Kobo launches self-publishing portal

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Kobo Inc. has introduced a new self-publishing portal for independent authors and publishers.

Unveiled at Book Expo America in New York today, Kobo Writing Life is designed to help writers become the best authors and publishers possible, the company said in a release. The platform is touted as quick and easy-to-use, with features that provide key reader insights and marketing tools to engage with fans on a global scale.

Currently in the beta stage, the portal uses industry standard ePub files, allowing authors to offer their self-published titles for computer, smart phone or whichever e-reader the reader may choose.

The company said authors will be able to use the self-service e-publishing portal at no cost, and will have control over all aspects of publishing, including price setting, advertising and marketing. Royalties are said to be 10 per cent higher than comparable self-publishing platforms.

“When we started working on Kobo Writing Life, the first thing we did was ask authors what they felt was most important in a self-publishing platform,” said Michael Tamblyn, EVP Content & Merchandising, Kobo. “They were incredibly clear: openness, control, great royalties, incredible reporting and global reach. It should be powerful but drop-dead simple. And there should be people running it who care about writers — not like dropping your treasured manuscript into a machine. We can’t wait to see what authors will do with this.”

Kobo Writing Life is being tested by 50 authors in its beta program. It will be available in English at the end of June for the more than 1,600 authors already signed up. Additional languages and country-specific support will be added in the coming year.

Writers who are interested in signing up for Kobo Writing Life are invited to visit www.kobo.com/writinglife.

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E-sun shines on short-form writers

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The rise of ebooks is injecting new life into a couple of story-telling formats that have been languishing on the fringes of literature for decades.

Amazon reported last month that it has sold more than two million Kindle Singles since it launched the service in January 2011.

These mini-ebooks, which typically run between 5,000 and 30,000 words, have breathed life into the kind of works that are virtually unsaleable in contemporary print markets – those that are too short to be real books and too long for a standard magazine article.

The cover prices are low – from $1 to $5 – but several writers have already managed to parlay the platform into substantial returns, a task made much easier by Amazon’s generous royalty rate.

Even established writers are being encouraged to dip their toes in the short-form waters. Right now, for instance, Ontario author Margaret Atwood is sitting at number 2 position on the Kindle Singles list with her 42-page story, I’m Starved for You.

The good news for writers is that publishers are, for the first time in years, offering these shorter works to the general public. They are putting them in their digital shop windows. People are looking. People are buying. Readers are reading.

The even better news is that Amazon is not alone in embracing the shorter form. Other publishers are starting to break into the market with their own short-form offerings.

There is Byliner, for instance, which specializes in “single sitting” stories (and also features Atwood’s I’m Starved for You). It offers curated archives for its members, in addition to a slate of original commissioned work.

And for non-fiction fans, The Atavist publishes nonfiction stories for digital devices like the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and Nook. The Atavist’s specialty is long-form journalism, a kind of reportage that had, only recently, seemed destined for extinction.

It’s still early days, of course, but there is definitely a sense of excitement around the shorter-form digital format. The potential is there for shorter-form works to break into mainstream reading.

The day may come when short-story writers can climb out of their basements, dusty manuscripts in hand, and emerge into a sunlit landscape where they can actually sell their “cracking good yarns” to members of the general public. For real money. At last.

Lulu.com reports big rise in ebooks

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Lulu.com is reporting that it was the top source of independent content on the iBookstore and Nook Bookstore last year.

According to a Friday post on the Lulu site, ebook creators published 115,517 new ebooks on Lulu.com in 2011, an increase of 22 per cent over 2010. More than 60,000 of those titles are now available in the iBookstore or Nook Bookstore.

The self-publishing partner says it now has 620,000 titles in its ebook catalogue and is planning for “the next generation” of ebooks.

 

iBooks Author seen as boon for journalists

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Rabble.ca writer Wayne MacPhail is enthusiastic about the new Apple iBooks Author as a tool for journalists and publishers of long-form content.

Apple introduced the iBooks Author last month as part of its plunge into the educational/textbook market, but MacPhail thinks the publishing software could serve as a platform for a new form of media-rich journalism.

And not just journalists. Magazine and newspaper publishers should also find the new platform useful.

“Here’s a free tool that’s a better alternative than an ad hoc paperback, or special section, as a way to package a multipart series,” he says in a January 25 column. “Here’s a platform that encourages readers to touch, listen to, watch, engage with and learn from your story. Here’s software that gives anyone the opportunity to tell great stories, in new ways.”

MacPhail says he found the software quick and easy to use. You’ll need a Macintosh computer running the latest version of OSX (Lion) and an iPad to preview and test your book on, however.

A veteran print and online journalist, MacPhail writes regularly for rabble.ca on technology and the Internet.