The 2014 Hugo Award Winners

Whatever

This is one of the best slates ever. Info taken from here. Full ballot results are here.

The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, Loncon 3, has announced the 2014 Hugo Award winners. 3587 valid ballots were received and counted in the final ballot.

BEST NOVEL

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

BEST NOVELLA

“Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)

BEST NOVELETTE

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)

BEST SHORT STORY

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

BEST RELATED WORK

“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY

“Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM

Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films;Warner Bros.)

BEST DRAMATIC…

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Publishing News I

This weekly series of publishing news will serve a dual purpose:

1) I’ve just started a Grad. Cert. Editing and Publishing at UTS, so it will help me be prepared for class.
2) It will encourage me to keep up-to-date with publishing and to actually think about current events.

I’m posting this is a few days later than intended, I will try to have this done by Saturday or Sunday at the end of each week.

Highlights from last week (28/7 – 1/8)

Amazon and Hachette’s fight continues
Amazon has announced what the very public disagreement with Hachette is actually about.  Amazon wants the majority of e-books to sell for $9.99, instead of $14.99 or $19.99. Amazon claims that by lowering the price of e-books more units of each book will be sold, therefore increasing overall profits. Amazon also want a 30% cut of sales. The remaining 70% would go directly to Hachette, though Amazon think they should give authors 35% of that. In their release Amazon said:

A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

Just because some books may sell more if they are cheaper, doesn’t mean that every book will. For some authors pricing it at $9.99 may be a disadvantage. Furthermore, while production costs for e-books are lower than print books there are still costs associated with e-books: editing, cover design, layout etc. I think it’s reasonable to pay a decent price for an e-book if it means that it will be a quality item.

And speaking of e-book quality …
Publishers concerned about e-book production quality

Data Conversion Laboratory & Bowker Survey on Digital Publishing Industry Shows Publishers’ Increased Concern about eBook Quality Conversion quality, formatting, and complexity are among top concerns.

Publishers are increasingly concerned with quality as they move towards digital productions, according to a new survey on trends in the digital publishing industry. Of the respondents, 84 percent are planning to publish digitally in 2014 (an increase of 21 percent over the prior year), and 52 percent of respondents said quality of digital conversion was the aspect of greatest concern.

“Books in digital formats are continuing to become the norm,” said Laura Dawson, Product Manager at Bowker. “More and more publishers are planning to publish digitally. As a result, quality in conversion has become more important than ever, and cost is no longer as big a factor as it has been in the past. The challenge for publishers now is to ensure that all conversion and content quality is done with the greatest amount of care, especially to meet reader expectations.”

As a reader, I certainly agree that when e-books are converted to a digital format they need to be high-quality and retain the integrity of the original texts. I would like to see publishers just as concerned about the quality of digital first or digital only books. I know that many publishers care less about e-books (especially digital first or digital only) than print books, but digital really is just increasing in popularity so publishers should start caring about the quality of all e-books, not just those converted from print. I’m particularly thinking about editing in this respect – the same level of editorial care should be given to digital formats as is given to print.

Toronto book fair launches self-publishing awards

Another step forward for self-publishing is the news of a new award for Canadian self-published books that will be launched at Inspire! the Toronto International Book Fair in November. The award is titled ‘The Creating of Stories: Canada’s Self-Publishing Awards’ and has three categories based on audience age: adult, young adult and children. According to the Rules and Regulations, the criteria for judging is:
a. Excellence in approach to subject matter
b. Creative use of images & graphics
c. Overall ability to appeal to a large audience
d. Creative use of language or text
e. Overall design
f. Cover art

It’s great to recognise self-published authors in their own category, especially since it’s a growing sector of the book publishing industry. I like the judging criteria as well, it really acknowledges the whole package that self-published authors need to create.

Stories

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel – or have done and thought and felt; or might do and think and feel –  is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.

And a person who had never listened to, nor read a tale or myth or parable or story, would remain ignorant of his own emotional and spiritual heights and depths, would not know quite fully what it is to be human. For the story – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the mind of man, for the purpose of gaining understanding.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin 1

Books, novels, comics, games, movies, web series, blogs and oral storytelling are all mediums that we use to tell a story. Each medium allows a unique tale to be told in a way that reaches different people and touches them differently. I love stories and I love them in all their forms, however my favourite way to engage with stories is through reading books.

My beliefs about the power and usefulness of stories has been shaped by the ideas expressed by Ursula K. Le Guin (above) and other writers. While I enjoy novels and short stories as entertainment, their greatest value is in facilitating understanding. By which I mean that they help us understand ourselves, others and the world at large by making us think and feel. We become empathetic by seeing the world through the character’s eyes and gaining an insight into how other people think. What other way is there to do this, but in stories? The best books, the ones that stay with you the longest, are the ones that make you think, reflect or see things differently. Nor do these texts need to depict an ideal – many authors, such as Joe Abercrombie, create dark and gritty realms and often depict unsavoury characters.2 In some ways, I love these kinds of novels even more because I am given access to the thoughts and motivations of people I least understand.2

Growing up I mostly read science fiction and fantasy (predominately fantasy), and this still constitutes a large part of my reading life. Precisely because it is set apart from reality, fantasy is an excellent genre to explore the human condition, the norms of our society, and our cultural beliefs and values. We are able to envision a completely (or slightly) different reality, where we are invited to contemplate, in depth, theoretical people and societies: to analyse their structure and morals, and to compare them against our own.

Stories that are well-researched can also give you general knowledge – so many times someone’s asked me how I know something and my response has been that I read it somewhere. Of course not everything you read is true, but learning to analyse what you read gives you good critical thinking skills. Indeed, storytelling is a valued teaching tool; the Bible, for example, is full of parables.

Storytelling has always been a part of human culture and I imagine it always will be, albeit in different forms. Stories are so inherent to humans, so necessary, that it makes sense that we experience our world and process our understandings through them.

1 Le Guin, Ursula K., from ‘Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction as a Way of Seeing,’ The Living Light 7 (1970) quoted in The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (1979) Putnam Pub Grou
2 For example, his First Law trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings.