New eBook Formats Available Soon for Speculative Realms Anthology

Originally posted on another site on 19 January 2010.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately, but it’s been absolutely necessary. I’m under contract to get some work done by the 25th of this month…and it’s looking as though I’ll make the deadline. 🙂

Speculative Realms is proud to announce that by the end of this week, the anthology will be available in many more formats. They are:

epub
An open industry format, supported by the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, most mobile apps [Stanza, Aldiko, Shortcovers], and many other reading systems.

Sony Reader (LRF)
LRF is the format used on Sony Reader ebook devices.

Kindle (.mobi)
Mobipocket is an eBook format supported on Windows PCs and many handheld devices.

Palm Doc (PDB)
PalmDoc is a format primarily used on Palm Pilot devices, but readers are available for PalmOS, Symbian OS, Windows Mobile Pocket PC/Smartphone, desktop Windows, and Macintosh.

PDF
Portable Document Format, or PDF, is a file format readable by most devices, including handheld e-readers, PDAs, and computers.

RTF
Rich Text Format, or RTF, is a cross-platform document format supported by many word processors and devices. Usually pretty good at preserving original formatting from Word documents.

Plain Text
Plain text is the most widely supported file format, working on nearly all readers and devices.

More details, including location where these can be purchased, will be announced as soon as they are available to the public.

eBook Review: Ether

Ether

Ether by Kristine Williams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Yesterday, I mentioned how I select books to read and Ether by Kristine Williams is an excellent example of that. Because of my current addiction to read ebooks I was combing Smashwords, a website that offers ebooks by new authors in many different formats. The prices are really low and that makes the “risk” easier to take. To buy a main stream book by a new author, the cost would probably be around $18 to $25 in Australia. To buy an ebook by a new author through Smashwords, the cost is about $0.99 to $7.00 (the average being around $3.00). Ether cost me $1.25 and was worth every cent.

I digress, as I was saying, I was combing Smashwords looking for my next victim when a cover jumped from the screen and yelled “pick me, pick me”. That cover told me instantly that the story was about our world entwined with another, and I love that type of story. I was intrigued to find out more. The blurb only pulled me in further so I quickly worked out how I could read the opening paragraph, which wasn’t difficult to do at all, and upon doing so was convinced this was a book I’d enjoy.

Ether is another world connected to our world. The only way through is with a key and there’s not many of them in existence. Daniel Harper discovers a strange key on his late uncle’s keyring when he inherits the house. When he uses that key to unlock the cellar door, he finds himself in a state of total confusion when he steps through the door into the path of an oncoming car – a strange looking car at that. The events that unfold from there are interesting and well written.

The characters had depth and I especially liked the way the author weaved humour into their personalities. It was amusing to read their reactions to certain situations, although if I found myself in the same situation it wouldn’t have been the slightest bit amusing. The characters were distinct and strong and believable. Ether (the world) wasn’t quite as developed as the characters, but not enough for it to be distracting and certainly not enough for me not to enjoy the story. In truth, I can’t quite say why Ether didn’t feel as rounded as it should have been, but something was missing.

That aside, I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the author’s writing style. I would definitely read something else written by her. In fact, I’ve already checked to see if there is anything else and…there is.

This ebook is highly recommended. I believe it’s also available in printed form too.

And to all those writers out there, remember, readers do judge a book by it’s cover so make sure yours is a great one.

What a difference a decade makes!

During my lifetime I’ve seen some changes in the world, especially where technology is concerned. I remember, in 1990, when my boss paid $50,000 for two computers. I was thrilled to be given one of those computers to work on. It was a buzz to use exciting new equipment and I learned quickly that I liked computers. Yet, looking back, that computer hardly did anything compared to today’s computers. There were two programs on it, it didn’t have the internet or email. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of those things back then. When I left that job in 1995, there was talk of this new thing called Windows. I had no idea what that could be…and I didn’t find out for a couple of years.

Back then, in what might seem like the dark ages for some people, reading was only done from printed material. Books were wonderful to look at, to touch, to smell. The stories within the covers were sometimes not so wonderful, but I learned to pick and chose quite well so that I didn’t waste too much of my hard earned money. It’s shameful to admit, but the cover was the first thing that caught my attention. Then…if the blurb on the back was good, I’d open the book and read the first paragraph. If I liked the way the words were put together, I’d consider buying the book. If I didn’t like the word flow, the book was rejected. This method worked well for me over several decades of reading.

