Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Survey gets a read on e-readers

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Survey gets a read on e-readers

A fifth of American adults say they have read an e-book in the past year. They read more frequently than their print-loving counterparts and they’re more likely than others to have bought rather than borrowed their most recent book.

Those are some of the findings of the Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Reading Habits Survey, which was released this week. As with most research from the Pew Center, the report goes into some detail. Here are the highlights:

  • A fifth of American adults have read an e-book in the past year and the number of e-book readers grew after a major increase in ownership of e-book reading devices and tablet computers during the holiday gift-giving season.
  • The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer.
  • Some 30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now.
  • The prevalence of e-book reading is markedly growing, but printed books still dominate the world of book readers.
  • E-book reading happens across an array of devices, including smartphones.
  • In a head-to-head competition, people prefer e-books to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.
  • The availability of e-content is an issue to some.
  • The majority of book readers prefer to buy rather than borrow.
  • Those who read e-books are more likely to be under age 50, have some college education, and live in households earning more than $50,000.

Most of the findings in the Pew report come from a survey of 2,986 Americans ages 16 and older, conducted on November 16-December 21, 2011, that focused on people’s e-reading habits and preferences.

Holidays a gift for tablet, e-book reader market

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Holidays a gift for tablet, e-book reader market

The share of adults in the United States who own tablet computers nearly doubled over the holiday selling season, according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Ownership of tablet computers increased from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January. The same surge in growth applied to e-book readers, which also jumped from 10% to 19% over the same time period.

The number of Americans owning at least one of these digital reading devices jumped from 18% in December to 29% in January.

The Pew Center says the findings are striking “because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers. However, as the holiday gift-giving season approached, the marketplace for both devices dramatically shifted.”

Pew attributes some of that adoption to the introduction of relatively cheaper versions of Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet. In the e-book reader world some versions of the Kindle and Nook and other readers fell below $100.

The results come from ongoing surveys by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project aimed at tracking growth in the ownership of both devices. A pre-holiday survey was conducted among 2,986 people age 16 and older between November 16 and December 21, 2011 and has a margin of error of +/- two percentage points.

The post-holiday data come from the combined results of two surveys – one conducted January 5-8 among 1,000 adults age 18 and older and another conducted January 12-15 of 1,008 adults. The combined surveys have a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points.

Six degrees of reading

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Six degrees of reading

Want to see books similar to the ones you’re reading? Head over to Yasiv, a site that uses Amazon data to create a flowchart of recommendations. Created by Andrei Kashcha, the site serves up a web of book covers that, when clicked, lead to information about those titles. There’s also a box on the left that lists the volumes by title.

Kashcha describes Yasiv as “a visual recommendation service that helps people to choose the right product from Amazon’s catalog.” In addition to books Yasiv can web other products carried by Amazon including video games, music and movies, although a search for broad clothing categories such as skirts and pants yields only a single image. Good for Grand Theft Auto. Not so good for Vera Bradley.

Yasiv recommendation web for 'House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz

A tale of two writers

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
A tale of two writers

Two contemporary American authors recommend themselves for their use of the English language, mystery writer Will Thomas and poet Barbara Hamby. They have little in common. Their subject matter and style don’t match. Yet each handles the language with vigor and grace without sacrificing the forward motion often missing in literary works.

In the five novels in which he chronicles the adventures of Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn, Thomas writes at a studied rate that matches the pace of the Victorian England he portrays.  As narrator, Llewelyn describes action with a sharp ferocity, which is to be expected in mysteries and thrillers. It’s in the descriptions and transitions that the author shines, passages that in lesser hands would read as filler, or asides.

Here Llewelyn describes Irish beauty Maire O’Casey in Thomas’s second book in the series, To Kingdom Come: “With her hair pulled back loosely, she looked fresh out of one of the paintings by the fellow Renoir, who obviously had a passion for redheads. A jolt of electricity ran down my spine as if I were a tree trunk split in half.”

