Tuesday, 22 February 2011



Read an E-Book weekBeWrite Books has enthusiastically participated in Read an Ebook Week (RAEBW) since the new green-letter day appeared on the calendar in 2004. Last year, we gave away hundreds of ebooks during the annual celebration of the ebook revolution.

It did us and our enthusiastic and generous authors no harm. Until mid-2010 paperback accounted for about ninety percent of BeWrite Books sales and ebooks around ten percent, but there has been a complete swing. 

All signs are that in 2011 ninety percent of BeWrite Books titles will now sell as ebooks with paperbacks accounting for ten percent. And even our paperback sales are on the up-and-up.

That sends a clear message; people are not only changing their reading habits – they're reading MORE than ever. That's good news.

Amazon – the biggest book seller in history – now reports ebooks outselling hardback and paperback combined of even brand new blockbusters. Brick-and-mortar bookstores that stubbornly resisted the new technology rather than embracing it and adapting are closing in droves. Major chains announce bankruptcy, job lay-offs and shut-downs with dismaying regularity.

The crying shame is not that they're closing (sad as that is to those who love to browse physical shelves [I'm one of you]), so much as that they had every chance and every resource to avoid this disaster, meet the challenge and keep the customer satisfied, but didn't bother.  Major publishers are desperately trying to catch up at the last minute – many struggling to keep afloat by cutting editorial staff to the bone. Major houses are going belly-up.

Ebooks have entered the mainstream – forty years after the very first prototype was released. (Read the history here.) You'll also learn there that the admirable Project Gutenberg whose volunteers produce ebooks of classics and Public Doman works – gave away ONE MILLION free ebooks in a single 140-hour period!

They laughed at Marconi, but they laughed even louder at me with the launch of BeWrite Books and my wildly enthusiastic predictions of the rise of ebooks with, perhaps, tedious regularity over the past decade. I resisted an 'I told you so', but I couldn't smother a chuckle when one of my crystal ball-gazing moments prompted me five years ago to outrageously predict an ebook-dedicated reading device hanging bubble-wrapped for £50 at the Tesco supermarket checkout by the end of 2011.

OK, I admit I got the supermarket wrong. The fifty quid device is now on sale at ASDA. Tesco is peddling cut-price Kindles at an only slightly higher price. My other predictions were notably more accurate.

But we've been preaching to the choir for the past nine years. Our effort this year ain't about pushing BeWrite Books' superbly in house-produced ebooks to established ebook lovers (lovingly prepared by tech and design partner, the wizard Tony Szmuk)... it's about promoting the very ebook concept itself. It's about introducing more and more folks to the sheer joy (and economy) of e-reading.

It's about sending a message to those who are still in love with paper, at the expense of four BILLION trees a year . Books should be read in the shade of a tree, not sitting on its dead stump. (click on the sub-head above ro read more)

A staggering eighty MILLION trees are scheduled for the axe during Read an Ebook Week alone. Let's try to save some – at least those millions hacked down and pulped purely to produce paperback books (fifty percent of which are returned to publishers, unsold by brick & mortar bookshops in your local high street, to be destroyed).

And it's about promoting our pet campaign ... the freedom of the ebook from unwarranted and bloody annoying Digital Rights Management (DRM) padlocks that restrict its use and the ability to share ebooks we believe you own and do not merely licence with strings attached.

DRM doesn't deter pirates as some publishers glibly claim. Most pirate ebooks are produced by simply scanning the pages of new blockbuster hardbacks and paperbacks – and no self respecting pirate would dare fly his Jolly Roger if he couldn't strip DRM in moments ... heck, instructions are all over the internet. DRM is there to force honest buyers into multiple buys of a single title. It's a huge joke to the dishonest and a downright insult to the honest.

And our wee part in the ebook campaign is also about encouraging a new generation, wired to sound and video and computer games, to discover the value of the WRITTEN word. They don't need fancy new devices. They can read on their ubiquitous smartphones and iPods until Mom  and Dad buy them a Sony, a Kobo, a Kindle, a Nook or whatever for their birthday (and for their study and course work, let's remember).

A book, we must never forget, is its content and not its means of presentation. Books have thrived since stone-carved symbols, clay tablets, hieroglyphics, scrolls and hand-copied codex went out of fashion.

Books became available to everyone after Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg knocked up the first crude hand-cranked printing engine from an old wine press in his cellar. In the six centuries since Gutenberg's DIY brainwave, we have seen only fancy refinements of his prototype that brought reading to countless millions around the world and is responsible for the greatest rate of literacy in the history of the human race.