In 1997, I bought my first Windows operated computer. I installed a word processor called Word Perfect and happily wrote two 200,000+ manuscripts from start to finish in about three years. What happened to those manuscripts is another story, for another day. Yes, I saw the icon on the computer that would connect me to the internet and email, but I still didn’t know what those things were and had no need for either of them because I was happy doing something else I loved – writing.

The years passed, the millennium came and went without the huge catastrophe that everyone seemed to be warning us about. Instead, things went on as usual and then started to grow and grow. Finally, in early 2001, I was introduced to the internet for the very first time. I remember my fascination with the concept that we had instant access to all this information and we could communicate with people all over the world at any time of the day and night. It was brilliant. And what made it better – and worse – was the knowledge that I wasn’t the only writer writing the next best seller. (I say “worse” because it’s since the internet that I stopped writing at every spare moment I had.)

I learned so much in the years that followed. About everything, not just writing. But then I discovered something called self-publishing and the weirdest thing yet, ebooks. I found it difficult to grasp the concept of books without paper. In a lot of ways, I rejected the notion. It just felt so wrong! As did self-publishing.

That first Windows computer was quickly replaced with bigger and better systems, which were again replaced for newer technology a short time later. This cycle happened several times in the effort to stay up with the times, but we soon realised that it was an impossible situation and we finally accepted that our new laptops would have to see us through for some years to come. We were now completely immersed in the instant world of viewing, downloading, accessing, emailing, blogging, facebooking, gaming, chatting, online buying and selling, paying, meeting…

Still the years ticked by, technology rolling along in front of us, always showing us new and fascinating things. Suddenly, self publishing and ebooks became real, acceptable, the way of the future. I found myself wanting to “try out” the self publishing side of the publishing industry and I certainly looked at ebooks in a more favourable way. This was especially true when technology provided a gadget that I could hold in my hand, allowing me to sit wherever I wanted and read peacefully. Especially when I could carry a dozen or more books with me everywhere I went (or a lot more if I really wanted to), without giving myself back ache from the weight of carrying heavy paper books.

What a difference a decade makes!

This year, I have listened to my first audio book and have read at least two ebooks. I look forward to reading more. I already have them queued up in my iPod Touch. I carry an assortment of books with me every day – fiction and non-fiction – because who knows what I’ll want to read at lunchtime or on the way home?! And with modern technology, it doesn’t matter because I have my pick.

I thought choosing ebooks would be more difficult than printed books. Riskier. But I find the cover still catches my attention first and if the blurb is any good then I’ll proceed to view the first page of the ebook and see if I like the author’s style of writing before I decide whether or not I’ll part with my hard earned cash. This method always worked with printed books and, so far, it’s done me well with ebooks too.

If the last decade has given us such changes, I wonder what the next decade will bring. I can’t even begin to imagine.

Baen Free Library

As I’ve recently started reading ebooks, it was a great joy to discover that some main stream publishers are offering old publication as free ebook downloads.

Yes, the books are old, but it’s a brilliant way to try new authors before purchasing a more recent publication by them.  I know that some of these older publications are some of the author’s earliest works and may be considered their “not so good” works too, and I’ll keep that in mind, but I’ve read superb debut novels and believe I’ll get a good “taste” of whether or not I like the author’s style.

Anyway, I found a list of free ebook downloads at Baen Free Library.  I’ve downloaded a couple of the books and intend to add them to my iPod Touch and give these previously unread authors a chance to win me over.

If you know of other lists such as this, please do share the link with me.

Kindle, Sony and the iPhone

What started out as simple observations about forms of reading, ended up turning into a major research project for me over the last few days. I’ve been all over the internet during this time, starting with Alan’s post called eBooks are the Future and from there going to countless other websites. It was informative and interesting to see what other people think.

It seems that more and more people are thinking along the same lines as me…that ebooks will be the way of the future. However, it is also evident that it will be a while before they “take over the world”. From what I can fathom, this is mainly due to two reasons:

1. Format. Until a worldwide standard format can be decided on, there will be on going problems due to the fact that readers (the device, not the person) will be limited to the formats it is compatible with. This limits the person using the device to what they can read and also what price they have to pay to buy the ebooks they select, as they won’t be free to shop around. Whilst this is an issue, paper books will remain popular.

2. Price of readers. They are expensive! When the cost of these devices come done then I believe ebook sales will climb through the roof. But…technology is the only area I know of that prices DO come down over time, which means if we wait long enough ebook readers will be as common as the mobile phone.

