Writing on the Ether: Literature and Long Lines

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writingTable of Contents

  1. AWP: Literature and long lines
  2. Publishing: Open sorcery (& letting the authors in)
  3. Authors and Amazon: Suzuki gives KDP Select a spin
  4. Amazon: Wikert breaks his ‘habit’ — with honor
  5. Piracy: What the Dickens?
  6. Apple: The sound of tribal war drums
  7. Google: Independent bookstores report whiplash
  8. eBooks: ‘Shift happens, brutally sometimes’
  9. Reading: Want to try a giveaway at Goodreads?
  10. Last gas: Where Virginia Woolf was wrong


AWP: Literature and long lines

Once more into the breeches, I swear, I’m reminded of a pageant as AWP arrives today for its sit-down engagement in Chicago.

The conference tweet-storm, of course, already is windier than the city, and you can follow it at hashtag #AWP12. Or – to spare your Twitter client dashboard – you can watch the tweets auto-refresh on my site’s “ConfabWorld” homepage, PorterAnderson.com

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs seems to progress in tableaux, like an old Paul Green outdoor drama. Everybody takes up their positions at podium and panel for 75 minutes, up to 23 sessions at a time. And then, as if the lights on stage had been doused and the music had come up, everybody changes room and session – not costume, normally, but who knows? — and is discovered in a new 75-minute setting, the next scene in the pageant-wagon’s progress down Michigan Avenue, as it were.

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The event has an understandably disjointed air to it, too, because the conference is so big – with more than 9,000 attendees last year and a sold-out sign this year – that it’s staged in the vast convention facilities of both the Hilton Chicago and the Palmer House. There are some 550 publishers, presses, and journals in its Bookfair alone.

There’s a third major venue this time, the beautiful if hardly intimate Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. Its size – where are the Rockettes when we need them? — is required to seat the plenary for Margaret Atwood‘s much anticipated keynote.

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And because one challenge of this writing conference is bringing together the scholarly interests of its campus-based program, it might be worth a quick listing of some of the more business-of-writing session on offer this time. By no means comprehensive, here is just a selective look for writers whose goals include going beyond the glories of the page to the realities of the stage in today’s digitally transformed publishing world. (The codes at the beginning of each session title are those assigned each session by the hardworking AWP staff. Use those to search out a session and find its day, time, and location.)

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R175. The Tech-Empowered Writer: Embrace New Media, Experiment, and Earn. 1:30CT Thursday, March 1.A special note here to point out that this key panel includes Ether host Jane Friedman; Christina Katz (you know her as @thewritermama, author of The Writer’s Workout);  San Francisco-based author Seth Harwood; and Georgia-based author and editor Robert Lee Brewer. I highly recommend this one, it’s #PorterEndorsed – here’s a special preview of the session from Friedman, no flight to O’Hare required.

In listing some other sessions that relate to less-pedagogical, more industry-directed topics, I can’t offer endorsements, but can tell you that the descriptions of what’s to be covered are hitting some of the right notes.

  • R113. New Media for New (and Old) Authors and Writers
  • R161. Behind the Scenes of Implementing a Successful iPad and Tablet Publishing System
  • R171. Prettying Up the Baby: Publishing Creative Nonfiction in a Challenging Market
  • R221. What about Blog?: How Blogging Can Propel Your Career and Polish Your Craft
  • R234. Only Connect—How to Create New Opportunities through Networking
  • F119. Literature and the Internet in 2012
  • F164. Robert Gover: A Life of Radical Realism
  • F193. Working Process: Editor and Writer
  • F241. The Literati: Deconstructing Publishing Myths for Writers
  • S103. Connecting with Readers via Your Website and Social Media
  • S158. The Art of Collaboration: Writers, Artists, and Editors on Marrying Visual Art and Text
  • S236. Why Independent Publishers Matter / Independent Publishers and the Changing Industry

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My preview of AWP is here, if you’d like to know more, at Dan Blank‘s We Grow Media.

