Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Noise of Data

31 July 2012

From FutureBook:

How will the industry use the reader data it will eventually get when e-booksellers such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble begin sharing it?

. . . .

In short, what do you do when you know that 50% of readers only get half-way through a book written by one of your top authors? Do you tell them? Do you suggest ways they change future titles? Do you fret over whether future books will sell, and cancel all contracts? Do you do nothing?

. . . .

Of course publishers are already anticipating this transition: Anthony Forbes Watson has said the industry will shift towards “science graduates who can write a paragraph”, while Richard Charkin has talked of algorithms displacing alcorithms.

We have been here before too. When BookScan (known then as BookTrack) first emerged, bringing with it real sales data for the first time, there was at times a painful transition as authors and publishers discovered that what went out of the warehouse, was not necessarily related to what was sold through tills. What then emerged was a clash between those who wanted to publish based on intuition, and those who wanted to use sales data to inform these decisions: and sometimes block them.

Link to the rest at FutureBook

The Benefits of a Book Journal

31 July 2012

From The Wall Street Journal:

Seven years ago last week, I started keeping a record of the books I had read. I have only my unreliable memory for what I read before July 27, 2005.

However old you are, begin a reading log now. Keep it simple and convenient. I use small Paperblanks notebooks because I like the sound of the covers snapping shut, but there’s an iPhone app, Reader Tracker, or you can tweet book titles to I’vRead.

. . . .

A few weeks ago a friend told me she had recently reread “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George. I remembered one of George’s other novels for what are now called young adults, “My Side of the Mountain,” which I reread compulsively when I was a child. That reminded me of how many books I have lost from my early reading years. If you have children who are readers, do them a favor and start keeping a book list for them until they’re ready to do it for themselves.

My book journal charts my vacations—I went to Scotland in 2006 and read “Outlander” by Diane Gabaldon and “The Game of Kings” by Dorothy Dunnett. While in Ireland in 2007, I read “Troubles” by J.G. Farrell; “Round Ireland With a Fridge” by Tony Hawks; and “Famine” by Liam O’Flaherty.

. . . .

My late father-in-law kept a book journal for decades, and at his memorial service, my brother-in-law read excerpts from it. To me it was like listening to poetry, the poet revealing his curiosity and gratification in the condensation of book titles. Keep a book journal, for yourself and for all who follow you.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Someone Tell the Authors Guild: Google Books Is Good for Authors

31 July 2012


Google filed a motion for summary judgment today in its battle against the Authors Guild, which wants the court to levy heavy fines on the company for the copyright infringements allegedly committed by the Google Books service. Speaking as an author myself, my sympathy here is entirely with Google.

This isn’t just a matter of principle. It’s self-interest. As a writer, I gain far more from Google Books than I could conceivably lose from it.

If you write the sort of books that require you to consult other books, then Google Books is a wonderful tool. I use it to search for phrases in books I already own, a task in which it outperforms virtually every volume’s index. I use it as a general search engine when exploring a new topic or looking for different perspectives on a contentious issue, and it often points me to useful material that I previously was unaware of.

Link to the rest at Reason and thanks to Lily for the tip.

Apple Races to Open iBookstore in Latin America, Causing Headaches

31 July 2012

From Publishing Perspectives:

Times, though, are changing. And Spanish publishers preparing for vacation experienced it during the dog days of mid July, when an urgent call to update their metadata was delivered by Libranda, the e-distributor owned by the Big Three and seven other well established houses. Apple is opening their iBookstore to readers in Latin America and they want things their way. Problem is, “their way” changed three times in a few days. “It’s not easy to ask your metadata team to spend the last Sunday of July working against the clock, with directions that may change at any moment,” says the Digital Strategist and Product Manager of a prestigious medium-sized publisher under the condition of anonimity.

Libranda would not comment on the exact date for launching the iBookstore in Latin America, but the haste in their letter to publishers — they have to be prepared by 30 August — points to imminent moves. The communication, dated July 18, states that Apple would only allow three currencies in their iBookstore — US dollars, British pounds and Mexican pesos.

. . . .

“We are already selling our e-books in Argentine and Colombian pesos, and this clause imposed by Apple means a terrible complication at metadata level,” says our source, who also underscores the lack of support of Libranda — “we are working in the dark with nine territories and nine currencies.” To this you must add that Apple only supports prices ending in .49 or .99 cents of a dollar, a circumstance that forces publishers to change all the prices with local e-tailers that sell in their national currencies, a fact particularly important in countries in which e-books are protected by fixed price laws.

. . . .

The solution, although ingenious, does not promise a good start for Apple in the region.

. . . .

“We have the awkward feeling of mindless improvisation regarding a critical market for Spanish publishers. Latin America is our second natural marketplace; we sell lots of print books there. We can’t afford not being in the iBookstore, which represents some 30% of total digital sales nowadays, but neither can we have a makeshift solution for the region” says the source.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Eric for the tip.

In re: Books

31 July 2012

In re: Books, a conference on law and the future of books will be held at New York Law School on October 26-27, 2012.

From the website:

The book is up for grabs. Digital distribution is upending the publishing industry, changing how writers and readers find each other, and challenging long-settled notions of what a “book” is.

