That’s What I’ve Been Saying All Along . . .

There are two programs starting up in the publishing world employing an idea that I’ve thought should’ve been done years ago, possibly around when ebooks started becoming readily available and sold. You see, that day was the day the war between ebooks and print books began, and there really didn’t need to be a war. It should’ve been more like one of those two-in-one books where you have one book on one cover, then you flip it over and have another book with another cover.

A symbiosis that wouldn’t have called for allies coming together to battle the enemy.

Kindle MatchBook will begin next month, offering to customers the option when they purchase certain print books to get the Kindle ebook edition for $0.99-$2.99 or even free. Now, this isn’t every print book Amazon currently offers, but it’s an important start that will hopefully grow and grow and make this program seem the normal thing and eventually be omnipresent with books and reading.

Angry Robot’s is also has its bundling Clonefiles program, which was given a trial run in Britain last year and is now coming to the US, where customers who buy a paperback from a participating independent bookstore, can get the ebook for free. Again, hopefully this is the start of something that will take the publishing world like wildfire and become a common facet in the near future.

In March of this year I published my column, Where’s the Digital Copy for Books?, where I explain my hope for the publishing future where print books and ebooks live happily together, where a customer buys a print book in a store or online and said customer automatically receives a free ebook copy, so that multiple people in a family can enjoy the same book at the same time.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Bookbanter Column: Diary of an Ereader, Part Two: Equiring an Ereader

Half the reason I chose to finally get myself an ereader was for the digital review copy aspect.  I’ve been reviewing books for over a decade and with the development and growth over the last few years of not just ebooks, but also the world of digital review copies and ebook reviewing, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out on a facet of reviewing.

I rarely don’t have my next book picked out and waiting to be read and reviewed on my shelf, but I knew there were virtual shelves of books out there that I could be e-partaking of.

But first I had to get myself an ereader, which is an interesting story in itself.

If you’re any sort of book fan who enjoys frequenting used bookstores, then you’ve probably heard of Powell’s in Oregon.  They have a couple of stores, and their mighty, multi-storied one is in Portland has its own special map to help you find your way around its labyrinthine stacks.

Going there for a book lover must be like going to Disneyland; one day I’ll go.

Powell’s also has a full website where one can buy both new and used books, as well as DVDs and movies.  The other great thing about the Powell’s website is you can sell your used books there.  It’s an ingeniously simple process.

You simply plug in the ISBN of the book (located above the barcode and on the copyright page) and the page does its searching thing and decides whether Powell’s needs a copy of this particular book or not, and how much they will give you for it.  You even have the option of choosing virtual credit to buy items through the website (this is how I eventually got my Complete Series of The X-Files), or getting money through Paypal.

You can enter just about any number of books, and Powell’s will let you know which ones they want and which ones they don’t need at this point in time.  If you agree to it, and how you want to be paid, you then accept the terms and get the address label and postage emailed to you, which you just print out and slap on the box of books, and Powell’s covers all shipping costs to mail your sold books to them.  Once they receive the books – which can take some time as it travels by media mail – you then get your money.  It’s as simple as that.

I review a lot of books each year, in addition to reading many, and from week to week there are a number of books being delivered to my humble abode.  When I’m done with these books, after reading and reviewing them, some I choose to keep, if I really enjoyed them; some I give to friends to enjoy; and the rest I sell through Powell’s.

Around November of last year, Powell’s all of a sudden started selling ereaders through their website, specifically Kobo, including the Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo.  Upon discovering this — as I made clear in Part 1 of this series, ereaders aren’t cheap, which is why I hadn’t acquired one yet — I saw my chance to finally get myself an ereader.

So I began saving my Powell’s virtual credit, selling off my reviewed books, as well as thinning some of my bookshelves, clearing out volumes I no longer really needed to own.

And yes, part of my thinking process in this was also: well, I could have these number of books taking up these number of shelves that I’m not going to read too often, or I could have digital copies of them on my ereader where they would take up a fraction of the virtual space.

It took me some time . . . at least a month I’d say, and then I had enough credit to purchase my Kobo Glo (so I would also be able to enjoy ereading at night), as well as nice protective case for it.

