Friday, April 12, 2013
Books and e-readers and coffee mugs
by Don Keith N4KC
Well, the truth is that most publishers have little interest in a book like this one. Not even the American Radio Relay League, the amateur radio national organization. They prefer only doing more technical books. (I understand and am happy to report that they have ordered and sold a number of copies of my book in their online bookstore. Thank you ARRL! And they have invited me to do a "meet the author" event in May at the world's largest ham radio convention in Dayton, Ohio. Thank you again, ARRL!)
So, using modern technology, I am now a web entrepreneur. Here's the path that has led me on this wayward journey into online capitalism:
A while back, I compiled some of the amateur radio articles I had written for the web site eHam.net and my own amateur radio web site and added quite a few more into a book I titled "Riding the Shortwaves: Exploring the Magic of Amateur Radio." I believed (and have now had it confirmed) that there is a need for a book such as this one. I talk about how the hobby--once thought obsolete in the face of the web, smart phones, Facebook, Twitter and the like--is not yet comatose. In fact, amateur radio is enjoying a healthy boom, with more people licensed now than ever before, and lots of interest in combining modern technology with a hobby that actually led the way for commercial broadcasting, satellites, computers, and much of the modern tech stuff that is theoretically killing it.
As I have done with some other of my out-of-print and couldn't-find-a-publishing-home books, I published it myself as a traditional paperback through Amazon's CreateSpace service, which puts it on Amazon.com and also means it is available through just about all online booksellers. It can also be ordered through the major book distributors by any bookstore or library. Way cool!
OK, that takes care of the traditional paper book. It's easily available if somebody wants to buy it. But as you all know, e-books are rapidly taking over, with theoretically more digital copies of books being sold nowadays than paper. Well, I also made "Riding the Shortwaves" available as an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing. The only drawback is that you can only buy the e-book through Amazon.com and only for their Kindle and a few other e-readers. (Yes, there are programs out there like Calibre that enables you to convert a book from one format to the other, but how many people want or know how to do that?)
Enter Smashwords. These guys can take a book and make it available in a variety of formats, including for Kindle, Nook, Apple iPad, Adobe Digital Editions (a free download for computers and smart phones), and even as a RTF, PDF or text file for reading directly on computers. They have the whole deal set up so they handle the money end of things.
I spent most of yesterday formatting "Riding the Shortwaves" for Smashwords uploading, and wow! Within five minutes of uploading the file, it was converted and available for purchase in all those varied formats. They are a bit picky and keep hounding me to make modification in my book so it can become part of their "Premium Catalog," but again, I understand. They work with Apple and some other big boys and, as noted, convert to a bunch of different formats, so they have to make sure the book fits their criteria. At any rate, it is there and can now be purchased by anyone, regardless what device they use to read it.
So that gave me another thought. Part of the idea of the book is to be evangelical about our hobby of ham radio. What better way to show our excitement than with some premium items, based on the message of "Riding the Shortwaves." So hello Cafe Press!
Yes, I know. These guys have been around for a while, but it really is easy to set up a store and offer merchandise with logos, messages, or whatever. Frankly, I couldn't even go and have stuff made just for me to wear as inexpensively as these guys do it. The prices are just a tad high for most items, but I ordered some things before advertising them to make sure the quality was there. It was! The logos and screen print look fine and the clothing items I ordered for myself are first-rate.
Do I want to be in the tee shirt biz? No! I'm a writer. But today, if you are a writer who wants to be read, you have to be your own promoter and publicist, too. And if I can have people walking around at the big hamfests with my book cover and web site on their backs, and if we can all help promote ham radio, then I'm all for it. Especially if I can do it at minimal cost and time.
And that is exactly what these types of vendors allow me to do. Thank you, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Cafe Press. I hope this rapidly changing technology can continue to make things better for authors, publishers, readers, and whatever causes we all espouse.
Oh, and just for drill, here's the ad that is going up on my web site. It will be fed by an animated GIF ad on the web site where some of the articles first appeared:
Move over eBay and Amazon! I'm a web entrepreneur!