Apr 20 2011
Amazon has announced a partnership with Overdrive to bring library lending to the Kindle. The first thing I would ask people when they wanted to know which device to buy is whether they want to borrow digital books from the library. That will no longer be a point of buying contention.
Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.
“We’re doing a little something extra here,” Marine continued. “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.”
This is apparently available to every reader who either owns a Kindle or uses a Kindle App. Library Journal notes that this may implicate privacy concerns.
Sarah Wendell is hosting a lengthy comment thread that was spurred by a reader complaint about a Berkley book by Lora Leigh. This isn’t Leigh’s first go around at the rodeo. A St. Martin’s Press book was also the subject of many reader complaints due to editing errors.
The debate about what function publishing serves exists everywhere. At the London Book Fair, there was a panel of 2 against and 2 for.
The for argument is that publishers’ serve a gatekeeping role.
Free is far too much to pay for the majority of self-published books – and even some published books. The only way is to persuade readers that it is worth parting with their cash. Amazon may pay a 70% royalty, compared with a publisher paying 10% – but it is the size of the cake, not the size of the slice that is important.
Stephanie Laurens started a new blog in February and posted 7 blog posts, mostly about price and now she’s done. What I was surprised by was that the blog posts which were to be about the future of publishing were really about price and what can be done to maintain a higher price and the existing publishing eco system. It was interesting to read her point of view, but I’m left wondering what practical lessons can be taken away. She does, however, reiterate the pro publisher pricing view point in that “Price is something established readers distrust – low price is not going to compensate them for time lost reading a poor work.” It is in the best interests of authors to maintain a high price point.
Laurens appears convinced that until digital is greater than 70% of her readership, then trying to understand the digital reader doesn’t make sense. Further, she believes that the existing readership is not moving toward digital books any time soon. She also says that existing authors cannot offend existing readership by writing digital only books connected to existing series (Julia Quinn, the first of the trad publishing authors to experiment with digital only with her second epilogues has violated this rule).
To me this is another very viable avenue of reaching new audience at permanently lower prices – this doesn’t rely on sales, but will always be there. It’s something that cannot be done in print, and is to me one of the primary attractions of the digital world. However, there’s one caveat which currrently limits the ability of established authors with significant print audiences to dabble in this arena – they can’t publish any shorter work that connects directly with an ongoing series without risking the wrath of the woolly mammoth. And a happily reading woolly mammoth is still very important to many established authors.
One reader commented that she tried to post a comment and that her comment was deleted twice. If true, that is really unfortunate. I looked around for an email to contact Ms. Laurens regarding the comment deletion but could find none. Ms. Laurens, if you come to this blog via a link back, comment deletion is really frowned up in the internets.
Salon. Oh Salon. “Chick lit reimagined as respectable fiction” is the title of the article and it goes downhill form there. Apparently some of their writer friends are being asked to “chick lit up” their manuscripts? I don’t know who is saying that because I’ve heard chick lit is dead and has been for about 5 years. Chick lit is called “women’s fiction” in editorial meetings.
“Chick lit” is one of the most depressing terms I can think of in the publishing industry. Then again, I don’t know that much book-selling jargon, so there are probably worse ones (“Magical tweenism?”), but that phrase — applied to frothy writing about “modern” women (and their love lives) – is almost a derogatory term, implying the type of fluffy romance masquerading as post-post-post-new-wave feminist spiel.
It’s not that Gloss and Salon aren’t terribly amusing in their re-imaging of classic works, but why do it at the expense of segment of fiction that is likely enjoyed by their core demographic? You know, women who read.
But they are just repeating what other women in publishing are thinking, apparently. Jennifer Egan, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, called chick lit “banal” and “derivative” and suggested that Kaavya Viswanathan’s greatest sin was not plagiarizing but choosing the least interesting writing from which to copy.
Another Penguin memoir is under fire. Sunita brings attention to the Three Cups of Tea controversy. Greg Mortenson wrote a memoir about his time in India which included being captured by the Taliban. As Sunita writes:
There is another set of “exaggerations” which 60 Minutes detailed, one of which the LA Times highlighted, which is of particular interest to me as an academic who conducts field work in South Asia and who relies on the kindness and assistance of local experts. The Times quotes the 60 Minutes press release:
In television appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban. 60 MINUTES located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson. One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud. He tells Kroft that he and the others in the photo were Mortenson’s protectors, not his kidnappers. “We treated him as a guest and took care of him,” says Mahsud.
This isn’t just a memoir distortion to shrug our shoulders about. This is unconscionable. It’s bad enough to make up being kidnapped by the Taliban. But to claim that your host is a terrorist? A host who writes for Foreign Policy? And you smear his extended family and friends, too, for good measure?
Worth an entire read. The memoir is under review by Viking, the publisher.