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Wednesday Midday Links: Liking the Unlikeable Character

Wednesday Midday Links: Liking the Unlikeable Character

Tribute Books has announced that beginning in 2012 it will become solely an e-book publisher young adult titles. They are looking for authors who are ready have a book published to a royalty paying press and are offering a 50% off the net retail price in royalties. They want to work with 12 authors, publishing one book per month.

This is not an endorsement of Tribute Books, but merely information that I’m passing along.

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Amazon has announced its quarterly earnings. While it enjoyed a 44% increase in North American revenue because of spending, profits had declined over 70%. Amazon anticipates that there will increase between 20% – 44% compared to last year in net sales. More here.

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Entangled Pub has announced they will begin to compete with Harlequin on a category book basis. Despite invoking the name of Harlequin, it appeared that category means length to Entangled Pub. As any long-time reader of category romances know, the category line promises a specific type of book. The press release, however, indicates a different focus.

Launching the Indulgence imprint offers the company the ability to focus on the 50,000-60,000 word stories which adhere to the tried and true tropes readers expect from category romances.

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“There will be something for everyone in the Indulgence line,” says publisher Elizabeth Pelletier.

The press release goes on to say that it will offer Flirts which are 10-15K words and “Ever Afters” which are 30,000-40,000 word novellas.  This press release sounds like a reset. Hey guys, we are out here publishing books and we are going to be publishing more, in a variety of lengths. Hopefully the reset will include a reduction of prices. It does appear that prices are declining.  The book I reviewed here (positively I might add) cost $7.99 for an under 80K word novel at the time I reviewed it. The price for it is currently $3.99. It’s sequel is on sale for $6.99. There was no word in the press release about the price of the category books (or the shorter works).

Most of what I have heard about Entangled Pub is their denying legitimate bloggers review ARCs from Net Galley and sending semi offensive rejection notes. One thing I have experienced first hand is that Entangled Pub is very slow at responding to requests. I requested an Entangled Pub book and it took several weeks to get a response. I actually requested the book twice. (And both requests were approved on the same day). Many other bloggers have reported delays in responses, often the response being a rejection.

Lori Wilde, the acquisitions editor for the new line says that these categories are fresher than what is in the current market.

“These aren’t your mother’s category romances,” says Lori Wilde.  “They’re quick paced, exciting contemporary stories, whether funny, sexy, mysterious, edgy, or emotional, that showcase what it’s really like to fall in love in the twenty-first century.”

Hallmarks of the line will be the rapid-fire dialogue, fast moving plot lines, sizzling sex, and realistic characters.  Above all, the heartfelt emotions that speak to the way young people live, love, and work will be at the center of every story. “There has never been a more exciting time in history to be an author,” Wilde says. “Dare to seize the future!

Press releases are a tricky thing. Obviously they want to raise awareness and excitement for their new offerings but instead this release kind of slights existing category readers (and writers) as well as suggesting that their own offerings don’t contain a young, fresh, outlook with rapid-fire dialogue.  I do think that competing with Harlequin is a great idea.  I just don’t know that Entangled, with its near silent marketing squad, is ready to take them on.

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There is something funny about seeing a debate over low brow lit fic and high brow lit fic and what those in the lit fic crowd believe are deserving of literary prizes.  It means more, suggests one judge, when a readable book is judged along side others…less readable?

One anonymous publisher was quoted in the Guardian saying, “We need icy indifference to public opinion from our Booker judges, and we expect at least a few impenetrable, dark, tricky novels on the shortlist. That way it’s all the more surprising when a Life of Pi emerges.”

Impenetrable fiction for the win is the clarion call of some:

And yet there’s a consortium of people, headed by literary agent Andrew Kidd and supported by a host of literary types, who last week announced they were putting together a prize, to be known as The Literature Prize, for “writers who aspire to something finer.”

Why not just have a category for “books we think we are supposed to like because they are incomprehensible to us”?   More here.

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Lionel Shriver writes at Slate.com about the need for more unlikeable characters.  I’m not convinced by Shriver’s piece.  She begins by defining the unlikeable character by parsing out what is not an unlikeable character.  It is not an anti-hero, a villain, or someone unattractive by accident (wherein the author meant to write a loveable character but failed by making the character annoying).  Shriver can’t encapsulate what a truly unlikeable character is that we should enjoy reading.

Maybe we’re getting down to the nugget: it is possible to sympathize with characters, while still despairing of their misjudgments and even finding them irksome. Eva’s plight as the mother of a high school killer is sympathetic, whatever her shortcomings as a parent, for the scale of her punishment has been disproportionate. Willy’s career disappointment is heartbreaking, even if her rivalry with her husband is ugly and catastrophic. We can sympathize with people of whom we sometimes disapprove, and whom we may not entirely like.

