Thursday, November 18, 2010

E-Book Readers: Dedicated or Not?

Allow me to go off-topic a bit today and talk about e-book readers.

I've been reading e-books for almost a decade now, starting with a Handspring Visor running Palm OS and now on my iPhone. I've also used a dedicated e-book reader, so I've experienced e-books in many formats.

The big problem with the current generation of e-book readers is the format wars. Yes, it's Beta vs. VHS and HD vs. Blue Ray all over again.

There are three big contenders in the e-book reader world:

Amazon Kindle
Barnes and Noble Nook
Sony Reader

There are more books available in Kindle format than in .ePub, which is the format used by the other two. But library e-books, which are in .ePub or .pdf format, can't be read on Kindles.

So what is an e-book reader to do? Simple. Buy an iPhone or iPod Touch. These devices are now the most universal e-book readers. There is a Kindle app, a Nook app, Stanza for everything non-DRM, and iBooks, if you simply must buy from Apple.

And now there is BlueFire Reader, which plays nicely with Adobe DRM and allows reading library books. I downloaded and tested it this week, and it works well.

Except for a handful of Mobipocket DRM titles, which can be found in other formats, I can read anything on my iPhone.

Yes, all these also work on the iPad, and I expect BlueFire or a similar app will soon be available for Droid.

Why buy a dedicated reader when your smart phone can read anything? And before you say size does matter, remember that I started reading on a 160 by 160 pixel device. Modern smart phones are way beyond that. And most people have them with them all the time.

Any format. Any time. What's not to like?

Amazon is now selling more e-books than hardbacks. Some recent titles have sold more e-books than hardcovers, including sales from sources other than Amazon. It's a great time to be an author of e-books. What's stopping you from writing one?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo a Waste of Time?

I read an article yesterday that argued it is.

Briefly, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every year in November. I wrote last week about my unofficial participation this year. Obviously I don't think it's a waste of time. Why did the author think it is? There were two main reasons given.

1. Amateurs often participate, and they focus on writing 50K words and ignore the editing process. Then in December, they spam editors and publishers with bad manuscripts.

2. The ones who do what they "should do," namely put the manuscripts in a drawer and forget about them have wasted the month.

I have sympathy for #1. I've read plenty of bad writing. It's painful, and any participants who ignore the revision part of the writing process are doing themselves (and unlucky readers) a disservice.

But #2 is unbearably arrogant.

Writing is something anyone can do. It doesn't require special tools or equipment. All you need are paper, pencils and an idea.

Writing 50K words in 30 days is hard work. I've been writing all my life, and I've never written that many words that quickly. It takes planning, discipline, determination and sacrifice.

All those are worthy things to learn and practice. 3 days in this exercise, and I've already had to juggle time to meet my goal. Last night, I wrote instead of watching TV because I was determined to make my goal. Even though the latest episode of Hawaii 5-O was calling. Loudly.

I'm learning I can write quickly. I don't need to agonize over every word. I had a character go in an entirely unexpected direction because I'm not stopping to self-edit. Will I keep that development? I don't know. That decision is for next month when I start editing.

There's value in writing 50K words in 30 days. Even if those words are never read by anyone else. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Total words so far: 5864. I'm still on track!