Reader Engagement to Be the Next Big Thing

Amazon ™ just today announced in a letter to its authors, that instead of their previous method of reimbursing authors for borrowed books, they are moving to a system that awards a certain amount per page of the borrowed book that was read. Few authors realize how often a book -in fact this is true even more so with bestsellers – does not get read.

People buy a best selling author because everyone else is buying it: word of mouth, reviews, and several obtuse factors (“I want it on my shelf”) can all lead to the purchase. But often there is not enough due diligence.  Too frequently there is not any questioning about whether you would actually enjoy reading that best seller. Indeed romance readers are far more likely to read to their HEA ending of a romance, than the typical best seller.

But as Amazon with its KU (TM) program and others move to reimbursing authors based on reader involvement, the question becomes, how will worth be translated into metrics like pages read? Will pictures count for 1000 words, or none? That will effect coffee tables and children’s authors.  Will dialogue-intensive genres like romance get a bonus (i.e, more pages) or, as I expect will happen with Amazon’s page count method, will they be penalized?

As a writer of mostly nonfiction, I wonder what will become of information intensive books in which chapters 10 and 13 may be more compelling than  Chapter 3? I have faith in technology to be able to eventually handle these issues, but in the interim, when retailers make business decisions based on imperfect technology, this could really impact the field, more than people imagine. Will the next James Joyce give up because his readers put the book down after 8 pages, only to pick it up a month or two later?

Overall, I think that big data will win the most from this, and it will be a way to commoditize writing content, that the distributors have only dreamed of until now. Will writers make two cents a word (at least for borrowed books) or three, and will an upstart company, paying more per word, be the next Amazon? It is a slippery slope that the retail giant has embarked on, and it depends on Jeff Bezos and his peers, and how well they play their hand, and whether a free market economy can bring out the best in writers. I believe this move could easily be the kind of over reach that opens the door to more competition, buy we shall see.

 

PTSD Overdiagnosed in Soldiers?

No way.

An article in NY times tried to argue that PTSD in returning soldiers is really just lack of home support, because more are being diagnosed than actually saw enemy fire. Obviously misguided.

If you sit in a hostile foreign land where your companions are being killed, you do not have to be shot at to be traumatized. One client I had, for example, had PTSD from the Panama Canal zone even though he was never shot at. It was nevertheless disturbing on a daily basis, since his job was to go up and down the canal in the body barge collecting bodies. That picture in his head was still traumatic.

While it is true that in cultures where there is more affluence there is greater alienation and social supports are low for any problems one has, that does not account for these numbers. Some people get trauma from a car accident, or even seeing one. Should not up close and personal experience of war count as much as how many bullets one dodges? My definition of trauma is rather broad : any event(s) that exceed(s) your resources.

 

There are a few misdiagnoses, such as TBS being mistaken for PTSD. Not nearly so many as there were when the VA tried to mislabel for economic reasons..

Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 8:01 am  Comments (1)  
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Been a While

Since I posted here so I thought I would ay least throw out a few random thoughts so this site does not develop rigor mortis.

As for politics, America has only one party, the establishment, with left and right wings loosely called democrats and republicans (no capitalization is intended, not worthy of it). Tea Party activists do the bidding of the republican establishment, and progressives carry water for the democratic establishment.

Sheldon Adelson, who supplied Newt Gingrich’s entire bankroll, now is putting all his money and power behind getting government on our backs, controlling the internet by banning things like online poker. Next will be angry birds?

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  

General Hospitable- Soap Opera Surges

I am rather amused that everyone seems so obsessed about who General Petraeus is sleeping with or sharing his smiley faces by email.  This whole affair is more like a soap opera than a real issue, worthy of public debate. It is a reality show run amuck. I think they could have a Bachelor Pad type set up on a middle east base, with the top brass and their wives/girlfriends, complete with candid footage shot by drone.  American viewers could vote them off one at a time, until the last general and his partner get to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

I for one am pleased that the real surge included women in a support role, but I think we would be better off if we put the women in charge of the military ansd politcal choices, especially when it comes to conflict. Men can be so alpha, and the last thing the military needs is a few alpha men trying to “one up” each other. This is, I think, the best argument I have heard in a long time, for cutting military spending.

I really thought the days of J. Edgar Hoover were over, when  the FBI had dossiers on all the politicians and could use them as they please, to end or build someone’s careers. This was the slippery slope we started back down when we made getting a warrant unncessary during the Bush and Cheney era. Everybody said, “hey, don’t worry, it will only be used against terrorists.” 

I did not  really expect to see Petraeus and Ossama Bin Laden given the same protections (none) and now we know that the agencies with access to emails and other personal communications will use them to curry favor, and to tarnish rivals.

If they can snoop and blackmail when it comes to flirtations, custody battles, and affairs, who really believes that it won’t also be done for financial and/or political gain? I want my constitution back, especially my rights to privacy.

Newt Gingrich and John Edwards at the Top?

Rumor has it that if Newt Gingrich doesn’t win the 2012 nomination, he will be running as a third Party candidate, in a party tentatively labeled as the Party Party.

He plans to ask John Edwards to be his running mate, because John is the only politician who can make Newts affair look normal (both cheated often on their spouses while they were dying of cancer, but Gingrich can argue that at least he was willing to get a divorce).

