May 6th, 2013
There’s a special place in Kindle History for George R. R. Martin. In 2011, the author of the Game of Thrones series became only the 11th author to sell over one million ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store. “Groucho Marx once said, ‘I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,’” he joked when he heard the news, “but even Groucho might have made an exception for the Kindle Million Club.” And then he thanked his editor, his publisher, “and most of all, my readers.”
In fact, the print edition of A Dance with Dragons was Amazon’s fifth best-selling book for 2011. (Before it was even released it was already one of Amazon’s top 100 best-selling ebooks, just from pre-order sales.) At the end of the year, Time magazine even put Martin on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. And this December, Martin will release yet another book based on his popular Game of Thrones series — this one titled “The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister.”
I’ve been trying to explain just how intensely fans feel about George R. R. Martin — and I came across a fascinating statistic that Barnes and Noble shared with The Wall Street Journal last summer. Most people who started reading the ebook version of A Dance with Dragons (on a Nook) actually finished the book, spending an average of 20 hours reading the 1,040-page novel. “An elaborate series like this is great on Kindle,” Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content noted when Martin crossed sold his one millionth ebook in the Kindle Store, “because you can turn the last page of book three at 10:30 at night, then buy book four, and be on its first page at 10:31!
And some of my readers seem to be doing exactly that. (One proudly told me that the first book they’d ever bought on their Kindle was Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, which is book one in the “Game of Thrones” series, and “Since then, I’ve bought the rest too!”) But the best testimonial I’ve seen actually came from my girlfriend, who wrote an enthusiastic explanation explaining just how easy it is to get hooked on George R. R. Martin’s series — especially if you own a Kindle! I wanted to publish it below, as either a book recommendation — or maybe a warning!
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Recently my cable company opened up On-Demand to show Game of Thrones to hook people so they would then pony up the money for HBO. I happened to be really sick that week and I watched two seasons of Game of Thrones in three days. Awesome! Engrossing! Fascinating characters, snappy dialog, plots thick with intrigue! Damn you, cable company, I got HOOKED!
I posted on Facebook, hoping to find someone with HBO who was also hooked so I could invite myself over to watch every week. I planned on offering my brownies as bribes (I’ll bring delicious brownies if you let me come watch…). But alas, no response. Did I cave? NO.
Because, I READ. Yes, folks, before there was the HBO series, there were books, by the same author, with the same story line and the same characters. Imagine that! I was jonesing to find out what happened to Tyrion and Arya and Dany, so I pulled out my Kindle and, just like the ads on TV, had the book in my hand in 30 seconds. Oh joy!
I started with the third book (A Storm of Swords), which picked up where the second season left off and started racing through the chapters. The third book in the series introduces a few new characters, but is set mainly in the same places as the first two seasons, so I easily picked up the narrative thread and devoured the book. Still recovering from the illness, I dragged myself home from work, crawled into bed, and went off to Westeros.
From my recent Advanced Writing Workshop (shout out to Linda Watanabe McFerrin), I admired the way each chapter is it’s own short story, with an intriguing start (“The invitation seemed innocent enough, but every time Sansa read it her tummy tightened into a knot.” “He woke to the creak of old iron hinges.”) and bang-up finish. Then you jump to another character in another corner of the universe and the first line is so intriguing you get sucked in again. Great writing, great technique. Very hard to put down.
I must say, however, that I’m glad I started with the HBO series. There are a LOT of characters and having seen actors in the roles, it made it a lot easier to keep them straight. I finished the Storm of Swords in a week (I read freakishly fast. According to the Kindle, it’s print length is 1216 pages.) No problem! Back to the Kindle store and in another 30 seconds, A Feast for Crows is available for my reading pleasure.
I jumped in eagerly, but started getting bogged down. This book introduced a lot of new characters, and by introduced, I mean described them, explained where they were from and the entire history surrounding their tiny part of the world, sometimes going back centuries. And religions! Fire (“the night is dark and full of terrors”), Water (the drowned men), the Old Gods (trees), the New Gods (The Seven), then the holy place where Arya finds herself where all gods are One. Some of my favorite characters became minor actors while these new characters took center stage. We followed Brienne, the Maid of Tarth on her ill-fated search for Sansa Stark, which was by-and-large pretty boring. George (R. R. Martin) is really, really into details in this book. Or maybe it’s just the slew of new characters. The plot stops at the 91% mark, and the remaining 9% is list upon list of characters, separated by House, with info about the houses thoughtfully provided. Still, I slogged through and followed the plot lines, hoping that more Tyrion and Arya and Dany would appear. But no, just a lot of Brienne, Jon at the Wall, Bran being carried by Hordor, and Jamie Lannister, whose golden luster is wearing off.
Wanting to find out What Happens Next, I went back to the Kindle store and got A Dance with Dragons, thinking that Dany would finally get to riding her dragons, and THEN, boy, some interesting stuff was going to pop! But alas, a lot of this book was also full of boring details, and I found myself paging quickly through most of the book without reading. A whole NEW set of characters, three slaver cities, all with people and history, a long sea voyage for Tyrion (boring despite the storms), and Dany going about the boring task of ruling, when she should be out riding dragons. I sped through the book, skimming to get the gist of the plot line, and was disappointed that nothing was resolved at the end.
A trip to Google assured me that the sixth novel in the series will be out this summer. I’m hoping that there’s a lot fewer new characters (we have enough history already), a lot fewer descriptions of traveling (boring) and a lot more plot (pretty please). George has promised two battles, one North by the Wall and one South in the slaver cities.
Even with the overload, I’m anxious to find out what happens. These are really fascination books, well written and take me to a place I’ve never been. I feel the cold at the wall. I feel dirty and cold when the characters ride through the rain.
But what I really want for Dany to take her dragons to the Wall and waste all the Others with their fire. Alas, it looks like that is going to be a good 2,500 pages away.
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April 19th, 2013
I love stories like this. A 33-year-old social worker in rural East Texas — working 11-hour days — finds the time to write her first amateur novel about first love, and self-publishes it in Amazon’s Kindle store. “I was just writing it for fun,” Colleen Hoover later told the Associated Press. She’d published the book and a quick sequel in January of 2012, and “By June, both of her books hit Amazon’s Kindle top 100 best-seller list.