Poet Barbara Hamby abandons quiet passion for the full-throated kind. Here’s the beginning of her tour de force, “Mambo Cadillac,” from her book All-Night Lingo Tango:

Drive me to the edge in your Mambo Cadillac,
turn left at the graveyard and gas that baby, the black
night ringing with its holy roller scream. I’ll clock
you on the highway at three a.m., brother, amen, smack
the road as hard as we can, because I’m gonna crack
the world in two, make a hoodoo soup with chicken necks,
a gumbo with plutonium roux, a little snack
before the dirt-and-jalapeño stew that will shuck
the skin right off your slinky hips, Mr. I’m-not-stuck
in-a-middle-class-prison-with-someone-I-hate sack
of blues.

Remind you of the early short stories of T.C. Boyle? You can hear Garrison Keillor read “Mambo Cadillac” on The Writers Almanac and Hamby’s own reading for the Southeast Review in Tallahassee, available from the iTunes store.

If you like a little kick to your writing, you’ll want to ride with these two.

 

 

 

Monroe libraries to present local book expo

Monday, July 11th, 2011
Monroe libraries to present local book expo

The Associated Libraries of Monroe County will present the second annual Monroe County Book Expo on Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The event is free and open to the public.

The expo will highlight books written and/or published by residents of Monroe and other Eastern Pennsylvania counties. The day is intended to encourage aspiring writers and support the exchange of ideas about the creative process and the publishing industry. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet and visit with local authors, and to purchase copies of their works. Books will be sold by the individual authors at their tables.

Two special programs will be featured during the day. At 11 a.m. there will be a panel discussion entitled “Self-Publishing: Pitfalls and Rewards.” This will be followed by a presentation at 2 p.m. by author Alissa Grosso, whose debut novel for young adults, Popular, was recently published by Flux.

Authors may register to participate online.

For more information, call library Director Barbara Keiser (570) 421-0800, extension 13.

The Monroe County Book Expo is a project of the Associated Libraries of Monroe County, which includes Barrett-Paradise Friendly Library, Clymer Library, Eastern Monroe Public Library, Pocono Mountain Public Library and Western Pocono Community Library.

Roll over Moses, e-readers outpace tablets

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

More Americans own e-book readers than tablet computers, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Last year tablets like the iPad had a slight lead over e-readers such as Kindle and Nook. But by May of this year, 12% of U.S. adults said they own an e-reader while 8% own a tablet computer.

“The percent of U.S. adults with an e-book reader doubled from 6% to 12% between November 2010 and May 2011,” Pew reports. “Hispanic adults, adults younger than age 65, college graduates and those living in households with incomes of at least $75,000 are most likely to own e-book readers. Parents are also more likely than non-parents to own these devices.”

Owning one doesn’t mean you can’t own the other. The survey noted an overlap in ownership, with 3% of U.S. adults owning both devices.  Nine percent own an e-book reader but not a tablet while 5% own a tablet computer but not an e-reader.

For print titles, the ‘e’ in e-books stands for envy

Friday, May 20th, 2011
For print titles, the ‘e’ in e-books stands for envy

The move to e-books is looking like a stampede.

Online retailer Amazon.com said today that it’s selling more electronic books than printed versions. The company says it sells 105 e-books for every 100 physical copies it sells.

Next Tuesday rival Barnes & Noble will ratchet up the competition when it introduces a new generation Nook e-reader to compete with Amazon’s Kindle.

barnes-noble-nookB&N chief executive William Lynch told the Wall Street Journal that despite a late start his company has captured 25% of the digital books market. It has also grabbed a good chunk of the market for electronic magazine subscriptions. “We’ve also sold more than 1.5 million magazine subscription orders and single copy sales on the Nook newsstand.”

The irony of Tuesday’s announcement (or maybe the marketing strategy) is that it happens during the week of BookExpo America (BEA), which bills itself as the largest publishing event in North America. It has traditionally promoted paper copies. This year BEA will co-host a session on electronic publications with the IDPF Digital Book Conference 2011, at the Javits Center in New York City.

The fascination with all things Victorian

Monday, May 2nd, 2011
The fascination with all things Victorian

Maybe it’s the wedding of Price William and Kate Middleton that brings it to mind but it seems as if Victorian England is all the rage in fiction. What might have started with Sherlock Holmes in 1887 has morphed into young adult books, mysteries and a branch of science fiction called steampunk that together deliver an apocalyptic message finely tuned for our times.

