Archive for May, 2010

Penguin books back out of the Kindle store

May 27, 2010

Penguin books back out of the Kindle store

Sigh.

I’m sure this is just a fluke, but the Penguin books that had been in the Kindle store published after March 31, 2010, appear to be back out of it.

I was curious what the prices were, since it appeared those weren’t being sold under the Agency Model.  So, I started running the figures…and none of those books showed up.

I ran a search for Penguin books, and also sorted it by publication date…March 31st, 2010, was the most recent.

Hmmm…I’m  a little concerned that this means that they’ll be re-posted with that Agency Model thing on them, about the publisher setting the prices.

I did check books published earlier than that…they still say they are published by Penguin and sold by Amazon.  Under the Agency Model, they would say they were sold by Penguin.

I assume this will all straighten out by tomorrow, and they’ll be back in the store.  After all, Amazon has made an official statement on the Amazon Kindle forum, and they say, in part:

“…we will soon be offering their complete selection of digital books on Kindle”

Amazon statement

I know I saw that one of the books was over $30…Amazon could have set that price, but I thought that was odd.

Oh, well…I’ll check it again tomorrow.  :)

By the way, I listened to the archived webcast of the 2010 Annual Meeting of Shareholders of Amazon.com, Inc:

Archived Webcast 

There has been some good information in these in the past, but you know what struck me the most?

I have never heard Jeff Bezos sounding so subdued.

He’s usually…giggly, giddy, super upbeat.

On this one he was…sedate, I guess.

They also didn’t archive the Q&A, unfortunately: that’s often the best part.

Reportedly, Jeff said that a color Kindle was “still a long way out”.

From things I’ve read, I was thinking that one might come out by the first quarter of 2011.

Now of course, to a geeky guy, six months or more might be a “long way out”.  :)

I’m still not unconvinced that Amazon may do a tablet…and not call it a Kindle. 

On the other hand, they already have a tablet where you can read Kindle books…it’s called an iPad.  ;)

Tip of the Day: when your Kindle is playing music, you can still “sleep” it and it will keep playing. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

What normal people think

May 27, 2010

What normal people think

E-book Guy: “Hey, did you see this headline?  Amazon Beats Penguin!”

Normal Guy: “Of course!  Why, those birds can swim, but that’s like 7,000 kilometers!  Was he trying to swim it upstream or down?”

EBG: “No, no, not like that.  Not an actual penguin.”

NG: “Oh, sorry…like the bad guy?  Ah, and that would make the Amazon Wonder Woman, right?  Well, that makes sense, too.  I mean, she’s got that invisible plane, and the magic lasso.  He’s just got those tricky umbrellas…how bad was the beating?”

EBG: “Not that kind of beating…”

NG: “What was it, a foot race?  No news there.  Let’s see…he might beat her at…I don’t know, poker?”

EBG: “Let’s start over.  Penguin is a publisher–”

NG: “Bird-watching guides, I presume?”

EBG: “Um…maybe, I don’t know.  They do publish books.”

NG: “What do books have to do with Wonder Woman?  Oh, do they publish comic books?”

EBG: “Um…I don’t think so.  They publish, like, classics and stuff.”

NG: “Then why do I care?”

EBG: “Well, you couldn’t get them for awhile.  Isn’t that terrible?”

NG: “Uuuuhhhh…I guess.”

EBG: “See, Amazon sells e-books.”

NG: “Who sells the rest of the alphabet?”

EBG: “No, electronic books.”

NG: “Like how to fix your 8-track?”

EBG: “What century are you from?”

NG: “Um, Walkman?  CD player?”

EBG: “No, these are books in electronic form…files.”

NG: “Ooh, do they make cookbooks?”

EBG: “Probably…why?”

NG: “I could send one to my brother in jail, so he could escape.”

EBG: “You cou—huh?”

NG: “That’s how people break out, right?  You send them a file with a cake in it.”

EBG: “I think you mean a cake with a file in it.”

NG: “Oh, that’s no good, then.  He doesn’t need to break into jail.”

EBG: “Um, right.  So, you can buy Penguin e-books from Amazon again.”

NG: “Yay?”

* Okay, I know this one won’t be popular with some of you, but I had fun.  ;)  It was inspired by a comment that Preston Nevins made in the Amazon Kindle forum.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! Penguin books back in the Kindle store!

