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Sometimes, it’s not enough to know that Aunt Janet loves to read, and therefore should be given a book for Christmas. Has she read that book already? Does she even like mysteries? Is Aunt Janet going to be offended by the language of explicit nature of this particular book?
With the advent of digital publishing and ebooks, even gift cards can be difficult. An Amazon gift card, for example, isn’t necessarily the right fit for a dedicated Nook user. Your thoughtful gift can languish in a drawer until the day Aunt Janet regifts it…hopefully not to you.
But two subscription-based reading platforms are offering e-cards this season, fully customizable options that include self-selected artwork and the opportunity to read across a small variety of devices while enjoying unlimited content.
Scribd and Oyster, two companies who are finally bringing some much-needed focused attention to the long sought after subscription reading model, are both making their unlimited pay-per-month service available for gifting in easy to purchase increments. Users are not locked into buying long-term subscriptions, with the chance to buy even a one-month subscription to let the recipient try it out before committing. Both companies offer this option to people who are not already registered users, so you don’t have to be a member in order to send this gift to a diehard reader; if your recipient is already a member of either service, this gift simply rolls over into their account so that they still benefit from your purchase.
Bear in mind that Oyster currently only works as an iOS app on devices running iOS7, and Scribd is only compatible with iOS or Android phones, tablets, or via the desktop app. Also remember that a host of other companies, like Spain’s 24Symbols, cater to reading in markets outside the US, as well as gifts from companies like XinXii, Spanish Publishers and Le French Book that focus on translations.
OverDrive, the world’s largest provider of digital content to academic and public libraries, announced a new partnership today that will increase its catalog of offered titles, specifically in key areas of business, science, and research. McGraw-Hill Professional, a widely respected provider of content and services for the medical, technical, and business communities, is making its list of books available for OverDrive’s 27,000 partner libraries. These libraries include both public and K-12 school libraries, as well as higher education libraries.
“McGraw-Hill Professional is committed to supporting libraries and making our world-renowned content easily available to patrons in multiple formats,” said Philip Ruppel, President of McGraw-Hill Professional, in a press release. “We are very pleased to work with OverDrive to help us reach students, professionals, and those seeking to advance their education or careers.”
“McGraw-Hill Professional titles represent the best of breed in every business and technical category of publishing,” continued Karen Estrovich, Manager of Collection Development at OverDrive. “Our library and school partners have been asking for their award-winning titles, and we are pleased to be able to make these valuable titles available now to students and patrons worldwide.”
According to a statement from OverDrive, this new partnership will make titles such as collections as 5 Steps to a 5 AP (test prep series), Practice Makes Perfect (foreign language study), Schaum’s Outline (study aid series), Mike Meyers’ CompTIA (technical certification series), and Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal and Customer-Centric Employees. High-demand bestsellers include The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley; Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al, McGraw-Hill’s 5 TEAS Practice Tests by Kathy Zahler; and Programming the Raspberry Pi: Getting Started in Python by Simon Monk, available to patrons of member libraries.
An area of interest in much of the Chinese culture is a fun fascination with world records, and specifically with breaking those records. Now, to fuel that interest for a larger audience, the Guinness Book of World Records has signed an exclusive publishing deal with Foreign Languages Teaching and Research Publishing (FLTRP), the Beijing-based leading education products and services provider in China. This deal will establish a Mandarin translation of the 2014 edition of the book, along with a special featured section in that edition to highlight records that have been set and held by Chinese nationals.
In a post earlier this year from the annual Guinness book creators, Rowan Simons, President, Greater China, for Guinness World Records, stated, “This first deal with FLTRP is just one part of a long term strategy that will see GWR introduce full Chinese language products and services across its business lines. “FLTRP was our first choice to bring record breaking solutions to kids known for their thirst for knowledge. The scale of the opportunity in the ELT sector alone is superlative with FLTRP estimating that over 500,000 students participated in its most recent language competition.”
