A few weeks ago, a blog I was reading mentioned something to the effect of “when e-books were new back in 2007-2009” which left me both amused and nostalgic.
News flash: e-books have been around since at least 1971 when Project Gutenberg started digitizing public domain works. The US Declaration of Independence was the first document chosen. Check the Wikipedia page for more early e-book history.
I started reading e-books in 1999 on my laptop. I’d gone to the Romance Writers of America conference in Chicago and signed up to moderate a panel. By sheer serendipity, I was assigned to moderate the e-book panel presented by Janet Lane Walters and the late great Jane Toombs, two true e-book pioneers. I came away with an interest in e-books and a couple of samples on 3 1/2 inch diskettes. (Remember those?)
Back home, I read the books on my laptop using either Adobe Acrobat or an Internet browser, depending on whether the format was PDF or HTML. I’m a voracious reader and book buyer, and the house was already full of print books. The idea of being able to store book on my computer seemed like a godsend to me. A way to buy and hoard, I mean, store books without cluttering my already cluttered house. I was hooked!
Commercial e-books were in their infancy, but dozens of small publishers sprang up, most of them no longer in business. Ellora’s Cave is the best known of the early small e-book houses. My publisher, Amber Quill Press, started in 2002. Romance readers got hooked early, and small presses deserve credit for reviving the paranormal romance genre, which NY had lost interest in, for feeding the erotic romance craze and for pioneering gay erotic romance.
While e-book readers were a tiny minority at first, the growth was explosive, often 50% in a year. The numbers didn’t start to hit critical mass until Amazon got into the game with the Kindle 1 in late 2006, though Sony gets the credit for having the first available e-ink reader. There were commercial e-readers available before the Sony Reader and the Kindle: the original Rocket e-book reader, its successor the RCA Gemstar 1100, using my stylus to make selections. (You had to press a lot harder than on a tablet.) Also, books could be read on the little PDAs, like the Palm Pilot and Pocket PC. I read a lot on my Sony Clie and on my RCA Gemstar until it quit on me. By then, Amazon was about to release the Kindle, so I ordered one and never looked back.
In 2006, Janet Cornelow and I took pictures of each other reading on our e-book devices for a contest at Fullerton Public Library. We thought it would be cool if tow of the photos showed people reading electronically. Needless to say, I did not win. The picture above shows Janet reading on her RCA eBookwise.
Sony produced the first e-ink reader, beating the Kindle, but Amazon’s real innovation, the one that made it the leader in the industry, was the one-click purchase followed by wireless delivery directly to your device. No more having to buy from the publisher’s site–with different accounts at each site, were we dedicated ebook readers or what?–download the books to your computer and then side load your e-books using the USB cable. This step took e-book reading beyond the limits of the technologically proficient among us. The ability to download a sample before buying was (and still is) another popular feature. I was an early adopter of the Kindle 1 and still have my device, though it’s no longer in use. I’ve moved on to a Kindle Keyboard and the iPad.
Do you read e-books? If so, when did you start and what device(s) do you use?
I’ve been hiding out at the beach this week to stay out of the worst of the heat, but I didn’t plan on losing cable TV & Internet for the better part of two days. It reminded me of what life was like before the advent of the worldwide web. In some ways, it was even more retro than that, since we’re in a near dead zone here. Broadcast TV consists of three San Diego digital stations, when we can pick them up on the antenna. The iPad cellular connection is so bad here, it’s like going back to modem service. I mean sloooow. The most reliable technology we had was the radio. Turned out a cable guy had come into the neighborhood to hook up a new customer and somehow disconnected us in the process. My husband muttered about sabotage, but I reminded him that one should never assume malice until incompetence has been completely ruled out.