May 26, 2010

Flash! Penguin books back in the Kindle store!

I’ve been checking on a daily basis for Penguin e-books published after March, 2010 being in the Kindle store.

They’ve been out for a while, due to difficulties Amazon and Penguin had been having coming to a new agreement based on the Agency Model.

Well, I’m happy to say that they appear to be in the store today!

Oddly, though, they don’t have that

“This price was set by the publisher.”

label.

Also, it says the books are being sold by Amazon, not by Penguin.

This differs from, say, HarperCollins, which is under the Agency Model.

I don’t know if this means that the whole situation is resolved.  If it is, the strong suggestion is that they did not end up going with the Agency Model with Amazon.

That would certainly complicate things in their agreement with Apple.

I’ll poke around on this more later, look for press releases, that kind of thing.

I do think it’s a good thing, even though I don’t buy Penguin books, since they block text-to-speech access on their e-books.  As I’ve mentioned before, I think that’s a personal decision.  I just don’t like books not being available to everybody, and I’m not a big fan of conflict.  :)

UPDATE: Here’s an article on it…but it doesn’t say what the agreement was:

http://yhoo.it/93IVku 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Excerpt: The Coming Race

May 26, 2010

Excerpt: The Coming Race

As I write this, it is May 25th for me, the 207th anniversary of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s birth.

Most people may not have heard of Bulwer-Lytton, at least by name.  He has a reputation now, for those that have, of being a…well, bad novelist.  There is even a bad writing contest named after him.  Contestants deliberately try to write the worst openings to stories.

However, bad may not be the right word.  It’s broad writing, certainly.  Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog, was copying Bulwer-Lytton when he wrote, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  That’s the opening to Bulwer-Lytton’s own 1830 work, Paul Clifford.

He also coined a few well-known phrases: “the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword.”‘

I wanted to give you a chance to judge for yourself.  I thought I’d treat you to an excerpt from one of his most important works, The Coming Race.  It’s a Hollow Earth tale…and there have been a lot of those, from Burroughs to Verne.  It was actually a real idea at one point…that the Earth is hollow, and in some cases, that other races live within.

I particularly enjoyed this section.  It won’t really spoil any of the rest of the book for you, by the way.  The narrator is of our world, and has encountered the female-dominated, more “evolved” race, the Vril-ya.  In the excerpt, they are discussing literature:

I have said that these dramas are of great antiquity. No new plays, indeed no imaginative works sufficiently important to survive their immediate day, appear to have been composed for several generations. In fact, though there is no lack of new publications, and they have even what may be called newspapers, these are chiefly devoted to mechanical science, reports of new inventions, announcements respecting various details of business—in short, to practical matters. Sometimes a child writes a little tale of adventure, or a young Gy vents her amorous hopes or fears in a poem; but these effusions are of very little merit, and are seldom read except by children and maiden Gy-ei. The most interesting works of a purely literary character are those of explorations and travels into other regions of this nether world, which are generally written by young emigrants, and are read with great avidity by the relations and friends they have left behind.

I could not help expressing to Aph-Lin my surprise that a community in which mechanical science had made so marvellous a progress, and in which intellectual civilisation had exhibited itself in realising those objects for the happiness of the people, which the political philosophers above ground had, after ages of struggle, pretty generally agreed to consider unattainable visions, should, nevertheless, be so wholly without a contemporaneous literature, despite the excellence to which culture had brought a language at once so rich and simple, vigourous and musical.

My host replied—”Do you not perceive that a literature such as you mean would be wholly incompatible with that perfection of social or political felicity at which you do us the honour to think we have arrived? We have at last, after centuries of struggle, settled into a form of government with which we are content, and in which, as we allow no differences of rank, and no honours are paid to administrators distinguishing them from others, there is no stimulus given to individual ambition. No one would read works advocating theories that involved any political or social change, and therefore no one writes them. If now and then an An feels himself dissatisfied with our tranquil mode of life, he does not attack it; he goes away. Thus all that part of literature (and to judge by the ancient books in our public libraries, it was once a very large part), which relates to speculative theories on society is become utterly extinct. Again, formerly there was a vast deal written respecting the attributes and essence of the All-Good, and the arguments for and against a future state; but now we all recognise two facts, that there IS a Divine Being, and there IS a future state, and we all equally agree that if we wrote our fingers to the bone, we could not throw any light upon the nature and conditions of that future state, or quicken our apprehensions of the attributes and essence of that Divine Being. Thus another part of literature has become also extinct, happily for our race; for in the time when so much was written on subjects which no one could determine, people seemed to live in a perpetual state of quarrel and contention. So, too, a vast part of our ancient literature consists of historical records of wars an revolutions during the times when the Ana lived in large and turbulent societies, each seeking aggrandisement at the expense of the other. You see our serene mode of life now; such it has been for ages. We have no events to chronicle. What more of us can be said than that, ‘they were born, they were happy, they died?’ Coming next to that part of literature which is more under the control of the imagination, such as what we call Glaubsila, or colloquially ‘Glaubs,’ and you call poetry, the reasons for its decline amongst us are abundantly obvious.

