The Pew Internet and American Life project has released a new report on reading, called E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. It surveys American book-reading habits, looking at both print books and electronic books, as well as audiobooks. They report that ebook readership is increasing, and also produced a "snapshot" (above) showing readership breakdown by gender, race, and age. They show strong reading affinity among visible minorities and women, and a strong correlation between high incomes and readership. The most interesting number for me is that 76 percent of Americans read at least one book last year, which is much higher than I'd have guessed.
For ten years, I've been singing the praises of Out on Blue Six, Ian McDonald's 1989 science fiction novel that defies description and beggars the imagination. It's been out of print for decades, but it's back in ebook form, and I was honored to be asked by McDonald to write the introduction for the new edition. Ian's given me permission to reproduce that intro in full -- as you'll read, this book is one of those once-in-a-generation, brain-melting flashes of brilliance that makes you fall in love with a writer's work forever.
Welcome, lucky reader, to a glad moment in literary history: the republication of Ian McDonald's magnificent 1989 novel "Out on Blue Six," a book I've read dozens of times, and by which I am still awed and delighted.Read the rest
Rachel Willmer, who runs the excellent ebook price-comparison site Luzme, summarizes the price-preference data she's captured from her customers. By measuring the point at which readers are willing to buy ebooks (whose prices are variable) and the volumes generated at each price-point, her findings suggest the optimal price for ebooks in different territories. This is important work: because ebooks have almost no marginal cost (that is, all their costs are fixed through production, so each copy sold adds almost nothing to the publisher's cost), there's lots more flexibility pricing strategies. If you make more by pricing your book at $0.01 than you do at $10, the right thing to do is price it at a penny and rake it in -- a rational business wants to maximize its profits, not the amount that each customer spends (I wrote about this at length in 2010).
I've been posting here about The Borribles for more than a decade (proof!). Michael de Larrabeiti's young adult fantasy trilogy from the 1980s remains among my most favourite examples of both YA literature and literature about London. The books detail the lives of the Borribles, a race of elfin, pointy-eared changelings, whose number swells every time a naughty child simply walks away from home and begins a new life as an immortal, pointy-eared trickster. The Borribles live by a strict code: they never work, only thieve; they do not handle or covet money; they squat in derelict buildings, and they must earn their names by completing a daring adventure, such as taking up arms against the hateful Rumbles, a race of covetous, materialistic overgrown rodents who inhabit an underground world called Rumbledom.
Today, Tor UK is relaunching The Borribles for a new generation as three ebooks with lots of extra art and other supplementary material. They're also still publishing the UK omnibus edition a (the great Tor Teen US paperbacks are sadly out of print, though easy enough to get used). Only the ebook comes with China Mieville's wonderful introduction. Read the rest
Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson converted my story When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth (from the collection Overclocked) into .mobi and .epub for easy viewing on an e-reader or mobile device. I probably get more fan mail for Sysadmins than for any other story, and it won the Locus Award the year it came out (it was later adapted to comics by JC Vaughn for the IDW book Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now). Give it a read! Read the rest
Every new Cecil Castellucci book is cause for celebration around here, and her latest, Tin Star -- the first volume in a new young adult science fiction series -- is no exception. Castellucci's got a gift for characters and dialog (this being part of her success in her extensive work in comics) and a stellar imagination. The story -- researched in part through workshops with NASA for science fiction writers -- is a tale of romance, escape and adventure on a remote space station where the charismatic leader of a colony ship is revealed for a monster.
The first five chapters of Tin Star are a free download (other formats here), so you can make up your own mind. But I know that my copy of Tin Star's going straight into my Christmas holiday reading pile. Read the rest
Desirina Boskovich writes, "It Came From the North, my brand new e-anthology of Finnish speculative fiction, is now available from Cheeky Frawg Books. Cheeky Frawg, a small press run by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, is carving out a big name for itself as a quality purveyor of weird fiction and speculative literature in translation, with recent titles including the widely-praised Jagganath by Karin Tidbeck and very well-received Datura by Leena Krohn." Read the rest
Rudy Rucker sends us, "My new novel, THE BIG AHA, with an accompanying volume of NOTES FOR THE BIG AHA. Browsable as a free webpage, and available as commercial ebook and paperback. With fourteen chapter illustrations. The plot? Biotech has replaced machines. Qrude young artist Zad Plant works with living paint. But Zad's career is on the skids. Enter qwet---or quantum wetware. Qwet makes you high---and it gives you telepathy. A new psychedelic revolution kicks in. But hungry mouths begin popping out of the air and eating people. Zad and his partner Jane travel through a wormhole to confront the aliens. And they meet something stranger than ever imagined. What is the Big Aha? My wildest adventure yet." Read the rest
Hugh Spencer sez, "The stories they didn't want back in print are still not in print -- but you can read them anyway! My tales of living software, psychological censorship, trans-human dating and childcare responsibilities are available via download in The Collected Progressive Apparatus." Read the rest
There's a whole bunch of things you're allowed to do with books that you own: sell them, give them away, lend them out -- stuff you can't do with your ebooks, by and large. Why not? Because ebook sellers characterize the transaction that you undertake when you plunk down your money as a "license" and not as a sale. You don't buy an ebook, you license it -- hence all the fine-print "license agreement" you click through at regular intervals in the course of paying for and reading books.
But everyone knows that's a shuck. Buying books is what we do. Owning books is what we do. To get a sense of how ingrained the idea of buying and owning ebooks is, have a look at this screenshot from Amazon, shown after a "license" to a book: "Now that you own your Kindle book..." it begins. If you own it, rather than a limited license to it, then you should get the full suite of ownership rights. Let's label this one "Exhibit A." Read the rest
Like most DRM vendors -- Apple and Google, for example -- Amazon spends a lot of time implying and flat-out stating that it only uses DRM because the big dumb media companies require it of them. The reality is that DRM's primary beneficiary is the DRM vendor. Once your book is sold with Amazon's DRM on it, only Amazon can give your readers permission to move them out of the Kindle jail and onto another device of your choosing. Of course Amazon wants to force copyright holders and creators to use its DRM -- it's a one-stop way of converting the writer's customer into Amazon's customer. Forever.
Remember: Any time someone puts a lock on something of yours and won't give you the key, that lock is not there for your benefit. Read the rest
Jason sez, "The first issue of my new literary journal, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, was just recently released by Singapore-based publisher Math Paper Press. The issue's contributors are Paolo Bacigalupi, Kate Osias, Zen Cho, Paolo Chikiamco, Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, Elka Ray Nguyen and Bryan Thao Worra, all of whom present speculative writing from and about the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam. The print issue can be ordered online through the BooksActually Web Store, and an ebook version will be available in the coming months. A 25% sample can be read for free at Issuu."
Here's an HTML-ified version of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, volume one, courtesy of the good folks at CalTech. We discussed these lectures when I reviewed Feynman, a biography in graphic novel form; they're justly considered to be one of the great works of physics instruction. Read the rest
Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at Vienna University of Technology, built a Lego Mindstorms robot that presses "next page" on his Kindle repeatedly while it faces his laptop's webcam. The cam snaps a picture of each screen and saves it to a folder that is automatically processed through an online optical character recognition program. The result is an automated means of redigitizing DRM-crippled ebooks in a clear digital format. It's clunky compared to simply removing the DRM using common software, but unlike those DRM-circumvention tools, this setup does not violate the law. Read the rest