Guardian 100 Best…Free eBooks!

The Guardian are currently running a series of the 100 Best English Language Novels of All Time. As a large number of theses books (perhaps 50%) will be in the public domain, I’m going to reproduce that list here with links to the free ebooks available at epubBooks.

As each book is announced I’ll update this post, so dig in and start enjoying some great literature. [Read more...]

Amazon’s 100 Books: Just the Free eBooks

Recently Amazon released their own recommendation list of “100 books you must read before you die”. I must confess it is a somewhat lack-lustre collection, containing both the obvious entries, along with plenty of oddities. Amazon do claim that they’ve tried to cover all age groups and genres to give a balanced collection, that however hasn’t stopped plenty of people complaining about it, especially as there are no books older than two hundred years in the list, and only a handful of those we’re published more than one hundred years ago. It’s amusing how many people are complaining about this selection (any search engine will easily find them if you’re so inclined) but I think most are forgetting one thing about this reading list; the recommendations have been made by Amazon, a company who’s sole purpose is to make as much money as possible. Obviously they’re not going to include too many classics, they want you to go and buy these books from them, not pop off to sites like epubBooks and download them for free. [Read more...]

Drablr Writing Competition

Do you like writing?
Do you like writing Flash Fiction?
Would you like to win a £100 Amazon voucher?

Over on Drablr.com I’m currently running a drabble writing competition where you can win £100 (~ $160) and all you need to do is write a drabble based on the New Year’s Resolution theme.

Once you’ve submitted your drabble (this is done automatically by just using “New Year’s Resolution” – singular or plural spellings allowed – in the title) you just need to promote it heavily to you fans and friends (i.e. Facebook Twitter, etc.) and the drabble with the most drablr votes wins the prize.

The competition ends next week – January 31, 2014 – so there’s still plenty of time to write and promote your drabble. The full competition details can be found on the Drablr Blog. So, head over to drablr.com, sign-up for your Drablr account and start writing!

What is a Drabble?

A drabble is a form of Flash Fiction, but with the added challenge that it must be exactly 100 words in length. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it;

A drabble is an extremely short work of fiction of exactly one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Drabbles can be about any subject you like such as being action stories, erotic fantasies or romantic liaisons, but most importantly when writing a drabble, you should have fun writing them.

Developing your writing craft comes with practice, and drabbles are a fun way to practice it.

There’s a great article on how to write a drabble from author and drablr, Michael Brookes, who has a knack for always coming out with great drabbles.

PressBooks: self-publishing via WP

Yesterday I discovered an interesting new self-publishing platform called PressBooks. What caught my attention was that this is built upon the popular WordPress blogging platform. As authors generally already run their own WP Blog, this should make it a very familiar and easy to use system for most people.

Although it is possible to import a previously made ebook (EPUB) the core premise of the platform is that you write your book on PressBooks.com itself. You get all the same styling and formatting tools found in WordPress, along with the WP auto-save and versioning support, and as all web browsers come with a built dictionary, you also get your spellcheck for free.

Each book section (chapter/part/introduction/etc.) is written as a separate post, which may make editing somewhat difficult, but after a few minutes of playing it does all seem very straightforward. [Read more...]

Drablr: A new self-publishing platform

We live in a connected world; emails, social networks, endless Twitter updates, all of which like nothing better than to soak up our precious time. For years there’s been articles and studies stating that we’ve all forgotten how to read long form text*. So, if we have neither the time nor motivation to sit and read novels and other long works, how are we to get our fiction fix?

Perhaps sir and madame would like to try our Drabble menu?

Noun
drabble (plural drabbles)

  • A fictional story that is exactly 100 words long.

The purpose of a drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Earlier this year I discovered the world of the Drabble while reading the newsletters from the Elite:Dangerous Kickstarter campaign, which included many 100-word stories written by Michael Brookes and various other authors. In fact, I enjoyed them so much I went and built Drablr.com; a website dedicated to the Drabble.

Drablr is a self-publishing social network for authors who like the challenges of 100-word (micro) fiction, and is similar in functionality to Twitter and Tumblr. It’s still very new and very much in the Beta phase, so for the moment only invited authors can post Drabbles. Still, anyone can sign up, read Drabbles, vote, comment, and follow authors.

There’s plenty of features still to be added but why not come along, sign up, and enjoy some great fiction while they’re still hot.

Sign up for an account here; Drablr.com – streaming Drabbles 100 words at a time.

* Not that I agree with these arguments.

eBooks in the Cloud – Own or Just Renting?

Booki.sh have just announced they’ll be launching an ebook store in Australia, where the books are not downloaded but streamed from the cloud.

With the implication that we’re only renting/licensing our purchases, this news has caused quite a bit of a stir with some people denouncing it as, the worst thing to happen to publishing. Of course, some people would say that DRM has already killed off any possibility of actually owning our ebooks, including Booki.sh themselves.

This “ebooks-in-the-cloud” scenario isn’t new. I’ve been mulling it over for a while and my conclusion is that it’s not such a bad idea – but only if the book industry change the way we pay for them.

If all our books are stored in the cloud – meaning that we can’t download them to external storage – then we really are only renting them. I don’t find this such a big deal because if I actually wanted to own a book, I’d probably go out and buy a paper version anyway (wow, did I just say that).

