2009: The Year in Pictures

Some very powerful images in this New York Times feature. But, taken together, they don't say much good for 2009. Bring on the New Year...

One of the Biggest Risks is Being Too Cautious…

To eat bacon sandwiches? Or not to eat bacon sandwiches? That's the question that David Spiegelhalter, "Professor Risk" at Cambridge University, tackles in this short video examining stats, life, and whether we should err on the side of caution ... or risk. This clip is part of Cambridge's YouTube channel, which now appears in our Smart YouTube Collection.

Talking American History with Joseph Ellis

Let me quickly call your attention to an interview with Joseph Ellis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling historian, who most recently published American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic. In this casual, wide-ranging conversation (listen below or here) with Russ Roberts, the host of EconTalk, Ellis talks through the founding years of the United States -- the break with England, the Revolutionary War, the drafting of the constitution and the forging of the nation. A good conversation for history buffs, and an informative talk for those less familiar with America's beginnings. You can generally find EconTalk (which typically focuses on economics) here: iTunes – RSS Feed – Web Site.

Visages d’Art

Another "eggman913" moving art special. (Check out his full collection on YouTube.) This time, the images morph in sync with Bach's Prelude And Fugue No. 6 In D Minor BWV 851 - Praeludium from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 performed by Daniel Ben Pienaar (available at Magnatune).

Making Books Free: David Pogue’s Experiment

He's a technology columnist for The New York Times, and the author of many popular technology manuals. And today, David Pogue writes about an experiment he conducted last year, testing the hypothesis that free e-books can drive sales of print copies (rather than eat into them). How did it work out? He writes:

My publisher, O'Reilly, decided to try an experiment, offering one of my Windows books for sale as an unprotected PDF file. After a year, we could compare the results with the previous year's sales. The results? It was true. The thing was pirated to the skies. It's all over the Web now, ridiculously easy to download without paying. The crazy thing was, sales of the book did not fall. In fact, sales rose slightly during that year. That's not a perfect, all-variables-equal experiment, of course; any number of factors could explain the results. But for sure, it wasn't the disaster I'd feared.

A nice conclusion. But then the next question. Will free e-books do anything good for e-books being sold on the Kindle/Nook/Sony Reader? Still an open question...

Finally, speaking of ebooks, we've just launched our new collection of Free eBooks. It includes over 100 free e-books, mostly classics, that you can read on your computer, smart phone (iPhone/Android), or Kindle. Please take a look (also read the related eBook primer) and offer any feedback you might have.

The Bohr-Einstein Debates, Reenacted With Dog Puppets

BoingBoing is running a piece this morning on Chad Orzel's new book, How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. It's good stuff, and it reminds me that Orzel also recently released a video that re-enacts the famous Bohr-Einstein debates, with, yes, dog puppets. You can watch above. Or, alternatively, you can get it on YouTube in three parts: here, here and here.

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Experiments in Publishing (Take 1)

Those who read this blog regularly may remember my past posts (herehere and here) about the Amazon Kindle and recall that I have mixed feelings about it. You'll also know that I’ve been interested in what authors such as J.A. Konrath have accomplished by releasing books on the Kindle itself. (Heck, some of you even knew about Konrath’s successes before I did.—Thanks Kurt.) And now, since recently becoming a happy Kindle owner myself, I've decided it's time to make an experiment in this new fold. So let me tell you about it.

Publishing Experiment 1: If we know anything for sure about publishing right now, it’s that it is changing. Authors, I believe, must become the scientists running experiments with new technology, new publicity strategies, marketing, you name it. There’s just too much money involved for the big (and some small) presses to carry out the kind of testing and idea-trying that needs to be done. That leaves us independent authors to try things out on our own.

In that spirit, I’m releasing a collection of short stories in the Kindle format just after Christmas. A Long Way from Disney is officially out now, but I'm "releasing it" on Sunday Dec. 27th, a day I'm calling Disney Commando Sunday! The thinking here is that by asking people to all buy the book on a single day, I can go after the top of Amazon's Kindle bestseller chart and garner more attention (sales) there, especially with the after-Xmas new Kindle owners.

I’ve priced the collection low ($.99) because I’m more interested in how many copies of the book I can get out there than in how much money I can make off of sales. For those who’ll be counting, the $.99 price point will give me 35 cents and Amazon a hefty 64 cents per book sold. They’ll win out regardless, but it’s their sandbox and I want to play.

You can buy this Kindle book on any computer once you've established a Kindle reader preference/Kindle account. You have three choices here. You can do this with:

1) An actual Kindle. 2) An iPhone running the Kindle App (download) or 3) Any PC running the new Amazon Kindle software for PC (download here).

You cannot buy the Kindle book for anyone else, and no one can buy more than one copy. It's certainly an interesting set of rules, isn't it? Well, this is what Amazon has set up. If you'd like to aid this experiment, please forward this blog post to other authors, readers, Kindle owners, and experimenters in the publishing field. It should be interesting to see what this can generate with a minimum of publicity and zero budget.

If you'd like to sample any of the short stories from this collection, you can hear any/all of them free online at my website and find out more about the Kindle experiment here. I hope you'll choose to come along and help make some waves with this idea. I do think that the more successes independent authors have with this new means of getting things done, the better it will be for all of publishing. Perhaps that'll be our next debate.

I'll be back later this week with a few stories from the collection and then again next Sunday for the big sales kickoff! See you...

Seth Harwood podcasts his ideas on the publishing industry and his fiction for free at sethharwood.com. He will be teaching an online course (The Essential Art: Making Movies in Your Reader's Mind) with Stanford Continuing Studies starting in January. His first novel, JACK WAKES UP, is in stores now.

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