Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Audible Wants Authors to Exclusivly Focus on Audiobooks


Audible is the largest company involved in the consumer audiobook sector and they want authors to start writing original content and bypass e-books altogether.

The global audiobook industry is currently worth 2.6 billion dollars and part of the reason why we have seen a dramatic increase in profitability is due to digital In the first eight months of 2014, sales were up 28% over the same period last year, far outstripping the growth of e-books, which rose 6%.

Audible is the undisputed market leader in audiobook production and distribution. Matthew Thornton the Director of Communications at Audible said "Audible content includes over 180,000 audiobooks and other spoken-word programming from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers. Non-audiobook content includes lectures, meditations, language lessons, comedy and periodicals." Audible has added 40,000 titles their store in 2014, a very slight increase versus 2013. In both 2013 and 2014, Audible Studios and ACX productions account for just about half of all titles added to the Audible storefront.

One of the main reasons why Audible content is so successful is primarily attributed to the big name actors. Matthew Thornton explained a bit on how Audible embraces star power. "One of the ways we've worked to improve the overall customer experience of listening to audiobooks is in elevating the quality of audiobook performance—embracing A-List celebrities (among those who've recorded for Audible are Colin Firth, Dustin Hoffman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon) as well as up-and-coming young actors at Juilliard, Yale, Stella Adler and other acting schools where Audible offers narration workshops. We've had great success with celebrity-narrated projects like the Gyllenhaal-narrated The Great Gatsby, Ben Stiller performing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Most of the audio content that Amazon has produced has been based on e-books. This is starting to change as Audible is starting to ask well-known writers to create original audio works.

Don Katz, CEO and founder of Audible said in an recent interview with NPR “While performances are being elevated and attuned to this advanced listening experience, why not write to the form in an original way? So it’s not just book authors writing, but TV writers, and movie writers.”

Audible now has about 30 original audio works in the pipeline. One, which has already been released, is The Starling Project starring Alfred Molina. It was written by bestselling thriller writer Jeffery Deaver and it’s more like a radio drama than a book.

Audible Wants Authors to Exclusivly Focus on Audiobooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

Audiobooks and e-books Experience Growth in 2014


The Association of American Publishers released their final report on the growth of audiobooks and e-books in 2014.

e-books experienced moderate growth, up 4.7% year-on-year and generating $1.58 billion.  One of the big success stories contributing to the increase in digital books is children’s/YA segment,  which saw sales spike by 33.6%, to $227.3 million and accounted for 12.0% of sales, up from 10.9% in 2013.

2014 was also the year of the audiobook has many libraries started to buy into this platform and new entrants such as Barnes and Noble are drawing in casual customers.  The format saw a dramatic increase of over 28.7% over 2013.

The AAP for this report talked to 1,209 trade publishers who contributed sales data. It is important to note that this is totally elective and not all publishers take part in this study.

Audiobooks and e-books Experience Growth in 2014 is a post from: Good e-Reader

Episodic Fiction is Finding a New Home on Kindle Unlimited


Indie authors are disrupting e-book publishing by writing episodic fiction. They are primarily distributing the titles through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle lending library. This is providing a financial boon to authors who write 60 page novels in a serialized manner. This method of writing is quickly becoming more profitable than simply writing a single feature length novel.

Serialized fiction first gained prominence in Victorian England and it first appeared in newspapers. It was practiced by such literary giants as Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy and Joseph Conrad.  It fell out of favor in the last fifty years, but is now making a rebound, thanks to Amazon.

Things have been fairly static in self-publishing and traditional publishing for decades. An author writes a book and has it distributed through specific sales channels. They promote a single title and get paid when readers purchase it.  Now we have Amazon picking up the tab when a book is read and the reader pays virtually nothing.

The Kindle Lending Library was first established in 2011 and allows members who opt into Amazon Prime to read one free book a month. This has proven to be a lucrative method for indie authors to garner sales. Kindle Unlimited is a similar program, but instead of a Prime membership, users pay around $10.00 a month and read as many e-books they want.

These two programs have Amazon paying an author each time their book is read. The amount paid per borrow is independent of price and depends instead on how much Amazon funds a shared pool. In the months where Amazon releases new devices or for specific holidays, the fund increases. The rate per borrow has averaged around $1.62.

