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Sharing the ePub love

May 11, 2010

I’m pretty cynical about the ebook market, to be honest. Dedicated ereaders are doomed to niche-itude (for reasons best and most bluntly articulated by Nick Mamatas), and I don’t really see myself paying for an e-novel in the foreseeable future. Comics and magazines, maybe, but nothing that I’d like to pick up again down the road, nothing that I’m likely to care about. Even a couple dollars is too much for an ass-ugly text that I can’t reliably share or pass on or expect to enjoy again a few years later.

But I do enjoy free ebooks. Particularly the ones in ePub format. It only takes a minute to download a book from a webpage to my FuturePhone and import it into Aldiko, which manages to render a page of text that is, wonder of wonders, something approaching readable. (I read a good chunk of Blindsight this way, which prompted me to put down cash for that attractive, resilient, highly sharable pinnacle of reading technology, the bound paper copy.) I like both the convenience and experience of reading short fiction on my phone — I always have stories in my pocket, waiting for a long line or short lunch break. Short form meets quick-n’-easy function! And, you know, I enjoy the thought that if I ever get drunk enough to buy an iPad, I’ll be able to read my files there, too. In the near term, ePub’s the closest thing you’re going to find to a file standard, and while I’m not sure people will be using it ten years down the line, it’s pretty easy to carry across platforms now.

The whole free ebook paradigm is convenient for short content, or books that you want to promote far and wide. So it’s a shame there’s not more sharing. You have cool sites like Feedbooks, nice general roundups of free online fiction at places like SF Signal, but not so much in the style of music blogs, where folks share and enthuse over new work (or old work, or middle-aged and balding work). Maybe that’s not surprising — music is mainstream, ebooks emphatically aren’t — but it strikes me as a bit of a wasted opportunity.

With all this in mind, I’m going to start making weeklyish recommendations of newish content available in ePub, and see how that goes. It’s partly (mostly?) for my own sake, to give me further impetus to seek out and talk about fresh, free work. Maybe it’ll give you something new to read, too. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or recommendations, feel free to post them in comments. Without further ado:
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For The Win by Cory Doctorow

It’s Doctorow’s new YA novel, available per tradition on his website. Probably doesn’t need my promotion, but it’s sure to start conversations, and it’d be pretty silly not to include it here. I’m not always onboard with Doctorow’s politics — sometimes he skews so far left that he circles all the way around to the right — but he’s clearly found his niche with near-future YA SF, which gives him a particularly apt platform to indulge in simple, propulsive narratives, lengthy geeky asides, and all-you-can-eat buffets of digital politickin’. This book tracks the formation and trials of a teenage MMORPG labor union in near-future China, and — a couple chapters in — seems like a big step beyond Little Brother.

Download For The Win [ePub]
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The Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel by Michael Moorcock

Moorcock’s novelette (I think it’s a novelette?) pays tribute the interplanetary pulp stories of writers like Leigh Brackett. Reprinted here by Tor.com. Rayguns, red deserts, and badasses in seedy Martian bars.

Download The Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel [ePub]
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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #42

The best dedicated fantasy magazine going is also the best about posting a wide range of electronic formats. This issue features Sarah L. Edwards’ “As the Prairie Grasses Sing” and James Lecky’s “And Other Such Delights.”

Download BSC #42 [ePub]
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