While there are many ereaders to choose from out there, the Kobo Glo was a good fit for me, other than the fact that it was essentially free with my getting rid of my books, all I really needed was a device for ereading.  I didn’t need an iPad or a tablet; I have a PC and a laptop; it’s an ereader I didn’t have.  With the E-Ink screen it works great in bright light without any glare.  2 gigs of memory gives me space for many thousands of books.  Plus the whole light thing means I can enjoy ereading in the dark.

The battery life is long and dependable, as has always been the case with Kobo ereaders.  I rarely need to charge it.  As for ereading software, I use the free Kobo program which helps me keep track of my shelves and what I have, and buying books is real easy.  I also use the Adobe Digital Editions program, which is free to download, and makes it real easy to download and add new ebooks, organize my shelves, move the ebooks over to my ereader, and even read ebooks real easy on my computer with this software.

The menu options and the touch screen on the Kobo Glo make it real easy to use and organize your ebooks.  There is also the option of highlighting, adding notes, and using the dictionary if needed.  The swipe while not the patented page flip of the iPad, is fast and every fifth page leads to a page fresh because of the E-Ink, which is a little distracting at first, but you soon become used to it.

Finally, like with all the Kobo ereaders, there are badge awards for repeatedly reading at certain periods of time during the day and night, and serve as a friendly tracking stat for your ereading and serve to make it more enjoyable.

Ereading is everything I expected it would be, and the Kobo Glo makes it comfortable and enjoyable, and while it never will replace print books for me as the dominant way to read, my ereading has certainly increased.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

Bookbanter Column: Diary of an Ereader, Part One: An Introduction

In the latter months of 2012 I joined a quickly growing population that just five years ago barely existed: I got myself an ereader.

I like the feel of a real book, be it a brand new hardcover that cracks open as you open it for the first time with that fresh smell.

Really?

  1. Printed books sales, both hardcover and paperback, had one of their best selling seasons in years.
  2. Nook ereader sales were terrible and way down.

A lot of people still like printed books.  A lot of people are still going to keep buying printed books.

And if they did stop making printed books tomorrow, the industry of used books would still continue to live on alive and well for a long time until every used book was but a shattered binding of crumbling pages.

And, as I began this column, admit that I now own an ereader, a Kobo Glo in fact, and have a number of books I am reviewing on there (which I will discuss in Part Two of this series).

I enjoy ereading very much, I like the portability, ease of use, being able to do things like eat at the same time and just use a finger swipe to turn the page instead of having to jam a book open with one hand and fumble with a sandwich in the other.

There is the additional advantage of being able to download books and start reading right away, instead of having to wait for a delivery.  And with the Kobo Glo, the added ease of being able to read in the dark with the ereader light turned on.

And yet, for all the advantages that ereaders present to readers in making reading easier, more efficient, more optimal, more simplified; giving you the most out of your reading with the littlest effort on the part of the reader, it hasn’t replaced my print book reading by any means.

After enjoying the frivolities of ereading for over four months, I still read at least two to three print books to every ebook I read.  I generally use my ereader on my lunches at work, or when I have a short period of time to do some quick reading, but it in no way replaces sitting down in a comfortable chair with a real book in my hands to read.

I can tell this specific dueling between print books and ebooks will be something I will continue to discuss in this “Diary of an Ereader” series, and one could make the claim that perhaps in some years time I may switch over to reading ebooks more.  I cannot predict the future, but at the moment I’m perfectly satisfied with my ereader, and enjoy ereading on it, but it still doesn’t beat the glossy texture of a dust-jacket, the rough shushing of the pages, and the unique smell of the printed word on the paper page.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

Bookbanter Column: Ebook vs. Print (April 2, 2012)

I think we’ve all reached the point now where the “e-revolution” is not just coming but it’s already here and doing very well.

For anyone not accepting and getting on the e-bandwagon, you can go and join those who are still fans of a flat earth and disbelieving in global warming.  And for the rest of us who acknowledge that ebooks are here to stay, we may be in various stages of acceptance.