Now I’m done complaining, I have to admit it wasn’t all bad, because for the first time in quite a while, I sat and read. I’d picked up Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, a big hard cover fantasy novel on Sunday, expecting it would take weeks to read it. But without the distraction of the Internet, I grabbed the book, curled up in the recliner and real. It was pure bliss. (And yes, I know I could have been writing!) It was kind of odd to be reading print again. Late at night I was wishing I could make the font bigger. But it was good to relax and enjoy a big book, reminiscent of the long hot summers of my teen years in Azusa that I spent devouring every library book I could get my hands on.
The previous month was a pretty hectic one for me. I’m working on setting up a new blog and website, so I’ve been learning how to create WordPress pages and set up a nav system, and so on. I hope to have the new site ready before next month’s blog. I also took our own Elena Dillon’s awesome online class Social Media for the Dazed and Confused. I’m still dazed by all the information she threw at us, but maybe a little less confused. Seriously, if you have a chance to take a class from her, jump at it.
Life in this 21st century is a lot more complicated than it was way back in the 20th century, but believe me, we’ll miss all this technological interconnectedness if it ever goes away. And if you’re interested in a little nostalgia, check out this post about 10 Concepts That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago. (She’s right about nine of them. I’ve been reading e-books longer than that.)
Which piece of 21st century technology would you miss most? Your smart phone, iPad, laptop, flat screen TV? There are so many choices, I’m not sure.
Linda McLaughlin / Lyndi Lamont
To Blog or Not To Blog? That is one question every writer must ponder.
I have a love/hate relationship with blogging. It’s not that I mind doing it, but I resent the time involved that takes me away from writing, and I’m not sure blogging has been worth my while. What I am sure is that I haven’t gone about it in a very systematic or effective way, though I try.
My big project for this year is to launch a new website and blog combining both of my writing names into one site, for easier maintenance. In the meantime, I’m still learning as much as I can about author branding, platforms and the use of blogs.
In January, I read Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb, the well-known blogger and social media maven. The first chapter, The Changing Paradigm, was fascinating. She talks a lot about technological change in general, often quoting from Neil Postman, author of several books, including Technopoly. His contention was that technological change isn’t “addictive or subtractive but ecological”. Advances in technology change everything, including the way humans think, certainly changes the way we talk and write. Hashtags, emoticons, text speak… You all know what I’m talking about, like the changes or not.
Lamb is a big proponent of blogging, and while I value her advice, I’m not sure I can manage to do everything she recommends. But after reading her book, I think I have a better notion of what to do and, perhaps more importantly, what not to do. Some of her advice includes:
Be present on social media, at least some of the time; don’t automate everything.
Your name is your brand; use it in some version. Don’t tweet with a silly handle that no one will recognize.
Be careful what you share, esp. where politics and religion are concerned.
I wish her book had been available eight years ago when I started blogging, but as Kitty Bucholtz said in her time management class, it’s never too late to hit the Restart button. I’m hoping to do better when I get the new, better blog later this year, and I’d love to take a branding class from her some day.
In the meantime I have finally joined Triberr, the “Home of Influencers.” If you’re not familiar with Triberr, it’s a blog amplifier. Bloggers ban together in tribes and tweet each other’s blog posts, giving everyone an enhanced range. Since I joined, my blogs are getting tweeted more often, my page stats have shot up, and I’ve picked up new followers at Twitter. I’m still not getting a lot of comments, but I think that’s somewhat normal. Unless there’s a giveaway or a controversy, people are not inclined to comment a lot, esp. where the dreaded Capcha is involved. Personally, I hate those things. So does Kristen Lamb.
So to blog or not to blog? What is your answer. Leave a comment if you can get past the Capcha!
And if social media generally has you befuddled, OCC’s own Elena Dillon will be teaching an online class on Social Media for the Confused and Terrified from April 14 â€“ May 11, 2014. I’m not terrified, but I often find myself confused, so I’ll be taking the class.
Linda McLaughlin / Lyndi Lamont
This has been a year of challenges for me, since I started seriously indie publishing. I’ve learned it’s a lot harder to do everything myself, even though it has been rewarding. The one thing that has got me through it is the support and camaraderie from the romance community, including OCC.
