virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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Book as Enduring Symbol

As we watch the book transition into its fraught future, will the eventual scarcity of traditional volumes mean we can no longer recognize an image of that rectangular thing as a symbol of “learning, poise, wisdom and moral fortitude?” Or will the book as a symbol spring eternal? ~ Porter Anderson (Writer Unboxed)

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) takes on “Book as Symbol” and concludes that it is as perennial as spring. Though debating Porter is an enjoyable sport, I rarely find the opportunity, such reasoning undergirding even his lighthearted and sarcastic observations. Instead I pass along the unfathomably clever comments I appended to his post…

le bibliophile

Le Bibliophile (Credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a bibliophile by default, and a digital reader by convenience. No. Scratch that. I am a reader by default and a print book, digital book and audio book omnivore by habit. And increasingly by appetite. In fact, I often purchase and “read” a title in all three formats. Bundling anyone? After all, print books still make awfully quaint wrappers.

“If anything, I find we badly overuse the traditional book as a symbol.” ~ Porter Anderson (Writer Unboxed)

Indeed! A nostalgic eleventh hour attempt to ensure the symbol’s immortality? I’m reminded by Vaughn Roycroft’s anecdote (read Porter’s post and then scan down to Roycroft’s comment to enjoy his quirky story) of a library and garden designer I once knew who sold fancy folks learned libraries by the foot. Paneling, bookshelves, paint, leather club chairs, carpet, musty odor and collector’s edition books. Silly gobs of money for guilt tomes that might as well have been hacked spines glued into 4″ shelves.

English: Mabie Todd Swan 14k gold flexible nib

Mabie Todd Swan fountain pen (Credit: Wikipedia)

That said, the book will endure, not just as a symbol, but as a luxury. An indulgence. A preference. Many of us after all still age wines to perfection and draw ink into fountain pens despite the preponderance of cheaper, easier, more abundant and better marketed alternatives. I haven’t ever ridden in a chariot or published poems on stone tablets, but I instantly recognize both in humanity’s timeless iconography.

And what a joy it will be one day many decades anon to creak open the dusty spine of a vintage Quixote to read aloud to my grand nieces and nephews… Even with Porter’s Campari stains obscuring some of the text.

What do you think? Will the book endure as a symbol? Or perhaps it follow the slide rule and the Ford Pinto off to EFFI (the Elysian Fields of Forgotten Innovations, which incidentally, might be near Pine Point…)

Publishing Hatchet Job

Just over a year ago Digital Book World‘s Editorial Director, Jeremy Greenfield (@JDGsaid), helped “leak” a Hachette Book Group internal document reminding the team why traditional publishers remain relevant. The outline sparked a wildfire, igniting debate and speculation.

Perhaps we’ll be able to discuss their 12-month review soon. Until then, here’s a lighthearted mashup — a mostly-found ode to publishing past, curated with a graffiti poet’s irreverence — to help prime the pump.

Publishing is complex,
Finely tuned machines
Whirring behind the scenes
Despite calm, collected facades.
While uppity “self-publishing”
Is a misleading misnomer,
A slipshod hodgepodge
Of hyped-up author services,
Our full service publishing
Connects content creators
And content consumers
In meaningful, pedigreed
And value added ways.
We all but guarantee
Widest possible readership.
Have you forgotten how?
Here’s a helpful cheat sheet:
We discover outstanding
Talent (with jumbo platforms).
We cull the best from the rest.
We invest in our authors,
Funding their creativity and
Fueling content collaboration.
We invest editorial expertise,
In-house publicity gurus and
Spendy strategic marketing.
We leverage global retail
And distribution partnerships.
We’re a new market pioneer,
An agile, risk-taking innovator
Exploring and experimenting
Even when a positive outcome
Isn’t 100% iron-clad guaranteed
(Such as those gimmicky apps
And enhanced digital books.)
We build author brands and
Protect intellectual property.
We have nicely appointed offices
And lots of employees just like you
Because it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
Go, team, go! No, wait…
Stay, team, stay. Please?

Apologies to Hachette (who deserves credit for catalyzing critical if overdue debate about why traditional publishers are relevant in today’s publishing wild west) and Jeremy Greenfield who after all, was just the messenger. Actually, he’s an always-timely, almost always sage messenger who has emerged as one of the oracles of the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm.

