More ways to read than you can shake a stick at

(Happy Veteran’s Day!)

6a00e54fcf73858834019affdac511970bTechnology is amazing.

I mean, twenty years ago, heck, even ten years ago, someone like me would not have (potentially) the entire population of the world for my audience.

Right? Who would have thunk it that you’d be reading this very blog?

You probably do not know me, but happened upon my blog in some random search and got sucked in. Too bad for you, but great for me. 😉

Anyway, my little corner of the web, visible to all the world, would not be possible if it wasn’t for all the technology so ubiquitous today. It has not only changed who we read, but how.

If you think this post is about e-readers. You are wrong. There are new horizons out there, folks. Reading is getting customized.

Pay for What You Read

If you haven’t heard, Smashwoods recently made a new deal with Oyster, a subscription reading service (edit: see end of post for supporting links).


Think Spotify or Pandora’s upgrade service.

You pay a monthly fee and have access to their entire database (whatever that may contain). In the case of Spotify and Pandora, that was music. You listen to all you want, whenever you want.

If the case of Oyster, you’ll read whatever you want, whenever you want (via an app on your device of choice).

How the publisher and author are paid gets complicated. Essentially, there are complex algorithms that figure out how much you’ve read of a particular work and compensation is based on that.


Does anyone else think that’s…unfair?

I buy books all the time that I don’t end up reading. I might some day, but I’m fine with buying the entire book now and waiting for that lazy, Sunday afternoon when I can get to it. Hell, I’m even fine with never reading it. The fact that it piqued my interest at one point indicates to me that the book cover, story blurb, etc did it’s job – it sold the book.

Whether I read it or not seems inconsequential – to me.

But I’ve been brought up in a world when words weren’t so easily flung across the globe. When a book had weight in your hand, took up space on your book shelf, and was made of wood-pulp and ink. I paid my hard-earned cash for all the effort it took to get that fat baby into my hands.

Similarly, I kind of think that the money I pay for an e-book today goes to the writer/publisher/distributor for creating an entire package I find of value. Paying for a portion of it doesn’t seem right.

So, what’s the value of 0’s and 1’s, and a whole host of cloud services that stream a complex pattern into your device? In a few years, will they be streaming that directly into our brains? How much will that cost? How much will we get paid?

You Want a Side Salad with That Steak?

Great technological ideas don’t always fly. I was listening to an NPR program the other day (can’t remember which) and they were talking about the digital wallet, lamenting how it hasn’t quite caught on yet.

In fact, this one. Love it. Oh, no that’s not me. She’s a model, silly!

As a woman, I have the freedom to carry around a purse. A glorified wallet, for sure, but I can’t imagine giving it up for a digital purse or wallet.

Why? Because I like my bag. I put all sorts of things in it that would be impossible (I think) to put in a digital version. It’s got copious amounts of tissue (gotta have ’em – seasonal allergies morph right into flu/cold season), lip balm, my keys, pocket knife, pens (to poke an eye out, I guess, we all know that pens are a thing of the past), and a flashlight (in case my phone dies).

That’s a long way of saying that while Oyster and other reading services are on the cutting edge of digital reading technology, it just may be a fad like the digital wallet. We are not quite ready for it. And might not even want to embrace it.

But here’s another idea that might work.

Hugh Howey, dystopia author of the Silo Saga (Wool, Shift, and Dust), recently posted an idea I thought might catch on. Sort of a buffet for readers. Or the ability to customize their reading experience.

His idea is essentially giving the reader a way to prioritize her reading choices for short story collections. I don’t see why this wouldn’t work for an author’s entire body of work, not just short story collections.

What do you think? Do you know of other ways folks are looking to change the reading experience?

How do you read? What words are you willing to pay for?

Also, check out this post, also by Mr. Howey.  Makes me wonder how reading subscriptions will affect his third and fourth points.


  • Smashwords announcement to distribute through Oyster
  • Part I and Part II – Smashword’s take on e-book subscription services

11 thoughts on “More ways to read than you can shake a stick at

  1. I am in two minds. So far I think digital media for music and films has largely been good for the grass roots – and it will continue to be so while the big boys are physically prevented from creating a monopoly. Monopolies are never good for any business. A broad range of options in the reading experience is necessary whatever technological advances come to pass.

    I watch with caution and neither optimism nor pessimism – and that’s speaking as a reader and as a writer.

      1. This might work for newspapers and associated media. You can read say… up to 5 articles from today’s edition if you pay X… up to ten if you pay X and so on – or even a flat fee per article. But for a book?! *scratches head*.

        I was just away digesting Hugh Howey’s article and what he said makes sense – certainly it would work for short stories and anthologies.

        But novels… I can’t see it. If I give up on a book because I thought it was awful, I will feel resentful that I have had to pay for the “privilege” of giving up. I don’t see how it can work and I’m intrigued enough to see how they think it will work.

      2. Well, with Oyster, you pay a flat, monthly fee ($10/month). Then you can read whatever you like (or not like). The amount you pay doesn’t change.

        What changes is the amount the author/publisher gets paid. They only get paid for what the reader reads.

        An an author, I think that’s kind of unfair. As a reader…I’m not sure how I feel. As I said, when I buy a book now I feel like I am paying for all the effort to bring that book to me (whether that’s in physical or virtual form). Whether I like it or not, whether I read it or not, is beside the point. I’ll either feel it wasn’t worth the money or not. Does that make sense?

      3. Ah yes that makes more sense. I wasn’t familiar with how these things worked. I was thinking of it purely from the reader’s point of view at first.

        It will be unfair to us as writers but the way I see it, so is the present commercial system as it appears.

      4. That’s true.

        And as a reader, one of the things I regret most about buying a book I end up not liking is not the money involved, but the time I’ve “wasted”. With a system like Oyster’s, I suspect that would be minimized.

  2. The whole ebook world is still a lot like the Wild West. I think it’s hard to predict at this point how it’s all going to shake out. But that is a bizarre way to charge, by percentage read. Netflix doesn’t alter the charge if you shut a movie off halfway through.

    1. Right! That’s a good analogy. And why I think it is a bit unfair.

      But, for all we know, maybe the movie distributors only get paid a percentage of the movie watched?

      Even so, I bet the writers of that movie got paid their full fee (or, at least, I hope they did).

      1. Something tells me movie distributors get paid upfront. That’s an industry that has it pretty well ironed-out. I think the percentage-read model isn’t going to catch on or last very long with those using it now.

  3. Interesting concept with Oyster, but, like you, I wonder how authors will be paid for our efforts. My small press publisher uses Smashwords, but there is no mention of Oyster in my contract with them. I wonder how or when Smashwords plans to negotiate with publishers and/or self-publishers on how this Oyster deal affects us.

    1. I hate to say, but they already have. Are you not on their email notification list? You may want to subscribe to the Smashword’s blog.

      You can read more on their blog, but essentially:
      “Smashwords authors will earn their royalty whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than a sample of their book. “

      So, I guess, that’s not too bad for Smashword’s authors. You can read the whole announcement here:

      And you might also want to check out their two-part series about the whole new technology and how it might impact the market:

      Sorry I didn’t include those links above, I’ll go fix that!

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