Talk of the Conference: Amazon

Is it the longest river in the world? Undoubtedly. Is it a tall, strong woman? Well according to Greek mythology, yes.  Is it a monster ready to eat a publisher’s lunch? Some fear so.  Amazon seems to be the future, and it has everyone in the book industry talking.

Colorado Gold was no exception.  From sessions like “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Selling Your Book on Amazon” to chatter in the famous hospitality suite, to causing questions in the Published Author’s Liaison meeting, Amazon’s “take over” of the publishing industry has caused joy, fear, excitement and concern.  So what’s happening and what’s the big deal?

Amazon, a corporation really still in its infancy (it was started in 1994 with its founder, Jeff Brazos, still at the helm) has grown from the proverbial, couple of computers and some books in a garage to a multinational behemoth that supplies all sorts of retail products directly to the public.  Lots of middle men (and the jobs that go with them) are cut out, in order to provide the consumer a lower priced product.

Some say this is terrific.  In publishing, authors can produce their own books and sell directly to readers without all the clutter and challenges of agents and publishers.  Now, instead of New York telling everyone what to buy in terms of reading, with a few small publishing houses helping newbies along the professional path, everyone can launch a writing career in e-publishing just by going to Amazon and uploading their latest “book.”

Those of us who have gone the traditional route, now risk looking and acting like “dinosaurs” as someone at the conference said.  Our big accomplishment of writing something acceptable enough to get a payment for, is kind of looking like a tortoise route to reaching readers.  More and more people are writing their books, finding a cover artist, and running to the internet. Voila!

But this leads to questions. Big questions.  If Amazon takes over publishing, with little to no competition for an artist’s work, will the pay rates change in favor of the big guy and leave those with the stories out in the cold financially?  When you reduce the judge of quality writing from numerous to one, do you risk cutting off new expression and dissenting voices? Will the reading public–already a small percentage of adults in the U.S.–be so turned off by the amount of garbage to sort through before finding a good read, that they stop reading all together?  What will this lack of literacy do to our ability to form political, moral, and intellectual decisions as a society?

All good questions. But consider that each generation before us has been fearful, wary and suspicious of the new horizons discovered.  If we debated whether it was right for Columbus to sail west, the world may still be “flat.”

Change is as uncomfortable as it is inevitable.  Our job is not to fear it, but to find ways to embrace it and make it our own. Or risk becoming dinosaurs.

So what do you think?  Do you care whether a book you buy has editing and publishing credentials, or are you willing to risk buying a dozen “bad” books at $1.99 in the hopes of finding your one good read?

Upgrading is Reducing My Mac Fun! Grrr…

A story-prompt post:

I believe in computers, honestly I do.  When the Mac first hit the stores in 1986 or ’87, our family was one of those who took it for a test drive and never looked back.  Loved it. When Windows first made an appearance a few years later, I wasn’t impressed.  I had been using almost the same features the Microsoft world was so excited about for a while and had a smiley face boot up as well.  Computer oneupmanship at its finest.

Circumstances forced me into the Windows world (something about work and pay going with the Microsoft environment at the time) and for many, many years I would take only wistful glances at the Mac collecting dust and children’s finger prints at home.

Then, in 2007, I reengaged with the Mac world.  I remember there being a bit of a rough start, so much had changed.  Gone was the smiley face boot up, but the graphics and the speed were impressive.  I struggled to buy into the closing buttons in the upper left instead of upper right corner of the screen (I think Mac and Windows go out of their way to confound us mortal users), the Mac Mail as opposed to Outlook was not so powerful and Numbers was prettier, but harder to get to work. Excel’s bare bones, here’s-your-spreadsheet, now-do-your-job kind of presentation was comfortable.  Still, a few months in, I was boppin’ around my screen with the natural ease of a regular user.

This past weekend, my good guy decided to upgrade my operating system.  Now I am a mountain lion.  Can you hear me roar?  Perhaps you aught to be able to, and here’s why:


No, I am not afraid of change. No, I’m not stuck in the dark ages of personal computing. And no, you cannot call me old or old fashioned (even if the evidence of this is right in front of you–I’m not ready to be relegated to the yesteryear crowd just yet).

So far my “upgrade” (talk about false advertising) has resulted in a whole new, and clutter-filled mail, the loss of an easy way to switch my screens, and slow, slow, turtle slow loads of web pages.  And what the fudgesicle is with all these doggone pop-up “helpers?”  I turned off my “you’ve-got-mail” dings so I could focus.  Now every note and helpful hint just start showing up on my screen whenever they feel like. Grr!  And don’t get me started on the mouse situation. I’m ready for a dozen cats there. I want my old Mac back!

My friend from writing group just sent an email.  She didn’t upgrade, but has been trying to get her email back up after something (unknown cause) went wrong.  Two weeks, a visit or two from her Comcast crew, and several calls to friends asking if they would be so kind as to send out an email message for her, and Mary Ann is back.  What a nightmare.

Between Mary Ann’s woes and my hideous upgrade, I think there’s a story to be written:


Stephen King wrote a fun short story called Trucks about a day when all the world’s vehicles revolted and made us human’s their slaves, pumping them gas and living in terror of which one was going to run us over next.

What if all the world’s computers suddenly had a change of heart about humans?  What if email became an erratic system, firing off all sorts of messages one thought had been erased from the draft folder that was named “I hate you because…”

What would happen if suddenly, no computer would work at all any more?  Electricity on, but networks down everywhere, a la Twilight Zone?


Write a 500-700 word short story based on the malfunction of email, the horrors of upgrading or any other sci-fi based computer jamming story.  Send it to Apple or to Microsoft.  Let the big guys know we mere users hate their upgrades and won’t take their bugs sitting down any more. Heh, heh, heh!

Okay, so Apple and Microsoft wouldn’t appreciate our creative efforts.  A short story like this may find a home in a magazine or short-story contest.  Try checking out Writer’s  Digest’s Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.  They have updated versions each year, and a lot of libraries carry these treasures.

Good luck, both with your story writing and with your computer.