And now Wattpad is going to deploy ads inside the stories published on its site. From PW:
Wattpad, the online reading and writing community, is launching Wattpad Futures, a new program that will place paid advertising between the chapters of selected stories on the site. Every time a reader views an ad, the writer will earn money.
Ashleigh Gardner, head of content for Wattpad, said the new program will feature “interstitial” advertising between chapters of works posted on Wattpad. Gardner said the program, which will initially run video ads, will eventually include display ads as well. The ads will be placed every few chapters and will also appear every 30 minutes during a reading session.
According to Gardner, about 100 writers invited to be part of a beta test earned nearly a $1,000 a month through the program. Some, she noted, earned nearly $2,000 a month.
Given that ad-blocking is on the rise and the relatively low density of the ads, this venture won’t generate much revenue. And that’s a shame, because Wattpad could definltely use the money.
The thing about Wattpad is that its founders took a wrong turn in the early years. They focused too much on building the community and helping writers create rather than on developing a tool which authors could use to make money.
(Or at least, if Wattpad does sell ebooks or distribute ebooks to Kindle, iBooks, and other ebook retailers then it must be keeping this feature a secret because I sure as heck can’t find anything in the FAQ.)
The best part about selling or distributing ebooks is that the revenue stream would scale with Wattpad as the community grew. Now Wattpad has some 40 million visitors to the site each month, and not a lot of revenue to show for it.
But instead of distributing ebooks, Wattpad has experimented with other ways of making money, including adverts.
Maybe this is something Wattpad’s future buyer can fix. Rakuten, for example, would be wise to buy Wattpad and partner it into Kobo.
Wattpad has carved a niche for itself as a community where writers can publish a work in sections, polishing it as they go, before putting the work up for sale elsewhere.
Now a Russian site plans to copy that model, only with a direct financial component. The-eBook.org brings our attention to Lit-Era.com, a new site which proposes to solve the Russian piracy problem by giving writers a new option for getting paid.
Writers can use the site to publish a work for free in whole or in part, and they also have the option of releasing the first part for free, and then charging readers for access to the rest. The paid option is only open to authors who have gathered a following of readers on the site. Lit-Era calls it a subscription, but readers are only charged once (Kindle Serials work the same way).
Once a work is complete, a writer can also choose to continue to sell the ebook on the site, or distribute it elsewhere.
Four titles have been published on Lit-Era this summer, and so far each has received over 1,000 subscriptions. Lit-Era sees this as having proven the viability of the business model, and it is planning to enter new local markets this fall, primarily English, German, Spanish, and Polish.
Last night’s post on the PDF-reading app for your smartwatch got me thinking about the general difficulty in finding information about reading on smartwatches.
Sure, there’s the single post here or there, but I had trouble finding any organized source that would help me find more reading apps. (The Android Wear section of Google Play doesn’t count as "organized", no.)
And so I thought it would be helpful to share what I found so far, and invite readers to help fill in the holes. (Collaboration helps us all.)
So here’s what I have learned about how you find reading apps for your Android Wear smartwatch.
You can also search that store and find that there are two Feedly compatible apps for Android wear, Feedly and Palabre. The latter app also works with Inoreader, The Old Reader, or Twitter, and it can even operate independently (just give it the RSS feeds).
And if you don’t fancy catching up on the news, perhaps you would like to read an ebook.
The major ebook platforms do not support Android Wear, but you can find a few reading apps. There’s Reader for Android Wear, for example, but it only displays text files. The free Wear Reader, on the other hand, supports Epub, PDF, Docx, and text files, but it’s a speed reading app so it won’t be for everyone.
If you’re more interested in reading than speed reading, then perhaps Wattpad might be your thing. The Wattpad Android app supposedly supports Android Wear (although I have yet to confirm that detail).
And even if the Wattpad app proves to be a bust, there’s still Reader for Watch (Wear), which supports Epub, FB2, and txtt files. This $1 app mention voice search in its feature list, and it even has several alternate color themes.
Speaking of PDFs, if you want to get work done or read a spreadsheet, Word file, or presentation, there’s an app for that.
