I was a slow convert to the idea of ebooks. My wife bought one of the first Kindles, and I couldn’t get past the off-putting appearance of the text on the screen in the Kindle’s first iteration. But then I tried the Kindle app for Windows. And the Kindle app for my Android Tablet. And slowly began to fall in love. I could read anywhere. I could free up space on my overflowing and limited physical bookshelves. I could easily quote what I had just read in a blog post. The idea of being able to carry my entire library with me and having it accessible in locations as diverse as the treadmill at the gym or a seat on an airplane became increasingly irresistible.
But not my entire library, alas. There are numerous examples of books that I’d repurchase in a second to read on my Kindle that simply aren’t there yet. Nor are they available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader; I’ve searched.
Off the top of my head, in an ideal world here’s what I’d like to see in the Kindle format. Amazon links are included, if you’d like to get started reading any of these titles now in good ol’ dead tree format — which might be a good idea, as I suspect the wait for some of these might be glacial.
■ Alvin Toffler’s Back Catalog: Toffler’s Future Shock was a huge bestseller when it was first published in 1970. A decade later, The Third Wave, the sequel to Future Shock, would be name-checked by Newt Gingrich during the heady days of the “Republican Revolution” in 1995, shortly after he became speaker of the House, which gives a sense of how the book’s predictions held up in the interim 15 years. Toffler’s War and Anti-War applied the principles of the Third Wave to warfare; Powershift applied them to business. Given that The Third Wave was a pretty accurate prediction of how the Internet reshaped society in the 1990s, if any book deserves to be available in electronic format, it’s this one. Where is it? (For my interviews with Toffler, click here and here.)
■ Profiles of the Future, by Arthur C. Clarke: A quarter century before Star Trek: The Next Generation displayed its first replicator onscreen, Clarke was writing about them in Profiles, along with plenty of other futuristic technology; some we now take for granted (such as the Internet and the Kindle) and others that are still on the drawing board. Again, why isn’t such a forward-thinking book not an ebook as well?
■ Filmguide to 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Carolyn Geduld. Speaking of when Stanley Kubrick’s enigmatic 2001: A Space Odyssey left so many audiences baffled in the late 1960s, co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke was fond of saying, “Read the book, see the movie, repeat the dosage.” Right idea, and while Clarke’s novelization of 2001 is available on Kindle, it’s not necessarily the best book for cracking the film’s mysteries. If I had to hand one baffled 2001 viewer the Cliff’s Notes to the movie, it would be Geduld’s book from 1973, which thoroughly charts out the film’s plot and leitmotifs.
The flat-panel news and information devices the astronauts read while eating dinner in 2001 directly inspired the iPad and Kindle. Now that technology has finally caught up Kubrick’s 1968 vision, shouldn’t the book that places them into context be accessible on those devices as well?
■ The Death of the Grown-Up, by Diana West. The subhead of West’s book is “How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.” As Michelle Malkin noted in 2007 when she interviewed West on her book, others have written about the increasing child-like naiveté of society, but West was perhaps the first to explain how it has hamstrung our fight in what was once called the Global War on Terror. That we had (have?) a war named after tactics rather than the enemy we’re fighting is due to the GWOT receiving its name largely through a process of elimination, as West noted in her book and the articles that preceded it, as political correctness allows few other choices.
This excerpt is from chapter 2 of The KinderGarden of Eden: How the Modern Liberal Thinks:
Like Adam and Eve just prior to eating from the apple, the Modern Liberal has never had a mature thought in his life. That is, he has never once attempted to gather the facts, study the evidence and weigh these things in a rational formulation in order to seek out the rightful answers. This is because, like Adam and Eve in Eden, he’s never once had to.
The Modern Liberal was born into a life as close to paradise as any human being since God first created man. Having come of age in or after the 1960s, virtually everything that virtually every other human being, in literally every other time and in literally every other place, had had to think about – at its most basic, how to avoid things like disease, hunger, poverty and physical pain – had all but been eradicated just prior to the Modern Liberal’s entry into the sentient world.
It’s easy to forget – or just to have never thought about it at all – but America after the Second World War was not only unlike anything man had ever known, it was, in fact, the culmination of a “five- thousand year leap” forward in time. It was eons ahead of the technologies and medicines from not just earlier millennia or earlier centuries but, in many important ways, from just years and even months before. And every new dawn brought the promise – if not yet the achievement – of still another miraculous stride.
Thanks to the recent advances of Western Civilization in general and the Great Generations of Americans in particular (where the near-perfect balance between God and science had been struck), things like polio, chicken pox, smallpox, the flu as a death sentence and virtually any and every other monstrous disease that had plagued humanity – including the plague – were simply never part of the Modern Liberal’s life and therefore played no part in the Modern Liberal’s “thinking.”
