Archive for the ‘e-books’ Category

Long Time No Post

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything even remotely to do with reading. Between wedding plans, Christmas and general home improvements I haven’t found much spare time to be reading at all.

I have picked up the kindle again and am proud to say I have finished reading Tolkien’s The Two Towers. I even managed to read it quick enough that I still retained most of the side characters names and know the gist of the plot. I did put it down for a while around the Entish part and I think that was about the point that I got stuck last time ten years ago!

I am onto the final book now and it would be great to say I’ve finally read lord of the rings but I won’t hold my breath just yet.

As a side book to lighten the mood of the archaic sounding narrative of Tolkien I decided to try out some of the free self published books available on Amazon. The first one I tried was particularly amateur. I won’t list the title as I didn’t give it a fair reading, probably no more than a few paragraphs.

The second one, Adrian Howell’s Psionic Book Four: The Quest was far more entertaining. I hadn’t read any of the prior books but this didn’t seem to matter as the narrative was clear and easy to follow. Any important preceding events were mentioned when they had an impact on the current plot and the technical aspects of the characters abilities were fairly simple to follow.

The action started from the first page and do far, 10%, it hadn’t let up yet. I will post a full review when I get to the end and I already have the previous three books downloaded so I can get the full picture of what happened Adrian and his sister.

The quality of this eBook is not just in the writing but in the editorial care the author has taken over their work. I try not to get too caught up in the technical aspects but it is far more enjoyable to read a book that has been cared about.


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Space is set in the southern states of USA. It depicts a couple, deeply in-love, who are torn apart – both in themselves and from each other – by their daughter. The novel opens with a touching scene of family unity, underpinned by Deede’s awareness of her daughter’s absence. The contrast between the unity and the following panic concerning their daughter’s well-being when they learn she has overdosed sets up the tone for the rest of the novel.

Through the spiritual voice of Deede, Emily Sue Harvey candidly exposes what it is like to live with a drug addict. Each tiny victory is blown out by catastrophic failure and Deede’s hopeless optimism begins to wear thin. The reader is dragged along on an emotional roller-coaster; the tracks being Faith’s road through drug addiction and the cart is the tenuous family solidarity that creaks and groans with each new obstacle. Any moment it will derail sending the Stowe/Eagle clan to destruction.

The tight-knit family from the prologue struggles to hold it together. Gradually, one by one, they turn their back on Faith. Her name is ironic. No one has faith in her yet it, and support is what she needs to find her way back to the tracks. Dan Stowe reacts with vigorous discipline and Deede with the more softly, softly approach. Whether either of them has it in them to turn their daughter around is irrelevant. It is the emotional drama which gives this novel its charm.

The characterisation in this novel is the key to its power. Each character is fully realised and has distinct relationships with others. The conflicts that arise out of family solidarity and logic cast the reader into a see-saw as to who to sympathise with. As relationships become strained or sometimes strengthened as the novel progresses the drama and impact escalates.

Recovering from drug addiction is hard, and even harder to write about. Harvey unflinchingly goes into insightful detail on the experience from both mother and daughter perspectives. The plot itself is harrowing at times but incredibly real and true to life. Love still shines through the text despite the desperate situations proving Noni’s comment:

“With all its sham, drugery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

Published by The Story Plant

Kindle Edition 13th Sept 2011

Paperback 20th Oct 2011

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Guardian published this article a couple of days ago regarding the future of books in light of the “digital revolution” which has now extended into the realm of writing. It expands its parameters to the effect of digitalisation on other areas. It got me to thinking about the music industry and how it survived modernisation. Hopefully authors can also find a happy technological ending. You can read the original article here:


Most of us can probably remember when Napster first hit the Internet. Music was (illegally) easy to download and share. New bands and songs became readily available. Music artists became concerned about their work being circulated without their receiving any royalties. Metallica famously sued Napster whilst other bands such as Nine Inch Nails released an album completely free to download.

The music industry, over ten years later, is still going strong. Festivals, concerts and legal paid for downloads provide enough income for music artists to continue their work.

Could the same happen for the writing industry? It is a business after all. The archaic process of writer-agent-publisher may become obsolete. It will need to adapt if it is to survive in the dire economic climate. People haven’t got the spare cash anymore to spend out £6-10 on a new book. Given the option they will seek to download a free e-version or perhaps trial free material from an unknown writer.

In Writing magazine, the august edition features a lengthy article from Stephen Leather who convinced his publisher to sell his book Hard Landing at a knock down price in the e-book format. He claims this increased his readership and he saw the benefit in rising sales from his other titles which were priced much higher. Here is a writer who already had a book contract with a publisher and chose to embrace the technology as a sales technique – and it worked.

With established and fully edited novels being sold at an astounding £0.49, how can new writers ever hope to compete and build a career. Though the digital cost may be nominal, the time and effort spent in editing a manuscript to a professional level and marketing it to potential readers is surely worth more than pennies? Tax is included in that price as well seeing as e-books are not exempt from tax like print books are. (Does anyone understand why? – I’d be keen to know.)

For anyone looking for a new author to read I’ve found http://www.authonomy.com to be a great source recently. Two I’d particularly recommend having a look at are:

The Words of Adriel by Joshua Jacobs – a horror novel aimed at Young Adults


Savannah Fire by Alan Chaput – a thriller set in the post-colonial southern states of America

Unfortunately neither book is complete but it does spark hope that the free e-book revolution may uncover previously unsung talent.