But let’s be honest; it’s hard to read on a one and a half inch screen. Audio would be a better choice for many people, but alas, I can’t find any audiobook apps for Android Wear. I found music apps a plenty, including a half-dozen that will let you play your own MP3s, but I couldn’t find an app which supported audiobooks specifically.
Edit: A reader has told me that the OverDrive Android app supports Android Wear, and will let you control audiobook playback from a smartwatch. Thanks, Robert!
Do you know of an Audiobook app for Android Wear?
Is there a type of app you’re looking for that isn’t mentioned above? Let me know in the comments, and we’ll see what we can find.
A few days ago Livemint published a long interview of John Makinson, the chair of Penguin Random House (he was also the head of Penguin when it engaged in the price-fixing conspiracy in 2010).
Makinson believes that the reason that digital publishing innovation stalled at the level of basic, ordinary, Kindle ebooks is because readers are conservative:
O O O
But when you contrast the book industry with say, the music industry or the movie industry, the change in terms of what it is that we produce, the content that we offer to readers has not been anything like as convulsive as it has been in other areas of the media and the reason for that, I believe, is that the readership is relatively conservative. The message that we get around the world from readers of books is that they don’t want the content to change very much. They are still interested in reading whole books than chapters. As we know in the music industry, people want to listen to tracks and not albums. And people in music want an abundance of content available to them. In books, people don’t really want that. They want to buy a single copy, they may want to buy that electronically or physically, but they want to buy the individual book. …
So, of course, one has to be vary and vigilant about how digital technology is changing patterns in the industry. But I don’t think, on the evidence so far, there is terribly much to be alarmed about. In fact in the UK, physical books grew in volume by 8% in 2015. And step back five years when we were looking at the very rapid growth of e-books, I don’t think anyone of us could have predicted that the physical book market would be in such healthy shape as it is in the United Kingdom.
O O O
So do you think he’s correct?
I think he both is and isn’t right, but I don’t know how much we can trust his opinion.
Penguin is one of the publishers that sought to stop the rise of ebooks in early 2010, so it is hard to say whether Makinson’s view is an accurate vision and not wish fulfillment from the head of company (in a _very_ conservative industry) which wants to operate the same way it did twenty years ago.
That said, I think he’s at least half wrong.
Sure, innovations like enhanced ebooks have generally failed to catch on, but readers are still buying and consuming content by the chapter. There’s comics, and also the serials Amazon continues to publish, and Wattpad.
If readers are so conservative then how is Wattpad thriving?
Better question: If readers are so conservative then why are so many writing their own fanfic and original works?
Authors have long been relying on the Wattpad community to help refine their stories before formally publishing them, and now Kobo is drawing on that connection.
The ebook retailer has launched a new section of its ebookstore focused solely on ebooks originally published on the social reading site. It currently features twenty titles, with prices ranging from free to $11.59.
The ebooks are not, as one site erroneously reported, published by Wattpad nor are they exclusive to Kobo. All of the titles I checked were also available in the Kindle Store, and some had been published by the authors as far back as 2013, 2012, or 2011.
It’s not clear why Kobo pulled together all these ebooks; they cover a diverse range of genres, including romance, SF, fantasy, YA/teen, and aside from professional-quality covers (seriously, I’ve seen Big Five books that had uglier covers) the books have nothing in common other than they were originally published to Wattpad.
I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason to pull together the disparate titles, but we really won’t know what’s going on until I hear back from Kobo and Wattpad.
Wattpad announced a new app today, and a whole host of other developers have released updates (mostly for their iOS apps).
First up is the Windows 10 app which will let you read, write, and share stories on the go. From the announcement:
Today, we’re excited to announce the release of a Windows App. Now, for the first time, Windows Phone owners have a dedicated Wattpad app to discover and read stories for free. With the release of the new Windows App, Wattpad extends its reach to Windows phone users around the world.
The new app gives people access to more than 175 million original story uploads in over 50 languages, the ability to read offline, and comment on stories as way to interact with the global community. It is available as a free download in the Windows Store today.
