Category Archives: news

0

All you can read books

It’s been very interesting to watch the unveiling of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s new subscription-based e-book program. It’s not a new concept. In fact, entertainment and media industries have been heading this way for a long time. Netflix provides consumers with unlimited streaming of television and movies for a flat flee. Spotify provides the same for music. So why not books?

Kindle Unlimited isn’t even the first to offer the all-you-can-read buffet. Oyster and other similar companies have been around for some time; yet none have Amazon’s platform. Or its ability to stir up controversy.

Some of Kindle Unlimited’s critics have historically been Amazon’s staunchest supporters: self-published authors. They’ve claimed that they stand to be hurt the most from the program, in part because of the different royalty structure. Royalties will be allocated from a set fund divided across all borrowed units, which may mean lower royalty payments. Not only that, but self-published authors who choose to opt out of Kindle Unlimited so they can distribute to other vendors, such as Nook Press and Kobo, stand to drop in the Amazon bestseller rankings because Kindle Unlimited “sales” count towards those hourly standings. Pro Kindle Unlimited authors, on the other hand, argue that authors will benefit greatly from the discoverability that Kindle Unlimited and such rankings could provide. Unknown authors can potentially shoot up in rank, even if those “buying” their books never get around to reading them.

And what about on the consumer side? On the face of it, $9.99/month for an unlimited number of books seems like a great deal. But how many people subscribing to Kindle Unlimited actually read enough books every month to make it worth it? It’s one thing to binge-watch shows and movies on Netflix or binge-listen to music for hours on end on Spotify. But binge-reading is a whole different ballgame.

I’d like to hear what our readers think of Kindle Unlimited. Will you subscribe? If you’re an author, do you enroll?

3

The value of gossip

A couple of weeks ago, we had a staff lunch—where we order a bunch of delicious food and sit around talking about what’s on our mind regarding our business and the industry in general.  In the past, I have learned a great deal from these sessions and I believe our staff has as well.

Sure enough, there was some heated gossip along with the yummy cole slaw.   We dished about what was happening at various publishing companies—Amazon and Penguin-Random in particular—and how these events would affect our business and our clients.  There was a really interesting exchange of news and ideas and I think we all felt afterwards that we got some good inside information, as well as enjoying each other’s company.

All of this made me think about industry gossip and its value.  I can see, as I did at our lunch, that when important news and information gets passed around (even if it’s just hearsay) and its implications are discussed and analyzed, we can learn a lot…I certainly did.

After the lunch, I found this piece, which ran a couple of years ago in Forbes and which underlines various aspects of office gossip.  Do you all engage in a lot of office gossip?  Do you find it useful?

1

Twelve years ago

That white building on the left wasn’t there twelve  years ago.  The sky was as blue as it is today, but it was a crisp, dry September morning.  We were sitting in Jane’s office for our morning staff meeting when I heard the sound of a plane flying too close to the ground.  Michael Bourret and I, both fearful flyers at the time (he says he’s better now that he’s constantly on a plane), exchanged a worried look and then went back to the general discussion of contracts and deal memos.  A few minutes  after we disbanded, Jane’s daughter, who was living in Berlin at the time, sent Jane an instant message asking what was going on at the World Trade Center.  When Jane looked out her window and told us what she saw, we all stampeded to the back office where we had a clear view of the towers.  We saw a black plume of smoke rising from one of them and as we stood there, dumbfounded, we watched another plane arc seemingly in slow motion across that heartbreakingly clear sky and slam into the second building.   The world changed that morning and, twelve years later, we’re still trying to make sense of it all.

What we remember most about that awful day is how quickly this great city turned into a small village of eight million people and how everyone came together to help, to grieve, and to rebuild.  The skyline is different, but I like to think that all the good we witnessed in the aftermath of 9/11 left its mark on New York City much more indelibly than the evil that was perpetrated against it.

If you’re remembering that day too, here are some pieces that you might want to check out: http://www.megcabot.com/2012/09/9112001/, http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/look/2002/01/01/sunset-on-the-world-trade-center, http://www.buzzfeed.com/adriancarrasquillo/50-powerful-photos-of-humanity-and-solidarity-in-the-years-s.

