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4May/110

No mysteries after all in new crime series from Little, Brown

The scene of the crime: The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City

At the Observer, Dan Duray takes a look at how big publishers eat each other in a report about Hachette imprint Little, Brown‘s crime imprint start-up Mulholland Books. The report, which is written as if spoken by Humphrey Bogart reading Raymond Chandler, which is a bit much at that length, describes how stars like Laura Lippman are “shocked” to learn that one mega-conglomerate spent a fortune to hire another star — Laurence Block — from another mega-conglomerate, where he was no doubt already making a fortune …. Then there the reporting — as if it too were news — of various other layers of cynicism in-house, as the robots debate the mix of authors necessary for a good crime imprint:

But there are hazards. Genre offers face heavy competition from the e-book world, where nobody cares if there’s a Michael Connelly quote on the cover, and there’s always a danger that an imprint like Mulholland can turn into a ghetto where you place books you’d never want on the list of Little, Brown proper.

“You can call it a ghetto or you can call it a specialized imprint,” Abel said. “You can spin it any way you wish.”

A heavy at another house whispered a little something in my ear about the whole plan. Little, Brown already handles big names like Michael Connelly and James Patterson, not to mention the stuff they do under Regan Arthur, the source said, so why do this imprint? Crime makes money. Money means resources, and in a sleek operation like Hachette, that can make all the difference, even if it means competing with Grand Central, which does a neat little thriller business of its own. This was Mr. Pietsch’s bid to remain the olive in the cocktail at Hachette.

As I say, no surprises. But the most telling thing in the report may be the scene of a Mulholland Books launch party for one of its star authors, Marcia Clark — remember her? the losing public prosecutor in that great nineties non-mystery known as the O.J. Simpson case? — at New York’s mecca for crime book lovers, the Mysterious Bookshop. It’s a big party, but with one problem: No one shows except for a bunch of people from the publisher, who apparently just stood around talking about James Elroy. The take-away: “‘There, there,’ said an agent, pouring Ms. Clark a stiff drink of book-party white wine.”

Well, actually, the take-away is worse than that. As Duray writes in his relentless gumshoe voice,


The next day I called up Otto Penzler, who owns the store, and asked him for information on the imprint.

“How can I say this without getting myself in trouble?” he began.

“Trouble’s my game,” I told him.

“Mine, too,” Mr. Penzler said. “But I’ve got a lot of friends at Hachette.”

 

 

3May/110

Literary voices from Japan

Today Melville House is publishing The Lake, the latest novel by Japanese literary phenomenon Banana Yoshimoto. And, honestly, we couldn’t be more thrilled. Erin Kodicek’s review for Amazon’s Best Books of May sums up as well as anything why: “E.L. Doctorow‘s Ragtime begins with a Scott Joplin quotation: “Don’t play this piece fast. It is never right to play ragtime fast.” Not just a musical admonishment, it’s also cautioning the reader not to rush through the deceptively simple prose, which is packed with poignancy. I would caution any reader thusly when diving into Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake. Mining conscious and subconscious worlds, this delicate and unusual love story finds two wounded souls slowly swimming to the surface of their grief. Yoshimoto unleashes “Banana Mania” every time a new work is released. The Lake will be no exception.”


Obviously we’re wont to toot our own horn about our books, so we try to keep the shilling to a minimum. But then, this is our book blog, thus our prerogative. Yet The Lake is a book that we aren’t really going to have to do too much shilling for. It’s one of those books that’s deceptively simple, that haunts your thoughts and dreams while you’re not reading it, it makes you reflect on the nature of your relationships, how they develop, how you feel when you lose someone close, and how all these things–in one way or another–defines you. It has darkness and mystery, but it has a lightness that carries you with it. And it’s one of those books people are going to evangelize to their friends about. Again, maybe all this is easy to say because we’re paid to, but it also happens to be true. (I’m sure my friends wish I’d shut up about it, but I digress.)

Banana Yoshimoto

Japan is fertile country for literary excellence. In a post by Kathleen Massara using the publication of The Lake as its occasion, Flavorwire featured Banana in a list of 10 Japanese authors worth paying attention to. As it happens, she is keeping company with some pretty amazing folks: Kenzaburo Oe (The Changeling), Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood, Kafka On the Shore, etc.), Ryu Murakami (Almost Transparent BlueCoin Locker Babies, Audition), Natsuo Kirino (OutGrostesque, Real World), Shintaro Ishihara (Season of the Sun), Mitsuyo Kakuta (Woman on the Other Shore, The Eighth Day), Teru Miyamoto (Kinshu: Autumn BrocadeMaboroshi no Hikari), Amy Yamada (Bedtime Eyes), and Kenzo Kitakata (City of Refuge).