O O O
In related news, a slew of app updates have made their way to my iPad this past week.
Web browsers: Coast, Opera, and Chrome all released bug fix updates, and Chrome and Coast also added support for 3D Touch on the iPhone 6
eBook Apps: Comixology, Fabula, and Read.cx, all released stability/bug fix updates
Web Reading: Wattpad, Medium, Pocket, and Flipboard all released bug fix updates, and Medium and Wattpad also added new ways you can interact with and share stories
A German trade publisher has partnered with a bookseller and come up with a new twist on the idea of book vending machines, one which will give German readers an alternative to returning the ugly sweaters grandma gives you every year.
Bastei Lübbe and Hugendubel have developed a vending machine where consumers can deposit an unwanted gift and get back a book. Starting 28 December, the machine will be installed at three successive Hugendubel stores, and it will be in operation until the 30th, or while supplies last.
Consumers can bring an unwanted gift and trade it for one of seven Bastei Lübbe titles (I would rather get a gift sub to BL’s upcoming subscription service Oolipo, but that’s just me).
The unwanted gifts will be given to local charities, and hopefully also posted to Instagram so we can all either commiserate or mock as desired.
With the new feature, storytellers can insert animated .GIFs, images, Vimeo, and YouTube videos to add visual elements to their stories. The goal of this project is to make Wattpad a home for new forms of storytelling. With the multimedia feature, the global community can create and share comics, cookbooks, travel diaries, fashion blogs, and more.
Wattpad wants to deliver the best possible experience and evolve the story so it can be used for many different types of storytelling. Over 175 million original story uploads are already shared on Wattpad, we expect to see even more stories shared as a result of today’s launch.
As someone who has seen far more badly made GIFs than cute ones, I don’t exactly find myself excited by the announcement. I know that far too many people will embed one- and two-second GIFs just because they can.
The video embeds, on the other hand, could prove useful for non-fiction writing. On the other hand, if you’re writing non-fiction for free, why not just publish it on a site so the larger internet audience can read it?
A new book club platform by the name of Novellic is launching soon with plans to challenge Goodreads.
From the press release:
The new multiplatform app and web service aims to help readers form new micro-communities around book genres and tailors book suggestions around specific reader interests. Book club management tools such as next-read polling, book discussion threads and offline meetup organisers are also built into the app to facilitate the community aspects of book clubs on a day to day basis.
“In building Novellic we are placing the reader first and foremost” said Candide Kirk, the company’s co-founder and product designer. “As a genre reader myself I see book clubs as a great way to discover new reads and to make friends through communities of like-minded readers.
Novellic will also feature a highly curated and personalised book storefront giving readers an alternative way to buy both physical as well as digital books. With a strong focus on micro-genres and niche reader communities Novellic will initially cater to 25 key fiction genres that have strong reader following. Whereas existing bookstores tend to combine genres such as Science Fiction and Fantasy, Novellic will curate books into more specific micro-genres such as Space Opera or Dystopian fiction to better cater for the tastes of readers.
The platform is in beta, and they’re currently accepting a limited number of beta testers.
Has anyone tried it? Would you like to? And would you be interested in writing a post about it?
I ask because I could probably get an invite, but I wouldn’t be able to get the most value from it. I’m not social enough on Booklikes, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, Wattpad, or other similar platforms and so readers would probably get more from someone else’s post.
Let us know if you get in. Readers would like to know how Novellic compares to its (many) competitors.
Consider yourself a stranger to fanfiction? It’s unlikely.
If you’ve read E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey (2011) then you already have at least one title under your belt. If you caught Robert Downey Jr’s turn as Sherlock Holmes (2009), that’s another.
So what is it? At its most basic, fanfiction is a genre of amateur fiction writing that takes as its basis a “canon” of “original” material.
This original material is most often popular books, television shows and movies – but can expand to almost anything, from the lives of celebrities to the travels of inanimate objects like the Mars rover.
Fanworks, including fanfiction and fanart, are created by fans who are invested in the source material. They seek to expand the narrative universe and share their personal creations with other fans for free.