 

4

Getting away from it all

For almost two weeks now, I’ve been on the road. I spent a few days in Portland, Oregon, at the Willamette Writers Conference, followed by a week of vacation in mid-coast Maine. And actually, I’m still in Maine, working from our rental house just a few hundred yards from Pemaquid Beach. Even today, with the clouds and fog rolling in, it’s pretty spectacular…

But as I’ve been out of the office and working in various non-NYC places for a good stretch now, I’ve been thinking about locale, access to information, and how they inform a writer’s work. At home in New York, there’s information everywhere you look–screens everywhere, newspapers galore, even news tickers on the side of buildings. And with that, I feel like NYC writers tend to work on a fairly broad canvas of topics and locations.

On the other hand, when I was out in Portland, i.e., a mid-sized, west coast city, the news and information seemed like a mix of local and national concern. And I saw that reflected by the writers I met at the conference, whose pitches seemed fairly evenly split between Oregonian subjects or more worldly concerns. It held for kids’ books, too–50% west coast-based stories, 50% fantasy.

At the same time, here in Maine, information gathering  is very much an individual responsibility–nobody’s going to tell you what’s up in the world besides the Red Sox (hopefully) losing. And fittingly, whenever I meet writers in Maine, their work almost always has a Vacationland focus–maybe they’ll stretch it to Massachusetts, but not much farther than New England.

So, writers, I’m curious: what’s the correlation between your location and your subject matter? Or, to put it another way, how much does the outside world inform your work? BTW, no value judgments here–no one thinks less of Barbara Cooney or Robert McCloskey for staying close to home, and the truths in their books have proven to be universal. But I’d love to hear your thoughts and help me reconnect to the outside world!

1

Hello!

Thank you so much Jane for the kind introduction. It is fantastic to be here at DGLM, although I confess, these are familiar surroundings. As Jane mentioned, I began interning here in May 2011 while I was studying for my Master’s degree, so I am absolutely delighted to be a full time member of DGLM’s remarkable team. With e-books and e-readers continuing to offer us new ways to access books, it is an exciting time to be heading up DGLM’s digital publishing program. As a long-time lover of books, I feel incredibly privileged to have the chance to work closely with authors, the people who make us fall in love with books.

4

Redemption through Reading

Brazil made headlines yesterday for introducing a new program to reduce prison sentences, aptly titled “Redemption through Reading”. According to this article from the Huffington Post, inmates in Brazil’s federal prisons can now minimize their sentences by up to 48 days per year by reading one book every four weeks, then writing an essay on it.

While there’s no shortage of literacy programs in prisons all over the world, I thought this was the first case where it actually had a concrete impact on a person’s punishment, but I was wrong. After a little searching online, I found Changing Lives Through Literature, a rehabilitation course introduced in the early 90’s in Massachusetts as an alternative to prison. Created for repeat offenders of serious crimes, this initiative forms reading groups where offenders discuss the classics.  It has proved to significantly reduce recidivism rates and violent behavior among participants.

Avid readers know that literature has the ability to change lives, but these programs bring this concept to fruition. By reading about characters and situations they can relate to, convicts get the chance to look at their own lives, and the way they affect others, through a different lens. They also develop skills to analyze, articulate, and communicate more effectively, equipping them with the ability to make more positive contributions to society.

Does anyone here have experience working in this capacity in the penal system?

8

Censor censure

I’ve been on a bit of a Words With Friends kick lately (okay, more a debilitating obsession than a kick but no one’s kicked me off a plane yet) and one of the frustrating things I’ve found about the game is how it censors what it considers unacceptable words. Not sure what geniuses (or algorithms) decide what works and what doesn’t but when you’re behind by 15 points and you’ve got the letters to wipe your opponent out with a word you know is a word but that WWF won’t allow…well, it makes you a little short tempered.

Thing is, censorship is all around us and, by and large, we tend to overlook minor instances of it as long as the big freedoms aren’t compromised.   I can shake my head and keep playing WWF, say, because who cares about a silly app game.  But, is that the right attitude?  When you hear about Seth Godin’s experience with Apple refusing to carry one of his “manifestos” because there are links in it to the Amazon store, the whole Big Brother thing becomes a bit sinister.  This is censorship seasoned with monopolistic bullying, in my opinion.

How much freedom of speech can be guaranteed when behemoths like Apple and Amazon censor what is available to consumers for any reason other than that the work(s) in question poses a real physical threat to individuals?  Sure, a privately owned retailer may choose what goods and services it wants to offer, but when you have two or three entities responsible for the dissemination of vast amounts of information, it seems to me that it should not be morally, ethically, or legally okay for those entities to decide what consumers may or may not be able to buy.