(Ok, so that’s no completely true, but most of the ebooks I do buy are DRM-free professional books, from O’Reilly, A Book Apart, etc., so I do actually own them.)

It’s only recently that I’ve come to realise (or is that admitted to myself) that I mostly only read books (novels) once and if I ever read them again, it’s likely years after the first time, so I don’t mind having one-off/temporary access to them. But, if these cloud books imply that we’re only renting them, then I’d expect the price to be reflected in that.

The business model for ‘ebook Rental’ could be something similar to what we have with DVD rentals, where you can get pay-per-view movies streamed over the internet for anything from 25% – 50% of the purchase price. If I take a monthly subscription package then I could get them even cheaper.

So publishers, are you going to let me rent my ebooks – will you let me read Stieg Larsson for $2.00?

…no, I didn’t think so.

Why Amazon Needs to Support the EPUB eBook Format

In a recent ZDNET article, Jason Perlow described his hesitations for buying one of the new Amazon Kindle’s, which was due to its lack of EPUB support. Many responses to the article noted that the “average user” doesn’t care about the format of an eBook, only for the buying experience. I’m not going to argue on that point because in essence, they are right; the average user doesn’t care. Yet there are two real reasons why having one eBook standard is important, and these reasons will certainly impact the end user.

Publishing Infrastructure and Costs

Although most publishers will use a XML Master Format for storing the original book content, they still have to spend a lot of time, effort and costs in producing and maintaining all the different output formats they need to get their books in to the buyer’s hands. There are also no guarantees that all these different output formats will support the same kinds of features, which will mean even more resources (costs) will be needed to support these alternate formats.

Now, if the publishers only had work one eBook standard then they could spend more resources on improving their own tools to produce better output, which will ultimately give the user an even more enjoyable reading experience. Publisher will also have more resources available to give input back to the IDPF on improving the EPUB standard; bringing more and better features to the eBook world. Certainly a win-win situation for consumers and publishers. Without universal support for EPUB though, everyone will be forced to maintain multiple tool sets, which do nothing but increase costs. [Read more...]

Can eBooks Provide a Competitive Edge to Private Schools?

The private education sector in the UK is being forced to become more competitive in  the current economic climate. We are not talking about the Etons and Harrows who will always have waiting lists but the lesser know schools which take in pupils with average ability and learning difficulties with the aim to have them leave with the best exam results possible.  This is the sector that needs to attract more pupils.

So how do you attract more pupils? One of the key ways is to use Value Added Scores which compare the pupil’s ability when they enter the school to that of when they leave. If a school is taking pupils with predicted C or D grades at GCSE and sending them out with A or B grades then that school becomes an attractive proposition for parents. The problem is how to achieve such a rise in grades.

One of the best methods is to offer more courses that cater to a pupil’s strengths. However this does lead to the problems of providing staff to teach them and a classroom to teach them in. The staff problem is relatively easy to overcome as most good teachers can teach most subjects to GCSE level.

The second problem of where to teach them is a challenging one. No school achieves one hundred percent utilization of their classrooms. At the same time no teacher wants to carry around all the textbooks required to teach their course around with them all day. So it would seem that the obvious answer is to give the pupils the textbooks so they can take them from lesson to lesson. The problem is of course that some pupils will forget them, causing the inevitable disruption to the start of the lesson as pupils are moved around so they can share. The other problem is the amount of weight a pupil would need to carry around with them.

[Read more...]

An EPUB Experience

A few days ago I had the pleasure of being invited up to Stockholm to sit with a bunch of like minded people and talk about eBooks – specifically the ePub format. This was a very eye-opening experience indeed.

I was invited to Sweden by Publit, a company who have set themselves the task of making all the Swedish out-of-print books available as PoD (Print on Demand) titles. Considering that 95% of all Swedish books ever in existence are now out of print, this is a very worthy project, if perhaps somewhat daunting. Although Publit’s main business is PoD, they are making use of this opportunity to also provide these titles as ePub eBooks.

During my time in Sweden we discussed the many different areas of the eBook world, including DRM (of course), the processes involved in going from scanned document (TIFF/PDF/DOC) to an eBook Master format and onto ePub creation itself.

Now, the people at Publit are a group of very talented individuals with plenty of technical knowledge, yet there were aspects of ePub which has left them somewhat perplexed. There were two main points which I found interesting and have heard before around the web so I thought I would share them here. [Read more...]

Blackewell opens new eBook store with ePub download option

While all the U.S. publishers/eBook stores remain reluctant to embrace the ePub format, the UK, and Europe in general, is really forging forward with its adoption. The latest to release an eBook store selling ePub books (plus PDF and other popular formats), is the UK academic publisher, Blackwell.

In addition to the 45,000 titles they have launched with (in partnership with the eBook wholesaler Gardners), Blackwell will also be stocking the BeBook eReader, a reader which is becoming quite popular among UK users.

It’s uncertain as to whether they will use any DRM (I can’t imagine they won’t) but at the moment the BeBook does not suopport the Adobe (ePub/PDF) DRM. However, there was a recent annoucment from Endless Ideas, who sell the BeBook, that their new WiFi BeBook reader will be supporting ePub DRM. Perhaps there will soon be a firmware update for the current model.