Tag Archives: tech

Bring on the Digital Galleys

If you’re not subscribed to the PW Daily email (and why aren’t you? It’s free and you can sign up right here), you may have missed this announcement:

Beginning September 15, Publishers Weekly‘s romance and science fiction/fantasy/horror reviews sections will accept digital galleys for review consideration. This includes galleys for digital-first publications in those genres.

We especially encourage small and independent presses to make use of the new system, which we hope will make it easier to send us galleys three to four months ahead of publication. Uploading digital galleys is also an eco-friendly alternative to packaging and shipping physical galleys.

All of PW’s current submission guidelines apply to digital galleys. We accept .epub, .mobi, .rtf, and .pdf formats. Please only submit each book once; there is no need to submit both physical and digital galleys of the same title.

Publishers may access the upload system at http://www.publishersweekly.com/egalleys. Please send error reports, questions, and feedback to service@publishersweekly.com.

I am pleased as punch to be spearheading this effort, and grateful to my reviewers who are willing to make the digital plunge. Please spread the word to all the SF/fantasy/horror and romance publishers and publicists you know.

Routing Around Apple’s In-App Book-Buying Ban

I read Dear Author for both tech and romance, and a particularly excellent tech article went up there yesterday after Apple’s rule against in-app catalogs and buying links went into effect.

As of today, all of the book apps that work on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iTouch = iThings)  have been stripped of the their in app catalogs and buy links.  The apps are not to mention why the catalogs or buy links have been removed and the apps cannot mention how to create an account or buy books even the app does not give a direct link.

So how the heck do you get books onto the app itself?  This procedure is called sideloading and it’s fairly easy.

“Easy” may be a relative term on a bleary-eyed Monday, but Jane really does make it as easy as possible, with tons of images to illustrate the clear and detailed instructions. If you have an iOS device and have been wondering how to buy, store, and read books on it now that you can’t make purchases from within apps, take a look.

Going Digital: A Personal Journey (part 2 of 2)

If you haven’t already, you might want to read part 1. That covers the physical and practical aspects of becoming a devoted e-book reader after 30 years of reading paper books. Now I’m going to get more into the philosophical side.

In four days of reading e-books, my sense of what a book is has changed. Suddenly even small paperbacks that I would have happily shoved in my coat pocket a week ago seem so heavy. The trade paperback of The Name of the Wind that I borrowed from a friend is unthinkably enormous. (I’ll probably return it to her and borrow a digital version from the library.) I’ve heard endlessly about this sort of change in thinking on a societal scale, of course, but it’s different to experience it personally.

I really get the evangelism now. It’s the library-in-my-pocket thing for me, more than anything else. I don’t remember feeling this way about portable digital music, because it didn’t change my listening habits; I’ve never had a big iPod, only a little 2GB Shuffle on which I generally listen to one album or playlist at a time, same as I did on my Walkman and my Discman and my Minidisc player (remember those?). I’ve never minded waiting until I got home to put a new album on my Shuffle if I was tired of the one I had going. Now I use my phone the same way, fine, whatever, no big deal. But e-books are changing the way I read. Over the weekend I interrupted my reading of Loss of Separation, a pretty grim horror novel, to read a fluffy Regency romance. I’ve never been a book dabbler before. Putting a book on hold so I could read another book is shocking and strange, because with paper books it’s much, much harder to do. I might lose my place in the first book, or even lose the book! No worries about that now with automatic last-page-read bookmarking and good file management. As with libraries, the impractical has become practical. Technology is wonderful.

It’s awe-inspiring to hold this little chunk of metal and plastic and think, Right now I could be reading a horror novel or a romance novel or a fantasy collection or a science fiction anthology, or if I don’t like those I can download a million million others. Whatever literary itch I have right now I could scratch, right now. I can’t even imagine how it feels for people who buy books, who can pick and choose among all the books available for sale. For the moment, to save my budget, I’m limiting myself to what I can get legally for free. Do you know what’s out there legally for free? More books than I could read in my lifetime.