“By July, both were on The New York Times best-seller list for e-books. Soon after, they were picked up by Atria Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. By fall, she had sold the movie rights…”
Colleen had been living in a mobile home for seven years when she started to write, along with her husband and three kids. (In the summer, the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees, according to a post on her blog.) That June, she wrote “It’s surreal. Seven months ago, we were struggling to make ends meet.” But her ebook sales provided enough money to move herself and her family into “a real house,” which they’re renting until they finish building a home of their own. “[T]his post may be a bit personal,” Colleen writes, “but I don’t really care. I just want you all to know what a difference you’ve made in my life….”
Colleen’s first ebook was a novel called Slammed, and it opens with funny stories about growing up in a crazy family, only to lead to a story with “all the magic and confusion of first love,” according to the book’s description on Amazon. (“Not long after a heart-stopping first date during which each recognizes something profound and familiar in the other, they are slammed to the core when a shocking discovery brings their new relationship to a sudden halt…”) That book begged for a sequel, which Colleen published in February of 2012 , titled Point of Retreat. (“It will require something truly extraordinary to keep this couple together…”) But her story also offers hints about the future of the ebook publishing industry.
The story of her success is preserved in a wonderful series of blog posts where Colleen shares the surprise as her self-published ebooks start passing higher and higher milestones. (“5,000 reviews? Holy crap!”) Colleen had actually given up on finding a publisher for her books — more than six years earlier. In fact, there’s a remarkable story buried deep in Colleen’s blog. Her mother didn’t have a computer, so Colleen actually printed out her posts from a blog on MySpace, and delivered the hard copies to her mother. Going through them now, nearly seven years later, she discovered one that she’d written in 2006 in which she announces that she’s giving up on her dream of ever becoming a famous author!
Colleen had actually researched the publishing industry in 2006, and “The time spent writing and editing and trying to sell your book to a publisher and the actual money you make working on all of this calculates to earning about .50 cents a day for an average writer.” But 17 months later, Amazon released their first Kindle — and suddenly aspiring authors had a new way to find their own audiences. “Good thing I didn’t listen to myself,” Colleen wrote on her blog this February, adding “It also says a helluva lot about how much the publishing industry has changed.”
She’s still writing new books, and will be releasing two more novels over the next month. (This Girl on April 30th and Losing Hope on July 9th.) And last week she announced she’d signed a new two-book deal with Atria Books for two novels to be released in 2014. The first one will be Maybe Someday, an adult contemporary romance, and the second one, Ugly Love falls into a category(which she describes as “OH MY DEAR GOD! COLLEEN IS GOING TO HELL FOR WRITING THIS!”
“So yeah, this should be FUN…!”
April 9th, 2013
Another celebrity died on Monday — Annette Funicello — though if you’re past a certain age, you may not remember her. As a teenager in the 1950s, she became famous on Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, and in the 1960s found new popularity in drive-in comedies like Beach Blanket Bingo. By the 1970s she was probably best-known as the spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter, but she still achieved the status of an icon just by symbolizing a more innocent time. And there’s two ways that she’ll always be connected in my mind to the Kindle — and the world of books.
Annette released a fun and inspiring biography in 1994 — called A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes. She describes the picture-perfect life that she’d had growing up, working with Walt Disney himself, and getting to meet all of her favorite teen idols. She actually spent her 16th birthday with the actor who played Zorro, who carved a big ‘Z’ in the frosting of her birthday cake! There’s some funny stories about her family and her grown-up life too, but the sweet surprises turned dramatic when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
As big as the shock was, “the outpouring of love and support was just overwhelming.” Annette said later she was also gratified to hear from others with the same condition that they’d taken strength from the way she’d come forward about her illness. “They’re not embarrassed to use their canes or to be in a wheelchair because if I can do it, they feel they can too,” she says — building up to the big quote that always brings a tear to my eye.
“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”
Her biography was never released as a Kindle ebook, but it’s available as an audiobook, which in some ways is even better. It’s remarkable to hear the familiar voice of Annette Funicello coming out of my Kindle and telling the story of her life — especially one day after she died. This audiobook even has some background music, so it’s very well produced. But Annette actually appeared as part of another strange series of books — nearly 40 years before!
Yes, there was the time in the history of publishing when authors cranked out entire novels — often close to 200 pages long — about movie stars, like Shirley Temple, Gregory Peck, and even Lucille Ball. These were fictional stories, usually mysteries, where one of the characters actually was the movie star. (Take a look at some of these titles…)
Betty Grable and the House of Cobwebs
Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak
Gregory Peck and the Red Box Enigma
Judy Garland and the Hoodoo Costume
Dorothy Lamour and the Haunted Lighthouse
Shirley Temple and the Spirit of Dragonwood
Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter
Lucy and the Madcap Mystery
Later, there were even books based on TV shows, like The Munsters: The Great Camera Caper and The Monkees: Who’s Got the Button? There was even a comic novel based on Gilligan’s Island. But I think Annette Funicello probably holds the record for appearing in the most celebrity mysteries — and each one was set in an intriguing location like the Arizona desert, the California mountains, or a glamorous estate.
Annette: Sierra Summer
Annette: Desert Inn Mystery
Annette: Mystery of Moonstone Bay
Annette: Mystery at Smuggler’s Cove
Annette: Mystery of Medicine Wheel
The plots are predictable. (Annette has a friend whose parents will lose their hotel unless Annette can discover the legendary lost treasure — or something like that.) “Each book capitalized on the star’s popularity by featuring a colorful picture of her face on the front cover,” one
collector remembers, “along with eight silhouettes of Annette on the inside covers.” The books were published between 1960 and 1965, and I like how the article notes that Annette “played her part in a forgotten era in American book publishing.”
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful…
April 6th, 2013
I really loved Roger Ebert. I started watching his movie reviews on TV back when I was in high school, and for decades to come I thought he had the greatest job in the world. He’d just watch movies, and then tell people whether he’d liked them! But Roger Ebert was also an excellent writer, and fortunately, he’s left behind some fantastic Kindle ebooks!
In fact, Ebert was a pioneer in Kindle ebooks. Just two days before his death on Thursday, Ebert announced that he was re-launching his popular web site as “Ebert Digital” — and he’d already begun marketing his movie reviews through Amazon’s Kindle Store. He was always “the people’s critic,” and he’d found a clever way to keep his prices low. Ebert started releasing his movie reviews in special smaller collections which he called “Ebert’s Essentials.” Each ebook had a unique theme, which somehow made them that much more appealing.
For example, six months ago Roger released “30 Movies to Get You Through the Holidays”, a 94-page collection reviewing movies “to watch together to celebrate the season or movies to watch alone to survive the season!” And less than a year ago, the theme was “25 Great French Films” — which included a special treat. If you read the ebook using one of Amazon’s Kindle apps on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone, it included video clips from most of the movies (taken from their promotional trailers). And best of all, both of these ebooks cost less than four dollars.
