It's been a reflective week. Here in Oxford it has been Disability Awareness Week, and I contributed to two events, once as a poet and once simply as a disabled person reflecting on the doors that are open or closed to me that those without disabilities might see very differently. One of the things about Oxford is that it has been around for 800 years, many of its buildings for at least as long. Trying to bring change, to give opportunities to all who need and deserve them is difficult. It involves carefully unpicking parts of an institution to let the light in whilst leaving what matters unchanged. And that got me thinking about this place, Indieland. We are the architects. The ink isn't dry on the blueprints. There is no unpicking to do, no listed buildings to leave intact. We can make this a land for everyone.
There is definitely a theme to the news this week, and the theme is short fiction. The big story combines this with our ongoing look at the growth of the self-publishing infrastructure in India. Google Play Books is launching a bite-sized platform for ebooks in India, with books of between 5 and 20 pages. At the moment this is for big name authors, but it can only be a matter of time before it opens out. Meanwhile, people have been talking about serial and short fiction app Radish, which works somewhat like Wattpad only focused more on adult romance than Wattpad's YA leaning. The company has just raised $3m in venture capital from the likes of literary luminary Amy Tan to help it expand.
The Romantic Novelists Association's 2017 Awards shortlist has just been announced (thanks to Fenella Miller for the tip). How fabulous to see several shortlisted authors who are “independently published”.
Last week, we brought news that Microsoft were incorporating an epub reader into its Edge Browser. It's a theme that continues with news that Firefox is launching a crowdfunding campaign to update its epub reading extension.
Smashwords and Libraries
Self-publishing platform Smashwords has been steadily increasing its ability to get its authors' books into libraries recently. Announcement of a deal with Biobliotheca CloudLibrary means that its titles will be available to the 3,000 libraries in the US, Canda, UK and Australia served by the distribution service.
Waterstones gets profitable – good news for indies?
Print is doing well. We know that. Bookstores, meanwhile, have been having a mixed time – which is considerably better than we thought it would be not so long ago. And news that top UK chain Waterstones has returned to profit after 5 years marks an unexpected success story. But it is especially interesting in the light of its mixed reputation with indies (for being hard to get stocked by owing to large centralised bureaucracy) and the hint here that the change in fortunes might be down to individual stores being given more autonomy to make local decisions. It's certainly a change I've noticed with my own local Waterstones and something large book chains the world over would do well to note.
We all want to make the bestseller lists, for pride and so that we can call ourselves a bestseller. There is a little irony that a piece explaining how little you actually have to do to call yourself an Amazon Bestseller (photocopy your foot and buy 3 copies) is doing the rounds shortly after news that the New York Times, whose bestseller lists really do deserve the cachet they bring writers, has dropped its comics and graphic novels list, removing a key goal in an area where indies are really starting to gain some traction.
If you use ALLi's services Watchdog (and if you don't, why don't you) will have noted the cautionary for self-publishing platform BAM! Publish. A piece this week in Indies Unlimted has attracted some considerable attention, pointing out the problems with BAM! which offers the carrot of bookshop presence, but at the cost of those all too familiar enhanced packages. A timely reminder to be wary – but also to make sure you check out our Watchdog.
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