The Morning Coffee – 17 October 2014

I have a good reading list for you this morning, including a look at a new way to go from idea to published book via e-singles, one author's experience with seeing her serious lit book be classified as genre, copyrights run amok, the only liveblog of Apple's launch event which is worth reading, and more.

  • Computers can write books now, but we probably don't have anything to worry about (MobyLives)
  • Copywrong (NewYorker)
  • Disrupting How Bestsellers Are Made: Apply Startup-style Growth Hacking To Publishing (New York Observer)
  • How do teachers kill the joy of reading for their students? (Slate)
  • Liveblog: Apple Special Event, October 16, 2014 (Medium)
  • Publishers want out of Apple's Newsstand jail (Digiday)
  • Sorry, Emily St. John Mandel: Resistance is futile (The Washington Post)
  • Subscriptions will help drive digital growth, says FutureBook Survey (The Bookseller)

About Nate Hoffelder (10618 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

19 Comments on The Morning Coffee – 17 October 2014

  1. The New Yorker “copywrong” piece is a must-read for any writer! Thanks for the link.

    • It’s a good article but he really doesn’t get the Internet or, less obvious, modern publishing.
      He looks to be about 10-20 years behind the times.
      (He thinks the Authors Guild is a writers organization, for one.)

      • To be fair to the author, she was technically correct that her book lacked the requirements which would qualify it as SF: there was no tech or science. But what she missed was that her book had a fantastical element (a plague which wiped out much of human race) which placed it firmly in the broader SF/F category.

        And that is probably a good thing, because the market for dystopian novels is hot right now.

        • Wouldn’t “plague” fall under “science”? Virus, disease, health, etc.? From the article, it’s not clear that Mandel or the agent have a great grasp of the science fiction genre.

          On one hand, it seems like “I never thought of it as SF” is a common trope employed mainly by writers who want their books to be considered for major awards (like the NBA) that often eschew genre fiction (which may be why Mandel, as a finalist, objected to the label). See also: Margaret Atwood.

          On the other, I do sometimes think genre can be a result of aspiration rather than plot elements. It’s a little difficult to think of novels like The Lovely Bones or The Time-Traveler’s Wife as fantasy or science fiction, respectively, mainly because they’re less about the fantastical elements of the novels and more about ways those fantastical elements affect the characters/story.

          • No more so than fire, flood, or other natural disasters.

            speaking of books which are “more about ways those fantastical elements affect the characters/story”, one of the SF authors I like writes books like that. I haven’t read anything by Robert Charles Wilson in years, but I always liked how he would focus on the aftermath of some SF event and not the event itself.

            Chronoliths is one good example.

        • Too many “aspirational” authors claim, in effect, their works are too good to be “merely” sf or “merely” romance or mystery.
          If it waddles and quacks, it’s a duck.
          Just because you don’t know (or pretend not to know) what defines a genre doesn’t change the fact that you write in that genre.

          • I dunno, FJ . . . do platypi quack?

            I don’t think it’s a matter of thinking the works are “too good to be ‘merely’ anything.” I’m not sure anyone can really know “what defines a genre” because so many things might.

            For Mandel, my guess/feeling is that perhaps she looked at novels that are categorized as “science fiction,” and thought “This is what people who like science fiction call science fiction. My book doesn’t seem to do what these books do, and I’m not sure that people who like those books would like mine, because they seem to be trying to achieve different effects.”

  2. Re: Resistance is futile

    Based on the Station Eleven book description it sounds more like the dystopian genre, not sci-fi.

    • I thought dystopian was a sub genre in SF.

      • It is. More, outbreak and post-apocalyptic stories, dystopic or not, are by definition SF, whether there be “new science” in there or not. She might be too ignorant of genre conventions to understand what she is doing but that doesn’t change the fact that she wrote a Science Fiction book.

        Ms Mandel should get past her ivory tower indoctrination and understand that, yes, if you set a story in the future it will be seen (and marketted) as SF. And they’re doing her a favor. LITFIC is the least popular, slowest selling fiction category.

        The whole “I write literary fiction” stuff is meaningless when it comes to sales and marketing. Litfic is simply whatever book comes out that can’t be marketed as a more popular genre. And if she expects to make a long term living writing she’d better get used to the idea that her memes, themes, and topics are what defines her product, not her intent.

        And that what you think you are doing is not necessarily what you end up with.
        Just ask the folks behind ISHTAR: They thought they were making a comedy… 😉

      • Amazon considers Dystopian a subgenre of Science Fiction. I’d be surprised if it was classified differently at other vendors. There are (the author, apparently) who would consider “Sci-Fi” to be a damaging label. I certainly don’t. 40 years ago, it might have been a problem…but not now. I agree with Felix, a Lit-Fic label makes it sound boring and would hurt sales.

      • Technically dystopian is a sub genre of Sci-Fi I suppose, but as a reader of sci-fi/fantasy in general I guess I just don’t classify something as Sci-Fi unless there are robots, spaceships of something similar. (I usually forget Sci-Fi is also the name of the entire broad genre.) I actually found my first dystopians & urban fantasy books in the romance section.

        Either way, if I found that book in the Sci-Fi section I’d probably buy it and read it, but I avoid the literary fiction section like the plague. I agree authors should embrace genre fiction, it sells!

  3. Hi Nate

    Have You seen, that has named your page ‘Best ebook news site’? 🙂

  4. The “only liveblog of Apple’s launch event worth reading,” this was interesting:

    “Anil, I keep updating but I don’t know where I even am.”

    In an obscure Doctor Who reference, his soul was uploaded to the internet to feed a malevolent being known as the Great Intelligence, aka iCloud. 😉

  5. The Digiday article on the Newsstand seems a little wrong-headed. If nothing else, it seems strange not to mention that, although the app icon never changes, every new magazine downloaded in Newsstand offers users the ability to accept or disable push notifications for every new issue. I’m an Esquire subscriber, and I get a push notification every week (they have weekly digital-only issues in addition to the monthly one). Also, “heard at least 100 times from readers” seems like too small a sample size.

    I downloaded Mental Floss, and picked up a couple of issues. I didn’t forget to return to the magazine; I stopped doing so because I didn’t find the content either compelling or notably different from what was already available online. Kind of like with Esquire; I’m not sure I’ll renew my subscription, mainly because it seems like everything’s at I read the web, usually by Twitter or Facebook or through apps like Zite–and usually I find myself reading content from Wired or Esquire or et al., and all without ever having to seek out the actual publications.

    • I haven’t written on this myself but I have been following this trend.

      Here is a piece I linked to a few days ago:

      • Thanks for pointing that out. I’d missed it before. Interesting to see Fleishman spring up again, in a similar context. Also brings up something I hadn’t thought of, which is start-up magazines, which it sounds like The Magazine was.

        Thing is, I buy yearly subscriptions, so my push notifications don’t, as Fleishman points out, indicate that I’m going to be dinged for another $2. They just indicate a new issue is available, which, admittedly, might be difficult for a start-up to manage.

        Why not change the notifications? Rather than a recurring subscription (an opt-out, “you’re going to get dinged.”), why not change the push notification to “Hey, new issue! You bought one before, how about another, and at a discount? It’s usually $5 at the actual newsstand, but here in Newsstand, for a repeat customers, it’s yours for $2. Just put your thumb on the home button and you’ll get…”

        It should be possible. The push notifications are, so far as I know, customizable.

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