doesn’t have a tablet or e-reading device of some kind, and doesn’t know how to use technology as if it came to them as part of their birthright. And I’m talking about kids who come from various income backgrounds. Some are from privilege and others are not. College students are now looking to download books for free because they can’t get the digital versions yet and they don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a book they will only use for a few months of their lives.

In this article it talks about Youtube veteran, Lee C. Milstein, joining Overdrive and heading up a new department that will focus on distributing e-books to libraries and schools.

Milstein, who has also held leadership roles at AOL and DivX, will lead OverDrive’s emerging digital media businesses. This includes expanding the company’s push into streaming video and education content and services. Milstein will also guide the organization’s overall strategy and strategic partnerships. Milstein will also lead a market development team that will be based in New York City, a first time the company has had a presence in the city.

My sister is a school teacher at a charter school in Allentown, PA, and all I hear from her is how she has to learn something new almost each week that’s related to all things digital.

Six Word Twitterfest

This actually reminds me of a short shot story contest that used to (and may still be) held by Writers’ Digest Magazine. Writers had to write a short story in 1,500 words or less in order to qualify. The only difference now with the twitterfest deal is that you can only write six words.

From the press release, and you can read more here.

Six-Word Memoir began as a contest in collaboration with Twitter in 2006, asking people to tweet their response to a simple challenge: ‘Can you tell the story of your life in six words?’ Seven books and more than 700,000 Six-Word stories later, Six Words have become an easy and inspired form of engagement to get to the essence of anything.” What do you think?

I think it’s fun, and I love word economy. That’s was editing is all about, not fixing punctuation and grammar. That’s called copyediting.

Erotic E-books Inspire Lending Across the Pond

 

I’ve had this article in my in-box all week but didn’t have time to post it. It’s about how erotic e-books have affected the overall digital market in the UK, and how people are lending/borrowing e-books. I have to admit I’m a little surprised because I didn’t think lending erotica was all that popular. In other words, I’ve always thought of it as a discreet genre where people would hesitate to borrow either e-books or print books. I always thought of them as purchases. But I guess this is becoming more popular now, and no complaints from me.

A rare bit of good news for the nation’s beleaguered local libraries: erotic fiction is being credited with a boom in e-book loans.

Surrey County Council has experienced a rise in loans from 16,231 in 2011 to 19,847 in 2012 with this January seeing the busiest month in the authority’s e-book history with 2,469 loans.

The most popular e-book in 2012 was romance novel ‘At the Argentinean Billionaire’s Bidding’ by India Grey, followed by ‘Bedded By The Greek Billionaire’ by Kate Walker in second, and ‘Beauty And The Billionaire’ by Barbara Dunlop in third.

You can read more here.

The article is from Huff Po UK, and I’m not surprised at all to see how many readers in the UK enjoy erotic romance. I’ve found a good deal of my own sales come from the UK, and so do a lot of my personal e-mails from readers. It’s an interesting article, with book covers, and I think it’s worth reading in full. It gets into how erotic romance is a guilty pleasure, and how digital books are changing the rules now. These are things a lot of us already know. Hell, I write it because it’s a guilty pleasure for me. But I also think a lot of other people are just beginning to get turned on to it.

"Writing in the E-Age," Writer’s Manual, and Hunter Parrish on iTunes…


I posted about Catherine Ryan Hyde’s and Anne R. Allen’s new writer’s manual titled, “How To Be a Writer in the E-Age,” last week and wanted to follow up today with a short post. I bought the book over the weekend and I’m halfway through it.

So far, not one complaint. I have to admit that although I haven’t learned anything new, what I have read in the book validates a lot of the things I’ve been doing for the past seven years in e-publishing. In other words, I wish there had been a book like this around seven years ago to help me figure things out instead of learning them all the hard way.

And what I’m liking most about the book is that it covers all angles and even mentioned a lot of the literary agent blogs I’ve been following for years now. It’s not against “trad” publishing; it’s not pushing self-publishing either.

