Magazine / eBook Coding Project Meetup At ReaderCon

Magazine / eBook Coding Project Meetup At ReaderCon

Since a good number of the people who are interested in helping with and hammering out details on the eBook Magazine project I posed about will be at Readercon in a few weeks, I think it would be a good idea to have a meetup there. I know there are several of you interested who won’t be there, so hopefully I can get together with you online to make sure we know about the skill sets, availability, and ideas of everyone who wants to be involved.

For the peeps who’ll be at Readercon, how does meeting during the dinner break (yes, over actual dinner) on Saturday sound?

For the online component of this project, people seem to use Google Sites to good effect for organizing such things. Would anyone be interested in setting up one of those with both public and private areas?

If You Build This, Magazines Will Come

If You Build This, Magazines Will Come

During WisCon I had a brief conversation with Jed Hartman about my continued sadness that more online magazines don’t have an eBook version of their stories so I can easily load them on my eReader and thus read more fiction. He agreed that Things Must Be Done, but there are questions of logistics and reader/audience desires plus the technology to make it all happen. We came to the conclusion that making this work is about more than just creating an eBook version of the magazine, but also delivery and access. There’s a niche here that needs filling, but in order to do that, we’re going to need coders.

I want to propose an open source coding project and gather coders around me to make it happen, but I have no flippin’ idea how to do that. I also want to get some more feedback on this idea and work out the kinks. Luckily, I have a blog, so I totally know how to do that. So here are the questions, issues, problems, and goals I see surrounding all of this.

  1. Relatively easy eBook creation. Though programs like Calibre can create EPUB (and other eBook format) files, Tobias Buckell recently pointed out to me that this is not the optimal solution. He equated it to people using Microsoft Word to create web pages. Yes, the program can do it, but the code it generates is from hell. Not fit for anyone except really clueless newbies. We wouldn’t want that for these eBooks. So a primary aspect is to figure out who or what will generate clean code for EPUB.
  2. How many eBooks? Many online magazines do the monthly or semi-monthly thing, but for those that publish every week, do readers want an eBook for every story, or is one per month good?
  3. Free or Not Free? Many online magazines are free, which is a yay. Should their eBooks be free as well? I am personally in favor of charging a small amount for the files for the convenience of having the eBook format. The fiction will still be free on the website, of course. What are other people’s thoughts on this?
  4. Delivery System. Outfits like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony will deliver magazines to subscribers automatically, but only if you have a device that stays within their ecosystem. Like, if I subscribe to a magazine through B&N but use my Sony Reader to read it, it won’t show up each month on its own, I’d have to download then transfer it. Plus, I imagine that many online magazines would want to sell or make their eBook versions available through independent eBookstores or just from their site. I had an idea that I’d like to be able to embed and deliver eBooks with an RSS feed like you do with podcasts. That way, if you subscribe to the feed, you automatically get the file. It would be nice if this worked with paid eBook files as well. This is where the major coding work comes in. How do you set this kind of thing up? And would you need an accompanying program to then transfer the eBook to your eReader?
  5. Subscriptions or Individual Payments? Going along with the system I described above, will readers want to subscribe up front to many months worth of a magazine or would they be happier just paying per month?

This is what I’ve come up with so far, but please feel free to add anything else you think should be under consideration and please give your thoughts, solutions, etc. to the above. I feel that if this is done right, we may end up with a really cool program or online service that can handle all of these things. But, as I said, I’d want this to be open source and made available to magazines for little or no cost, if possible.

I’d love any suggestions on how to proceed from here.

They Say: Children more likely to own a mobile phone than a book. I Say: Good.

They Say: Children more likely to own a mobile phone than a book. I Say: Good.

I’ve seen this Telegraph article linked to at least seven times amongst my geeky, book reading friends, usually with much anger or sadness or both and a lot of fist shaking. The gist is this: studies say that kids who have access to books at home are more likely to stay in school. Also that kids who had their own books are better readers. But many kids don’t have their own books or access to books in the home, but a ton of kids have their own mobile phones.

While the article is full of people going OH NOES! I am like: dude, this is a wonderful opportunity.

It doesn’t say what kind of mobile phones these kids have. Maybe they’re not smart phones, but I’ll bet a lot of them are. I’ll bet a lot of those smart phones are the kind that utilize apps (even WinMo can handle apps, they are just crappy apps). If the phone has apps, there’s an eBook reading app that exists for it.

Even non-smart phones have the ability to read some eBooks. And given that mobile makers are looking for ways to make non-smart phones more interactive, engaging, and enticing by asking developers to get on making apps for them, too, if your phone doesn’t have the ability to read eBooks, it will soon.

While it’s true that most apps can’t read eBooks with DRM, that should not be a barrier. Let the books be DRM-free or, if you really, truly care, develop some apps that can read ACS4 encoded files and release it to the world.

You say 80% of kids have a mobile but you want them to own books? Then sell them books for their mobiles. You want to run a program to give free books to kids so they’ll read? Budget money for both paper books and eBooks. You want kids to read more? Then you reach them where their interests clearly lie instead of trying to drag them back into the habits of an old and¬†curmudgeonly¬†generation. This isn’t hard.

In other words: stop your whining and do something. Or hush up.

enTourage eDGe eReader rEview

enTourage eDGe eReader rEview

One of the eReaders I talked about a few weeks ago in my long post (which you need to read if you’re a writer, editor, or publisher) is now out. The enTourage eDGe dual screen eReader/Tablet has been extensively reviewed over at Laptop Magazine. Check itout, especially if you’re a student. It’s pretty cool, though needs some updates before it’s as useful as the company intends.

By the way, that title is not a typo. Random capitalization seems to be the norm in tech these days.

Addendum to eBook Post: Other eBook Stores

Addendum to eBook Post: Other eBook Stores

John Sclazi has an excellent post about supporting the authors affected by this whole Macmillan/Amazon war by buying their books, then he goes on to list many fine places one can purchase said books both online and in real life.

I realized upon reading this that, in my last post, I hadn’t mentioned some good places to buy eBooks that aren’t attached to specific readers and are also worth looking in to if you’re an author or other publishing entity. I don’t know about all of them, so if you know of some I missed, please let me know in the comments.

The American Bookseller’s Association has made it easy for independent booksellers to create an eBook store through their IndieCommerce initiative. Hundreds of stores have taken advantage of it, and I believe Powell’s books is one of them. They definitely have an eBook store. You can find eBooks on IndieBound as well. If you have a favorite bookstore and they have a website, it’s worth checking it to see if they offer eBooks. WebScription.net is Baen’s eBookstore, though they sell non-Baen’s books there.

Like I said, if you know of any others, please let us know in the comments.