A lot of book lovers have their go-to favorite sources of great reads. Whether you buy or borrow, have a fetish for small shops or rely on your book blogger status to keep your TBR pile full, there’s no limit to the many sources of great reads.
But here are two that all readers need to pursue (or renew, or fall in love with again, etc) in 2020.
First, Smashwords. It’s a fantastic site for affordably priced ebooks, but more importantly, they do great things for both their authors and their readers. If you’re not signed up to buy books there, you’re truly missing out. (Authors, if you’re not publishing there, you’re missing a huge opportunity… they are one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your books into libraries and to sell on Apple, among other great opportunities.)
Second, those aforementioned libraries. Far too many book fans don’t know how easy it is and how widely available borrowing ebooks from their local library can be. In many instances, local libraries–through their partnership with Overdrive–have great content that you can borrow, read, sample, and return from anywhere… no visit to the library required, no fines to deal with, no stack of books in your backseat that you meant to return!
Speaking of visits to the library, here’s a sneaky act of resistance that ALL book lovers should be engaging in on a regular basis: every time you borrow an ebook from a library, it counts as a “visit!” Whether you rely on your local public library or not, there are many people who desperately need the services they provide. By borrowing an ebook, YOU are increasing library patronage and helping your library demonstrate its relevance to the community! That’s important when it comes to setting budgets, buying more content, and more.
While you’re revamping your book reading strategy, go sign up for a book challenge. Goodreads hosts one every year, Twitter has a number of hashtags for reading challenges, and there are even genre and author-specific challenges to be found online, ie, reading x-number of books written by indie authors, by authors from marginalized demographics, and more.
Whatever you do and however you do it, just read.
It’s so tempting to dismiss a book with a self-righteous sneer and a couple of stars, but that’s not the job of a reviewer. When you take on the task of launching a book-centric blog and you agree to read books that others have recommended, you move on from just being a consumer who purchased and read a book, instead becoming someone who has to think of readers other than herself.
In this case, I would love to dismiss Musings of an Earth Angel as nothing more than a lot of New Age hokeydom with a pinch of Harry Potter or Mortal Instruments thrown in. But that wouldn’t be fair to the author, to the story, or to the process of book reviewing. So therefore, I’m able to acknowledge a few things about the book:
- No, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but the writing was solid and the storytelling was able to build in such a way that it held my interest.
- Yes, the topic of healing crystals and celestial visitors and empathic spiritual mentors makes me roll my eyes…but don’t other people do that to me when I bring up my religious faith? If the healing crystal and meditative mantra fit, honey, you own them…single-minded book reviewers be damned!
- There is action, self-reflection, and a definite path for the main character to take. If this type of fiction sounds interesting to you, I am certain you will enjoy the book.
First, for the uninitiated, I have to explain Jolabokaflod. It’s (supposedly) an Icelandic holiday tradition that translates into “holiday flood of books.” In Iceland, you unwrap a book and curl up to read and enjoy some chocolate on Christmas Eve. It sounds absolutely heavenly, and god help anyone who tells me it’s not a real thing because yes it is.
I know it’s a real thing because I’ve been celebrating for a few years. Early each December, I send out the call to my Facebook friends, inviting them to participate in a book swap. I got a book this year that I haven’t gotten to read yet (review coming, I swear), because I went to read it and instead decided to open this book. They were both gifted by the same extraordinary author, Delena Silverfox, whose book Duchess of War is so super cool that I hope you get it long before Jolabokaflod 2017.
Anyway, you’ve probably noticed that this review is a lot less professional-sounding than other reviews on this site, and I promise that’s on purpose. The Stupidest Angel is fun and shocking and a whirlwind of wtf moments, all centered around one little town’s Christmas festivities and the weird man who arrives looking for a child.
I can’t actually tell you much more than that because, honestly, where the heck would I begin? With one of the richest men in town hitting his ex-wife with a ten-pound bag of ice from the grocery store? With the ex-wife getting into a tussle with him later while he happens to be wearing a Santa suit, only to have the struggle turn physical and he ends up tripping and impaling himself on her shovel? Or maybe I could start with the poor little kid who happened to witness Santa’s profanity-laced rant and violence towards women, only to end up dead? Oh, don’t forget the horny newcomer in town who offers to help bury Santa so he and the unwitting would-be KringleKiller could hurry up and go grab a bite to eat?
See? Where do I even start, except by telling you to get your own copy today. It’s actually the perfect AFTER-Christmas read since it’s dark and hilarious, and since you missed Jolabokaflod by almost a week.
New data has come from one of the most comprehensive sources, Pew Research Center Internet Project. This most recent study took a hard look at how millennials experience books and the technology involved in reading in the 21st century.
