The Economics of E-Readers

Can you spot the article about literature hidden in Angelina's hairline?

Everybody (especially me) is terrified that e-readers will do to books what Napster did to the music industry. And perhaps with the recent closing of Border’s, there’s some merit to that fear.

However, my short personal experience of owning a Kindle have taught me otherwise. As I said in my last post, I’d fallen out of the habit of reading (and especially buying) novels. But now that I have a Kindle, I can’t resist the temptation. It’s instant gratification with a lasting reward.

And by gaining one marketing advantage, publishers seem to have realized another: up-selling. Here’s my anecdotal evidence:

A few days ago, I was shopping at Target, as I am wont to do. At the checkout line, I spotted a teaser for an an article in Vanity Fair:

How to Create
A LITERARY
STAR

By Keith Gessen P. 262

“I want to become a literary star,” I thought to myself as I plunked it on the conveyor belt without even glancing at the $4.99 cover price.

When I was home and halfway through through the article, I noticed a little textbox lodged into a column on page 272:

For an amplified version
of this story, download
How a Book Is Born.

For the Nook and Kindle.

I stupidly assumed that the “amplified version” would be free, since I’d already paid in bulk for a bunch of articles. And by the time, I discovered it cost $1.99, I couldn’t let that small figure keep me from literary stardom.

In the end, I paid $7 plus tax for the pleasure of reading one (1) magazine article! Now who says the publishing industry is dying?

And yes, it was worth every penny. (But only because of the free perfume samples—otherwise I’d been better off buying the $1.99 Kindle version and saving a tree.)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Kindle

Check out my green Kindle cover with Shag sticker. (I'm not smiling because I'm concentrating on holding my computer with one hand while pushing the photo button. ... So much for stoicism.)

For my birthday, I got the best present in the world: A Kindle! (Thanks, Dad.)

When e-readers came out a couple years ago, I’ll admit that I was terrified of them. To me, they represented the end of all that was real and true about books … before I even got a chance to publish my own.

Two things changed my mind:
1. The technology got better.
2. I realized that despite my lifelong love of reading novels, I had fallen out of the habit. Instead, I frittered away my free time obsessively reading the New York Times online. Why? Because it was convenient. For me, getting a Kindle was leveling the playing field for books.

Why a Kindle?: Although I’m starting to fear that Amazon may be the next evil empire, I chose its e-reader. Sure I could have gone with the flashier iPad or the touchscreen Nook. But I did not want a FaceBook machine or an Angry Birds console, I wanted a device that was as much like a real book as possible. So far, Kindle has been wonderful.

The agony and ecstasy of choosing a cover: For the first time in my life, the cover of a book was not the thing that held the pages together, it was a reflection of myself. I wanted to proclaim to the world that I was smart, I was an intellectual, and that I had a fabulous sense of style.

I narrowed down my Kindle cover options to three types: 1. The covers that are made to look like copies of the New Yorker (but which one?) 2. The covers that look like literary novels (but which one?) 3. The Kate Spade covers that also look like novels (Great Gatsby was my fave).

I’ll spare you the agony and dispense the results. After so much thought, I ended up picking Amazon’s own cover because it had so many more amenities. The built-in light that’s powered through the e-reader is awesome. And in the end, with the help of a couple stickers, I have a cover that’s all my own!

The back of my Kindle: The two Shag stickers tell a story, if you look carefully.

Visiting The Goon Squad

I just had another birthday and I just read Jennifer Egan’s spectacular novel “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” Coincidence? … Yes, actually. But, the two events are intimately related. Both involve agonizing over the inevitability of getting older. One involved a pulitzer. And another involved cake. Guess which is which.

Egan’s story is fabulous, and although I’ve always hated for my age to go up, I’m looking at this birthday as another chance to live long enough to win a Pulitzer of my own. Okay, now back to novelizing.

