Monthly Archives: September 2013

I am a drinker

29 September 2013

I am a drinker with writing problems.

Brendan Behan

Finding a replacement for Goodreads

29 September 2013

From Dear Author:

After Goodreads deleted content – both reviews and shelves – of readers as well as indicated that they would continue to do so in the future (only this time they’ll provide notice), many readers feel like Goodreads is not a safe place for them.  Ironically, many many authors hate Goodreads feeling that the place is unsafe for them as well.  Undoubtedly sites like Stop the Goodreads Bullies which has defamed and doxxed reviewers allowing them to be called at their place of business and at home bu approvingly cited by so many purported reputable journalism sources, ratchet up the tension making both sides targets.  Nonetheless, the question is where can readers go to discuss books they don’t like as well as the ones they do without interference from authors complaining about mistreatment?

. . . .

Riffle is essentially Pinterest for books.  You can search their catalog, select a book, and add it to your shelf.  This is designed for graphic oriented readers.  There is no place to leave reviews and no place for interaction (other than repinning).  Pinterest is the large social sharing network.  You have to find the book you want to add to your shelf and then “pin it”.  You can create different “boards” such as A Reads | B Reads and genre based boards.  The advantage of Riffle is the already created catalog source.  The benefit of Pinterest is that you aren’t limited to what is in the Riffle catalog (ie., a lot of indies aren’t there) but you lack the built in reading community.

. . . .

Library Thing  is a similar source on the internet to Goodreads.  It allows you to create an account, add books to your catalog, create lists, write reviews, and share those with other members. The interface isn’t as elegant as Goodreads and there is a cost.  A free membership allows you to add 200 books to your shelf. You have to pay $10 per year to have an unlimited bookshelf or $25 for life.  The social aspect isn’t as strong.

. . . .

Most of the people who I follow at Goodreads have left for Booklikes.  Booklikes has a tumblr like interface, almost blog-like. There’s a lot to like about Booklikes. You can customize the look and feel of your “shelf” by installing a new background design.  A downside is I saw a lot of promotional things on the site and that might just be who I followed accidentally or by default.  While most of the content created on Goodreads was book related, Booklikes allows you to create posts and status updates that are completely general.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

Social media leaders rely upon lots of people for their success. Once a site like Goodreads comes to dominate a social media niche, it’s hard to build a significant competitor unless a new new entry does something cool in a way that will draw large masses of people away from the category leader. You can persuade small groups to move, but large groups are much, much harder.

PG doesn’t think the vast majority of Goodreads users are terribly upset about a few offensive items being removed from the site. Most have not even noticed anything. It will take a killer new concept to pull significant numbers of Goodreads regulars to something new.

Self-Publishing Could Become a $52 Billion Business

29 September 2013

From AppNewser:

The self-publishing industry has created a new publishing market that could potentially reach $52 billion, according to a new report from media technology firm New Publisher House. According to the report, this is twice as much money as the traditional book publishing industry in the U.S. brings in in its current total annual sales revenue.

. . . .

“Traditional methods of sizing the publishing market have hidden the real industry impact of the self-publishing movement,” stated James O’Toole, founder/CEO of New Publisher House.

Link to the rest at AppNewser and thanks to J.M. for the tip.

This is the first PG has heard of New Publisher House, but it seems to be a potential competitor for Smashwords that may be looking for crowdsourced funding.

Why Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki, and Na’vi are real languages

29 September 2013

From CNet:

If you’ve spent a couple decades studying, learning, and speaking Klingon, then you probably already know in your gut it’s a real language. Linguist John McWhorter has your back.

McWhorter explains in a short Ted-Ed lesson how certain made-up languages can qualify as real languages. He investigates Elvish from “The Lord of the Rings” books and movies, Klingon from “Star Trek,” Dothraki from the “Game of Thrones” world, and Na’vi from “Avatar.” These all qualify as fantasy constructed languages, better known as conlangs.

McWhorter looks for certain qualities in conlangs. To qualify as a real language, you need more than a lot of vocabulary words. You need grammar. Elvish, which McWhorter calls the official grandfather of fantasy conlangs, is held up as an example here for the way it conjugates present-tense verbs into past-tense.