There were other interesting bargain-priced collections too. Ebert titled his collection about film noir “27 Movies from the Dark Side.” If you wanted something more inspirational, there was also “33 Movies to Restore Your Faith in Humanity”. Even if you’d just been dumped by your boyfriend or girlfriend, Roger Ebert had recommendations for you. Last May he released a special collection of reviews which he called “25 Movies to Mend a Broken Heart.”
Of course, my favorite book by Roger Ebert was probably his collection of negative reviews — “Your Movie Sucks” — and there’s a funny story about where that title came from. Comedian Rob Schneider had taken out full-page ads in Hollywood newspapers back in 2005 just to attack movie critic Patrick Goldstein, who had sharply criticized Schneider’s recent movie Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Schneider mockingly suggested that Goldstein wasn’t qualified to critique the movie, since his movie reviews had never won a Pulitzer Prize. “As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize,” Ebert wrote in his own review in the Chicago Sun-Times, “and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.”
I purchased a copy of the ebook, and soon found I was tempted to highlight nearly every single sentence, because each one of them made me laugh out loud. In a forgotten movie called The 51st State, Samuel L. Jackson played a character named Elmo McElroy. Ebert couldn’t resist warning jokingly that “Only eight of the seventy-four movies with characters named Elmo have been any good…” And writing about The Fantastic Four, he asks, “If you could burn at supernova temperatures, would you be able to stop talking about it? I know people who won’t shut up about winning fifty bucks in the lottery!”
But the best thing about Roger Ebert was that he could make me laugh and smile while simultaneously making some very thoughtful points. In one of his last books — a memoir titled “Life Itself” — he wrote a warm and poignant passage with his theory on why dogs beg for food at the table. “I never met a dog that didn’t beg at the table. If there is a dog that doesn’t, it has had all the dog scared out of it. But a dog is not a sneak thief like a cat. It doesn’t snatch and run, except if presented with an irresistible opportunity. It is a dinner companion. It is delighted that you are eating, thinks it’s a jolly good idea, and wants to be sure your food is as delicious as you deserve. You are under a powerful psychological compulsion to give it a taste, particularly when it goes into convulsions of gratitude. Dogs remember every favor you ever do for them and store those events in a memory bank titled Why My Human Is a God.”
Of course, that passage suggests some of the fondness that went into the cookbook he released in 2010 — which represented a new kind of triumph for the film critic. Ebert’s personal web site had also become hugely popular, and in 2008, a post about rice cookers had generated hundreds of comments. So the 68-year-old writer collected together the best recipe suggestions and comments into a charming 128-page book which, according to its description on Amazon, also includes Ebert’s “discerning insights and observations on why and how we cook”. The book was published just two years ago, showing the famous critic could share his enthusiasm about more than just movies. And a writer at Salon also shares a story about the book’s other significance.
Four years earlier, Ebert fought a fight against cancer which included the removal of his lower jaw. This left the writer unable to speak or eat, which he wrote about openly, treating it like another life experience which held its own fascination. Writing a cookbook “became an exercise more pure, freed of biological compulsion,” he told Salon’s interviewer in 2008. He added that “I think I was somewhat frustrated by not being able to eat and I wanted to live vicariously” — and she notes that he typed the words into his laptop computer, which then spoke them out loud on his behalf.
ABC News ran an article Thursday which added this too onto Roger Ebert’s list of lifetime achievements. “By showing the ups and downs of cancer over the last decade, Ebert…illustrated that cancer patients can continue with life, even if that life is forever changed, said Dr. Michael Neuss, chief medical officer at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, who was not involved with Ebert’s care.
“I think he broadened our understanding of cancer based on his incredible courage and incredible strength and genuine demeanor through this tough time.
“It has to show people that we do treat cancer patients and that things do happen, but you keep going.”
All of Roger Ebert’s Kindle ebooks are available at tinyurl.com/EbertEbooks
March 3rd, 2013
Dr. Seuss’s birthday was this weekend, and I’d decided to celebrate it by downloading some of his books onto my Kindle. Unfortunately, most of Seuss’s classic books aren’t available in Amazon’s Kindle store. But I still found some fun ways to remember the life and work of Dr. Seuss using my Kindle.
There is one Seuss ebook you can download to your Kindle — a collection of his first work as a satirist and commercial artist. Dr. Seuss — who’s real name was Theodore Geisel — was born on March 2nd in 1904, and by the 1920s he’d already begun publishing his own funny cartoons and illustrated stories. There’s some political cartoons in this collection, and he even wrote and illustrated an informational pamphlet for soldiers in World War II. It seems like a good way to appreciate the rest of his career, and get a glimpse at the artist before he created The Cat in the Hat. Some Amazon reviewers complained that the text is small and hard to read on some Kindle screens, and reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly warned that it’s not a the collection of sweet children’s stories that you might be expecting. But they acknowledge that this 172-page ebook “occassionally reveals images reminiscent of Geisel’s famous characters: Yertle-ish turtles standing atop each other’s backs and Horton-like elephants….”
Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss
An audiobook read by Jason Alexander, David Hyde Pierce, and Michael McKean
Dr. Seuss’s rhyming stories should make great audiobooks — and his publisher’s lined up some fantastic celebrities to read them! For $11.95 you can load this collection of 9 complete Dr. Seuss stories onto any audio-enabled Kindle — with some very funny readings by Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander, Frasier‘s David Hyde Pierce, and comic actor Michael McKean (who you may remember from This is Spinal Tap or Laverne and Shirley). There’s even some whimsical music in the background of these stories — you can hear a five-minute sample if you point your web browser to Amazon’s web page for the audiobook. Here’s a complete list of the 9 stories available in this collection!
Green Eggs and Ham read by Jason Alexander
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish read by David Hyde Pierce
Oh the Thinks You Can Think! read by Michael McKean
I’m Not Going to Get Up Today read by Jason Alexander
Oh Say Can You Say? read by Michael McKean
Fox in Socks read by David Hyde Pierce
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut read by Michael McKean
Hop on Pop read by David Hyde Pierce
Dr. Seuss’s ABC read by Jason Alexander
The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites
An audiobook read by John Cleese, Kelsey Grammer, Billy Crystal, John Lithgow, Walter Matthau, and more
Another audiobook of Dr. Seuss stories features an even more impressive cast of readers. Imagination Studios lined up 11 different celebrities, and then had each one of them read a different (complete) Dr. Seuss story. This longer collection offers more than two hours of Dr. Seuss — you can hear an eight-minute sample at Amazon’s web site where Kelsey Grammer reads The Cat in the Hat. But I’m more intrigued by the other readers, which include John Cleese, Dustin Hoffman, and Walter Matthau (reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Here’s a complete list of the 11 stories available in this audiobook, along with the celebrity who reads it!