Apologies as well to you, my tolerant reader. I’m a perennially curious flaneur, not an expert on the rise and fall of publishers. You’ll find no wonky wizardry here. I’ve taken liberties aplenty. My mission, after all, is to entertain, not dispense wisdom. For that you’ll have to hunt elsewhere… Sorry!

Afterward

Among the throng responding to Hachette’s internal memo, J.A. Konrath’s advice to publishers stands out.

Publishers should stop trying to convince themselves and others that they’re relevant, and start actually being relevant. Here’s how:

  1. Offer much better royalties to authors.
  2. Release titles faster. It can take 18 months after a book is turned in to be published. I can do it myself in a week.
  3. Use up-to-date accounting methods that are trackable by the author, and pay royalties monthly.
  4. Lower e-book prices.
  5. Stop futilely fighting piracy.
  6. Start marketing effectively. Ads and catalogue copy aren’t enough. Neither is your imprint’s Twitter feed. (Digital Book World)

Thank you, J.A. Konrath (@jakonrath) and thank you Hachette. A year later, where are we?

Publishing, Piracy and Libraries

Publishing, Piracy and Libraries

Brian O’Leary’s “The first, best defense“, a Low Country lesson on publishing, piracy and libraries, makes a compelling case for simultaneously fostering book demand and reducing book piracy by improving libraries’ ability to lend digital content.

While whizzing through Dutch towns and farmland on a train ride from the Amsterdam airport to Den Haag for an International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) meeting, O’Leary observed that the Netherlands has effectively resolved its perennial low-land-high-water challenges.

Like Venice, the part of the Netherlands that I saw seems to have made peace with the water around it. Rather than try to prevent an incursion, they’ve created conduits to absorb and redirect it. ~ Brian O’Leary

Publishing Incursions and Conduits

O’Leary contrasts Holland’s water management solution to increasingly prevalent efforts to “storm-proof” cities, especially as global warming, rising ocean levels and unpredictable weather patterns threaten populated areas around the world. The two opposed responses to natural forces prompt O’Leary to wonder about the way that the book publishing industry is responding to threats of digital piracy.

Fears of piracy led to locked content that requires technical skills to manage and unlock. Fears of cannibalization lead to high prices, replacement requirements and in some cases a refusal to sell to libraries. Library budgets are stretched to support new infrastructure. Reader experiences suffer on all counts. ~ Brian O’Leary

Libraries As Publishing Allies

Libraries, O’Leary suggests, could serve as “conduits to absorb and redirect” the forces driving piracy in the book publishing. If publishers and libraries can sort out digital lending concerns in a mutually agreeable manner — soon — then the impetus for piracy would be greatly reduced. In other words, rather than trying to “prevent and incursion”, create a channel for the demand that fuels piracy.

There is a market for content whose price is effectively zero. Publishers have a choice: serve that market and get paid by libraries; or ignore that market and teach readers how to pirate content. I’m still with the idea that libraries are the first, best defense against piracy. ~ Brian O’Leary

I’m persuaded by O’Leary’s post in part because he draws such a simple, elegant parallel between water management in the Netherlands and digital content piracy management in publishing. But O’Leary’s piracy and libraries post coincided with my signing up for a library card at the Belden Noble Memorial Library in Essex, NY.

From Den Haag to Essex

I can’t explain why it’s taken me several years to get a local library card, but I can tell you that I was thrilled to discover that this quaint but microscopic library three doors south of my home is wired. Online lending. Online request and tracking. Online ebook access! Integrating the libraries of Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties via a simple, online resource is an extraordinary gift. And while finally diving in might slightly decrease the number of print books, ebooks and audio books I purchase, it will also increase my consumption, if for no other reasons than ease and they’re free.

Thank you, Brian O’Leary. Thank you, Holland.

Kindle Fire Pros & Cons, Part III

Welcome to kindle fire

I ordered my Kindle Fire late Thursday morning and it arrived Friday, charged, linked to my Amazon account and brandishing a batch of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

Okay, so I made up the last… But my Kindle initiation was almost that perfect.