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Publishing: Open sorcery (& letting the authors in)

It may be that traditional publishers have less to fear from the digital revolution than they think. Perhaps they should embrace it.

That’s author Anthony Horowitz in a talk written up by the Guardian and headlined Do we still need publishers? There’s some admirable candor here, as when Horowitz talks of his publisher Orion putting out “my Sherlock Holmes novel, The Mouse of Slick [actually, The House of Silk] with no fewer than 35 proof-reading errors.”

“Everywhere,” says Horowitz, “publishers are being squeezed out.”

But I have become convinced that writers feel — I said feel — easily as “squeezed out,” if not more so, than traditional publishers do.

And I’d like to offer for your consideration, a more formal call for industry-class conferences for writers than I’ve made in the past.

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing
Piazza Navona, Roma Photo: James Cook

You’ll find my post on the subject, Open Sorcery: Letting the Authors In,  at the new Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog, my first entry there.

And let me know what you think. I’m enormously ping-able on Twitter at @Porter_Anderson and, of course, our comments area is your comments area.

I also touch on this material in the wide-ranging interview Matt Gartland did with me, Curing Author Ignorance, out this week at Winning Edits. (And for a good time, check the many wise comments of our colleagues on my weekend post about the author’s online persona for Writer Unboxed, “Social Media: Wishing You Were You.” Don Maass was in particularly wry form.)

A lot of what I’m saying in the DBW piece isn’t far from Horowitz’s conclusion when he looks at publishers and at authors today — in their strained and frequently estranged situation — and says:

Are we in intensive care? I don’t know. But if we are, I’m strangely relieved that we’re there together.

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Amazon: Wikert breaks his ‘habit’ — with honor

As of today, Monday, February 27, 2012, I’m officially breaking my Amazon habit. How about you?

In one of his most intriguing posts yet, Joe Wikert of O’Reilly Media riffs on his original Amazon-fanboy status (“I was Mr. Amazon Advocate”) and subsequent fall out of love with Seattle,  from grateful booster to counter-crusader: Why I’m Breaking the Amazon Habit…And Why You Should Too.

Wikert cites his displeasure with Amazon‘s Lending Library structure – “anything less than a pay-for-performance model risks underpaying publishers and authors” – plus what he terms the “show-rooming debacle” of December (which he rightly concedes didn’t include books), and the recent dogfight between the Bezosian bulldogs and the Independent Publishing Group. Wikert writes:

Now that I have this terrific new Asus Transformer Prime Android tablet I’m beholden to no single ebook retailer. It’s time to start buying ebooks from bn.com, Kobo, or anyone else with an Android reader app. It’s less than optimal to manage an ebook library across retailers but it’s also very liberating. So as of today, Monday, February 27, 2012, I’m officially breaking my Amazon habit. How about you?

Being the annoying journo I am, I couldn’t resist asking Wikert if the devices he appraises so well – especially that new Asus, which I want – are provided to him as a critic and General Manager and Publisher with O’Reilly.  It would be totally right for him to receive complimentary units, mind you, as working press. But if he were provided with professional comps, then he could hand off Kindles to his family members and get into that Asus free. (Not “for free,” damn it, just “free,” short for “free of charge.”) Getting review units would mean that this Joe could kick his habit less expensively than could the regular Joe.

Wikert’s response:

The answer is I buy all my own e-reader and mobile devices…with my own money, not corporate purchases and not freebies from vendors. You can verify this with my wife. She rolls her eyes every time I tell her I need to buy a new so-and-so. 🙂  The only corporate/comp device I’m currently sitting on is a Kobo Touch. It’s a leftover from the TOC NY Digital Petting Zoo and Kobo has allowed me to hang onto it for a bit so I can give it a test drive and review it.