In order for authors to enter these two programs that have to enroll their titles in Kindle Direct Publishing Select. This basically prevents the author from selling their e-books through rival stores and locks them down into the Amazon ecosystem for 90 days. In exchange, you can take advantage of episodic fiction which basically allows you to triple dip the sales cycle. You can sell the book on the Kindle, have to available for Unlimited subscribers and the Lending Library.

Susan Kaye Quinn author of 18 Debt Collector novellas said “I never intended to write Debt Collector in the first place – the idea came to me in the midst of writing another book – and originally, I thought I could get away with writing a novella about it. You know, get the story out of my head. Well, the story refused to stay small! So I wrote another novella. And a third. By the time I was plotting out the fourth in my head, I knew this story wouldn’t let me go until I wrote all of it. And as I wrote, the story very much wanted to be told in an episodic format. At the time (and even now) there weren’t many SF serials to follow as models for publishing this work (Hugh Howey's Wool being a notable exception, but that story also grew organically, starting as a novella; Sean Platt and David Wright are making a career out of SF serials, but not many others follow their all-serials-all-the-time model, in SF at least). Regardless, I decided to follow where the story was leading… not only writing in episodic format, but writing and publishing almost real-time, building a small (but fervent) audience as I went. Readers really engaged with the story, following along, scooping up each new episode every two weeks.”

She went on to say “Romance readers are ravenous, in general, and many subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. In romance, serials allow authors to get material out quickly to their fans, and KU lets romance readers gobble them up without breaking the bank. But not every romance reader is enrolled in KU, so there are, in effect, two audiences for a romance serial – KU readers and non-KU readers. Understandably, the KU readers read episode-by-episode, taking advantage of the fact that each episode is free to them. They get the excitement of serial-reading (the episodes are generally fast-paced) for free. Non-KU readers tend to wait for the box set. Pre-orders are actually perfect for serials, as they allow readers the choice: pre-order the next episode, or skip ahead and pre-order the full box set. Readers then have the best of both worlds: read-as-you-go or get the full story, depending on your preference.”

Science Fiction Episodic writer Nick Jones does not have his books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited or the Lending Library and approaches writing e-books as a hobby “Episodic books are an experiment for me. I think the e-book audience have become spoiled for choice and are used to getting full-length books for free. If they read book 1 for free and like the author then they seem happy to buy subsequent books at $3.99 without thinking too much about price.”

Amazon is aware of this new way of writing episodic fiction and sought to capitalize on it early with their Kindle Serial program. You will hardly find any content on the platform though, as Amazon does not accept unsolicited titles from indie authors, it’s invite only.

Episodic Fiction is Finding a New Home on Kindle Unlimited is a post from: Good e-Reader

Star Wars Episode 3.14: A New Hope

Martin O’Hanlon is a co-author of Adventures in Minecraft which we featured back in November. The book’s full of incredible projects you can do with Minecraft, involving learning programming skills through building structures and interactive applications within the Minecraft world using the Python API provided in Minecraft: Pi Edition.

We don’t know how he comes up with some of the ideas, and we’re amazed by what he shows can be achieved (solar system in Minecraft, anyone?) but this one really blew us away. It’s an animation portraying the Death Star scene from first Star Wars film.

Martin says:

After coding the Solar System in Minecraft I had the idea of creating the Death Star which would be able to ‘fire’ at the planets and destroy them. I ended up coding an animation of the Death Star destroying Alderaan right up to Luke flying down the trench and successfully bombing the exhaust port with a block of TNT.


You can try it out yourself too! Just open Minecraft Pi from the Desktop or applications menu and enter a world, then open a terminal window and enter the following commands:

git clone  cd minecraft-starwars  python

Then find a place to stand and watch the show!

If you want to learn more about what you can do with Minecraft Pi, see our getting started resource, make a Whac-a-block game (a resource contributed by Martin), see Martin’s website and check out the book Adventures in Minecraft.

See the code behind Minecraft Star Wars on GitHub.

