We recently heard a story on the CBC show Day 6 with Brent Bambury that we found quite intriguing, amusing, and a bit disturbing: e-books that are produced with similar titles to bestsellers to lure the unwary into buying them. Examples include the I am the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and Thirty-Five Shades of Grey.
We almost feel ashamed dignifying these productions with italicization and mention in our blog. They are not good; they are not even trying to be good. They just want to glom on to another author’s success and leech some sales by virtue of title similarity. Since titles can’t, in general, be copyrighted, all this is perfectly legal. Or maybe not—one expert in the piece suggests prosecution may be possible on grounds of fraud.
Another phenomenon mentioned in the story are books that are nothing more than compilations of Wikipedia articles and blogs on some important topic, slapped together without regard to narrative arc or even coherence, and sold as authoritative works.
Such are the dangers of the Wild West of modern, online publishing. Maybe Kathi and I will go ahead with our plan to write A Farewell to Barns.
Have you been cheated by someone selling you a bogus e-book? Tell us your story.
The O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference started today, and if you didn't make it to New York City, never fear: The entire conference is being broadcast live. Check the schedule and revisit the stream here if there's a session you just can't miss. We will definitely be dipping in!
As of today, BookPage is available on the Nook Newsstand. You can either buy the current issue (January 2012) for $3, or subscribe for $2.50 a month. If you subscribe, each new issue will be automatically delivered to your Nook. Best of all, BookPage for Nook is compatible with all Nook devices and apps (Nook, Nook Color, Nook for iPad, Nook for Android, etc.).
If you'd like a way to read BookPage on the go, this is a great way to do so—BookPage looks awesome on the Nook (if I do say so myself) and gives you an easy way to read the issue digitally.
Finally, if you're reading this blog, you probably don't need an introduction to BookPage, but here's our Nook blurb—just in case:
BookPage recommends the best new books for every reader, whether you're interested in literary fiction or history, romance or mystery, cookbooks or children's books. Each issue highlights more than 50 new releases, and contains author interviews, seasonal features, columns and dozens of book reviews that spotlight new discoveries as well as bestsellers. Tailored to the true booklover, BookPage is guaranteed to keep your "To Be Read" list full and provide plenty of ideas for your next book club pick.
Will you subscribe to BookPage through the Nook Newsstand? Happy reading!
Forgive the cliché, but it seems the one constant in the realm of publishing these days is change. Every day brings at least one new story about digital publishing and ereader technology, but today two especially interesting ones came to my attention.
Branded e-bookstores coming to Germany. One of the reasons independent booksellers have trouble breaking into the ebook market is a lack of branded eBookstores or e-readers. (OK, there's Google's eBookstore, which independent booksellers can use to create their own stores, but just try shopping there directly from your Nook or Kindle!) A German company plans to help independent bookstores sell iRiver Story HD readers that are linked to their own eBookstores. Will it be a hit? Will there be a similar service stateside? I'm probably not the only one eager to find out. If your local independent bookstore sold a branded ereader, would you buy it?
Ask an author on your Kindle. Amazon has rolled out a new Kindle feature that allows you to ask an author questions about their book. The answers will appear on Twitter and on the author's Amazon page. Currently in Beta, the feature is only available for a handful of writers (photos here) but it has interesting ramifications for the business (and, possibly, for authors' productivity). So far, there haven't been many questions posted to the authors' pages, though I'm sure that will change. Whether the questions will be interesting to other readers or the authors themselves remains to be seen.
Anyone else a tech news junkie? What am I missing?
At BookPage, we have a Nook Color and a Kindle at our office, both of which I have used extensively. And I usually have a book or two on my iPhone. I like the convenience of reading digitally enough to consider purchasing a dedicated e-reader of my own. But I've been hesitant to take the plunge. A recent essay by Mark O'Connell on The Millions does a beautiful job of explaining some of the conflicts a reader might feel when going digital. First, he outlines the positives.
There is, obviously, something to be said for being able to walk around with the complete works of Tolstoy on your person at all times without fear of collapsed vertebrae or public ridicule. There is also, just as obviously, something to be said for having immediate access to a vast, intangible warehouse of books from which you can choose, on a whim, to purchase anything and begin reading it straight away.
No page is its first page; no page is its last. . . . [I]t has the uncanny, shape-shifting potential to encompass all of them, to embody them all both individually and as a whole. Unsettlingly, it makes all those other books appear suddenly unnecessary, superfluous, seeming to haunt them with the imminent prospect of their own redundancy.
The piece gradually evolves into a sort of elegy for the book.
The insatiable desire for ever more and ever newer forms of convenience that drives our global economy and our technological culture leaves a scattered trail of obsolescence in its wake. As much as I don’t want my bookshelves to become part of this trail of obsolescence, I can already see early warning signs of my own desire for convenience — for instantly getting what I want, for not having to deal with mere objects in all their cumbersome actuality — beginning to outrank my love of the book as a physical thing.
I could go on quoting, but you should really click over and read the whole piece.