Fanfiction in other guises
Alice in Wonderland fanart, Mary Blair / flickr
The main impulse behind fanfiction has always been a playful desire to engage with original works. Yet authors are still subject to modern copyright laws. In Australia, the US and the EU, copyright exists for the lifetime of the author plus seventy years.
Many early Disney film adaptations were derivative works based on out-of-copyright novels – think Alice in Wonderland (1951) and The Jungle Book(1967). In a way this could be considered a form of fanfiction.
Today, existing restrictions mean those interested in “remixing” copyrighted material create online communities to discuss and distribute their work freely. One of the aims of the fan-led Organisation of Transformative Works is to fight for the validity of fair use laws.
Still, the amateur status copyright law forces on fanworks is one of the reasons fanfiction as a whole is regarded with some derision.
This is one reason why the Twilight fanfiction origins of 50 Shades of Grey were obscured. Due to residual textual and thematic similarities, the question of copyright infringement remains open.
Still, canonical works have remained a source of creative inspiration.
The “fanfiction” classification usually results from the context of creation and circulation rather than anything inherent to the subject matter or quality of writing.
It’s fiction, Jim, but not as we know it…
Popular culture academics in the US and the UK trace the beginnings of an identifiable fan culture and community from the 1970s. These tendencies were first identified by Henry Jenkins in Textual Poachers (1992).
There is early evidence of fans coming together around science fiction television shows like The Man From U.N.C.LE. (1964-1968) and the original Star Trek (1966-1969).
Game of Thrones fanart. MiMiKa Z / flickr
Comparable communities formed around anime and manga in Japan during the 1980s. The influential all-female manga artist group Clamp first came to prominence through Doujinshi (amateur, self-published works) based on Captain Tsubasa (1983-1986) and Saint Seiya(1986-1989).
Today, thanks to the internet, connecting to other fans has never been easier. This level of accessibility has lead to a remarkable proliferation of what was once considered an obscure subculture.
In the digital realm, just one popular archival site – www.wattpad.com – currently hosts a staggering 40 million users a month.
Fanfiction enables readers, writers, and sometimes even literary professors to play in an imaginative sandbox, interpreting and reinterpreting events, relationships and characters to flesh out different scenarios.
Game of Thrones fanart. MiMiKa Z/flickr
The power of fanfiction stems from the fact that it actively invites writers to break down boundaries considered “natural” in a broader cultural context – primarily around sex, sexuality, and gender.
Fanfiction communities often critically engage with stories not written specifically for them. With doubts swirling over whether Marvel will ever make a Black Widow movie, is it any wonder female fans feel the need to create their own stories?
These reinterpretations interact with canonical events – actual events from the original text – in different ways, “filling in” unexplored aspects of a scene, or “fixing” things that were dissatisfying or problematic.
Those fans not engaged in fanfiction sometimes mock fanfiction writers for being “delusional”, questioning the “realism” of the relationships featured in fanworks. Additionally, since a lot of fanfiction is explicitly erotic, it becomes the target of parody.
The sheer volume and variable quality of fanfiction makes it an even easier target. Instead, I’d argue that the uneven quality of fanfiction reflects the low barrier of entry to the community rather than an inherent lack of value in the genre.
What are examples of the pitfalls?
This is not to say that the potential for subversion is always expressed unproblematically.
While transgressive in some ways, fanfiction writers and readers remain enmeshed within social power hierarchies. These communities do engage in self-critique, but issues of sexism and racism still persist.
Most English language fanfiction, whether it involves straight or queer relationships, remains concerned with white characters.
This is partly a reflection of the racial biases that still plague the production of the (mostly US) popular films and television shows that form the basis of these communities.
However, it is a worrying trend that even when non-white characters have significant roles in a canonical work, fanfiction very often fails to register this – or worse, undercuts it.
In Marvel Cinematic Universe fanfiction, characters of colour receive significantly less attention than their white counterparts. Clearly, interracial pairings (red) receive far less attention.
Similarly, while fanfiction based around non-US media like Bollywood films, anime or K-pop doesn’t have the same problems regarding race and ethnicity, it still must negotiate its own cultural prejudices.
