Amsterdam, Ebooks, Writing

The House of Dolls: get the free background iBook today

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 08.36.49People always have a lot of questions to ask when you launch a new book — even more when it’s part of a series. Why Amsterdam? How did you go about nailing down the locations? What does the place look like?

Well here’s a quick and easy way to see underneath the surface of the Amsterdam of The House of Dolls. It’s a free multimedia iBook about the series, with photos and videos, and some insight into its origins and some of the real-life locations in Amsterdam found in the book.

You can download the title from iTunes for free – or just click on the cover on the right. This is an iBooks-only publication with photo galleries and some video — 138mb to download and 22 pages in length. A taster of the book we’ll be launching in Amsterdam next month.

I hope you enjoy it.


The first Nic Costa book now down to 59p for Amazon UK Kindle

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 12.30.45It’s promotion time in the UK at the moment. With the launch of my new Amsterdam series little more than a month away you can find some big discounts on the Kindle edition of the first two books in my earlier Nic Costa Italian series.

A Season for the Dead, the first in the series, is available for just 59p here. And the second Nic Costa book, The Villa of Mysteries, is available for £1.19. 

Ebooks, Web/Tech

Writing A Novel with Scrivener keeps on running

It’s almost two years now since I first put out my experimental ebook Writing A Novel with Scrivener for Kindle. I’d no idea whether anyone wanted such a book. I’d just enjoyed using Scrivener so much — and got such feedback from my posts on it here — I felt like putting my feelings together in one place. Oh, and seeing what it was like to create an ebook from within the app, of course.

How did it do? Very well, I think. Amazon’s statistics don’t let you add up total sales very easily unless you’re extremely handy with spreadsheets. So there’s no way to get a quick global figure. But I keep getting feedback, and cheques too much to my surprise (I never wrote it for the money).

And today someone pointed this out to me.

ScrivenerYes… even two years on it still hits number one in Amazon US’s Editing, Writing, Reference category.

I’m pleased some of you found it useful. I’m even more pleased that Scrivener, an incredible tool especially for beginning writers, has found such a wide audience over the past few years. The team at Literature and Latte deserve their success fully, and I’m sure it’s Scrivener’s increasing inroads into the writing software market that explain why my little ebook keeps on selling.


Ebooks, Writing

The death of print: a premature obituary

I bought a new Kindle over Xmas: the Fire HD. It replaces the original e-ink Kindle, the one with the little keyboard I could never get the hang of.

As a piece of techno-kit the Fire HD is pretty impressive and, at £159 for 16gb, good value too. The screen looks as high-definition as the latest iPad to me, which means text is crisp and clear. I did wonder whether I shouldn’t go for the cheaper e-ink paperwhite Kindle instead. That looks a more ‘bookish’ device, and it’s lighter with a longer battery life.

But the Fire does a lot more – you can catch up with TV on iPlayer for one thing. I’ve rather come to the conclusion that I prefer high-def LCD text to high-def e-ink. Not sure why, and many people will feel differently. But I’m happier with that brighter text and I don’t want to read outdoors in the sun.

The main reason I wanted something new was to deal with some reference work on a couple of projects I have coming up. In other words I want to go through some books I’ve bought and simply highlight relevant passages, then see those same passages come up in the same Kindle book in an app on the PC. Amazon’s systems do this brilliantly. You can sit in an armchair with a touch device like the Fire and simply hold down on the screen at the relevant point then highlight the passage in question. By the time I’m back at the desk those highlights are already there, pointing me back to the places I want to be.

One major omission though: you can’t do this with your own documents. In other words you can’t send a Word manuscript to your Kindle, mark it up, and have the markup appear on a desktop Kindle app. Personal documents only work with specific Kindle hardware, not the Kindle apps than run on computers, phones and iPads. Damn.

Still, it’s a very useful function for someone with reference needs, particularly if you’re as bad at filing physical paper as I am. If I tried this using sticky notes and a pen something would surely get lost along the way.

Do I intend to read this way generally?

Etymologicon-5CGood question. Kindle hardware comes with an offer of one free book a month from the Kindle Lending Library. So I casually downloaded one of the first to catch my eye, Mark Forsyth’s The Etymologicon. Quite why I don’t know since it was only 99p to buy the book in the first place.

It looks a great piece of work, an entertaining runaround a good few oddities of the English language written with great wit, enthusiasm and clarity. But the truth is… the more I read, the more I wanted to feel it in my hands as a printed paper title.

There’s absolutely no visible logic in the statements I’m about to make. But here, for what they’re worth, is how I feel about reading an ebook now, after a couple of years using the medium.

  • It’s fine for linear fiction, particularly shorter works.
  • Anything of substantial length, especially if it pushes the envelope by flitting backwards and forwards through time or engaging in a few metafiction tricks, is quite hard to follow on a single electronic screen.
  • You can’t make written notes — it’s just too fiddly, whether it’s a touch device or one with a keyboard.
  • Non-fiction only succeeds for me if I’m using it for reference and doing that swipe-highlight trick that works so well. If I’m reading non-fiction for pure pleasure ebooks just feel well… wrong.
  • Anything that has illustrations feels wrong too, no matter how clear or high res the screen. It lacks the feel of illustration in print, which is not simply two-dimensional. There are practical issues too. Because readers can choose font and font size themselves graphics can bounce around the place on smaller reader screens. I discovered this very directly when I published Writing A Novel with Scrivener. Someone emailed me to say the illustrations kept appearing on pages of their own. It turned out the reader had upped the font size to the biggest available and was using one of the oldest, smallest ereaders available. Nothing I could do…

That still makes ebooks very useful. But talking to people over Christmas I did get the impression that a good deal of the gee-whizz factor has gone out of the market. Yes they’re handy, yes they’re cheap and yes they can save you taking a stack of paper books on holiday.

In truth though they’re simply another way to read. Not the only way. And an awful lot of people who a year ago were saying they’d given up on print seem to me to be having second thoughts. Who can blame them? Convenience is one thing, but it’s the whole story.

All things being equal – which of course they’re not – wouldn’t you prefer a paper book?

I’m not a Luddite. Far from it.  But without a good reason — such as reference work or the need to take a large number of volumes on the road — give me real ink on real paper any day.