FLTRP President, Cai Jianfeng went on to state that “FLTRP is proud to launch our co-operation with Guinness World Records by publishing the official Chinese edition of this famous annual book, which has been entertaining and informing audiences across the globe for nearly 60 years.”
At the end of this summer, a record was attempted to commemorate the partnership between Guinness World Records and FLTRP, in which they attempted to secure the most people writing a story in honor of the city’s reading initiative. The record was held by a group of 953 participants in Ireland, in 2011.
In-depth details on what motivates reading in children have come out in a new book, published by the world’s leading publisher of children’s content, Scholastic. In Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want – and Why We Should Let Them, authors Jeffrey D. Wilhelm (Boise State University) and Michael W. Smith (Temple University), explain that there has to be more to books for young people than just the typical academic requirements.
The results of the professors’ findings have led to an awe-inspiring but earth-shattering conclusion: school-based reading instruction should focus even more on self-selected texts for pleasure reading, and less on rote instruction from corporate lessons.
“At a time when the Common Core Stare Standards and high-stakes assessments turn the eyes of parents, teachers, and policy-makers to what reading can do for you, we should not lose sight of the deep and manifold pleasures it can bring to you,” Smith said in a press release. “Those pleasures are what motivate reading in the here and now and what make it likely that young people will read in the future.”
“Never underestimate the power of pleasure in motivating and sustaining reading and improvement in reading,” continued Wilhelm. “And never underestimate the deep psychological work, psychological satisfaction, and human development that is occurring for readers of freely chosen texts. Books that are often marginalized by educators or parents are often the best choice for the readers at any given point in their own human developmental journeys.”
As one of the leaders in curricular publishing, too, Scholastic’s release of Wilhelm and Smith’s title will hopefully hold some level of sway over administrative decision making at the local and state government school boards, allowing more time during the school day to be spent on individualized reading for pleasure rather than simply reading for the sake of the curriculum.
Reading Unbound is available from the Scholastic Teacher store for pre-order, and will ship in January. Free samples of the content are available for download now.
One of the most potentially useful features of digital publishing was the ability of authors to publish their short stories without the tedious process of anthology selection. In the past, authors who pen short stories had to submit their stories to collections publishers, and those anthologies are typically only published periodically; barring that, the author could try to submit a full collection of his own works, of which few are traditionally published and almost never from a debut author.
Digital publishing and self-publishing threw open the doors to short story publication, and a resurgence in the genre has been enjoyed by readers of short form literature. Companies like Vook, Atavist, and Now & Then Reader have contributed to the renewed interest in the essay or pamphlet publishing of centuries ago, and today, Amazon Publishing announced its effort to bring short stories to the forefront of publishing.
StoryFront, the company’s short story imprint, not only will focus on publishing high quality short fiction, but will also be the source of a weekly digital literary journal that will specifically feature short stories and poetry from new and veteran authors.
“Based on the continued success of short fiction on Kindle as well as the enthusiastic response to Day One—we received thousands of subscriptions in the first week—we know readers are hungry for short stories and excited about exploring new genres,” said Daphne Durham, Publisher of Adult Trade and Children’s Group. “With StoryFront, we’re feeding that enthusiasm by offering a wide range of stories curated by a team of editors who are committed to the craft.”
StoryFront already has quite a number of stories released from several bestselling authors, including works that are closely tied to existing novels but that didn’t require another full-length novel in order to share with readers. The platform is also bringing translations of well-known international short stories to US reading audiences.
Amazon has relaunched its reader-centric promotion from last year’s holiday season, Twelve Days of Deals. Each day, different titles will be steeply discounted in both ebook and print editions. The promotion kicks off each day at 12:01 PST, and runs for twenty-four hours.