According to a spokesperson for Pew Internet:
“The report covers a variety of survey findings that illustrate the ways in which the young are somewhat different from their elders. Here are some of the details we highlight:
Millennials’ lives are full of technology, but they are more likely than their elders to say that important information is not available on the internet. Some 98% of those under 30 use the internet, and 90% of those internet users say they using social networking sites. Over three-quarters (77%) of younger Americans have a smartphone, and many also have a tablet (38%) or e-reader (24%). Despite their embrace of technology, 62% of Americans under age 30 agree there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet,” compared with 53% of older Americans who believe that. At the same time, 79% of Millennials believe that people without internet access are at a real disadvantage.
Millennials are quite similar to their elders when it comes to the amount of book reading they do, but young adults are more likely to have read a book in the past 12 months. Overall, 88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those ages 30 and older. Young adults have caught up to those in their thirties and forties in e-reading, with 37% of adults ages 18-29 reporting that they have read an e-book in the past year.
As a group, Millennials are as likely as older adults to have used a library in the past 12 months, and more likely to have used a library website. Among those ages 16-29, 50% reported having used a library or bookmobile in the course of the past year in a September 2013 survey. Some 47% of those 30 and older had done so. Some 36% of younger Americans used a library website in that time frame, compared with 28% of those 30 and older.
As with the general population, most younger Americans know where their local library is, but many say they are unfamiliar with all the services it may offer.”
The full report can be found at http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/younger-americans-and-public-libraries/
It was hard not to put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence! (So I used one here.) Self-published authors have long been barred from the ease of use and abundance of readers associated with self-publishing, at least in an inexpensive way. Authors could create their books, but ebooks were not as streamlined as they were for text-based books. But that’s changing, thanks to KDP’s new tool.
According to an announcement sent out just now from KDP:
Starting today, you can use Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to create illustrated children’s books for Kindle, taking advantage of features like text pop-ups. Here’s how to get started:
- Download the tool, and you can convert individual illustrations into interactive books for both Kindle devices and free reading apps.
- Once your book is ready, export the file and upload it to KDP.
- Set the book category, age range, and grade range to help customers find the right books for their kids.
Want to learn how to prepare, publish, and promote illustrated and chapter books for children? Check out the new KDP Kids for more information.
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team
In another brilliant look at the publishing industry, author Hugh Howey has crafted a list of unanswered questions, questions that are not being answered for authors but that also shouldn’t be classified, top-secret information. Despite accusations in the past that Howey is practically in Amazon’s pocket, this list fires directly at the world’s largest ebook retailer and self-publishing platform and demands information for authors. A few of the highlights are below, and the full story is HERE.
1) I would love to know how many readers borrow a book and then go on to buy a copy of the same book. I’ve done this before, and I tend to doubt my uniqueness. For Prime members especially, who only get one borrow a month, do they ever love an ebook so much that they decide to own a copy for good?
2) I would love to know how far into my books readers get. Do they finish the work? Do most who drop out do so around the same chapter? What about from those who return the ebook?
4) Why can’t I see my lifetime sales anywhere on my dashboard? This one shouldn’t be hard. You do it on the ACX homepage. Give me total sales across all titles and for each individual title.
7) I want to know why you all haven’t come out and explained that the 70% cut we make on ebooks priced in a certain range aren’t really royalties. (See #5 of this list for an example of improper usage of the term). When they’re called royalties, the 70% seems exceedingly generous. Because publishers pay a lot less. But publishers provide other services, like editing and cover art. We are handing you a finished product. As a distribution fee, you taking 30% (plus more for delivery fees) sounds less crazy-generous. It seems downright reasonable, in fact. Or even an area where you all could afford to give a little more.
8) Why the 70% price cut-off? In a recent announcement about ebook prices, you all admitted that there are occasions when ebooks deserve to be priced higher than $9.99. I agree. I’d love to package my entire Silo Series trilogy together and sell it for $12.99. That would be an amazing savings to the reader, a great value to your customers. But you all treat every ebook product the exact same, which means my royalty rate would drop from 70% to 35%. That’s not good.
Take a look at the rest of Howey’s questions and the more in-depth explanations behind his reasoning on his post.
Firebrand Technologies has had a private beta period of a new ebook assurance tool that helps authors and publishers guarantee the readability and therefore marketability of their ePUB titles. This tool, FlightDeck, is now out of private beta and open for rights holders to use.
Firebrand Technologies, a leading publishing industry technology services company, announced today that FlightDeck, the new EPUB quality assurance tool from Firebrand’s eBook Architects team, has been officially launched out of Beta testing. FlightDeck gives publishers and authors clear and actionable information on the quality and salability of their EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 files.
