When new technology holds a writer back

1894 photo of Mark Twain in the New York City laboratory of his good friend, Nikola Tesla.

1894 photo of Mark Twain in the New York City laboratory of his good friend, Nikola Tesla.

Happy Birthday today to perennial FAB favorite Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain).  For those techno-geeky folks out there, Sam was the first person ever to write a novel on a typewriter. The year was 1883, the book Life on the Mississippi.

Of course, he’d owned the thing since 1874, and found it more trouble than it was worth, writing to the maker (in longhand!) in 1875 saying,

Please do not even divulge the fact that I own a machine. I have entirely stopped using the typewriter for the reason that I could never write a letter with it to anybody without receiving a request by return mail that I would not only describe the machine but state what progress I had made in the use of it, etc, etc. I don’t like to write letters, and so I don’t want people to know I won this curiosity-breeding little joker.

He’d paid the whopping sum of $125 for the Remington No 1 and claimed to have traded it to a friend a few years later for a $12 saddle, thereby “cheating him outrageously.” But one suspects, since he wrote a Life on the Mississippi on a typewriter, he gave up his early model No 1 typewriter in favor of a new and improved Remington No 2 which appeared in 1880 and had the impressive futuristic feature of . . . a Cap Shift Key.


Image number: 10308297; Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library; Date taken: 12 January 2004 22:33;Image rights: Science Museum

The Remington No 2 was the first commercially successful writing machine, selling over 100,000 units. And yes, that’s Remington as in rifles (So, one could say Remington covered its bets by producing both sword and pen!). Remington began making firearms (a metal and wood product) in the 1820s.

In 1873 Remington began the new venture, producing typewriters. Remington sold the typewriter business in 1886. The new owner, the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company, bought the rights to continue using the Remington name, and the firearms business became Remington Arms Company.

interestingly, because the type bars strike the paper from below, the writing on early model typewriters could not be seen until the carriage was lifted. The ability to see what one was writing as one typed had to wait until 1908 and truly wasn’t perfected till around 1920! Some writers continued with longhand not least because with longhand one could see what one was writing. (JK Rowling still writes her books in longhand, we’ve heard.)

Many well-known authors have used Remington machines. Dame Agatha Christie used a Remington Portable No 2 and a No 5. Raconteur Quentin Crisp preferred the No. 3. Nobel Prize winner in Literature Rudyard Kipling pecked away on a Remington Noiseless model in his later years. And a Remington Portable No.3 was one of the typewriters of choice of Gone with the Wind novelist Margaret Mitchell.

So how ever you choose to create your next great novel — traditional longhand or something cutting edge, remember, it’s the words that count, not how you get them on the page.

writers block
StiK – Cow Writer’s Block from a presentation on Writer’s Block Sometimes it’s the technology that’s holding you back!

A great post on using WP to move from blog to book!

The WordPress.com Blog

My name is Jared Gulian, and I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up living in paradise.

That’s the first line on the About page of Jared Gulian’s blog, Moon over Martinborough. In Jared’s case, “paradise” is a tiny olive farm in rural New Zealand, the location and inspiration for his upcoming book based on his blog at WordPress.com.

We asked Jared about his whirlwind of an experience landing a book deal with Random House New Zealand this summer, and how he’s built his audience using his blog.

How did your book contract come about?

It started with my blog, which is about life on our tiny olive farm. My partner and I are both American city boys, and somehow we ended up living in rural New Zealand with an olive grove. I wanted to write about it, so I created a blog on WordPress.com in 2009.

The blog became popular and won…

View original post 1,012 more words

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 9:52 AM  Leave a Comment  

Is a Tablet in Your Favorite E-Reader’s Future?

E-book consumers are increasingly shifting to tablets from dedicated e-readers as their first choice for reading e-books, according to the Book Industry Study Group’s Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading Survey, powered by Bowker.

In August,

  1. 17% of e-book consumers cited Amazon Fire as their first choice for reading e-books (up from 0% last August),
  2. 7% cited B&N’s Nook (up from from 2% the previous August).
  3. 10% Apple’s iPad (a number which has remained constant).

Tablets are now the first choice for about a third of the e-reading public. Simultaneously, dedicated e-reading devices have slid in popularity in direct proportion to the growth of tablets. No surprise there.

Of frequent e-readers–people who purchase e-books at least weekly– 38% indicated that tablets were their primary e-reading device, compared to 19% a year earlier. Reading by frequent e-readers on dedicated e-reading devices meanwhile slipped to less than half from more than two-thirds a year earlier.

