Visual Quill Blog

From Print to Digital: Six Years of the Kindle

VQ Staff - Saturday, November 23, 2013

It’s been six years since Amazon introduced the first generation Kindle eBook reader on November 19, 2007. Priced at $399, it sold out within six hours and remained out of stock until late April, 2008. Thus the eBook marketplace was set on fire. Today, several new Kindle versions are available, and many other companies have released their own e-readers, such as the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Reader, and the Kobo Aura, to name a few. While e-readers were first designed for the simple task of downloading and displaying books, the introduction of tablet computers brought significant change to the industry. Tablets are incredibly popular, due to their versatile capabilities and advanced technology; they can run interactive apps, play audio and video, and access the internet. Today, many e-readers have adopted tablet capabilities, in order to compete with the market. But the success of e-readers has not been celebrated by all. Publishers and libraries, for example, have been at war over the new age of eBooks. Bookstores have been in decline with more and more people buying books digitally. The importance of libraries is therefore increasing, but discerning their role in an age of constant technological change is difficult. Adding to the confusion, providing access to eBooks is three times more expensive for libraries. The costs associated with eBooks, as opposed to print books, are different, and that fact opens up much argument over eBook prices. According to a 2010 article in The New Yorker, Amazon’s control over the market was causing the publishing industry to panic. Amazon was buying titles from publishers and selling them for less to encourage Kindle sales. As a result, 80% of all eBooks sold were indeed through the Kindle. Publishers worried that their eBook pricing – $9.99 per book – would be established as the set monetary value for books in consumers’ minds. The consequences of this would be disastrous; publishers had no way of profiting from such a low price. The cost of producing books is considerable, and the publishing business is not highly profitable. Publishers get a certain percentage of return when selling to bookstores, but they also have to account for, and in many cases write-off, the cost of producing books: the authors’ royalties; the paper, printing and binding; marketing and distribution; and the publishing house’s rent and employee salaries. There was, however, a glimmer of hope among publishers with the release of Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet on April 3, 2010. They hoped the iPad, Amazon’s new competition, would grant publishers an advantage that would allow them to raise the price of books. Apple introduced agency pricing, which allowed the publisher (not the retailer) to set the price, resulting in eBook prices higher than $9.99. Despite this victory, debates, lawsuits and battles surrounding e-readers and eBooks continue. The introductory path of e-readers and eBooks has been rocky, but their growing popularity among consumers has been massive. Digital book sales have grown more than 4,000% since 2008, and continue to be the fastest growing segment of the book market. Last year, eBook sales accounted for 20% of all books sold. For those worried about the decline of physical books, take heart. While 457 million eBooks were sold last year, 557 million hardcover books were also sold. The number of eBooks sold in 2012 grew by 43% - significantly less than the previous years of triple-digit percentage increases. A survey from last year found that half of all readers don’t buy, and have no interest in buying, eBooks and the majority who do, buy physical books as well. Another survey found that 48% of iPad users don’t buy eBooks, either. Do you read eBooks? If so, what’s your favorite device?

Sources:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/05/15/e-book-sales/2159117/ http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/05/15/e-books-print-books/2159037/  http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_auletta http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2012/12/11/the-wrong-war-over-ebooks-publishers-vs-libraries/  http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Tablets-Surge-Ereaders-Struggle/1009555 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Kindle   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/technology/judge-rules-against-apple-in-e-books-trial.html?_r=0

NaNoWriMo: Literary Blessing or Nightmare?

