Writing on the Ether


By

C’mon baby, light my Kindle Fire. And watch out for sparks from certain NOOKs in crannied marketplaces. Beware bald guys bearing 3Gifts. Silk, Bezosense, and smell that? It’s the lighter fluid of Android aspirationals yearning to be treed like iPads for Christmas. It’s beginning to look a lot like Amazon.

 

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“One after another, like moths to a flame, technology companies have been seduced into entering the market for tablets…A competition between Amazon and Apple tablets will be a battle that pits the company that created the first popular e-reader (and set off a still-unfolding revolution in how books are consumed) against the company that created the first popular tablet (and set off a revolution in progress about how entertainment and other media are consumed).”

—David Streitfield of the New York Times via CNBC eyeballs:
Amazon’s High Hopes for Its iPad Competitor

 

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“Bezos made the following claim: “From Kindle, Fire is born.” At the risk of extending this analogy too far, Bezos is now frantically fanning a brush-fire that looks like it might burn up its competitors and put publishers at risk of third-degree burns.”

—Philip Jones sees smoke in Three new Kindles and a Kindle Fire

 

“B&N is going to be feeling the heat as these are compelling e-ink reader prices (per Mashable their stock dropped 9% after Amazon’s announcement), Apple is going to be feeling some pressure as there is finally a viable device that undercuts the iPad on price, and having now crossed that magical sub-$100 price point, methinks this is going to be a huge holiday season for e-readers.”

Nathan Bransford in Amazon Kindles an Ebook Fire

Photo from engadget's coverage of Amazon's newser.

 

“10:53AM So, it’s Fire for $199, Touch 3G for $149, Touch for $99, and Kindle for $79.”

Tim Stevens of engadget blogging
Live from Amazon’s tablet event

“Clearly, Amazon’s just-announced Kindle Fire isn’t designed to compete head-to-head with the iPad 2 on specs alone, but that doesn’t mean consumers won’t be cross-shopping the two this holiday season.”

Chris Ziegler‘s Amazon Kindle Fire vs. iPad vs. Nook Color: by the numbers

 

“Amazon Silk acts as an intermediary between your mobile device (the Kindle Fire) and the Internet at large. As you make a request—go to TheAwl.com—Silk jumps in and distributes the workload of finding, downloading, and presenting that information on the device.”

Alexis Madrigal asks Will Amazon Silk Actually Be Better Than Other Web Browsers?

 

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After Fire comes the iceberg

“A year ago, Robert Gottleib of Trident Media announced that agents shouldn’t become publishers.  This week he announced that Trident Media was opening Trident E-Book operations. Which will help Trident’s authors self-publish. … I suggested the radical concept, a while back, of publishers granting the authors the rights to backlist in return for reverse royalties of 25%. What this means is the author gets to do what they want with the titles, but on what they earn, they pay the publisher a royalty of 25% for that.”

Bob Mayer is the one in the life preserver as
The Perfect Storm is Looming in Publishing

 

“Today I will add another urgent suggestion to general trade publishers: reconsider your commitments to publish illustrated books in any time frame more extended than a year or two and think about sticking to straight text, unless you have paths to the customers for those books that do not go through bookstores. If we do end up in an 80% ebook world anytime soon, and we very well might, you’ll want to own the content you know works (for the consumer) in that format, not what you don’t know works any way other than in print.”

Mike Shatzkin, our weekly Ether Elder, takes stock at
Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know

 

Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader organized a Publishers Launch one-day conference in New York this week, Ebooks for Everyone Else. Its hashtag was #plcny and its Twitterati were busy.

 

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“According to the Association of American Publishers, total gross sales for all books in 2010, as reported by 87 publishers, were about $15.6 billion, an increase of around 2.7 percent over 2009. CD audiobooks represented $189.7 million of that total, a drop of 11 percent. But the increase in download sales to $81.9 million was a boost of 38.8 percent, reflecting the shift toward digital audio, a trend that from all accounts has continued in 2011.”