The Cat in the Hat read by Kelsey Grammer
Horton Hears a Who read by Dustin Hoffman
How the Grinch Stole Christmas read by Walter Matthau
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? read by John Cleese
The Lorax read by Ted Danson
Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose read by Mercedes McCambridge
Horton Hatches the Egg read by Billy Crystal
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back read by Kelsey Grammer
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, Gertrude Mc Fuzz, and The Big Brag
read by John Lithgow
The Day I Met Dr. Seuss by Anne Emerick
Amazon’s Kindle Store rescued another work of fiction about Dr. Seuss which otherwise might never have been published. Author Anne Emerick admits that she never actually met Dr. Seuss — though she’d tried to arrange an interview with him back in 1989 (when Seuss was still alive). But she transforms her curiosity about the author into a charming rhyming story of her own — which, unfortunately, was rejected by every publisher she showed it to. Some literary agents praised her “great creativity”, though, and 23 years later, “I came to the realization that many people enjoyed the story,” the author announced in a press release, “and so why not share it with other Dr. Seuss fans.”
“This story is dedicated to Theodor Seuss Geisel,” she writes in the book’s introduction, calling him “a literary legend whose work continues to brighten our days while helping children learn to read.”
January 31st, 2013
Stephen King lived his own amazing story. He travelled back in time to the year 2000 in order to write the first massively successful ebook. Or something like that. At least, that’s what I was thinking when I first discovered that Stephen King actually released the first mass-market ebook over 10 years ago, and within 24 hours he’d achieved an amazing 400,000 downloads!
In the story, a young man has a strange adventure while hitchhiking to the hospital bed of his sick mother. (Fans may remember the novella, which was called Riding the Bullet, and is still available as a Kindle ebook.) Stephen King’s profits may not have set a record, since according to Business Week more than 90% of those readers downloaded that book for free. But Stephen King still remained a pioneer in ebooks, and it was just five years ago that he finally read his first book using the Kindle.
“The advance publicity says it looks like a paperback book, but it really doesn’t. It’s a panel of white plastic with a screen in the middle and one of those annoying teeny-tiny keyboards most suited to the fingers of Keebler elves. Full disclosure: I have not yet used the teeny-tiny keyboard, and really see no need for it. Keyboards are for writing. The Kindle is for reading…”
I really like the way Stephen King described WhisperNet as “the electronic ether, where even now a million books are flying overhead, like paper angels without the paper, if you know what I mean.” And soon King had decided to write his own spooky story that was about the Kindle itself! After writing the article Amazon had asked his agent if King wanted to write an original story for the release of the Kindle 2. “I decided I would like to write a story for the Kindle, but only if I could do one about the Kindle. Gadgets fascinate me, particularly if I can think of a way they might get weird.”
That story is called Ur (and you can still download it to your Kindle for just $3.19.) “At the time the Amazon request came in, I’d been playing with an idea about a guy who starts getting e-mails from the dead,” King wrote in Entertainment Weekly. “The story I wrote, Ur, was about an e-reader that can access books and newspapers from alternate worlds. I realized I might get trashed in some of the literary blogs, where I would be accused of shilling for Jeff Bezos & Co., but that didn’t bother me much; in my career, I have been trashed by experts, and I’m still standing.”
Since then, Stephen King seems to have developed a good relationship with Amazon. Just a few months ago, he provided Amazon with a special list of his three favorite books from 2012. (Say You’re Sorry, And When She Was Good, and The Good Son. And on Amazon’s list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2011, Stephen King had two books in the top 50. If you’re browsing through magazines in the Kindle Store, you can even have Amazon send you a free edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the magazine where King first published the short stories which became the first volume of The Dark Tower. Sign up for your free subscription by pointing your web browser to tinyurl.com/FreeSciFiMag . It’s “the best fiction magazine in America,” reads the endorsement from King himself.
It must be exciting to spend 12 years writing ebooks, only to see digital book-reading technology make its way from the world of fiction into the real world!
Click here to download UR
And if you want to travel back in time to 2000, Riding the Bullet also appeared in a King collection called “Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales.”
January 27th, 2013
Stephen King did something strange on Friday. He crept into the Kindle Store, and released a new exclusive that he’d just finished writing. But it wasn’t a horror novel, or even a scary short story. Instead, it was a personal essay about something dangerous in the real world. Stephen King released a Kindle Single called Guns.
It’s a surprisingly good read, trying to offer the same understanding of our universal fears that have characterized his novels. Using taut prose, he describes how the media reacts to the horrors of a shooting. (“Few of the trigger-pullers are middle-aged, and practically none are old. Some are young men; many are just boys. The Jonesboro, Arkansas, school shooters were 13 and 11…”) According to a British newspaper, he’d just finished writing the essay less than 10 days ago. “Once I finished writing Guns I wanted it published quickly,” King announced in a statement on Friday, “and Kindle Singles provided an excellent fit.”
Amazon was delighted. (“It’s exciting to offer a way for a brilliant writer like King to publish quickly,” Amazon added in the same press release, “and to reach a large audience of loyal readers and new customers.”) David Blum, editor of Kindle Singles, said that they’d agreed to publish King’s essay within hours of receiving it. “By that night we had accepted it and scheduled for publication…”
It’s already become the #1 best-seller in the nonfiction section of Amazon’s store for Kindle Singles. (Though ironically, the #2 best-seller in the nonfiction section is a parody about the life of Vice President Biden by The Onion.) But King had another reason for publishing this 25-page essay as a Kindle Single, according to the article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper. He “wanted it published as soon as possible, given the Obama administration’s looming battle with the National Rifle Association and its allies.”
America is in the middle of a nationwide debate about the possibility of new gun control laws. And King’s essay “stresses that he is an unapologetic gun-owner with at least half a foot in the conservative camp of the US divide,” the Guardian notes. But he’s calling for a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, calling them weapons of mass destruction. “When lunatics want to make war on the unarmed and unprepared, these are the weapons they use.”
