Articles about "Ebooks"

Smart Spending Winning the eBook War

Unfulfilled promise of e-books offers lessons for news organizations

I spent my vacation reading from pixels instead of paper.

I read e-book versions of “Bruce,” a Springsteen biography by Peter Ames Carlin, and Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “Inferno.” Both had great potential for extra audio and video that could have created a much richer experience. But the e-books offered no more than the ink-on-paper versions.

My disappointing experience offers a lesson for news organizations that are considering selling e-books because its shows how legacy media is still thinking like … legacy media. Book publishers still have an old-school mentality —  like many newspaper editors.

E-books offer great opportunities for magazine and newspaper editors because the digital versions can include video, audio and other content that will enrich a story. Newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post are publishing e-books because they can bring in extra revenue and new audiences. Consumers are accustomed to paying for books, and there are established stores (Amazon and Apple’s iBooks) that will market and sell them. But to do e-books right, editors and book publishers should take advantage of their multimedia features.

I read the iBook versions of Bruce and Inferno on my iPad, but the experience would have been pretty much the same if I’d used the Kindle versions. Here’s what they were like and how they could have been better:

Peter Ames Carlin’s “Bruce”

I’m a longtime Springsteen fan and was happy to find a biography that presented an honest account of his rise to stardom. Carlin shows Bruce warts and all — his petty behavior with girlfriends and his creative struggles as he recorded great albums such as “Born to Run.”

But while music is central to the story, you’ll have to be satisfied with Carlin’s words because the e-book doesn’t have any audio. There undoubtedly are hours and hours of video and audio that would complement Carlin’s smart prose. It would be easy to mix them into the e-book at key points to give the reader (listener? viewer?) a more fulfilling experience.

Instead, all we get is prose and some old Springsteen family snapshots.

Carlin told me by email that an enhanced multimedia version “is something I’ve definitely mused upon, dreamed about, etc. But it’s also very tricky terrain, given the verities of who owns what recordings and/or song publishing, and the costs of clearing rights for publication, and so on. I’m sure such enhanced books will soon be commonplace, but most likely as artist-approved projects, I think.”

I see his point, but I think it would be worth exploring more. Sure, there would be some licensing challenges, but Springsteen’s managers cooperated with him and might have allowed iTunes-length snippets or short compilations.

I was so frustrated with the lack of music that I downloaded several Springsteen albums to my iPad and played them in the background, so I could hear “Thunder Road” as I read how Bruce recorded it. I had to create my own multimedia e-book because the publisher, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, didn’t.

Dan Brown’s “Inferno”

Inferno is part thriller, part travelogue.

As protagonist Robert Langdon and his sultry companion Sienna Brooks (Langdon’s companions always seem to be sultry) flee the villains, they duck into touristy sites in Florence and Venice, Italy, as well as Istanbul, Turkey. Brown does a decent job describing them with his workmanlike prose, but I often wanted to see photos and maps.

The e-book let me down. Despite an author’s note that promised authenticity — “All artwork, literature, science and historical references in this novel are real” — the e-book didn’t have any photos or maps, let alone animations that might have tracked the progress of Langdon and Dr. Brooks. I’m not saying Doubleday, the publisher, should have turned it into a Saturday morning cartoon, but some photos and a little animation would have enhanced my experience.

Just as I had done with the Springsteen book, I created my own multimedia experience for “Inferno.” I found a website compiled by historian Sanford Holst that features collected photos and maps of the book’s locations. I kept it open in Safari and referred to it every time Langdon and Brooks arrived at a new location.

Enhanced e-books are in their infancy, so I haven’t read many that take advantage of multimedia features. But I’ve seen a few, such as Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” a powerful account of poverty in Mumbai that includes video. Hollywood also has seen the potential, using free e-books with video and interactive features to promote the TV show “The Bridge” and the film version of “Les Miserables.”