Disrupting the canon
As Alexis Lothian, Kristina Busse and Robin Anne Reid conclude, fanfiction provides a fluid space for (mainly) queer women writers and readers to engage with the various pop cultural narratives that influence their lives.
These negotiations, while messy and problematic, retain the potential to (re)fashion the “canon” to be inclusive of a broader range of human experiences.
Our next example of techies trying to fix that which is not broken by inventing that which already exists is Hooked, a new iPhone app from Telepathic (also available for Apple’s Apple Watch).
Fast Company and TechCrunch have the lead on a new reading service that is reviving cellphone novels under a new name. Developed by husband-and-wife team Parag Chordia and Prerna Gupta, Hooked serves up stories in the form of text messages. According to Gupta, each story is written so that the reader will "go through an entire narrative arc in five minutes and consume it in a way that’s native to mobile".
In other words, it’s flash fiction.
This form of fiction has been around for a couple decades (longer, if you count comic strips). It can be found on many sites, including fanfic sites, Wattpad, and Tumblr, although this is perhaps the first time that I know of that it has been developed into its own app.
Hooked lets you read one story a day for free, and if you would like to read more than that then you’ll have to subscribe. Unlimited access cost anywhere between $3 a week and $40 a year.
The stories are all commissioned by Telepathic, but their long term plans include turning Hooked into a writing platform on the model of Wattpad or Medium, only with a focus on much shorter works. "Long-term, our goal is for everyone inside the app to have the ability to write," Gupta says. "One of the things we hope Hooked will do is encourage more people to write fiction and to understand that we all have the ability to express ourselves in this way,"
I don’t know how much success they’ll have. The one story I started to read did not keep my attention past the tenth text message, nor did it inspire me to subscribe.
And frankly, Gupta’s and Chordia’s motivation and inspiration for the idea certainly don’t warm me to the idea. From TechCrunch:
Chordia compared their vision for Telepathic with the work they did at Smule and Khush, taking an existing art form (previously music, and now fiction), then “rethinking how does it fit into people’s lives.”
“We don’t think fiction’s dying,” Gupta added — but they do think there are ways to improve “the way it’s currently presented and produced.”
So with Hooked, they’re commissioning short stories that take the form of text message conversations. Instead of turning pages, you tap the screen to bring on the next message. The app offers a limited number of free stories but charges a subscription fee (starting at $2.99 per week) for unlimited access.
Chordia suggested that this presents a couple of advantages over a standard book or e-book. For one thing, readers aren’t faced with “this block of text that just doesn’t have that natural feel on your phone that a casual game does.” It could also make it easier for readers to consume the story in small bites, say when they’re waiting in line or riding the subway.
Thank you, Hooked, for rescuing readers everywhere from an imposing and ominous block of text. What would we do without you?
Wattpad’s app won’t let you write on the iWatch, but it will let authors track their stats. The new app pairs with the Wattpad app for the iPhone, and according to Wattpad:
The Wattpad team created this app for on-the-go writers who love keeping tabs on their latest stats. For writers, votes and read counts serve as a way to understand a story’s momentum, and seeing a spike in votes and reads often encourages them to keep writing.
The Wattpad app for Apple Watch gives writers real-time story analytics including total cumulative read and vote counts, as well as percent increases between app checks so they can keep track of readers’ reactions to their stories.
I can’t speak for you but that strikes this stats-obsessed blogger as a great idea. I really do obsess over my site’s traffic to the same degree that authors track their reading and sales stats, so I do appreciate the tool Wattpad has placed on author’s wrists.
alas, Google Analytics hasn’t released a similar iWatch app, so I will be forced to sit back and be jealous.
Facebook’s Internet.org charity has come under increased criticism of late but that hasn’t stopped its expansion plans. On Friday Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed that Internet.org app was now available in Indonesia, a country with a population of 250 million.
