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 tag “e-reader”

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).

 

Churning Out Books in the Digital Age

The world of publishing is changing rapidly and I think, for the most part, that is good. The industry was bloated, wasteful, expensive, and an environmental disaster. The move to eBooks, the competition from those who can now publish their own works or create their own boutique publishing company, means that even the best authors need to avoid complacency.

Ready to be pulped. A shame we can’t plant them and replace the trees.

But there are inevitable side effects to this new shift.  One such phenomenon was spotlighted by Julie Bosman, in an article entitled: “Writer’s Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, a Book a Year Is Slacking.” Ms. Bosman gathered any quotes from other sources mentioned in this post.

In the previous model, writing a book a year was considered impressive and many A-list authors struggled to achieve this level of creative input. Now, however, with an audience thirsting for more, and having instant accessibility with eReaders and falling prices, publishers are demanding more from their authors, often in the form of short stories, articles, novellas, and often as not, another full length novel.

It is all about presence on the Internet and publishers are demanding that their authors are out there. It is not just books, but a social media presence. Authors are expected to be on twitter, blogging, Google+, Facebook, giving interviews and blog tours.

“It used to be that once a year was a big deal,” said Lisa Scottoline, a best-selling author of thrillers. “You could saturate the market. But today the culture is a great big hungry maw, and you have to feed it.”

Ms. Scottoline is now producing two books a year, doubling her writing output, and this is often fueled by a fear that readers won’t hang around waiting for the next book, but will move on to the next author.

Publishers are often demanding short stories to be published in between novels and prior to a launch, especially when a series is being produced over several years.  Lee Child, who writes the successful Jack Reacher thriller series, publishes these short stories in digital-only format.

“Everybody’s doing a little more,” said Mr. Child, who is published by Delacorte Press, part of Random House. “It seems like we’re all running faster to stay in the same place.”

Apparently publishers have discovered that a $0.99 short story will drum up support for a new eBook at $12-15 or $25+ for a hardcover. Given the impulsiveness in eBook purchases (if you like one book by an author, you will drop $20 to buy several of their older books) providing a welcome rise in sales of earlier books.  

That can translate into higher pre-order sales for the novel and even a lift in sales of older books by the author, which are easily accessible as e-book impulse purchases for consumers with eReaders.

But where is the balance between asking for more from authors and seeing a decline in the quality or level of creativity from authors? And are we going to see more burn-out from our top authors? And, I can’t help wondering, whether this is why we are seeing a rise in ghostwriting?

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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).

Help A Struggling Author

Left Coast Voices takes great pride in championing the poor, the downtrodden and the exploited. We try and keep it positive by emphasizing organizations and individual who are trying to make a difference and help create a better world.

This post is not one of them. But since it is the season of good will and many of us are considering what gifts we want to buy friends and how to put some good out in to the world, I am going to allow myself a mild dose of narcissism. Actually, I would like you to consider helping a struggling author. It doesn’t have to be me, but if you insist…

Here are 10 ways to help a struggling author:

1.     Post a review of their book on Amazon.com. This is very important and influential. Add some helpful tags or add them to your listamania.

2.     Buy their book, if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend’s birthday, or instead of a bottle of wine next time you’re invited for dinner. Maybe as a Xmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa present. Did you know that you can buy an e-book as a gift and send it to your friend’s e-Reader?

3.     Mention the author’s website or blog on whatever social networking sites you are active. Spotlight them on your blog.

4.     Go to the public library. If their book isn’t there, request it. If it is there, take it out. Even better – reserve it. Why? Libraries track book movement. If a book is in demand in Northern California, the libraries in Southern California etc. might order some copies.  

5.     Mention their book on Goodreads.

6.     Know someone who is in a book club? Suggest that they nominate your friend’s book for the group to read.

7.     Donate a copy of their book in a fundraising raffle or silent auction as a prize. It is great exposure.

8.     Attend their book readings. Ask questions that make them look good and/or authoritative. Answering questions from someone you know helps the author relax and build confidence.