This week’s most intriguing news from the publishing world:
Okay, so why is this “intriguing”?
Because Wool wasn’t issued by a major publisher. Author Hugh Howey released it himself, as a series of cheap, self-published ebooks.
Howey is understandably giddy. “A few months ago,” he writes, “I worked part time in the university bookstore, dusting the shelves and tackling shoplifters to pay the bills.” But now? “Without a single dime spent in advertising, a short story I wrote and didn’t even work to promote climbed to the top of the Amazon charts. It drew the attention of Hollywood. It landed me an agent and half a dozen foreign book deals.”
Howey’s is the latest in a rapidly growing list of self-publishing success stories—stories that, I’m happy to say, include my own. Today, self-publishing has transcended its lowly “vanity press” roots. The emergence of ebooks, “print on demand” (POD) technology, and online book-selling has allowed many writers to jump off the “Query-Go-Round” of agents and publishers, yet still establish rewarding careers as “indie” authors.
The Ebook Revolution also has shaken the print-book industry to its core. Many traditional (aka “legacy”) publishers, literary agents, bookstores, distributors, and—yes—well-established, Big Name authors view ebook self-publishing the way a vampire views a wooden stake. Here are two summaries of the history of this turmoil; and there are predictions of even more traumatic disruption.
So, let’s assume you’re a writer contemplating publication. You’re agonizing over whether to follow the traditional publishing path, or whether to take the plunge and self-publish. Okay, maybe you’ve long dreamed of winning validation from the publishing establishment—of earning acceptance from a New York agent and a venerable publisher—of seeing your book stacked in pyramids on bookstore tables—of the NYT #1 spot, and awards, and a reality show, and, gosh, maybe the cover of the Rolling Stone…
How could self-publishing possibly compete with that?
Well, my fellow scribe: Here are ten huge advantages that self-publishing has over legacy publishing.
Nowhere is the “creative destruction” of the free marketplace more evident than in today’s tumultuous world of publishing.
Just as Legacy Media face mounting competition from alternative-media upstarts (like PJ Media), so do Legacy Publishers face a growing insurrection from self-publishing authors. Motivated by new profit opportunities, and employing entrepreneurial creativity and technological innovation, insurgent Davids in both media and publishing are challenging the reigns of stagnant corporate Goliaths.
I know all of this first-hand, because in recent months, I’ve become a poster boy for the revolutionary changes sweeping the world of publishing.
Here’s my story:
I’ve been a professional nonfiction writer and editor for decades. I’ve also been a life-long fan of thrillers, and I always dreamed of writing them. In fact, since 2004 I’d been mulling a vigilante crime-thriller series, featuring a mysterious crusading journalist named Dylan Hunter.
But horror stories from fellow writers made me skeptical about my prospects of working successfully with traditional publishers. Bitter personal experience underscored that conclusion. In early 2007, I was approached by a New York agent and an editor for a publisher, looking to recruit me for a nonfiction book project. I invested over a year researching and crafting the book proposal to their specifications. They finally expressed great enthusiasm for it. But when they submitted it in the spring of 2008, the publisher’s editorial committee passed on it. My agent quickly lost interest in representing me, too.
A harsh disillusionment, though hardly atypical. So I suppressed my dream of publishing novels and resigned myself to sticking with writing and editing nonfiction.
That fall, though, I lost my magazine-editor job. Though I soon received a generous private grant to write a nonfiction book, that money ran out late in 2009, long before the project was complete. Then my wife saw her own income slashed in half due to the recession.
By early 2010 we were in trouble. I was 60, unemployed, and in the worst job market since the Depression. Our income was meager, our bills daunting, our savings dwindling. We faced inevitable financial ruin and the loss of our home.
But I found one faint glimmer of hope. I’d been reading about the sudden, spectacular successes that authors like Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Joe Konrath were having by self-publishing ebooks. After much research, I realized that “indie” publishing offered what no traditional publisher could match: immediate, guaranteed publication; total author control over content and marketing; and unsurpassed royalties.
“Write a novel” was still atop my Bucket List. I knew I’d always regret it if I died without having at least tried. And frankly, I was flat out of options. At my age, I either succeeded at self-publishing, or I became a Walmart greeter. So, despite long odds, and with my dear wife’s blessing, I decided to give it a try.
I felt like the aging Rocky Balboa, taking his one, last, desperate shot at the title.
I pulled out my old notes for the Dylan Hunter story and set a goal of finishing the book by June 5, 2011, my 62nd birthday. At 11 p.m. on June 4th, the last pages of HUNTER: A Thriller rolled out of my printer.