Ruby-in-the-SmokePhilip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart quartet heads the list of YA books that bring London of the late 1800s to life. The lead figure in The Ruby in the Smoke and the novels that follow is a brave 16-year-old who surmounts her fears to discover the fate of her father, and her own strength.

Pullman populates his London of 1872 with finery and fops, dirt and decay. For every noble move by the Baker Street Irregulars who support Sally the underworld launches a counter offensive that would discourage all but the most resourceful. The author’s voice rings of an authentic England, from descriptions to slang to the narrator’s comforting address to the reader.

Pullman (The Golden Compass) has written other novels with resolute female characters but the Lockhart books stand as some of his best, a series that adults as well as teens will find refreshingly current.

SomeDangerInvolvedWill Thomas could have been channeling Pullman in the first of his Barker and Llewelyn mysteries, Some Danger Involved, set 12 years later. Thomas’ characters, a private detective who calls himself an enquiry agent and his assistant, investigate the source of anti-Semitic activities and in the process provide readers with a swift course in forgotten history. As with Pullman’s work, the interest lies in a fast romp by sympathetic characters through a dark and secret world, an alternate reality that seems as real as our own.

Then there’s the wildly successful Anne Perry, who has penned two Victorian series, one featuring Charlotte and Thomas Pitt and a second starring investigator William Monk. Both evoke the class distinctions as well as the crimes of the era.

Steampunk pushes reality in an alternate direction. A subgenre of science fiction steampunk evokes an era where steam power, dirigibles and analog devices rule. One of the earliest examples is the 1990 novel The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. If you saw the 2009 movie version of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, you have an idea of the visuals common to steampunk literature.

Much as its cousin cyberpunk mashes the exotic with the familiar to jolt readers out of time and place, steampunk creates an alternate history that can be both intriguing and chilling. As do many of the writers who set their stories in that era. They contrast the veneer of civility with its morally corrosive underside to create a dystopia that any post-9/11 reader can appreciate.

Let’s hope that’s not the case with the newest royal couple.

Readers get face time with authors

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Readers get face time with authors

Simon & Schuster Digital has created a site where authors can respond to reader questions through webcam videos. Called Ask the Author, the site gives readers a direct way of interacting with writers.

As of March 7 the website listed 10 authors who are willing to talk with fans. They range from Brad Thor, author of The Athena Project, to Lisa McMann, author of Cryer’s Cross; Goodnight, Tweetheart‘s Teresa Medeiros, and music and sports author Chuck Klosterman.

Here’s how it works. Visitors click on the “talk to” button below an author’s photo and type their question. Then they check back for a response. No word from S&S on whether the system will offer live chat at a future date.

Writers with their own websites might consider doing the same in real time.

Ask The Author

D is for dream

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
D is for dream

I picked up a collection of short stories Ray Bradbury wrote in the 1940s and 1950s, R is for Rocket, created before the dawn of the space age. An ancient paperback, its pages as brown as parchment . . . a book I’d read in high school, dreaming of the day humans would fill the vast emptiness among the stars. I haven’t read science fiction in years because the older I grow the more trite it seems, its stories filled with brave commanders of vast armies of hollow ships and mindless machines.

r_is_for_rocketAnd then I read the title story, about a 15-year-old boy and his best friend who watch the rockets blast off on their way to the moon and long for a life neither thinks he’ll ever see. And I knew at once why I’d enjoyed Bradbury as a kid: he writes with heart. He captures what people feel but can’t seem to describe, even to themselves. He writes about a boy who wants the rocket to knock the stars out of orbit and wants to be there when it does, who feels the kick of liftoff in his chest and abandonment in his soul.

“It gripped me in such a way I knew the special sickness of longing and envy and grief for lack of accomplishment,” he thinks as other men trace his dreams like the imaginary lines that form our constellations. Bradbury writes about an old man who understands the heart of a prehistoric creature called out of the depths by a fog horn on a lighthouse. About a father who can only send one family member on a trip to Mars and instead gives all of his children the gift of imagination.

As Bradbury did.