The essay also takes a surprising turn when King remembers that some teenaged gunman claimed that their inspiration came from a story written by Stephen King — the 1977 novel Rage. King wrote it when he was a teenager himself, and later published it under his pen name, Richard Bachman. According to the Guardian, King’s essay “did not apologise for writing Rage — ‘no, sir, no ma’am’ — because it told the truth about high-school alienation and spoke to troubled adolescents who ‘were already broken’. However, he said, he ordered his publisher to withdraw the book because it had proved dangerous.”
“My book did not break (them) or turn them into killers,” reads a quote from King’s essay on The Huffington Post. “[T]hey found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken. Yet I did see Rage as a possible accelerant which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”
King remains firm in his opposition to censorship, but also criticizes the staunch gun advocates who take an absolute position which he characterizes as “to hell with the collateral damage”.
I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgement it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do. Assault weapons will remain readily available to crazy people until the powerful pro-gun forces in this country decide to do a similar turnaround. They must accept responsibility, recognizing that responsilibity is not the same as culpability. They need to say, ‘we support these measures not because the law demands we support them, but because it’s the sensible thing.’
Until that happens, shooting sprees will continue.
January 9th, 2013
There’s a tradition I like to observe at the start of a new year. It’s remembering a moment when time itself seemed to turn into something you could hold in your hands. It gave me a magical feeling about books — and about the authors who write them. And it seemed like it turned “history” into a special glow you could almost feel…
Surfing the web, I’d discovered that Mark Twain once co-authored a play with a forgotten writer named Bret Harte. Their legendary meeting was even depicted in an advertisement for Old Crow whiskey (above). Here’s how Twain himself described it.
“Well, Bret came down to Hartford and we talked it over, and then Bret wrote it while I played billiards, but of course I had to go over it to get the dialect right. Bret never did know anything about dialect…”
In fact, “They both worked on the play, and worked hard,” according to Twain’s literary executor. One night Harte apparently even stayed up until dawn at Twain’s house to write a different short story for another publisher. (“He asked that an open fire might be made in his room and a bottle of whiskey sent up, in case he needed something to keep him awake… At breakfast-time he appeared, fresh, rosy, and elate, with the announcement that his story was complete.”) I was delighted to discover that 134 years later, that story was still available on the Kindle, “a tale which Mark Twain always regarded as one of Harte’s very best.”
Bret Harte’s short story (as a free Kindle ebook)
Biography of Mark Twain by his executor (as a free Kindle ebook)
Right before Christmas, I wrote about how Harte’s words had already touched another famous writer — Charles Dickens. Before his death, 58-year-old Dickens had sent a letter inviting Bret Harte for a visit in England. But ironically, that letter didn’t arrive until after young Harte had already written a eulogy marking Dickens’ death. It was a poem called “Dickens in Camp,” suggesting that to the English oaks by Dickens’ grave, they should also add a spray of western pine for his fans in the lost frontier mining towns of California…
But two of Harte’s famous short stories had already captured Dickens’ attention — “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” John Forster, who was Dickens’ biographer, remembers that “he had found such subtle strokes of character as he had not anywhere else in later years discovered… I have rarely known him more honestly moved.” In fact, Dickens even felt that Harte’s style was similar to his own, “the manner resembling himself but the matter fresh to a degree that had surprised him.”
So on one chilly November afternoon, I’d finally pulled down a dusty volume of Bret Harte stories from a shelf at my local public library. I’d had an emotional reaction to “The Outcasts of Poker Flats” — and an equally intense response to “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” But Harte’s career had peaked early, and it seems like he spent his remaining decades just trying to recapture his early success. (“His last letters are full of his worries over money,” notes The Anthology of American Literature, along with “self-pitying complaints about his health, and a grieving awareness of a wasted talent.”) Even in the 20th century, his earliest stories still remained popular as a source of frontier fiction — several were later adapted into western movies. But Harte never really achieved a hallowed place at the top of the literary canon.
Yet “The Luck of Roaring Camp” was the first ebook I’d ordered on my Kindle. I’d checked for print editions but hadn’t found a single one at either Borders, Barnes and Noble, or a local chain called Bookstores, Inc. Days later, I’d decided to try my public library, where I discovered a whole shelf of the overlooked novelist (including an obscure later novel called The Story of a Mine). And that’s when I noticed the date that the library had stamped on its inside cover.
“SEP 21 1905.”
I felt like I was holding history in my hand. The book was published just three years after Harte’s death in 1902, and there was an old-fashioned card, in a plastic pocket glued to the inside cover, which showed some of the past check-out dates, including FEB 12 1923 and APR 8 1923.
More than a century later, my local librarians had tagged this ancient book with an RFID chip so you could check it out automatically just by running it across a scanner. A computerized printer spit out a receipt, making sure that the book wouldn’t remotely trigger their electronic security alarm when it was carried past the library’s anti-theft security gates.
I hope that somewhere, that makes Bret Harte happy.
December 5th, 2012
He’s the TV actor who’d played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. But now he’s also a huge internet phenomenon — and he’s written a great ebook about the experience. It’s called Oh myy! (There Goes the Internet), and last night George Takei surprised fans by announcing it had just become available on the Kindle (in addition to the Nook). “Surprise!” he posted on Facebook. “The folks at Amazon sped through my approval process, and my new book…is now as available as Katie Holmes.”
It’s already racked up 35 five-star reviews — though that’s understandable, since George Takei has over 3 million followers on Facebook. “(As a starfleet officer, Sulu was dedicated to peaceful exploration,” Forbes magazine once wrote. “But when it comes to Facebook, he’s a conquerer.”) What surprised me even more is that his book is just how much I enjoyed the book. It’s a warm and thoughtful read, and it’s also genuinely entertaining.
That’s partly because he has a great story to tell. At the age of 75, George Takei has become one of the most popular people on Facebook, and he brings his humble humor to the tale of his success. “I’m not sure exactly when this shift occurred,” he writes, “but it delights me to know that, though I am separated in age by some 40 or 50 years from most of my fans, they have welcomed me into their lives. As my fan base demographic tilts even younger, fewer and fewer fans will know me merely as ‘that guy who played Sulu.’” And then he lets readers share in some of the fun of his success – like his Twitter showdowns with celebrities like Donald Trump, Tracy Morgan, Victoria Jackson, and even the Aflac duck.
I’ve always been a big Star Trek fan, so I pre-ordered a digital copy of the book, and it came with a special additional chapter. (Takei fondly remembered his very first Star Trek conventions — and the surprise when it went from 12 fans in a hotel conference room to a thousand people in an auditorium.) Maybe that biased me towards a positive review, but this feels like a very personal book. “It gives me great joy to feel back on the ‘cutting edge’ of things,” Takei write, “and to know that the best years may yet lie ahead. So thank you, again, for buying this book early and supporting me in this new endeavor.
