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The Bookstore Metaphor

After P-Books, Before E-books, the HTML Novel (It's Back!)

Worlds of Metaphor. Hope you just read about the Copyshop Experience so you'll know where this is headed. It's a business model that has evolved from 'read free' to 'read half/try-buy'. Other metaphors include Read-a-Latte and Read-Free-or-Buy (in a moment).

Linguistics, Linguini… The word metaphor comes from Gk. meta- 'beyond' + phor- 'carry' so a metaphor is an expression or figure of speech that carries us beyond its literal meaning to express something that would take many words otherwise. If you add 'like', it becomes a simile; but I digress, as always. Etymology is one of my favorite and indispensible topics.

HTML Novel and Bookstore Metaphor. I've been delighted to work as a Web publisher since early 1996 (long, wonderful story for another day). I also spend at least an hour every day at a brick & mortar bookstore. And, yes, I have a BA in English (UConn); a BBA in Computer Information Systems (National U); and an MS in Business Administration (Boston University, earned while stationed in Europe). The HTML novel is published online, in HTML (HyperText Markup Language), to be read online rather than on portable media like floppies, CDs, etc. A great new alternative (TBD) is the audio-book, to be discussed another day.

Over the years, I have gained some experience at alternative publishing. I've come up with the ideal solution for using the HTML novel. Remember, this has to make sense for everyone; not just readers, but the author/publisher. It's an economics issue. I published the first HTML novel (properietary, not public domain; read online, not on portable media; etc.) as long ago as April 1996: (Neon Blue, suspense novel), mentioned in the Copyshop Experience. By the way, the alternative title today is also Girl, Unlocked, which sums up the psychology of the novel's heroine, Laurel 'Blue' Humboldt as she pursues the mysteries of both her love life and of the criminals trying to kill her unless she captures them first (being a young DEA Special Agent).

I tried giving away entire novels like in the old days (1990s) and it no longer works economically. People still can't stop reading, but they leave the bookstore without paying. Sorry, that's not a desired outcome for the author who spent hundreds or thousands of hours creating that book—which, after all, costs what a cup of coffee costs. So I came up with the read-half/try-buy method for my online bookstores, which I describe in the following passages from my Galley City website (over a million words of Bookstore Metaphor).

What's New? Think about it. You walk into the bookstore (free). You sit and read all day (free). You walk out with a book and don't pay (really bad idea).

So we're shifting metaphors here, and it's entirely painless. You walk into the bookstore (free). You sit and read all day (free). So far so good…

The difference is: you read about half of a novel free, which is plenty to either interest you or not. If you like what you're reading, and you want to know how it ends ("try buy") you buy the whole book. The e-book costs like a cup of coffee at the mall. The print book costs about like a sandwich and a drink. Doesn't hurt a bit. The sandwich and coffee are gone in a few minutes, but the book stays with you forever. I think it's a great deal for everyone—including your struggling author, who needs to buy himself a coffee and sandwich to stay alive so he can write the next exciting book to deliver to your virtual doorway. And he needs to feed the help (kibble, etc).

Economics 101. The Bookstore Metaphor is our governing principle here at Galley City. Originally, the idea was that you walk in (free). You sit all day and read (free). If you like something, you'll buy it. That last part hasn't quite worked out so well, unlike at the brick & mortar bookstores (which are struggling to say the least). This is the same struggle most online content sites are having, including big media outlets like The Guardian (UK) etc. So we're not alone, and you'll surely understand. We're not asking for donations or free gifts—we ask that you buy whatever story you may be enjoying, or try another story until you find what you like. It's all painless and common sense.

Amazon Safe to Buy. Clocktower Books has been an Amazon affiliate since the late 1990s. You can safely buy any book or story from Amazon (e-book or p-book) without muss, fuss, or worry.

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