Friday, March 31, 2017

Fahrenheit 451 Meets April Fools

April 1 is April Fools Day, a raucous day of silliness when otherwise trustworthy people and companies are granted tenuous permission to invent stories that aren't real. 

It's been a semi-consistent tradition here at the Smashwords blog for me to write an annual April Fools post.  These fictitious stories try to strike a balance between believably and absurdity.  My aim is often to satirize an important subject of interest to Smashwords authors, publishers and readers.

This year I was planning to write a satirical post about how Amazon has secretly replaced its customer service representatives in India with ill-tempered auto-responding robots.

Satire is at its best when it provokes honest discussion of facts that make us uncomfortable.  Great satire causes us to face the truth of reality in all its absurdity.

Like many, however, I'm growing increasingly alarmed by the rise of fake news and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theorists masquerading as truth tellers.  They pump out toxic misinformation, often with the aid of automated bots, designed to lure their audience into an alternate reality where black is white, up is down, facts are fiction, and alternative facts trump truth.

What does it portend for civil society and humanity when willful ignorance is celebrated above facts?

As authors and readers, we should care. Books are the best vehicles for deep thinking. We authors have the power - one book at a time - to right this wayward ship.  We readers have a responsibility to demand truth telling.

So on this one day a year where fake news is *almost* socially acceptable, I've decided to shelve my April Fools post.  I don't want to play the trickery game this year.

I invite you to join with me this April 1 to pause, reflect on the importance of facts, and read a good book.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and consider grabbing a copy of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.  It's a cultural treasure that reminds us how books, authors and readers hold the power to save humanity from itself.

I first picked up Fahrenheit 451 in high school but didn't finish it.  I lacked the life experience at the time to appreciate it.  Now I'm thinking it's one of the most important books ever written.  This old story written 67 years ago was written for our times today.  That's the timeless wonder of great books.

I recommend the 60th anniversary edition because it contains a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an appendix of insightful essays by writers including Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale is the next read on my iPhone).

I also recently read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, another amazing read that like F-451 reminds us of the importance of books.

Unlike the futuristic society portrayed by F-451 where owning books is illegal, in Brave New World society has become so averse to deep thinking that no one wants to read books anymore.  Instead, citizens in Brave New World try to maintain their lives in carefree drug-induced hedonistic bubbles.  Soma holiday anyone?

Orwell's 1984 is another of those prescient books about truth-telling and doublespeak that I didn't fully appreciate in my youth but now view - like Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World - as timely and essential reading for those of us who want to leave the world a better place than we found it.

If you were looking forward to my April 1 post, please accept my apologies.

I was looking forward to writing about those ill-tempered robots. 

If you think it'd be a fun story to write, I invite you to write it, label it as satire, post it on your blog and then share the link below in the comments.


Here are links to my prior April 1 posts:

2016:  Kindle Power Bucks Solves Book Marketing Challenge
2015:  New Amazon Service Eliminates the Need for Authors
2013:  New Smashwords WEED Service Treats Common Author Ailments
2011:  Smashwords Acquires Amazon, New Company Called Smashazon
2009:  JK Rowling Publishes Harry Potter Ebooks at Smashwords

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Read an Ebook Week Kicks off Sunday March 5

The 9th annual Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion kicks off this Sunday March 5 and runs through end of day March 11.

Thousands of Smashwords authors, publishers and readers participate in this global ebook celebration featuring thousands of FREE and deep-discounted ebooks. 

Authors and Publishers:  Enrollment is now open at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos   With a few clicks, you can enroll your books into coupon categories of 25% off, 50% off, 75% off or FREE.

Readers: When the promotion goes live on Sunday, visit the promotional catalog at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1 and be sure to check back often because thousands of new books will join the promotion during the week.

The special home page catalog enables readers to browse by coupon discount and filter by category, bestseller status, word count and multiple other factors.  We also note the title's coupon on individual book pages to encourage browsers to become customers. 

The sale is being promoted to over one million Smashwords customers.  Don't miss out!

Please help spread the word to your fellow readers, authors and publishers.

How to Join the Celebration

Here's a quick checklist to help you get the most out of the Read an Ebook Week event:

  1. Authors and publishers:  Enroll your books at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromo.   If you're not yet publishing with Smashwords, now's a great time to get started.  Visit https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords to learn how.
     
  2. Visit the Smashwords Read an Ebook Week event page at https://www.smashwords.com/ebookweek where you'll find downloadable buttons, banners and images you can share on social media to promote your participation in the event.  You'll also find convenient links to several retailers offering free ebooks.
     