Of course, honeymoons don’t last forever, and three days of drive-my-bride-crazy-intensive-Kindle-Fire-field-testing later I’m ready to share my first impressions of the Kindle Fire. This post follows up on “Kindle Fire Pros & Cons, Part I” and “Kindle Fire Pros & Cons, Part II”, but my review doesn’t depend on first reading those posts, so if you’re heart is racing because you’re a mouse click away from investing two hundred clams in a K-Fire, skip the back story and scan, read, consider the following. Read the rest of this entry »

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Amazon lending up to 300k e-books per month (image via VatorNews)

Image via VatorNews

When Amazon launched Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, their free e-book lending library back in November it was a concept, a gamble, a challenge.

Amazon unveiled a long-rumored “Netflix-for-books” digital lending library Wednesday. Via yet another enhancement for Amazon Prime, subscribers who also own Kindles can borrow one (and only one) book per month from about 5,000 available titles. (Wired.com)

Less than three months later it’s taken off, and its potential is just beginning to take shape.

According to the company, customers borrowed nearly 300,000 (295,000 to be exact) KDP Select titles in December alone, and KDP Select has helped grow the total library selection. With the $500,000 December fund, KDP authors have earned $1.70 per borrow. In response to strong customer adoption of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon says it has added a $200,000 bonus to the January KDP Select fund, raising the total pool from $500,000 to $700,000 for authors. (TechCrunch)

Who knew libraries would profit indie authors in the digital age? Another encouraging indicator for storytelling buskers… Sure Amazon’s free e-books (like their free videos) are incentives to sell Kindles and Amazon Prime, but the numbers are encouraging at a time when writers are gushing content virtually uncompensated.

Am I gushing? Yes. Am I habitually, unabashedly pollyanna-ish? Yes! But I can’t help getting excited (and optimistic) about what this means for indie authors. I understand that Amazon’s motives are market dominance and an eventual payday, but there’s a fascinating shift afoot, and from the vantage of a latter day storyteller, it opens up exciting new opportunities fellow narrative crafters. KDP Select is starting to look a lot more inviting, right?

Amazon this morning announced that it has set up a $6 million annual fund dedicated to independent authors and publishers. Dubbed KDP Select, the fund aims to let indie authors and publishers “make money in a whole new way”… [When] a KDP author or publisher chooses to make any of their books exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days, those books are eligible to be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and can earn a share of the KDP Select fund. (TechCrunch)

Of course, not everyone’s happy, and I suspect that it may be a couple of years before we can accurately evaluate the impact this will have on traditional publishers and authors. Plenty of cynics and skeptics are offering doomsday prophecies, but this warning in particular gives me pause, reminding me not to leap before I know how high the tide.

The Author’s Guild attacked Amazon after the Kindle Lending Library was announced, claiming that the program (in which Amazon actually purchases a copy of the book at cost to itself) “appears to be boldly breaching its contracts with these publishers. This is an exercise of brute economic power.” (HotHardware)

Brute economic power for sure, and risks abound, but at this early way station it looks like at least some authors are profiting.

Rachel Yu, a 16 year-old high school student, earned $6,200 in December from e-books she wrote and published via a related Amazon initiative called KDP Select… her children’s books, including titles such as “The Magical Dragon’s Three Gifts,” were among the most borrowed through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. (MediaFile)

Although this prodigy is still too young to enroll directly in the program, her parents fronted her success, suggesting that the KDP Select must be family-friendly and tolerant of round pegs in square holes. Not necessarily a common description for traditional publishing

Carolyn McCray, a writer of paranormal romance novels, historical thrillers and mysteries, earned $8,250 from the KDP Select fund in December. “KDP Select truly is a career altering program,” said McCray. “I couldn’t be happier with the tools, support and exposure it has given me. To say the trade-off of exclusivity on Amazon for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has been a profitable one would be a gross understatement. Participating in KDP Select has quadrupled my royalties.” (TechJournal South)

Amber Scott is a romance writer and earned $7,650 from the KDP Select fund in December. “Enrolling in KDP Select utterly transformed my career,” said Scott. “I’ve experienced not only a surge in royalties but a surge in readership thanks to the increased exposure. I love the chance to earn new readers through the innovation of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. What an exciting time to be an author.” (TechJournal South)

Three inspiring stories don’t define a rule, but the picture is promising. Where from here? I suspect the numbers from January will be exciting too, especially considering how many Kindles allegedly sold in the holiday fervor. Vice President of Kindle Content, Russ Grandinetti, touched on the proven marketing potential of offering free e-books through the Kindle library.

