What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Capitulation. I’m appalled that a corporation with the size and resources of Sony Pictures folded like a rag doll when faced with what basically scales up to nation-state level cyber bullying. Personally, I would have put The Interview on every screen possible, made it available for free online, and publicized the hell out of it at every step – a full page ad in the Sunday New York Times unequivocally stating that Sony will not be intimidated or extorted. I’m even more alarmed at the silence coming out of our political leaders in Washington. At first blush this was a cyber attack directed against a private company, but what it really was is an attack on intellectual property every bit as real as an attack on a US flagged ship on the high seas or a missile targeted at one of our cities. Hacking carried out at the behest of a foreign power should be treated as seriously and responded to with as much fury as a conventional attack on American soil. If cyber is going to be the new frontier, we’d damn well better start defending it instead of showing cowardice in the face of the enemy.

2. Story Time. I’m sure all your family traditions and legends of Christmases past are very important to you. The memories undoubtedly fill you with happiness and joy. As someone who’s only a step or two removed from being a complete stranger, however, your stories don’t do much for me besides make me wonder why the hell I’m sitting here listing to you tell me about mid-century Christmas in the American heartland. It’s not so much that I don’t care about Christmas as it is I don’t care about *your* version of Christmas in 1964. It’s a distinction that some people seem to have a much more difficult time making than they really should.

3. Cuba. The Cold War’s over. We won. The very best thing we can do for the hungry and oppressed people of Cuba in the 21st century is welcome their island country into the warm embrace of the Monroe Doctrine, normalize relations, open two or three Atlantis-style resorts, a few casinos, and turn the place into a tourist destination. Some day in the not too distant future the Brothers Castro are going to be dead and I’d rather our interests have a leg up then find themselves looking in from the outside.

Introduction to Smashwords…

So over the weekend, I realize that I may have not done a very good job explaining one of the retail channels I selected to do business with. Being the biggest in the business, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are pretty much self explanatory. They’re forces of nature that you just accept you’ll do business with if you want to write and publish a book. Sure, you can work around them, but why would you want to?

The third retailer I opted to work with is Smashwords. Unless you have a deep abiding hatred of the big e-retailers or are a serious fan of independent writers, chances are you’ve never heard of them. Hopefully I allretailers can turn you around a bit on that, because I’ve found Smashwords to be a fantastic platform for the indy writer (translation: the author gets to keep a much larger percentage of every sale than they do with sales through other retailers).

Although they are a retailer in their own right, Smashwords biggest claim to fame is that they are large and growing ebook distributor. That means their primary mission in life is making indy works available to a wide variety of other retailers like Apple, Sony, Kobo, and others. This is a good thing because the goal, really, is to have your work available in as many places as possible in addition to the Big Two. More distribution channels means more opportunities for someone to see and hopefully buy your ebook… and that makes for a happy author.

From a reader’s perspective, Smashwords has a lot going for it too. Primarily, that’s because once you buy an ebook from them, you can download it in all of the major ereader formats. Whether you own a Nook, Kindle, or iPad, a Sony reader, something from Kobo, or you just want to read on your laptop or desktop, you can download your book in a format best suited for what device you’re currently using. It’s a great way to make sure your ebooks are not locked in to a specific device or proprietary format. While the e-reader market struggles to sort itself and its industry standards out, you’re safe from the impacts of format change and obsolescence. If you happen to be a voracious reader with a large e-library, that’s a very good thing.

So that’s my pitch by way of introducing everyone to Smashwords. If you’re looking for a read that’s not on the best seller list or have a itch for some of the great independent work out there today, give them a go. I’ve been very impressed with them as both a writer and a reader for the last year. If you’re in a clicking mood, feel free to check out The Cynic’s Guide on Smashwords and take a look around the site.