Their motto would be “A line of credit at Tiffany’s for your mistress!” Newt plans to accept Romney’s 10K bet, as he hopes to take his campaign staff along on his next Greek Island cruise. He and Edwards also plan to co-author a book entitled “The Two America’s: Those Who Commit and Those Who Won’t.” A second book Cheating for Dummies, is being co-authored with Sarah Palin.

Newt, ever the idea man, seems to have no idea how sleezy he seems.

Black Friday and the Seedy Side of Shopping

Well we made it through Black Friday. The good news is that Americans went crazy buying things, a likely boost to our sluggish economy. The bad news is people went crazy buying things. Literally.

It was fairly common to find people stealing things out of other people’s shopping carts, a surefire way to express the holiday good cheer. And I am sure you saw the people stepping over the man who had fallen, and heard of the lady who used pepper spray instead of mistletoe to get her way.

It is easy to chock this up to the moral decline in america, or to the bad economy stressing everyone, but I can tell you who I blame, and you can follow the money! These stores, at great profit, delberately attempt to create a “rush” or panic and spend a good sum of money on insuring that people will act like the running of the bulls.

The stores could offer IOU’s that would allow customers a chance to pick up an out of stock item a week or two later, or better yet, they could stay open 24/7 — if its such an all-fire important event — and maybe stagger the sales every hour or two, (or when the blue light goes on).

Given our bad economy, these merchants (of death?) might even hire 5% or 10% more workers for the season, to help keep the shelves stocked, the stampede moving, and the cash registers ringing. Black Friday used to refer to the moment when businesses first went into black, after being in the red all year. Now it is when they first turn on shoppers and rend them.

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Making Practical Use of Psychology

I was interested to hear on NPR other day that 2 cognitive psychologists were able to pinpoint the location of a sunken Australian ship from WWII.

They used the techniques of the discipline to examine the stories — previously discounted — of the eye witness accounts of nearly 300 Germans who were rescued from a German ship involved in the same skirmish. The stories that were told by the eyewitnesses were even more fuzzy than most eye witness accounts.

The psychologists were able to pin point the spot that had the most in common with all the different versions, and came within less than 3 miles of where the ship Sydney actually was found.

While this may not be all that helpful in finding other ships (unless there were lots of eye witnesses), it might be useful in figuring out where our politicians really stand. We could map out all of Rick Perry’s or Barak Obama’s comments about social security and see where the truth is buried!

I am not meaning to imply these guys have different positions just because of faulty memories, but the distortions of memories that we all have may provide the statistical noise that allows us to find what was the essence of what they were saying.

Hemispheric Brain Differences From a New Perspective

I wanted to share with my readers a memorable video by a brain researcher, Jill Bolte Taylor, who was able to use her own scientific skills to observe her experiences with a left hemisphere stroke, as it took over her mind, and as she recovered from it.

As a clinical psychologist who also likes to stay on the cutting edge, I am a big fan of TED, (technology, entertainment and design) in my opinion the most innovative group of people you can conference with. Ms. Taylor gave this gift of a lecture/video during a TED conference in the spring of 2008.

The right hemsiphere and left hemisphere have very different functions, as many of you know, and she likens the non-dominant right hemisphere to a parallel processor, concerned not only with creativity, and connections, but with the here and now.

The left hemisphere, the dominant one, she likens to a parallel processor, and it is involved with linear, methodical thinking and language. These are not new concepts, but she is able to vividly describe how they feel, as she experiences one side or the other as her stroke progressed.

Her most unique contribution was, however, was to note that the non-dominant hemisphere feels connected to the whole universe, and fails to distinguish us as separate from our surroundings. It is all about the present, and in that moment, we are all one.

The dominant hemisphere — in contrast –sees us as separate. It is focused on the past and future, and be seeing us as disconnected from our surroundings and the present, it narrows our sense of self.

Of course both sides are useful, for different kinds of tasks, but I think you may well enjoy, as much as I did, her vivid and inspiring descriptions of her stroke and recovery. I strongly recommend TED conferences to anyone who likes this video.

Girls and Boys Preference for Pink

In a recent child development study, on gender-based preferences, there is new evidence that girls develop a preference for pink at about age 2, and while their prefernce may fade somewhat by age 5, the aversion to pink by boys stays steady  between ages 2 and 5.

The study, by Lobue and Deloache in the Brittish Journal of Developmental Psychology , casts doubt on recent speculation that the preference has to do with an innate preference for louder colors, like pink. Indeed if there was such an innate preference we would likely see it reflected sooner.

In the study, toddlers indicated their preference by a paired choice of otherwise identical items, differing only in color. While this choice seems to overlap with a developmental phase that includes verbalization of some ability to distinguish genders verbally, it is still a long way from showing that these changes reflect acculturation.

The study did not look at a preference for blue, a preference that has not been shown to be very robust.

An interesting approach would be to control for language development, and look at the children of parents who themselves have differing views of gender equality, to see if these results are independent of these two factors.

BookTour.com is closing

While on the subject of eBooks, and changes in technology, I just got an email announcing that BookTour.com is closing. I was one of the first to welcome them when they came on the scene a couple of years ago, and for a while they seemed to be striking just the right chord.

To quote from their email:

“We regret to inform you that BookTour will be shutting down….fewer author tours and changes in book marketing budgets have made our company financially unviable.”

While stores like Borders are closing and ceding territory to Amazon and other eBook vendors, the emerging market for eBooks has put a premium on online promotion and virtual book tours, not to mention social media in general.

For book publicists this is a new wrinkle in the terrain, and raises further the question of what role publishers, publicists, book chains, and Indies will be playing in the new market.