UPSHOT: Those who like to use technology for reading, like that reading technology to be a part of a more versatile technology they are able to use in other ways. So does that mean you should buy your reader a tablet? Read on.

According to an online poll of e-book readers conducted in June and July and sponsored by OverDrive with the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy . . . .

Devices on which e-books borrowed by patrons of libraries were read included

  • 84% dedicated readers;
  • 20% desktop or laptop PCs;
  • 19% smartphones;
  • 18% tablets.

People who borrow ebooks from libraries tend overwhelmingly to own a dedicated eReader, however, they might equally used other technology to read that ebook! See, people who like eReading like versatility. Moving on . . .

  1. 57% of respondents said that the public library is their primary source of book discovery.
  2. 44% said their e-book purchases have increased in the past six months.
  3. And 35% purchased a book (print or e-book) after borrowing a copy of it.

Also, on average, library e-book patrons buy 3.2 books (both print and digital) a month.

UPSHOT: Readers are a highly individual bunch. Just write off eReaders and Tablets as gifts. Stick with bookstore gift cards so your beloved reader can buy the type of book they want and read it the way they want.

Published in: on November 19, 2012 at 1:19 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Before You Buy That E-Reader As A Holiday Gift . . .

Here’s the skinny– Over One Third of All eReaders Are Used Just Once Before Being Set Aside and Kindles topped the survey list of unused devices!

A recent poll showed that a third of US ereader owners said they only used their device once before putting it away or selling it.  (A survey conducted in the UK yielded an even more anti-eReader message: nearly half given as Christmas gifts had yet to be opened a month later.)

A group of almost 2,ooo ereader owners, when questioned about average usage

  • 17% used their ereader at least once a week.
  • 29% use it once a day.
  • 35% indicated that they used the device just once — ever.

The survey went on to ask why those owners who only used the ereader once, did so.

  • 57% stated they didn’t have the time to use it; they are too busy.
  •  22% said that they’d received it as a gift and didn’t have a need for it.
  • 25% simply preferred to read actual physical books.

The survey data went on to show that 37% of the regretful ereader owners did not think it was a good buy, and another 29% planned to get rid of their ereader because they used it so rarely.


  1. Only buy an ereader for yourself. It’s a waste of money buying it for someone else. It won’t be used, it won’t be appreciated.
  2. If you plan to buy an ereader for yourself, buy it after Christmas when unhappy owners are unloading them.
  3. If you plan to buy a gift for a reader, the best gift is still a real physical book or a gift card to a bookstore!

(This post was based on an article by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader that ran Nov 11, 2012. We encourage every would-be gifter to read it!)

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 1:53 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Book Reviews Deleted By Amazon?

Because of the serious nature of this story, we are just going to reprint it . . . . It’s by Alison Flood of The Guardian (in the UK).

You can also go directly to the article: Amazon Removes Book Reviews By Fellow Authors

Or jump over to Joe Konrath’s Website to learn more.

Amazon is understood to have deleted a wave of reviews by authors of their fellow writers’ books in what is believed to be a response to the “sock puppet” scandal.

Authors including Joe Konrath and Steve Weddle have reported that some of their reviews have been removed from Amazon, and the Kindle talk boards are also awash with discussions about disappearing reviews.

On enquiring about the deletions, Konrath and Weddle say they were pointed to updated guidelines. These state that “sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)” are not allowed.

“I took a look at the reviews I’d written, and saw more than 50 of them had been removed – namely reviews I did of my peers. I don’t read reviews people give me, but I do keep track of numbers and averages, and I’ve also lost a fair amount of reviews,” wrote Konrath, formerly a staunch defender of Amazon who has published novels on the Kindle.

Konrath and Weddle both believe the move from Amazon is a reaction to September’s revelations that authors were posting positive reviews of their own work, and negative writeups of rivals, under pseudonyms on the Amazon website. This led to a host of authors including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Roger McGough signing up to a letter “condemn[ing] this behaviour, and commit[ting] never to use such tactics”.

In Konrath’s letter to Amazon about the move, which he posted on his website, he writes that “people are seriously disappointed in how Amazon handled this”. He suggested it was “a kneejerk, inappropriate reaction to a ridiculous case of unjustified moral panic, and a Big Fail”, adding: “The fact that a binder can get a thousand fake reviews because of Romney’s comment, but I can’t honestly review one of my peers because I’m an author, is a bit silly, don’t you think? Amazon allows one-star reviews from people who haven’t even read the book, but deletes positive reviews from people who honestly enjoyed it, and somehow that’s improving your review system?”