As for myself, I still have yet to own an ereader; however, I feel that 2012 will be the year in which I acquire one. I have only read a small number of ebooks so far, a quantity I’m able to count on one hand, but I also know that this will change, and the prophets foretell of more ebooks in my future.

So with ebooks now vying against print books for sales in the world of publishing, let us take a look at the merits and negative connotations of these two mediums of reading.

While I don’t believe one isn’t necessarily superior to the other, I know there are plenty of spokesmen for each medium; no one is likely to be the true victor, as was the case with say Blu-ray and HD DVDs.

But let’s take a look at how they stack up.

Ebooks
The jury still seems to be out on what is the proper form of this enigmatic word; whether it’s ebooks, or eBooks, or Ebooks, or even e-books.  (I personally am sticking with ebooks for now, since the word we use for books of the audio variety is audiobooks.)    Ebooks have been around for some time.  Stephen King was actually one of the first authors to try this new format, first with his serialized ebook series in 2000, The Plant, which was subscription-based with a new chapter every month, but sadly subscribers tapered off and it subsequently stopped.

The first year of the new millennium also brought the genesis of the first mass-market ebook, also by Stephen King, entitled Riding the Bullet at the modest price of $2.50.  I actually purchased this ebook, which was an average-length short story, when it came out.  It was a PDF with a full color cover and was most entertaining as I read it on the large heavy monitor of my desktop computer in the ancient year of 2000.

Ebooks are now available in a variety of formats, which has only been a relatively recent development; just a few years ago the options and versions were quite limited.  Now customers interested in purchasing an ebook can buy it in: epub format, which works on most ereaders, most ereading apps, and with the free software Adobe Digital Editions; mobi for the Kindle; and PDF, which again works on most ereaders and ereading apps, as well as with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The wonderful thing about ebooks is how portable and easy to use they are.

You can read them on your computer, your laptop, your phone, and your ereader.  The covers are often the same (or sometimes alternate to the print edition) and in full glossy color.  All software, apps and ereaders have the option of creating a bookmark or saving the page you were last reading, so you can easily return to it next time.  If there’s a table of contents, this will often be hyperlinked, meaning you can speedily jump forward to a specific chapter or a map or the index if you so wish.  For some who are comfortable with reading text on a screen, one can make the point that they read faster this way than with a print version, since the turn of the page is simple and fast, done with the press of a button or the swipe of a virtual page; technically faster than an actual book.

Ultimately, if you want to get a book as fast as possible (if you’re at home) and start reading right away, ebooks are certainly the way to go.  You can usually get the ebook as soon as the book is released (and sometimes sooner); the download will take less than a minute and you can begin reading your favorite author right away.  If you’re using an ereader, the battery life is often good enough for a day or so, and if you’re reading a computer or plugged in laptop you needn’t worry about the power issue; you can just keep reading and reading, as the sun crosses the sky and night falls . . .

Print Books
The written word has been around for millennia, the printed word for over 570 years.  To make this clear right away, and dispel any worriers and naysayers, I fully believe the printed word and the printed book will not become obsolete and disappear in our lifetimes; in fact, I still think it’s going to be around for at least another century or two, and may well remain around for longer.  I believe this in my heart and soul, because as I write this now I gaze up at the seven bookcases surrounding me; the various paperback books on the coffee table and couch; while upstairs is my cold computer and its harddrive of ebooks.

There is a life in the printed book, a magic that will never be reproduced by the ebook.  For every fan of the ebook, there are those greater in number who enjoy or prefer the printed book.

Printed books embody the story they hold within their pages, with the size, texture and smell; the older the book, the more noticeable are these tactile attributes.  As the year the book was printed reaches further back in time, one cannot help but imagine the hands that have held it, the many eyes that have read its words; the smell of the rooms it has been in, and the many lives it has affected.  The familiar image of “curling up with a good book” adds a warmth and timelessness to it, but if one replaces it with the prop of an ereader, the picturesque scene is corrupted.

At the moment the printed word is cheaper than the electronic one.