“We find, by referring to the great masterpieces in that department of literature which we all still read with pleasure, but of which none would tolerate imitations, that they consist in the portraiture of passions which we no longer experience—ambition, vengeance, unhallowed love, the thirst for warlike renown, and suchlike. The old poets lived in an atmosphere impregnated with these passions, and felt vividly what they expressed glowingly. No one can express such passions now, for no one can feel them, or meet with any sympathy in his readers if he did. Again, the old poetry has a main element in its dissection of those complex mysteries of human character which conduce to abnormal vices and crimes, or lead to signal and extraordinary virtues. But our society, having got rid of temptations to any prominent vices and crimes, has necessarily rendered the moral average so equal, that there are no very salient virtues. Without its ancient food of strong passions, vast crimes, heroic excellences, poetry therefore is, if not actually starved to death, reduced to a very meagre diet. There is still the poetry of description—description of rocks, and trees, and waters, and common household life; and our young Gy-ei weave much of this insipid kind of composition into their love verses.”

“Such poetry,” said I, “might surely be made very charming; and we have critics amongst us who consider it a higher kind than that which depicts the crimes, or analyses the passions, of man. At all events, poetry of the inspired kind you mention is a poetry that nowadays commands more readers than any other among the people I have left above ground.”

“Possibly; but then I suppose the writers take great pains with the language they employ, and devote themselves to the culture and polish of words and rhythms of an art?”

“Certainly they do: all great poets do that. Though the gift of poetry may be inborn, the gift requires as much care to make it available as a block of metal does to be made into one of your engines.”

“And doubtless your poets have some incentive to bestow all those pains upon such verbal prettinesses?”

“Well, I presume their instinct of song would make them sing as the bird does; but to cultivate the song into verbal or artificial prettiness, probably does need an inducement from without, and our poets find it in the love of fame—perhaps, now and then, in the want of money.”

“Precisely so. But in our society we attach fame to nothing which man, in that moment of his duration which is called ‘life,’ can perform. We should soon lose that equality which constitutes the felicitous essence of our commonwealth if we selected any individual for pre-eminent praise: pre-eminent praise would confer pre-eminent power, and the moment it were given, evil passions, now dormant, would awake: other men would immediately covet praise, then would arise envy, and with envy hate, and with hate calumny and persecution. Our history tells us that most of the poets and most of the writers who, in the old time, were favoured with the greatest praise, were also assailed by the greatest vituperation, and even, on the whole, rendered very unhappy, partly by the attacks of jealous rivals, partly by the diseased mental constitution which an acquired sensitiveness to praise and to blame tends to engender. As for the stimulus of want; in the first place, no man in our community knows the goad of poverty; and, secondly, if he did, almost every occupation would be more lucrative than writing.

“Our public libraries contain all the books of the past which time has preserved; those books, for the reasons above stated, are infinitely better than any can write nowadays, and they are open to all to read without cost. We are not such fools as to pay for reading inferior books, when we can read superior books for nothing.”

“With us, novelty has an attraction; and a new book, if bad, is read when an old book, though good, is neglected.”

“Novelty, to barbarous states of society struggling in despair for something better, has no doubt an attraction, denied to us, who see nothing to gain in novelties; but after all, it is observed by one of our great authors four thousand years ago, that ‘he who studies old books will always find in them something new, and he who reads new books will always find in them something old.’ But to return to the question you have raised, there being then amongst us no stimulus to painstaking labour, whether in desire of fame or in pressure of want, such as have the poetic temperament, no doubt vent it in song, as you say the bird sings; but for lack of elaborate culture it fails of an audience, and, failing of an audience, dies out, of itself, amidst the ordinary avocations of life.”

