Quick Update & a MUST READ for aspiring authors

Hello all,

Busy week for me, but I wanted to share a link to author J.A. Konrath's newest child.  You may have seen his blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, listed in the latest Writer's Digest, 101 Best Websites, article.  As a follower, I have to say that it is one of the most informative blogs going, especially with regards to electronic publishing, industry trends, and new author survival tips. 

At any rate, Joe has compiled many (if not all) of his best tips and advice into a new Kindle/eBook, The Newbie's Guide To Publishing.  The book is cheap ($2.99 and worth it), however, you can download a free PDF version from his site, here.  I would encourage all of you to check it out, and to become a follower of his blog.  Assuming you're not Joe Rowling, Stephen King, or Stephanie Meyer, his advice might be the thing to help you maintain a writing career once it's started, which is no garunteed thing. 

Have a good week, and happy writing! 


Over the course of human history there have been some truly beautiful pairings:

Baseball + Bats
Wine + Cheese
Peanut Butter + Jelly
Fried Chicken + Kentucky
Hall + Oats
Limp + Bizkit
Snuggies + Crazy Dancing Old People
Care Bears + Stare

On and on the list goes …

Suffice to say, two is sometimes much better than one (quit humming!). So when I read about the latest crazy mashup of literature and tech, the Vook, I was cautiously optimistic.

Vook is a format that combines book and video into one cohesive multimedia experience that can be viewed/interacted with on your computer or portable device (iPhone, eReaders, etc.).

Now I’ve seen some iPad demos that basically show how books can become interactive by allowing the reader to play music, chat, and watch media that ties into the book.

That is essentially what a Vook is. I subscribe to both Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers, and both have articles about Vooks in their most recent issues. This tells me that the format is getting some attention. It is pointed out in both articles that the Vook isn’t exactly being embraced by everyone as the future of publishing. In fact, in the P & W article, a skeptic basically states that it isn’t a viable trend because no one is using the format to create things that couldn’t be replicated otherwise. I took this to mean that the content being offered in current Vooks is simply add-on enhancements and couldn’t be viewed as a unique medium.

I don’t necessarily agree with that thinking. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of comics and graphic novels, and I’ve seen some demos of comics using an enhanced Vook-like format to add sound effects, moving panels, and music. To me, that seems like a pretty awesome new format for reading your comics. In fact, you’re not just reading them and looking at pictures any more, you’re participating in the story by swiping a sound effect, queuing music, etc.

As the electronic book format continues to take more and more of the market, I envision a future where most every reader will have some sort of electronic device to read on. Paper books will still exist, but they will be expensive and serve mostly as collectables. While I recognize the love people have for holding a physical book when reading, the signs are pointing toward a time when that will be viewed as a luxury, not a requirement. I see it being like the folks who still own record players to play their old 45s; owning physical books will be an expensive hobby.

I decided to write about this topic, because I was given a Barnes & Noble nook eReader for my birthday this week. After just a couple of days of reading, I can say I truly love it to the point that I plan on making 90% of my future book purchases electronic (I will still purchase hardbacks of my absolute favorites, because I like having them on my bookshelf as decoration).

As a writer, I find my mind more and more shifting to the possibilities of the electronic format, and have even lately started to think about the limitations of a strictly print format. We live in an age of bonus content and premium add-ons. How many of you purchased the Twilight or New Moon Deluxe edition DVDs so you could see that Stephanie Meyer interview? How many of you purchased the deluxe edition of the Harry Potter books so you could have the cool book cover and extra pictures? How many of you download the iTunes deluxe edition of your favorite band’s album so you can get the extra songs and videos? Fans want more content, and they’re willing to pay for it.

I don't see it as consumer exploitation, because if people weren’t buying it, they wouldn’t be offering it.  The consumer ultimately has the power.

Now think about your book. How cool would it be for your readers to be able to shell out a few more dollars and get a deluxe edition with chapter commentaries from you (the author), an original soundtrack with onscreen prompts that readers can use to play while reading specific scenes, and bonus artwork that corresponds to the various chapters, etc.? I know older readers will bemoan sensory overload, but if you’re an unpublished author you need to think about who the readers will be in 5-10 years, not just those who are reading right now. I work with those future readers, and they demand full sensory experiences in their reading, watching, and listening. Video games are getting more engaging, movies are getting more immersive, and books are becoming more action driven by the day. You think people have short attentions spans right now, picture that in 5, 10, and 15 years.