VQ Staff - Saturday, November 16, 2013
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an online community challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Nearly half over, two weeks remain for aspiring novelists to finish cranking out their words by 11:59pm on November 30th, as per the rules. Established in 1999, NaNoWriMo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports and encourages would-be novelists with the philosophy that everyone’s story matters and needs to be written. So far, every year sees an increase in participants: 341,375 people signed up in 2012, which was a 33% growth compared to 2011. The idea behind the challenge of NaNo is that it gives wannabe writers an opportunity to forget their inhibitions, write freely, and write poorly if they have to. They have the permission to make mistakes, enabling them to pick up their pencils, laptops, typewriters, or what-have-you, and finally write that novel they’ve been meaning to write. This idea is not held fondly by everyone, however, as there is much debate over whether or not this type of challenge is beneficial to the world of literature. Patrice Sarath (author of The Crow God’s Girl) takes a firm stance against NaNoWriMo in her website’s blog. “Don’t do it,” she says, emphasizing that writing a book requires close attention, steady effort and a persistent pace, not thirty days of scrambling for words for the goal of a word count. “Word count for its own sake is counterproductive,” she says. She advises that while you’re writing a book, leave enough time in your daily schedule to also read, study literature and improve your writing. Author and staff writer for salon.com Laura Miller has a similar standpoint regarding NaNoWriMo. In her article, “Better Yet, Don’t Write That Novel,” she claims that NaNoWriMo is to blame for a yearly influx of bad books by authors who ignored the need for revision. She boasts the persistence and stubbornness of writers, which in her mind, fails to justify their need for support. Instead, she suggests, we need to support readers, claiming that too many novels are being written for the shortage of people willing to read them. The one, semi-sarcastic praise she has for NaNoWriMo is that it encourages people to form a habit of daily writing: “the closest thing to a universally prescribed strategy for eventually producing a book.” Time Entertainment writer Graeme McMillan explores both these viewpoints and more in his article, “NaNoWriMo: Is National Novel Writing Month a Literary Threat or Menace?” He claims that NaNo makes writing a novel a more achievable and less scary goal. Instead, it becomes a challenge with an end in sight – a game. He thinks the idea that all NaNo participants will most certainly ignore the revision process and immediately try to publish poorly written novels after the end of November is snobbish. “To be fair,” he says, “Sarath wasn’t actually wrong when she called NaNoWriMo a gimmick. It is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” He assures us that encouraging the creation of literature as a popular artform is a worthy endeavor, and in the case that it does result in poorly written manuscripts, the publishing industry still upholds the same standards it has always had. A blog by the independent book publishing company Candlemark & Gleam, titled “NaNoWriMo: A Publisher’s Perspective,” expresses bafflement at all the NaNo complaints. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to put your fear of failure aside and push yourself to achieve something great: “Write like the wind. Prove to yourself that you can bang out words, characters, plot, story. Prove to yourself that you can, in fact, do this ‘storytelling’ thing.” The blog, however, does admit that NaNo is responsible for an abundance of dreadful novels, “but there may also be some gems.” One such gem is the New York Times bestselling hit, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which was adapted into the 2011 film starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was another New York Times bestselling novel, as well as featuring in Time Magazine critic Lev Grossman’s article, “The Top 10 Moments in Reading in 2011.” Apart from these two success stories are hundreds of other now-published books that started as NaNoWriMo projects. The question of whether NaNoWriMo is a positive or negative force in the literary world depends on whom you ask. Some find it a useful challenge, others don’t. Not for you? Consider finding a different goal to meet your writing needs. Patrice Sarath suggests striving to write 250 words a day. Children’s book writer Debbie Ridpath Ohi, creator of inkygirl.com, also supports this challenge, in response to enthusiastic NaNo participants giving in to failure when they miss their word count goals. She provides badges to post to your blog or website if you consistently try to meet the challenge: http://inkygirl.com/250-words-a-day-project/ What do you think? Is NaNoWriMo a literary blessing or nightmare? Have you participated? If so, was it good motivator for you, or do you prefer a different kind of challenge?   Sources: http://nanowrimo.org/press http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/37647090597/2012-nanowrimo-stats-bigger-and-better-than-ever http://www.patricesarath.com/blog/ http://www.salon.com/2010/11/02/nanowrimo/ http://entertainment.time.com/2012/11/07/nanowrimo-is-national-novel-writing-month-a-literary-threat-or-menace/ http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com/2010/11/05/nanowrimo-a-publishers-perspective/ http://entertainment.time.com/2011/12/28/the-top-10-moments-in-reading-in-2011/