—Peter Osnos is listening for The Coming Audiobooks Boom

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“So how many bestsellers have been rejected by reputable agents? Probably something like, all of them. How many agents have rejected books that went on to become bestsellers? Probably a quite a few. Do we ever kick ourselves over it? Maybe sometimes, but mostly we just keep moving.”

Rachelle Gardner on the move in Missing Out on a Bestseller

 

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“My bias toward late starters—people who have lived a whole life, or two, or three before seriously devoting themselves to write a book—relates to the collision of life and art; I’m interested in writers who perhaps had the inkling, or the deep desire, to write, to pursue a creative life, for a long time, but for myriad reasons were impeded—internally, externally, a combination of the two. ”

—Sonya Chung announces a new feature at The Millions on
Post-40 Bloomers: “Late” According to Whom?

 

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“The biggest problem, according to librarian Buffy Hamilton, author of the Unquiet Librarian blog, is DRM. Digital Rights Management is what restricts content from being shared across devices. It means that e-books from Amazon can’t be read on Nooks, and e-books from Barnes & Noble won’t work on Kindles. It means, oftentimes, that kids can’t bring their own devices from home to use for library check-outs.”

Audrey Watters watches as School Libraries Struggle With Ebook Loans

 

Howling for how-to’s

“There were hidden dangers that made no sense, like the producer who wanted to see “more stuff” in the script but couldn’t define what that meant. Occasionally things got really murky, like when one producer told me one thing and his partner then completely contradicted him. No one saw that as a problem.

Martha Carr in a cameo role in The Legend of the Movie Option

 

” I often see the most weakness in authors’ key selling points; some people have a hard time getting past “Buy my book!” You’ll have to be more imaginative than that to catch a stranger’s attention!”

Jane Friedman at Writer Unboxed goes down A Checklist for Marketing Your E-Book

 

“Like Victoria with her cherished but too-detailed lady, I examine whether the ruffles are telling details or discardable darlings. Whether the sensually rippled leather gloves are too distracting. And what I need to make each adapted part fit seamlessly together. If you do this stage of the editing right, every letter of your prose works as hard as it can.”

Roz Morris riffs on Victoria Mixon’s design parable in
The power of suggestion—what can you leave the reader to fill in?

 

Social Media City

“At its core, social media is really the art of the tease.  It’s all about clever headlines and good timing. Sure, you could walk out on stage shouting into a megaphone about how great you are. But if you take off a single glove in just the right way, you might find a lot more people sticking around for the rest of the show. ”

Iris Blasi in Social Media: The Art of the Nudge
(Blasi’s full article will be available soon; we’ll nudge you when it has a home)

 

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“When a website has a midlife crisis, it doesn’t buy a Porsche. It tries to become TV … There’s a point where a site steps away from writing to such an extent that they leave that space entirely vacant—waiting for another site to occupy it. The Awl follows Gawker, perhaps, or G+ follows Facebook? Not sure those are the right analogies, but I do know that when sites cross over into that place where writing is instrumental and incidental, I stay behind and probably always will.”

Jim Hanas tunes in to The Gawkerization of Facebook

 

“If Twitter hopes to grow at the pace of Facebook, it will have to figure out how to stop thinking in @ symbols, and start thinking like my sister.”

Nick Bilton assesses Why Facebook Works for All, Twitter for Some

 

“The Internet is changing the economics of attention by fostering peer-to-peer interactions. People used to pay attention to those around them and to ‘stars.’ Now, they spend lots of time online paying attention to people they haven’t met. And, increasingly, individuals go online to get attention, not to give it.”

Esther Dyson writes that online, Attention Must Be Paid

 

“Our computers drive your car better than you do when you’re drunk,” Mr. Schmidt said.

“Or when you’re 16 or when you’re old,” Mr. Page said. “You’ll get a software update and your car will be safe, which is great.”

