Tag Archives: Amazon

Kindle Unlimited: Is it worth it?

This blog has often talked about the advantages of ebooks and ebook devices, like Amazon’s Kindle, and highlighted the disadvantages of such devices, and publishing for such devices, as well.

I’m torn. I love books – all books, including ebooks, because I love to read. Reading a physical copy of a book, for me, is just as good as reading an ebook. But I do see a distinct advantage in ebooks, and that comes in the form of volume. I can carry around a device that gives me access to the 300+ books in my elibrary without having to lug the physical weight around of those 300+ books. I know, I don’t READ 300 books at once, but I like reading multiple books at once and having a Kindle allows me to do that in an easier format than, say, just carrying around 5 books with me everyplace I go.

Image from Amazon.Com

Amazon.Com is offering a services for fans of ebooks called Kindled Unlimited. This service has been available for a few months now, and I thought it was about time to try it out and review it. Here are some of the basics Amazon boasts, if you’re unsure of what the service offers:

* Over 800,00 books for subscribers to choose from.
* Unlimited listening to thousands of audiobooks.
* The ability to read and access these books from any device with the Kindle app installed.
* All for the low, low price of $9.99 a month.

After having Kindle Unlimited for two months, I have to say that some of these claims, outside of the prices, are more true than others.

Self-Publishing: No Degree Necessary

Self-publishing has taken off, that’s no secret. Bestsellers, from Fifty Shades of Grey to Wool, began as self-published books. Recently, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), in the UK, even began its own masters program in self-publishing. A full-time student can complete the program in one year; when he or she graduates, they will have all the skills needed to edit, design, publish, and market their own book. At least, that’s the idea.

I’ll admit, I’ve read very few self-published books. So few, that as I write this, I can’t recall their titles. But by no means do I “hate on” self-published books. Sure, I have, on occasion, expressed the belief that self-published titles are generally lacking in editing, design, and marketing—all those aspects of publishing that UCLan hopes to teach—but that isn’t always the case. If I’m being honest, those nameless self-published titles were bad apples that spoiled the rest.

What do I mean by spoiled? The great thing about self-published titles are that you can often get them for cheap (sometimes even free if they’re e-books). Low prices are great; that means more books for me. Yet, in my experience, this leads to reading a lot of bad writing, and in the end, I’d rather pay more for the good stuff.

(Credit: IndieBound)

For a long time, most readers have felt this way. Publishers may be the “gate keepers,” but, as a reader, I appreciate knowing that I can trust a book stamped with HarperCollins’ or Penguins’ logo will be a good read. However, I think it’s important to remember the exceptions, because, surely, not every reader will love every book published by the “Big Five.” So why shouldn’t that same logic apply to self-publishing?

Self-publishing has many positives. None too small to overlook. Wool, as I mentioned earlier, was a great success story. Hugh Howey originally self-published the book as a stand-alone, short story on Amazon. When it began to develop a following, he continued the plot with additional stories, all of which he eventually sold to Simon & Schuster for six figures.

Repost: A Post-Holiday Book Shopping List

The new year is around the corner, and the holidays are coming to an end. If you’re anything like me, I’ll bet you have a few gift cards to spend. My post-holiday shopping list consists mainly of books, as well as some more warm clothes to get me through the rest of winter.

During my time interning for Dark Discoveries Magazine, I read a lot of dark, short stories. Aside from that experience, however, I haven’t read much in the horror genre. My father’s a pretty big Stephen King buff. When I visited him on Christmas, the shelves in his living room were filled with many of King’s books. I left with a stack of them, along with a few old collections of poetry.

First Edition Cover (Credit: Doubleday)
First Edition Cover (Credit: Doubleday)

1. The Shining by Stephen King

Even if you haven’t heard of Stephen King or read The Shining, the title should sound familiar, as Jack Nicholson starred in the 1980 film version. Or maybe a friend screamed “Here’s Johnny” while pretending to chase you with an ax, and that’s all you know about the film/book. You had no idea why they kept calling themselves Johnny, because your parents wouldn’t let you watch a movie about a man who gets more than a tad stir crazy and, well, I won’t give it away. But now you know. You’re welcome.

2. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining and was just released earlier this year in September. The book follows a now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the young boy protagonist in the first novel) as he attempts to save a young twelve-year-old girl in a fight between good and evil. Judging by what i’ve heard from others, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read The Shining before starting Doctor Sleep. Even if you’ve watched the movie, give the book a read. Movies often leave parts of the novel out, and in the case of a psychological thriller like The Shining some things are difficult to transfer to the big screen.