Do I still love paper books? Of course I do. Do I still love sitting in my living room, as I am right now, and being surrounded by my fabulous personal library? Of course I do. Do I want that personal library condensed down impossibly small and in my pocket for me to access whenever I want, with full-text search and easy one-handed reading? Of course I do.

However. (There’s always a however.)

Do I want my friends to be able to visit that virtual library the way they can visit my living room now, to browse and borrow and exclaim over shared old favorites? Of course I do. Any library needs a door so people can take books out and (hopefully) bring them back, and right now DRM’d e-books only have windows through which we can see but not touch.

While I posited a publisher swap-paper-books-for-e-books program on Twitter yesterday, I doubt many people would actually participate in something like that. Ownership is still valuable in this era of content licenses. So is the trust that lets you watch calmly as someone takes your book and walks out the door. I trust my friends that much. Libraries trust their users that much. Publishers don’t seem to trust readers that much, and no one wants to do business with someone who doesn’t trust them. As Ta-Nehisi Coates recently wrote about getting to know people online:

You can accomplish quite a bit over the net. The only real barrier is faith. As long as you’re clear that the parties will be honest, speak in good faith, and avoid a debate team approach, you can get a lot done.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so hard on people, here. Bad faith–intentional or not–rots the foundation of communication. If you can’t trust that I’m sincerely agreeing, or disagreeing, with you, how can we speak with any sort of depth?

Faith is indispensable.

I want to see that kind of faith and sincerity in the e-book conversation. Right now it’s still all about theft. We simply have to get past that somehow, because lack of trust leads to digital security theater, and it is impractical and wasteful and offensive and foolish.

As an example, consider the number of hoops I had to jump through to read DRM-protected NetGalley e-galleys on my phone. First, to even access the pages where I could download those files, the publisher had to personally approve me. Then they had to send me the link to the galley page (though I could have found it by searching NetGalley). Then I had to download the galley to my laptop and open it with Adobe’s software, which I’d already installed and authorized. Then I had to install Aldiko, the one and only Adobe DRM-compatible Android app, on my phone and authorize it. Finally I was able to connect the phone to the computer and copy the files over. The only thing I don’t have to worry about is deleting them, because they’ll expire the day the book comes out. The whole experience felt as though a disapproving butler allowed me to enter a mansion, followed me around to make sure I wasn’t stealing the silver, and searched my bag when I left. This is not a good frame of mind in which to write a review.

I’ll keep jumping through those hoops and setting aside my personal frustrations with them, because I have a professional obligation to consider as broad a range of books as possible, even the ones that are awkward or annoying to read (like the giant bound manuscripts that hit my desk occasionally). But why would your average book blogger put time and effort into helping to promote books from a publisher that treats reviewers and readers like thieves? It’s so obviously counterproductive as soon as you take human feelings into account.

Most readers just want to read and talk about books, not profit off of them or rip off publishers and authors. Most readers think publishers and authors are awesome. Or at least, most readers think authors are awesome. I don’t think most e-book readers think very highly of publishers anymore, and that’s tremendously sad, because of course all the people who work in publishing started out as passionate readers. If publishers alienate potential future publishers, then the prediction of the industry’s death is self-fulfilling.

It seems entirely unconscionable to let that happen. As much as things are changing, I absolutely believe that traditional publishers have a place in the digital world. As much as writers struggle to earn money, I absolutely believe that traditional publishers can support writing careers. But they’re not going to get there by driving their customers away. In addition, within the community of readers and authors, lack of trust is causing tremendous distress and divisiveness.

Now that I’ve become a devoted e-book reader–which in the end really was as simple as finding the right reading device for me–I will be doing a lot more thinking about how publishers can ethically, respectfully make money off of people like me. I joked to friends the other day that I was about to start the Please Raise My Taxes Party, because I’m so tired of the notion that having a few extra pennies in my pocket is preferable to libraries staying open. Maybe first I should start the Please Charge a Few Cents More So You Can Pay Authors Well and Absorb Losses from Going DRM-Free Party first. The principle is the same.