Reviewing The Fire Sermon, a dystopian thriller

It seems like in the past few years, simply put, "It's the new Hunger Games!" in a book description, and it will sell.  While there is no denying that dystopian fiction is all kinds of hot right now, I find that slapping the Hunger Games comparison on all of them really simplifies the genre.  I like to read dystopian literature for the grit and the ingenuity of the main characters, and to imagine what I would do if I was placed in their worlds (and sincerely hope that my answer would not be run away/get in lock-step with the ruling class).  The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig is a perfect example of mold-breaking dystopia, with one of the most relatable, even as she is so very different, characters that I have read in this type of stories in years.

In The Fire Sermon, we are introduced to a post-nuclear war world, where the radiation has caused mutations in the human race.  Every child born is a twin; one is physically perfect (the Alpha), and one has some level of physical deformity (the Omega).  Alphas are the heads of society, getting all of the prime government positions and lifestyles, while their Omega twins are sent to live as second or third class citizens after the twins are separated at a young age.  However, there is a twist, as the twins are still connected enough that when one twin dies, the other does as well (and the same goes for extreme pain, both twins can feel torture).  While this mutation has ensured semi-decent treatment of Omegas in the past, the new ruling class of Alphas is striving to make changes to the system and treat their Omega twins as little more than cattle.

Our heroine is Cass, a woman whose mutation is not physical.  She is a Seer, who gets snippets of the future and of hidden places.  Cass was able to hide her gift for the first 13 years of her life, meaning that she was able to stay with her parents and her twin, Zach for much longer than normal.  The lack of separation, while heaven for Cass, is hell for her twin, who feels that his rightful place in normal society is being hindered by his twin's inability to "move on" with her life and to let him ascend to his rightful place in the hierarchy.  After Zach successfully outs his sister as Omega, he begins the power plays he has always dreamed of, making Cass an unwitting pawn in his games.  Cass is subjected to years of isolation and interrogation, before breaking free of her captors, taking along with her a one-armed, amnesiac man she breaks out of the Alpha's new (and super-secret) isolation tubes.  Together, they journey to try to find a safe haven for themselves, and maybe to save the world.

Haig began her writing career as a poet, and that is a gift for readers, as she provides the most beautiful and heartbreaking descriptions of the world she has created.  Every page is a journey, and I found myself reflecting on many different things while reading.  Rarely does my brain go to South African apartheid and The Matrix in one sitting.  The connection between twins is what makes this book unique and thought provoking, and it is Cass's heart that makes this story worth reading.  Haig has said this will be a trilogy, and I cannot wait for the next two installments of this bleak, yet hopeful read.

Reviewing Gail Carriger’s Prudence, a comedic steampunk adventure

Gail Carriger's newest novel, Prudence, is the first in a new series that is one part steampunk, one part fantasy, and eight parts comedy.  It's easy to see why Carriger cites P.G. Wodehouse as a major influence, as she flawlessly captures his style of charm, cheer, and whimsical irreverence, and adds her own twist with paranormal fantasy, wordplay, and tea adoration.  She also includes a nod to Dickens with memorable supporting character names such as Brigadier Featherstonehaugh and Lieutenant Broadwattle.

Prudence takes place in the same universe as her two previous series- an alternate, steampunk version of Victorian England where "supernaturals" (werewolves, vampires, and ghosts) are accepted members of high society.  The four main characters of the story, Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, Honourable Miss Primrose Tunstell, Professor Percival Tunstell, and Mister Quesnel Lefoux, are the next generation of adventurers, the offspring of the characters featured in Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate series.  The story centers around the Rue (Prudence) captaining an airship (or dirigible, for those who enjoy steampunk lingo) and heading to India on a mission to obtain some extremely important tea plants.  But of course the plot thickens with stolen parasols, political intrigue, and other chicanery.

Rest assured, readers new to this universe will easily enjoy this novel as a standalone read.  However, those who find themselves struggling with the occasional unanswered question should look to her previous series for answers.  But true satisfaction lies with those of us who have already read the earlier novels and are longing for updates on some of our favorite characters, who pop up with gratifying frequency throughout the novel in minor roles.

This novel is perfect for anyone who enjoys adventure, wit, and humor served with a side of light-hearted silliness. This novel will thoroughly appeal to adults and teens alike.