The Final Book-Based Films of 2013

VQ Staff - Thursday, November 07, 2013
Last month, the third version of horror drama film, Carrie, was released in theaters. The film, based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel, revisits the classic story about high-schooler Carrie White as she faces bullying and an overbearing mother. She is outcast by her peers, and, when pushed too hard during her senior prom, she snaps and unleashes telekinetic terror on the whole town. Directed by Kimberly Peirce, the film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie, Julianne Moore as her mother, and Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell, one of her bullies. The film has received mixed reviews, some praising its talented cast, while others criticize its impersonal, flat feel, where some of the story’s original themes have been smoothed down and rendered ineffective. Did you see the newest release of Carrie? If so, did you agree or disagree with the film’s reviews? The phenomenon of adapting written work to fit the “big screen” seems to be increasing in popularity. More and more often, books, short stories, biographies, poems or plays are adapted into many of the movies we’re enjoying in the theaters today (or on the couch with a bowl of popcorn), for just two-to-three hours of our time. Despite the fact that we’re approaching the end of this year, there are still several upcoming book-based films set to be released during the final two months. On November 1st, the science-fiction action film Ender’s Game hit theaters, after a much-anticipated wait by the book’s fans. It ranked first place during its first weekend in the U.S., topping box office totals with over $28 million by its fourth day in theaters. The film is based on the best-selling, award winning novel by Orson Scott Card. In the story, a brilliant young boy named Ender Wiggin is selected to attend the Battle School, where children are trained in hopes that some will prove themselves military leaders against the hostile aliens threatening the human race. Ender triumphs each battle challenge he is faced, and is promoted to Command School. Directed by Gavin Hood, the film stars Asa Butterfield as Ender, Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff, and Hailee Steinfeld as Petra, one of his peers at the school. So far, early reviews have been mixed, some claiming it is not as thought-provoking as the book, and others claiming it has a solid cast and thrilling sci-fi action. On December 13th, fantasy adventure film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, will be released to theaters. Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece novel, The Hobbit, the second installment of the film trilogy will continue Bilbo Baggins’ adventure with wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, as they journey to the Lonely Mountain on a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Directed by Peter Jackson, the film stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. Though there are very few reviews in circulation this early, many critics are predicting high praise; at least, the majority of people seem excited for its release. Keep an eye out for these other films based on written work that are set to release in November or December: Recent release on November 1, 2013 – historical drama/biography film 12 Years a Slave, based on the biography by Solomon Northup, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. November 8, 2013 – war drama film The Book Thief, based on the novel by Markus Zusak, starring Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, and Emily Watson. November 15, 2013 – crime drama film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the book by Jordan Belfort, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, P.J. Byrne, and Jon Favreau. November 22, 2013 – action/adventure sci-fi film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. November 27, 2013 – musical drama film Black Nativity, based on the play by Langston Hughes, starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Jennifer Hudson. December 25, 2013 – comedy drama film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based on the short story by James Thurber, starring Ben Stiller. Sources: http://www.imdb.com/ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page http://boxofficemojo.com/daily/chart/?view=7day&sortdate=2013-11-04&p=.htm Are you excited for the release of these highly-anticipated movies? For those of us who read the books prior to seeing the films, what do you think about the reviews and casting choices? Do you think the films seem accurate to their books and true to their messages?

Chocolate Might Be The Answer

VQ Staff - Saturday, August 17, 2013
A new study done by Belgium researchers at Hasselt University concluded that pumping in the smell of chocolate into bookstores makes customers stay in the store longer, which makes them more likely to browse and find a book or multiple books to buy. The researchers studied every fifth person to enter the bookstore over a period of ten days, so in total 201 patrons were watched for this study. The researchers pumped the smell of chocolate into the bookstore for half of the day and did not for the other half. While the bookstore smelled of chocolate, the people being watched were more than twice as likely to look at more than one book. In addition, food-related books and romance novel sales increased by 40% during that time. The decline of bookstores has become more and more prevalent in this technological age. Huffington Post reports that Amazon.com now has 30% of all book sales in the US. Also, e-readers are becoming more and more popular. Chocolate might be the answer to keeping bookstores open longer before websites and e-readers take over completely. Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/27/chocolate-bookstores_n_3660454.html

How Do You Choose What You Read?