The FlightDeck web app extensively tests EPUB files, going beyond standard EPUBCheck errors with deeper validation and best practices clearly explained.
FlightDeck’s unique Retailer Acceptance Grid tells users whether their EPUB files will be accepted by eBook partners, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, and NetGalley. The Grid, developed with direct input from retailers, includes the same validation checks performed by their ingestion systems and will bring potential problems to the forefront before files are uploaded for sale.
FlightDeck also allows users to edit their EPUB metadata, and gives valuable stats and information to production departments about the contents of EPUB files. The FlightDeck Handbook, available to everyone on the website, includes helpful tips and example code for common issues found in EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 files.
During an open Beta period over the last two months FlightDeck has been used extensively across the publishing industry, including individual authors, small and large publishers, freelance eBook developers, and large overseas conversion houses.
Joshua Tallent, Firebrand’s Chief eBook Architect, said, “Our Beta test was an unqualified success, with over 850 users registered and 7,500 EPUB files tested, and we are excited to be able to officially launch FlightDeck. We know that EPUB quality is important to publishers, authors, and retailers, and FlightDeck is the most robust EPUB quality assurance tool available. We look forward to increasing the quality of EPUB files across the industry, creating better reading experiences and minimizing development frustrations.”
Amazon made a striking announcement today that is great news for indie authors:
We’re excited to announce that you can now make your new books available for pre-order in Kindle Stores worldwide. With a few quick and easy steps you can create a pre-order page up to 90 days in advance of your book’s release date–your pre-order product page will be created within 24 hours. When you make your book available for pre-order, customers can order the book anytime leading up to the release date you set. We will deliver it to them on that date.
One advantage of using pre-order is that you can start promoting your Kindle book pre-order page on Author Central, Goodreads, your personal website, and other places ahead of its release to help build excitement for your book. Also, pre-orders will contribute toward sales rank and other Kindle Store merchandising ahead of release, which can help more readers discover your book.
Visit your KDP Bookshelf to set up your new book for pre-order.
This is great news for authors who are looking to generate sales before the book comes out, which is much the same process that Pubslush offers for authors who crowd source their books. For authors who already have titles in KDP, bear this in mind for future books.
Today is seriously National Oyster Day. You’re welcome.
To celebrate the momentous occasion, ebook subscription platform is hosting a giveaway in which one winner will receive a twelve-month subscription to the unlimited reading service. According to a statement from the company, “It’s National Oyster Day (really!). Just as oysters are enjoyed best by the dozen (with a squeeze of lemon and a drop of mignonette sauce), books should be savored by the thousands. To celebrate this wonderfully fake holiday, we’re giving away a dozen year-long subscriptions to Oyster. Share #HappyOysterDay on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and we’ll select 12 of you as winners (and champion gourmands).”
eBook subscription models have taken off in the past year, despite having digital roots extending back as far as 2010 with companies like Spain-based 24Symbols. Even Amazon has gotten in on the game with its recent launch of Kindle Unlimited, which Oyster has declared to be just another validation for the viability of the ebook subscription concept.
Oyster has already inked deals with a number of major publishers and with ebook distribution and self-publishing platform Smashwords, which has helped ensure a growing catalog of content for subscribers to choose from. A standard unlimited plan costs just under ten dollars a month and allows unlimited numbers of reads in each paid period.
Not to be outdone by Flipkart, the largest e-commerce site in India, and its $1 billion investment in its retail site, Amazon has announced its own $2 billion backing of its Amazon.in marketplace, only one day after Flipkart announced its round of funding.
According to Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, India stands to be its fastest growing marketplace, and the first of its retail markets to produce one billion dollars in sales. Given the population within the country, the abundance of tablets due to strong education initiatives in mobile technology, and the fact that English is one of its official languages, this comes as very little surprise.
While Flipkart has claimed the status of India’s largest e-commerce site with 22 million users making five million shipped purchases per month, Amazon has already refuted that claim. Despite the US-based retailer’s standard operating procedure of not disclosing any specific sales data, Amazon claims to retail more than 17 million different products within its Indian website.
While both Flipkart and Amazon.in are talking and investing in terms of more than just books, this focus on the market means a great deal for self-published authors. With constraints on international book rights in place, even many traditionally published authors don’t find their titles available in every market. But thanks to both Amazon’s KDP platform and self-publishing/ebook distribution site Smashwords, indie authors can list their ebooks in both the Amazon.in Kindle store and Flipkart’s ebook store, due to Smashwords’ agreement with Flipkart.
Authors who don’t take the steps to list their titles with these two options are missing out on a significant number of English-speaking readers who already have a history of online purchasing, have the devices on which to read ebooks, and may already be clamoring for ebook content.