Amazon Opens Brick and Mortar Bookstore logoToday, Amazon opened its first physical bookstore — not to be confused with its first store, a pick-up and drop-off location at Purdue University — in Seattle’s University Village. In an attempt to distinguish itself from the traditional bookstore experience, the shelves will be stocked partially based on data the etailer gleans from its online customers.

According to The Seattle Times, Amazon’s physical location will carry books with the highest Amazon ratings, and organize the sections based on ratings and wish listed items, for example: “Most Wished-For Cookbooks” and “Award Winners, 4.5 Stars & Above, Age 6-12.” Additionally, each book will face out so browsing customers can instantly connect with the cover. Below each book will be a review card that contains reviews written by online customers as well as its star rating.

Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books, said of the choice to use data to inform the Amazon bookstore experience, “It’s data with heart. We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it.”

Let's Take a Coding Class

let's take a coding class_peoplewhowriteTechnology is increasingly dictating how people discover and consume stories, and even how (SEO, anyone?) and why we write. We know this already.

It’s been happening since at least the printing press, and likely before it. I’m sure the advent of fire radically changed the storytelling and consumption experience for those who were used to story time in the dark. This said, it continues to interest me that the technological innovation around storytelling is being driven almost solely by technology companies versus storytellers (us writers) and entities whose businesses are founded on storytelling (publishers, agents).

It makes sense to some extent regarding writers. Writing is a specialization and a dedication, as is technology development and innovation; and most writers don’t have the interest, skill, or frankly, bandwidth, to develop storytelling platforms. But with telecommunications companies focused on providing customers with mobile specific story content and powerhouses like Apple and Google using their considerable muscle to determine the forecast of media consumption, it would behoove writers, in addition to seeking litigative clarity on the boundaries of tech and how copyrights are protected in our open access age, to develop at least a working knowledge of how to write code as a first step in making technology part of our creative tool set so we can eventually become comfortable in using digital platforms as an extension of our storytelling capabilities.

The brilliance of Aziah King‘s recent internet-breaking story about a stripper’s wild weekend in Florida was that she told it on Twitter, and that she knew how to tell it on Twitter. Understanding that she was limited to sharing the story 140 characters at a time, and that her tweets would be served up amidst a feed that could feature anything from New York Times headlines to inspirational quotes, each sentence King tweeted was spiked with provocative language intended to leap off the timeline.

As for book publishers, I have no clue why they do not have whole digital divisions at this point. After what they’ve gone through with Amazon and Google in the past, I would think they would have created and staffed up Business Development and Digital divisions the way the New York Times seem to have done, but I guess, as seemingly always, money is the issue.

Even Ratliff, publisher of The Atavist Magazine, told The New York Times he had to shut down the Atavist app because he simply couldn’t afford to create duplicate content for web and mobile apps. As the NYT piece points out, “The Internet was supposed to be a place where billions of potential users could be reached in one place, simply and inexpensively. But as Apple focuses on apps and Google pushes the mobile web, businesses are grappling with a fragmenting online world.”

The writers of the article, Kate Benner and Conor Dougherty, add:
“That situation has been made even harder by some recent moves by Apple and Google. Last month, Apple enabled ads to be blocked on mobile websites on iPhones and iPads, which threatened to hurt publishers that relied on such ads for revenue. And next month, Google will start penalizing websites that use pop-up screens to promote their apps by placing them lower in search engine results, a move that some have called ‘app blocking.'”

The Atavist is too small to fight this fight, but shouldn’t the big players in magazine and book publishing be proactively investing serious material and human capital in creating systems, platforms, and/or partnerships that don’t leave content providers and distributors so naked to the mercies of tech?

Anyway, Writers, there are some free, self-paced intro level coding classes you can take online. Check out EdX’s “Think. Create. Code.“. Google to find more.

Free Online Courses via the Iowa Writers’ International Writing Program

The 2016 classes have been announced:

#flashwrite: Young Writers, No Borders (February 2016). This course will be offered exclusively to teenage writers; it will be taught by IWP Director and University of Iowa Professor of English Christopher Merrill and a prominent author of young adult fiction. Registration will open in December 2015.

Summoning the Dead: Whitman Writing War (May 2016). This course will be taught by IWP Director and University of Iowa Professor of English Christopher Merrill and University of Iowa Roy J. Carver Professor of English and Whitman scholar Ed Folsom. Registration will open in March 2016.

Get more info here.

Svetlana Alexievich Earns 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature

Svetlana Alexeivich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature - peoplewhowrite

Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich, author of Voices from Chernobyl, Zinky Boys, and War’s Unwomanly Face, was announced today at noon, Swedish time, as the 2015 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The prize is worth $960,000.

The permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, released the news this morning in Stockholm, though, on Twitter, the  unverified @SvAlexievich account reportedly scooped the story, tweeting: “Swedish Academy awarded to me the Nobel Prize in Literature 2015. I receive now a call from Sweden. I’m happy, very happy! Thanks.”
Danius praised Alexievich as “absolutely brilliant.” adding “[she] “has mapped the soul” of the Soviet and post-Soviet people.