What are they thinking?

I’ve been busy this past week trying to finish the novel I’m working on as well as working on edits for NRP. So I’ll admit I haven’t been online as much as I usually am and, judging by some of the stories I’ve read this morning trying to prepare for this post, it’s probably a good thing. I don’t know whether to roll my eyes or reach out through cyberspace to knock heads together. So, since I always love the sound of empty heads knocking together, let’s start with that.

Yes, I’m evil, but surely you already knew that ;-p

Yesterday I did one of my periodic trips through Amazon looking for some new books for my mother’s kindle as well as for something for me to read. I found several that look good and pushed them onto Mom’s kindle. I downloaded another couple to mine — books I figured would be quick reads that wouldn’t have me wanting to throw anything against the wall. So I opened one of them last night and, you guessed it, I quickly wanted to throw my kindle against the wall. Just as I foretold in my column several months ago, we now have the first of the legacy publisher Fifty Shades-lite books. The names had been changed and so had the location, but that’s about all. Young woman is inexplicably drawn to ultra-rich young man with some rather “interesting” sexual habits. Away from him, she is strong and willful, confident and sure. With him, she surrenders everything. She is his to do with as he pleases.

Oh please.

My problem isn’t with the bondage and domination. My problem is with the poor writing, with the obvious lineage — for lack of a better word — to Fifty Shades, and with the fact publishers are continuing with the same old tact that helped get them in trouble in the first place: trying to recreate an overnight sensation that wasn’t that great to begin with. Part of the problem with the Fifty Shades phenomenon is that the books came out so close together. Unlike Harry Potter or even the Twilight series, there is no long running track record. Word of mouth, thanks to some actual promotion by the publisher (when’s the last time you saw a fiction novel hitting all three major morning news shows as well as the talk show circuit?) boosted its sales tremendously.

So, getting back to the book, I managed to get through the first chapter only by forcing myself. The only thing that kept me from throwing my kindle against the far wall was the fact it is tethered to the wall via its charger since the battery doesn’t hold a charge for long now. Yes, it has been deleted from my kindle and, no, I didn’t pay full price for it. Fortunately. I got it on a promo deal. That’s the only reason I bought it in the first place. Otherwise, I would have used the preview option and would never have downloaded it.

Next head knock goes to not only the rabid fans of Michael Jackson who took to Amazon to bash a book about their idol by giving it one star reviews but also to those who are, in turn, bashing them for what they did. Look, I’m the first to condemn reviews given by folks who haven’t read a book. I’ve received a few of those over the last few years. They rank right up there with those who give one star reviews because they don’t believe there are mothers out there who live to see their daughters married. Oops, sorry, I digressed. Back to the Jackson book.

The book is question is Randall Sullivan’s Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. The fans took to twitter and facebook to encourage others to give negative reviews to the book, feeling it presented a negative picture of their idol. You can read more about the campaign and how folks have reacted to it here.

My reaction when reading the article was to pretty much shrug and wonder why the actions of the fans surprised anyone. If there has been a pop icon in the last four decades, it has been Michael Jackson. His fans have been rabid in their adoration of him — and their defense of his character. Don’t believe me, go back and read some of the reactions to when he was brought up on criminal charges or to the photos of him holding one of his kids over the balcony. Anyone writing a book about him that was even the least bit critical should have anticipated a backlash of negative reviews.

For those who are blaming all this on Amazon for letting the fans post their reviews, get over it. You’d have screamed if Amazon hadn’t posted the reviews. Then they would have been censoring. As long as the reviews met the rules for posting, there was little Amazon could do.

So count that as a three-way head knock.

The eye roll has been reserved for Total Boox. I’ll admit there’s a head scratch there as well. Total Boox is developing an app that will look like most e-book apps. You’ll pull you books onto the bookshelf and click on the one you want to read. Before you do that, you’ll set up your account with them, linking it to your credit card or preferred payment method. That sounds pretty standard, right? Well, it takes a left turn from there. The point of the Total Boox app is that you pay as you read.

Yes, you read that right. You pay for the book as you read it.

The way it works is that you don’t pay for the book when you pull it over into your bookshelf. Instead, once you open the book, the app keeps track of the number of page clicks and the percentage of the book you’ve read. You are then charged based on that.

I have a few problems, for lack of a better word, with this. On the surface it looks great. Who wants to pay full price for a book you don’t like and never finish? But who wants to have to keep track of how much you’ve been charged for a book that you might be reading over the course of several months — or longer. The first image I had was of Sarah getting a book she’s going to use for research. She might read a chapter or two of it, just to verify something, for one book and then not read it for a year or more. Then, when she is writing another book, she remembers this particular title and goes back and reads a bit more of it and suddenly there’s another charge for it. It can turn into a bookkeeping nightmare.