One of my blog readers left a comment the other day mentioning that he’s not comfortable with self-publishing yet. I know a lot of people who feel that way and they have good reason, too. But books like “How To Be a Writer in the E-Age,” help validate self-publishing and they show that self-publishing is no longer regarded in the same way it was ten years ago. It’s not vanity publishing anymore either. It’s not something people do when they get rejected and can’t get published. I have over 94 published works listed on Goodreads with publishers and I decided to self-publish this past year. A lot of authors who have previously worked with publishers are doing it and they all have their own individual reasons. And those reasons have nothing to do with being against traditional publishing.

I will post a final review of this book when I’m finished reading it. But right now, even though I’m only halfway through, I would recommend it to anyone who is just starting out as a writer and needs good solid advice. There’s also some kind of a deal that when you buy the book you can sign up for electronic updates every six months, which I’ll also post more about in the review. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this done before (but don’t quote me). I’m assuming that as publishing changes and evolves, new updates will cover more information as it crops up, so to speak.

Now, the reason why I’m posting about Hunter Parrish’s new music on iTunes has to do with the way we are now buying and listening to music. It is a lot like the way we are reading and buying digital books. Hunter Parrish is best known for his part on the TV show, “Weeds,” as Silas Botwin. I recently read where he’s released his own music on iTunes and it looks as if he’s self-publishing them on his own. I could be wrong about this, so don’t quote me here either. I couldn’t find any information stating it as a fact. But my point is that if Parrish is self-publishing his own music in iTunes, he’s not the only one who is doing it. I’ve posted before about many talented artists who are doing this now. And in many ways it’s reflecting the same thing we’re now seeing in digital book publishing.

I remember an old friend who wanted to break into the music business. In those days, the best way to do it was to find a DJ (or talent agent) who would be willing to play your demo tape. It was virtually impossible to get a good DJ (or talent agent) to do this, and very few people were able to break into the music industry. Well it was the same way with book publishing until recently. Only instead of getting a DJ (or talent agent) to listen to you, you had to get a literary agent (or editor) to read your work. Again, virtually impossible to do.

The music angle is explained well on this web site:

Just as technological innovations have changed the way that customers buy music, technology also has changed how artists distribute music to their fans. In 2010, one-third of all music sales consisted of digital tracks, with the remaining two-thirds made up of CDs and other physical media [source: Jones]. This enormous digital market has removed one of the largest barriers for musicians trying to enter the market — money. Artists who once needed the support of a major label to release an album can now self-release music online, or even produce CDs at very little cost.

And here’s more about Hunter Parrish and his newly released music:

Hunter Parrish may be best known for playing the enterprising and hunky offspring of pot-dealing mom Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) on Showtime’s hit series Weeds, but as it turns out, the actor also moonlights as a singer, releasing his first EP Guessing Games on iTunes today.

25% of Amazon Book Sales Come from Fifty Shades of Grey

I’m always looking for interesting posts about books and e-books. I was going to post something about Jeff Rivera, but then I read about a slight kerfuffle he had last spring and decided not to go there. I don’t know Jeff, but I once wrote a piece about his web site and he personally thanked me in a very nice way. He seems like a nice guy and I hear he’s a good author. And I tend not to follow online flame wars too closely.

To ignore Fifty Shades of Grey nowadays is practically impossible. My 75 year old mom…who reads e-books on an iPad…asked me just yesterday what I thought of FSoG. Her Red Hat Lady friends were talking about it. I laughed and told her I liked it, but it’s something that she might not like. She’s more Jodi Piccoult than E.L. James. Whether or not she buys FSoG and reads it is anyone’s guess. But I sure would like to hear what the Red Hat Ladies she hangs with these days are talking about at THEIR high teas if they are reading FSoG.

The article I’m linking to below about FSoG is interesting because it claims that FSoG is responsible for 25% of book sales on Amazon. That’s a HUGE percentage. And when you factor in what other bestselling established mainstream authors are selling, that doesn’t leave much room for genre authors and small start up e-presses selling e-books.