Overall I don't think that ebooks are a bad thing—as one of the many intelligent comments on O'Connell's essay points out, for one, they have the potential to offer many more people access to many more books (provided they can spring for a digital device to read them on). And hey, if you're really nostalgic for the book form, you can purchase a beautiful vintage book e-reader cover, which, as the seller says, "shows you still appreciate the real thing!"
Where do you stand on the digital divide?
p.s. Today is Borges' 112th birthday -- check out the Google doodle.
A post from the Author Enablers:
With more than 25 years of experience, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. Together, they are the authors of Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now. Email them your questions (along with your name and hometown) about writing and publishing, and don’t miss their column on BookPage.com.
Dana Lynn Smith, also known as the Savvy Book Marketer, has published a new book of her own. Savvy Book Marketing Secrets: 52 Experts Share Insider Tips for Selling More Books, is offered as an e-book—nothing unusual there—but also with the provision that no one is allowed to buy or sell the book. If you want a copy, darn it, you have to spring for the free download.
Now why would any author in her right mind refuse to accept payment for a book? We can think of a few reasons. Savvy Book Marketing Secrets includes articles, many already published elsewhere, by pros in Dana’s wide circle of publishing contacts. As the Author Enablers, we contributed an excerpt from our own book, and we assume others have done the same. Dana compiled the excerpts into a comprehensive marketing guide for new authors. By offering the book for free she sidesteps the issue of purchasing the rights to pre-published material, and the headache of keeping track and making payments to her contributors. In this instance the opportunity for wide distribution and the networking support of fellow writers probably outweighs the small amount the book would bring in sales, once she’s paid everyone involved.
Now don’t get us wrong. We think writers should be compensated for good work, and we don’t know many people in a position to volunteer their services as a default. But in this case, a free e-book makes a lot of promotional sense, especially when you factor in the networking support of 52 well-connected pros.
Part of being an author is selling yourself and your books, and there are some great tips in this e-book on how to do just that. The Author Enablers are honored to be included in Savvy Book Marketing Secrets: 52 Experts Share Insider Tips for Selling More Books. Grab your free copy at http://bit.ly/SavvySecrets.
This morning, J.K. Rowling announced some details about her new Pottermore website.
You can watch the announcement below, in which Rowling states that Pottermore will provide a digital reading experience for fans of all ages. It will also be the "exclusive place to purchase digital audiobooks and, for the first time, e-books of the Harry Potter series." (Rowling also said that she will share additional information about the Potter world that she's been "hoarding for years." Yes, please!)
The site will officially launch in October, but right now there's a message on the homepage that says readers can come back on July 31* for a chance to enter Pottermore early.
Self-publishing expert J.A. Konrath has already written a blog post about Rowling's decision to release her books through her own e-bookstore. He writes: "Naturally, I think she's brilliant for making this self-pubbing move. She'll be the first superstar to do so, and others will no doubt follow suit."
It's unclear how high Rowling's profit margin will be, or even if this can technically be called self-publishing—Scholastic is a "key partner in the Pottermore project."
Still, readers have waited a long time to read the Harry Potter series on their e-reading devices, and I'm excited to see the extra features on the site. There are some cool screen shots in the Pottermore press room, like this one:
*Harry Potter's birthday, naturally.
But! Why would you want to do that when you can take a 3.5-minute video tour? In the video, I tell you about this month's author interviews—and a few of our editors work out their issues with young literary phenom Téa Obreht. The video was filmed in BookPage's office (for all those wondering where the magic happens).
What books from the March issue are you most looking forward to reading?
For more video fun, visit BookPage.com on YouTube.
Last month we asked you to fill out a short survey about your e-reader use, and now I have the results. You may have noticed that the BookPage print edition (starting in January 2011) includes a note on whether each book we cover is available in e-book form. We know that more and more of our readers are choosing to enjoy books digitally, but we wanted a better sense of how many.
Looking at these numbers, it's clear that a significant portion of our online readership—50% of those of you who chose to fill out the survey—own e-readers. For the most part, those of you who don't already own an e-reader don't want one. If you have one, Kindle is king, although you still buy a mix of e-books and paper books.
DO YOU OWN AN E-READER?
WHICH E-READER DO YOU OWN?
IF YOU DON'T CURRENTLY OWN AN E-READER, DO YOU WISH YOU DID?
DO YOU PRIMARILY BUY E-BOOKS OR PAPER BOOKS?
By the way, these stats are more relevant than ever, as next weekend the New York Times will unveil their e-book bestseller lists. According to Publishers Weekly, there will be separate fiction and nonfiction e-book bestseller lists, along with a combined e-book and print bestseller list.
For a perspective on how e-book sales will grow, read this post from Michael Hyatt, Chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, who believes growth will be slower than industry execs think.
Also, read why Web Editor Trisha Ping has known for nearly two years that she will never travel with print books again.
Question for readers: Are you surprised by these survey results?
We want to hear from our blog readers, too . . . fill out this survey about how you read, and we'll report back on The Book Case with the results in a couple of weeks.
For the record: Although I'm a blogger and love multimedia platforms, I'm still reading on dead trees. But ask me again in May after my 10-day trip to Argentina. I may cave after trying to fit 15 books in a carry-on suitcase.