By this I mean that if you have a book that’s been out for a while that you’re interested in purchasing, you can look online for the ebook version, which will likely be a few dollars less than a new copy; however, a used copy will almost always be cheaper than the ebook.  I’m not sure if this is something that will change in time, as publishers agree to new standards for ebook pricing (because it’s still a very new technology for them), but the publishing world is notorious for adapting slowly and reluctantly; while readers looking for a particular book can go into a used book store — a retail space which is still doing well — and likely find the title they’re looking for and more for a much cheaper price, or they can shop around online on sites like ebay, half.com, abebooks, or even Amazon for lower prices when compared to the ebook edition.

Ultimately, when ebooks and print books are compared together, the latter is the one that feels the more real.  With the runaway world of self-publishing where anything and everything can and is being published online, there is but a single bestseller for every thousand sad excuses for books.  Compare that to a fresh new, weighty hardcover, or a glossy captivating quality paperback, or even the feel of a nice thick mass market . . .

And when you go to that author reading, is it really the same when they autograph your ereader?

If the last five years of the world of books and publishing has shown anything, it’s that one cannot safely predict what the market will be like and what exactly will be happening in a year’s time, or even six month’s time.

Many said ebooks wouldn’t catch on, then ereaders and the revolution happened to take over the published word and change the publishing world forever.  Many have been spouting out thoughts and opinions and predictions: some say the mass market will become obsolete, which is what happened in the British markets; others says the limited and illustrated collectible hardcover will grow and become popular.  And I’m sure there are still those who say ebooks are eventually going to go away and the printed word will return strong and unstoppable, while others say the opposite and the printed word’s days are numbered.

I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen, and the future of books cannot be confidently predicted by anyone, but I am certain the printed word will not die out anytime soon, and as I sit here with the spines of thousands of books looking upon me, I know there’s no place in the world I’d rather be than surrounded by real, printed books.

But them I’m kind of biased.

Bookbanter Column: Where’s the Digital Copy for Books?

It seems these days we’re living in an impressively modern age where one can purchase a regular DVD or Blu-ray version of a movie, or a special edition which comes with a Blu-ray copy and a regular DVD version of the movie on a separate disc, allowing viewers to enjoy the movie on various devices of their choosing.

 Take for example the recent release of the movie Moonrise Kingdom.  The special Blu-ray edition includes a copy of the movie in Blu-ray, a copy on regular DVD, a digital copy that can be downloaded with a code, and even an Ultraviolet copy allowing you to be able to access the movie in the cloud to stream and download onto tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs.

The reason for this change in production is a logical one.  This way people wanting to enjoy the movie, can do so on a variety of different devices — Blu-ray player, regular DVD player, tablet or even smartphone — at the same time with multiple members of a family or group of friends.  It changes a product into something that can be freely enjoyed through a choice of devices at any time in about any given situation.  I think this is a great advancement in movie production.

My question is: where is the equivalent for the book world?

I believe there is a logical and simple solution to this that will propel book production into the modern world alongside that of DVD production, and perhaps change the whole controversial subject of ebooks vs. print books.

Here is my proposal.

In this ideal world, a customer can walk into a bookstore, browse the shelves and select a couple of books to purchase.  (Said customer can also purchase these same books online through any website selling these books, even the very same bookstore website.)  Included with each print copy of the book is a sealed code in the back of the book for a copy of the ebook version.  When the customer gets home, he or she can choose to start reading the print book edition, or decide to leave it for a spouse or offspring or even a friend to enjoy.  The customer then takes out the sealed code in the back of the book, goes to the directed publishing website and enters the code to download the ebook version of the book to his or her tablet, smartphone or ereading device of choice.

Perhaps they are even given the choice of downloading the ebook up to four times.  In this way the customer, and his or her family, can enjoy the reading in the fashion of his or her choosing, at any time in any given situation.

This is clearly a logical next step in book production that will go far in linking the concept of the print book and the ebook together, instead of pitting them constantly against each other in a contest of which format is better.  It will be a way for customers to connect better with publishing websites, and open up the opportunity for giving them access to more media and information relating to the book they have purchased.

And at the end of the day, it ultimately just makes sense.

People don’t buy multiple copies of the same book usually to allow other family members to read it.