I think Shriver wants you to like her characters because they are flawed and difficult but not because they are unlikeable.

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Here is another (expensive) entry into the lighted cover ebook market.  It’s from Lightwedge and the cover is called Verso.  The unique thing about this is that it is charged via a USB cord rather than batteries.  The cost is $59.99.

Verso Phosphor

Review of the Kindle 3 Lighted Cover (and a brief history of lights and eink devices)

Review of the Kindle 3 Lighted Cover (and a brief history...

Kindle 3 Lighted Covers Colors

Last week, I gave you my impressions the Kindle 3.   Lightweight, friendly redesign but with a terrible keyboard.   I promised that I would write up my thoughts about the Kindle 3 Lighted Cover which carries a hefty price tag of $59.99 and the battery life.

Before I get into the lighted cover, I have to tell you that integrated light for ereading has been kind of a crusade of mine.   It was one of the things I liked the least about eink devices when they debuted and why I had such affection for the Sony PRS 700.

The technology of eink prevents backlighting.   Backlighting is when the light comes from the back of the screen or underneath the screen.   Eink is like a sophisticated etch-a-sketch.   There are tiny balls that have white on one side and black on the other.   The computer tells the device which balls should be black and which should be white and thus it forms letters on your screen.   The problem is that to get that really flat, paper like look, there isn’t any backlighting.   The only way you can light an eink screen is from above the screen itself.

Folio Lighted coverSony Light wedgeSony PRS700

The Sony PRS 700 was the first and only eink device to integrate a light within the device.   Another layer was placed on top of the eink screen and between the two layers, lights were installed on the side which flooded the screen with light.   It was an elegant solution but the screen quality of the eink was degraded.

Apparently no one has come up with a better idea for integrating a light.   Sure you can buy book lights galore but none really satisfied and booklights are often battery monsters.   Further, it was yet another item you had to remember to bring with you.   Case manufacturers have tried to make their devices light friendly  and Sony had a cover with a light wedge which reportedly scratched easily.   Batteries were installed in the center of the unit.   The Kindle 3 Lighted Cover was a new animal altogether.

Kindle 3 Lighted Cover thoughts

The Kindle 3 Lighted Cover runs off the battery of the Kindle itself.   It attaches with two brass fittings into the side of the Kindle.   The light is a plastic LED lamp with 3 bulbs that pulls out from the right corner.   Because the light is dependent on the Kindle itself, there are a couple of unique features.   First, if the Kindle goes to sleep, so too does the light preserving battery life. The light is only activated when pulled out into the upright position and if the Kindle is awake.

While I have read some complaints that the light is too strong on the right hand corner, I found it was a good wash of light over the entire page. This picture was taken in total darkness and gives a fairly good representation of the pool of light. You can click to see a larger image.

The Kindle cover does add bulk.   The Kindle 3 weighs about 8 ounces and the light adds another 8 ounces.   The mass market paperback weighs 7 ounces.   The Kindle with the cover weighs 1 lb 1/2 ounces.   The hardcover weighs in at 1 lb 3 ounces. Click for larger images to see more size comparisons.

Because the sides of the cover are rigid, it feels like reading a small hardcover.   You can read it one handed but I found myself inadvertently hitting the page turn buttons if I did.   Sometimes I liked to slip my fingers behind the Kindle on the right side, but then the light doesn’t display as evenly.   It may have been better if the cover was just a little wider.

The LED bulbs can be intensely bright if you are looking at the light from the side. I usually have to lie on my side so that my body partially blocks the light. If you lie on your back, the light will pool around you and may spill some on the space next to you. If you lie on your side with the book cover’s back to your partner, the LED bulbs can blind them. The backlight is the best nighttime solution, in my opinion, because there is little side spillage of light. It’s very concentrated. A light from above or outside the device will always cast a brighter pool of light.

What about the battery life?

I fully charged the Kindle on Monday when I received the Kindle 3 cover at about 3 pm. I read 7 books on it.   2 shorter erotic romance novels; 4 categories; and 1 full length novel.   The battery died about 9 pm last night.   I used the light every night for approximately 8 hours in total.   I read during the day and I used the Kindle to read to me for 3 hours while I drove one day (it was excruciatingly bad and I did not repeat the experience).

At this point, I will likely leave the Kindle 3 cover by my bedside and use it for traveling because I actually prefer   to read and hold the Kindle without the cover.   So is the Kindle 3 cover worth the $59.00 price tag?   It’s a pretty expensive booklight but running off the Kindle 3 battery provides a worry free way of reading at night.