Just as impressive, Wikert generously tweeted another story from deepest, darkest Amazonia, which I want to bring to your attention this week. “Generously,” because it’s by another key member of our community who is running toward Seattle just as fast as Wikert is fleeing it.

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Amazon: Peter’s bonding exercise with Bezos

Many publishers and distributors must see themselves in a light quite different than the one Jeff Bezos casts on Amazon. Amazon is not merely seeking lucre for its balance sheet; it boosts its profits by delivering a positive consumer experience, because that is its uniquely competitive edge. As a consumer, that makes me a friend of Amazon. And, because publishers are not working in alignment with my interests, their marketplace goals have moved into conflict with mine.

Peter Brantley is well-known to many of us as a tireless, high-profile advocate for libraries. He’s the Director of the BookServer Project at the non-profit Internet Archive in San Francisco. He just headed the lead library-related panel at Tools of Change (ToC). His position here – amid several noisy recent anklings of Amazon – carries special weight. And it stands, as far as I’m concerned, as the current set piece in favor of the world’s largest online retailer.

The title of his well-argued post for Publishers Weekly, I Almost Bought a Book Today: Why I’m Friends With Amazon, is based in how he wanted to buy the Kindle edition of María Dueñas‘ highly regarded The Time in Between, but found it to cost $12.99 – agency pricing, not Amazon’s doing.

In the course of this thoughtful piece, Brantley lays out more succinctly than most exactly why Amazon is the historically unprecedented sales power it is:

Amazon wants to sell things; the more things the better. Part of their strategy includes providing great customer service; putting downward pressure on prices; and generally providing an increasing number of services through the Amazon Prime subscription offering. That works for me; Amazon has my back as a consumer, at least for now.

In using Dueñas’ book as his pivot, he goes on:

But Amazon can’t set pricing for titles from agency publishers, and I didn’t buy a copy of Time in Between for the Kindle – the book was muy caro…Maybe publishers have decided that pitting digital readers against their revenue goals is an acceptable trade-off. It doesn’t work for me; I didn’t buy a book today.

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Amazon: Time to download the theme from ‘Exodus’

  • We call it “harching out” in the Deep South.  Leaving in a huff. Going away mad
  • Nate Hoffelder has just told us the Science Fiction Writers of America organization is pulling the buy-at-Amazon links from author pages that list where to buy the authors’ books. Nate’s write is titled SFWA Now Directing Readers Anywhere but Amazon.
  • Despite the straight-ahead lead on her Publisher EDC Pulls All Its Books From Amazon , Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent makes it clear in her write that Educational Development Corporation (EDC) “has an unusual program, ‘Usborne Books and More,’ that allows “independent sales consultants” to sell Usborne titles from home, at parties and on the Internet—think Tupperware or Mary Kay, but independent sellers aren’t required to purchase a certain number of books in advance.”
  • The point was echoed in Jeremy Greenfield  ‘s How EDC Plans to Sell More Books After Dropping Amazon at Digital Book World: ” The 75-person company generates nearly two-thirds of its revenue from its sales force of 7,000, which is mostly made up of independent contractors who sell to their friends and acquaintances, often in their own homes at gatherings – like Tupperware parties, but with children’s books.”
  • And, of course, all this follows the decision of the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) to decline renewal with Amazon, as we covered here in the Ether last week.

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Authors and Amazon: Suzuki gives KDP Select a spin

In the first month, sales of my adult epic fantasy series, the Imago Chronicles tripled in sales compared to December’s sales, but not much had happened in February for the novels in The Dream Merchant Saga. I was still having a tough time convincing those who loved the Imago novels to make the jump to my new YA fantasy novels. With nothing to lose, and eager to find a readership for this YA series, I decided to try out two-days of a free book promo for The Magic Crystal.

Script writer and author Lorna Suzuki joined some of our smartest writers in making a carefully documented test of the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. This is new territory for everyone, after all, and the jury remains way out on how Amazon’s play-for-exclusivity approach is working. More on that is below.