“May we live long and prosper together.”
One reviewer on Amazon hit on something that I’d noticed, too. “While the first 69 pages or so are, as one might expect, the tale of a man in his sixties coming to grips with the modern internet… George Takei is, fundamentally, a geek. And brilliant. And given to reverse-engineering everything he comes across. So the last two-thirds of the book ends up being one of the most coherent, insightful, and accessible explanations I’ve ever seen on how to build and maintain a social media presence.” Even seen as a social media guide, the reviewer notes that “this one’s actually fun to read.”
But the book also comes across as a very special experience, a man warmly sharing stories of wonder and amazement. I found myself thinking that it was true to the Star Trek spirit – a celebration of humanness and laughter that would’ve made Gene Roddenberry proud. Maybe all the fans magically amplified the show’s positive vibe, and George Takei somehow absorbed it over four decades of Star Trek conventions. His ebook is gracious and fond, but it lets them all share one more voyage together.
“Our dazzling tech-driven society today stimulates and inspires me,” he writes — giving him one more reason to sincerely say… “Oh myy!”
December 3rd, 2012
When Amazon announced their list of the “Best Books of 2012″, they also issued a second press release with an entirely different list chosen by the book editors at the Canadian version of Amazon.com. “From new books by beloved Canadian authors like ‘Dear Stories,’ to memoirs like ‘Waging Heavy Peace’…” announced the “country manager” for Amazon.ca, “there is something for everyone on this year’s list.” But in just the top 10, their editor’s independently picked five of the same books that were chosen by Amazon’s American editors!
Click here to browse the special Canadian version of Amazon’s “Best Books of 2012″ list. Of their five other choices, four of them were written by Canadian authors, and they haven’t been released in the U.S. There’s Carnival, a literary novel by Rawi Hage about a city cab driver during the chaotic Carnival. And Amazon Canada also selected the novel Above All Things by Tanis Rideout as one of the 10 best books of 2012. (It’s the story of the first man to climb Mt. Everest…and his wife.)
Their third Canadian-author choice was 419 by Will Ferguson, a crime novel based on those Nigerian e-mail scams. And their fourth Canadian-author choice was a mystery in the “Chief Inspector Gamache” series — The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. But their fifth unique choice for their top-10 list of the bests book of 2012 was The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. The American blogger predicted the outcome of two U.S. presidential elections with uncanny accuracy, and he’s turned his attention to the larger question of predictions in general — and why so many of them turn out wrong! Amazon’s American editors also selected the same book, but didn’t place it in their top 10.
Here’s the five books that Amazon’s American editors chose instead for their top 10 (which didn’t make it onto the Canadian top 10 list.)
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenberg
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
But even when the same books were selected by the editors of both the American and Canadian versions of Amazon, the Canadian editors ranked those books in an entirely different order. Here’s their list of the 10 best books of 2012, along with the ranks from the Amazon’s American editors (shown in parentheses).
1. (3) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
2. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
3. (1) The Round House by Louise Erdrich
4. (2) The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
5. (4) The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
6. 419 by Will Ferguson
7. (6) Behind the Beautiful Forevers:
Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
8. Carnival by Rawi Hage
9. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
10. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
I really enjoy these lists, because there’s always something new on them that I’d never even thought about reading — so I’m delighted to discover this second list with even more titles from Amazon Canada. The idea is that no matter who you are, there should be something intriguing among all of the new choices, according to the announcement from Amazon’s country manager for Canada.
“From new books by beloved Canadian authors like Dear Stories, to memoirs like Waging Heavy Peace, and thrillers like our top pick, Gone Girl – there is something for everyone on this year’s list.”
Click here to browse the special Canadian version of
Amazon’s “Best Books of 2012″ list.
November 20th, 2012
Are you ready for some Thanksgiving fun? Thursday is the great American holiday, and if you’re traveling for the holiday – or just have some extra time to relax — I’ve picked out a few Thanksgiving-related ebooks.
It’s sort of a tradition, since last year I also recommended some Thanksgiving ebooks, and it made me feel like in some way I was celebrating the holiday together with my readers. I like to joke that we all have at least one thing that brings us together: we can all be grateful that we own a Kindle! And yes, I’m especially grateful, because it’s been exactly one year since I published my very first e-book. (A funny, short Thanksgiving mystery about turkeys written in rhyme – which is now free until Wednesday night!)
Anyways, for this year’s holiday, I’ve identified some of the best ebooks — in different categories — that are available for for Thanksgiving in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
The Best Romance
“Thanksgiving” by Janet Evanovich
Best-selling author Janet Evanovich wrote several funny mystery novels — but she actually began her career writing romance novels at the age of 45. One of her first books was “Thanksgiving,” written in 1988, describing how overworked Megan Murphy meets a good-looking doctor at historic Williamsburg, Virginia. (Megan’s enjoying a cup of hot cider and two sugar cookies from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop when she discovers the doctor’s giant pet rabbit is eating a hole through her skirt!)
According to the book’s description on Amazon, “she meant to give its careless owner a piece of her mind, but Dr. Patrick Hunter was too attractive to stay mad at for long,” and soon “the two are making Thanksgiving dinner for their families.” And 12 different Amazon’s reviewers gave it five-star reviews, including one who wrote that “If you’ve enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, you’re going to get a kick out of her stories for the Loveswept Romance imprint…”
The Best Cookbook
Thanksgiving 101 by Rick Rodgers
Perdue Farms sells over $4.6 billion worth of poultry every year, and for eight years, Rick Rodgers was their media spokesman. He traveled the country giving classes, according to Amazon’s description of the book, and delivers “everything, absolutely everything, you would want to know about buying, thawing, prepping, and roasting a turkey.
“You needn’t look any further. There’s a long question-and-answer-style section that anticipates any questions you might have. Then it’s right on to everything from Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy to Holiday Meatball Lasagna.” And in addition, there’s lots of recipes for stuffings, side dishes, appetizers, and even leftovers. 29 of the book’s 34 reviewers on Amazon gave it five stars, while the other five
awarded it four. It’s a classic — Amazon’s first review of the book was written in 1998 — but even today, it’s become one of Amazon’s best-selling holiday cooking books.
The Best History Book
On Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford
Who better to tell the story of Thanksgiving than the pilgrims who lived through it? (My favorite chapter was the one about the very non-Puritan antics of Thomas Morton…) William Bradford began writing his history of America’s most famous pilgrims back in 1630 (according to my anthology of American literature), and he continued chronicling their life up to 1647. But the invaluable manuscript was never published in his lifetime, and after Bradford’s death, his family passed it down through the generations.
