Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The New Kindles, broken down

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has always said he is out to revolutionize the book. He did so with the company's roll-out of the Amazon Kindle waaaaaaaaaay back when in November 2007. Four years later, Bezos and the Kindle Team continue to tinker the way we read.

After Wednesday morning's announcement of four new affordable e-readers, Bezos nudged Amazon in front of the e-reader wars yet again -- albeit a little late to the party, timing-wise. What puts Amazon ahead of the game is price.

Bezos and Amazon go ahead on price, every time. Bezos wants readers to come to Amazon because of price, and they can afford to do it. Bezos has always been willing to take a hit in the wallet as long as it works it in the long run. Undercut the competition -- i.e. Barnes & Noble and, in the case of the new Kindle Fire tablet, Apple -- and the money should roll in.

Let's start off with the Kindle Fire tablet.

At first glance, I was immediately reminded of B&N's Nook Color. It looks the same, weighs a little less than the Color (14.6 ounces compares to Nook Color's 16 ounces), and the battery life is on par with each other (8 hours). Nook Color is Android-based, while the Kindle Fire has its own web browser, Amazon Silk. I have yet to check out the browser demo, but I will. Both are touchscreen. One place where the Fire fails to deliver: no 3G wireless. It is strictly a wi-fi device.

But of course, the price: Nook Color is currently $249, with the Fire coming in at $199. You can't even get a used iPad at that price. Advantage: Amazon.

Here's what I think: I don't think that Amazon will draw from the Apple die-hards with the iPad. Apple Sheep are Apple Sheep, and are loyal to Apple. However, with everything that happened with Samsung and with Amazon's customer service being what it is (i.e., fantastic), customers looking for a tablet will edge toward Amazon, all due to price. Where does that leave B&N?

(That question is left hanging for a reason.)

Moving on...

Bezos also unveiled a Kindle Touch e-reader similar to the Simple Touch e-reader in B&N's arsenal. But like the Fire, it is priced lower than B&N. The Kindle Touch also comes with 3G and wi-fi versions. Much like with B&N, the battery life is two months with the wireless off. While the Simple Touch can hold only 1,000 books, the Kindle Touch can hold three times that amount.

But the price, ohhhh, the price: Kindle Touch 3G is $149, while the Kindle Touch wi-fi is $99; that is the with special offers (ads on the screensaver) price. The Simple Touch -- which is wi-fi only -- is $139.

Do I have to write who has the advantage? I didn't think so.

Finally, Bezos unveiled a simple Kindle e-reader for $79. It doesn't have a keyboard like the Kindle we all know and love, as it is only controlled by the 5-way controller. The Kindle 3 has been renamed the Kindle Keyboard. Same prices as usual. The $79 Kindle is available right now.

Of course, B&N is coming out with new devices later this year, a new Nook Color rumored to be among them.

Here's what I think B&N will do: panic. They'll see the writing on the wall and try to undercut Amazon like they did in Summer 2010. Amazon will then calmly cut the price of their devices even further, which they did after B&N brought out the 3G Nook. Bezos makes the guarantee: Amazon WILL have the lowest price ereader out there.

That is how you revolutionize reading. By being the affordable e-reader that everyone wants.

Let the holiday shopping begin.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Should my kid read your book?"

The above title is a question people ask about my books every so often. In fact, it was asked to me today by a reader who wanted to know just exactly what was in Zombie Showdown. I have friends who have kids, and some of my classmates and contemporaries have kids who are at the age where their parents are searching high and low for anything for the kids to read. Luckily, they have a friend who writes interesting books. Advantage: Me.

I don't really know how to answer this question, to be honest. I don't have kids, so for me to make a decision like this for them is really not my place. The bookseller in me says yes, buy the book... but the responsible adult in me says no, don't do it if you don't want your younger kids reading about older teen/mature situations. It's a hard line for me to straddle, because I don't want to say yes and then turn around a few days later and get blamed for giving their child nightmares or bad ideas.

I write adult fiction. That means there's a pretty good chance there will be obscene language, hot blonde women in their underwear, or even hot blonde women wearing nothing whatsoever. There will be swords (in my fantasy novels), blood, gore, guns, and really cool cars. There will be diabolical plots by diabolical terrorists who will use anything and everything to gain power, even if they have to kill people to do it. Occasionally I'll write young adult fiction, where I'll tone down the adult stuff BUT will write about situations that teens go through, i.e. hormones. I was a teen boy once, and I'm not that old that I don't remember what I went through back then.

Zombie Showdown, for example, is a YA book. YA is normally geared to readers aged 12-18. Most of my other books are adult books, but I know of readers as young as 11 enjoying Turning Back The Clock and 14 reading the AGENT novels.

So, to answer the question....

(Waits two minutes)

Shit, I still can't answer it.

Answering the question really isn't my place. I'm not your child's parent. I don't know whether or not your child is mature enough to handle the subject matter I present. I have some friends whose children can handle it, but I'm sure there are some whose children aren't ready for what I write. I'm not qualified to decide whether or not someone's child is ready. I'm not a teacher, and I'm not a parent.

A parent should know -- or place -- limitations. My parents put limitations on what I could read, listen to, or watch. I remember when Digital Underground's album Sex Packets came out. I had bought the cassette. It had a parents advisory warning on it. My father saw it and forbade me from listening to it. I'm sure that if he were still alive, he'd still forbid me from listening to it. Denying permission for me to listen to it made me want to listen to it more.

I think you know where I'm going with this... if you, as a parent, deny something to your children, they'll want to do it more.


OK, deny my books to your kids.

Just kidding.

I'm not the parent here. I'm not the one who has to make the decision. If you choose to let your child read the/my book, YOU should read it first to make sure it is something you want your children reading. The only other suggestion I can make is this: don't underestimate them -- they probably would get hooked on to reading even more after reading my words.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Putting it all together, Star Wars style

A funny thought hit me as I drove to Gardner for my nephew's 7th birthday party yesterday: Even when I don't intend to do it, I still take the George Lucas approach when it comes to my books.

As you probably know by now, I'm deep into the first draft of the third Jaclyn Johnson novel, entitled Double Agent. DA is just as action-packed as the first two. But did you know that I wrote Rogue Agent first?

If you've been following me for quite some time, you know this. I wrote Rogue Agent early in 2010, Model Agent late in 2010 (and into early 2011), and now here I am writing Double Agent, starting it in the second half of 2011.

Now, how does Star Wars relate to all of this?

Of course, I didn't have all three parts sketched out before hand, and I didn't split it all up into three movies. However, a quote of the late Irvin Kirschner hit me as I pulled onto Route 2 westbound: The second one can only be the second one.

Without even realizing it, I didn't want Rogue Agent to be "just a second one." I wanted RA to be a Empire Strikes Back-like tale, one that left the reader wanting more after two parts. So when I wrote Model Agent, I did several important things: I made MA be the warm-up act, much akin to how Star Wars Episode IV blew people away (21 5-star reviews now). I put in several one-time characters that would not make another appearance in the books -- albeit they've been named since.

And now I've moved on to the third installment. Jaclyn has grown deeper, and maybe a little bit resentful of her treatment in between books two and three. The action continues to grow.

And I can assure you: no Gungans.
Model Agent on US Kindle/trade paperback
Model Agent on UK Kindle
Model Agent on Nook
Rogue Agent on US Kindle/trade paperback
Rogue Agent on UK Kindle
Rogue Agent on Nook