Now comes the ebook and the handy, ebook reading device that lets you carry an entire library in your pocket, store tens of thousands of books in your PC or laptop using free library software like the excellent Calibre that will catalogue your collection and even convert from one digital format to another in seconds. (Click the link for a free download of the best library software in the world.)

And, yes, you can read an ebook in the bath. With an inexpensive leather cover, it even smells and feels just as wonderful as those swanky volumes the local lending library won't let you take home to read.

The possibilities of ebook reading are as endless as the potential of literature, art and education itself.

So here's the deal: ANYONE, ANYWHERE who buys an ebook OR a printed 'treebook' from ANY PUBLISHER from ANY online OR brick-and-mortar store from March 6 – March 12 (Read an Ebook Week) can provide some simple form of proof of sale to a special new BeWrite Books email address RAEBW@bewrite.net ... and claim any two BeWrite Books ebook titles from our catalogue in the format of their choice FREE OF CHARGE. This temporary address will be live from March 5 to March 13 to take into account international time zones.

Those who actually buy an ebook or paperback direct from BeWrite Books bookstore itself during that period get the same deal ... but with a surprise bonus or two.

Fair enough?

We and our authors think so because we all stand to benefit from the general and global explosion in ebook popularity, just as you do,  and – as well as seeking the widest possible exposure of our exclusive works by some of the finest writers on the planet – we want to help the ebook-reading culture grow and grow and grow ... like trees are meant to.

Top of the food chain is the reader. As his/her feeding habits change, we aim to keep up with his/her appetite. 

This wee gesture is just a statement of intent to encourage e-reading and to help in a tiny way our beautiful, fragile planet. No matter how much you think you love the look and feel of that paperback or hardback, any lover of art must surely appreciate that leaves belong on trees.

And a wee PS to those who still choose BeWrite Books in paperback: We won't hold it against you. Even our paperbacks' covers and pages are produced on special 'woodless' paper. So no trees are sacrificed in the production of a BB book – paperback or ebook (though we confess that a few electrons might be mildly inconvenienced). We might be green at BB, but we're not cabbage-looking.
Happy Read an Ebook Week, folks. Tony Szmuk, Neil Marr, Hugh McCracken, Sam Smith, and the rest of the team and authors at BeWrite Books.

AND WE COMMEND TO YOU OUR LIVE AND PERMANENT LINKS HERE ON THE BLOG AND IN OUR BOOKSTORE'S FRONT PAGE TO THE ADMIRABLE CALIBRE, MOBILEREAD AND RAEBW WEBSITES. Please take some time to check them out. Assuredly computer-safe,  assurely non-space-grabbing, assuredly free, assuredly the best ... and assurably not to be missed!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


http://shequilts.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/aussie-flag.gif?w=500Today, we're breaking BeWrite Books blog's tradition to stray from the usual subject of books and publishing ... just a tad.

Many of our authors are Australian by birth or by adoption. Many personal friends and ever-close family members live there (my own now entering their fourth generation), on the Fatal Shore that could never defeat them. "She'll be right," has proven to be no empty show of desperate optimism but a casual declaration of quiet determination.

Aussies are, by nature, kind and tough, warm- and stout-hearted, sharp-witted and informal. Among all nations, they prefer a joke to a jibe. Rarely do they boast of their mind-boggling achievements or trumpet their nationalism. Austrlia is a country born behind bars and now more free than perhaps any other on the planet. It openly apologises for the mistakes all nations' pioneers make in their birth pangs, and its current generations make amends to the very best of their boundless ability.

The country is artistically and courageously creative, it is practically innovative. It lies remote from the northern hemisphere and what is known as 'The West'. But it is a jewel in our planet's crown (though that description would make many an Aussie blush).

Only by the habit of ages do we hang our maps and position our  class room globes North Pole uppermost. There is no cosmic or geographical reason for that. A habit we might well consider dunny-worthy.

So g'day family and mates in Oz and those many others here with strong ties Down Under. The  video clip below was sent today by old true-blue Brit pal and prolific author Ian Skidmore (read about his new BB /RBP book in the blog post beneath this one).