What did you think?  Different than you expected?  Do you feel like it has anything to say about literature today?  If you want to read more of that book, you can get it for free:

http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2582

There are a lot of other books…Kindle owners can get 32 books in one file for $4.99 at time of writing: The Essential Edward Bulwer-Lytton Collection.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

E-book sales catching up to mass market paperbacks

May 25, 2010

E-book sales catching up to mass market paperbacks

The Association of American Publishers just released some very interesting figures for March sales.

Press Release

There’s a lot of good news in here: total book sales were up 16.6 percent for the month, and eight percent for the year.

Yes, that’s right: people are buying more books.  I think that’s a natural consequence of the expanding e-book market.  Frequent readers are probably buying more books in e-book form than they did in paperbook form.

But adult hardback sales were also up: 15.1 percent for the month of March, 3.7% for the year. 

Could e-books be contributing to making reading cool again?

Even audiobooks showed a considerable increase.

But here’s the interesting one to me: mass market paperbacks were down (18.1 percent for March, 6.6 percent for the year to date), and e-books were massively up (184.1 percent for March, 251.9 percent year to date).

That’s where the real battle may be, and people may have largely missed that.

A lot of the talk has been about e-books versus hardbacks.  That’s the whole $9.99 controversy. 

However, if the hardback comes out, and then somebody buys the e-book (partially because it is cheaper), they aren’t going to buy it again when it comes out in paperback.

Even though they might have waited for paperbacks in the past.

People who buy hardbacks have always been willing to pay more to get it right away.  People who buy paperbacks have been willing to wait to get it cheaper.

E-b0oks are not generally being “windowed” (delayed significantly) after the hardback release now.  People may be paying more for the e-book than they would have for the paperback, but less than they would have for the hardback.

Some people certainly wait for the e-book price that occurs when the paperback is released, but my intuition is that is the minority.

Hardback sales are increasing, e-book sales are exploding…mass market paperbacks are decreasing.

They are probably much closer than you might guess.

In March, mass market paperback sales were $53.6 million

In March, e-book sales were $28.5 million.

That’s right…e-book sales were 53% of the mass market paperback sales.

Let’s use the annual rates of increase and decrease. 

Adult mass market paperbacks down 6.6%, e-books up 251.9%. 

We’ll divide those by 12 to get a monthly increase.

That means that roughly in December of 2010, e-books should surpass adult mass market paperback sales in the US.

I would actually guess it would be sooner than that. 

The iPad is a somewhat complicating factor…it became available after March, so it isn’t reflected in these sales.  I think that will accelerate e-book sales considerably: not so much because of the iBooks store, but because of the Kindle store on the iPad with the free app.

The other factor is the Agency Model, which took effect in April, and so is also not reflected in these figures.   Arguably, this new way of selling books, in which the publishers set the consumer prices and the former retailers just process the sales, might slow down the growth of the e-book market.  Why?  Because the prices have been somewhat higher.  In addition, there’s been some bad press out there…I’ve seen a lot of people saying they are getting some books at the library instead of buying them (in either e-book form or p-book form), since they prefer the e-books but don’t like what has been happening.

E-books published by Penguin after March 31st have also not been in the Kindle store due to a dispute between Amazon and the publisher.  That will presumably result in somewhat lower e-book sales, since Amazon is a big chunk of that market, and Penguin is one of the six biggest publishers in the US trade market.

However…

Despite all that, I think e-books sales will continue to grow incredibly for at least a couple of years.  As more and more people switch to EBRs (E-Book Readers), and those people buy more and more books (which seems to be the trend), the number will continue to rise.

Before the Kindle, I was seeing estimates that e-books might be half a percent of publishing.

This latest report makes them six percent (28.5 million to 458.2 million).  That’s an 1100 percent increase (in the percentage of publishing)…in three years.

I also want to point out one other specific statistic: audiobook sales are up.  This is despite the presence of text-to-speech in the marketplace.  Yes, that access has been blocked by four out of the six Big Six publishers, but it’s still out there.  I think audiobooks had been declining in the market at one point: I do think this increase may be partially attributed to text-to-speech.  I’ve postulated that text-to-speech may accustom people to listening to books.