Today’s deals are titles that were selected from Amazon’s Best Books of 2013, so features the following titles:
• Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch—$2.99 (80% off the list price)
• Philipp Meyer’s The Son—$2.99 (82% off the list price)
• Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites—$2.99 (77% off the list price)
Print book deals will be discounted throughout the day (8 am PST – 8 pm PST) in four hour increments. Today’s deals in print books are:
• Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch—$8.99 (70% off the list price)
• Philipp Meyer’s The Son—$12.99 (53% off the list price)
• Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling—$11.99 (54% off the list price)
“We’re so excited to include our pick for the best book of the year, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, in 12 Days of Deals, and we have many great books lined up for every day of this promotion,” said Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Books & Kindle at Amazon, in a press release today. “We think giving the gift of reading is always thoughtful, whether you’re wrapping a book for under the tree or gifting a Kindle book.”
For more information on the specials, click HERE.
Throughout the recent controversy over inappropriate and explicit content being listed in ebook retail websites alongside children’s and middle grade titles, the same questions kept coming to the surface: how did this happen, and how do we prevent it? Unfortunately for the authors and publishers of much of the questionable content, the immediate solution was to block nearly all titles with adult themes. Two retailers shut down their ebookstores altogether, while Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo all removed titles that they felt were in danger of being found by young consumers.
While the content has been slowly replaced in a one-at-a-time fashion, statements from at least one retailer have announced the position that they are under no obligation to sell any titles that do not meet their standards for appropriateness. Another retailer, Amazon, has taken the steps to evaluate the keywords that self-published authors associate with their titles and has begun the process of removing ebooks whose metadata and keywords seem intentionally misleading.
But in order to protect consumers, OverDrive announced today that it has created an online children’s reading room for its partner libraries. The purpose of this cyber sphere is to provide a safe and vetted location for young patrons to enjoy all of the same features and benefits that other patrons can have through the main OverDrive portal.
“eBooks are not just for adults, and we believe this site will help us highlight some of the great children’s content that we have to offer,” said Sharon Grant, Digital Branch Manager at Kitsap Regional Library where the digital reading room was piloted. “More importantly, we believe this site will save people time because it effectively highlights books by reading levels, age groups and interests.”
According to the press release on the launch of this child-safe library environment, “The eReading Room is a safe environment for children, independent of the larger digital collection, yet easily accessible and fully integrated – seamlessly working with your existing catalog. OverDrive offers clean, friendly, simple design options and the choice of including juvenile and/or young adult fiction and nonfiction titles. All titles in the eReading Room are also cataloged by reading level, ATOS scores, and other reading metrics to help parents and teachers select titles to aid in literacy campaigns. Adults and kids can sample titles in OverDrive Read prior to checking out a title.”
Hopefully, efforts such as this one will be sufficient to protect the interests of all parties involved. While young readers should not be subjected to material that is willfully mislabeled with the express purpose of attracting children, authors who have taken the appropriate steps to put their content only in front of mature audiences should not suffer under the sweeping changes that retailers have had to make.
Last month, Amazon’s traditional publishing arm and its host of imprints at Amazon Publishing announced a new incentive to get people reading on their Kindles: Kindle First. Each month, the editors at Amazon Publishing will select several titles from a variety of genres to be released a month early to Kindle users and Prime members. While these titles will be pre-released for $1.99–or free, for those Prime members–readers can select only one title each month to have at the steep discount and early date.
Today, Amazon Publishing announced the list of Kindle First titles for December, which include:
• Soy Sauce for Beginners, a beautiful debut novel about family bonds and personal identity by Kristin Chen,
• The Widow File, a political thriller of industrial espionage and military intrigue by SG Redling,
• Sweet Nothings by award-winning romance author Kim Law, which tells the story of a bachelorette baker and the man who convinced her of true love,
• Timebound by Rysa Walker, a fantastical novel about a 16-year-old time traveler that won this year’s overall grand prize as the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Inclusion in this selection may be especially poignant for Rysa Walker, as this year’s young adult ABNA winner who eventually won the grand prize as well. Originally a self-published title, Walker didn’t think much beyond her indie roots when she entered the contest. As she explained to Good e-Reader at the time of the announcement in June, “I self-published because the traditional publishing industry wasn’t working for me. I tried for a year to get attention from an agent and in almost every case I didn’t even get an email back from them saying why they weren’t interested or even that they’d gotten my email with the attached file.”
