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 category “Kindle”

What Fathers Really Want

I would blog this on Sunday, except everyone is too busy hitting the diner or firing up the grill and anyway I rarely blog on the weekend. Father’s Day has always been a bit anti-climatic for me, coming a few days after my birthday. Given our family’s busy schedule, we tend to spread birthdays over a few days (okay weeks).

imgresI saw an advertisement for Father’s Day on Amazon. They suggested you show your undying appreciation by buying your old man either a green-striped necktie or an HD Kindle Fire. I keep thinking about this. My kids have never bought me a tie for Father’s Day, and it had better be darn special if they ever do!

Now I often wear a  tie for work: anything from a power tie (usually striped) to a Jerry Garcia masterpiece (if I can get away with it). It infers a sense of confidence and raises my self-esteem – call me shallow, but I raise money for good causes and believe I am empowering the next generation to be socially conscious. Whatever it takes!

images-5But what does the tie signify? No, not incarceration, but time in the office … away from my family – the opposite of Fathers Day!

So then I started to think about the Kindle Fire. I don’t need one. I watch movies on a TV, read my books comfortably on my old black-and-white kindle, listen to music on my phone or iPod, and type my novels on a laptop. Life is tough!

Offering me another toy that can keep me engaged with social media, TV shows, connected to the office is exactly what I don’t need. And if I do – I will buy it myself.

What I, and most fathers (moms too – but you’ve had your day) need is time: time to unwind, time to pursue hobbies and good health, and most of all, time to spend with my family. No man on his deathbed ever regretted not spending more time at the office. No man in his memoir ever mused that his commute was only three hours a day.

traffic-jamSo what do I want for Father’s Day? I want to go fishing with my kids, take the family into the Redwoods and hike, picnic, and do some archery together. Perhaps we can tickle-fight on the bed or snuggle on the couch and watch another episode of Big Bang Theory even if we’ve seen it a dozen times and know the punch-lines by heart. Better yet, Lord of the Rings for the 100-th time. It doesn’t matter, as long as we are doing it together.

DSCN0951Because what a father really lacks … is time. Quality time with his family, before they grow up and move away and become adults in their own world. It’s not about the money spent, the thought that went into clicking the mouse to purchase a gift, or the wrapping. And this is a problem for Amazon and other retailers:

You can’t sell time. If you could: you wouldn’t need to sell ties and kindles for Father’s Day.

rememberingdad

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

50 Shades of Discreet

About a month ago, I sat in a coffee shop writing early in the morning, when I glanced at the screen of the man sitting next to me. He had a website with very scantily dressed women on it. I was taken aback, not by the content, but the fact he was willing to do this in a cramped coffee shop.

Boundaries dude?

Now here is a confession. I am reading 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James, the first in a trilogy that at the time of writing are #1, #2, and #3 on Amazon’s Bestseller List. I share this fact to point out that I am probably not the only one reading it. 

I have the novel on my kindle and, well, it has served as bedtime reading. Last week, I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, home of the Arc, the Cardinals and Budweiser. It also has a terrific children’s museum with a shark pool that you can toss your child in with ease. 

My journey home was long and arduous, and I soon finished my magazines, exhausted my laptop battery and turned to my kindle. In the growing darkness, I curled up against the window and read 50 Shades of Grey.

On the second flight, I sat next to a young (female) lawyer who was reading litigation books and (I suspect) not happy to sit between two middle-aged guys, one of whom was trying to make conversation (the other guy, btw). On the third flight, I was placed next to two women who were discussing their church. I was self-conscious.

There is nowhere to hide your laptop screen but a kindle has only words. It occurred to me that with the advent of eReaders, people cannot discern what you are reading. There is no visible book cover. You are in your own world, anonymous and unaccountable.

That Spreadsheet Looks Good!

I share this because I have recently read about a growing and flourishing erotic book business, spurred by short stories sold at $0.99 for the eBook. I wonder whether this has been because people are searching for more channels to explore their sexuality or because there is now a medium to read anonymously.

What excites me (bear with me) about this is the possibility that people will read books that are more risky politically. Perhaps someone growing up in a Christian family will dare to read about evolution, a gay teenager can find material to guide him/her through a turbulent journey, or an addict read a self-help support book on the train. We have seen how Twitter has played its part to overthrow oppressive regimes, how about the eReader?

But while the Internet and eReader can help push the boundaries of personal and political exploration, looking at erotic photos at Starbucks remains off limits.

Have a great weekend.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Wanted: A New Publishing Model

The world is changing, and the publishing world perhaps faster than most other businesses. No one seems to be questioning the emergence of the ebook revolution (unlike global warming). It is now accepted that ebooks are providing an appealing purchasing option (and environmental sustainability) that is proving hugely attractive, both to young people (on techno-life support) and older people (who can either change the size of the font or listen to the book read to them).

