Monday, January 31, 2011


For those who dwell  in the land of  P rather than E (that’s “P” as in print),  Digital Book World, held last week in New York,  is the summit of  electronic publishing and produced the latest word on it. Bet you didn’t know:

10.5 million people  in this country now have ereaders
10 million  have tablets
1/3 of people who have iPads  also own Kindles
$1 billion  was spent on ebooks last year
$1.3 billion  is the  2011 prediction

 There was lots of stuff like that, guaranteed to make some people think the world’s coming to an end long before 2012, as promised, but, according to a survey referenced at the conference, guess how Big Pub feels about it? Good!  More fun facts:

89% of publishing execs are  optimistic about the future
66 % think people will read more
74% say readers will be better off
46% think tablets will win over readers
85 %  now release ebooks simultaneously with print books
ebook sales will increase 139 times this year
by 2014 half of all sold will be ebooks—some say this yr or next yr

As was announced a few days ago, at Amazon, that's already happened there.

All this is what a CEO I know calls the view from 70,000 feet. Very heady indeed. But when I got home these questions awaited:

1. How do I sideload the ebook I just bought on the Kindle app on my iPad?
2. I'm trying to download my book but the message keeps popping up that
    the page can't be found.
3. From an etailer: Where are your TOCs?  (Umm—right there in the books?)

Is there a disconnect here?  Both our customers and vendors seem a bit fermished, and frankly,  on the rare occasions we're ahead of them, it's only by about half a step. Mike Shatzkin, one of the DPW organizers, did say the point of the conference is to talk about the problems technology causes businesses. But somehow, I don’t think this is the level of technology he meant. Do these kinds of things ever happen to Jane Friedman? More tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


 So there I was, reading one of my favorite thoroughly unrealistic fantasy “human” superhero tough guys, when what should befall me but a sentence that read roughly like this:
            “I got up that Monday and I put my wallet in my pocket, my butt in my pants, my feet in my shoes, and I strode out to the OK Corral and I blew six or eight miscreants from here to Mars and I sat down to a nice ham sandwich, and I washed it down with a Bud.”
            Okay, hard-boiled writers, I’m serving notice—enough already! I know it’s gotta be fun to strap your Glock to your laptop and pretend you’re some sort of cross between Hemingway and Chandler, but somebody’s actually paying you to churn out some halfway decent prose here. Could you just give the cheap theatrics a rest? Here’s the top reasons who no one should ever write a sentence like the one above:
 5. Nobody cares about the minute details of your detective’s toilet—everyone puts their wallet in their pocket and their butt in their pants.
4.     Strunk & White said, “More than one conjunction per sentence shall be punishable by the enforced reading of no more than eleven nor less than three 1930s cozies.”  Or they should have.
3.     Third-graders get flunked for failing to construct complex sentences.
2.     Boredom is no excuse for monkeying around on the keys. (That is, when you have a contract.) If you’re Joe Schmoe, do what you like, but if  you’re somebody like Robert Crais (and it wasn’t Robert Crais I was reading, okay?—that's just an example), you better flex a little writing muscle. I’m paying good money here.
1.     Sure it’s fun to watch those kind of silly sentences burble rhythmically over hill and dale, but that’s only if you’re the writer. If you’re the reader, here’s the problem: You’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it before.
         And you had to avert your eyes the first time.