Acer Schedules NYC Event for April 23


It’s been a rather busy and exciting start to 2015, with the first few months seeing exciting news from high-profile events like CES, Mobile World Congress followed by a buzz-worthy launch courtesy of Apple. With that in mind, it seems a little strange to hear that Acer has scheduled a ‘global press conference’ in New York City for April 23 –not so much because they wouldn’t have reason to do so, but it seems like rather advanced notice (perhaps an attempt to pull attention away from Apple and remind folks that ‘hey, we are still here’).

Either way, this much notice is bound to give people time to speculate as to what Acer has up their sleeves –but it needs to be good if they are going to compete.

Acer has already given us a look at two of their new products earlier this month at Mobile World Congress, taking the form of two entry-level Android-powered smartphones: Liquid Z220 and Liquid Z520.

For anybody looking at a really basic smartphone with a 4-inch screen, the Liquid Z220 seems a decent enough contender (especially at the projected $100 USD price). Oddly, the device is being marketed and reviewed as a good ‘second cell’ that could be taken on holiday or used at times when having an expensive device may not be wise –which kind of makes it sound a bit like something made of cardboard that is ultimately worthless and disposable.

The Liquid Z520 is a larger-format phablet-style smartphone at a bargain price (estimated at approximately $120 USD). Specs on the phone are remarkably blah, with the unit featuring: a 5-inch display with 800×480 pixels resolution, 1.3GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash (and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera), 1GB of RAM, and 32 GB of on-board storage (which can be expanded using a microSD card).

Hopefully the event launches a few products that we can get a little more excited about –with some speculating there might be a few new Windows Phones in the mix.

Are there any Acer rumours out there that any of you are excited about?

Acer Schedules NYC Event for April 23 is a post from: Good e-Reader

Star Wars Back-story to be Published Before The Force Awakens


I am pretty sure that Star Wars is the only franchise able to truly give Apple a run for its money in the hype department. Even if you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you’ll be well aware that a new installment to the beloved series of films is due out at the end of the year –but before we see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the big screen, Disney Worldwide Publishing and Lucasfilm confirmed that we will have a collection of 20 books at our disposal filled with the requisite 32 years of back-story following Return of the Jedi.

As if the promise of uncovering ‘major secrets’ wasn’t draw enough to make these books required reading for any true fan, “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” books will be released through a partnership with a number of (not to be ignored) outside companies; not the least of which being Del Rey and Marvel Comics.

Michael Siglain, director, Creative Franchise, Lucasfilm, Disney Publishing Worldwide understands how Star Wars fans prepare –inviting the anticipation and speculation to begin while assuring us that “the filmmakers have a lot of surprises in store, and the hints and puzzle pieces in the publishing program will keep fans guessing until the film opens.”

As we have come to expect from this creative partnership, no endeavour is completed half-way. Publishing of these books will take the form of: print and digital editions (many of which will feature new narrative stories for middle grade and young adults), comics, illustrated reference, Look and Find, and sticker books (which begs the question: am I too old for a sticker book?).

According to executive VP of Disney Publishing Worldwide Andrew Sugerman:

“We are thrilled to be developing content for fans of this epic saga across the globe. The robust publishing program will appeal to a range of fans — old and new — across all formats from comics to novels to apps, making this one of the most exciting and collaborative collection of stories that we've seen to date.

The partnership with the story group and the editorial team always had to be true to the sanctity of the film while making sure that we find these moments to introduce hints, clues, and puzzle pieces. It's a way to introduce the heroes and villains of that original trilogy to a new audience that might not be as familiar as the audience that went and saw the films when they first came out.”

While many of the books are still being written and edited, a few titles have already been announced:

  • Moving Target, by Cecil Castellucci (follows Princess Leia)
  • The Weapon of a Jedi, by Jason Fry (follows Luke Skywalker)
  • Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray
  • Smuggler’s Run, by Greg Rucka (follows Han Solo)

Specific release dates have not been announced, but we are told to expect this ‘ambitious publishing program’ to kick off in full force this upcoming fall. Let’s hope it is sooner than later, because fans are going to need a little time to read them ahead of the December 18 launch (which cannot come soon enough) of the actual Star Wars: The Force Awakens film.

Star Wars Back-story to be Published Before The Force Awakens is a post from: Good e-Reader