The ease with which one can now ePublish a book, often without any financial investment whatsoever, has meant that anyone can throw up a book without honing their craft, or having their book suitably edited. Buoyed by the success of a few leading individuals, people are throwing together series’ that will hopefully build a following and declaring themselves authors.

 The problem with this ePublishing is that it is difficult to distinguish between those who have worked hard to create a good novel learning and respecting all the legitimate components and those who have not. Many books are riddled with spelling and grammar errors, plot issues, or flaws in character development. In fact, according to Penny C. Sansevieri (Get Published Now), only 1% of independent books published reach the industry editorial standards.

This model serves no one: not the reader, the serious author, or the fly-by-nighters. The reader, even when paying only $0.99 or $2.99, can feel that their money and time have been wasted. The genuine craftsman/craftswoman can’t get him/herself noticed among the mass of ebooks, and the fly-by-nighters get frustrated because they fail to build a following and rake in the royalties.

It is a lose:lose model when it should be exactly the opposite.

Most of those writers involved are not interested (or not good enough) to be picked up by agents and conventional publishers. The time span (often 18 months in production), the lack of marketing help, and the inevitable withdrawal of books that don’t reach performance level in a few short months, doesn’t make the conventional model any the more appealing. John Locke, in his must-read book, lays it out succinctly.

JOhn Locke

John Locke

We, the authors, need to set our own boundaries and standards, to ensure that readers retain faith in the model and are willing to invest their time and money in a new author.

 One way that this can be achieved is through author coops. Authors can join together within genres, edit each other’s work, and market within their niche as a group. Each coop establishes it’s level of craft and marketing. Perhaps the group tithes a percentage of their earnings towards marketing as a group.

If there is a holy trinity of website, blog and twitter as Locke advocates, how much more effective would this be if five authors were expanding this platform in a coordinated fashion?

It would be a tragedy if the ebook revolution faltered because of lack of quality. The technology is good for all readers (except those who read in the bathtub), for the planet, and may well force the conventional publishing world to change their own way of doing business.

Anyone out there writing political fiction and interested?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Welcome to the World of E-books

Did you wake up this morning the proud, or maybe confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly last night while your loved ones looked on with bated breath as you apprehensively ripped open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age?

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of brandy and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will claim to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features despite hardly using the gadget’s predecessor.

Have another sip of brandy. Oh, I forgot it is the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or without choice. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the tablet e-book reader. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about the little things like a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just read on their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned annoying individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. I am also a confirmed Star Trek fan. However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in the house I share with my family.

So, some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath and slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. Remember how hard it was to drive a car when we were learning?

Finally: Have another brandy. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere: the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!).

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Last Minute Gift?

It’s quick. You don’t need to battle frantic store crowds.  It’s environmental. It’s not expensive…

Did you know you can buy an e-book and send it directly to a friend as a gift?

Any Kindle book available for purchase in the Kindle Store can be given as a gift to anyone with an e-mail address. You do not need a Kindle device to send or receive Kindle book gifts, and the recipient can read their gift on a registered Kindle device or any free Kindle reading application.

All you need to know is that person’s email.  You can add a personal message as well. For more details, click here. Apart from giving a meaningful gift, you are also helping a struggling author. Here are 10 other ways to help a friend who is an author.

Happy Holidays.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

The Morning After…

Did you wake up this morning the proud, or maybe confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly while your loved ones looked on with baited breath as you pulled open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age?

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of brandy and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will claim to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features dispite hardly using the gadget’s predecessor.

Have another sip of brandy. Oh, I forgot it’s the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or via our loved ones desire to pull us along with them. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the e-book reader. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just use their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned annoying individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. I am also a confirmed Star Trek fan.

However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in the house I share with my family.

Some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath and slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. Remember how hard it was to drive a car when we were learning?

Finally: Have another brandy. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere, the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!).

——————————————————————————————————-

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

E-books and the Gift Season

Just in time for the 2010 holiday season, Kindle launched a framework to buy books for other people. For details, please follow the link: (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200555070). Kindle book gifting allows customers to buy Kindle book(s) as holiday gifts for their friends/family.

We, as authors, may also gift our own title(s) to our friends and loved ones.  For more details for authors on gifting, please see our publisher FAQ – http://forums.digitaltextplatform.com/dtpforums/entry!default.jspa?categoryID=25&externalID=552&fromSearchPage=true.