How would you use this kind of technology for the stories you’re working on, or would you use it at all?

Pertaining to my last post, I found this interesting article comparing the iPad bookstore iBooks to Amazon’s Kindle.

Hands-on with the iPad AND vacation photos!

Hello, all! I wasn’t able to post last week due to being out of town on vacation. (Yes, there ARE still places without internet service in the world, and I was in one of them.) Now I have an iPhone, and I could have finagled a way to post from it, but to be honest my brain took a little vacation as well.

At any rate, I’m back, and I did manage to do one productive (hey, I’m calling it productive!) writerly oriented thing: I GOT MY PAWS ON AN iPAD. Here’s what I think:

First, let me say that I approached my hands-on time with the intent of examining the iPad as an eReader. I’m definitely in the market for a reader of some kind as too many people have told me how much they love their Nooks, Kindles, etc., and I’m way beyond the point of running out of bookshelf space.

You library denizens out there, just simmer down. I know they exist, but I try to purchase as many books as I can to support authors. That’s another reason why I’ve decided to purchase a reader; I can help authors AND not destroy a rainforest.

Back to the task at hand. The first thing you’ll notice about the iPad is how bright and beautiful the screen is. The outward appearance is very streamlined with only a few buttons, so when you see the bright blue (or whatever color background the screen is displaying) with the little application icons, it’s quite visually arresting. When I’ve looked at/played with other eReaders, I’ve been underwhelmed by presentation. I know these ‘toys’ are for reading, but I’d like to see a little more in the way of eye candy on the dashboard/screen.

Regardless of how cool you look holding it, I know most people (myself included) are primarily interested in functionality. If you’ve picked up an iPhone or iPod touch, you’ll instantly acclimate to the iPad. It functions exactly the same way, so you’ll be able to finger swipe, pinch, and tap your way through features in no time. If you’ve never used either of the before mentioned gadgets, have no fear, because I can easily count them as some of the most accessible bits of technology to ever be created. I’m totally convinced that a blind monkey could use an iPhone to order pizza within five minutes of touching it.

The iPad in the store had several pre-loaded apps (think of them as programs on a computer), and I played with each of them. I can say that this thing plays games, music, and movies with the best of them. But how does it read, you ask?

The reader interface, cleverly dubbed iBook by those Apple geniuses, is very cool. When you open the iBook/reader app, you’ll see a virtual bookshelf (assuming you didn’t close the reader mid-read, in which case you’ll be brought back to the page you closed) with the cover of all of the books you’ve downloaded. Simply touch the cover of the book you want to read, and it opens. You can turn the iPad either horizontally or vertically. I preferred the horizontal (sideways) alignment as it read more like a physical book, displaying two pages at a time. You’ll find many handy reading features, such as bookmarks, dictionary lookup for words in the text, and you even have the ability to adjust the lighting of the screen.

That brings me to the real drawback as a reader: the iPad uses a backlit screen, not the passive screen technology used by the other dedicated eReaders. The good side of this is that unlike other readers, you could read the iPad in the dark without the presence of any external lighting. The down side is that this can sometimes cause eyestrain (think staring at a computer monitor all day). I had no problems reading on the device, and in fact, I would say I even enjoyed how vivid and crisp the text appeared. However, I only read for a few minutes, so we’ll just have to wait for some extended use reviews to surface on the web to learn just how bad the eyestrain problem will be.

In the end, I found it to be very high on my list in terms of readers. The interface is great, the selection is top notch (both Barnes & Noble and Amazon already have apps for purchasing content, and that’s in addition to the iBook store), and it does so much more than any reader currently on the market can do (fast web access, music, games, on and on …).

However, at this point I think the price is far too high to purchase just as a reader (starting @ $499). Although it does a bunch of other cool stuff, it has no built in camera (for the bloggers, Facebook crowd, etc.), you can’t multi-task (work multiple applications at the same time) as you would expect to be able to do for something that cost as much or more than many laptops, and it won’t play many web videos thanks to Apple’s reluctance to allow Java on its platforms.

Was it cool? Yes, and frankly it blew me away. Will I wait for the price to drop and for Apple to fix a few of the nagging issues before purchasing? Absolutely, but I think the key is that I do see myself buying one eventually.

Hope you enjoy the photos!