9.     Link your website and their website. Subscribe to their blog.

10.  Hug an author. It won’t propel them into the New York Times Bestseller list, but it means a lot.

This list took me less than 10 minutes. I’m sure there are many other ways that I haven’t thought of. If you can think of any, please add them in the comments below. This is all about win:win. In the middle of a recession, and a ruthless industry that is in involuntary transformation, win:win is something we could all do with in the season of good will.

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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 Psychology of Money

I recently attended a workshop on personal finance facilitated by a man who had transitioned into the profession of Personal Finance Coach from being a psychologist. He feels that one of the reasons that he can help his clients is that he understands the psychology of money.

However, he warned, there are those who understand this field far better than the personal finance coach. Top of their field are the credit card companies, followed by the retail industry. They are the experts at persuading you that you have the desire and the ability to purchase something. You need it and you can afford it.


When my parents visited last year from the olde countrye, I gave them our ‘spare’ cell phone. “Why do we need this?” they asked. I suggested that they could call me whenever they had a question. “But we see you every evening after you finish work.” True. But they wouldn’t have to wait for me in the hotel lobby, not sure how long it would take me to negotiate the commute from San Francisco to the East Bay. I could call them when I was near. “We can wait in the lobby. It’s comfortable. We paid to use it.”

Hard to beat the logic. And yet we have decided that cell phones are a necessity. We need to be able to be contacted 24/7 except when we turn it off. But then who does that? Not only this, but we seem to need an awful lot of things that come with the cell phone – internet, email, e-reader, navigator, music, camera, espresso machine. Spoiler! That comes with the iPhone 8, which incidentally will be so fast that you can talk to someone by just thinking of them.

So now we are not just paying $10-$20 for a carry-around phone. We are paying $60-$70 per phone as a national average. Families are easily paying $200. When did we decide that we had to have all this? When did it become a necessity?

What would you think of someone who interviewed for a job in your company and when you said you would call their cell, they told you they didn’t have one? Maybe they tell you that they don’t see the need. I bet you would think twice about hiring them.

Now I am not against cell phones. If my better half is stuck in traffic or delayed for whatever reason, I worry and call her cell. I probably would talk more to my parents if they lived in the US because of my cell phone (regardless of whether they had one too).

Back to the credit card companies: how are they able to persuade us to rack up debt so easily? Sure you don’t feel the pain when sliding that plastic like handing over bank notes. There is a connection between credit card companies and retail. One thrives on the slickness of the other.

The only ones who suffer are the consumers. By the way; the average credit card debt per family is in the region of $15,000. With the absurd rates of interest, it is a hole that is so difficult to climb out of, never mind building  nest egg for the future.

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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 http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

Reading is Dead. Long Live the Readers

Okay, so I might be getting a little carried away by getting excited at one quote from one young person, but I got very excited at this one quote from this one young person…

“Some weeks I completely forgot about TV. I went two weeks with only watching one show, or no shows at all. I was just reading every day.”

ELIANA LITOS, 11, on her new e-reader.

This quote appeared in the New York Times yesterday. Though my 12-year-old reads vivaciously, I know he is in a minority of his friends. They are undeniably a screen generation, actually a multi-screen generation, and everything seems to be defined through the pixels of a screen.

This is not to say that they are each ensnared in their own little worlds, they are excited and seek ways to reach out and share experiences with their friends – through screens.

So the emergence of e-readers, of reading on mobile phones and computers is, I think, a step in the right direction. Yes, there is something that they will miss in the sensory experience of holding and smelling a book, of hearing the page crack as it is turned over.

But this generation never knew the experience of taking that vinyl record out of its sleeve, of reverently wiping the dist off and laying it onto the record player, before making alchemy of needle + vinyl = music. And yet, they still get the rush of a great song, of their body moving involuntarily to the beat, of the clarity of telling lyrics.

Am I getting carried away from one quote? Perhaps. Summer has arrived (so far) to Berkeley. The sky is blue, the air pungent, and everything’s gonna be alright!


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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

 

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