“We knew customers would love having KDP Select titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. But we’ve been surprised by how much paid sales of those same titles increased, even relative to the rest of KDP.” (eBookNewser)

Perhaps the digital age will see a return to busking and libraries. I hope so. And our first glimpse of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library invites optimism.

2012 Publishing Predictions

2012 Publishing Predictions (image of/by virtualDavis)

Day three of the new year. Already! I’m plugging diligently away at my 2012 resolutions, but what good are resolutions without some predictions?

I’ve polished up my crystal ball, and an image is emerging… A thinly veiled wish list? Are you kidding? No way. This is the real deal, a sneak peak into the future!

I’m seeing a sea change in the publishing world, a dramatic shift throughout the creator-to-consumer landscape. Old news? Yes. But what exactly does the new publishing landscape look like? Here is my oracular best.

My top publishing prediction for 2012 is book bundling. It’s time for user friendly digital book and audio book integration. If I want/need a book, I should be able to instantly find and purchase a digital version. And it should include both the text and audio version of the book. Not a computer generated voice struggling through the language. A whiskey tenor bringing the story to life. A current favorite is  Michael Ondaatje‘s The Cat’s Table. Splendid! I want to listen while driving, exercising, showering and cooking. And when I settle into my armchair or flop into the hammock by the shores of Lake Champlain I want to be able to switch seamlessly from audio to text so that I can read. And when I want to jot marginalia or forward a quotation to a friend, I want it to be equally simple in both formats. This vision of book bundling should be the bare minimum. But my prediction goes further. Print books can remain relevant if they include the digital bundle. Gift giving demands this. I want to write a personal inscription in green fountain pen ink in the front page, and I want to be able to wrap and hand the familiar bound heft of a book. Most of us still love print books. And the appetite (habit?) will die slowly. But what better incentive to buy the print version if it includes the digital bundle so that readers can also be listeners, etc. Personally I love experiencing books in multiple formats. But the bottom line is that the future is all about flexibility. And as long as we’re imagining the perfect giftable book bundle, let’s through in the Vook or other digitally enhanced, value added version too. Icing on the cake. Consumers will love the bundle even if they only use a fraction of the content.

Are you with me so far? My crystal ball is not blurry on this book bundling issue, though it’s still not clear if the major strides in this arena will come from the “Big Six” or brave, savvy upstarts. A few publishing companies are already venturing into the territory, but who’s going to redefine the book publishing marketplace. I’m ready!

My second publishing prediction for 2012 is for an app/digital book convergence (or at least blurring). I love the crack of a book’s spine and the smell of musty old pages and contributing to the tangled marginalia of a treasured hand-me-down. But one’s head must be deep in the sand to overlook the smartphone’s manifest destiny. Not only have smartphones become ubiquitous throughout the developed world, but they’re quickly becoming the one stop shop for, well, for just about everything content/communication/entertainment/etc. Phone, email, camera, secretary, navigator, coach, movies, games, news, flashlight, car key, you name it, the 21st century smartphone is almost divine. Like it or not, your smartphone is the ideal book bundling vehicle, and the app strikes me as the most obvious cheap, user-friendly packaging for tomorrow’s book bundles. Enough said? And it is the ultimate inspiration buy!

My third publishing prediction for 2012 is platform androgynous content.  When I purchase a new digital title, I don’t want to be limited by my device. If I’m using my iPhone, Mac Pro or Mac Book Pro I want the same access and experience. Ditto for Kindle Fire, Nook, Sony Reader, in-air entertainment console, etc. Make it easy for your audience to consume your content no matter where they are and no matter what interface they use. Unshackle good books from the devices which we use to read/watch/listen to them and we’ll consumer much, much more of your liberated content. I promise!

These are my top three, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The media is awash is publishing oracles, but Jeremy Greenfield’s “Ten Bold Predictions for Book Publishing in 2012” (Digital Book World) is the best place to start. A couple of highlights:

The publishing world is a’changing… And it’s changing fast! If you’re trying to catch up, stop. If you’re an innovator reinventing storytelling in the digital age, then sing, dance and celebrate because you are the change. And you’re living in the garden of opportunity. It’s a great time to be a storyteller!