The social and technological upheaval is matched only by the legal one. Who owns electronic rights? Is indexing infringement? What is for sale mean online and globally? Will ubiquitous scanners mean ubiquitous piracy? Who owns bibliographic metadata? Will no one think of the orphans? Agency or wholesale? What does reader privacy mean when books have brains? The answers we give to these questions will define the future of books.

Link to the conference website.

E-Reading: A Midterm Progress Report

31 July 2012

From The Atlantic:

E-readers have been around long enough now that the novelty has largely worn off. To be sure, we still get the occasional article or blog post celebrating the smell of “real books” and denouncing the disembodied fakery of text on a screen, but not nearly as many as in recent years. E-readers are simply part of the reading landscape now — the first Kindle was released almost five years ago — and it’s time for a midterm progress report. How is the technology developing? What has been accomplished and what remains to be done?

. . . .

  • LCD screens are as glare-prone as ever: though there are some screen protectors that claim to reduce glare, I have yet to find one that has a significant effect, so if you’re going to be reading outdoors the e-ink screens are still your best bet. However, it should be noted that all e-ink screens are more reflective than paper, so that some degree of glare management is intrinsic to the e-reading experience, at least for now. Technologies have not changed noticeably in this respect.
  • E-ink screens today have much better contrast that the earlier ones did. That’s a big plus.
  • E-readers still have limited typeface options and do a generally lousy job of handling kerning and spacing. I’ve seen little improvement in those areas.

. . . .

But it seems to me that the most serious deficiencies of e-readers involve readers’ interactions with books. In this respect we may be losing ground rather than gaining it. That I even care about this clearly puts me in the minority among readers, as I know from decades of teaching literature: it has always been, and it continues to be, difficult to get students to write in their books in meaningful and useful ways.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Dream Sequences

30 July 2012

From bestselling author and former writing professor Dave Farland:

Most editors will warn you against writing too many dream sequences. The problems in writing about dreams are multitudinous. Very often, a new author will write an opening to a story and feel that it is dull, so he or she will spice it up by putting in an action scene—and then have the character wake up at the end. The editor always feels cheated, and then has to wade through the tedious information that the author was trying to avoid. Editors are very aware of that, and so we get angry when we find that we’ve been suckered into a dream sequence. Usually, we get our vengeance: by gleefully rejecting your manuscript.

Now, the technique can work, but it’s hard to pull off. Your description has to be vivid; your characters need to come alive and become strong protagonists; and you need to be very imaginative. So you can open a tale with a dream sequence, but be forewarned.

The only cliché worse than opening with a dream is where the writer tells an entire story or novel and then ends with a character waking from his dream. Don’t do that one folks. If your editor reads it and then shoots you, it’s considered justifiable homicide.

. . . .

The real problem with writing stories set in dreams is best stated as a series of questions: Really? So what? Who cares?

When you write a story set inside a dream sequence, you as an author have two choices. You can let the reader know that it’s a dream, or you hide it. If you let the reader know that it’s a dream, then the reader isn’t likely to care. After all, you as the author are pointing out, “This is just a story.” On the other hand, if you’re hiding that you’re writing about a dream, then the reader will feel cheated when he or she finds out. In either case, you’ve got some real hurdles to overcome.

Link to the rest at David Farland

Why social media isn’t the magic bullet for self-epublished authors

30 July 2012

From author Ewan Morrison via The Guardian

“Authors – become a success through building an ‘internet platform’!”. For almost five years we’ve been subjected to the same message. At the London College of Communication’s iGeneration conference this year, I heard thatsocial media was now the only way to sell books, and witnessed glowing examples of the successful use of SM from epub authors such as Joanna Penn (who has her own consultancy and sells $99 multimedia courses on How to Write A Novel). At the Hay festival last month, I heard Scott Pack – self-described “blogger, publisher and author of moderately successful toilet books” – declare that mainstream media, papers and TV “no longer function in selling books”; that the net is now the only way for authors to – you’ve heard it before – “build a platform”.

. . . .

I’m convinced that epublishing is another tech bubble, and that it will burst within the next 18 months. The reason is this: epublishing is inextricably tied to the structures of social media marketing and the myth that social media functions as a way of selling products. It doesn’t, and we’re just starting to get the true stats on that. When social media marketing collapses it will destroy the platform that the dream of a self-epublishing industry was based upon.

First, though, I conducted my own experiment. I decided to take these “platformers” at their word and seriously consider the possibility of self-promoting my books online (I even bought an iPhone so that I could get with the revolution).

. . . .

It also turns out that the ebook market now looks a lot like the old mainstream model. A small number of writers make a lot and everyone else wallows in the doldrums of minuscule sales. The only difference is that those at the top are selling 100,000 copies at 99p, not at £4.99, or £8.99 – which in real terms represents a massive shrinkage of the market. Furthermore, it signifies the passage of the publishing industry into the hands of the internet companies that can capitalise on a million small sales by a million small authors.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Catherine for the tip.

It’s always nice to read an analysis of the efficacy of social media marketing from someone who just bought an iPhone. And who doesn’t realize that saying so makes him appear totally clueless to people who actually use social media seriously.

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