As a follow-up to my 2010 Year In Review post, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite things (devices, developments, services, or books) from the past year.
The Kindle 3
Regular followers of this blog are surely sick of hearing me sing the praises of my Kindle 3, so I’ll keep it brief, and point you to my Kindle 3 Review (with pics). But I will just mention that I’m liking it more and more the longer I use it, and I’m actually finding myself drawn to reading more than I was on my K2. I’ve read about a dozen books in the month or so that I’ve had it, and that’s probably the most important thing I can say about it.
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Speaking of those dozen books, most of them have been in the excellent Vorkosigan series by Louis McMaster Bujold, and available for free on the Baen Free Library as part of the Cryoburn CD. This science fiction series follows the exploits of Miles Vorkosigan, who is not your typical hero: he is physically short and weak due to stunted growth stemming from his mother being poisoned during pregnancy. He makes up for his physical failings with a mixture of wit, bravery, bravado, charisma, and reckless risk-taking. The books are more of the space opera, soft science-fiction style: there are a few cursory ship battles and discussion of technology and weaponry, but really quite little. Most of the action takes place man-to-man, whether on the ground (including the convoluted politics of Miles’ homeworld, where was born to an important noble family), on space stations or ships (where boarding parties and mercenary raids are common), or between negotiating diplomats from one of many human factions. The stories are well-crafted, the writing is excellent, and the adventures are entertaining, even if some parts strain credulity a tad — Miles does have a way of getting into and out of some incredible situations.
Of note: the series consists of a sometimes-confusing timeline of 14 novels and 4 novellas, grouped into 7 omnibus editions. I recommend reading the books in chronological order, not necessarily the order in which they were written or arranged (the stories in omnibus edition #5, Miles, Mutants, and Microbes, are out of chronological order for the rest of the series). The second issue is that one pivotal novel, Memory, is not included in the omnibus editions. Now, I can’t complain much for getting 13/14 novels for free and paying $6 to Baen for the missing one (which I did), but it is confusing. Also confusing is why Baen would give away essentially an entire series for free. I could see the first book or two in order to drive sales of the rest of the series, but I fear that authors and publishers giving away too many books for free smacks of desperation, and will have a “tragedy of the commons” affect, where no one is able to sell e-books anymore, but that’s for another blog post.
70% Royalties by Amazon (with an assist by Apple)
Early this year, prompted by Apple’s anticipated entry into the e-book game, Amazon announced that in July they would double royalties (from 35% to 70%) for e-books sold through their DTP self-publishing platform that (a) were priced between $2.99 and $9.99, and (b) enabled text-to-speech and met other requirements. This announcement gave many self-publishing authors real hope of making a living at their craft — selling enough e-books to make a living with a $2.05 royalty (about what most $2.99 e-books end up with after a small, size-based fee Amazon deducts) is much more likely than with a $0.35 royalty (35% of $0.99). It also has repercussions in the e-book pricing world and the publishing world — as authors suddenly wonder if sticking with traditional publishers (and their 8% print and 17.5% e-book royalties) is worth it.
In April, I switched over my website (which I had maintained since 1998, mainly writing my own HTML and PHP) to the WordPress platform. WordPress is a free content management system primarily aimed at bloggers, and it allows for simple and modular blogging, website organization, and other features. The main impetus for the switch was my interest in blogging, and I used it to write 103 posts over the last 9 months of the year. While it takes some tinkering to get it to work right as a full website platform (supporting both a traditional website and the blogging section), it does make blogging much easier and provides a ton of useful features I couldn’t have done on my own.
While I technically discovered KindleBoards.com in late 2009, I really became active on the site in early 2010, where I met lots of great authors and readers, learned a great deal, and got much more exposure for my books. The newfound avenue for reader-author interaction is invaluable, and I had many memorable discussions and enjoyed interacting with readers, especially on my book threads. The site is not only a great source for information, but is also the best-moderated forum I’ve ever used, and the users are generally truly cordial and helpful, even to newcomers (which is, sadly, quite rare on the Internet).
The I Love My Kindle Blog
As part of the research I do for this blog and for the business aspects of self-publishing, I follow over a dozen Kindle, e-book, technology, and publishing-related blogs. One of the most helpful I’ve found is the I Love My Kindle Blog, maintained by Amazon forum regular Bufo Calvin. It has a great mix of archived information about Kindle tips and tricks, and regular posts about new developments in the e-book and e-publishing worlds. Bufo is also very responsive, and is always happy to respond to comments or emails, and was even kind enough to post a review of The Twiller when it was released.