Finally, my offering for a rainy weekend when all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a good boo–downloaded digital e-book.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

Summer’s Over!

It went so fast. Five weeks on the road: vacation, family visits, book promotion, and work. Now it is all over and we are back into the routine of life. It has been an eventful time, but it is also a watershed. Here is an overview:

1. Oilspill dotcom will be withdrawn by the end of September. After just over a year in print, it has been picked up by Three Clover Press. They will publish the novel under the title: The Accidental Activist. It has a wonderful new cover and has gone through numerous rounds of editing, both human and computer editing programs.
The Accidental Activist will be launched at the NCIBA trade show (Northern California Independent Bookstore Association, I think!) in mid October.

Oilspill dotcom is about to become a collector’s item: Hold on to your copies!

2. Blog: While this blog will remain to share my triumphs and…well triumphs, I will focus my marketing through a new blog on Word Press. Left Coast Voices will focus on politics and activism here on the West Coast. While writing entries for the group identified as potential readers, I hope to expose them to my novels and they won’t be able to stop themselves from flocking to the bookstores, and e-book sources.

This is an interesting approach. Other authors at Three Clover Press are doing this with encouraging success. However, it is a lot of work. Blogs succeed with a certain formula: multiple daily entries, links, and social media promotion. It feels daunting given that I manage to carve maybe an hour slot each day to write my new novel, edit the one being read at the Berkeley Writers Group, and market the books published.

3. Social Networking: I have been focusing my social networking efforts on various author e-groups around the ‘net. The idea is to offer constructive responses and leave a signature that will encourage people to check out your website and possibly to buy your books.
I will continue with this, but focus on groups that reflect my writings such as political activist groups. This is going to take a while to research and find the right groups. With the growing success that I am seeing for fellow authors myself and with Kindle, I will begin with groups on Amazon.

4. Website: It has been a few months since I updated www.alonshalev.com/. With the new book being launched, it high time that I work on this. Please take a moment over the next month to check it out and feel free to offer any suggestions to help improve it.

5. Alliance: This is where it gets complicated. Why didn’t I do all these aforementioned tasks over the summer when things slowed down? Actually they didn’t really slow much, but this is not the issue. I wrote in an earlier blog entry that my son Pele and I started writing a fantasy novel together.

The reality is that I have really got sucked into this and, as with my last novel – Lost Heroes – the story is pouring out. We have written over 45,000 words in the past few weeks and there is no sign of slowing down. It is constantly on my mind and I am having a hard time focusing on anything else in my writer’s world.

So, summer is over. At Hillel the next few months are intensive and I need to be totally on board for my students, staff and our stakeholders.

I’ve always thought sleep to be severely overrated!

Good Writing,
Alon

http://www.alonshalev.com/

Economic Greed or Strategic Conspiracy?

There have been numerous discussions regarding the correct price of ebooks, including on this blog. While Amazon has allowed publishers and authors to lower the price of their books, they have resisted allowing them to raise the price above $9.99.

This has generally been seen as a commitment to market penetration (helping the reader to become used to purchasing ebooks through offering an attractive price). The question is: why are so many publishers resisting?

The publishers, McMillan, recently confronted Amazon’s policy and told the online giants that they planned to sell their ebooks at a higher price. They wanted to maintain the right to set the price of the book, allowing the retailer (Amazon, Nook, iPad etc.) to set their own commission percentage.

Amazon refused to accept this and actually pulled the “buy now” buttons from the Amazon.com pages of McMillan books (both their ebooks and tree books). While a compromise was quickly reached, the impact of Apple’s iPad and their willingness to accept the agency model that McMillan and other publishers prefer, has led to an erosion of Amazon’s ability to control the price of ebooks.

What puzzles me is why are publishers (and many authors) preferring to raise the price of ebooks especially given that the market is still in its nascent strange? True, they will make more money per copy, but surely they realize that they are going to sell considerably less copies.

Many authors (non A-list) are discovering that once their ebook price drops to less than $5, or even $3, given that Amazon are now offering an unprecedented 70% royalty, their sales become far more prolific. Sales of Oilspill dotcom grew when I reduced the ebook price to $4.99, and Amazon have since dropped it periodically to as low as $3.17.

Given that one assumes the publishing houses have economists with strategic experience, is their decision to raise the price above $10 simply short-term greed, or is it a subtle strategic decision to try and slow the growth of the ebook market.

I doubt I would have thought this a few years ago, but given the recklessness of financial institutions, housing and energy multinationals, doesn’t it make you wonder?

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Oilspill dotcom is available on Amazon’s Kindle for the price of a large, fancy cup of coffee. Be warned: the coffee gets cold before you finish the first third of the book!

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