Still, as long as there are new books to read I’m content.


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As digitalisation of books becomes increasingly popular so will the new phenomenon of self-publishing.

It has suddenly become easy and cheap to distribute ones own unsolicited manuscript to the wide world; bounding over the slushpiles without so much as a spellcheck!

I managed to download a programme the other week which I intended to use to format my own story so I could read and annotate it on my Kindle. I tried using Amazon’s email facility which automatically converts any text file but the strange formatting it resulted in made the document difficult to read.

The software I downloaded, as far as I could tell, was completely legal and intended for publishing actual books in a .mobi format – readable by most ereaders. Scarily enough there was a button on there that allowed me to distribute my unvetted ebook, surpassing the long drawn out agent/editor/selling process! There I was, a click away from being a published author – a childhood dream. How easy it would have been to distribute my typo-ridden contradictory 1st draft manuscript and skip all the blood, sweat and tears that most writers put into their work.

I don’t agree with the idea of self-publishing, it should be difficult to get a book into print so that the ones that do make it really are worth reading. Reading is very time consuming and should be saved for the cream of the crop. For example see the reviews for Paul Pilkington’s The One You Love. At the time of writing this post this book was no.1 on the Top 100 Free Kindle ebooks on Amazon. Many of the reviews dated between the 7th and 11th of August note that whilst the book was good there were many spelling mistakes, missing paragraphs and discrepancies in the writing itself (which cannot be blamed on software error) that seeped into the final product.

I would like to point out here that I am not calling the writing of Pilkington amateur – just the production of the ebook itself. Writers aren’t made to be publishers – publishers are. It’s not an easy process; self-editing usually leaves behind many mistakes as it is. Self-publishing when you are unfamiliar with the technology is bound to leave behind a multitude more. A book should be as near to perfect as possible and the business of self-publishing in ebook format is far too easy for amateurs to abuse.

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Guardian publishes this article yesterday: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/11/apple-ebook-price-fixing-penguin-macmillan and it really got me thinking about the publishing industry.

I read quite a lot, even before I started this blog, and find the hobby to be costly. When I was given a Kindle as a present I looked forward to cheaper, easier reading but instead found that the savings I made were minimal. The downside of not being able to share out the books I liked the most meant that the cost of the book seemed even more expensive than it was worth. Unless I wanted to hand over my Kindle for a few weeks to let my boyfriend, friends or family read the great book I had just read, I have to keep the gems to myself.

The Kindle isn’t without its upsides but I’m not reviewing the product itself. What I am intrigued by is that the high cost of ebooks is under scrutiny now by an American law firm. They claim publishers and Apple are forcing distributors to hike up the prices of ebooks – the main one being Amazon. If Amazon continue to provide ‘discount’ prices on ebooks the publishers then withhold titles which will detriment Amazon’s business. The article is mainly based on the initial lawsuit so nothing has yet been proven. The claims are still being investigated so it is presumptuous to launch into debate over whether publishers are justified to want a high return on their books.

It begs the question, if ebooks become cheaper than print based on lower production costs then what will that do to the writing community? Will their return on writing be affected? Will the publishers request an even larger cut of the profits to compensate for their lost revenue? Publishing is a costly process, even ignoring the production side of it there are many editors, proof readers and marketers that work behind the scene to ensure a books success. Will the lower ebook price be enough to cover all their wages?


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Image taken from amazon.co.uk

I’m sure I spend as much time thinking about what books to buy next as I do actually reading them. There’s something satisfying about choosing a book and subsequently enjoying it. I don’t always enjoy them but then I don’t always enjoy films that I go to see at the cinema. Only now it is more expensive to see a film (£7.20) than it is to buy a book (averaging £4-5). Books however take considerably more time to experience than a film does so it is equally important to pick the right one and not pick up any old thing floating around the bookshelves.

After pumping a small fortune into my petrol tank on the way home from work I had a quick rethink about my spending habits. VAT and TAX increases are crippling my spendthrift nature but then as VAT is not applied to books perhaps I am not so injured by the … erm … moneythirsty government / budget guys (it’s almost painful for me to hold back on the torrent of pent up frustration on this off-topic).

I’ve experimented with the open source book app on my (Android) phone Aldiko but the format is incredibly inhibiting plus the screen on my phone is so tiny I barely get about twenty words on a page (at a readable size). I downloaded a few books that are now out of copyright to read but I struggle with the format so much that I can’t enjoy them as easily as if they were in paperback.

I then had a peek at the grown-up version of this, the Kindle, which apparently is the highest rated product on Amazon’s site. The fact that it is their product does not induce any cynicism whatsoever … ho hum.

Based on a selection of four books knocking about my “Basket” the price to purchase these books on the Kindle was barely different to buying it in paperback, in one instance it was more expensive to buy it via Kindle. Considering that the Kindle now costs between £111 and £152 plus the minor savings made on ebooks, it hardly seems cost effective for now. My bookshelf only cost me £90 but then it probably only holds about a 100 books, not the 3.5k that the Kindle boasts! One day … one day … my ‘bookshelf’ will be a small library.

All prices true at time of publication JAN 2011 – current prices may now vary.

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