  3. For the story behind Read an Ebook Week, check out my interview with Smashwords author Rita Toews who founded this event 12 years ago - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/the-story-behind-read-an_b_487343.html or visit her official Read an Ebook Week Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Read-an-E-Book-Week-193882590629749
     
  4.  Every day during the week long sale, celebrate on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, blog, private mailing lists) that you're participating in the event.  Be sure to include a hyperlink to the promotional catalog at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1
     
  5. Readers:  When you discover a great deal, share it with your friends on social media.  Be sure to tag the author (find their Twitter and Facebook addresses on their Smashwords author profile page) so they know you downloaded their book!
     
  6. Authors and publishers:  If you haven't done so already, complete your Smashwords Interview at https://www.smashwords.com/manageinterview/info  This is a great chance for you to connect with current and prospective readers on an entirely new level by sharing the story behind the author!  Once you complete your interview, share it on social media.
     
  7. The official hashtags for the promotion are #Smashwords and #ebookweek17

This promotion is exclusive to the Smashwords store.  It will not impact prices at other retailers.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Smashwords to Supply Nearly 300,000 Titles to Bibliotheca CloudLibrary

Smashwords today announced a distribution relationship with bibliotheca, operator of the cloudLibrary™ digital lending platform which serves over 3,000 public libraries in the US, Canada, U.K. and Australia. 

Starting in one week, Smashwords will begin shipping nearly 300,000 titles to bibliotheca.  The Smashwords catalog represents more than 120,000 indie authors and small independent publishers, including many of today's bestselling indies.

Ninety percent of cloudLibrary’s customers are located in the US and Canada with the remaining 10 percent located in Australia and the U.K.  They also reach a small number of academic and K-12 libraries.

Smashwords offers indie authors and small independent presses unparalleled distribution to approximately 30,000 public and academic libraries around the world.  With the addition of bibliotheca, the Smashwords distribution network reaches most major library ebook platforms including OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners UK (Askews & Holts and VLeBooks) and Odilo.

As I mentioned in my annual Smashwords Year in Review post, Smashwords ebook sales to libraries increased in 2016 despite a general industry slowdown at retail.  Although library ebook sales represent a minority of sales for most authors, I expect libraries will continue to represent a promising long term growth opportunity for indie authors.

Bibliotheca has deep reach within the library market.  Its cloudLibrary platform was originally founded by 3M in 2011.  3M is best known for Post-it pads and Scotch tape, though unbeknownst to a lot of people 3M built an extensive library business and was an early pioneer in library self-service checkout systems.  Bibliotheca acquired 3M’s library operations in 2016. 

In addition to the 3,000 libraries that use bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary to acquire and manage their ebooks, bibliotheca works with nearly 30,000 other libraries to provide additional management systems and solutions.

First shipments of Smashwords titles will begin one week from today on February 9.  Given the size of our catalog, we anticipate the complete integration will take between two and three months although the first titles should start appearing in their catalog in the next few weeks.  Similar to our relationships with other library ebook platforms, Smashwords erotica titles are excluded.

The cloudLibrary service is made available to library patrons as an app.  The app supports desktop and mobile devices including PCs, Macs, iOS devices, Android, Chrome and some Kindle devices.

Patrons download the app at yourcloudlibrary.com then select their country, state and local library, after which the patron enters their library PIN code into the app.

Once registered, patrons can view and checkout titles for a time-limited period.  If the book is already checked out, the patron can place the title on hold so they’re in line to read it as soon as the current checkout expires.  This hold data is visible to the library’s collection development managers who can use this information to identify high-demand titles for which they should purchase additional copies.

Libraries will also have the option to expose the complete Smashwords catalog to patrons so patrons browse the full catalog and suggest titles their library should add to their collection.  This is a cool example of what’s known as patron-driven acquisition.  Patron-driven acquisition helps librarians ensure they're purchasing titles their patrons actually want to read.

Once bibliotheca completes their ingestion of Smashwords titles, Smashwords will support bibliotheca’s merchandising efforts by providing regular “Smashwords Hotlists” of top performing preorders and other recommended bestsellers.  The sales and merchandising teams at Bibliotheca can use these buylists to share purchase recommendations with collection development managers at libraries.

All currently published Smashwords Premium Catalog titles - excluding erotica - will receive automatic distribution to cloudLibrary unless the author/publisher has proactively opted out of all new channels from their Dashboard's Channel Manager.   If you don't want distribution to cloudLibrary you can opt out from your Dashboard's Channel Manager screen.

I strongly recommend all authors and publishers to participate, not only to sell ebooks to libraries, but to build their author brand with library patrons who are big buyers of ebooks at retail.

If you’re a librarian and you’d like to learn more about cloudLibrary, click here to visit their website.

If you're an author or publisher and you're not yet working with Smashwords, click here to learn more about Smashwords ebook distribution services.

Please join me in welcoming cloudLibrary to the Smashwords family!