The song he sent me beats the oft misunderstood 'Jolly Swag Man' and knocks the socks off 'God Save the Queen' when it comes to an appropriate Australian national Anthem (especially today – maybe not so especially today, come to think). It is sung, not with sombre expressions and hands ostentatiously on hearts, accompanied by military bands, but with smiles on glowing faces of all hues and of all ages in the free-and-easy atmosphere of a canteen. Must admit, it brought not a few tears to these auld een, severely watering my breakfast beer.

As did these words recently, penned by another old UK newspaper colleague; ace international reporter and former national newspaper editor, Brian Hitchen:

Some of us have covered terrible disasters, where tidal waves have swept a wall of mud before them, and hurricanes have rolled double-storey houses, end over end, until they collapsed in rubble and matchwood.

And from out of the wreckage, crawl human beings. They always do. It's called survival ... One of two things will happen.

... The survivors find a patch of dry ground, and wait. Until the international aid agencies, like the UN Food Programme, or Oxfam, trailed by television crews, arrive to feed them.

In Australia, when a disasters happen, there is no food, no drinking water, no power, no fuel, no hospitals.

But the people didn't sit on their arses and wait for the Salvation Army tea wagon to arrive. They emerged from the swamp water and the wreckage of their homes, and they got on with it. Without a bloody Oxfam guy within a thousand miles.

I am filled with admiration, for those tough, big-hearted, courageous, Australians.

So cop an earful if this, lads and lassies, Bruces and Sheilas; and I dare you not to be catch your breath with well deserved (if stubbornly concealed) pride.

NOTE: The link above now works perfectly -- thanks, Tony) 

Love and very best wishes to all those who refuse to be down under when disaster strikes, to those who climb the highest peaks of human endeavour and remind the rest of us of what's so largely forgotten in this splintered world: We Are One, But We Are Many. Neil M et al

PS: Every hit on this YouTube link adds another wee slice of Google ad income to the flood fund. If you don't click, you're missing something of great value ... but the Aussies will get by anyway. She'll be right. N

Thursday, 3 February 2011



Forgive Us Our Press Passes by Ian SkidmoreBeWrite Books today breaks new digital ground in its exclusive teaming with an innovative print publisher who's launched an exciting new genre ... HACK-LIT.

Hack-lit is books by hugely experienced and immensely talented old-school journalists with appeal to a general readership. So, really, it's quietly been around, if unrecognised, for donkeys' years.

Journalists have always been uniquely skilled in successful mass-communication with their reading public from the first crude single-page news and ballad sheets to today's raunchy tabloids, admirably courageous publications that can bring down governments, and impressive film documentaries that can, and do, change the world.

And when you hear that tired old adage, 'don't believe all you read in newspapers', remember that if there was no essential truth, they would not still be on your doorstep every morning or in their online incarnations. Governments, giant global corporations and the rich and famous would not shudder in fear at the journalist's (largely) unfettered due to publish and be damned Рwith only you in mind. Freedom of the press is a basic human right ... and mankind's saving grace. Always believe the evidence before your eyes rather than a warmed-over clich̩.

Journalists have been writing for you since soon after Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenburger (Gutenberg to thee and me) was just a messy thing in his pram and then a struggling young feller knocking an old wine press into a primitive, hand-cranked printing engine, away from prying eyes in his cellar ... the written word's first best-cellar?

It took ebooks nearly six centuries to revolutionise Gutenberg's wonderful basic model (everything meantime has been mere twiddling with his prototype). A book's a book, its content is king. In the long, long run, little has changed other than its means of presentation for wider consumption.

But what makes this new venture different and so very special is that Revel Barker, who heads Revel Barker Publishing (RBP), has identified journalists' full-length contemporary non-fiction books as a specific and deserved literary category in their own right and now publishes them in spanking new paperback form.

There are currently a dozen titles – and counting – in his Hack-lit catalogue here.

And Revel – former managing director of the massive Mirror Group of newspapers in the UK, and no mean reporter and writer himself in humbler days as an on-the-road hack – has agreed, with enthusiastic author-cooperation, that BeWrite Books should help spread the word by giving many of his titles the ebook treatment in beautifully prepared new digital editions, word-faithful to their print equivalent, to run in all modern formats for international distribution and instant download at $5.95 (that's about £3.70 or local equivalent) for reading on electronic platforms from PCs and laptops, through the entire range of new ebook-dedicated reading devices and tablets, to iPods and ubiquitous Blackberries and smartphones. A couple of swift jars in tap room currency.

This, folks, is new technology at work and applied to a new genre ... an art form with whiskers on it.