What are your 2012 publishing predictions?

Update: I was honored by Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) with inclusion in his January 5 Writing on the Ether.

“as we flee from the prediction-prone and nostalgia-noxious equinox back into our present, we’re going to cast one brave look over at George Davis’ set of what he calls 2012 Publishing Predictions – but, ah, these are actually wishes… What Davis says he wants is a seamless read across several media… Davis wants to start in the print hardcover. Then have the e-version know where he left the bookmark. Then have the audio edition’s narrator pick up at the same place. And — I’m extrapolating here — finish the book by streaming the film, as before from the last point he left off in the audio-, e-, or tree-version. (Writing on the Ether)

Although Porter almost perfectly summed me up, I’d like to clear up one detail about the tree-versions of books. To be sure, the best-of-bundling will be seamless integration across media. To easily, instantly switch between audio, digital (text and/or multimedia à la Vook), video and print is an ambitious but enticing dream. And most likely a pipe dream, at this stage.

However the opportunity for seamless integration across digital media is considerably more attainable today than the seamless integration of print. So my prediction is for seamless digital integration bundled with the print book as “wrapper”. Many of us still prefer to hold and read and smell and marginalia-fill and gift print books. This habit will likely diminish over time, but not overnight. So give buyers what they know they want. But include a scan-able digital bundle which immerses readers in the riches of digital publishing.

Storytelling from Cave Fire to Kindle Fire

Storytelling from Cave Fire to Kindle Fire

Storytelling from Cave Fire to Kindle Fire (image by virtualDavis)

Isn’t digital storytelling just enhanced storytelling? It’s just the newest chapter in humanity’s quest to improve the way we tell stories. We instinctively yearn for better communication, for storytelling innovation. And yet digital books, audio books, multimedia books tend to meet resistance despite their obvious appeal.

New scares old. Old doesn’t quite understand new. Or doesn’t want to…

In “Is It A Book, Is It A Movie…No, It’s Movie-Book!” we get a glimpse at the book world’s awkward response to digitally enhanced storytelling.

Many eBook writers shy away from multimedia publishing, preferring instead to stay with straight text… An eBook that features multimedia is not an eBook, they say. It’s… an app… What IS an eBook with multimedia? Can we continue to call an eBook an eBook knowing that now it may feature multimedia? … What about audio books? … [Or] movie-books… (Technorati Entertainment)

Let’s call it digital storytelling. Or storytelling in the digital age. Maybe we should just call it storytelling, because — no matter how resistant the publishing industry and book critics and schools and libraries may be — the public is embracing (and will continue to embrace) storytelling in all of its innovative new forms.

Let us imagine the first time a storyteller added innovative new technologies to their bag of tricks. Picture the proverbial caveman standing by the bonfire with his family, talking about the hunt from which he’s returned with a week’s food. In telling the story of creeping up on his prey, he describes his cautious steps, following the fierce Bigmacosaurus, slowly, quietly all afternoon. Until afternoon turned into evening. As daddy caveman describes the fall of night he slowly extinguishes the campfire leaving his wife and children sitting in the dark around the glowing embers. They pull closer together, absorbed in the story. Now dad begins to pace around them in the dark as he speaks, so that they are never quite sure where he is, and he begins to breath deeply, hoarsely, imitating the sounds of the Bigmacosaurus. And suddenly he leaps across the embers and pretends to drive his spear into the Bigmacosaurus, just barely illuminated as he writhes on the ground, bathed in the dull red glow of the embers.

The end.

“Time for bed, cave kiddies!” he bellows. But they don’t move. They cling to their mother, scared to death.

So dad adds kindling and blows on the embers, resuscitating the fire. Within a few minutes the interior of the cave is once again illuminated. The children are less afraid, but still too nervous for bed.

“But what if the other Bigmacosauri followed you home?”

“Yes, what if they come and get us tonight while we sleep?”