Link to the rest at CNet and thanks to Felix for the tip.

The Ebook Market No Author Should Ignore: Think Globally!

28 September 2013

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

One of the biggest changes the e-reader has brought to the publishing industry doesn’t get much cyberink in the online book community.

It’s the huge international market that’s opening up now that we don’t have to pay to ship physical books around the world.

If, like me, you’ve ever experienced that terrible moment on vacation when you discover you have nothing left to read in your native tongue but a copy of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl you got in trade for your last Agatha Christie in that Athens hostel…you know how tough it used to be to find English language books abroad.

But no more!

The e-age has given us a global book market.

. . . .

In the 21st century, exile is not so harsh. As Jay and the crew at Ebook Bargains UK tell us in this week’s post: a whole lot of people all over the world now speak English.

They read it, too.

Which means there’s a global market for ebooks in English that indie authors can tap into—with no worries about translation, shipping, or “foreign rights.”

But most authors who write in English still focus on selling exclusively in the U.S. That worked for some of the big indie success stories a few years ago, but this is a rapidly changing industry.

. . . .

[From a guest post from Ebook Bargains UK]

Given we only launched Ebook Bargains UK (EBUK) this summer, on a shoe-string budget from a bedroom in Bedford, with the impossible ambition of promoting English-language ebooks to a world that supposedly doesn’t know ebooks exist, we’re pretty pleased with how things are going.

We started the first EBUK newsletter because we were tired of seeing newsletters that only linked to Amazon—usually only Amazon US. We’d search for the book on or another UK site, and find it wasn’t on sale to us.

We also wanted to know about ebook bargains to be found at our own UK bookshop sites, like Foyles, Waterstones, W.H. Smith, Tesco etc.

We soon realized such a newsletter would be useful in Canada and Australia and India…and English speaking countries all over the world. So our one newsletter rapidly expanded to ten. We hope to have twenty by the end of the year.

. . . .

The S.E. Asia newsletter (Not just the Philippines but Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc) will join daily promo newsletters already shipping to:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • India
  • Ireland
  • the Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • UK
  • USA

Ebook Bargains France, Italy and Scandinavia will be following next month, with another five to add before the year’s end.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog and thanks to L for the tip.

You can’t use up creativity

28 September 2013

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.

Maya Angelou

Children’s reading shrinking due to apps, games and YouTube

28 September 2013

From The Guardian:

According to a survey of 2,000 British children and parents conducted by Nielsen Book in June this year, 50% of family households now own at least one tablet, up from 24% a year ago.

Is this a good thing for kids’ reading habits? Are they hoovering up e-books and delighting in digital book-apps on these devices? In a word: no. At least not according to data shared at The Bookseller Children’s Conference by research firm Nielsen Book.

The good news? 32% of children still read books for pleasure on a daily basis, the second most popular activity behind watching TV (36%), and well ahead of social networking (20%), watching videos on YouTube (17%) and playing mobile games and apps (16%).

On a weekly basis, 60% of children are reading books for pleasure, and if you factor in children who are being read to by parents, that percentage climbs to 72%. But…

“But there’s a really disturbing pattern beginning to emerge when you look on a weekly basis,” said Nielsen Book’s Jo Henry, presenting the findings to an audience of publishers.

Only three activities increased in percentage terms between 2012 and 2013: playing “game apps” (the term used by Nielsen Book), visiting YouTube and text messaging. Reading? That was down nearly eight percentage points.

. . . .

“I want to stress that most children are still medium and heavy book readers, but what we’re seeing is a really significant rise in the number of occasional and even non-readers in the children’s market.”

Nielsen Book has specific definitions for those terms. Heavy readers are defined as children who read at least weekly, and for an average of 45 minutes or more a day. Medium are a little less than that, light are those reading weekly but for less than 15 minutes a day on average, and occasional readers are those who read 1-3 times a month.

“What we’re seeing is that non-readers have risen from 22% to 28% of all children,” said Henry, who went on to claim that it’s not just reading that is suffering from the growth in apps and YouTube use: activities including going out, hobbies and art are also being dropped.

“It’s hugely impacting on teenagers: 11-17 year-olds are actually dropping their participation in quite a broad range of activities in order to play game apps,” said Henry.