That’s just a hypothesis, though.

It’s also important to note as we look at this that independently published books are presumably not included in these figures.  That would increase the e-book sales…how much would be hard to say, but I do think those sales matter.

Publishing is clearly changing…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! Has Amazon dropped wireless and VAT surcharge on free books?

May 25, 2010

Flash! Has Amazon dropped wireless and VAT surcharge on free books?

You know when I post about free books from the Kindle store how I make a point that the books are free in the US and may not be free other places?

The situation has been that EU Kindleers have been paying something like $2.50 for those…supposedly because of Value Added Tax and wireless charges, something like that. 

Now, one of my readers, draegi, tells me that at least some of the books are actually free (I think in the UK) that weren’t before.

Outside of the US?  Check it for me…and snatch them up, in case this is only temporary.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Freebie flash! Culdee Creek, Strings Attached

May 24, 2010

 Freebie flash! Culdee Creek, Strings Attached

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and they come from companies that are not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Daughter of Joy 
Brides of Culdee Creek #1
By Kathy Morgan 
Published by Revell (part of Baker, a faith-based publisher)

This is the first in an award-winning “inspirational romance” series.  It takes place in late 19th Century Colorado, and the series is up to book four.

Strings Attached 
By Nick Nolan 
Published by AmazonEncore (a general publisher part of Amazon)

A closeted gay teen has to move to a new situation, and adapt to it.  This is a highly reviewed novel, which the author has said was originally intended for “youngish gay men”, but appears to have a broad appeal.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The Kindle Service

May 24, 2010

The Kindle Service

Buying a Kindle from Amazon isn’t just getting a piece of hardware.

It isn’t even just the software that comes on the device.

Amazon provides a lot of service with your Kindle, and I wanted to address that in this post.

First, let me say that I may have scared some people with my article on Mulling my options.  :)  I was talking about what I may do since one of my Kindles has gone missing.  I mentioned several hardware options. 

I always like to think about the options.  I know I have a very positive feeling about the Kindle and Amazon.  For me, that always makes me want to look at other things carefully, to balance any possible prejudice. 

There are obvious advantages to staying with Amazon…and that’s what I think I’ll ultimately do.  I’m going to give it about another month before I replace it.  Regardless, I’ll be with Amazon, since we still have Kindles in the family…and by far, the odds are that I’ll get another Kindle.

So, what does Amazon give you as service for your Kindle?

Free Whispernet

This is a big one.  You get free wireless internet access.  Yes, I can go to Fandango or check on my offspring’s flight for free.  It’s 3G; I can get to it in a restaurant, on the beach…I’ve done both of those.  Yes, there are charges if I send a personal document directly to a Kindle, but that’s unusual.  Admittedly, the Kindle internet is quite clunky, but I do use it.

Free book back-up and storage

Another huge factor.  When we buy books from the Kindle store, Amazon automatically backs them up for us.  I can redownload those books for free for the device for which I bought them as many times as I want to do that.  Data storage costs money: Amazon gives it to you for free.

Free downloading to multiple devices

This is one we use quite a bit, although it’s really provided by the publisher.  You can usually download the same Kindle store book to up to six devices simultaneously, although the actual number is up to the publisher.  The technology, though, of having access to the archives on all of your devices is something Amazon gives you.  If I get another Kindle, as seems likely, I won’t have to do anything to make the books available to me: they’ll be available right from the same device, and I’ll get to choose which ones I want to download to that device.  Even if I didn’t have Whispernet access, the process is pretty simple.

Free reader apps

This is arguably a software thing, but it’s something Amazon gives us for free.  You can read your Kindle store books on a PC, a Mac, an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod touch, a Blackberry, and soon, Android phones.  This is clearly separate from the hardware, but it shows me a commitment to making my books available to me.

Whispersync

This one sometimes comes in very handy.  Amazon stores my “last read page” on their servers.  Since my Kindle has been gone, I’ve been reading on an older Kindle we have.  I was able to open right up to where I was in the book I was reading when it happened, no problem, no guessing.  This works particularly nicely with Kindle for PC: I can look at a picture on the Kindle for PC (where it may look much better), and still stay in the same place in the book on my Kindle and my computer.

