Friday, October 28, 2011

Devil's Own by Veronica Wolff

iconiconA little over a month ago, I read Devil's Highlander, the first in a series of romance novels by Veronica Wolff.  Each of the books is about a different sibling in the MacAlphin family (because your story is over once you find your true love, didn't you know?).

The first book was about Cormac, whose twin was kidnapped into slavery when they were kids.  There's lots of angst in that book, because Cormac and Marjorie both blamed themselves for what happened, and therefore couldn't possibly be deserving of love... right?

Despite the angst in the first novel, I thought the second one, about the kidnapped brother, looked like a good read.  I mean, to survive slavery, escape, and plot his revenge, Aidan would have to be a stronger sort, right?

Nope.  More angst.

The second book, like the first, was a fun, diversionary read.  But it's probably the last one by this author that I'll pick up — I like characters that are stronger and more sure of themselves.  Angst doesn't make a very good plot conflict, in my opinion, unless of course your intended audience are teenagers.  Which, I don't know, maybe romance really does target?

So, just like Devil's Highlander, Devil's Own has burned me out on romance for the time being.  Maybe in another few books I'll try again...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why are library ebooks so threatening to publishers?

CNN ran an article today about ebook lending at libraries.

So why would someone pay for an eBook if they can download it free from a library's website? After all, the process is more or less identical to buying an electronic book on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble's website.

That has publishers approaching eBook lending with some trepidation.

I don't understand why publishers think ebook lending is so different from lending physical books.  As the article notes, one copy can only be lent to one library card holder at a time, which makes it no different than a physical book.  As for the idea that ebooks never wear out, don't forget the video I posted earlier this year, debunking HarperCollins's 26-checkout limit on ebooks as a realistic way to mimic the lifespan of physical books.

Libraries have been lending physical books to people for years.  Is the publishing business still thriving?  Yes, of course.  Do some people borrow certain books from the library instead of buying them?  Yes, of course.  But I would argue that libraries don't actually steal sales from publishers.  Slow readers who don't read many books a year are going to buy their books regardless, because they won't be able to finish them within the time allotted for library books.  Book lovers who read many, many books a year, on the other hand, still only have a certain amount of money to spend, and if we didn't have libraries we'd just do what people used to do a couple hundred years ago — reread a lot of books, and borrow books from friends.  And as the article notes, libraries account for 10 percent of the book buying market.  If you took libraries away, it would be more detrimental to publishers, I believe, as they would ultimately have fewer buyers, and therefore be able to publish fewer books.

Now why would any of that change with ebooks?  You still have a time limitation on ebooks — in fact, you can't renew ebooks and most libraries give you only 2 weeks instead of 3, so anyone who is going to take a while reading an ebook will buy it (though those readers probably wouldn't be as interested in ebooks as avid readers).  Just like with physical books, libraries have to buy them, which in itself supports the publishing industry.  Just like with physical books, the wait time on very popular ebooks will encourage some people, who don't want to wait, to go out and buy their own copies.  And just like with physical books, some readers are going to like some books so much that they go out and buy themselves a copy, whether physical or digital.

As for concerns of piracy, the file expires when the library ebook is "due," so only the most tech savvy individuals are going to be able to pirate library ebooks, whereas it takes much less technical knowledge to scan or photograph a physical library book and run it through an OCR program.  In fact, thanks to the iPhone and various OCR apps, I rather suspect that pirating physical library books into digital form is actually pretty easy, and you get a non-DRMed file as a result, so stolen DRM-protected library ebooks probably account for a very small number of the pirated ebooks out there.

In any case, I wish the publishers would get over their fears already, because I believe ebooks are going to be a very significant part of the publishing industry from here on out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn

iconiconFinally! I finally finished Dragon Prince.  I've been reading it for almost 3 weeks, which is a horrifically long time for me — part of it was that the book was long, but the biggest reason was that I've been pretty busy lately.

Dragon Prince was October's selection for the fantasy/sci-fi book club my husband and I belong to.  I haven't liked the last couple of books (Gardens of the Moon and The Witches of Chiswick, mainly — The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was all right), so I was relieved that this one I actually did like.  I was surprised that no one else in our book club did, however.