The new hack-lit ebooks – to be released by BeWrite Books at a rate of about one new title every month or so – cover everything from outrageous (sometimes graveyard) humour and big-star and randy-royal, true-as-gospel insider gossip, to intriguing mystery and suspense, and to fascinating winks and nods as to how the mighty have fallen (and risen) in our lifetimes.

Hack-lit's authors range from the world famous to those lower-profile scribes whose by-lines countless millions of readers over the years glimpsed only in passing in small print at the top of memorable and glowingly informative news stories from the field and breathtakingly insightful in-depth features in newspapers and magazines.

Hack-lit is the inside story in its tell-all glory and riotous infamy. It's what you really shouldn't know. Stories told out of school. More accurately in this case, out of the pub.

And the word 'hack', I must explain, is not an insult but a compliment in intimate journalistic company. Like the naughty 'n-word' in an exclusively black group, the cheeky use of 'queer' within gay circles, or calling your female boss 'love', its casually barbed and misinformed use by outsiders is not welcomed. There's an easy answer ... become an insider. Pull up a bar stool, stand your round and join our members-only circus. Join the hacks.

First up is the hilarious Forgive Us Our Press Passes (released in BeWrite Books ebook editions today) by an author who, quite literally, has whiskers on him.  Ian 'Skiddy' Skidmore sports one of the most impressive handlebar moustaches in living memory. He lost in a public moustache contest with the famous British TV and movie star, the late Jimmy Edwards, only because Prof Jimmy had cheated by cunningly mingling his own handlebar with whiskers sprouting from his cheeks. Skiddy's is guaranteed cheek-free. Like a man who plays from a square bat, as per the gentlemanly rules of cricket, Skiddy's outstanding growth originates sportingly and entirely from his stiff upper lip. Oh, and he also has one of the most impressive journalistic CVs you could dread to read.

Ian's an old superhero of mine from my own newspaper days; first shared with him and other worthies on late night/early morning reporting shifts in the Daily Mirror news room in Manchester and the office's after-hours watering holes back in the sixties.

Manchester was the largest press printing centre outside Moscow at the time – Fleet Street itself trailed in third place. Now, Manchester no longer quakes as the giant presses thunder and even proud and historical Fleet Street is a mere address in London EC4.

Ian Skidmore was an ace national newspaper reporter, news editor, syndicated columnist, and he also hosted his own hugely popular weekly BBC radio show for many years. He also has nearly thirty non-fiction books and novels under his hugely generous belt, many of them best-sellers. And he writes on in his lively eighties with another new book already on the stocks.

Forgive Us Our Press Passes
is ... och well; I won't bother you with that here. 'Read all abaht it!' and its author by visiting the front page of the BeWrite Books bookstore or pop into RPB's bookstore through the link provided above.

You could also get some intriguing and/or belly-laugh-fun info straight from source as a Friday regular if you visit 'the last pub in Fleet Street', Revel's own website.  That's where a whole bunch of us old news hounds from around the globe gather to bay at the DH Lawrence-style Moon and Stars and to swap tall tales and dark secrets among friends.

Ian himself has a wonderfully entertaining and insightful blog, Skidmore's Island, which is updated with new material every Sunday.

Next Hack-lit title up? Who knows? We'll spring it on you as a surprise in March. So watch this space.

Info on the ebook edition of 'Forgive Us Our Press Passes': author, Ian Skidmore; editor of revised and extended edition, Revel Barker; technical preparation, text design and ebook distribution, Tony Szmuk at BeWrite Books. Available at the BeWrite Books bookstore and all major and minor online ebook retailers as of now. For paperback, hit any major online bookstore or just drop a line direct to the RBP publisher: revelbarker@gmail.com. 

And a reminder: even if you don't have a Kindle or sadly found no other fancy new reading gizmo under the Christmas tree, you can read all BeWrite Books ebooks in PDF on your old-fashioned PC, laptop or netbook, Kindle Mobi editions can be read on your home computers by free download of the Kindle-for-PC app and ePub can be read using free Calibre Library software.

***As usual with new BB releases, the first six readers of this blog post can email me for a free download of 'Forgive Us Our Press Passes' in the digital format of their choice. Review is more than welcome, but not an obligation. That's ntmarr@bewrite.net.

Happy reading and best wishes, chums. Catch you very soon with a stunning new BeWrite Books mystery novel release in paperback and ebook from popular crime mystery author ... Ros... well, wait and see, eh?

Very best wishes. Neil