(Credit: NorthJersey.com)
(Credit: NorthJersey.com)

3. Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez

Tim Z. Hernandez is an award-winning poet and author. His writing is beautiful. You can read an excerpt of Mañana Means Heaven here to check it out for yourself. A big draw to Hernandez’s book for me is that it features a little writer some of you may have heard of: Jack Kerouac. If you’ve read On The Road, you may remember the “Mexican girl” that Kerouac has an affair with in California. Her part in the novel only spans fifteen pages, but Hernandez spent years searching for Bea Franco, the real-life “Mexican girl” from Kerouac’s novel. Mañana Means Heaven is the result of that search and Hernandez’s conversations with the elderly Franco.

Throwback Thursday: The Literary Pranksters Who Made Fools Out of Us

It turns out, the literary world has a pretty killer sense of humor—something readers everywhere found out after April Fools Day. Lemony Snicket and Malcolm Gladwell went head to head after accusing each other of plagiarism. Snicket provided all of the evidence for said plagiarism on his website:

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As you can see, Gladwell clearly stole numerous text from Snicket’s latest book File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents for his book David and Goliath. But it gets worse:

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Gladwell even plagiarized an illustration from Snicket’s book with the above photo (also known as Exhibit B)—Snicket’s circled all plagiarized text and images in red for your benefit. But, who are we kidding, the offense is blatant and obvious.

How One Man Successfully Funded His Book With Kickstarter

I’ve always been curious about Kickstarter projects when it comes to literature. I think new approaches to literature in general, particularly ones spurred by the digital age, like online fundraising, self-publishing, and e-readers are all worthy of exploration. Books may be hundreds of years old, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to change things up.

Not all bookish fundraisers thrive on Kickstarter. That Globe to Globe Hamlet Tour you may have heard about? The fundraiser was cancelled due to lack of backers. To be fair, that particular fundraiser was for a hefty amount for a tour that had never been done before. It was risky to begin with. But other fundraisers are quite successful. Doodler and poet Alan J. Hart created a Kickstarter fundraiser back in April for a children’s book called Everything’s Better With Monkeys. Here’s a video about the project:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/772637894/everythings-better-with-monkeys-illustrated-poetry/widget/video.html

Alan wrote the first poem in the book back in 2006, but he has expanded on it since with the encouragement of others. The poems come with illustrations depicting famous paintings, like Grant Wood’s American Gothic or Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory—with monkeys, of course. Here’s example of the type of poetry in the book:

Whistler’s Mother looks so bored
Just sitting in her chair
I think that a baboon or two
Would add the needed flair

That old couple with the pitchfork
Looks quite unhappy too
Adding an orangutan
Is just the thing to do”

I reached out to Alan to conduct an interview about Everything’s Better With Monkeys, which you can read below:

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The Poetics Project: First off, I watched the video you posted on your Kickstarter page and thought it was hilarious. Why did you choose to create a video for the project? Do you think the effect of the video would have been different had it been less comedic?

Alan J. Hart: Thanks! Kickstarter offers a really good tutorial for people that want to use the site, and they highly recommend including a video. Projects with videos have a much higher success rate than those without (50% vs. 30%), so I definitely wanted to include one. I think the concept of the video made it more effective. I wanted it to be something that people would not just notice, but get a kick out of and want to show to other people. I heard from a couple of people specifically that they backed the project because they enjoyed the video.

TPP: Were there any other methods you employed to get the word out there?

AJH: Facebook was my main marketing tool. I gave the book it’s own facebook page, and I put up new posts every day on the book’s page, which I also shared on my personal page. I started with a simple announcement of the project, then tried to have a new gimmick every day, teasing some of the art from the book or posting pictures of the monkeys featured in the book. I always included a link to the kickstarter page and encouraged people to share it on their own walls.

I also put all of the relevant information into an e-mail and sent it to everyone I knew who isn’t on facebook or doesn’t use it very often, and encouraged them to back the project and to spread the word to their friends.

Literary Paraphernalia: Pens

It’s no secret, readers, that I love pens. What English major doesn’t love pens? A terrible one. That’s the only right answer to that question.

So today’s literary paraphernalia post is all about pens. Enjoy!

Why whistle when you work when you can drop a mad beat with these drumstick pens?
Why whistle when you work when you can drop a mad beat with these drumstick pens?
(Image Source: UncommonGoods.Com)

Drumstick pens are pretty cool, right? Maybe I’m a bit biased when it comes to this first pick because I played the drums in junior high school and I still have a passion for hitting things with sticks to this day. These pens are available at UncommonGoods.Com for 8 bucks a piece. That’s not bad at all, right?