It’s quite an amazing group of writers, displaying a breadth and diversity of talent that’s truly astounding. Needless to say, we’re elated Banana’s new book can provide the impetus for just such a list. And Japan could use the attention, so go read some Japanese authors this month. You can guess who (and which book) you should read first.

 

3May/110

Monster ereaders from Kno appear to be dead in the water- no news for ages





The original Kno monster ereader has died?

I have been following, or at least trying to follow the development of the Kno ereaders – you may remember them, a couple of insanely huge ereaders aimed specifically at students and teachers.

Sadly it is starting to seem to me that this amazing pair of ereaders are yet another example of an idea (good or bad) that was announced with much loud trumpeting and noise, and then sort of quietly faded away into an embarrassed silence.

I gather from their press department that they have managed to ship a few examples of their ereaders, but I have no information about how many those few may actually be, and what sort of reactions they had from those lucky few who have managed to get their hands on one or other of these ereaders.


The last news (for want of a better word) was way back in January, when I was told that they were experiencing supply problems with their ereaders, and that they would let me know when they were in a position to start serious spreading of these wondrous devices…. since when, total silence.

Also, there have been no new updates on their blog…….  All is stationary apparently.

Thus, I conclude that the two Kno ereaders will probably never actually happen in any real sense, which is sort of a pity, as they were really rather extraordinary devices, which I for one would have loved to have got my hands on.   But that is not to be, I suspect.

For what it is worth, here is the link to their website:  http://kno.com/




30Apr/114

eBooks from Samael Aun Weor


sony ebook:eBooks from Samael Aun Weor
The books of Samael Aun Weor are now available for the most popular electronic reading devices. Ebooks provide many benefits to the spiritual seeker: primarily, you can keep your most important books with you at all times, stored in your phone or mobile device. You can adjust the text size and color to your preference, make notes and bookmarks, search within your books, and share your books with your other devices. These ebooks are not exact replicas of the print editions; the electronic books are completely redesigned from the ground up in the latest ebook format, with beautiful color illustrations (if your e-reader displays color). Available now for: * Amazon's Kindle * Apple iBooks: iPad, iPhone, and iPod * Mobipocket: Windows PC, or devices like Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian The books will also be available soon for Kobo, Sony, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other devices.

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30Apr/114

eBooks from Samael Aun Weor


sony ebook:eBooks from Samael Aun Weor
The books of Samael Aun Weor are now available for the most popular electronic reading devices. Ebooks provide many benefits to the spiritual seeker: primarily, you can keep your most important books with you at all times, stored in your phone or mobile device. You can adjust the text size and color to your preference, make notes and bookmarks, search within your books, and share your books with your other devices. These ebooks are not exact replicas of the print editions; the electronic books are completely redesigned from the ground up in the latest ebook format, with beautiful color illustrations (if your e-reader displays color). Available now for: * Amazon's Kindle * Apple iBooks: iPad, iPhone, and iPod * Mobipocket: Windows PC, or devices like Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian The books will also be available soon for Kobo, Sony, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other devices.

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29Apr/110

Words of wisdom from John Waters

I got a job offer from Barnes & Noble mere hours after I had accepted my current position at The Strand. Even now — some three years after the fateful day — I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if that B&N manager had been just a little bit quicker. Compared to the wild, unpredictable nature of working at one of the largest and most eclectic bookstores in the nation, it’s hard to imagine an alternate reality of neat displays, khaki pants, collar shirts, Starbucks coffee, and Nooks.

But one thing’s for sure: You certainly wouldn’t have seen a group of B&N employees crowded around their store’s display window, laughing and snapping photographs with their phones after a long day’s work, like they were at The Strand yesterday — taking pictures such as the one at the right.

Marketing is so much more fun when you don’t have to worry about maintaining a staid, professional image.