Claire Cain Miller at the Zeitgeist confab hears that Google’s Biggest Threat Is Google

 

T-shaped ad people in their  “circle of momentum”

“You have to live in beta, constantly evolving and staying flexible enough to solve whatever challenges are front and center. But beyond that you need new teams of T-shaped people: folks who have a deep expertise but can think and interact across disciplines. … To win takes talent. Talent only comes if there are opportunities for great work. Opportunities come from clients. Attracting them calls for visibility and evidence of what you can do. That only results from work itself. Which, of course, requires talent. This is the circle of momentum. It needs jolts of energy at all five key points.”

Edward Boches in Great questions for the advertising industry: Part 1, Part 2

 

Springtime for used car salesmen

“Only one-quarter of those surveyed say news orgs get the facts right, a new low since 1985 when the question was first asked. Two-thirds (66 percent) say stories are often inaccurate, a new high. And nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that journalists try to cover up their mistakes, rather than admit them.”

Julie Moos on the Pew Research Center’s finding that
75% of Americans say journalists can’t get their facts straight

 

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Both pluses and minuses are in the nature of things

“It’s possible to admire Mr. Greenblatt’s book while wishing it contained more of the boldness and weirdness he admires in Lucretius. Mr. Greenblatt’s prose, charted on a Geiger counter, would register mostly a state-of-the-art air-conditioner’s steady hum. I found myself longing for a few more unsettling spikes of intellect and feeling. You won’t be bored by ‘The Swerve'; neither will you be on the edge of your seat.”

Dwight Garner reviews Stephen Greenblatt’s “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” in:
An Unearthed Treasure That Changed Things

 

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Porter Anderson Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, and a senior producer and consultant formerly with the United Nations World Food Programme in Rome and INDEX: Design to Improve Life in Copenhagen. As a journalist, he has worked with media including CNN, the Village Voice, and the Dallas Times Herald. He’s based in Tampa.

  • Christian Franklin

    Nice post.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    Thanks for this post. This both confirms some suspicions I’ve had and introduces some new ideas to consider. 

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that after buying an e-reader, myself and others get addicted to buying cheap books. It’s almost a rush that is irresistible. I’m going to look into dropping some of my book prices around the holiday season in order to take advantage of the many people who will be receiving new Kindles and Nooks and will be wanting to fill them up.
    I also wanted to add a plug for the new e-ink Nook. The key thing to remember is that it doesn’t have ads, which I believe the $99 Kindle Touch has. Also, you can read any book you want in a Barnes and Noble store for an hour on your Nook. Since I want to read books that I can’t find in a store, this capability has been amazing. Hopefully they’ll ditch the DRM that prevents Kindle books from being read on a Nook, but until then, there are several hacks that make DRM removal possible for those interested in such things.

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  • J.P. Hansen

    Don’t you love montage? I love the way you put together this post. Says more than a typical one ever could.

  • http://twitter.com/annerallen Anne R. Allen

    Brilliant montage. This is becoming the must-read post of the week. Elegant overview of the publishing industry at this moment. Eat your heart out, Publisher’s Lunch!

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  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Thank you for reading, Christian, please come back each Thursday (and the rest of the week for Jane’s industry-standard-setting work). Your comments will always be welcome.

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Thanks for reading, Ed, and for these comments, several insightful points you make about the marketing efficacy of various e-reader approaches and ebook pricing. One of Michael Shatzkin’s most telling posts recently has been this one in which he demonstrated the major amount of confusion a reader-customer can encounter in all this: http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-ebook-marketplace-could-definitely-confuse-the-average-consumer 
    Bests for now, and hope you’ll drop by and comment often.  

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Thanks so much, I do indeed enjoy experimenting with the range of great storytelling tools we have these days. Many thanks for your kind words, so glad this worked for you. Do come back –

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Anne, you’re my most faithful commenter-reader, thanks so much for all your support. We’re five weeks into the Ether now and still breathing :) — glad to say that no one has been reported turning blue while reading the column yet. And I’m delighted you enjoyed my approach with “special tweetings” here, always fun to see what I can get up to, thanks to Jane’s generous willingness to let me risk walking into walls on her real estate. Thanks again and keep coming back as we evolve (and maybe regress at times, too). Cheers, -p.

  • J.P. Hansen

    Of course I’m coming back. You’re a cool writer.

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