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

Jeff Bezos, Switchboard Operator

28 September 2013

From TechCrunch:

I drive a rental car through the rich gray green of overwatered, undersunned Seattle suburbs that border a city rising like a prize at the end of the road. The trees are the color of dried oregano, the air dense and wet. I’m going into Amazon country to meet Jeff Bezos, the king of this lush land.

. . . .

“A third leg of our strategy and vision is going to reveal itself,” he says.

I was ready. He got up to scribble on the board like a professor in a catch-up session. He outlined the three legs of Amazon’s success – the keys to the kingdom in blue dry-erase ink. “We sell premium products at non-premium prices. We make money when people use our devices, not when they buy them. I see people with five-year-old kindle ereaders and I don’t have to be discouraged by that. They don’t have to be on the upgrade treadmill,” he says.

“The third one, which is new, is the intersection of customer delight and deep integration throughout the entire stack. One of the hardest and coolest things that you might do occurs right here. When I talk about the entire stack I’m thinking about hardware at the bottom, the OS, the key apps, cloud, and even services on top of that.”

. . . .

He picks up a Kindle HDX and swipes down from the top. A list of icons appears. There was a new, unfamiliar one that looked like a little life-preserver.

“We’ll click on this button here,” he says. “It’s called Mayday. What do you think that will do?”

A little window pops and a smiling Amazon tech appears. “Hi, I’m Dylan. I see you activated Mayday. How can I help you?”

It was a canned demo, to be sure – Dylan definitely knew his boss was about to call – but it was a fascinatingly human moment. Dylan kept smiling throughout.

“Hi Dylan, it’s Jeff here, I’m going to show off Mayday,” says Bezos. “One of the things happening with these devices is they’re sophisticated enough and they have quite a number of settings.”

He calls Mayday “on-device tech support.”

“Dylan, first of all, move yourself on the screen. Maybe move yourself onto the upper right hand corner for a second.”

Dylan’s window moves into a corner.

“What’s a hot game that everybody’s buying these days?” he asks.

Dylan brings up Angry Birds Star Wars II. Bezos, the guy who runs all this stuff, needed a little help picking a game.

“We think mostly people will want to be taught how to do things but we can show them as well. This service is 24/7, it’s free, and we set an internal goal of answering Mayday sessions in 15 seconds or less.”

“Doing this requires a lot of heavy lifting.”

Bezos says he’ll be ready for Christmas morning when support usage spikes. He talks about how difficult it is to do tech support over the phone and how hard it is to get this thing to work. There was a concerted effort to build this from the core of the device, all the way down to the packets transmitted to ensure a good connection.

“Are we in charge of our devices or are our devices in charge of us?” he asks. With Mayday he hopes to put control back into the hands of the users.

“What are you guys now? Are you a hardware company now or services company,” I ask.

“Yes. People always ask me this one. ‘Are you a technology company or a reseller?’ And I would say yes. We’re a technology company and we use technology and everything else to help our customers.”

. . . .

“How would you feel if you never had to ship a CD or a book again?” I ask. I wanted to know if he would be happy never having to ship another physical box.

“I think that’s going to take a very long time. What we’re finding right now is that even our heaviest Kindle ebook customers are still buying physical books. We’re seeing a lot of vinyl sales.”

“Clearly if you look far enough into the future, I don’t know how many years, it’s very rapidly going towards digital items. Our point of view is that we did the very best we can in the physical media products and the digital media products and our customers choose what they like best.”

“But you’re a guy who has a bunch of warehouses. Would you be happy on that day?” I ask.

“To take it out of philosophical into the practical, we sell a lot of shoes and diapers. For Amazon, it’s not just about media products. The vast percentage of what we do is non-media products. It’s mixers, diapers, and shoes. It’s stuff you can’t download. Even the very best 3D printers can’t print a tablet.”

“I think 3D printing is one of those incredibly exciting arenas. We’ll have to see how it interacts with Amazon but it’s too early to see. We have Createspace to make books and we do similar things for music CDs,” he says.

. . . .

