Monday, March 14, 2011

Cheap Books

Speaking of cheap books - and I was - the price point of e-books may be as low as 99 cents:
Joe Konrath has an interesting interview with independent writer John Locke who currently holds the coveted #1 spot in the Amazon Top 100 and has sold just over 350,000 downloads on Kindle of his 99 cent books since January 1st of this year, which, with a royalty rate of 35%, is an annual income well over $500k. Locke says that 99 cents is the magic number and adds that when he lowered the price of his book The List from $2.99 to 99 cents, he started selling 20 times as many copies — about 800 a day, turning his loss lead into his biggest earner.

I think that's about right. I know for iTunes, I don't mind taking a chance and dropping a buck on a tune. If I don't like it, I'm only out a buck; if I do like it, well, the pleasure of the 3 or 4 minute ditty is endless.

Writing a book takes a lot of time and effort and talent but no more so than producing a piece of music. Sure, the pleasures of a good book may last longer but that's only because it takes a longer time to consume. You'd think, then, you'd be willing to pay out more for a book than for a song but that's not how the market works. You pay what for perceived value.

In this case, Konrath has found no one's interested in taking a risk on his book for $2.99. For a dollar, they're willing to take that risk. I'd take that risk, too, if I used an e-reader. Once Konrath has his reader hooked at this price, he still has the writer's responsibility to be interesting. If he is, then he's got a customer for his next book. If not, well, he still earned a buck. In the writing world, that's not bad.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Books I'm Not Reading

I'm not reading Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. Yes, yes, I know, it's a mystery classic, made into a great movie with Humphrey Bogart blah blah blah but, really, I'm 75 pages into it - somewhat nearly half way but at 230 or so pages, so I'm a good way in - it's just not that well written. Maybe it carries too much of the "classic" baggage; it reads as a cheap imitation of itself. Sam Spade isn't really likable in the book though, yes, in the movie, it's a different story. In the movie Spade was played by Humphrey Bogart; in the book, Spade is played by Sam Spade. Too much of what happens is a just a lot of talk in different rooms and in between these scenes are scenes of Spade getting from one room to the next.

And, okay, another reason why I'm not reading the book is that it only cost me 50 cents. I picked it up, along with a stack of others, at the Friends of the Library Book Sale a couple of weekends ago. Didn't spend much and got a bunch of things I'd been wanting to try but didn't want to invest the money or the time going to the library to check 'em out.

See, that's what happens when you don't have much invested in a book but that's not a bad thing: that means the book has to try all that much harder to keep me committed. The Maltese Falcon has committed an unpardonable crime: it let my attention wander.

Oh, I may get back to it. An investment of the time to get to 75 pages is still something. But for now, other books in my stack beckon. Let's see what they have to say about it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Innocent - Book Review

Scott Turow's Innocent is a sequel to his Presumed Innocent, that wonderful first-novel and legal thriller from the 80s that was made into a pretty good movie with Harrison Ford. Rusty Sabich, the protagonist in that first novel, finds himself accused of murder yet again in this novel and, again, hires Sandy Stern to defend him. So all the players from the first novel are in the place only it's different this time. Or maybe it's not so different.

Regardless, Turow's prose is a pleasure; Turow claims Dickens as one of his inspirations and thought the characters may not be as rich and varied those in a Dickens novel, they are memorable and vivid with complex and complicated personal lives. The old wounds from the earlier novel have festered and remain unresolved, driving Sabich to take risky action which leads to his undoing but not in the way the plot might have you believe.

A genre novel that rises above the limits of the genre.

(Funny, a year ago, I'd returned to Turow and was underwhelmed. This time around, I just may have to pick up those old books of his and see what I've been missing all these years.)

February iPhone Photo Dump!

February was a light month - not only is it shy a few days of being a normal month but with the two snowstorms, it seemed the month was all about preparing for the storm, enduring the storm, and digging out from the storm.

Now here we are in March. The weather's warm! All of that snow is but a dim memory. Still, lest we forget:

Here's what happened with the second storm. This time the snow was dry and powdery, a pleasure to shovel:

Emily did the smart thing. Bundled up, reading in the flood of light reflected from the snow:

But all that passed and we survived. One night I went to pick up Emily and there was a full moon and the night sky was bright. You could clearly see a jet contrail glowing in the light and if I had a better camera I might be able to show you how lovely it looked. Instead, this'll have to do:

As the weather warms, golf becomes possible and that means Emily's skillz as a golf-cart driver are needed. Time to contemplate the meaning of existence while waiting for the party ahead of us to tee off. The flag behind Emily tells you it was a bit. . . breezy:

We're done with Winter. Oh, it'll try a comeback or two before letting up but, really, what's the point? The earth spins, the planets wheel, and we move on.