Over the weekend of Feb. 11th & 12th of this free book promo, The Magic Crystal jumped from #330,552 in the Paid Ranks to #40,060. It also made it on the top 10 YA Fantasy list for free books, even surpassing Cornelia Funke’s novel, Reckless (which was ranked at #24) during the same time period.

But as Suzuki writes, her numbers in The Kindle Prime Experiment didn’t add up as well as they’ve done for some others when weighed against the requirement that  her book be pulled from other retail outlets.

So, is Kindle Prime for me? Thank you, but no! I’ll be pulling The Dream Merchant Saga from this program to make it available to all those readers who want the freedom to buy from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords etc. to download on their eReader of choice. And in my humble opinion, choice is a good thing.

Suzuki adds in correspondence with me that she finds the sample-read function in ebooks to be a powerful tool for sales. Rather than disappoint buyers, she all but insists they try the free sample offered first – and says she sees her sales go up when she does.

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Authors and Amazon: Kazzie goes another round

We wrote up author David Kazzie‘s extensive  documentation of his own Amazonian trial early last month here on the Ether. At that time, he was pretty happy: How Amazon’s KDP Select Saved My Book.

Kazzie has let us know that he’s doing an even more detailed crawl-along on his second go, this time live-blogging My Amazon KDP Select Free Experience, Part II.  You can look in and check on his updates as he logs the action around his The Jackpot, which at this writing is being offered free (not “for free,” damn it – Kazzie writes it correctly, by the way) instead of for its usual $2.99. A recent entry:

UPDATE #3 (10:00 a.m.) – The book was also picked up by the Kindle Author Facebook page. More than 200 downloads in the last hour. Also tweeted by several free e-book Twitter accounts. No. 2,582 overall, No. 7 Legal Thriller. Holding my breath for the biggies. I didn’t make the first cut at E-Reader News Today, but they post multiple times during the day. *eyes scotch*.

I want to encourage authors to do just this kind of thing with these sales experiences. Document, keep hard records, get some numbers, report them, as Suzuki, Kazzie, Jennie Coughlin, Robert Bidinotto, Roz and Dave Morris, and many others are doing. It’s the professional approach.

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Authors and Amazon: Owning up to Owen

Amazon released some select Kindle Owners’ Lending Library numbers today, aiming to position its KDP Select program as a good deal for self-published authors. The program is indeed a good deal for some self-published authors. But it is also a good deal for Amazon.

In her write at paidContent, With KDP Select, Amazon Gains Authors’ Exclusivity—Cheap, Laura Hazard Owen breaks apart some of the phrases in Seattle’s statement in order to demystify and clarify how little is known about numbers and revenue from the program.

Amazon’s dislike of releasing figures, remember, is perfectly legitimate, if irritating to many. Proprietary information is just that, and nothing says the company must tell us exactly how many Kindles are listening to their WhisperNet master’s voice or how may Fires glow on the Silk. Nevertheless, Owen likely is right in her assessment that on the scale Amazon operates, its benefits from Select exclusivity is substantial.  And it’s right that we all continue to spot hyperbole where it lies and call it. As Owen writes:

“Over 1 million KDP Select” books have been borrowed since the program launched in December. This doesn’t mean, of course, that 1 million different KDP Select titles have been borrowed. We don’t know how many books in the library have been borrowed at least one time. Some books have likely not been borrowed even once.

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Piracy: What the Dickens?

Dickens visited this country “partly for sightseeing, partly in a fruitless attempt to promote an international copyright law that would require Americans to pay for the pleasure of reading him,” according to “Gotham.”

A lot of folks have been enjoying Greg Sandoval‘s retelling of how “the company that eventually became HarperCollins made a fortune pirating the work of Charles Dickens and other British authors.” In How piracy built the U.S. publishing industry (maybe an overstated headline, but, you know, it’s CNET), Sandoval uses Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace’s 1999 Gotham to retroactively spank Big Publishing for sending ” agents to England with orders to grab volumes from bookstalls.”