Developed in partnership with local mobile phone carrier Indosat, the local version of the Internet.org app gives Indonesians free access to a limited number of websites and services, including Facebook (of course). The service is pitched as providing free access to the internet, but as you can see from the following list that is far from true:
BabyCenter & Mama
Penuntun Hidup Sehat
Compared to the millions of sites available online, that’s a damned short list. But on the plus side the list does include Wikipedia, Wattpad, and Ask.com, so users will actually be better informed than if they had no access at all.
One could argue that something is always better than nothing, but that argument doesn’t carry nearly as much water now as it did when Internet.org was first announced in late 2013.
Over the past few weeks Internet.org has been the subject of a heated debate in India. Its critics have expressed concerns with how Internet.org violates the principles of net neutrality on a fundamental level. A couple local partners have even pulled out of the program in India, leading Zuckerberg to respond in an editorial published by the Hindustan Times.
We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.
Net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles – net neutrality and universal connectivity – can and must coexist.
To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some services for free. If you can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access and voice than none at all.
Those are pretty words, but he doesn’t actually explain why Internet.org has to go against net neutrality. Assuming that there is a valid reason and not something nefarious, it probably has to do with how the charity is funded.
I don’t have details on Internet.org but I do have info on a related service. Airtel, Internet.org’s partner in India offers a similar free but limited internet service which is funded by the subsidy fees which app developers and web services pay in order to get their app or service in front of the user.
So tell me, do you think this type of service is better than nothing?
I think it can be, but I won’t make that claim about Internet.org until I know more about its internal processes. For example, its critics complain about the opaque process Facebook uses to choose local partners. To name one example, Wattpad is a partner in Kenya and Indonesia, but not in India. Why is that?
Until Facebook opens up and explains how Internet.org works, until we get to see how the sausage is made, the criticism will only increase.
And not just the criticism. The opposition will continue to grow until the point that it derails further expansion.
If Internet.org really is as altruistic as Zuckerberg claims, let’s hope that the charity finds a way to make peace with its critics, possibly by reforming its methods, before it’s too late.
Wattpad rolled out an update for its Android app yesterday which adds new options for audio soundtracks. The app lets creators embed clips from Soundcloud in their stories, and it also lets authors record their own clips.
The new features lets authors narrate dialogue, create audiobooks, add soundtracks to their stories from their Android device, and much more. "Audio clips can bring stories to life. Wattpad writers can use sound effects to add impact to a story, narrate an excerpt, or share a playlist to entertain their readers in a new way," said Tarun Sachdeva, head of product development at Wattpad.
Or at least that is how it is supposed to work; I updated the app but can’t find a way to embed audio or record my own soundtracks for the story I tried to write.
Luckily, it would seem that I might be alone in having this problem.
As part of kicking off the new features, Wattpad has assembled a new reading list consisting of 18 stories that already have soundtracks. You’ll need to update the app to listen to the audio, but once you do you will enjoy a more immersive reading experience.
Or at least it is supposed to let you listen to the soundtracks; this is not working for me either. And I can’t figure out why.
In the hopes that this will work for you, I’m sharing this bit of news anyway. I might not be able to enjoy it but I would like to hear what you think.
Update: Wattpad told me the following morning that they had not rolled the feature out to all users at the time they published the blog post. It has now gone live – but still won’t work for me.
Wattpad is heating things up this week with the launch of After Dark, a new free iOS app which offers an adult reading experience curated for fans of romance and erotica.
Long a home to all types of original and fan-fiction, Wattpad is launching the app in the wake of the growing popularity created by the 50 Shades movie.
The app offers genre and theme channels such as contemporary romance, LGBTQ, paranormal, dangerous bad boys, etc. As on the Wattpad site and other Wattpad apps, users can comment and vote on the stories they’re reading.
"On the heels of the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, interest in mature stories has spiked," said Melissa Shapiro, Wattpad’s head of global marketing. "With After Dark, adult romance readers now have a beautiful app where they can find all the steamiest stories from Wattpad."
You can find the app in iTunes.
In related news, Wattpad has also launched an official Romance profile on its site. While a profile normally belongs to a user, this profile will be used to offer romance-focused reading lists and story suggestions. Wattpad has other official profiles, including ones for SF, fan fiction, and more.