Fun Tools for Authors

I do love a good list. Below are some tools that can help you as an author, whether you’re looking to write, find books to read, research words, and more. Continue reading

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The Fate of Reading in a Multimedia Age on LA Review of Books

larb

Recently, I had a great opportunity to write a piece for the LA Review of Books about what constitutes reading and literature. Here is an excerpt (click here for the full article).

IN MID-OCTOBER, the Nobel Committee for Literature awarded the Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” The announcement came shortly after the most recent Annual Arts Basic Survey (AABS) by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released data that found adults in the United States read less literature for pleasure. The survey said that adult Americans who report reading literature has fallen to 43.1 percent in 2015. The NEA defines literature as poetry, plays, short stories, and novels. Reading can be text or graphics (graphic novels), online or in print.

The results vary by state. According to the survey, Mississippi had the lowest percentage of adults who reported reading literature, at 21.7 percent, and Vermont had the highest percentage, at 62.8 percent. Tennessee had the lowest percentage of adults who reported consuming art via electronic media at 44.8 percent, which includes watching, listening to, and/or downloading programs or information about books or writers, short stories, or poetry read out loud, and Washington had the highest percentage, at 80.4 percent.

The NEA conducts several surveys in this area, including the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). According to Sunil Iyengar, research and analysis director at the NEA, the first AABS survey was in 2013, with about 23,000 responses from American adults. The survey found that book reading has remained relatively stable, though with a steep decline in poetry reading. Iyengar also said that forms of poetry, such as spoken word performances, may not be captured by the reading question, “Did you read a poem in the last year or did you read a work of poetry in the last year?” He explained that the survey questions had to be kept short and simple in order to encourage people to finish answering.

The NEA isn’t the only organization to find a relative decline in reading. Publishers Weekly recently reported on a Pew Research Center Report that found “that 73 percent of Americans have read a book in the last year, largely unchanged from 2012 levels (although lower than the 79 percent recorded in 2011, when Pew began tracking reading habits).” That data came from 1,520 U.S. adults who responded between March and April 2016. To account for this decline, Iyengar cited the “many competing options for people’s leisure time,” but added, “We can’t say definitively what the reason is.”

Though there is no reliable data on why a decline in reading literature is taking place, Tom Jacobs from Pacific Standard offers one theory: “the rise of movies and other visual content on demand  —  which started in the 1980s with the VCR  —  is one likely culprit. After all, why read a novel when you have Netflix?” It’s true that books increasingly have to compete for people’s attention with other forms of entertainment, whether that be movies, videos, games, or something else. According to one recent assessment, Netflix users watched 42.5 billion hours of streaming content last year. Meanwhile, YouTube has more than one billion users, and according to the site, “the average viewing session is now more than 40 minutes.” There are also platforms like Steam, which offers a catalog of games to play on your computer. Steam shares consistently updated information about its users and games, as well as download stats. On October 30 alone, the site reached a peak of 13,081,501 users.

It’s easy to assume that people are reading less because of the myriad options they have to choose from. But is that really the case? What if we redefined what it means to read, as well as what constitutes literature?

Read the rest of the article here.

Guest Post: TaleHunt, An App That Brings Out Your Inner Storyteller

stephen-king-quote

By Aby Matthew – Co-founder and CMO of TaleHunt

TaleHunt is an app that features stories 250 characters or less. The platform has built up a community of writers and readers.