Dad takes a charred branch from the fire and proceeds to draw a picture on the cave wall. In the crude illustration a hunter with a spear crouches in tall grass beside a herd of Bigmacosauri. He explains to his children that he discovered the heard around mid-day, far away. He draws the sun directly overhead, and adds wavy water to portray the lake located half a day’s journey from the cave. Then he moves down the wall and draws himself in the mountains pursuing a single Bigmacosaurus, the sun much lower to the horizon now. He explains to his children that he successfully split the heard, forcing the biggest Bigmacosaurus to run toward the mountains which lay between their cave and the lake. He draws a herd of stampeding Bigmacosauri running off into the distance where the sun sets on the far side of the lake. His next drawing is of the the hunter right next to the Bigmacosaurus, spear high in the air about to plunge. A crescent moon is high overhead. He explains to his children that he wanted to drive the Bigmacosaurus as close as possible to home so that he could minimize the distance he would need to carry the meat. He explains how hard it was because wild Bigmacosauri are scared of cave men and don’t like to come near them. But daddy cave man succeeded, and now they have plenty of food. But the next time he wants to hunt a Bigmacosaurus, he will have to go all away around the lake to the far side where the sun sets. He draws one last picture, looking across the vast lake at tiny Bigmacosauri no larger than ants speckling the horizon beneath the setting sun.

The children have fallen asleep in their mother’s arms, so the parents carry them to their beds and tuck them in.

So far, nothing’s unusual about this, right? Just another evening at the cave.

But when the parents tuck themselves in, the cave man’s wife rolls over to her husband to whisper.

“I don’t know what you thought you were doing tonight, extinguishing the fire, making all those beastly noises, reenacting the hunt, drawing on the walls. Look how much you scared the children.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare them so much. I always tell them stories…”

“I know. Stories are good. But all that other stuff, it’s just, I don’t know. Not right. Can you just stick with storytelling? Just words?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Thank you. Good night.”

“Good night.”

But the next day the cave kiddies beg for a story. “Like last night, daddy. Not the boring old way.”

“Yes, like last night. Pleeease?”

Mother grimaces.

Father looks at mother and shrugs.

Fast forward. YouTube, Audible, Vook, iPad, Storify and SoundCloud blur past. From cave fire to Kindle Fire… Onward!

Digital Book and Audio Book Integration

Drew Frish of Electric Type on digital and audio book integration

Electric Type's Drew Frish on digital/audio book integration

Drew Frist is the founder of Electric Type (@electrictypeco), a digital book publisher who just released their debut digital children’s app, Jungle Book: The Story of Mowgli & Shere Khan. It looks delicious! Check out the promo video, and I’m guessing that if you have kids you’ll head over to iTunes before long.

In a recent video response to the question, “What are your thoughts on audio books?”, Frist expressed a wish that I’ve been trumpeting for months: it’s time for user friendly digital book and audio book integration. Print books are familiar and nostalgic. Digital books are cheap, quick, frictionless and they eliminate paper cuts. Audio books are perfectly portable and they expand our reading opportunities to the car, the gym, the ski slopes.

Why aren’t we bundling all three? This value-added merchandising play is not only good business in an increasingly competitive publishing world, it’s actually better than all three. In short, bundling digital, audio and print is better than the sum of its parts.

Most of us still love paper and ink. Bindings. Smells. Easy marginalia. Worn pages. Dog eared corners. It’s a habit with some enduring benefits (ever read your iPad in full sun?) and a viable long tail. In short, many readers still want print books.

Digital book detractors have not immersed themselves in the experience. Just my two cents, but I find it hard to believe that print book purists don’t accept that there are some amazing opportunities with digital publishing. Instant access to almost everything no matter where you are. Did I mention instant? Did I mention cheap? Did I mention searchable content? Okay, the technology is still new and rather clunky, but progress is being made at warp speed.

I admit that once upon a time I scoffed at audio books. Remember when they were recorded on tapes? When they were almost all abridged? When the audio book technology and availability were more hindrance than help? I changed my tune almost a decade ago when my then-fling-now-bride and I were commuting between the Adirondacks and Manhattan. Five hours in the car wrestling with tailgators and snow storms was transformed into five hours of “reading” books that we might not otherwise have taken the time to squeeze into our busy lives. Outstanding recordings, many by the authors themselves, and none were abridged. In those early days we listened to CDs. Remember those? The advent of compact disks reduced the need to abridge books because they could hold so much more data than tapes. Before long we transitioned to MP3 downloads from places like Audible.com and enjoyed the dilated offerings and the instant access. Driving bliss. It wasn’t long before audio books crept into my workouts, flights, train rides, etc.