VQ Staff - Thursday, August 08, 2013
 Sure, there are thousands of books about personality types, but have you ever thought about how your personality type affects what you like to read? What do the books you read reveal about you as a person? NPR compiled information from three studies answering these questions. The studies all measured personalities based on a "Big Five" approach: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Below is a description of each trait used in these studies as written by About.com, followed by what kinds of books people who scored high in the trait tended to enjoy the most: 1. Extraversion: This trait includes characteristics such as excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.
  • It was found in the studies that those with a high score to extraversion were more likely to enjoy reading "people-focused" reading such as romance novels, magazines, current event stories, etc.
2. Agreeableness: This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviors.
  • Those scoring high on agreeableness most liked "communal entertainment", books about romance and entertainment.
3. Conscientiousness: Common features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high in conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details.
  • People who were high on the conscientiousness scale tended to prefer science-related reading, as well as newspaper or magazine coverage of current events.
4. Neuroticism: Individuals high in this trait tend to experience emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and sadness.
  • The results of this trait were not included in the NPR article.
5. Openness to Experience: This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests.
  • Those scoring high on this trait “enjoyed ‘cerebral entertainment’ [such as history, science and business books] and ‘aesthetic’ entertainment, such as art and poetry.”
These findings aren't too shocking because we choose what we enjoy reading, so it makes sense that it reflects our personality. "Reading might not just reflect who you are, but also influence who you become." To read more about each study and to read the entire NPR article referenced, go to: http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/07/08/199743492/what-does-your-summer-reading-say-about-you?ft=1&f=1032 If you are interested in learning what type of personality you have, here is a link to a "Big Five" personality test that ranks you on these 5 traits: http://personality-testing.info/tests/BIG5.php   Sources: http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/bigfive.htm, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/07/08/199743492/what-does-your-summer-reading-say-about-you?ft=1&f=1032 Picture Source: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Archive/Search/2012/3/1/1330623398214/Person-reading-a-book-on--007.jpg  

Time Spent Reading

VQ Staff - Saturday, August 03, 2013
As technology becomes a more and more prominent and important part of our day to day lives, it is interesting to see how much time people spend reading books. When you ask people how often they read, they usually think of the time they spend reading articles online as well. This data from the infographic above comes from the World Culture Score Index, a survey of 30,000 people around the world. The data is from 2005, the last time the survey was given.

The average time people in the US read according to this survey was 5 hours and 42 minutes per week, which is about 49 minutes per day.

However, in the most recent American Time Use Survey done in 2011, it was discovered that Americans ages 15 and older spent on average only 18 minutes of reading per day while they spend about 2.8 hours a day watching TV.


Now, when someone is looking for something to do, it is easier than ever to just browse the internet or watch TV because we have more screens around us than ever before between the TV, our desktop/laptop, phone, tablet, etc. And while one may think that physical books are getting pushed out by ebooks, 3 out of 4 books sold in the US are still physical books. Even though the amount of time per day Americans read has decreased, books are still a prevalent part of our lives. The 18 minutes that the average American reads is only pleasure reading, since lots of other pleasure reading nowadays is done online reading blogs and such.   Sources: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jul/02/entertainment/la-et-jc-hours-reading-books-around-the-world-20130702, http://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/home.htm#about, http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/05/15/e-book-sales/2159117/