During my research three names cropped up continually: Kindle, Sony and iPhone. Each time a new name came up I got excited and my research turned in another direction, with the hope of cheaper devices…that didn’t happen.

Kindle is about $US299 and is associated with Amazon, and for that reason alone I felt an invisible barrier come up as I am reluctant to head in a direction that I know will be very limiting for me. Amazon, in my opinion, are trying to grab this corner of the market by offering their own reading device. I understand that the device reads pdf and doc formats as well as its own format, but I also understand that Amazon are charging at least $US9.99 for an ebook, with some as high as $US16, which I believe is too expensive. Why spend that money on something digital, when you could buy a paper book instead. It makes no sense to me. Besides that, I wonder how much the author gets of the cost? Half? Less than half? A couple of dollars? If asked, I’m sure Amazon would say that the publisher and/or author sets the price, not them, but I know that Amazon would set the rules and their charges which force the prices up, up, up. OK, they are in it to make money, that’s the way of the world, but the whole thing smells of greed to me and I’ll be staying away from that option.

Sony is another option and it sells for about the same price as the Kindle. From what I can see the Sony is compatible with more formats, which makes it a better option for me because I could purchase ebooks from all over the internet. In other words, I can shop around and get the best deals and not be limited to just one outlet. But, the cost of the device is high and I have a little voice in my head saying to wait until the kinks have been ironed out and the price drops dramatically.

Then there’s the iPhone, which could be a good alternative for some people. Especially if they install the Stanza application, which is a free (open source) ebook reader. The fact that I saw the words “open source” made me feel comfortable with this option straight away as I’ve been a Linux user and understand how software of this type works. To me, it means improvements are always happening and the latest software is always available. It also means that as many formats as possible will be compatible through this software, which is a good thing. And, as an added bonus, I could listen to audio books as well. Now that sounds perfect! But…I don’t have an iPhone and if I want one I would have to go onto a plan to get one, which I will not do. Currently I am prepaid on my mobile and I spend about $30 to $60 a year (I rarely use the thing, as you may have gathered). A plan would be that amount each month! Or, I can buy one outright, but the cost is around $AU800 to $AU1,000 which means this option is definitely out of the question for me.

At the end of all this, I’m still no better off. I still think printed books are the better way to go. And I will continue to check out what’s available in the future for when a company finally realises that they could conquer the market by not being greedy and offering the consumer something that is inexpensive and full of format compatibilities.

I will wait for that day!

Forms of Reading and the Future

The publishing world is changing and I think it’s important for readers to keep up with technology and know the options available to them. Each form of “reading” has its pros and cons and in this post, I’m going to discuss my thoughts on them.

The Printed Book

For me, nothing beats the traditional printed book. It’s a solid object that I can hold in my hands. I can admire the cover, the new smell of its pages and I can sit comfortably anywhere I like and read to my heart’s content. I can use my favourite bookmark when I must put the book aside. And, when discussing the book with others (whilst reading or afterwards), I can flash the book in front of their eyes or lend it to them. It’s the form of reading that I prefer, because … well, I suppose it’s because it is the way I’ve always done my reading and I’m not really a person who embraces change.

However, the printed book does have its disadvantages. Some books are quite thick and heavy, so when you want to read whilst travelling, such as on a train, carrying a bulky book can be a bit of a nuisance (even if you do wear a back pack). And, what about when you are nearing the end of the book? What happens then? Who wants to carry two heavy books to and from work on the train, just in case the first book is finished and a new book is required? Not me, so I end up with nothing to read and the journey instantly feels a lot longer.

Finally, the price of printed books are going up, up, up. It’s actually becoming an issue for me to buy books new, as I simply cannot afford them any more. Therefore, I must rely on the library (and my local library is stuck in the dark ages so my chances of getting a new release is zilch) or second hand book shops (again, I have to wait a very long time to get anything new).

The Audio Book

The audio book is only a new experience for me, having only listened to one book … ever! But that one book left me with a knowledge that reading can be enjoyed without a physical book to look at.

In fact, I quite enjoyed listening to a book whilst leaning back in the seat with my eyes shut (resting them for a change) or whilst I quietly minded my own business and knitted. At the end of the book, I felt as if I had accomplished a lot, which was a good feeling.