The lucky first person gets to read it first, then whoever next on down the line.  With this option, much as with the case of digital and DVD copies accompanying Blu-ray editions for new movies, a family of readers will be able to enjoy the same product simultaneously, making for a richer and more fulfilling enjoyment of the book, as well as giving the publisher plenty of opportunity to engage with the customer and his or her family in a way like never before.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

“2012 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market” edited by Adria Haley (Writer’s Digest Books, 2011)

2012 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market
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In the 2012 version of Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market — the 31st Annual Edition — perhaps more so than ever, the key to the 600+ page book is its ease to navigate through it to help the user/reader get the information they need as quickly as possible.  It begins with a thorough contents listing and a “how to use this book” guide, along with the detailed index, finding that necessary publisher or magazine is a cinch.

This volume features articles divided into sections: “Craft & Technique” includes “Avoiding Cliches,” “Writing Authentic Dialogue,” and “Crafting Short Stories” to name a few; “Fiction Genres” on “Romantic Author Roundup,” with specific articles on authors like Julia Quinn, Lisa Gardner, Michael Swanwick and Ken J. Anderson; as well as “Managing Work” covering “Agent,” “Self-Publishing” and “Practical Tips for the Nighttime Novelist.”  The “Resources” section helps clue in every kind of writer on terms and organization, even with a special section for Canadian writers.  The editor has even included a whole section called “Writing Calendar,” featuring a page for each month of the year, as she talks about the importance of goals, and there’s a page for each month to help the writer hit his or her goals.

The layout of the publishers and magazines makes it quick and easy to find a contact email or website, which is crucial in this technological age.  This edition also includes a free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com (www.writersmarket.com).  The volume has been thoroughly updated and made ready for the advent of the ebook and self-publishing revolutions, providing many necessary tools and references for today’s writer.  Whether you’re a novelist with plenty of books under your belt, or a first-time freelance writer looking to publish that first piece, 2012 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market is a simply must have book.

Originally written on December 30, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of 2012 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

BookBanter Interviewee Michael J. Sullivan Hits the Big Time

Michael J. Sullivan

When I began interviewing authors on BookBanter, my goal was to be equal and even in who I interviewed.  In the books I read and review, I am open minded whether the author is associated with a national publishing house, or a smaller independent one.  If the story is interesting, I’ll read the book and give it a try, especially when the author or publicist contacts me.  I feel this is the point of BookBanter: to provide authors and books to readers who may not have heard of them before, no matter which publisher they are associated with.  The world of publishing is changing, and it is thanks in part to the Internet and blogs and websites like BookBanter; at least I like to think so.

On June of 2009 I put up my interview with Michael J. Sullivan.  Sullivan is the author of the Riyria Revelations series, an entertaining fantasy series featuring two main characters, Royce and Hadrian, who are what make the series worth reading.  Sullivan had contacted me through his wife, Robin Sullivan, who does his publicity, and was sent a copy of the first book, The Crown Conspiracy.  I enjoyed the book, gave it a favorable review, and have been reading each successive book as it is published through Ridan Publishing (an indie publisher started by Robin Sullivan) over six month intervals.  After interviewing Sullivan, I learned that the author was not writing these books to make vast amounts of money and achieve bestsellerdom (though this would be well received), but to write and tell some entertaining stories for his daughter.  The Riyria Revelations were written to entertain and they have done so, gaining momentum, support and readers over time; with the advent of ebook editions, sales and popularity for the series has continued to grow.  This is made evident on Robin Sullivan’s blog, “Write to Publish.”

And to cap it all off, last week came the official announcement from the big publishing house, Orbit, that they had acquired the Riyria Revelations with plans to publish the original six-book series in three volumes coming in November, December and January 2012.  And now a much larger audience will be able to enjoy this great series.  Sullivan himself referred to it as “the little indie that could.”

For now, readers can enjoy the interview with Michael J. Sullivan, and reviews for the first four books in the series (the fifth book will be reviewed later this year; the sixth will be some time until the third volume from Orbit is released):

Crown Conspiracy Avempartha Nyphron Rising Emerald Storm