There were a few things I liked about it.  I liked the world Melanie Rawn created, for one thing, especially the politics — they were fairly complex and interesting.  Unlike Gardens of the Moon, however, which also had a complex political structure, it was easier to follow.  Moreover, I felt the story really flowed.  I liked the characters and was able to follow the from one thing to the next without feeling confused or annoyed like I was with Gardens of the Moon.

This is the first book of a trilogy, and I'm requesting the next book, The Star Scroll, from my library in ebook format.  We'll see if I like it as much as I liked this one!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble... again

I was unsurprised to hear that Amazon was at it again — and by "at it" I mean throwing their weight around and just in general being a bully in the marketplace.  This time they used their influence to work out an exclusive deal with DC Comics, so that Amazon will be the only place where you can get digital versions of their comic books.  In answer, Barnes & Noble pulled all the physical versions from their shelves, and another major book chain, Books-a-Million, followed suit.

I am so tired of Apple and Amazon trying to eliminate competition in the ebook market.  The free market system is based on competition — if you can't find a book elsewhere, possibly at a lower price, how are retailers supposed to compete?  I don't like the agency model of pricing ebooks either, and we have Apple to thank for that one.

I'm hoping that as ebooks become more commonplace and less of an new technology, that things will calm down.  Obviously I don't expect stores to stop trying to compete with one another, but I do hope something will happen to cause them to stop trying to undermine the free market system.  I hope also that once ebooks aren't so exciting and new, people will stop paying any price for them, and publishers will be forced to bring prices down a little — right now I think some are a bit too high.

In the meantime, it'll be interesting to see what comes of Barnes & Noble to carry DC Comics any longer!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Should you read Moby-Dick?

iconiconI've been plugging away at yet another long, epic fantasy novel, which partly accounts for the lack of posts lately.  (The other reason is that I've been terribly busy lately, so busy that I haven't had as much time as usual to read.)  I'm almost done with the book, so you'll have a review soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a story NPR did recently on why you should read Moby-Dick.

I've read only part of Moby-Dick, a long excerpt that was assigned in one of my literature classes in college.  It was interesting, but I could also see how it would be tedious — and it sounds like I probably read one of the more readable sections, judging by the NPR story.

The radio spot is an interview with Nathaniel Philbrick, the author of a new book called, of course, Why Read Moby-Dick?icon. I've always planned on going back and reading the whole thing, which of course I've never done; but just listening to the author read aloud from the book had me renewing my vows.  Philbrick also talks a bit about the current state of the union when the book was published, which I think is always fascinating, and calls the book the closest thing we have to an American Bible.

Really a quite fascinating story — I highly recommend not only reading the article, but also listening to the radio spot!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

1st edition wifi Nook only $89!

The Nook 1st Edition has come down even more in price as Barnes & Noble gets rid of their excess inventory to make room for the new Nook Simple Touch.  Right now you can get the wifi-only model for just $89, which is the cheapest I've ever seen it.  If you want an e-reader without having to spend the big bucks, I highly recommend the N1E!

The wifi-only model is the same one I have, and I've never missed the 3G connection.  It's a great e-reader with good battery life (I get about 10 hours on a single charge).  Barnes & Noble also has some good prices on covers for the N1E — pretty much all of them are $15 each, which is a fraction of the original prices.

The other good thing about the N1E — all the bugs have already been fixed, so by buying the "old" technology, you won't have to deal with any of the updates or patches!

If you are interested in an e-reader but haven't want to spend a lot on one, don't delay — at this price, I don't expect the N1E to be available for much longer!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

iconiconI can't tell you how relieved I am to have finally, finally finished this book.

Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon was the September choice for the sci-fi/fantasy book club my husband and I belong to.  Although I started it probably four days before the meeting — which was September 15th — it took until now to get through it.  True, I took a break to finish Flapper and to read The Hunger Games and As I Wake, but on the whole this book was much slower reading than I'm used to.

And it wasn't just the length.  The book could be incredibly confusing at times.  It was like the author was aware of this whole other history that I wasn't — well, obviously that's the point of fantasy, but he wasn't doing a very good job of communicating the history to the reader.  The result was that I spent most of the book being confused and trying to figure out what was going on.

One of the other members of the book club who has read the first 4 or 5 books of this fantasy series claims that the second book is really amazing, so maybe I'll have to read it at some point.  Certainly this book was very clearly leading into the next book.  But it took a phenomenal act of will just to stick with this one, so I don't know if I'll want to subject myself to more of this anytime soon!