I know very little about Amazon sales ranks. One of my publishers recently gave a good explanation about them in a yahoo group but I hesitate to publish anyone’s comments without permission. All I do know is that these sales rankings are like roller coasters that change every hour…and they leave a lot to be desired because they are so hard to figure out.

Which now leads me to the subject of amazon bestseller lists, more specifically bestselling genre lists. I truly have no idea what constitutes being on an Amazon bestseller list in a specific category/genre like gay/lesbian. I’m learning all this as I go and probably won’t know more for at least the next six months. Because I opted into the Amazon Lending Program and my two indie books are .99 e-books, I’m not taking advantage of the 70% author cut Amazon offers for books priced higher than 2.99 (I think that’s the number, don’t quote me).

As I said, I’m still learning. I have no complaints. After twenty years of being published I wanted to find out what self-publishing was all about and I wanted to do it slowly and quietly. I’ve done that so far I’m not unhappy with the results. I’m thrilled with all I’ve been learning these past six months. I’m also still an advocate of finding an agent and/or a publisher to work with, too. In other words, I don’t believe agents or good publishers are going to disappear. I don’t believe self-publishing is going to disappear either. I just think many things are going to evolve in the next five to ten years.

Because if Fifty Shades of Grey is making 25% of all Amazon book sales as this article claims, this tells me something about e-books in general. It’s still uncharted territory and a lot of us are pioneers. The post I’m linking to below is short and sweet. I found it very interesting…if not slightly disappointing as well. But then again the key word here could be “claims.”

One thing I can say for certain that has nothing to do with Amazon or self-publishing. I’ve been on other bestseller lists in the past with books I haven’t self-published and it’s been nice. It’s been an honor. But I still have a mortgage.

Report claims 25% of all Amazon book sales in June are Fifty Shades of Grey

But 25% of book sales at Amazon? That would perhaps indicate that the ebook market is still not very mature, and that as readers struggle with ‘discoverability’ in the massive flood of ebooks on the market, are still prone to flocking towards a single hit.

Joanna Trollope: Guess She’s Not Too Fond of E-books

According to Ms. Trollope, “you cannot love a library of e-books.” I read about it in The Telegraph.

The article says this:

“She (Trollope) also claimed the rise of e-books was “homogenising” literature by putting the works of Leo Tolstoy and Katie Price, the glamour model, on the same screen.”

I don’t really understand that statement. I really don’t. I’ve read Tolstoy and Snookie on my e-readers and never even thought of comparing the two. In fact, had it not been for the e-reader I probably wouldn’t have read half the classics I have read in the past few years. Then the article goes on to quote Ms. Trollope about the weight of books and something about how authors visualize books while they are writing them. Maybe it’s generational, but I don’t get anything about the these preferences between print and digital. The only thing I didn’t see in the article…I may have missed this because to be honest I skimmed a good deal…was that she didn’t get into the smell of print books. This is a smell that has passed me by. And I don’t think I’ll ever understand why so many people crave this smell.

Of course Ms. Trollope has a right to her opinion and I do respect it. The great thing is now we can all choose between print and digital and get the best of both worlds. The problem is that’s not going to last. If you don’t believe me, take a look at little kids these days and see what they are doing. Right now the discussion about e-book and print book is relevant. But fifty years from now, when all kids will be reading digital, and will be reared by parents and grandparents who started on digital books, I doubt this will even be a discussion. It might even be a joke.

But what really surprised me were the comments left on this article. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such strong opinions about e-books.

Absolute balderdash! EBook sales are already way ahead of hardback sales, and before long eBooks will dominate the publishing market. So no matter what she thinks, the iPad and the Kindle will pretty much replace paper, and soon…. And the idea that the heft of a book is an indication of quality…. good grief! Obviously a woman who thinks that size matters 🙂

Stupid woman. “You cannot love a library of e-books”. Yes, I can. I do. Welcome to the future, Ms. Canute! I suspect that the real reason why she is against e-books is financial – something to do with the royalties.