Two of the challenges and rewards have involved group projects. Being part of the Romance Super Bundle brought me together with a group of wonderful indie authors: Amy Gamet, Dale Mayer, Donna Marie Rogers, Edie Ramer, Kate Kelly, Pamela Fryer, Lois Winston, Barbara Phinney and Wendy Ely. I’ve learned a lot about marketing and promotion from these ladies, including my first ever Facebook Launch Party.
Monday, Nov. 18, is the Facebook launch party for the other project. I was honored when Debra Holland invited me to be part of her second holiday anthology: Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology (Montana Sky Series) by Debra Holland and Friends, namely E. Ayers, Linda Carroll-Bradd, MJ Fredrick, Paty Jager, Jill Marie Landis, Trish Milburn, Linda McLaughlin, Bev Pettersen, Tori Scott, and Cynthia Woolf.
Writing my story, The Best Present, was both challenging and rewarding. It’s not easy to write in another author’s story world, plus I was unfamiliar with Montana in 1895 (or any other time.) Some research was required. (That was okay since I love research.)
For once, I shed my romance persona and wrote about a ten-year-old girl having the worst Christmas of her young life. I drew on some personal experiences, including my memories of my tenth Christmas, which took place two weeks after the death of my grandmother. Allison’s story has a different ending than mine did, but it’s the most personal work I’ve ever written, and it was an emotional experience. I was reminded of the old saw about opening a vein.
Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology releases Nov. 18 on Amazon but is available for pre-order now.
I hope some of you will join us on Monday to celebrate the release of the anthology at Facebook. It runs from 9AM to 6PM, Pacific time, and I will be there alone (gulp) from 10-11AM.
Happy Thanksgiving and happy writing!
Life has been pretty hectic since I started down the self-published road. I am so impressed at the energy and innovation I’m seeing in the indie author community. But now that I’m a publisher as well as a writer, it seems there’s always something to do and not enough time for everything.
My latest project was to get involved in one of the popular e-book boxed sets we see popping up at Amazon and other online retailers. I was fortunate to team up with a bunch of knowledgeable and savvy indie writers, and we published the Romance Super Bundle in late September. Our fearless leader, Amy Gamet, has been the driving force behind the project. She also created the gorgeous 3-D cover.
My contribution to the bundle is my historical romance, Rogue’s Hostage. We priced the boxed set at $5.99, but it’s currently on sale for 99 cents. We still hope it will hit one of the big lists like USA Today.
On Oct. 7, we had a dynamite Facebook Launch Party guided by the dynamic and extremely organized Wendy Ely. It was attended by a lively bunch of readers, and the messages were flying fast at times. (It was all this old broad could do to keep up.) The event page is still available if anyone wants to see what we did.
Today, one of the authors, Lois Winston, is at Inkspot where she discusses this new way I’m thinking outside the promotional box, and does it more coherently than I can. I like her analogy of promotion being like “shouting into a tsunami” though I tend to think of it more as a lone voice crying in the wilderness.
At the same time, I’m still working on re-issuing my back list. In the last week, my werewolf novella, Ilona’s Wolf: A Fairy Tale Romance, was published at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, just in time for Halloween.
Imagine a world filled with magic, a tormented knight, a damsel in distress, an evil sorcerer…
While picking herbs in the woods, Princess Ilona is rescued from a woodsman by a wolf. When the creature licks her wounds, it is suddenly transformed into a man. A very handsome, very naked man who makes passionate love to her in a glade. She has dreamed of a handsome knight to aid her cause, but a werewolf?
Cursed by an evil wizard, Rolf was trapped in wolf form until he tasted the blood of a royal. Now he must escort the princess on a hazardous journey back to the castle to stop an ill-fated wedding and face the evil wizard who placed the evil curse on Rolf.
Passion flares between them, but both know there is no future for a princess and a werewolf. Or is there? In a world where magic and passion combine, anything may be possible.
(Previously published by Amber Quill Press)
The beautiful cover was designed by Carey Abbott of Safari Heat.
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