Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 16 October 2014

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 08:10 PM PDT

Here are 8 stories to read this Thursday morning.

  • 5 Things Beginners Need to Know About E-Book Publishing (Jane Friedman)
  • 10 Reasons Nonreaders Don’t Read — And How to Change Their Minds ()
  • First look: Fires Bulletin, a new digital magazine launched into the Apple Newsstand for U.S. Artillery pros (TNM)
  • Group Hug (Hugh Howey)
  • How to React When Someone Says They Don't Read (LitReactor)
  • Is Crowdsourced Editing Right for Your Book? by Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas (The Book Designer)
  • Permuted Press tells authors: No more paper for you, kids (TeleRead)
  • Please Stop Calling Amazon A Monopoly (The Passive Voice)


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Permuted Press Drops Print Production & Delays Release Schedule, Demands Authors Pay to Get Out of Contracts

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 05:06 PM PDT

logo[1]Long considered by some to be a shifty operation, Permuted Press has survived and even thrived in the self-pub boom by being able to offer at least one thing that is still difficult for self-published authors: getting books into physical book stores (in the US, at least).

Alas, that is no longer true. Over the past few days multiple authors have reports that Permuted Press has abruptly changed the contract they signed with authors. Permuted is dropping the print edition for most of the books they have in the pipeline, and they’re also pushing publication dates back by 5 months or more.

Jack Hanson was one of the authors who has been affected; Permuted has had his novel since June 2013 and was supposed to be publishing it today. He just found out that it’s been bumped to February:

My novel, Cry Havoc, was due to be published on October 14th, today. On Thursday, October 9th, all authors from my publisher, Permuted Press received an email from the editor in chief. It stated that they had their “best year ever”, but there were going to be four major changes taking place.

The first was that all print on demand (POD) services were going to be discontinued except for specific novels. What this means is that there was no way you would be able to buy a print edition of my novel – it would be ebook only. Second, all novels were delayed immediately. Third, publishing would resume sometime in “early 2015.” Fourth, all covers would be an internal decision.

The reasons given were the usual boilerplate about the difficulty of the publishing industry, changing formats, and the usual excuses offered. They claimed there was no breach of contract and that if we wanted to dissolve our contracts, to contact them about it. This email was sent at around 8PM, which makes it around 10PM in the publisher’s time zone. Anyone familiar with how the FedGov works knows what bad news sent over a holiday weekend means.

Naturally he’s not all that interested in working with a publisher who isn’t even going to bother with a print edition (it is the majority of the market, after all), so Hanson asked for the rights to both of his novels back. He says in his FB post that Permuted is willing to cancel the contracts – right after he pays them $1,100 to cover the investment in editorial costs and cover design.

If that doesn’t set off your skeeze radar, this next bit might. Hanson’s tale has been confirmed to various degrees by Gabrielle FaustR. Thomas Riley, William Meikle, and others. Many are reporting that Permuted broke the news to some authors at a get together back in September, but didn’t tell the rest of its authors until blindsiding them last week.

And to make matters worse, those print editions which Permuted can no longer afford are actually POD, so aside from the initial design and setup costs there is no upfront cost to production.

And yet Permuted can’t afford the cost of setting up a POD edition? Really? If Permuted is really in such a dire financial state then authors would be advised to flee immediately.

Alas, many might not be able to, because the contract they signed was (according to a couple different sources) absolutely terrible. Brian Keene says he got a look at Permuted’s contracts a decade ago and decided to stay away – far, far, away.