 

28Apr/110

BISG study reveals ebook buyers are accelerating their move away from print

Download

From the press release.  BISG is the Book Industry Study Group which is a research group funded by membership – primarily from the publishing industry:

Results from the most recent survey in VOLUME TWO show:

  • Fiction continues to dominate downloads, with literary fiction, science fiction, and romance each comprising over 20% of all format purchases.
  • The most influential factors leading to an e-book purchase are free samples and low prices.
    • “Power Buyers” (respondents who indicated that they acquired e-books at least weekly) have moved away from computers to dedicated e-readers and tablets much faster than the overall pool of respondents.

 

“While this unprecedented rate of change makes for great headlines, assessing its impact to the overall publishing industry needs further analysis. That’s why this study is so essential,” said Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services of New Providence, NJ-based Bowker. “It measures consumers’ pace of migration and also tracks such important nuances as whether e-books are in the substitutional mode or incremental mode. That’s the kind of insight that will allow effective navigation of an extraordinary shift in the marketplace.”

 

Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading also explores the use of e-book reading devices. Current results indicate the emergence of a bifurcated market, with preference for e-reading devices such as Kindle and NOOK as devices of choice for most fiction readers, while the iPad and other tablets are preferred by those engaging in more interactive types of reading that includes charts, graphs and multimedia.

 

Data for Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading was derived from a nationally representative panel of book consumers (men, women and teens). Each month a new group of 3,000 respondents complete surveys about their book purchasing behavior as part of PubTrack Consumer, a service of Bowker. Out of nearly 65,000 possible panelists drawn from the last 18 months, respondents were qualified for the BISG e-book survey by indicating they had either purchased a “digital book or e-book” or owned a dedicated e-reader device (such as Kindle, NOOK, or Sony Reader). This process yielded a survey sample of 750 e-book consumers.

 

The survey findings are available for sale both as a PDF Summary Report and as a complete data compendium, accessible online. A substantial discount is available for BISG members. For more information, or to order a copy of Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading, visitwww.bisg.org/publications/product.php?p=19&c=437

28Apr/110

New interactive ebook app from Push Pop Press shows new ebook interface

Here’s what they say about their new interface. You can find more details here.

Our Choice will change the way we read books. And quite possibly change the world. In this interactive app, Al Gore surveys the causes of global warming and presents groundbreaking insights and solutions already under study and underway that can help stop the unfolding disaster of global warming. Our Choice melds the vice president’s narrative with photography, interactive graphics, animations, and more than an hour of engrossing documentary footage. A new, groundbreaking multi-touch interface allows you to experience that content seamlessly. Pick up and explore anything you see in the book; zoom out to the visual table of contents and quickly browse though the chapters; reach in and explore data-rich interactive graphics.

Al Gore’s Our Choice Guided Tour from Push Pop Press on Vimeo.

28Apr/110

Beware or scams embedded in ebooks from Amazon’s Kindle ebook Store





Its a jungle out there folks!

In a post on daemonsbooks.com, the author warns us about a new danger out there.  As you know, it is very easy to embed hyperlinks into ebooks, which is a rather useful possibility for readers of ebooks on devices that connect to the internet with a built in web browser, such as the Kindle, the Nook and several other models of ereader, but this also enables those canny folk, the internet crooks to embed links that pretend to be to something relevant to the subject of the ebook, but are in fact links to websites which may well contain all manner of nasty things, including small programs (invisible apps to use the current terminology) that can cause all manner of problems for us.

This problem is to be found among the self-published ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle ebook store, in which there are literally thousands of  ebooks available to us, none of which have been checked for this sort of danger by Amazon.

He quotes the following example of how it works:

He purchased a .99 title that was supposed to be about weddings, but ended up being only 10 paragraphs of useless information followed by a bunch of links to scams. He reported the book to Amazon, and they refunded his money and pulled the book from the store. However, the same author still has 23 other books in the Kindle store.

So, how do you protect yourself from these crooks?   Not easily is the simple answer.

Probably one way is to use your intelligence and then watch out for the following signs:

  • An unknown author
  • Very cheap ebook
  • A large number of hyperlinks in the ebook
  • Any self-published ebook
  • An ebook that on opening is obviously just rubbish, but full of links

These are some things to look out for, but in the end, as with all links you come across, it is up to you to use your own judgement, make sure your anti virus protection is up to date and working, and simply be very, very careful what you click on……

And, obviously, if you come across one such ebook, report it at once to Amazon, so they can pull it out of their store to avoid other users getting clobbered by the same scammer.