Backup of annotations

I like this one, too.  I do highlight quotations, and I love being able to get to them at http://kindle.amazon.com .  Now, admittedly, they don’t do this with books I get from other sources, but it is still nice.  When I download a book from my Kindle archives on to another device, I still have my notes.

Seven day refunds on e-book purchases

To my knowledge, this is different from Barnes & Noble or Sony.  I’m not all that worried about downloading a book by accident, but sometimes books are poorly formatted, and this is a way to deal with that.  Sometimes, publishers reissue books under different titles, and this is a safety net for that as well. 

Software updates

We got a couple of updates on the K1, but there have been more and more are promised on the K2.  Amazon could just make you buy a new model or pay for the software updates: after all, these aren’t fixes, typically, they are added features.  That’s definitely an argument for the K2 over the K1, right now…I’m interested in seeing what they’ve done with Collections.

Kindle Customer Service

Amazon Customer Service is highly rated, and with good reason.  You can have them call you, and that works very well.  While they aren’t infallible, I’ve gotten some very good information from them.  Yes, I’m more techie than average, but I haven’t had any trouble finding the way to reach them.  They could make the service number more obvious (I’d like to see it listed in an obvious manner on the device itself), but this is still good.  They also give us feedback e-mail addresses, and you can even e-mail Jeff Bezos himself.  That’s nice, and worth a lot.

Social networking and aggregation

Honestly, I don’t know if I would use the klipentweet…but I might.  That sort of innovative integration is a good thing, in my mind…especially because it is optional.  I also like the “Popular Highlights”, although I could get to those without a Kindle.

Free samples

Free!  Samples!  Amazon isn’t the only e-book store to do this (Barnes and Noble does), but it’s really great at lunch.  It’s especially important on non-fiction books: I can hear somebody on the radio or see them on TV and the book sounds great, but then they may be poorly written or documented.  On some collections, this can get you an entire free book!

Depth of Kindle Store

Big, big, big!   The Kindle store has a lot more in-copyright books than other sources.  Its self-publishing (which could be used to publish whether or not you have a Kindle) means we see a lot of unique offerings.  Yes, some of those may be offered elsewhere as well, but a lot of them will be exclusive.  Amazon is also getting other exclusives, from big authors/publishers.  I’m not sure if the British Library books will be exclusive to Amazon in the US, but I’m really looking forward to those.

The Kindle forums

I can’t overstate the importance of this.  This is a free area that Amazon provides.  I assume they datamine it, which is a good thing.  I’ve gotten so much out of this, including information and fun.  I’ve looked at the Barnes & Noble forums…sorry, but they just don’t compare.  You just aren’t going to get hundreds of nook limericks and song parodies.  :) 

Now, I want to be clear that these aren’t all exclusive to Amazon, but this is a good set of features to the service.  I may certainly have left something out, but there are also some less measurables for me.  I think, at its heart, Amazon loves books and reading.  Yes, they sell a lot of other things, and they may also love windshield wipers.  ;)  But the hardware is a way to get to the books.  While they can be socially clumsy (I don’t think they always realize how people will emotionally respond), I think they want to do right by their customers. 

I know not everybody feels that way about Amazon, and you may not.  Feel free to let me know…and let me know if there is something else about Amazon’s Kindle service I forgot.

If there’s something you like about a different E-Book Reader company better, I’m very interested in that as well.  :)

Tip of the Day: you can get to the main Amazon Kindle Community here.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Fiction genre analysis #1

May 23, 2010

Fiction genre analysis #1 

I’m honestly surprised I’ve never done precisely this before.  :) 

I’ve done some genre analysis, but not like this. 

My intuition has been that e-books rely more heavily on genre fiction than paperbooks (p-books).  Why?  People who buy genres can predict to some sense what the book is like…that’s sort of the point of genres.  There is less risk in publishing a genre book, and when you are working with a somewhat untested medium, that security is important.  

When working with a relatively unknown (or really unknown) author, genre works also allow an immediate possible market.  A vampire book by somebody of whom you’ve never heard is still a vampire book. 

So, I thought I’d break down the genres a bit to get a sense of what’s being offered.  I’ll also describe them: that may help you find books you enjoy. 