Graeme Reynolds went one step further and detailed the terms of the contract.  I truly hope he made this up, because this is wrong on so many levels:

I started hearing grumbles about the terms of the contracts. There were no reversion clauses in some contracts, and in others little more than a meaningless "out of print" clause that would never be fulfilled. If an author didn’t like working with them, then they were basically screwed because there was no way to EVER get the book back because they signed away their book for the length of copyright. That means its theirs for 70 years after the author dies.  Royalty rates were good, and some authors got advances, but increasingly it seemed that the risk was being pushed directly onto the author. Advances got smaller and then vanished all together. Release dates were nebulous and, in some instances, were YEARS in the future. However, the two worst problems were the "exclusivity" clause which stated that authors were not even allowed to TALK to anyone else about other projects outside of the ones they were contracted for. The authors had to give this press first refusal on EVERY project that they were even considering going forward. And worst of all, they did a massive, and I mean MASSIVE rights grab. All of them, in fact. Every single right associated with the book in any format was licensed to this press for the length of copyright. Foreign translation, multimedia and even dramatic rights. Yeah, they paid a royalty on the "profits" but anyone who has ever had anything to do with book to movie deals will tell you that you should never agree to deals like that because companies have all sorts of ways of showing something never makes a profit on paper. The old $1000 per paperclip scenario.

To be fair, Permuted is no Dorchester (which sold pirated ebooks after the rights had reverted) nor is it even Ellora’s Cave (which has many authors and editors saying that they have not been paid).

But this is still pretty damn bad.

In this day and age Permuted had better be doing something damned amazing to justify their contract terms. If not, authors could easily do better by self-publishing.

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Survey Says: The Fire Phone is the eReading Device of Last Resort

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 01:40 PM PDT

fire phonePundits have been speculating for a couple months now that sales of Amazon’s smartphone have been dismal, and of there’s any truth to the consumer survey which just crossed my desk, they’re right.

A new report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners shows that Amazon prime members, consumers who could be described as the company's most loyal shoppers, aren’t buying the Fire Phone. 

According to the press release, CIRP polled 500 Amazon Prime customers in the third quarter and found that hardly any of them owned a Fire Phone. The survey also found that around one in four respondents owned one of Amazon’s tablets or ereaders, and that around 5% owned a Fire TV.

The results for Fire and Kindle ownership were about what I would have expected; given the free ebooks and free streaming video, it makes financial sense for a Prime member to also buy one of Amazon’s cheap devices. And it is equally obvious that that incentive doesn’t extend to Amazon’s $650 smartphone.

“Our data shows that Amazon hardware devices have mixed results,” said Mike Levin, partner and co-founder of the research group in a press release Wednesday. “Effectively zero percent own an Amazon Fire Phone. In contrast, approximately one quarter of US Amazon customers have either or both of a Kindle Fire tablet and Kindle Reader, and about 5% report owning the new Amazon Fire TV set-top box. Though anecdotal accounts suggest Amazon has sold a few thousand Fire Phones, none of the 500 recent Amazon customers in this quarter's survey reported owning one.”

Amazon hasn’t shared sales figures, but in late August a guesstimate went around that pegged Fire Phone sales at 35,000 units. I didn’t believe that guess at the time, but now it seems that it was not inaccurate.

Released in early July with a retail price of $650, the Fire Phone was initially available from AT&T at a subsidized price of $199. Amazon dropped the subsidized price to under a dollar in early September, but that does not appear to have boosted sales all that much.

The reasons for the Fire Phone's failure are both obvious and numerous: the subsidized price is an AT&T exclusive, it costs as much as the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5 without offering that smartphone’s  extensive app ecosystem, and it has an excess of gimmicky features but no single killer feature.

I think it’s safe to say that the Fire Phone has been extinguished, don’t you?


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Leaked User Manual Confirms iPad Air 2, iPad Mini Details

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 11:20 AM PDT

ipad air 2 leak 3Pretty much everyone has assumed that Apple would be launching a new iPad air and iPad Mini at their event tomorrow, and thanks to the latest leak there’s no room left for doubt.

9to5Mac has found screenshots for the new iOS8 user manual in iBooks, and it has let the cat out of the bag. (While Apple won’t be uploading the actual manual until tomorrow, someone goofed and uploaded screenshots today.)

The screenshots, which you can see for yourself, don’t include any detailed specs but they do shows that the iPad Mini 3 and the iPad Air 2 both have a fingerprint sensor integrated into the home button – just like on the latest model iPhones. Another new feature confirmed by this leak is a new Burst Mode (first introduced with the iPhone 5s) for the iPad Air 2.