The precious unpublished memoir traveled its own complicated journey, down through Boston’s Old South Church, and eventually even back to England. Finally it was published in 1856 — a full 200 years after it was written. It never did arrive on the shores of Amazon’s Kindle Store, but you can download a free Kindle version from Project Gutenburg. I’ve always thought it’s excited that, thanks to the Kindle, today we can take peek into the lives of those very pilgrims who first started celebrating Thanksgiving.
The Best Children’s Book
Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George
Just 12 weeks ago, a new Curious George book appeared, and this one has a special surprise. Yes, you may have read other children’s books about the playful and accident-prone monkey… But this one rhymes!
George wakes up in the morning.
Something smells quite nice.
He knows for sure he wants some –
A piece, a smidge, a slice.
He rushes to the kitchen
and there he sees the man –
with yellow hat an apron,
A turkey in the pan.
The turkey’s in the oven.
It takes some time to cook.
But every now and then
George can’t help but take a look….
Uh-oh, I bet there’s going to be trouble.
Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!
November 13th, 2012
The editors at Amazon have just announced their list of the very best books of 2012. They’ve also chosen their Best Book of the Year — and created 24 more “top 10″ lists for different categories, including fiction, romance, mystery, and this year’s 10 best Kindle Singles. They’ve even got a list where Stephen King chooses his Top 10 favorite books of the year, along with other famous authors like Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald. Plus, each individual category also has its own a “best book of the year.”
“We are confident that we’ve chosen a list that customers will be excited about,” announced Amazon’s Editorial Director for the Kindle and Books at Amazon.com, Sara Nelson. And on a special web page, Amazon explains that “All year, the Amazon Books editorial team reads voraciously, tracking down and sharing the most fascinating, compelling, enlightening, and entertaining books…” Their pick for the best book of the year was The Round House, about a teenager’s investigation into a family tragedy on a reservation in North Dakota. Here’s Amazon’s complete list of the Top 10 Books of 2012 — and what they had to say about them.
1. The Round House by Louise Erdric
“Likely to be dubbed the Native American To Kill a Mockingbird, Erdrich’s moving, complex and surprisingly uplifting new novel tells of a boy’s coming of age in the wake of a brutal, racist attack on his mother.”
2. The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers
“With this compact and emotional debut novel, Iraq War veteran Powers eyes the casual violence of war with a poet’s precision, moving confidently between scenes of blunt atrocity and almost hallucinatory detachment.”
3. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
“Masterfully plotted from start to finish, the suspense doesn’t waver for one page. It’s one of those books you will feel the need to discuss immediately after finishing. The ending punches you in the gut.”
4. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
“As much an homage to literature as to the mother who shared it with him, Schwalbe’s chronicling of his mother’s death to cancer—they wait, they talk, they read together—is nothing less than captivating.”
5. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain
“Debut novelist Fountain follows a squad of marines as they engage in a ‘victory tour’ in the States. Set mostly during halftime at a Dallas Cowboy’s football game, Fountain skillfully illustrates what it’s like to go to war, and how bizarre and disconcerting it can be for these grunts to return from combat to the country they love.”
6. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
“This searing portrait of life in a Mumbai slum reads like a novel, but it’s all-too-true. Pulitzer Prize-winner Boo’s writing is superb, and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing.”
7. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
“Both disturbing and funny, this novel from onetime wunderkind Eggers shows surprising depth. A man’s wayward attempt to find himself and retake his life delivers him to Saudi Arabia but the journey abroad is also internal, and it ends up saying as much about life in America as in the Middle East.”
8. The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenberg
“A quick read that’s more complex than it seems at first, this story about a Midwestern Jewish family is both recognizable (sometimes uncomfortably so) and entertainingly idiosyncratic.”
9. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
“Like the late author himself, this book is funny, smart, entertaining and unflinching to the end. Mortality has the power to change ideas that you might have held immutable—which is one of the best things you can say about a book.”
10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
“This soulful novel originally written for teenagers tackles big subjects – life, death, love – with the perfect blend of levity and heart-swelling emotion.”
There’s a humorous note on the web page where Amazon’s announcing their final list. “Picking the best of anything is always difficult, but this year Sara Nelson and the gang had a different kind of difficulty: an embarrassment of riches. All year long we read and loved so many books that the usually spirited Best of the Year meetings were, well, especially spirited.” I can only imagine what that discussion must’ve looked like, but in the end, Amazon explains, we arrived at a list that we’re proud of, offering something for everyone.
September 5th, 2012
There was a surprising announcement yesterday morning. Playboy magazine is now making content available for the Kindle! But there was something even more surprising about the announcement. The content Playboy was making available was their interviews with famous people. (And not their notorious centerfolds…)
“Playboy has curated 50 of its best interviews from the past 50 years in a special 50 day promotion,” reads the announcement. It promises a new interview will be released every day for the next 50 days – and each one will cost just 99 cents. Today’s interview is with one of football’s most famous all-star quarterbacks, Joe Namath. And they kicked off the promotion Tuesday, publishing Playboy’s very first interview from 1962, with jazz legend Miles Davis.
At Amazon, each interview’s description includes the story of how this tradition got started. “In mid-1962, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was given a partial transcript of an interview with Miles Davis. It covered jazz, of course, but it also included Davis’s ruminations on race, politics and culture. Fascinated, Hef sent the writer – future Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Alex Haley, an unknown at the time – back to glean even more opinion and insight from Davis. The resulting exchange, published in the September 1962 issue, became the first official Playboy Interview and kicked off a remarkable run of public inquisition that continues today…”
But you won’t find them if you search the Kindle Store for Playboy. (Although you will find some amateur erotic fiction, a tell-all memoir by Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend, and a chance to subscribe to Maxim magazine). There’s also the Playboy book of cigars and a collection of the magazine’s “Playboy Advisor” columns. But you have to specifically search on Playboy interview to find these new releases. (Or, point your browser to this shortcut — tinyurl.com/PlayboyEbooks .)
Thursday they’ll publish their interview with Martin Luther King as an ebook. Friday’s interview will be Jack Nicholson. They’ll even be republishing their headline-making interview with future president Jimmy Carter. “50 Years of the Playboy Interview features one-of-a-kind in-depth, provocative interviews with the world’s greatest celebrities and icons,” their announcement promises, “such as Tina Fey, Francis Ford Coppola, Howard Stern, Fidel Castro and Robert DeNiro.” They’ve even created special “covers” for the ebook editions — both front and back — featuring their photos of the celebrities, and some especially intriguing quotes. (For Jimmy Carter, the quote was “I’m a human being. I’m not a package you can put in a box….”)