Some of the big publishers such as HarperCollins, Penguin and Simon & Schuster have begun selling more enhanced e-books. But they represent a small portion of all e-books. (I emailed a Doubleday spokeswoman but did not hear back.)

Newspaper and magazine editors should pay attention to the opportunity here. Enhanced e-books are not only a new way to tell stories, they’re also a way to make money. But editors have to think beyond ink on paper.

Related: What news organizations are learning from their e-book efforts | Star Tribune publishes serialized novel in paper, turns it into an e-book | In the year of the e-book, five lessons from — and for — news organizations

Bill Adair is the Knight Professor for the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University. He also serves an adjunct faculty member at Poynter and is a contributing editor for PolitiFact, which is run by the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times. Read more


Star Tribune publishes serialized novel in paper, turns it into an e-book

Lynn Liedman wakes up every morning looking for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She’s been a loyal subscriber for years, but it wasn’t until this summer that she really got hooked.

She’s not reading for news. Instead, Liedman eagerly flips to the Variety section to read “Giving up the Ghost,” a novel split into bite-sized segments.

“I just like the idea of having a little bit every day to look forward to reading,” Liedman said by phone. “The next day, the paper comes and it’s like, ‘Oh what’s going to happen today?’ ”

Mary Logue

“Giving up the Ghost,” written by Mary Logue, joins a collection of e-books the Star Tribune published last year, including “In the Footsteps of Little Crow” by Curt Brown and “The Cookie Book,” a collection of cookie recipes.

Kate Parry, assistant managing editor for special projects and features, said in a phone interview that this is the first time the newspaper has published fiction and “serialized it in the printed paper and on the website.”

Parry and Laurie Hertzel, senior editor for books, talked about how the e-book came together and shared strategies and tips for other publications trying similar projects.

Determining the right story — and writer — for an e-book

Because they wanted to publish a novel, Hertzel and Parry had to look for writers outside of the paper. The search for manuscripts took six weeks, beginning in February. Hertzel asked for recommendations from mystery bookstores in the Twin Cities, a small press specializing in mysteries, and the Loft Literary Center.

“I didn’t want to be inundated with manuscripts,” Hertzel said, noting that the Star Tribune team was juggling other full-time work for the paper while working on the e-book. She warned that publications looking for submissions shouldn’t open the floodgates — “it really will crush you.”

Hertzel whittled submissions down to six finished manuscripts from local authors. The editors wanted a “whodunit” so the story would have natural breaks and cliffhangers, encouraging readers to pick up the paper the next day.

They ultimately chose a ghost story by Logue, a local writer. The structure of the book, written in short chapters that could be divided into even smaller segments, made it “easier to break up for serializing,” Parry said.

Liedman said the story “struck” her because the protagonist’s grief over her husband’s death reminded Liedman of her own emotions after her daughter’s sudden death in 2004. Furthermore, Liedman enjoyed the “the Minnesota connection in ‘Giving up the Ghost’ ” with “references to Minnesota places.”

The Star Tribune negotiated a contract with Logue in April and the first episode of “Giving Up the Ghost” ran June 9. Parry said the Star Tribune worked with a law firm to draw up a traditional book contract “that’s very different [from] a freelancer’s contract. There are all kinds of rights issues connected to book publishing.” The Star Tribune offered Logue an advance and a percentage of royalties based on e-book sales.

Logue sees the project as a way for the publishing and journalism industry to experiment together and cross-promote.

“The other thing I get is my name in the paper for 50 days, which is huge publicity for me,” said Logue, who has seen an uptick in sales of her other mysteries on

Figuring when/where to publish the story & who to involve

Serialized fiction is a centuries-old tradition; writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote some of their most famous novels as series first published in newspapers.

Parry said the editors deliberately avoided publishing on the front page of the Star Tribune because they “didn’t want to start it on page one and then jump back to the feature section,” Parry said. “We wanted to give people a habit.” On the first day, the story took up the entire cover of the Variety section, which seemed the best fit based on the novel’s themes. Since then, it has appeared either as “a narrow column down the side or a strip across the bottom of the page.”

