Joining the Revolution

I’ve joined the electronic revolution and purchased an iPhone. Having been resistant for some time, I could no longer avoid the temptation of having the social networks at my fingertips, cool apps to explore, email at the tap of a button, and a personal calendar on hand. Now I can relieve my purse of my pocket-sized appointment book and my emergency Sudoku pad. No longer will I have to fumble for someone’s phone number or wish I could send a photo directly to Facebook. I can do all of these things and more.

And therein rests the problem. The iPhone, like its larger cousin the iPad, is in itself a complete source of entertainment. Miss a favorite TV show? Watch it on your device. Need to look up the nearest pizza palace? Ask Siri. Need to kill time at the doctor’s office? Read a book on iBooks. Or better yet, play a game of Solitaire.

No wonder people’s attention spans are decreasing. It makes me worry for the future of reading. Who will be able to concentrate on finishing an entire novel when so many other activities require less effort?

Thank goodness for teen fiction that captures the interest of our youth and perhaps spurs them on to develop a lifelong reading habit. Because once the older generation who gobbles up our stories in print form dies off, who will be left? Consumers who expect their reading material to arrive in the form of daily excerpts? Will the art of storytelling devolve into single page entries? How can we make reading more attractive to the younger set to compete with iTunes?

Storytelling will always be part of our psyche even if the means of delivery evolves. But as a novelist, I am concerned for the future of our art. Can those of us trained to write lengthy works adapt to the changing marketplace? What if we have no choice? Do we want to write shorter, compelling, quicker prose? Can we compete with smartphones and tablets, or must we join the revolution and change our techniques to suit them? 

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Yet Another Sign of the Times

By Joe Moore

Things just keep on changing.

Back in August, my blog post Goin’ Through Them Changes was about how after 26 years I canceled my subscription to the local newspaper (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) in favor of a digital subscription. I now sip my Dunkin Donuts coffee each morning while reading the paper on my computer screen. Among the many advantages to digital over paper, there’s no recycling to the curb each week, no need to chop down trees, and no ink on my fingers. Since my August post I’ve discovered that many newspapers around the country including The New York Times are now offering digital-only subscriptions. The only thing missing is the thumping sound of the morning edition hitting my hard drive at 5:30 AM like it used to sound when the guy tossed the paper on my driveway.

In September, one of my posts was called The Great MMPB Vanishing Act about an article in The New York Times on the decrease in sales of mass market paperbacks and the growth of ebooks. Some say ebooks are the new MMPB.

Later on in September, I posted a blog called More Signs of the Times about a piece in The Economist on the slump of hardcover sales and the continued rise of ebooks. Are you seeing an industry trend here?

Well, this weekend I read about another ebook development that I think is equally exciting. Yet another sign of the times. Libraries in South and Central Florida now kindle4offer anyone with a library card free ebooks downloaded to their Kindle, Sony, Nook, laptop, desktop, iPhones, iPads and . . . well the list of devices goes on and on. Library patrons can check out up to 10 titles at a time and have 21 days to read each. Free Kindle downloads are issued directly from your Amazon account and include current bestsellers and new releases. My library has over 16,000 ebook titles and close to 9,000 audio books with the list growing all the time. Videos are available, too.

Here’s more good news for just about everyone. You can borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the U.S. Chances are your local library already has this feature or will soon. So check it out and check out a free book. You can download the book in seconds and have plenty of time to read it.

What do you think of this latest development? Are you already reading ebooks free from your library on your Kindle, Nook or iPad? If not, do you intend to look into it? Will it affect or change your reading habits? Where do you think this is all leading? Happy reading!

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The E-reader Tsunami Is Coming

By Joe Moore

We’ve had a few previous discussions about e-books and the electronic devices on which you can read them. Why another post on the subject? Because unlike in the past, things are about to get really serious. So if you’re thinking about investing in a reader such as the Amazon Kindle 2, you might want to hold off for a short while because there’s a whole new generation of  readers about to hit the shelves.

A number of companies such as Asus, Plastic Logic, and the sony-readerBritish company Interead are ready to launch new devices that will get you reading digitized books and newspapers at prices that are finally becoming reasonable, some starting as low as $165. Sony is already shipping their e-reader starting at $199 (pictured). On October 20, Barnes & Noble introduced their e-reader called the Nook ($259).

Major publishers are jumping into the e-book pool on sites like SCRIBD while thousands of books are being converted into Kindle format and made available on Amazon every day. If nothing else, the term “out of print” will soon disappear from our vocabulary.