June 25th, 2012
It felt like something happened last week. A writer dared to speak the truth — spilling the beans about how hard life is for a professional book author. Jessica Park finally revealed how much real writers can hate their publishers, and how much happier she is now that she’s publishing her ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store. “The funny thing is that I feel more like a real author now that I self-publish than when I had the (supposed) support of a publisher behind me.”
The article was just published on the 15th at a web site called IndieReader.com (and it was later republished on The Huffington Post). But by that Tuesday, Amazon — in what’s almost an act of war — featured her article on the front page of Amazon.com! It seems like now everyone is noticing it. Three of my friends each decided to share that same article last week on Facebook.
The top Kindle blogs are also buzzing about it, and it’s almost starting to feel like a revolution. “One of the major reasons that I write is to connect with readers, not publishers,” Jessica explains. “The truth is that I couldn’t care less whether New York editors and publishers like me. I don’t want to write for them. I want to write for you.” Publishers had rejected her newest novel, Flat-Out Love, because its main character was a few years older than they’d wanted the character to be. “It clicked for me that I was not the idiot here.
It’s hard to ignore Jessica when she reveals just how much more money she’d earned after leaving behind the traditional publishers. (In one especially good month, she sold close to 50,000 ebooks.) And despite her role as an author, Jessica writes that “I have to credit Amazon with giving me such a strong platform with such overwhelming visibility. I can be a writer. I am a writer….”
“It’s heartwarming,” Amazon’s founder wrote on the front page of Amazon.com, saying that Jessica’s article “tells a powerful story about what Kindle Direct Publishing makes possible. Kindle Direct Publishing empowers serious authors to reach readers, build a following, make a living, and to do it on their own terms.” And he points out that it’s not just the authors who are benefiting. “Readers get lower prices, authors get higher royalties, and we all get a more diverse book culture (no expert gatekeepers saying ‘sorry but that will never work’).”
Is it a trend? Maybe. Amazon’s founder also notes that of the top 100 best-selling ebooks in the Kindle Store for all of 2012, there are 22 that came from Amazon’s “Kindle Direct Publishing” program. (“[A]nd more great stories are being published every day…”) But I think there’s an even more compelling piece of evidence — the real passion that seems to glow in every single word of Jessica’s article. “We get to bring you our stories in the way we want to tell them, without the dilution and sculpting from publishing houses. And the fans? Oh, the fans are simply unbelievable…Their support and enthusiasm breathes life into days when I feel particularly challenged.
“I’m in a circle of authors who have been dubbed The Cancer Warriors because our books have become saving graces for people going through cancer treatment. Readers are escaping hell on earth through our books. …books that never would have reached these readers without the ability to self-publish. We get to do our small part to help them fight. Getting to be part of something like this is at the top of my list for why I write.
It makes me want to face New York publishers head on and scream, “You see that? Do you see what we’re doing without you?”
June 5th, 2012
For the first time ever, you can read Kindle anthologies for two of the most popular newspaper comic strips — Doonesbury and Dilbert! They’re available now for Kindle Fire tablets, though you can also read them on any of Amazon’s Kindle apps. Check out the books at these “shortcut” URLs — tinyurl.com/DoonesburyEbook and tinyurl.com/DilbertEbooks. “These remarkable volumes represent a tremendous body of work from two exceptional cartoonists,” announced the publishing company behind the two books, “and we are delighted to make them available to a new audience.”
These exclusive Kindle editions don’t just include a few of the famous newspaper comic strips — it’s a lot of them! The Dilbert collection includes 2,000 different strips, nearly 30% of all the Dilbert comic strips that have ever been published. And the Doonesbury collection has everything — every single newspaper strip from the last 40 years. (If my math is correct, that means there’s 3,650 comic strips in each of the four editions, or nearly 15,000 comic strips in all!)
The Doonesbury collection is split into four separate volumes that each cover one entire decade, so the first volume starts with the 1970s. (There’s a famous series of strips in 1971 that pokes fun at young anti-war activist John Kerry, 33 years before he became the Democrats’ candidate for President in 2004.) Two more volumes collect all of the strips from the 1980s and 1990s, respectively, covering the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, and the final volume almost catches up to the present, covering the years 2000 through 2010. (Cartoonist Garry Trudeau titled the collection simply “40: A Doonesbury Retrospective.”)
When the Doonesbury collection was released in print, each edition weighed almost 10 pounds, but the digital editions fit right into your Kindle apps (and each volume apparently takes just one-tenth
of a megabyte.) In a special introduction at Amazon.com, the cartoonist jokes that “I’ve come to appreciate that many readers prefer to forego the risk of herniation while picking up a book – no matter that the risk is slight if you push up from your knees and have someone spot you.” And he remembers the time crooks actually hijacked a truck which had been delivering print copies of the book. “I’ve tried to imagine the reaction of the hijackers’ supervisor when he broke into the trailer and discovered 13,000 pounds of Doonesbury where palettes of hi-def TVs should have been!”
Dilbert’s anthology has more descriptive titles for its four volumes, starting with “The Early Years, 1989 to 1993.” (It’s followed by “The Boom Years, 1994 to 1997,” and “The Dot-Com Bubble, 1998 to 2000.”)
But there’s seven whole years crammed into the final volume –”The Modern Era, 2001 to 2008.” “I tried to find the strips that were the funniest,” cartoonist Scott Adams explains in an interview at Amazon.com, “while also having some meaning, or a funny story attached.” Each strip was personally selected by the cartoonist himself, and it looks like he put a lot of care into the final anthology. In the interview, Adams remembers that “it felt like I was a mother with triplets and someone told me I could only keep one of them!”
He also reveals that he’s hoping for a Dilbert movie (though “A lot of elements have to fall in place.”) And he has big plans, some of which involve the comic strip’s web site, and even distributing the comic strip directly to mobile devices. “It’s an exciting time to be a cartoonist,” But in some ways, Dilbert has already made a very grand entrance for the Kindle. Dilbert himself makes a special appearance on the ebook’s page at Amazon.com — explaining exactly how to read the comic strip on touch screen. (“Hi, Kindle Fire Users,” the strip begins. “Double-tap on any panel to enlarge it…”)
By the end of the strip, Dilbert’s joined by his pet dog — Dogbert — who asks an even more important question…