Weddle also believes the move was the wrong one. “The problem with the sock-puppet scandal is that Amazon had authors reviewing their own books. So they’ve attempted to correct that by prohibiting authors from reviewing other authors’ books. That’s just making a new problem,” he told the Guardian. “Again, I completely appreciate that something needs to be done, and I applaud their doing something. Just, you know, not thisthing that they’ve done. What happens when a publisher such as Randy Penguin (or whatever the new name will be) asks Lee Child to blurb the new Alafair Burke book? Since they know each other, will this not be allowed on Amazon’s site? … As an author whose stories have popped up in a number of anthologies, am I not allowed to review a book if I’ve shared space with another author? If I’ve had a drink with a fellow author at the Bouchercon bar, can I not say that I enjoyed their book?”

Jeremy Duns, the author instrumental in outing RJ Ellory as the author of pseudonymous reviews, and in putting together the letter condemning the practice, said it was “absurd to blame a letter condemning some writers’ fraudulent review practices and calling on readers to counter them by writing their own genuine reviews with subsequent repeated heavy-handed and unfair responses from Amazon”.

“I also don’t think they necessarily decided to act as a result of our letter,” said Duns. “It seems it may be a renewed attempt to crack down on writers who ‘gift’ reviewers copies of their ebooks so they increase their sales ranking, lifting their visibility on Amazon as well as meaning that any subsequent review is marked as a ‘Verified Purchase’, giving it more authority.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

In short dear authors, if a bookstore owner reads your book and likes it and then decides to review it on Amazon that’s a breach —even though you don’t know the bookstore owner! Totally wacko.

And if this doesn’t worry you, because you’re just a reader, have a look at this Kindle user’s recent experience. It’s no wonder Philip Roth has told a French paper recently that he’s retired from writing.

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 1:34 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Are you a Giver? US World Book Night Titles Announced

Well folks, that day is finally upon us: the day they announce what books are going to be distributed for World Book Night, US, and the day they start taking applications for bookgivers.

On U.S. World Book Night, 25,000 volunteers sign up to give away 20 copies of one of the available books. Organizers have chosen a diverse list of titles, hoping that each volunteer will be able to walk up to a stranger and say, “I loved this book, I hope you will to.” Volunteers must be 16 or over and can sign up online.

And the winners are . . . .
“Bossypants” by Tina Fey
“City of Thieves” by David Benioff
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain — Love it.
“Devil in a Blue Dress” by Walter Mosley
“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
“Favorite American Poems” by various authors
“Girl With a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier — Love it
“Glaciers” by Alexis M. Smith
“Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros, in English and Spanish editions
“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
“The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan
“Look Again” by Lisa Scottoline
“Looking for Alaska” by John Green
“Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris
“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” by James Patterson
“Moneyball” by Michael Lewis
“Montana Sky” by Nora Roberts
“Mudbound” by Hillary Jordan
My Antonia” by Willa Cather .
“The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith
“The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster — Love it.
“Playing for Pizza” by John Grisham
“Population: 485” by Michael Perry
“Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward
“Still Alice” by Lisa Genova
“The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer
“The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho in English and Spanish editions

If you have a love for one or more of these titles, we hope you’ll volunteer to be a giver! We also encourage you to read (or re-read) some of these titles so they can become conversation starters!

Published in: on November 8, 2012 at 4:43 PM  Leave a Comment  
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You Is . . . .

In The Help, one of the lead characters, a maid, tells a neglected child  “You is strong, you is loved, you is important.” It’s an interesting choice of words.

These are self-esteem based words. They are the sort that build up the person internally. The sort of words one needs when the world is forcing an identity on you and you need to push back against that.

It’s interesting to note that this comes from ancient Judaism. There’s a passage where God tells the Israelites: Let the weak say I am strong, . . . .” The upshot here is You is strong (politically powerful), you is rich, you is free, you is well (healthy).

All these words are external. Presumably self-esteem wasn’t an issue? So these are very different than the words one might choose if one already felt strong, loved, and important (ie, had good self-esteem). It shows a certain truth perhaps, that only when one’s internal world is sorted does the external world become maliable.

That being the case, whether your party/candidate/issue won or lost last night, You is . . . still an American, You is . . . still part of the One Nation for which we all stand. And You is . . . still free to grow, change, reinvent, start up, opt out, learn, live, love, dream, hope, do, be, see  . . . . You is, baby. You is! So fly!

Published in: on November 7, 2012 at 11:40 AM  Leave a Comment  
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