Share with us:

Have you run into any of these ebooks?   And if so, what did you do about it?   Do let us share your experiences here.

 




26Apr/110

Valve increases digital sales with innovative promotion; can publishers learn from this example?

Even though this is an e-book blog, from time to time I poke my nose over into the world of computer gaming to point out some parallels. You could say that Internet game distribution is a sort of first cousin of the e-book, as they share a lot of commonalities. They’re both about telling stories—in books, you read the stories, but in games you experience them.

More importantly, both started out as strictly physical means of media distribution—dead trees for books, dead dinosaur discs for games—but have moved into the digital forum where they’re more vulnerable to bit-copying piracy. The book publishing industry has been in a bit of a tizzy about this, but Valve, one of the leaders in digital game distribution through its Steam platform, has been looking at it as more of an opportunity.

I’ve already mentioned the way Valve’s sales entice pirates away from piracy, and how its multi-platform stance adds value to its products from a customer point of view, but Valve is just as canny about marketing, too. I touched on its Portal 2 ARG (Alternate Reality Game) way back when it started by retroactively dropping hints into Portal 1, but they did something even cleverer recently when they got together with a bunch of independent game developers to hatch up a cross-promotion scheme that would boost not only Portal 2 but their own games as well. Ars Technica has a great article looking at the promotion from the point of view of one of those publishers.

The idea was that the game developers would come up with additional levels for their games incorporating the GLaDOS character from Portal, and the games would be bundled together into a sale bundle (called the “Potato Sack” bundle, an in-joke referring to an element from Portal 2). What’s more, it would tie into the ARG: Playing the indie games would contribute to moving up the release of Portal 2 by a few days.

Gamers who unlocked a specific achievement from each game received the Valve Complete Pack, a bundle of every game Valve has ever made—and the ability to give any duplicates of games they already had to friends. The bundle is a 0 value, but since it was provided digitally there were no media costs involved in giving it away.

For the new content, Valve was happy to turn over one of its most popular characters: GLaDOS, as well as the voice actor who brought the character to life. The pressure was on to create something that did justice to the concept, and the work was described as being "some of the toughest work done all year, possibly in years," but it also proved highly rewarding. "The amazing thing is how cool Valve was about this. With most publishers, you have to sign ten pages of paperwork just to sit down and have a drink with them," [Leo Jaitley of developer Dejobaan Games] explained. "Valve sat us down, pointed out the fact that there were no hidden cameras, lawyers, or NDAs, and showed us what they were thinking. They had us play through what existed of Portal 2, and then just had us go crazy."

And in return for their participation, the indie developers experienced a rather nice sales payout. “Jaitley likened it to being able to keep a roof over their heads while forcing them to wait on the sports cars,” the Ars Technica article notes.

The Ars Technica article concludes with, “The only question: what could possibly be done to top this?” And that’s a question that anyone who sells digital, piracy-prone media should be asking themselves. Valve is thinking outside of the box (which you’d think should be easy, given that digital content doesn’t have to be packaged in a box!), pleasing fans and developers alike.

What kinds of similar promotions could e-book publishers be doing?

Well, bundles for starters. Valve regularly drops sale bundles, often of independent games. The Potato Sack Pack was a rather noteworthy (and huge) example, but smaller bundles of half a dozen games often make their appearance—and it also has individual every-game-from-one-developer bundles like the Valve Complete Pack mentioned above.

Why don’t we see publishers bundling all the books in a series together as packages? Well, actually we do, to an extent—Baen did it when they picked up the Liaden and Kencyr series a few years ago—but the agency publishers haven’t been doing that. There are some series out there that are positively huge, and extremely well-liked. 

For instance, Rex Stout wrote 33 novels and 39 short stories in the Nero Wolfe series. I imagine plenty of fans would be happy to pay 0, maybe even 0, to get a bundle containing an e-book of every one of those if it represented a savings over the cost of buying each book individually. People who might never have bought that many Wolfe novels at piecemeal prices might well be happy to drop a lump sum if it meant they could get their hands on everything. (Of course, such bundles are already circulating for nothing in peer-to-peer, thanks to the work of scanners.)

Regardless, publishers really should be looking at the things that pioneering e-sellers like Valve are doing. Computer gaming may be even more piracy-ridden than e-books, but Valve isn’t just sitting around complaining—it’s giving customers more reasons to buy. If only publishers would do the same.

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