Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “June, 2010”

The Price of an ebook

In a recent blog post I referred to a marketing report that detailed the exploding market of ebook readers and the growth in the sales of ebooks. I just came across a draft that I had planned to share with you when Amazon.com seemed resistant to lowering the price of my kindle version of Oilspill dotcom from $9.99.

The basis of my argument was not just that the price was too high, but that I had another distributor, Smashwords, selling the ebook in all formats at $4.99. My kindle version of Oilspill dotcom was eventually reduced to $4.99 and actually began to sell. I have just noticed that Amazon.com have now further reduced the price to $3.19.

Fair enough. But this has got me thinking what exactly should the price of an ebook be? There are hardly any costs involved after the initial set up. There are website overheads, promotion etc., but no trees are being felled, replaced, distributed and returned.

For my recent birthday, friends gave me gift vouchers for Amazon, so that I could begin building a library on my newly purchased kindle. I am, now the consumer, finding myself dismissing anything over $10 on principle, and skeptical about a book over $5.

Jeff Rivera wrote an interesting article: Writers: Making a Living Off of Kindle? (Apr 19, 2010). He interviewed J. A. Konraith, the author of the Jack Daniels detective series. Mr. Konraith is making a living primarily off of his ebooks and is justifiably proud of it. He points out that he is making more from his digital books than his tree books (luv the name!). I will cover this article in the future, but want to share one particular aspect here.

Mr. Konraith sells his latest novels for $2.99. With Amazon’s new royalty system, he will make $2.04 off each book. He sells his older novels for $1.99. The idea behind this is that people will probably hear of his latest and read that first. After enjoying the book, they can go in and order 5 for $10. They are now packed for their vacation! Even if they order them one at a time, his books are at the price level of an impulse purchase for most people.

I love the idea of responding to the question of how much my book costs with: “Less than that cup of coffee you’re holding. And it doesn’t cool off as you read your way through.” Not sure I’ll persuade Starbucks to make my novel their Pick of the Month!

I would be interested to know what price you are willing to pay for a novel when you download to your eReader, computer, or phone?

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www/alonshalev.com/

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A Corner That’s My Own

It is not easy finding a space to write as I share a small house with three other people who, rightfully, vie for a fair potion of my attention. Sure, I can go out to a café and I do, but when I am away for work or book promotion for so many hours of the week, sometimes I want to sit in my own house, and drink coffee out of my own mug.

Last week I took advantage of an Office Depot sale and bought a real desk. It is compact, but sits nicely in the kitchen looking outside to a concrete cube of a garden that my wife has softened up with plants and wind chimes.

Stephen King wrote Carrie in the laundry room, a typewriter (yes I wrote that correctly) on his lap. So who am I to complain? I’m not. I am actually sitting at the desk now, Detox AM tea in a cup, Genesis blasting from my woofer (also from Office Depot – 10 bucks, but hey Genesis always sound good). The family has given me an hour to sit here and the sun is reflecting off the metallic green and red wind chime.

But a place of your own to write is important. It is sacred space with a boundary defined by your craft of writing. It needs to exist: it demands respect.

Now I know you can find this sacred space anywhere because the key component is within. Starbucks and headphones can do it. I have written some solid passages in a busy airport lounge or on the BART train during rush hour.

But I do think we need that space somewhere, defined. It is part of our character as a writer: it really doesn’t need much. Above my head are my writing books. To their left is a small magnetic notice board with my writing goals for the month and some inspiration. Photos of the family are displayed, not staid portraits, rather scenes that make me smile. There is a modest, comfortable chair to sit on and I am ready to go.

Now, to quote the Genesis song: It’s time to Turn It On Again.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Ebook Market Exploding, Says New IDPF Survey

Ebook Market Exploding, Says New IDPF Survey

An Open Letter to British Petroleum (BP)

Dear BP,

That was not nice! Isn’t it enough that you’ve polluted the ocean, massacred wildlife, and destroyed people’s businesses?

Now you have to go after me? I’m also a Brit, in case you weren’t aware.

Am I really such a threat? I know, I know, the pen is mightier than the oil drill, but do you really feel so threatened by the onslaught of literature?

Oilspill dotcom isn’t even about you. It could be, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day it will be, but I was having a go at McDonald’s. Honest. I happen to love the rain forests as well as the oceans.

I sell most of my books over the Internet. It’s the only way. I have a full time job running a non-profit that supports students. And they will, unfortunately, all be driving oil-fueled cars in the very near future, so you could see me as a stakeholder of sorts.

