21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories



Welcome - The International Writers Magazine - September/October 2010

Welcome to Hackwriters: ebook futures

ipad I'm off to Vancouver for research on my new book set in and around the city. I look forward to being there. October usually heralds some spectacular fall colours. Then a quick trip to Toronto and Montreal to see friends and relatives. Should be fun. *So there wont be an October issue of Hacks. November and October will run together.

Of course when I get back the great 'jobs' cuts will have been announced and there will be much doom and gloom in Great Britain. Better yet, they will soon announce how much it will cost to go to University in the UK. Currently around £3300 a year for tution. It could rise to between £7000 to £10,000 a year. At that kind of price - even with the current rate of exchange, I think if I was 18 again I'd be looking at Canadian or American or Australian/NZ Universities that are, on the whole, much better equipped, better taught, with a much clearer focus on career outcomes than many UK institutions, that have been getting away with murder for years. At that kind of price I'd like to know just how professional the teaching staff are (and in creative arts at least, how active in the professional world) and how new the equipment is, how good the seminar rooms are and how much 'contact' time there is. Students in my experience rarely look beyond the 'social life' and how cheap the beer is when choosing a University; at these kind of fees I'd hope it concentrates their minds more on what they can get out of it to enhance their career prospects.

Creative Writing may well be flourishing at our UK Universities, but the opportunities for fiction writers are exponentially disappearing as the e-book and digital revolution takes hold.  Fiction and print in particular is about to be hit by the same tsunami that made Rock and Pop hugely unprofitable for main stream companies like EMI, but of course a big money turner for Apple. (Free downloads etc).  You hear people say ‘Oh it won’t happen, I’m not going to give up reading printed books.’  Well, you may not have a choice in the matter. People already boast of how many 'free' books they can download which means an author isn't getting any royalties. Of course there is another way of looking at it, publishing is being democratised and anyone can be published now using Lulu or now epub for e-books. But how will they find a readership? How can you or they monatise your efforts? Quality control is key of course, then finding the right niche I guess. We shall all end up writing apps no doubt.

It is a fact that the Music CD sales are in decline at the same time as Film DVD’s are falling sharply and in non-fiction or text books, digital is not only the future, but in California compulsory.  Kids have to download their textbooks. (And what goes in California the world follows).  The young are the future of reading and they are increasingly going to read e-books (which are cheaper and thanks to Kindle and Apple iPads and now the Galaxy from Samsung becoming rapidly mainstream *Estimated Sales by Techwatch for the iPad are 12 million by Christmas 2010).  There is a mini-iPad coming too for around $200.

According to The Guardian July 20th:
Amazon claims to have sold 143 digital books for its e-reader, the Kindle, for every 100 hardback books over the past three months. The pace of change is also accelerating. Amazon said that in the most recent four weeks, the rate reached 180 ebooks for every 100 hardbacks sold. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, said sales of the Kindle and ebooks had reached a "tipping point", with five authors including Steig Larsson, the writer of Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, and Stephenie Meyer, who penned the Twilight series, each selling more than 500,000 digital books. Earlier this month, Hachette said that James Patterson had sold 1.1m ebooks to date.

Neil Denny, editor-in-chief of the Bookseller, said the figures from Amazon were "eye-catching", but added a note of scepticism. He said that while ebooks had outnumbered hardbacks in volume, they were likely to be some distance behind in value. Some of the bestsellers listed on the Kindle top 10 list today were retailing for as little as $1.16 (75p). Free downloads of books no longer in copyright were excluded from the figures.

Think back ye older readers of this scribe and how much you loved your LPs and yet how quickly your replaced them with CD’s and subsequently couldn’t quite fathom why you preferred the scratchy albums before.  Now you download to your iTunes and you just play stuff through your computer or iPod.  The Inception soundtrack for example is on YouTube. I bought it as a CD as I want to own it and play it in my car. I still like to own stuff, but ownership of music is fast becoming an anachronism and so it will go with books. You disagree?  Well think on this.  I have just had to pack up my work office and all my books and DVDs and bloody videos that I have no video player for, and they are all now stacked up in my home office.  If it was all stored on my computer or iPad wouldn’t that be more convenient?  Some months ago I spoke with someone senior at Orion books who said that once the e-reader reaches the critical tipping point, all the major bookchains will fall like dominoes to be closely followed by most of the publishing houses (along with the jobs) who won’t have developed an effective way to monatise digital content.  I asked how long?  He said three years.  That was this last Christmas before the IPad came out and before all the Android readers and the new Google reader (HTC) due out soon. 
The tipping point will be Christmas 2011.  The carnage will be 2012.

Now you say I am being too pessimistic.  No way this is going to happen this fast and aren’t I an author too?  Why wish all the doom and gloom to fall on our heads?