Another issue I have with it is that I assume it will be loaded with DRM and you know how I feel about that. Still, it will be interesting to see just how much traction this model gets in the e-book market.

For more information about Total Boox, read here.

Your thoughts?

7 thoughts on “What are they thinking?

  1. Total Boox sounds, well, I’m not sure. As a writer I really do not care to get paid in dribbles per book. As a reader, what about books where you skip around, chasing a topic? If you adjust the font size (yes, geology book, I’m glaring at you and your .05 pica font!), will the program register the change or will you get charged for 250 pages when you only read 100 before deciding you didn’t need the book?

    I thought the 50-Shades parody cookbook was funny. But it sounds like I’m gonna get mighty tired of two-tone book covers and “instant subbie, just add cash” plots. Using the term plot very loosely.

    1. I totally agree with you about not wanting to be paid in dribbles. More than that, how long do you think it will be before they add a fee of some sort if you don’t read enough to reach a minimum charge threshold? Otherwise, they’d be risking billing out less than what their handling charges from the credit card processing company would be.

      I haven’t looked at the cookbook. And yes, I think we are all going to get tired of those two-tone covers, especially since there are so darned many of them so far.

  2. Boox… is the result of people who have no use for books making the rules on how writers should be paid. IOW it’s a lot like what we’ve seen from the publishing establishment the last fifty years or so. The same people who came up with this beauty came up with “people only one one book per author per year” and “if one book by an author doesn’t sell, no other book by this author will sell.” It’s like they never read books, don’t know how people relate to authors they like and are in fact clueless.
    It’s not just the research books that get that. Say I open a book, start reading, then realize that I’m simply not in the mood for that strong an emotional rollercoaster. I can set the book aside for YEARS then go back to it and read it. And does the author get paid for re-reads? I might as well make over my money to Pratchett and the Heinlein estate… I mean… it’s just goofy.

    1. Gotta agree with you, Sarah.I have to admit, the only publishers I can see going with this are the legacy publishers and those that want to be like them

    2. I wondered about the re-reads also. Do they keep track of which pages you read, or just how many pages you read at a sitting? What if it is something like a car repair manual? Your not going to sit down and read most of it, but you might read the same ten pages several times as you are doing a repair, or four years later as you do the repair again you go back and reread the instructions. Are you going to be charged for 10 pages because that is all you read, or are you going to be charged for 30 pages because you reread the same 10 pages three times?

  3. I took a quick look at the article on boox. I’d guess this is a techie trying to come up with a new approach, and now that he’s got his hammer, he’s going to try to find a problem to hit with it.

    Anyway, according to the article, it really is aimed at “serializing” the initial reading, so that you only pay for as much as you read the first time. It does say that if you read the whole thing, you pay the full price, and now you own it, so re-reading doesn’t seem to be a problem. They also mention that the app is smart enough to recognize page-flipping, and doesn’t charge for browsing (this seems liable to interpretation to me, but… give them the benefit of the doubt).

    The whole notion seems aimed at moving the payment from “buy the book” to “increments while you read.” The article mentions paying 25% when you read 25%, which makes me suspect it “blocks” the increments. Actually, it sounds a bit like the Baen webscription model, except instead of having us pay upfront and getting the chunks in successive months, Boox simply charges parts as you read parts.

    This actually could re-create a place for the publisher as “financial smoother” where they pay an author up-front, then collect the dribbles from the readers. Perhaps that’s the point? Not so much for reader convenience, but to carve out a place for publishers in the brave new world of the ebook jungle?

    Nah, I still think this is likely to be someone diddling with the technology, who figured out a different way to put the system together, and is now trying to sell the rest of the world on this solution. I’m not sure that anyone had the problem that it is a solution to, though?

    1. Mike, I think you’re right. This is someone with a new system trying to find a place to make it fit. The thought that publishers, especially legacy publishers, would pay an author up-front and then take their own payment in dribbles sent me into fits of laughter. That isn’t going to happen in either of our lifetimes. It’s more likely that they will dribble out payment ot the authors even slower than they do now.

      I, too, read the article and still came away with the questions I posed in my post. Then I added a new one last night when I did something I don’t often do with an e-book. I read the first couple of chapters and then jumped to the back of the e-book to read a preview of an upcoming e-book. So, by doing that, would I be charged for just the percentage of the book I actually read or would I be charged for the entire book since I read the end?

      I don’t see this working, but that means legacy publishers will probably jump on the idea. Sigh.

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