Amazon isn’t a tech company or a reseller or a services company. It’s a centralized repository for commerce. Products flow in and leave with as little friction as possible. When you have a problem you simply write a few lines and your return is processed. When your Kindle breaks, you press a button and Dylan pops into your world and helps you out. When something slips, Bezos knows how to route around the damage.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Penguin Random House’s President and COO Madeline McIntosh: It’s Still About the Books

28 September 2013

From Digital Book World:

Regardless of changing business models, trading conditions or disruptive technologies, it’s still all about the book for the world’s largest publishing company — and for all publishers — according the Penguin Random House president and chief operating officer Madeline McIntosh.

“What makes us successful is whether or not we have the books that people want to read,” said McIntosh, speaking at the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) annual meeting in New York. “Consumers are moving around…but I have yet to see any evidence at all that what consumers are saying is that they want to move away from the core experience of reading a book. They’re looking to us to provide them with immersive reading.”

McIntosh added later that that kind of book — long-form narrative fiction or nonfiction — makes up 70% of her company’s business.

. . . .

“We’ve been very lucky that we haven’t suffered the massive threat of piracy in the book business,” she said, comparing it with the motion picture and music industries.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says that the typical consumer looks to a local bookstore or Amazon or a favorite author to provide immersive reading. The typical consumer has no idea who or what Penguin Random House is. That’s why Randy Penguin and similar organizations can be so easily displaced in a consumer marketplace.

Why Creativity Is Like Karaoke

27 September 2013

From Inc. Magazine:

Everyone is born creative, but schools and jobs and the hegemony of the conventionally minded steamroller it out of us. So argue David and Tom Kelley, who as leaders of iconic innovation firm IDEO have unparalleled cred on this subject. In their new book, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, the brothers urge a universal uncorseting of our creative selves.

. . . .

 Define “creative confidence.”

Tom: Creative confidence is the natural human ability to come up with breakthrough ideas combined with the courage to act on them. The courage turns out to be a really important part. Because lots of people have these ideas in passing but are too timid to put them into action.

David: Or afraid of the reactions they will get from the people when they do.

. . . .

 If playfulness and experimentation are important to creativity, should managers think differently about scheduling and deadlines? 

Tom: When people get creative confidence they focus more on iterations, doing experiments. Thomas Edison said that one of the greatest measures of your ability is how many experiments you can do within 24 hours. There was a leader from a financial services firm who went to the [Stanford’s institute of design, founded by David Kelley.] He said, when we launch a new product it takes six months for planning, two months for visual representation of the framework of web pages, and two months for productizing a new online service offering. When he went back to his day job he said, starting next week I’m going to give them a day to do the whole thing. Then I’m going to give them an extension of a few more days. We will still make our deadline. But I can be on the twentieth iteration instead of the first iteration. And it will be better.

David: You can have a deadline and have a first not-that-great idea and get it done. The trick is to get as many iterations in and as many generations in as possible before the deadline. Deadlines are kind of arbitrary anyway. I can spend the rest of my life designing a wastebasket and just keep making it better. You run out of time and budget. In our world it’s just how many iterations can you get done given that they call time? In the Launchpad class at Stanford [where Kelley is a professor] students have five weeks to get a product live in the world. It’s amazing what students can get done in that time.

. . . .

 How do you make intuition coachable?

Tom: It’s not so much coachable as practice. I think the great danger for people as they progress through their careers is they rely on intuition informed by old data. It’s important to constantly refresh; to hold up the worldview you have in your head against the actual world out there in 2013. Also, your intuition is really the sum of your experiences. So the way that we say to improve your intuition is to have a lot more experiences and a variety of experiences.

. . . .

 In the book, you say an innovation culture is like karaoke. Explain. 

Tom: I go to Japan a lot. I started encountering karaoke about 25 years ago. And I’m thinking, why are people braver in this environment than they are back in the office? Liquid courage is part of the formula. But it’s not the whole thing.

Think of that karaoke room as a metaphor for your company. There are a lot of special things going on. I am going to get up there and sing a cappella in front of my friends. I’m willing to take this big risk because you’re going to get up and sing next! We’re all in this together. The other part is that people have turned down critical judgment, temporarily, to go into the karaoke room. The big fear holding people back from creative confidence is the fear of being judged. In the karaoke room, a colossal failure is at least as much fun as something that is really good.

Link to the rest at Inc.

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