Well I have two books coming out with Hodders in 2011/12.  They will be available as print, but I also hope as e-books.  We shall see.  Clearly I hope they will sell and Waterstones will stock them and more’s the point are going to survive this cultural shift, but history isn’t kind.  Just because trams were a great idea and didn’t pollute (except at the powerstation) it didn’t mean they wouldn’t vanish from almost every city in the world just forty years after they got started.  Yes I know Vancouver still has them, but few UK cities have anymore.  Everyone preferred buses, then cars.  People vote with their feet, nostalgia is a minority sport.  The real problem will be how do you find an unpopular book?  How will authors without a publicity machine be found at all?  It all comes down to Metadata.  Don Linn says, 'Making a title discoverable in a world where hundreds of thousands of books are published each year is more critical than when only tens of thousands were being published, basically, if you do a poor job with your metadata, you’re hosed.'

Jas Chana interviewed in The Bookseller from GoSpoken says: 'Another thing that will expand the market is making e-book purchases integrated with contract billing so customers don't have to enter their credit card details. A simple thing, but again, it is about making it easier for the customer.'

Then some people are betting on Voice Books, this culled from the web last week:
vBookz boasts access to an impressive 30,000 books, but don't expect the latest New York Times bestsellers.  These are public domain texts, typically from Project Gutenberg, including such classics as the Wizard of Oz, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Through the Looking Glass, Frankenstein and Gulliver's Travels. However, text-to-speech apps, as good as they are, cannot rival a dramatic reading with actual voice talent.

Jan Gansei blogs: ‘A new line called FLIPS – which is available via download on DSiWare . For example, take the Horowitz titles by bestselling author Anthony Horowitz (the man behind the popular Alex Rider series). This ebook’s format could be best described as an interactive graphic novel – featuring text, graphics and the opportunity to make decisions for the main character. I would think these would be a huge hit among reluctant readers. And, sure – they aren’t “traditional” books. But if they engage kids in the written word, does it really matter?You also don’t have to look far to find a number of ereader applications and interactive ebooks available for the iPod Touch. And one of the iPhone’s most popular applications is Cathy’s Story, an interactive ebook geared at kids aged 12-14. While at a Little League game last month, I watched two kindergarten-aged girls happily reading a Dr. Seuss book on an iPad. They were totally engaged – laughing and pointing out their favorite parts – just like they would with a “traditional” book. Because when it all comes down to it, it’s all about the story, right?
You can follow Jan’s tweets at

No doubt more to come on this issue – by all means send in your views on the future of ebooks.
Many thanks to all those who have contributed to this September edition. Many thanks too to those who have bought my books recently. Another Place to Die has passed the 2800 figure now and that cheers me up. I will be discontinuing this title in December as I am in the proces of selling a new version of it to a mainstream publisher. Now if I could get Mean Tide or Diamonds to sell as well, I'd be really happy. It really does help keep Hackswriters going. Take care out there.  Get writing.

© Sam North September 27th 2010
Editor –
Meanwhile I will continue to look for a new job.  So if you run a good Creative Arts or Creative Writing Department and need someone practice based in a hurry I am available at short notice from November.
What I did on my summer hols here

You probably need cheering up now. Swine Flu Threat is officially over. As of 25 July 2010, worldwide more than 214 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 18,398 deaths (WHO figures) with recent outbreaks in Eygpt. Now Pakistan remains at risk after the floods. WHO have said the threat is now extremly low, but it remains to be seen what changes will occur and how long it will remain at this level. Download my book Another Place to Die if you want to be ready for when the next flu pandemic really does take off in the future. *Many thanks to those who have ordered my book recently. It is selling pretty well now. (Over 2800 copies sold to date - not too shabby for a book only available on-line. Thanks too to those who spread the word on it. I really appreciate that.) Often being a writer, especially for one whose books are only mostly available on-line it is very isolating, but now I know it is selling every month it really feels as though the two years writing it were worth it.

Mean Tide by Sam North
'Extraordinary novel about a child's psychic awakening'

Lulu Press - ISBN: 978-1-4092-0354-4
Review: 'An engaging, unusual and completely engrossing read'
- Beverly Birch author of 'Rift'

His father has disappeared, his mother is sick. Oliver, recovering from chemo, is sent to live with his psychic Grandma by the river in Greenwich. Oliver quickly discovers he is living with a world of strange people. When he finds a dog with its throat cut on the riverside, everything changes. Oliver wants to find the people who did this terrible thing. (Young Adult Mystery)

The Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Sam North

ISBN: 13: 978-1-4116-3748-1
302 pages - Lulu Press USA
'Chocolate will never be the same again' - Sunday Express
Buy from your favourite on-line retailer

Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Barnes and Noble
& Waterstones
Book also available from The Nineveh Gallery, 11 The Pallant Havant, PO9 1BE. UK  and to order from Blackwells in Portsmouth

Back to Index

© 1999 - 2010 - Eleven years on-line
We are Carbon Neutral



Hackwriters - an international writer's magazine - all rights reserved © 1999-2010