Friday, June 15, 2012

Weekend Reading: The Short eBook Edition

Long time readers will probably not be surprised to hear that I have an interest in the changes underway right now in how we access written information and stories, and in how the people who write the things we read get paid. I choose to distribute most of what I write for free, but then, most of what I write is relatively quickly written and lightly edited, at best. I value the work of the professional writers who take the time to craft their words, and of the editors who help ensure it is polished and presented well. I want these people to get paid, so that they can keep doing what they are doing.

One of the interesting things about that the new electronic reading environment is the fact that it makes it easier for writers to sell short pieces of their work directly to readers, without first having to find a magazine or other publication into which it fits. Don't get me wrong- I think there is a place for magazines, too. As aggregators of interesting writing they provide me a way to judge whether or not something is worth my time, particularly if it is written by someone I haven't read before. But I also like the idea of a more direct marketplace for short works, a way for authors (and their editors and publishers) to sell things that I want to read to me directly.

So, this week, I have some short eBooks for you. They all cost money, but none of them cost very much!

First, I already mentioned Laura Vanderkam's What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfastin Tuesday's post. If you are on the fence about whether or not you want to try the "get up earlier and do something useful" routine, it might get you off the fence. But more interesting, at least to me, was the discussion of research about how mornings are a special time in terms of productivity, and why that might be. It made me rethink my morning work routine. Laura was kind enough to send me my copy for free, but I do not think I would have felt cheated if I had paid the $2.99 she and her publisher are asking for it.

Next, I downloaded The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland--For a Little While, by Catherynne Valente, before our Texas vacation, thinking that maybe I would have a little bit of time to read during naptimes. And I did! It is a delightful story, which drew me in with its almost lyrical tone. I enjoyed it far more than most things I drop a buck on. And a buck is all it will cost you.

Then, @zenmoo retweeted a tweet from the author Nick Earls, offering free downloads of his story Problems With a Girl & a Unicorn. I couldn't resist, so I grabbed it. It was an unusual story. I didn't finish it and think "wow! I loved that!" but I didn't dislike it, either. It was just... unusual. It has also stayed with me, and I've found myself thinking about it and what it means several times. This probably means that it was a better story than I initially thought. Anyway, if you're intrigued by that description, it will only cost you $0.99 to read it for yourself. If you do, come back and tell me what you think!

Finally, while I was trying to resist buying Scalzi's latest book, Redshirts, I bought an old short story of his called How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story. It was a really fun story to read. I recommend it wholeheartedly, particularly since it, too, will only cost you $0.99.

In fact... I later stumbled across an old blog post of his in which he tries out the shareware model with this story. So you could download it for free from there, and pay him whatever you think it is worth after the fact, if the payment mechanisms he references are still functioning. But personally, I think just paying $0.99 upfront is the way to go.

That blog post led me to do a little searching on his site, and I found another blog post talking about the financial side of short fiction. It is worth a read, as is Cat Valente's different take on the subject (linked from Scalzi's post). If you enjoy short fiction as much as I do, those two posts may make you search it out in your preferred electronic bookstore more often, as a way to encourage writers to make more of it. Anyway, I've started to do that.

Oh, and Redshirts? I caved and bought it at the hardcover price (Sci Fi ebooks usually come down in price when the paperback comes out). It is a great read, particularly if you are a fan of Sci Fi shows like Star Trek. The main book is fun, and surprisingly thought-provoking if you let it be. The codas are something special, and frankly I think it'd be worth reading the main story just to appreciate them.

What about you? Do you like reading short fiction and/or non-fiction? Do you have any recommendations for me?

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reccomendations! Also- short reviews like that are gold on Amazon. You'll make the authors' days if you post on the site :)

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  2. Okay, you convinced me - I just bought What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

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    1. Yay! That's the kind of blog comment I like to see :) Cloud, thanks so much for your kind review of the ebook, and Alyssa, I hope you enjoy it.

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  3. I like reading (serious) SF short stories on the plane. But only then. Don't know why! Humorous SF I can read more frequently and Scalzi's more serious stuff is good enough that I will read it (though I did start Old Man's War on a plane after I ran out of my own reading material and read bits and pieces over DH's shoulder).

    I just read the 1987 version of Siblings without Rivalry and was reminded why I hate parenting books that don't come with a research base. (I didn't want to buy a copy, and the library sent me an older edition.) It was like... well, they turned out to be prescient on this mindset stuff, they were totally wrong on the tattling bit, some of this stuff is what our Montessori does so it probably has a research base (since the director teaches childhood development) and it seems to work, I've seen what happens to the kids whose parents do this other recommended thing and it isn't pretty... what about this other stuff that I wouldn't do naturally-- I can't evaluate it. Good? Bad? Crackpot? Visionary? Can't say. Why again did I read another parenting book?

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    1. For a long time, I only bought and read the Economist when I had to travel for business. But then Hubby missed it when I stopped traveling so much, and now we have a subscription!

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  4. Curiously on the ebook thing, I've gotten quite a few questions this week about why I worked with a traditional publisher on this (vs. self-publishing my ebook). I thought it was interesting that people presume with ebooks self-publishing is the default (going straight to readers with no intermediary) vs. traditional publishing as the default for printed books. The short answer is that I think traditional publishers do have some things to offer authors in any genre, especially on the talent front. I couldn't have hired my editor and publicist - because they're on Penguin's payroll. And we've worked well together in the past, so I thought we would on this project too.

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    1. I think that people perhaps underestimate the amount of effort that it would take to make an eBook look nice on all the different readers. I doubt it is as easy as they think.

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  5. I downloaded the unicorn story when it was free too & i do keep thinking back on it. Id give it 3 or 4 of 5 stars. It was very quick so definitely not a waste of time.

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    1. Yes! A very quick read. I'm glad I'm not the only one who found it stuck in her head.

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    2. Zenmoo5:24 AM

      I should probably download it myself (but it wasn't free in Australia & I have a Sony ereader not a kindle)

      I have mostly read (and loved) Nick Earl's novels and a few of his other short stories - my favourite is probably 'World of Chickens'. I'm actually interested to read Perfect Skin (which was the sequel to Bachelor Kisses) again now and see what I think of it now as a parent.

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    3. Zenmoo, I don't have a Kindle but you can download free software Kindle for PC and read on your computer (there's one for Mac too, not for Linux yet near as I can tell).

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  6. Well, I now not only downloaded the Kindle for PC, but also broke it in by downloading both Laura's book and Scalzi's short story (cannot resist reading something that has words "alien sex" in the title). Let's see how it goes!

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    1. That is sort of how I ended up buying that particular story. For $0.99, I had to see what it was.

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  7. Ursula K. Le Guin, for both non-fiction and short fiction. Her essay collections are absolute gems. She has a sporadically updated blog on her website that's as wise and lyrical as everything else she writes, too.

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    1. Thanks! I loved the Wizard of Earthsea as a kid. I'll go look for her short stories on Amazon and see what I find....

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    2. I had no idea she was still alive! I just reshelved Wizard of Earthsea yesterday (we moved the library to our bedroom to free up a room) and thought about how I hadn't read any of her stuff (or Andre Norton) since high school. Wow, only 82 and still going strong.

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    3. Wizard of Earthsea and all its sequels - five in total, plus a collection of short stories - are definitely worth re-reading as an adult. I could never get into them as a kid, but when I picked them up in my 20s they completely blew my mind. The final volume makes me cry every time. The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness are fabulous too - and also quite spooky in their relevance.

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    4. Sorry, that's five volumes all together, vs. five sequels :P

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