Did you really have to buy up ALL the ‘oil spill’ search words from Google? Now all those literature lovers are going to get distracted by apologies to the tarred brown pelicans and your explanations for why BP shares aren’t performing as well as one might expect.

Poor buggers. They just wanted to buy a novel to read on the beach (a tar ball-free one) this summer, enjoy reading some humor, sex, and politics. Solid summer reading that QUESTIONS THE UNCHECKED POWERS OF MULTINATIONALS!

Oilspill dotcom confronts the issue of freedom of speech and you buy up all search words to control what people see on the Internet – the final frontier of freedom – do you even see the irony?

BTW – there is also a small company down in West Chester, PA. They clean up oil spills and their business URL is http://www.oilspill.com/ I wish their business well. I hope they don’t rely too much on the Internet for business referrals. Hey, perhaps you could become a client!

Your Internet Competitor,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Birthdays – A Retrospective View of the Future

Too many bloggers fall foul of introspection. Who, apart from their mothers are interested in what they had for dinner last night and the epiphany digested with that Big Mac? Not Ronald McDonald anymore, he’s vegetarian. Probably not their mothers either, through I wouldn’t want to make them feel guilty by asking.

But once a year, I figure it’s okay. Today is my birthday. I am thirty years old for the sixteenth consecutive year. I am excited: the stars have aligned. Today is the second day of the World Cup (I’m talking soccer – a once-every-four-years’ extravaganza – you really didn’t know?). England, yes I become patriotic once every four years, open their campaign against … the United States of America.

Now, since I still lack my citizenship, I will of course remain neutral. I will only wear that sleek England T-shirt (and every day during the next month until The Three Lions lose) out of obligation to Mrs. Blogger’s generosity.

Friends are being coerced to come round, drink warm beer, and watch a game that they have no interest in. Friendship counts.

Watching the endless TV programs about prior World Cups is a remarkable journey into one’s past. There is something about following a sport passionately that gives you an anchor in life, almost like leafing through a photo album (remember those?).

Here’s a quick plug for a book that truly illustrates the intensity of supporting your soccer team. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby is a hilarious memoir of one young mans’ year, as seen through his passion for our team, Arsenal, in a remarkable year. If you are a soccer fan or an Anglophile, it is a must-read lazing in a hammock during the summer. And yes, given that it is my birthday and I feel magnanimous, I forgive you America for rewriting the book about an American baseball fan. But how could you…

While I am promoting other authors, Alan Black is a Scotsman living in this neck of the woods. He tends bar at The Castle on Geary and is the author of Kick The Balls, a side splitting and irreverent look at how we parent our children, gleaned through the eyes of a Little League soccer coach in the US. He also has a new book out for the World Cup – The Glorious World Cup.

Now to the future. For my birthday, the family pooled together and has bought me a Kindle eReader. I’m stoked. Thank you Mrs. Blogger, boys, UK and US Mum and Dad.

I have wanted to enter the technological 21st Century ever since Ebooks surfaced. Honestly, I love my bookshelves, holding a book, the smell when entering the bookstore (quite a sacrifice for one who is allergic to dust), and passing books that mean something to me along to others. I am also apprehensive about reading an E-reader while nodding off in the bathtub.

But I also love this planet, those disappearing tall things – trees, hate the pollution and wasted energy of transportation and storage. And I remain mortified at the archaic and unjust system of publishers over-printing, while bookstores can order large quantities recklessly and then return books to the publisher to pulp or dump in the $5 bin. Never forget: the reader is paying for this wastage, reflected in the ever-rising price of books.

So onward into the digital age. I may not hold any desire for an iPhone, but I can’t wait to get tech with the new Christopher Moore book.

Now where is that on switch?

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

England Forever, South Africa As Well

One of my defining episodes as a teenager exploring social activism was the anti-apartheid movement. I participated by attending demonstrations, asking people to sign petitions, and I had a Free Nelson Mandela sticker on my pencil case. When people were asked to play their favorite song at youth club, I would offer up Biko by Peter Gabriel.

I am writing this blog 48 hours before the soccer World Cup in June 2010. I am excited, not just for the once-every-four-years’ festival of my favorite sport, but the recognition of how far South Africa has come. In a world of hate, corruption, violence and extremism, South Africa is a beacon of what can be achieved.

The overthrow of a brutal, racist system did not spiral into the bloodshed and vengeance that so many feared. The brave and difficult decision to heal memories and move on are a tribute not only to Nelson Mandela, but to every South African who committed themselves to this part.

I am a Brit. I will support the English soccer team no matter what. But I sincerely hope that South Africa, by some miracle, have a great run in the World Cup.

They deserve it.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://wwww.alonshalev.com/

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