Unfortunately the screenshots don’t confirm any other leaks or rumors, like the gold iPad Air 2, the thinner shells and redesigned speaker grills, or the upgraded A8X CPU, so we’re just going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out more.

ipad air 2 leak 1 ipad air 2 leak 2 ipad air 2 leak 4

Is anyone else surprised by this leak?

Apple is a company which is notorious for secrecy – even more so than your average tech company. They’ve even written multi-million dollar penalties into the contracts with their suppliers. GT Advanced, for example, revealed in one of their bankruptcy filings that Apple would have socked them with $50 million fines for each leak. That company never actually supplied components to Apple (this is why it is in bankruptcy), so it has literally gotten all of the pain with none of the gain.

And yet here is Apple, leaking their own new hardware. It’s as if all that money spent on threat and thugs who can break legs was wasted.

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Infographic: Reading Can be Good for Your Health

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 10:41 AM PDT

Reading might be typically associated with a sedentary lifestyle, but it’s not all bad. Canada's National Reading Campaign released an infographic last week which details how reading can lower your stress level and help you become a better person.

It can’t do much for one’s weight or cholesterol, but for that I would recommend an audiobook and a good pair of shoes.





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On Writing Novels on Smartphones

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 03:24 PM PDT

13238326804_33a26f5890[1]As National Novel Writing Month approaches, I’m sure many writers are still trying to figure out how they’ll find the time to finish such a long work. While I’m not sure this would work for everyone, one possible solution came across my desk this morning,

Blackberry started a new media campaign yesterday which focuses on authors who had tapped entire novels into their BB smartphone. While this might sound like a good plan to get free advertising, they do raise a good point.

It’s a point which writing experts like Kevin J Anderson have also made: the truly dedicated author tries to find time, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there on a commute, to write their novel.

Geordie Greig, for example, wrote his first novel while working insane hours at a full time job: editing the London Evening Standard. I can’t imagine how he pulled it off, but according to BB he says that:

For two years, I typed away at my book, Breakfast with Lucian, solely using my BlackBerry smartphone. It allowed me to be flexible in my writing schedule as my world shrunk to a three centimetres square screen. I tried to cram a lifetime of Lucian's extraordinary charisma and impact (Lucian had at least 15 children and became one of the greatest painters of the 20th century) into that tiny space. This was possibly the first biography ever written on this small, black, compact writing machine which worked for me in bed, at sea, on trains, planes and automobiles, as I tried to bank time and space and thought for my book.

What’s more, he’s not the only author to pull this off. Last year profiled a local author who had written a 1,500 page novel on his HTC smartphone during his daily commute:

Peter King has turned his daily commute into office time – by writing a novel on his smartphone. Rather than wasting the two daily 45-minute journeys on buses and the Hutt Valley train line, he applied himself to writing Changels Genesis. On a good day, when the words flowed, he found he could get 1200 words down in the trip from his home in Normandale to work. “When you’ve got a youngster, you just have to write in those times, because you don’t have a choice,” the father of four said.

Writing during a commute would seem to be the more common example of smartphone noveling. That is how Peter Brett wrote his first novel:

It’s no wonder Brooklyn author Peter Brett‘s first novel is a dark, demonic fantasy – he wrote it on the F train. Brett, 36, tapped out most of “The Warded Man,” which hit U.S. bookshelves last month, on his smartphone on daily trips from the Fort Hamilton Parkway stop near his Kensington home to his job in Times Square. “I started out just trying to take notes. I’d sit on the subway, I’d get a good idea and I’d jot something down,” said Brett, who works in medical publishing.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much this will help an author who is trying to finish a novel in a single calendar month; most of the authors I found who had written a novel on a smartphone took several years to finish it. Of course, that long delay reflects less on a slow writing style than the simple fact that these authors were so constrained in terms of time that they almost didn’t have time to write the novel at all.

But they still made the time. And as one of the aspiring novelists on the NaNoWriMo forums said, “even if you get a couple of hundred words done on it, that’s a couple of hundred fewer to do later on, so go for it”.

Do you think you could write a novel on a smartphone?

image  by Janitors

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