I forgot to mention in my last post that my latest “Sam the Plumber” column is now officially online. You can read “That Blocked Up Feeling” where Sam tries his best to solve my writer’s block, in a way that only Sam would ever think of.
I have now officially read an entire book on a Kindle! This was a Word document of a novel by my editor friend, and I think it was at least as nice to read it on a Kindle as it would be to read it on paper. For one thing, I didn’t have to print it out. For another, I didn’t need a bookmark, because that pesky Kindle remembers where you quit reading and starts you up at that place when you reopen it. The Kindle has one advantage over a book–you don’t have to hold it open. That’s always an issue with books that have tight margins (most paperbacks)–the book has to be held open or it wants to close. I generally am quite careful with my paperbacks to not apply too much force so the binding doesn’t crack. With my Kindle, I don’t have to be careful. The thing lies flat without being held open.
Chris asked about the Kindle:
1) Can you make annotations that are tied to specific text on a page?
2) Can you export annotations? Or do you have to manually get those annotations back to the author?
For Question 1, the answer is yes. You can insert annotations at any point in a document. You can later delete them if you want.
For Question 2, I don’t know. Since typing on that teeny weeny keyboard is pretty slow, I wouldn’t care to do a lot of annotations, so I haven’t done much with this feature.
Ivye noted that Kindles don’t have service outside the US. Yes, if you mean that you can’t tie into the Sprint network. But of course you can get most of the Kindle functionality using the hookup to the USB port on your computer. There are a few things you can’t do, and it’s a little more work to do them on the computer, but since Sprint doesn’t work in my neighborhood, I’m living with those limitations quite fine.
Daniel noted that Chip MacGregor has recently posted some comments on the Kindle and Sony e-book reader on his blog. This is true, and I read those comments and forgot to put a link to them in my last post. Thanks, Daniel. Chip notes that the Sony is cheaper and he predicts that the Sony will win unless Amazon opens up the Kindle a bit. Just a day after Chip’s post, Amazon announced that it would be making available a free application for iPhones and iPod Touch users so they can read Kindle books. The iPhone can also access the Kindle store wirelessly. (For the iPod Touch, you have to use your computer to get to the Kindle store.) Chip is once again seen to be prophetic in his insights. If you’re not reading Chip’s blog, you’re missing out on some great insights from a guy who’s been around the block in publishing circles many times.
More random thoughts on writing conferences: Since I just returned from one writing conference and will be going to another in early April, they’re much on my mind. It strikes me that this might be a particularly good year to go to a major conference. The reason is that the downturn in the economy is likely to discourage some people from going. So there’ll be fewer students at any given conference to compete for the attention of the agents and editors. I expect that my mentoring group at Mount Hermon this year will likely have fewer students in it, so I’ll have more time to devote to each one.
A lot depends on your personal economic situation, of course. I regard a conference as a medium to long-term investment for a writer. If your short-term financial situation is bleak, then now is a bad time to go. But if things are stable (i.e., if you still have your job or your spouse still has his or her job and if your income is no worse than at this time last year), then this might very well be a great year to go to a good conference. (Many of us have investments that are half what they were last year. That’s actually irrelevant to how well we’re doing financially. What matters to most of us right now is our income stream, not our savings. The main exception is those who are retired who live off their investments.)
The world economy is doing horribly right now, but publishers are still buying books. (I’m negotiating a deal for a book right now. More on that when I get it signed.) Publishers are tightening their belts, and cutting staff. But they’re all in business for the long haul, and many of the contracts they’re creating right now are for 2011 or later, a point at which the economy will be in a different place. I think we all hope that 2011 will be a better year than 2009, although nobody can predict that.
If I were a publisher making deals right now, I think I’d be looking hard at new writers who can be contracted inexpensively. (It’s a rare thing for a new writer to get a huge deal or even a medium size deal. Most new writers get small contracts.) I’m not a publisher, and I don’t know their strategies, but I suspect that they’re not eager to tie up a lot of capital right now when liquidity is tight. So my guess is that they’re going to be more cautious about the megadeals than the small fry. Bottom line: This may well be a good time for new writers to break in. It’s hard to know for sure, but we’ll see.
I’ve heard that an old Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.”
We do. My hope is that we all get through it soon.