So spoiled! So many choices. So much bickering about which one is best.They’re all best! Do you remember this video?

We have so many amazing resources at our fingertips, and yet we live in a culture where opinions are celebrated without necessarily stopping to evaluate or analyze them. Remember debate? No? It was a logical, quasi-methodical framework for constructively addressing differences of opinion. Weird, right? I know. Now we just shout opinions, whine opinions, burp opinions, snore opinions, regurgitate opinions, sweat opinions and generally excrete opinions around the clock. It’s cool. It’s social…. ;-)

An avalanche of opinions. But are we evaluating and analyzing this avalanche of opinions, or are we just scrambling to keep our heads up and our opinions spouting? Is anyone stopping to ask if print books, audio books and digital books need be mutually exclusive? With such distinct merits and appetites for all three, it would make a world of sense to zip them all up together in the same pair of pants so that they could audition for the lead roll in our storytelling opera.

Some of my best book experiences lately have resulted from buying all three formats, and in many cases re-consuming large sections of the work in multiple formats. Active writers, researchers and thinkers would relish the opportunity to:

  • buy a bundled, multi-format title from their favorite seller
  • tuck into the hammock to read the print book in the shade of a towering oak tree
  • continue the story on their iPod while mowing the grass
  • bookmark a quotation while listening to the audio book so that they can send it off via Twitter or email
  • sync the audio book with their digital book reader to pick up where they left off
  • quickly locate and share the bookmarks via email, blog post, Facebook, etc.

So often while I’m listening to an audio book I’ve yearned for a quick and easy way to bookmark, quote or share a passage. So often while reading a digital book I’ve yearned for a high-quality audio performance to pick up where I need to leave off to drive to a meeting. So often while reading a printed and bound book I’ve yearned for an efficient way to search for a passage…

Isn’t it time that we integrate digital books and audio books seamlessly in a single, user-friendly app? And wouldn’t it be great if this integrated digital app were bundled with a print copy? It’s a win-win-win proposition!

How to Format an EPub

English: A woman cuddling a pile of digital de...

Image via Wikipedia

Ready to turn your damned-good-doggerel into an ebook? Or that collection of your grandmother’s delicious desserts? These “Six eBook Formatting Tools” from eBookNewser will get you started:

  • Calibre: This free tool will let you create an eBook for all of the major eReaders, including Kindle, Nook, iPad and Sony eReaders as well as a bunch of others. You can transform news from websites into readable files on eReaders and even make DRM-free eBooks. But note that it does not support Word files.
  • Aspose: Using Aspose.Word plugin, you can convert a Word file into an ePub file. It is a pay service, but you can test drive the application with a free trial.
  • Mobi Pocket: This free tool lets you create an eBook from HTML and Word and image files. Image files –GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP– get automatically optimized for a PDA viewer.
  • Jutoh:This $39 tool lets you make books for Kindle, iBooks and Nook, among other formats. It can ePub, .mobi, .txt and .odt files through its in app text editor. It works in Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • Feedbooks.com: This free tool lets you create your own ePub, Kindle and PDF files from within its software platform.
  • BookGlutton: This free tool lets you turn HTML books into ePub files

Did I miss your favorite ebook creation tool? Please tell me about it, and I’ll add it to the list. Thanks!

Smashwords: Your Ebook, Your Way

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...

Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers… At Smashwords, our authors and publishers have complete control over the sampling, pricing and marketing of their written works. Smashwords is ideal for publishing novels, short fiction, poetry, personal memoirs, monographs, non-fiction, research reports, essays, or other written forms that haven’t even been invented yet.

It’s free to publish and distribute with Smashwords. (Smashwords.com)

I’ve been hearing more and more about Smashwords.com lately:

And just about everywhere else that folks are chewing the publishing industry fat. I’ve wandered their website and read miscelaneous tidbits here and there, but I’d really like to hear some firsthand accounts. Have you published a digital version of your book with Smashwords? What was your experience? Thanks!

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