Also, the mp3 player that I used is quite small and very light, so I hardly knew I was carrying a book. I only had the one book on the player, but I could have had several books, which would be handy upon reaching the end. It felt wonderful not to feel like a pack horse for those few days. Although, I did tend to load myself up with other things because I had extra room. 🙂

However, not being used to it, my ears suffered from the earphones. I’m not one for plugging music directly into my head, so my poor, tender ears felt the pain as they grew accustomed to foreign objects being in them. I also found myself wondering if the constant use of earphones (which I would have to use because I’m listening to the book in a public place) would cause permanent damage (much like constant computer use weakens the eyes).

The biggest disadvantage, I found, was that the mp3 player didn’t hold power for long. This might have been due to the fact that the player was an inexpensive one, but it runs off a single AAA battery with a life of about four to six hours. Remembering to charge it each evening was an issue, but I guess it would be something I’d soon get used to.

As for cost, the book I listened too came from the library, but from what I’ve seen, audio books are around the same price as printed books…and some were a lot dearer! I can understand the reason for this as a lot goes into them, but when finances are tight, this can be a big issue and I’ve rarely seen audio books in second hand shops. Having said this, there are audio books that can be freely downloaded if you know where to look…and by “freely” I am not talking about obtaining illegal versions.

The eBook

This is something I have never tried. I’ve always felt it was an option I wouldn’t entertain, until recently. Now, I find my thoughts wondering if this could truly be an option for me. I guess I’ll never know until I’ve tried it, but the readers are so expensive! What if I paid the money and discovered I hated it? It’s a shame I couldn’t borrow one for a trial period and see how I go with it first.

Ebooks are the way of the future. I realise that. It’s inevitable that “saving the planet” will force the issue and I’ve witnessed the change towards this option over recent years. I feel that when the readers are perfected (and cheaper) then there will be a sudden surge in ebook sales because out of all the options available to readers, ebooks are the cheapest. And so they should be! What’s more, most (if not all) of the proceeds from sales go directly to the author (which I think is how it should be too).

I’ve been doing some research on the readers and they do look interesting. However, our “in shop” experience is that we have been unable to find anywhere locally that sell them. That may have changed in recent months, but when G was thinking of getting himself one last year it was like we were asking for a piece of Mars or something. All we got were blank stares. We might give this another try soon to see how things have changed.

With an ebook reader, I could have several dozen (or ever several hundred) books with me at any given time. My research tells me that once charged, the power source will last approximately two weeks (or about 3,000 page turns). The reader is light and compact, which would suit my travelling needs too. The cost of books are much more within my reach too; and I wouldn’t be buying second hand which would mean the author would get their royalty.

The only disadvantage, that I can think of right now, is that I wouldn’t have a bookshelf filled with wonderful smelling books that would inspire me to read…and write. But, then again, I’d then have more space in the room to fill with something else instead, so it’s not all bad.

In Conclusion

I still love the old-fashioned book and I believe I will continue to favour this form of reading for some time to come, but I realise that the world is changing and at some point those books will become rare, collectible items (possibly even worth a bit of money, but I doubt that will be in my lifetime).

With my current situation, I believe the ebook would be the most financially friendly option for me, giving me lots to read at a reasonable price. It’s only the reader itself that would be a bit of a burden to me. I like the compact unit, but I’m not sure how I’d go reading a book on a small screen.

Even though I think audio books are expensive, I truly like the idea of reading and knitting at the same time. It’s one way of getting more out of my day.

In short, all forms of reading should have their place in all our lives. Why should we restrict ourselves to one or the other? If it wasn’t for the cost, I’d be happy to do all three…I think.

What do you think?

Ebooks, POD and Vanity Printing

To put it simply…for me, to be e-published or to have a book self-published is the same as not being published at all. Why? Because anyone can produce an e-book, anyone can go down the POD or vanity press road. Anyone!

I’m not saying that producing these types of books is a bad thing. Some people have gone down this road and have been successful. That’s great and good luck to them, but please remember that a large portion of self-publishered writers are not successful. Some people have manuscripts that only fit the guidelines of a very small percentage of publishers and they have no other choice open to them. And other people have collections of short stories or poetry that are also hard to get published the conventional way. My words are not aimed at these people, and I wish you all the luck in the world.

My statement is aimed at full length novels. Anyone can pay to have a book published, which means that there are many self published books out there that are sub-standard. It’s because of this that self-publishing has a bad name and the authors of these books are not taken seriously.

Many will argue that there is a lot of trash in tradional books too, and this is true. However, as a writer, we all have to make our own decision on what publication means to us. For me, being published the traditional way is the only way I’m prepared to go. It’s the only way that I’ll think of myself as an author.

Writer’s self-publish, authors publish.