Going Digital: A Personal Journey (part 1 of 2)

What follows is the story of my first happy experiences with e-books, and my thoughts pertaining thereto. I will endeavor to discuss this experience in a way that might not be entirely novel but will be at least moderately interesting.

Last Wednesday, I bowed to the inevitable and traded my beloved old Nokia in for my very first smartphone, an LG Optimus T running Android. I did all the usual new-phone things, downloading games and getting used to the Swype text entry interface and importing the ringtones I’d made out of NES game theme music. (You knew I was a nerd, right?) Soon I felt pretty comfortable with it.

The next day, I opened my work email and found a message from a Solaris editor offering me a digital galley of Conrad Williams’s forthcoming Loss of Separation. I’m a big, big Conrad Williams fan. It would take weeks for a paper galley to arrive from the U.K. I could have an e-galley on my phone, right now. I wrote back and said, Sure, send it over, I’ve never been able to make this e-book thing work for me but I have a new phone and maybe it will be the e-reader of my dreams.

In the four days since then, I have read about 75% of Loss of Separation on my phone, using the excellent FBReaderJ app. I’ve also downloaded a bunch of e-galleys from NetGalley and figured out how to make Aldiko speak with Adobe DRM so I could read them on my phone. I started one of those galleys, didn’t like it, deleted it, and started and finished another. Almost all of this has taken place on the subway, which is where I generally do most of my reading, so in that sense nothing has changed. But in other ways, much about the way I see books has changed.

For example, I want to reread the Song of Ice and Fire books before the fifth one comes out (I believe! I believe!). I own paper copies. Why can’t I just rip them to digital the way I can with my CDs? That’s annoying. But! It turns out I can borrow digital copies of all four books from the NYPL. So I just have to dig up and renew my dusty library card and then I’m all set. This is astonishing. Reading e-books may turn me into a library user again for the first time in years and years. Going to the physical library? Inconvenient and time-consuming, and there’s no guarantee that the particular branch I go to will have what I want. Downloading books from the NYPL site? Quick, easy, awesome. Libraries are suddenly relevant to my life again.

(If I were in the mood to make political statements, I might make one here about the folly of expiring library e-books and how important it is that libraries be able to use digital books to keep bringing readers in. I would certainly note that digital books have not for a moment made libraries obsolete, and fie on anyone who says as much.)

Best of all, it’s physically easier for me to read e-books than paper books. All the other e-readers I’ve tried have been too big for me to hold in one hand, but the phone fits perfectly in my left hand and I can use my left thumb or fingers to flip through the “pages”. My tendinitis-plagued right arm can rest. This is a huge, huge deal for me, and all by itself is probably enough to make digital books my default format from now on.

That’s the practical side, and so far, it’s fabulous. But there’s a lot more to digital reading than just the practicalities, and this post is long already, so I’ll leave the philosophical side for part 2.

Flying Cars, Hoverboards, and Food Pills of the Future

Rose’s upcoming project, The Wonderful Future that Never Was has me thinking about how often I see people remarking that “we live in the future”.  We have pocket computers that have more processing power than large desktops did 10 years ago.  Electronic editions of books might eventually become more popular than print editions.   Spaceflight is unremarkable and GPS units are commonplace.

For many of us, this is what living in the future looks like.  Authors like Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke took pokes at predicting the future in their fiction.  Although Clarke was arguably a better prognosticator, they both made a conscious effort.

Where are the authors today who’re predicting our future?  Charlie Stross looks like a strong contender.  His book, Halting State, talks about Massively Multi-player Online Role-playing Games  (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft, where there are actual virtual economies, and drawing a speculative line from EVE Online’s virtual banking scandal, Stross used a bank heist in an online bank as a plot device.  William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are also near future novels, and both take plausible technology that does not currently exist in large scale, and use it as a plot device by expanding its scope.

But what, readers, do you think someone born today would be talking about when they say, like I sometimes do, “I am living in the future”?  Who are authors that should be followed for more predictions?