Imagine how amazing it is for us to craft a story and others to get enraptured by our imaginary world of tales? The most powerful way to articulate our lives is by writing a story. Writing helps us to understand ourselves from yet another perspective, to feel each and every moment in our lives, to explore a “deep me” within ourselves, and much more. So next time you dismiss the thought of writing a story because of lack of time, dedication or perseverance, checkout the TaleHunt mobile app that brings out your inner storyteller. Continue reading

Taking Stock of Industries Related to Book Publishing and How That Relates to the Future

media

Book publishers can learn a lot from their media counterparts. As the world becomes more connected, the lines between these industries is getting blurred. Keeping on top of trends then can be really helpful, in terms of getting ideas of what can be done and what to expect in the future. Here are a few headlines from other forms of media that can help inform people in book publishing:

Music

Movies, TV, Video

Comics

Games

Education

News, Blogs

Ads

Content

Design

Monetization

Startups, Niche

All this connectedness, combined with lower barriers to entry, have made it easier than ever for people to start their own startups. Not all are successful, but they are all interesting.

Apps

Books

Book Publishers

Book Publishing

Book Recommendations

Lessons

Niche

Tech

Future, Trends

After taking a look at other industries, as well as new companies in the book industry, it’s interesting to read about trends and predictions for the future.

Authors

Design

Marketing

News

Predictions

Research

Ebooks

Last, it’s fun to see all the pieces starting to come together in the form of ebooks. There’s a lot of interesting developments in the EPUB world.

The Science of Writing and Reading

By Onderwijsgek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Onderwijsgek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a while since I’ve written any posts related to science on here. There are some really cool articles that have come out, specifically about books. (Hint: Books are good for your health, and can even improve your memory, according to Bustle.)

Reading and Your Brain

According to the Daily Mail, scientists have found that reading a novel can affect your brain for days afterwards. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia gave people sections of a novel described as a “page turner” to read each day, and then went through a fMRI scan each morning after. They found heightened connectivity in parts of the brain, which may mean that your favorite books could have lasting impacts and possibly actually change your life.

According to Bustle, “According to the fiction feeling hypothesis, narratives with emotional contents invite readers more to be empathic with the protagonists and thus engage the affective empathy network of the brain, the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex, than do stories with neutral contents.”

Life Hacker gives some tips on how to read a book in just one day. The gist is to mix it up between ebook, print book, and audiobook, read in intervals, take notes, and find a good spot to do your reading.

And on a related note, Test Tube shared an interesting article explaining why people go deaf when reading. I’ve noticed this a lot with myself, when I’m really into a book, I tend to lose track of everything else around me. According to the article, it’s called “inattentional deafness,” and it means “when our brain is immersed in an intense task, the time it takes the brain to convey information to our consciousness is delayed. This process is known as the P3 Response. The team found that our auditory and visual senses share a limited neural resource. This partially explains how we tend to “zone out” from time to time.”

Writing Good Books

The Telegraph reported on scientists who came up with an algorithm that analyzes books and predicts if they will become bestsellers. A team from Stony Brook University in New York used books from Project Gutenberg and found that their algorithm matched the success of the public domain books 84% of the time. Some insights: books with lots of conjunctions, nouns and verbs did well compared to books with more adverbs.

Teleread reported on Typedrummer, which makes drum sounds out of text. Every letter has a particular sound, and according to the article, “actual sentences yield more complex and actually attractive sounds.”

Content Sharing

The Next Web shared that combining neuroscience and psychology can help us create content that people actually want to share. Emotion often makes people want to share, so it’s important to know why people want to share and what kind of content is shareable. Examples include being entertaining, inspiring, or useful, expressing ourselves, or nurturing our relationships with close friends. In general, positive messages are more likely to be shared, as well as practical information.

Machine learning can help readers find the content/books they’re looking for, according to an article in Digital Book World. A company called “Intellogo is able to recognize ideas and literary concepts, such as the mood of a text or a style of writing, with the software’s algorithms interpreting excerpts from any variety of sources (ebooks, Internet articles, Wikipedia, etc.) and can then connect, predict and recommend content based on user criteria.”