The first thing that might surprise you is that only a third of the titles in the Kindle store are labeled as fiction: 

Fiction (201435) vs Others (386593)

Fiction (201435) vs Others (386593)

 

The next thing I wanted to do was break down the genres.  This is based on the ones used by Amazon, and you may notice right away that the numbers don’t add up.  There is a simple reason for that: books may appear in more than one genre.  In fact, there is even a Genre Fiction category…all of the Action & Adventure books appear under that one, as well as in their own category. 

Fiction Titles by Genre

Genre Count Percentage
Genre Fiction  102,343 25.3%
Fiction Classics  55,217 13.7%
Contemporary Fiction  42,780 10.6%
Romance  29,842 7.4%
Mystery & Thrillers  23,740 5.9%
Children’s Fiction  19,456 4.8%
Action & Adventure  18,847 4.7%
Short Stories  15,872 3.9%
Literary Fiction  14,767 3.7%
Erotica  14,094 3.5%
Historical Fiction  13,376 3.3%
World Literature  11,214 2.8%
Science Fiction  10,111 2.5%
Fantasy  8,191 2.0%
Drama  7,081 1.8%
Horror  7,058 1.7%
Poetry  6,691 1.7%
Religious Fiction  3,578 0.9%
Comic Fiction  31 0.0%

As you can see, the Genre Fiction category does dominate. 

My next thing was to break that category down further:

Sub-genre Count
Romance  29,842
Mystery & Thrillers  23,740
Action & Adventure  18,847
Erotica  14,094
Historical  13,376
Science Fiction  10,111
Fantasy  8,191
Horror  7,058
Gay & Lesbian  4,032
Men’s Adventure  3,775
Anthologies  3,382
Westerns  2,664
War  2,109
Family Saga  2,069
Political  1,465
Comics & Graphic Novels  1,012
Movie Tie-Ins  1,008
Fairy Tales  373
Sports  279
Sea Adventures  7

Now, a lot of these categories have more of a breakdown in the literary world, but the Kindle store only breaks them down a little, at least in the browsing categories. 

It’s also key that the publisher assigns the categories, and I’ve got to tell you, a lot of them are not the way I would assign them (or, I venture to say, the way that most genre fans would assign them). 

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular of these anyway.  :) 

Romance 

A romance novel generally focuses on the relationships between people.  Readers recognize a number of subcategories, including historical romances (which take place in the past) and the very popular paranormal romances (which have some supernatural element, such as vampires or werewolves). 

Romances are often in series: those may be shorter than typical mainstream novels.  The series feature continuing characters or families, and may be multi-generational.  

The most prominent award is the RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America. 

Mysteries & Thrillers 

Mysteries & thrillers generally involve a crime and the response to it.  In a traditional mystery, the reader is unaware of the solution to “whodunnit”, and follows along as someone solves it.  In a thriller, the reader often knows who the perpetrator is, and so do those pursuing the criminal.  

The most famous award is probably the Edgar, given by the Mystery Writers of America (and named for Edgar Allan Poe).  

Sub-genres include “hard-boiled” or “noir”, which generally deals with the seedy part of town.  

Action & Adventure 

Action & adventure novels often take the reader to an exotic location, and keep things moving.  While there may be a problem to solve, it usually isn’t a crime in the traditional sense.  

They usually have a larger-than-life hero and actions may speak louder than words. 

Erotica 

Erotica focuses on relationships of a sexual nature, or that are intended to arouse the reader. 

There can be some overlap with romance novels, but romances traditionally focus more on the relationships between the characters, while erotica may be more explicit and focus more on the physical act. 

Historical Fiction 

Historical fiction is set in a period prior to the reader’s own.  Technically, it should be prior to the author’s own, but there is a tendency to treat all 18th century (for example) as historical fiction. 

It is intended to invoke the feeling of the period and may or may not be historically accurate.  

There are a lot of types of historical fiction, including romances.  

A similar term is “period” fiction, which ties into a specific definable period. 

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 

I’m glad the three of these were next to each other, because there is a lot of debate and overlap.  Some people (including me) group these together under (small “f”) fantasy.  The connecting element is that they involve something that is outside current consensus reality. 

Science fiction has several sub-genres, and again, lots of debate about definitions.  At its base, it is supposed to be based on science, but expand upon it.  For example, a science fiction novel might involve space travel.  However, where it becomes complicated is if the method of achieving that space travel might not be entirely scientific.  Is faster-than-light travel in a physical vehicle within the bounds of science?  