Hertzel saw summer as the ideal time to experiment because there’s less news. People are on vacation — including journalists, meaning “that’s one less story reporters have to produce.”

The Star Tribune promoted the e-book with house ads, a daily countdown on the Variety cover, social media and e-book ads alongside every installment in print and online. The publishing team included Web designers, copy editors, primary editors, a designer producing the e-book, an artist to paint the cover and a designer to convert the painting to a digital image.

“Pretty soon, I had eight people sitting at the production meetings,” Parry said. Hertzel recommended smaller publications with limited resources cut the Web version or skip the e-book to make the project more manageable.

The cover for “Giving up the ghost.” (Painting: Eddie Thomas/Star Tribune, Cover design: Mike Rice/Star Tribune)

Interacting with readers

Hertzel held a live chat with Logue the Monday after the second installment appeared in the paper. According to Parry, approximately 600 people participated in the chat. The Star Tribune simultaneously conducted a poll asking people whether they believed in ghosts. (56 percent said yes.)

The e-book, Parry said, has received much more attention than the free version on the Star Tribune’s website (though readers would eventually hit the pay wall). Longform journalism “doesn’t read very well on a traditional website. You end up scrolling a long, long way,” she said. As for the decision to offer the e-book right away, Parry said that “there’s just a certain group of people who are impatient waiting around.”

Parry and Hertzel said they receive regular requests from readers like Liedman asking for another series next year but haven’t decided if they will do a project like this again.

“We’re just checking it like mad everyday to make sure we don’t have the wrong installment in the paper,” Parry said. “That’s our biggest terror right now.”

Related: What news organizations are learning from their ebook efforts Read more


How the Seattle Times made an iPad book from its best photos of the year

Seattle Times | iTunes
At the end of each year, The Seattle Times chooses its Pictures of the Year to feature in online galleries and its weekly print magazine.

This year it added something new — a $2.99 e-book for iPads that lets readers swipe and tap through the full-screen immersive images.

The table of contents for the e-book.
Read more

Buzz Bissinger’s e-book pulled in price war

New York Times
Buzz Bissinger’s e-book sequel to “Friday Night Lights” was suddenly pulled from Amazon, David Carr reports, in an example of how e-book sellers are becoming Wal-Mart-like in their market dominance and pricing power. Apple offered a promotional deal for Bissinger’s book, and Amazon responded aggressively by cutting the book’s price to zero, which led the publisher to temporarily pull it from the Amazon market rather than give it away. || Related: Microsoft makes $300M investment in Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader (Wired) | E-book publisher drops DRM (PC World) | Erotica genre climbs the e-book bestseller lists (News 10). Read more


Majority of people who read news now get it on handheld devices

Pew Internet
More than half of Americans who regularly read news get it on handheld digital devices, according to new research. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found 54 percent of news-reading adults turn to cell phones, tablets or e-readers (question 23). There’s good news for writers: “41% of tablet owners and 35% of e-reader owners said they were reading more since the advent of e-content.”

The main focus of the Pew survey was on e-books and how Americans are embracing them. A few interesting facts: Read more


Apple’s iBooks Author presents journalists with a new storytelling platform | Nieman Journalism Lab
Although Apple released iBooks Author, its new tool to create interactive e-books, as part of its push into textbook publishing, Wayne MacPhail believes it “could be the platform for a whole new form of rich-media, long-form journalism.” He explains:

We now have, for free, a tool that lets us tell stories and present stories that combine all the interactivity and engagement we could dream of. In a single tool, I can combine what would have been done via video clips, feature stories, podcasts, photo essays, study guides and polls. …

Here’s a free tool that’s a better alternative than an ad hoc paperback, or special section, as a way to package a multipart series. Here’s a platform that encourages readers to touch, listen to, watch, engage with and learn from your story.

Read more