 

Looking for Innovative Stories? Here’s a List of Ebooks, Apps, Websites, Games, and More

Ebooks, or maybe I should say stories, come in all shapes and sizes: EPUB, apps, virtual reality, games, and more. If you want to see some exciting, innovative new forms of storytelling, check out this list (sure devices have some limitations and enhanced ebooks haven’t exactly taken off yet, but there are ways to make ebooks great): Continue reading

Reading Ebooks on Your Smartphone

"Samsung Galaxy S5" by GalaxyOptimus - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Samsung_Galaxy_S5.png#/media/File:Samsung_Galaxy_S5.png

“Samsung Galaxy S5” by GalaxyOptimus – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Samsung_Galaxy_S5.png#/media/File:Samsung_Galaxy_S5.png

Smartphones have exploded in popularity in the last few years, and because so many people own smartphones, publishers are now thinking about how to best deliver digital content to the small screen.

As a side anecdote, four years ago (2011) I was sitting in a marketing class at NYU, and the lecturer was telling us about how she read all five A Song of Ice and Fire books (you know, Game of Thrones), on her phone, usually while commuting on the subway. At the time, most of us in the class thought it was crazy extraordinary — we were still getting used to the idea of ebooks, and reading books on an iPad. But flash forward and I find myself getting most of my reading done on my phone when I’m commuting on BART in San Francisco. The times they are a changin’.

According to BookWorks, “there are over one billion smartphones in the hands of potential readers, and that number is thought to triple by 2017.” And, “With the growing popularity of eBooks, on-the-go bibliophiles have chosen to transition to their smartphones for their daily dose of literature.” Wall Street Journal also confirms the rise of phone reading. Continue reading

Ebook Formatting Options for Indie Authors

By Per Palmkvist Knudsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Per Palmkvist Knudsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For indie authors, one great way to save money when it comes to publishing your books is to learn how to make your own ebooks. Personally, when it comes to creating ebooks, I recommend using Sigil, and I teach an online course on Udemy on how to use Sigil and other free tools to create your own beautiful ebooks.

But there are a myriad of other options. Below are some examples: Continue reading

For the Readers: A List of Sites, Tools, and Examples of Beautiful Works

More and more platforms are springing up to help both indie authors and readers looking for their next great read.

image3One new platform that does just that is The Books Machine, which allows authors to gift their books to hundreds of thousands of readers, according to the website. Readers have 30 days to read the book and write an honest review.

Reader membership is free, and readers can access excerpts of any titles that sound promising to them. The Books Machine is a community, a meeting place, and authors only pay $10 per month for access to potential readers.

Indie authors, there are a few other useful tools out there. A couple include LibraryJournal, where you can submit books for review, and Curator’s Code, which helps attribute content.

Reader Research

Having a reader base is essential to an author’s success. And more and more readers are turning to ebooks to get their fix, though according to Forbes print is still big. However, a survey found that people who own ereaders and tablets read 60% more than other readers. USA Today found that people read more on tablets than ereaders, and Venture Beat reported more people read on smartphones than tablets (though Publisher’s Weekly reported that adults don’t read as much literature as they used to).

According to Galley Cat, kids who read for pleasure do better in school (Salon also wrote an article arguing that making reading a chore was terrible for kids). And Publishing Perspectives created an infographic showing how much kids should read.

Salon wrote that reading is not yet a social activity, but though Readmill tried before it was bought by Dropbox. Still, reading seems to be becoming more social, with sites like Goodreads, The Pigeonhole (and its new private book clubs), and others.

If you want to know more about readers around the world, then check out Publishing Perspective’s chart.

Other Sites for Readers

There is a whole lot to read out there, and sometimes it’s hard to find something that suits your preferences. For readers looking for other books (and short stories, articles, etc.), here is a list of additional places to find them (in no particular order; some are paid, some are free):

Reader Tools

For people who love to read, here are some tools to help you stay organized:

Reading Online

If books aren’t enough, or you’d like to turn a web page into a book reading experience, this list is for you:

Examples of Beautiful, Interactive Online Articles

Just for fun. Also just for fun is a book that judges whether or not you’re worthy of reading it, based on scans of your face.