Dead Fred the pen holder, also known as murder she wrote, am I right? Hey, wait, don't go! The pun wasn't that bad.
Dead Fred the pen holder, also known as murder she wrote, am I right? Hey, wait, don’t go! The pun wasn’t that bad.

This isn’t technically a pen, but it is an awesome pen accessory! Dead Fred will hold your pen in his chest, while he lays there, lifelessly. Dead Fred pen holder is available on Amazon.Com for 9 bucks, plus shipping. But he’s totally worth it.

Tired of all the other pens on the market? Be original, then, and make your own!
Tired of all the other pens on the market? Be original, then, and make your own!

Do you own a hairdryer and some kind of sharp object? Congratulations! With the added purchase of a make-your-own-pen kit from UncommonGoods.Com, you now have everything you need to make a truly one-of-a-kind pen for 28 dollars, plus shipping.

What Does A Writer Need To Write?

I’m guilty of being a consumerist, at times. Not that being a consumer is a bad thing—that’s what drives our consumer driven economic model, right? But I do use buying things as an excuse not to do work. And by work I mean write.

How many times have you been browsing Etsy or Amazon, and the little voice inside your head went “Oh, hey, if I bought X, then I’d do Y more!”

It’s a common trap we all fall into. Buying X doesn’t make Y any easier—it’s just a delay tactic. Trust me, I have a yoga mat I’ve never used. I have a bamboo journal that’s currently sitting next to my bed, being used as a coaster. I have art pens that would make me more artsy when I doodled. 

Only with a yoga mat can one reach this level of enlightenment. (Credit: Conscious Connection Magazine)

 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t exercise, or don’t write, or don’t doodle. I do all of these things, and it was only after I fell into the “if I buy X then I’d do Y more” mentality that I realized I was using buying things as an excuse not to write.

Dear Self-Published on Amazon

I love that Kindle and Amazon allow people to publish their own digital books and set their own prices. It’s really a revolutionary thing–to have a wide audience appeal for the story you want to share with the world. The one that you have painstakingly worked on and, of course, love. You are sharing a part of yourself with the world.

There are many best-selling self-published books on Kindle and, indeed, there are a lot of successful self-published books out there.

(Image Source: NPR)
We’re going to pretend that this book doesn’t top the best-seller list.

Now I’m going to share the dark side with you, reader–the grammar. Nothing upsets me more when I’m reading an interesting self-published book and simple grammatical errors get in the way of my enjoyment. I don’t think this is reflective of the author not knowing how to use grammar but rather a reflection that the author didn’t edit as well as they should have or didn’t get outside help for editing.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy and I love to find new, unfamiliar books and immerse myself in their landscape and story. While flipping through the free books on Kindle a few years ago, I found an interesting book called The Book of Deacon. I liked it. I read it while I was traveling abroad in China and I reread it once I was back stateside and I still enjoyed it. There are two books that follow The Book of Deacon and, since I enjoyed the first, I decided to purchase the other two.

I wish I hadn’t of done that. The last two books in the series lacked something significant the first had–editing. I don’t know if he spent extra time self-editing, hired an editor or a person to proof, or had friends or a peer mentoring group help him with the first book, but he lacked whatever he did for the other two books in his series, and I’m not the only reader who was upset by this difference.

Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook Program: The Future of Book Buying?

In October, Amazon launched a new bundling program for e-books and print books called the Kindle Matchbook. The program allows customers who purchase a print book–or have already bought–to buy the e-book for anywhere from $2.99 to free.

1003704_442520989179525_628083315_nI have always felt that e-books and print books do not have to be mortal enemies, one leading to the others death. They can work together. I read print books. The only e-books I read are in the form of PDFs on my computer that a professor generally assigned. I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad. To be honest, i’m not sure my eyes would last long enough for me to read an entire book on a screen anyway (I tend to get migraines fairly easily). But that’s not to say I don’t see the value in e-books.

I buy hardcovers when I buy books, and maybe that’s because I have a romantic vision of what my future house will look like, with a room dedicated to books, but it’s also because I’m a re-reader. If a book’s good, I will re-read it at least once ever couple years, and my paperbacks have suffered from my re-reading. I recently had to dump my high school copy of The Bell Jar because I had highlighted, dog-eared, and tortured the poor thing to the point that it was falling apart. An e-book would be useful to someone like me. Where as some readers feel that you have to choose a side, e-books or print books, i’ve always wondered, why not both? I can read my hardcover from the safety of my own home, and the e-book can come with me everywhere else–I can access it on my iPhone while on a bus or plane, while in the waiting room at my doctor’s office. I can even spare my hardcovers the highlighting and notes in the margins and use my e-book for that instead.