Christmastime at the Double Down

Merry Christmas everyone. I’m stuck at the airport. I’ve been here for hours. Hours! So, by process of elimination, I have chosen to blog. Thank goodness for free wi-fi at McCarran airport. It’s a low-grad Christmas miracle.

Since my mind is somewhat numb, I will write about the easiest thing: things I’ve already written about. So here you go, some recent articles with some commentary.

* Merry X-Mas Dammit from the Double Down Saloon. So, I found myself at the notorious Double Down Saloon last Saturday afternoon celebrating the little known but beloved holiday of Pastramikah. Next thing I know, I’m sitting next to the charming chef Kerry Simon, and P Moss is giving both of us his holiday CD. I didn’t consider writing about it because the CD is from 2007, but the music is so fresh and fun, I couldn’t resist. In Vegas, something from 2007 counts as classic anyways.

* Boyz II Men at the Flamingo. Although I’m not a huge fan of this band, I had a lot of fun writing this article. A lot of fun. And I won’t lie, I stood up in my chair and danced when they played their song that keeps repeating their name over and over again.

* Frank Sinatra Dance with Me at Wynn. This show was great. And I forced our managing editor to let me review it. Although I wonder if the show will stick. The problem is matching the right audience to the show. With all the sexy dancing, I think it appeals to the Zumanity crowd, and yet they’d never know it from the show posters.

* Leonard Cohen at Caesars Palace. This show was simply transcendent. I am literally honored to have seen him perform. It was also one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever written because the show lasted 3.5 hours, allowing me to write copious notes. BTW, I saw Cohen at Coachella a couple years back. I didn’t know it at the time, but the outdoor venue in no way did his music justice.

minUMENTAL INVITATIONAL at Trifecta Gallery. One day, when I am rich, I will collect art. That day has not yet come, so I was really excited about this mini art show at Trifecta. However, I was so disappointed because the art was still out of my price range. Don’t get me wrong, it was reasonably priced. Just not journalistically priced.

Interviewing David Copperfield

I should’ve asked David Copperfield about the fountain of youth. You know, the one that all the Spanish explorers were always traipsing about the New World, enduring all sorts of discomforts in hopes of finding. They never did. Apparently, they weren’t looking hard enough, because a mere 400-odd years later, the world-famous illusionist (claims to have) stumbled across it on one of his 11 private islands.

But during the interview, when I was staring across the hotel desk into Copperfield’s artist eyes—ones that reflected back the secrets of life lived—I knew there ain’t no such thing as a fountain of youth. Sure, he looked great, as the women who catcalled during the show would attest, but finding the fountain of youth is as impossible as walking through the Great Wall of China or making the Statue of Liberty disappear. Oh wait, Copperfield did both. So maybe that’s why, after seeing his show, I wanted to believe just enough to feel a sharp sense of regret for not asking.

Read my article about David Copperfield here.

My Las Vegas Stage Debut

In case you missed it, here’s the YouTube of my first attempt at storytelling entertainment. I was so nervous before I went onstage that I was afraid that I would lose my power of speech or projectile vomit on the front row or both. But after a few minutes in the bright lights, I relaxed and started having fun. I would love to do this sort of thing all the time, but who wants to pay for storytelling? If nothing else, I know that I’ll have fun when I one day go on book tours!

If you want to see the other awesome story tellers, go here: http://www.weeklyseven.com/the-tell

Thanks to my awesome magazine (Vegas Seven), organizer Dayvid Figler and to the El Cortez casino for hosting us!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween feels reduntant in Las Vegas, a city that plays dress-up 365 days a year. (See above for example of a regular ‘ol day in my fair burg.) But that doesn’t stop us from pulling out all the stops on this very special day. So, I want to wish you a very Happy Halloween! Now I gotta go. It’s nigh time to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, simultaneously trying to complete my Sunday errands and find something fun to do that lives up to the gravity of this day. I think it starts with the Halloween Parade downtown. Will I see you there?