There are more comments and most seem to be in favor of digital over print. I think it’s worth checking out. Just for the sake of the fact that there seems to be one thing in common among published print authors who’ve been around for a while: they don’t like e-books, and they will give you tons of emotional excuses as to why they don’t like them, but I’ve never seen a practical reason. And I have to wonder if one reason they don’t like them is because of all the competition they’ve been getting in recent years.

In the article, Trollope also said this:

I don’t think we should worry. There is a great excitement at the moment [about e-books] but I’m not sure we’ll be so excited in three years’ time. And children like books. They like looking at a line of Anthony Horowitzes and saying, ‘I’ve read every one of those’.”

I’ve wondered about this, too. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sold on e-books in the beginning either. But, like I said earlier, if you have any doubts take a look at what kids are doing these days. I doubt Ms. Trollope, or anyone else, is going to make them stop reading e-books, working/playing on computers, and finding ways to learn in a world that is constantly moving forward. And when you see what these kids can do nowadays…as young as two years old…it’s fascinating to watch.

Digital Publishing In Russia…


The first article I’m linking to about e-books in Russia is about a year old, but I think it’s still relevant. I’ve received a lot of the same feeback from my Russian readers (and readers in other eastern European countries) and in many ways I can sympathize with them.

This next article is even more interesting. It’s from a blog titled “Thoughts on Digital Publishing,” and this time it breaks some of the stereotypes about digital publishing in Russia.

I wish I could comment more on the topic. But all I know is what I hear from my Russian readers first hand. And speaking from an ethical standpoint, I’d never repeat anything personal anyone has said to me.

I value the opinions of readers, and I hope they continue to contact me and let me know more about what they want, knowing that I respect their need to remain anonymous. I’m especially interested in what readers in Russia and other eastern European countries think about e-books.

I will say this. The most interesting thing about e-books in Russia is that the concerns aren’t very different from the concerns about e-books in the US, which includes fair prices, quality content, and the ability to share the same way they would share print books.

Authors Making Wise Choices

It used to be there were not many choices for lgbt authors. And it wasn’t that long ago either. There were calls for submission for short story anthologies and we were paid a one time flat fee that ranged from fifty to sixty bucks, plus those two expected free copies. I’m twirling my finger as I write this. It was the same flat fee almost twenty years ago, and it’s still the same flat fee now. In some cases, small presses have even lowered that fee to twenty five dollars.

We did it because we loved what we were writing. We did it because the opportunities weren’t there to get our work published anywhere else. And we did it because it gave us publishing credits and fueled our fragile egos.

But things have changed. And they continue to change. We don’t have to sign contracts that are one-sided and we can take advantage of e-book royalties that e-publishers are offering. (The flat fees are lower with e-publishers, but there’s a chance to make it on the back end…which I prefer, and which also gives me the incentive to promote the anthology.)Or, we can self-publish and take our chances. I would imagine that an author could make at least fifty or sixty bucks self-publishing a short story on amazon and still have the possibility to make more in the future.

I’m not saying there are any set rules. All I’m saying is authors have to think like business people sometimes and they have to do what is right for them. And with the opportunities now, regarding digital sales, it’s only to the author’s advantage to try self-publishing instead of the “traditional” route where small presses pay one time flat fees.

And, frankly, there are still a few anthologies I submitted stories to where I never even received the flat author fee. The editor is responsible for paying the authors and some of these editors leave a lot to be desired. This was years ago, and I figured that if the editor needed the fifty bucks that badly I’d rather not pursue it. But it does sting. It’s like handing over your work for nothing, and without getting an ounce of respect in return.

Choose wisely before you sign any contracts with small “traditional” presses. And if you sign a contract that is only going to give you a flat fee and free copies, make sure it is a non-exclusive. This way, at the very least you can still submit your own work to an e-publisher down the line who is willing to pay royalties. Or you can self publish the same story or novel and make your own opportunities.