There is a downside to the plethora of new e-readers: format compatibility. An example is the books and periodical subscriptions your purchase through Amazon may not be readable on a different brand other than Kindle.

kindle2 Also, keep an eye on Google in all this. They want to scan millions of out-of-print books and make them available through the Google Book Search for e-book readers. Amazon is fighting this because Google’s deal makes it hard for other e-book sellers (such as Amazon) to scan and distribute these same books. I bet this battle gets dirty before the dust settles.

But the tsunami of new e-readers should mean that we’ll see the end of Amazon’s only-game-in-town Kindle dominance as the prices go down and the features go up. Remember the Apple iPhone a few years ago and what happened next?

Do you have an e-book reader yet? Or are you resisting even the thought that this is the future?

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Sony introduces potential Kindle killer

Jason Starr joins us today, filling in for Michelle Gagnon. Jason’s latest thriller, PANIC ATTACK, is on-sale now from St. Martin’s Press. Michael Connelly calls PANIC ATTACK "the ultimate page-turner" and Jerry Stahl says PANIC ATTACK is "the perfect thriller." It’s a terrific beach read, so be sure to pick up a copy today.

Für Berlin live / Jason Starr/ Foto: Promo Hey, great to be back here, and thanks to Michelle for letting me fill in and blog for her while she is, no doubt, lounging on some exotic beach somewhere, sipping drinks that have little umbrellas in them. Ah, the life of an international best-selling thriller author… Meanwhile, I’m here in dank, sweltering Manhattan, pounding away on my keyboard, like a bad parody of Mickey Spillane. But who said life is fair?

panic-attackWith a new book, PANIC ATTACK, out I’ve had marketing on my mind lately, and I think this week may turn out to be a key moment in book publishing history. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating…a lot…but I think the announcement of Sony’s new Daily Edition reader is really going to shake up the electronic publishing landscape, and maybe the entire publishing landscape.

The Daily Edition is a far cry from Sony’s old reader, which wasn’t as sleek at the Kindle and couldn’t download content wirelessly. Early reviews say the Daily Edition is a potential Kindle killer as it does one big thing the Kindle can’t (and won’t) do–it lets readers download books for free. That’s right, via their local libraries, customers will be able to take e-books out on loan for two or three weeks for no charge.

With so much free content available, how will publishers and Amazon be able to charge full price for books? For example, if Michelle, on her exotic beach vacation, wants to read a copy of James Patterson’s latest, where is her incentive to buy the e-edition of the book when she can download it (and as many other books as she wants) for free? Will publishers have to change the way they sell books to libraries, and alter the prices of their e-books? It’s hard to imagine that if readers have a free option for e-books that they will continue to shell out the 10 dollars or more that Amazon is currently charging for new hardcover titles.

image Daily Edition also allows for other booksellers to distribute their content onto the device. This could be a great chance for Indy booksellers to get into the e-books game, but it could also create even more price competition.

But the main question about e-readers remains–are these devices here to stay and are books as we know them on life support? A little disclosure here. Late last year, I received a Kindle 2 as a gift. When I’m traveling and commuting it’s amazing. The ability to send Word files to my Kindle is a God’s send for reading manuscripts on the go. Lately, though, I find when I’m home and want something to read I go for an old fashioned book. I guess I feel like I look at a computer screen all day long, and when I want to relax I don’t want to hold a gadget, no matter how easy the screen is on the eyes. So, while a few months ago, I was telling people e-books are the wave of the future, I’m not so sure anymore. I see e-books becoming mainly for travel and commuting, and the regular book sticking around for every other use.

As an author, though, I’m excited about the potential proliferation of e-readers because they create the possibility of infinite book sales and could potentially make "book distribution" obsolete. For example, if The Today Show calls tomorrow and wants me on to discuss PANIC ATTACK, my publisher would have to reprint to satisfy the sudden demand. By the time the books arrived in stores, the demand would no longer exist. But in a world where everyone on the planet has an e-reader, a big national media appearance could generate tens of thousands of sales instantly.

So what do y’all think about all this? How are publishers going to price their books in a landscape where Sony is going to effectively start giving away many titles for free? Are you authors out there embracing e-books or would you rather they disappeared?

Tonight, August 27, at 9pm Eastern Time you can "see" me–well my well-endowed Avatar anyway–on the Second Life Talk Show "Virtually Speaking" I’ll discuss PANIC ATTACK and lots of other stuff. You also can listen to the broadcast live at 9 pm Eastern Time on Blog Talk Radio.

Find out more about Jason Starr and PANIC ATTACK at www.jasonstarr.com

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