Sandoval does tell us that British publishers are said to have done the same to French publishers. And, Sandoval relates, Burrows and Wallace write that HarperCollins’ ancestral corporate entity was “one of the most successful pirates.”

And what of dear Dickens when he came to the States “partly” to try to protect his work? Writes Sandoval:

When he wrote about his New York trip, the piece was promptly pirated by U.S. publishers. The government didn’t agree to respect international copyright laws for another 40 years.

Just as a coda, I might add that it’s never encouraging to get to the bottom of a story and find its author writing, as Sandoval does, “There’s not much significance to all this…” and then go on to make a rather good point about the States’ current interest in alleged pirate sites offshore in a world in which the US may have more to protect than others. But, hey, no significance here. Back to our regularly scheduled distractions.

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Piracy: When cartoon figures go bad

So here’s Matthew Inman’s The Oatmeal workup on consumer piracy, I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened. It’s a fun strip, well done, have a look. It’s worth it for the “Impossibly Proportioned Girls Who Want To Date Your Testicles” ad alone.

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing
Image: The Oatmeal by Matthew Inman / theoatmeal.com

But you know, I have to agree with Guy Gonzalez who, in Piracy, Entitlement, and Microwave Culture points out that this  “explanation” – as cogent as it is – doesn’t justify “our microwave culture’s insistence on EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW WHEN I WANT IT AND SCREW YOU IF YOU DON’T ABIDE BY MY SCHEDULE I’M JUST GOING TO STEAL WHAT I WANT.”

All you have to do is put this into the context of another product line. Say, automobiles. So if you can’t find the one you want to buy (or lease at Netflix Autos), you what? — steal the car?

I can’t say that Inman has intentionally condoned the wrong thing here. I’m in agreement with Andy Ihnatko at his Celestial Waste of Bandwidth column. He nails it in Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown when he writes about Inman’s piece:

The intentional point is that the content distributors often make it crazy-stupid hard for us to give them our money…(but) The Oatmeal made an unintentional point that was just as important as the first, however: The single least-attractive attribute of many of the people who download content illegally is their smug sense of entitlement.

And back to Gonzalez, who gets it very right at the end of his post:

Don’t steal HBO’s content and act like you’re the goddamned Batman or the Joker, because you’re not. You’re just a petty thief.

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Piracy: Few kudos for Cudo

Despite the merchant’s assurances that the offer complies with all relevant Australian laws, including copyright laws, our assessment of the 4,000 e-book titles being offered determined that this may not be the case.

Cudo‘s CEO Mike Sneesby issues a statement and tells paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen that it blames the vendor of its Chinese-made AUS$99 ereader for that alleged CD of 4,000 pirated ebooks that gave the industry such fits this week. In her first-hand report, Cudo Blames Vendor For Pirated E-Book Deal, Grosses $230k, Owen points us to Asher Moses‘ writeup for the Sydney Morning Herald .

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, Cudo, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing
Cudo.com.au on Twitter

That Sydney article – with a very excited headline, indeed: E-book deal’s the steal of the century; 4000 pirated books – reports, “HarperCollins, publisher of some of the major titles contained on the CD including those by J.R.R. Tolkien, said its corporate solicitor ‘will be ringing them today.'”

While you’re on the phone, mind asking Cudo if that purple guy on its Twitter page doesn’t look sort of like Gumby?

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Apple: The sound of tribal war drums

Apple, apparently, won’t carry an ebook that contains a link to buy a hardcover book from Amazon.

That’s Seth Godin banging away in italics all up in here, in Who decides what gets sold in the bookstore? Golden Godin has discovered that he is not The Decider when trying to use Apple to sell “my new manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams.” Apple is rejecting it, he writes, “because inside the manifesto are links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography” — and those links go to Amazon.

Cupertino, it seems, linketh not to Seattle.