One clarification is that people may refer to “hard science fiction” as being more accurately based on science. 

Big “F” Fantasy involves unreality not based on science: fairies, vampires, that sort of thing. 

Horror is intended to invoke fear in the reader.  The term generally refers to “supernatural horror”.  However, it sometimes refers to “psychological horror”, in which the frightening character has no fantasy element.  The Phantom of the Opera is widely considered horror, but the basic story doesn’t involve anything supernatural. 

The Hugos and Nebulas are two of the big awards, but there are many others.  

Science fiction and fantasy are famous for their fans (or “fen”), who have conventions and dress up as the characters…and have been doing so since the 1930s.  

You’ll see a lot of the sub-genres listed: “space opera” (which take place at least partially in space, but don’t pay a lot of attention to the science, with “zap guns” and the like as common elements); urban fantasy (which takes place typically in a contemporary setting, but involves magic or other fantastical elements interacting with “mundane” elements; sword and sorcery, in which typically low tech warriors combat magic users; military science fiction; and so on. 

Gay & Lesbian 

This is a broad category featuring characters who aren’t heterosexual.  You may also see this referred to as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered).  

Men’s Adventure 

Men’s adventure novels certainly can be adventure novels.  The intended audience is male, and they typically involve guns and combat.  These are often in series, and sometimes long series.  Some people have drawn a parallel with romances. 

Anthologies 

An anthology consists of short works by different authors, typically on the same theme.  They are common in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but can be mainstream fiction as well.  For example, there might be an anthology of baseball short stories.  A book of short stories by the same author is more commonly referred to as a “collection”. 

I could keep going with the other categories, but I think I’ll stop there. 

I have to say, though: a category with seven titles in it seems a bit odd.  ;) 

I’ve tried to keep my definitions pretty much non-controversial (although I may hear about that Men’s Adventure/Romance parallel), but I’m happy to hear if you disagree.  :) 

See also this earlier post on literary awards. 

Tip of the Day: If you scroll to the bottom of a book’s product page, you can see category information (which may be much more detailed than the above categories), and then you can click on it to see similar categorized books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Freebie flash! Sidney Sheldon, Leigh Bridger

May 22, 2010

Freebie flash! Sidney Sheldon, Heat of Passion

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and they come from companies that are not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Executive Privilege
By Phillip Margolin 
Published by HarperCollins (a general interest publisher)

Margolin is a New York Times bestseller of legal fiction.  This one appears to be free for a short time as a promotion for the next novel.  It says it has bonus material, although the product page doesn’t tell you what that it is…I’m guessing it is a chapter of Supreme Justice.

Rage of Angels 
By Sidney Sheldon
Published by HarperCollins (a general interest publisher)

This is a bestselling novel by one of the bestselling authors of all time.  Even if you don’t want to read it right now, how can you pass this up for somebody else who might be on your account at some time?

The Art of Asking 
By Terry J. Fadem 
Published by FT Press (a business publisher)

To quote an important author in my life, “To H*ll with the answer…what’s the question?”  That’s a paraphrase from John A. Keel.  This book is about asking and answering and best techniques…geared for the business world.

Heat of Passion
By Elle Kennedy
Published by Samhain  (a fiction publisher with an emphasis on romance and genre works)

Love those Samhain content warnings:

“Warning: This title contains a ridiculously hot Navy SEAL, a sassy heroine, and sex in a supply closet. Read only if you have time to take a cold shower afterwards. Graphic sex, explicit language.”

Presenting to Win 
By Jerry Weissman
 Published by FT Press (a business publisher)

This is for all of you familiar with the acronym DBP (Death By PowerPoint).  :)

Soul Catcher 
By Leigh Bridger
Published by Bell Bridge Books (a publisher of “emerging fiction voices” with a Southern focus)

Bridger is the pen name of New York Times bestselling author Deborah Smith.  This fantasy novel involves a demon and past lives.

The Truth About Negotiations
By Leigh L. Thompson
Published by FT Press (a business publisher)

Another business book from Financial Times.  Personally, I don’t like negotiating, even though a lot of people do.  I don’t think I should pay less for something just because I’m a better talker…that seems unfair.

The Shadow and Night
The Lamb Among the Stars #1
By Chris Walley
Published by Tyndale House (a faith-based publisher)

Faith-based science fiction taking place twelve thousand years in the future.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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