Text Messaging and Email Slang Changing the English Language

VQ Staff - Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Internet and cell phones have definitely changed the ways we communicate with one another. There has been article after article about a fear that text messaging language is killing the English language. Some critics believe that all of the shorthand and abbreviations used nowadays are impairing our ability to talk and write to others intelligently, while others believe that texting language is just a step forward in the English language. The words "social media", "tweet", and "unfriend", are among several other words that have being added as official dictionary words in the past few years. And though these words might not stand the test of time in the future, new words are added to the dictionary each year as our language evolves. And while abbreviations such as "LOL" (laugh out loud), "BTW" (by the way), and "TTYL" (talk to you later) are common phrases while text messaging, they aren't used as much today as they were when texting first became popular since most newer phones now have full QWERTY keyboards instead of just dialpads which are more difficult to spell out words when on the go. However, right when people start to think that abbreviations and text messaging slang is changing the English language, authors have started writing books with communication between characters in the form of emails and texts. One woman, Tracey Moberly, has transformed 12 years of emails, texts, and blogs from twelve years of her life into an autobiography. Several fictional stories have plotlines based around these modes of communication as well. The English language will continue to evolve, but are the abbreviations and shorthand for the worse or better?   

Are Bookstores a Dying Industry?

VQ Staff - Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Just like many other household items, books are becoming electronic. Who needs a calendar, phone book, digital camera, and a laptop when all of those fit into their phone? Who needs hundreds of books lining their bookshelves when those hundred books can all fit into one small, easily transportable e-reader? 

With today's easy access to books from nearly anywhere because of e-readers like the Barnes and Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle, and Apple iPad, among others, are bookstores a dying industry? Barnes and Noble CEO, William Lynch, has recently resigned and new CEO Michael Huseby will need to think of creative ways to keep customers coming into the successful bookstore chain. The number of physical book sales is plummeting, but e-book sales are growing everyday. The ability to download hundreds of books from the comfort of home onto a device that weighs less than one book is very appealing to this society who is constantly on-the-go. Physical books are not a thing of the past... yet. Slate.com said that, "The only real value of physical books at this point is a kind of nostalgia-soaked experience". While classic books in their physical format may bring nostalgia, avid readers are now able to take ALL of their favorite books anywhere they go without weighing them down or taking up too much space. Is it out with the bookstores or can they find a way to survive this technological market? 

RWA Annual Conference

VQ Staff - Saturday, July 13, 2013
The Romance Writers of America (RWA) will hold their 33rd Annual Conference in Atlanta from July 17-20. The four day conference will be filled with workshops, book signings, and one-on-one pitch meetings. There will also be an awards ceremony on July 20th celebrating RITA and Golden Heart Award winners! The RITA awards recognize excellence in published romance novels and novellas and the Golden Heart awards recognize excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts. 

Over 2,100 published and aspiring authors, writers, editors, agents, and industry professionals will be in attendance... including Visual Quill! We are currently accepting one-on-one appointments for authors to learn more about our author services! To schedule an appointment, please send us a message on Facebook by clicking here and we'll respond to you as soon as possible! We're looking forward to meeting with some incredible authors! To learn more about RWA and their upcoming Annual Conference, please visit: http://www.rwa.org/ (picture source)

"Nothing Between the Covers has Changed"

VQ Staff - Saturday, July 06, 2013
Fans of Stephen King’s book Under the Dome have recently been irked about the changes being made in the TV series of the same name. Stephen King spoke up recently, writing on his website to his fans, “If you loved the book when you first read it, it’s still there for your perusal. But that doesn’t mean the TV series is bad, because it’s not. In fact, it’s very good.” He wrote that, while he appreciates the fans concern, he approves of the changes being made because if everything was kept the same, everyone who had read the book would know exactly what happens next. The show is not the book, it is an adaption of the book. It has the same major ideas as the book, but changing some of the characters occupations and qualities makes it like an “alternate versions of the same reality”. He concluded saying that he for one is looking forward to seeing how this alternate reality turns out, that he is satisfied with the show, and that his fans should follow his lead and do the same. He reminds them that each time they take the book down from the shelf, “nothing between the covers has changed a bit”. For Stephen King's complete letter to his fans, visit: http://www.stephenking.com/promo/utd_on_tv/letter.html