Godin concedes that he has a workaround. You just use the site link and “You can get your copy for free.” (That’s “free,” damn it, Seth, not “for free.”) But on the whole, this incident really got Godin’s goat and he’s lobbing leftover dominos at Apple, Amazon, and B&N:

These stores can’t have it both ways. The web works because it’s open. The stores (all three of them) need to be too.

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Google: Independent bookstores report whiplash


GoodEReader reported last week that Google had revoked the affiliate status of a large number of independent bookstores, apparently without motive or explanation other than to say they were focusing on the large volume sellers. At the time, the announcement was confusing and hurtful for small time retailers as they did not see how their smaller volume of sales could have any kind of negative impact on Google.

That’s Mercy Pilkington at GoodEReader, trying like the rest of us to keep up with the tennis match Google seems to be playing with itself over its independent affiliates program. As she notes, Judith Rosen at Publishers Weekly reported no more real clarity into the matter than anyone else.

Back to Mercy (because I’m a sucker for anybody whose name is actually Mercy.):

Now, Google has announced an equally cryptic return to affiliates status for all of those affected shops. A spokesperson for Google told Publisher’s Weekly: “We did not intend to deactivate independent booksellers from the Google eBooks affiliate program. We apologize for any inconvenience.” There’s the confusion; if Google didn’t intend to deactivate any affiliates website links to the Google bookstore, what was the point of sending out a letter to those booksellers stating that their links will be deactivated on March 15th?

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eBooks: ‘Shift happens, brutally sometimes’

This thought about the coming ebook disruption: We’ve seen nothing yet. Eighteen months ago, I was asked to run an ebooks roundtable for the Forum d’Avignon (an ultra-elitist cultural gathering judiciously set in the Palais des Papes). Preparing for the event, I visited most of the French publishers and came to realize how blind they were to the looming earthquake. They viewed their ability to line-up great authors as a seawall against the digital tsunami …Too many publishing industry professionals still hope for a soft transition.

This is Frédéric Filloux in Paris, doing the aprés moi, le déluge we’re all performing for friends and family, in a rather sweet post, Ebooks: the giant disruption in The Guardian.

Amazon is intent on taking over the bulk of the publishing business by capturing key layers of intermediation. At some point…Amazon will “own” the entire talent-scouting food chain. For the bottom-end, a tech company like Amazon is well-positioned for real-time monitoring and early detection of an author gaining traction in e-sales, agitating on the blogosphere or buzzing on social networks. (Pitching such schemes to French éditeurs is like speaking Urdu to them.)

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eBooks: Think they’re going to last?

eBook consumers are increasing their purchase of books — both print and e-book formats — online and especially through in-app purchasing, and decreasing their use of brick-and-mortar stores, according to the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)’s closely watched Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey.

Your copy of Consumer Attitudes Toward eBook Reading from the Book Industry Study Group may not have been as “closely watched” as some folks’. That’s why you have me. To give you some stats from it:

  • Almost 17% of respondents indicated that tablets were the devices most used to read e-books — up from 13% in the previous survey.
  • Respondents who preferred smartphones jumped from 5.3% to 9.2%.
  • Dedicated e-readers were preferred by 60.9% of all respondents, down from 71.6% in the previous survey.

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Reading: Want to try a giveaway at Goodreads?

  • 93% of non-winning entrants had never heard of me before this contest.
  • 94% of non-winning entrants had never heard of As a Machine and Parts before the contest.
  • 36% of non-winning entrants said they planned on purchasing the book, even though they didn’t win. This is a strange percentage when compared to the 90% of people who intend to read the book. I suppose most readers will look to their library for this book?
  • 88% of non-winning entrants intend to read other books by me. This is an incredibly huge number, especially when compared to the 94% of entrants who had never even heard of me.
#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing
Chart: CalebJRoss.com

Author Caleb Ross is pretty much delighted, it seems, with the results of his experiment in a 12-day, two-copy giveaway at Goodreads, and has it documented for you in What is the value of a Goodreads.com book giveaway?