Are customers really responding to the opportunity to be the first to read a book? Possibly, as last month’s Kindle First titles all became number one bestsellers in their respective categories, as well as held spots in the Top Ten for all books. To find out more about Kindle First, click HERE.
Many US-based retailers and business owners came into the holidays this year in a state of pre-panic, which was understandable given that this year’s holiday calendar means there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But early reports on how businesses fared during the recent holiday shopping frenzy show that this year’s sales via e-commerce remained solid and even surpassed last year’s sales.
The 2013 Black Friday holiday weekend sales figures (at least as up-to-date as current standings) show $20.6 billion were spent online via retailers’ websites, from consumers who used desktop computers. There was a sixteen percent increase in shoppers who used websites for their holiday discount shopping, possibly due to the growing backlash over both the out-of-control behaviors reported in physical stores and of retailers requiring their employees to work during what many feel is a family time.
Sixty-six million shoppers purchased items through retailers’ websites via computers, as opposed to the growing number of shoppers who are shopping online via mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
According to the data, released by comScore, Amazon was the top visited website during these holiday spending days beginning on Thanksgiving, followed by eBay, Walmart, Best Buy, and Target. The last three stores have traditionally been associated with some of the more notorious reports of physical violence and injury during Black Friday sales, and it’s refreshing to see that more shoppers are choosing to stay out of the physical stores while still benefiting from the steep discounts.
Many retailers are continuing the discounted offerings today, which has come to be known as Cyber Monday in recent years due to the online specials, and hope that any deficits in projected holiday earnings can be made up for with online shopping.
Part of the increase in Amazon traffic may be attributed to its admitted growth in Prime membership and the resulting free two-day shipping option, as well as its heavy advertising of Black Friday specials leading up to the actual shopping day. Despite being the most visited retailer, however, comScore reported that apparel and fashion were the top selling categories for the holiday weekend, followed by computer hardware, then consumer electronics.
Verdict: 5 Stars
Fans of the author’s suspenseful legal thrillers will love this title that revisits one of the settings that made John Grisham a household name. Almost twenty-five years after the release of A Time to Kill, Grisham takes us back to Ford County and back into the fray of legal dramas.
From the book’s description, “Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.”
Critics of the book have argued that this one is “typical Grisham” and that it follows the plot lines that we’ve gotten really, really used to from him. Having said that, there are a couple of surprises in the book, as well as some unanswered questions from the first round that the author springs on us. The courtroom drama and masterful depictions of well-researched settings more than make up for any predictability in the plot, as does his handling of a fairly common plot line of an elderly dying man leaving his entire fortune to a random fringe character, in this case, his maid.
Sycamore Row is available now in print, audiobook, and ebook.
According to a story in the New York Times, author Arnon Grunberg is going digital. But what makes his project unique is the fact that he’s going digital while he writes the book…and he’s doing it with electrodes attached to his head.
Yes, rather than the typical story of an author–even a well-known and highly respected bestselling author like Grunberg–going digital with the publication process, Grunberg is part of an experiment he helped establish to monitor his brain activity while he writes his most recent novella. Even more sci-fi oriented, the first fifty readers of this project’s outcome will undergo the same electrode0based response recording while they read the finished novella.
According to the article by Jennifer Schuessler, “Over the past two weeks, Mr. Grunberg has spent several hours a day writing his novella, while a battery of sensors and cameras tracked his brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response (an electrical measure of emotional arousal) and facial expressions. Next fall, when the book is published, some 50 ordinary people in the Netherlands will read it under similarly controlled circumstances, sensors and all.”
The purpose of this futuristic undertaking? To try to discover the connection between creativity and the consumption of that creativity by readers. And while the researchers will work to figure out how the readers’ brains connected in various ways with the author’s work, Grunberg himself sees a more invasive approach to the project, likening this type of connection with the way retailers like Amazon invade on the reading experience via e-readers.
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