Those of us in the publishing business have a rather bedeviled relationship with Apple, Amazon and B&N (especially the first two).  On the one hand, we need them in order to place our authors’ wares.  On the other, we are increasingly concerned with the practices of these soulless corporations whose only interest is the financial bottom line and for whom books and the entire publishing world are but a blip in their massive spreadsheets.  Is it time for the government to step in and regulate how content is served up?  What can we do as consumers (and book lovers) to safeguard our ability to buy any book (or story or manifesto) we want?  Should we be outraged or should we shrug our shoulders and lump this with the Word With Friends shenanigans?

What’s your take on all of this?  Am I over- or under-reacting?

5

Headlining

As loyal followers of this blog know, I am a little headlines obsessed.  Usually, this takes the form of scanning 1,237 blogs and websites every day before our 8:30 meeting without actually reading a single article (you can learn so much from the right caption).  Sometimes, it manifests as trying to come up with the proper headline for an everyday occurrence which is just weird or eyebrow raising enough to merit column inches in The New York Post.  But occasionally, the right headline makes me think, “Ooh, what a great novel could be built around ’44-Year-Old UK Man Lives Off Road Kill for 30 Years’” (true story).

So, here’s the gray, drizzly Wednesday challenge:  Pick a headline from today’s crazy roster—The HuffPost on Blagojevich’s sentencing is “Big Hair to the Big House.”  Positively Postian, no?—on the blogosphere and give us a paragraph on what the book you’d write based on it would be.

(You need to tell us what the headline is and where it came from for authentication purposes. First prize is a cookbook by one of our lovely and talented authors.)

7

Ripping (off) headlines

Every once in a while I find myself so enraged, befuddled, or even charmed (rarely) by the news cycle that I can think of little else.  This week, like most of you, I’m sure, I find myself filled with ongoing, white-hot, animal rage about Jerry Sandusky and the whole Penn State scandal.   Simultaneously, I’m incredulous (and not in a good way) that  someone who doesn’t seem to know what’s been happening with Libya lately is seriously running for president.  And then, just when I think I need anti-depressants to get through the newspaper, there’s Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, making the media rounds to promote their new book and seeming so courageous and true to each other.  Their story is a palate cleanser to chase away the taste of bile the other headlines leave behind.

As immersed in different ways as I’ve been with these events and personalities, I find myself wondering which would work in a fictional retelling.  Novelists, from Zola to Grisham have been ripping off ideas from the headlines from time immemorial, of course, but with the relentless coverage of happenings big and small to feed the great gaping maw the Internet has created, I think it’s gotten harder to take a major news story and turn it into a compelling, important novel.  Still, I wonder what Tom Perrotta would do with the Penn State tragedy, what Allegra Goodman could make of the Giffords/Kelly saga, and what merriment would result from Carl Hiaasen’s take on the Cain, Perry, and Bachman campaigns.

Perhaps it’s only fiction that can truly make sense of the horror and absurdity.  Sometimes, too, fiction is the only way to capture the complexity of love, passion, bravery in a way that doesn’t reduce these qualities to a Hallmark card.

What headlines would you rip off and turn into classic fiction?  And what authors would you pair what stories with?

5

World domination

When Dan Slater of Amazon, a longtime friend of DGLM, was visiting last week, I jokingly asked him what new steps his company was taking toward its ultimate goal of world domination.  Discreet as Dan is, he did not let on about the new Kindle Fire announcement (although we’d all heard buzz) but he definitely did not deny that Amazon was in the process of taking over the universe (at least the publishing universe).

Well, as the HuffPost live blog of today’s announcement by Jeff Bezos about the new tablet shows, the Amazon juggernaut rumbles inexorably on.  Not having seen one of these babies in person, I’ve no idea whether I’m going to rush out and buy the new KF instead of the iPad I’ve been thinking of gifting myself for Christmas.   On the one hand, I use my current Kindle quite a bit and, given how lame the Apple book store is, I expect that I’ll continue to get most of my online reading from Amazon anyway.  On the other hand, it’s hard to root for the prohibitive favorite in sports or big business.  I’m not sure I want to live under an Amazon dictatorship, no matter how benign.

Is it as dire as all that?  Or is this all just healthy, good fun on the part of the superpowers?  Are they just giving us all more options even as we have less and less time to avail ourselves of them?