The response-rate for the survey was an amazing 29%. The industry open-rate for Art/Artist newsletters is 17.54% [1]. This isn’t exactly a parallel comparison, as open-rate is not the same as response-rate, but it’s a close enough comparison to provide some valuable insight.

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Reading: BEA is your friend; watch out for third parties

I want to emphasize that BEA itself is not involved in author scams of any kind. Quite the opposite. According to BEA events director Steven Rosato, BEA has banned a number of entities who were re-selling BEA opportunities at premium. He wrote me via e-mail, “One example [was] a PR company charging $1,500.00 for a spot they were paying $75.00.”

When Jane Friedman, my Ether-eal host here, wrote her fine piece warning authors against falling for paying to have their books “promoted’ at BookExpo America (BEA), some readers seem to have attached the that useful wave-off to BEA, itself, not to third-party promoters who can’t get your book into any focus in that venue. So here it is again, with Friedman’s update for clarification: Authors: Don’t Pay Money for BEA Book Promotion. To be clear, here is Friedman again:

BEA attempts to educate and protect authors from making the kinds of mistakes I discuss below.

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Reading: ‘Like asking the moment I fell in love with breathing’

The most “social” reading experience I’ve had recently was at the MacDowell Colony. I had wonderful conversations with novelists and artists every day, and every day I’d have a list of five new books to read. At night I’d go back to my cabin and check for them on Kindle. I’d grab one and stay up all night reading it. Then I’d re-engage the community the next day, get more book recommendations, and so on. God, what a nourishing cycle that was. I’ve had no such experience digitally.

At the Findings site, Craig Mod does a “How We Will Read” interview to good effect, of course. From his early days as a reader (really early) to his thoughts on social reading, it’s a good weekend sit-down, not overly long.

I know I Kindle preview like a madman. I assume everyone else does, too. A book looks even mildly interesting? Dump it into Kindle as a preview! We’re sorta turning into book squirrels, acquiring a variety of nuts to dig into in the cold, lonely winter months.

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Last gas: Where Virginia Woolf was wrong

Judith didn’t get to write a play like “Hamlet” or even one about Ophelia. Instead, thwarted in her ambitions to write and grimly shunted into traditional roles in which she was expected to “mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers,” she was finally made pregnant by a man she had trusted to help her in her career and “killed herself one winter’s night.”

Edward Rothstein’s review of curator Georgiana Ziegler’s new exhibition at the Folger Librarygoes a long way to deliver the kind of shock the show itself seems to have. In Authors in Rooms of Their Own, Rothstein heads into the Times to describe how Shakespeare’s Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700 features literary works by “more than 50 women from Britain, France, and Italy, many of them celebrated in their time, but who now may be little known outside of academic courses in literary history and feminist criticism.”

This is a show I’m eager to see. It runs through May 20.

And as Rothstein says, Woolf’s beloved, sad imagined sister to Shakespeare, Judith, “has had a far wider impact than Woolf could have foreseen or that any Judith Shakespeare could have dreamed of. It has shaped the way contemporary criticism has thought about female writers; its assumptions have become commonplace.”

He goes on:

But Woolf wasn’t just wrong about how many female writers there were. She was also wrong about the model she proposed for understanding them, which included victimization, oppression and repression. And that misconception may have larger ramifications on how female writers are generally understood.

Such rich writings from such varied personalities across such bracing stretches of time and circumstance — and we know so little about them. Rothstein concludes:

And what may be more surprising for generations who have lived with Woolf’s vision of Judith Shakespeare and her contemporaries: there is almost no evidence of oppression, none of stifled talents, little sign of beings “so thwarted and hindered” that they contemplate suicide. Only immensely talented women, writing.

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This week’s Ether-eal main image is from iStockphoto/GEMENACOM

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