05 Sep

Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

I get a lot of e-mail from writers starting out who want to know whether it’s worth trying to get published by major houses. The odds are poor – only a small fraction of books find a home in mainstream publishing – and the process can be slow and frustrating. We’ve all heard horror stories, both legit (‘‘Why is there a white girl on the cover of my book about a black girl?’’) and suspect (‘‘My editor was a philistine who simply didn’t understand the nuances of my work’’). And we’ve all heard about writers who’ve met with modest – or stellar – success with self-publishing. So why not cut out the middleman and go direct to readers?

There’s not a thing wrong with that plan, provided that it is a plan. Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).

I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.

via Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? Cory Doctorow who certainly doesn’t seem to need traditional publishers, penning a nice piece in favor of publishers.

13 Feb

Miller-McCune – Book Banners Finding Power in Numbers

"The fact people say AP high school students shouldn’t be reading Beloved, or Bookseller of Kabul, what I fear this indicates is that these are people who believe no one should be reading these books," Bertin says. “In their view, these books are the product of a corrupt and immoral society, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

There is, of course, a fine line being danced around here. What’s appropriate for one student might not be for another of the same age. Librarians, teachers and parents can help make these determinations, but, Caldwell-Stone says, "it shouldn’t be one parent deciding what’s appropriate for every 12-year-old. This is a pluralistic society, not everyone shares the same values, and publicly funded schools and libraries have to serve the public."

via Miller-McCune – Book Banners Finding Power in Numbers. Banning a book or in reality knowledge has to be one of the worst decisions any person could make.

22 Nov

Netflix for Books

The tweet that spawned this post

The tweet that spawned this post

Netflix in case you haven’t heard of it is system whereby you give them money and they send you movies by mail that you can keep for as long as you want. No late fees, no extra charges on your account. Mail back the movie in their pre-paid envelope and a new movie is on your doorstep, in a few days.

What makes Netflix stand out against any other system with the same feature set is their super intelligent prediction system. After you view a movie, they ask you to rank it on a scale of 1-5 stars, and over time they make guesses what you would like to watch.

As a side note, Netflix just finished a campaign gathering independent teams to compete for a $1 million to beat their internal algorithm by 10% or better. While it doesn’t sound that hard, it took a long time before a team was able to be declared the winner.

What I really want I realized tonight, is a throw back to my days as a kid and visiting the library but modernized. I loved checking out and renting all those books that I would never have been able to afford to buy (and still wouldn’t). I read a lot back in the day and checked out so many books for pretty much a single reason, about 1/4 of the books just weren’t worth my time to read and would go by the wayside.

Applying Netflix or Amazon’s prediction algorithms to my reading list and let me put books in a queue to rent, add in Netflix’s keep out for as long as needed and deliver when available electronic copies of a book when available and I would be in heaven.

The idea is purely stolen from Netflix, but the majority of what is needed Amazon already has:

  • Relationship with publishers — √
  • Storage facilities and mailing system for fast delivery of books — √
  • Electronic version of books — √
  • Software and delivery platform for these ebooks — √
  • Queue of books to read – that’s a sorta they’ve got the Wish List but it’s for items to buy little bit of work and converted, better than half way there
  • Rating system — √
  • Prediction algorithms — another mostly there, their algorithms are good but sometimes get fooled by stuff that you buy on a one shot deal

Get working Amazon (or anybody for that matter) and I’ll sign up and buy more books in the process.