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Six words, no more, no less March 5, 2009

Posted by Marco in Future formats.
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The concept of Six Word Stories apparently started, or at least gathered a great apocryphal origin, when someone bet Ernest Hemingway he couldn’t tell a story in such a short space. The response of the great man – “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” – still carries a real punch today, where in these times of Twittering and Flash fiction the six worders have made a real comeback.

Check out all the best recent Science Fiction entries, including this cracker from Alan Moore:

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time

eReaders February 18, 2009

Posted by Lee in Books, Future formats.
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We’ve been thinking about eReaders in the office, and wondering whether to get one. They’ve been pretty popular with editors, recently, and with good reason. Carrying multiple novel submissions in hardcopy isn’t practical, and reading from a computer monitor is ok for a short while, but not for long periods of time (and again, it’s not practical to take one everywhere you go, just on the off-chance you’ll find some spare reading time).

 

 

droppedimage_5A dedicated electronic reader, though – that’s a practical option. They’re generally the size of a hardback book, and the better ones use something called electronic ink – a process that makes the screen as easy to read as paper – with little or no glare from other lighting sources, and readable in bright sunlight.

 

 

There are a few problems with eReaders at the moment, though, and although they have generally been solved there is a geographical disadvantage. The Sony PRS 550 eReader, for instance doesn’t allow you to annotate manuscripts – the replacement PRS700 does, but it’s not available here in the UK, yet. Likewise, the Amazon Kindle (and Kindle 2) is a US-only device.

 

 

The problem was largely solved for me recently by a friend who gave me an iPod Touch (everyone should have friends like that).

 

 

On her recommendation I downloaded an eReader application called Stanza. It was the work of but a few moments to ascertain how to get the Angry Robot submissions list onto the device, and while it doesn’t allow annotation, it’s small enough to put in my pocket wherever I go, and that’s a good trade-off.

 

 

The screen is big enough to make reading pleasurable, and extremely clear. In fact, the more I use it, the more I wonder why manufacturers of dedicated eReaders feel it necessary to make them ‘book size’. Surely, the advantage of an eReader is that it can carry hundreds of books in one – size and weight is evidently a major factor, so why not go the whole hog and reduce the dimensions?

 

 Perhaps the reason is that at over £200 a device, the manufacturers feel it necessary to give some physical substance to the device.

  

Personally, I don’t want something bigger. I’m perfectly happy with Stanza on my iPod. It works well, so why carry something bigger? I can carry the entire Angry Robot submissions list with me wherever I go, and it weighs no more than a mobile phone. Surely that’s the point of an electronic book…

The “C” word November 9, 2008

Posted by Marco in Books, Future formats.
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mash it up!At World Fantasy Con this year I heard a great deal about Crossover. (What did you think I meant? For shame…) It’s not that new a term, but more and more people are using it. For a while we at Angry Robot, along with others from other imprints, have been debating our thoughts on just what to call what might even turn out to be a whole new genre of fiction.

It’s that stuff that sits, well, somewhere in the hazy middle of the traditional genres such as science fiction and fantasy, as well as crime, historical, comicbooks and more, and takes massive influences from all. It’s the stuff which, while ostensibly from one obvious genre, doesn’t just add a pinch of flavouring from another, but mashes them all together wholesale. They do it in computer games, they do it in movies, ethnically you even get presidents like this, and by god they’re doing it in books now as well.

“Crossover” has started to stick, and it seems to solve problems that other names – “modern fantasy”, “dark fantasy”, “cult”, “pop culture” among them – have simply not addressed. And it isn’t “slipstream”… that stuff was everything around the edge of SF/F, rather than at its new core. Perhaps “crossover” will stick around a little longer, but I ain’t so sure, mostly because it doesn’t actually describe anything. Suggestions on a Comment form please if you have a better idea. Whatever this new mixed-up genre ends up being called, however, there is right where Angry Robot is aiming.

Go and listen to the Boss October 30, 2008

Posted by chrismichaels in Events, Future formats.
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Great album, but not the subject of this post!

Great album, but not the subject of this post!

Not that Boss – though I love a listen to Born to Run pretty much anytime.

OUR boss: Victoria Barnsley, HarperCollins UK and International CEO and Publisher.

She’s at the London School of Economics next Tuesday talking about exactly the business context that led Angry Robot to come into existence: the change coming from traditional thinking about what a publishing company does (acquires and publishes books for other people to sell for them) to what future publishing companies must do (acquire and distribute content for them and their consumers to decide what they want to do with).

Vicky’s talking about that in the context of the transition from “analogue” thinking to “digital” thinking – and that’s exactly right. Digital’s not just a way of marketing, it’s a way of thinking – to say we fully know what the hell it means yet would be stretching it, but we want to find out!

Anyway, if you’re in London, go along for a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Stretchy, bouncy, floppy pricing October 24, 2008

Posted by chrismichaels in Future formats, Robot Business.
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Stretching the price to meet your needs

Stretching the price to meet your needs

What are they worth, these words we’re going to publish?

Without getting too theoretical, one of the things I want to know with this business is what the value of the formats we’ll be putting our words out in really is. Sure, we kinda know a UK paperback is worth somewhere between £6.99 and £7.99, and we kinda know a hardback comes in anywhere between £12.99 and £20. But what we don’t really know is what other kinds of content-usage is worth? How much would you want to pay for an ebook, or a digital audio version, or a 500 copy only signed hardback? Sure, we have guides, but they’re rarely driven by clear, broad, market dynamics the way the price of a regular book is, or a pint of milk.

So … we’re going to screw around with things. Experiment. We’re going to test out some classic economics, straight out of the textbook to establish what pricing means for all these different uses of content we want to deliver.

And what that means is that YOU will be driving the price, just the way it should be – because if you don’t buy it, we’re not pricing it right, so we’ll have to try again…

Here’s a funny one October 23, 2008

Posted by Marco in Future formats, Kill Em All!.
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Once upon a time there was a respected traditional book publisher who really, really got the concept of ebooks, they said. Who decided they would be the market leader in ebooks, would offer all their new titles in the various ebook formats as standard, right now.

Only… where a book was only available in hardcover, they priced their ebook equivalent to the hardcover, and only when the book came out in mass-market did they lower the price to the same as the paperback edition.

Perhaps they thought no one would notice. I don’t mean notice that they are giving every appearance of being money grabbing twerps, by the way. I mean, notice that they really, really don’t get the whole idea of ebook editions at all.

Neal Stephenson, you utter bastard October 22, 2008

Posted by Marco in Future formats.
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I don’t really think he’s an utter bastard, of course. In fact, I adore Neal Stephenson. He’s a wonderful writer, more than prepared to take on immense sweeping subjects and deliver in spades. Which means his damn books are immense buggers. Which means I have a cinderblock-sized copy of Anathem glowering heftily at me from the Must Read Soon pile.

And I’m looking at it, and it’s looking back at me, and I’m thinking to myself… what with work reading, and the day job, and the kids, and movies and hobbies and just that thing I do where I just sit and drink myself senseless… the only way I’m going to be able to read that sucker is if I have a massive plane trip coming up. Which I do, luckily enough, with World Fantasy Con in Calgary, Canada in a couple of weeks. But I ain’t lugging anything that weighs as much as all my clothes together across the Atlantic no matter how wonderful a read it’s gonna turn out to be.

And it’s at this point that I finally realised that even a curmudgeonly, luddite old “I’d rather sit in my armchair with a nice glass of something and a proper book, thank you” type like me really, really needs an e-reader. Which I take to mean that if even I want one, the time has come. How ’bout you?