New short story collection: ‘I Know George Washington’

Available FREE for subscribers of Amazon Kindle Unlimited:

($2.99 for non Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

I Know George Washington: and other stories: five dark tales

View it on Amazon!

Five dark tales of crime, supernatural horror, and suspense…

In Tennessee, a father and his adolescent daughter must battle two evil men who harbor sinister intentions toward one of them.

In Zacatecas, Mexico, a recent college graduate takes a job as a private English language tutor for a wealthy family. But the entire household is hiding a horrible secret.

In Virginia, a young stockbroker’s colleagues insist that George Washington, the First President of the United States, is alive and well in the twenty-first century.

In rural Ohio, curiosity compels two travelers to stop at an abandoned schoolhouse with an evil history, and a reputation for ghostly activity.

In western Pennsylvania, a junior high student learns that his beloved teacher is not what he purports to be. 

A collection of five unique stories, each of which contains an unexpected twist.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the stories in this collection:

“The Van”: While traveling through Tennessee, a single father and his 13-year old daughter encounter two men who take an unwholesome interest in one of them. 

“Thanatos Postponed”: A recent college graduate takes a job as a private tutor at the estate of a wealthy businessman in Zacatecas, Mexico. But there is something horribly wrong in the palatial residence high in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. 

“I Know George Washington”: A young man’s new work colleagues insist that George Washington is alive and well in the twenty-first century.

“One-room Schoolhouse”: A young couple stop at an abandoned schoolhouse in rural Ohio. The schoolhouse is reputed to be haunted. 

“Mr. Robbie’s Secret”: a beloved English teacher is not what he appears to be. 

I hope you enjoy these stories.

Very fake Facebook: Did Facebook lie about video stats?

Facebook (just like Reddit, Twitter, etc.)  exists for a single purpose: to sell ads

I maintain an author page on Facebook, in addition to my personal profile. Every time I log on to Facebook, the platform encourages me to buy ads.

Facebook has been pushing video ads in particular over the past few years. I mean, really pushing them.

It now appears that Facebook sold these ads based on inflated video stats. As a result, Zuckerberg’s brainchild has now settled a class action lawsuit for $40 million.

If you own a business, you have to rely on social media, the saying goes. 

And indeed, it would probably be unwise to completely ignore Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. Social media is a sewer, but it is still a force on the Internet–for now. 

Never forget, though, that these companies are ultimately flight-by-night operations that are clinging to the dying business model of social media.  The aim of companies like Facebook is to squeeze as much money from advertisers as they can, for as long as the party lasts. Because they know that the party won’t last forever.

And never, ever–no matter what–make the mistake of building the entire public face of your business on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This is a fatal mistake, whether you’re an author, a musician, or a plumber in Boise, Idaho.

Harper Collins and Kindle Unlimited

When you think “Kindle Unlimited”, you probably think “small press and indie publishers”.

That may be about to change.

Harper Collins has recently decided to test the waters in Amazon’s subscription service. The Big Five publisher will enroll several thousand of its backlist titles into Kindle Unlimited in the UK and Australia on an experimental basis.

In and of itself, this doesn’t really mean much. A big publisher like HC owns the rights to thousands of books, after all–some of which barely sell.

The indie publishing community is presently divided about the costs and benefits of Kindle Unlimited. I don’t look for New York publishing houses to embrace KU in a major way anytime soon. If a book is capable of selling, they want to sell it, not enroll in it in Amazon’s per-page payment system.

Not that I’m against the Big Five jumping into KU, mind you. If Harper Collins, Penguin, and the other major publishers were to make Kindle Unlimited a regular part of their strategy, they might be successful in negotiating an end to the exclusivity clause of the program.

Ebook resale rights, and the end of ebooks

Writing on The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder reports that a French court has awarded consumers the right to resell downloaded digital games. Hoffelder predicts that this ruling will eventually be extended to ebooks. 

For all we know, Mr. Hoffelder may very well be right. 

What this would mean, then, is that when you visit Amazon, you’d find used copies of ebooks for sale, just like you now find used copies of physical books. 

We can also predict a new business model: the website that exclusively sells used ebooks. 

Physical books vs ebooks

The sale of used physical (paperback and hardback) books is mostly uncontroversial. This is for two reasons:

1.) Limited substitutability:  A used book is seldom a true substitute for a new one. There is wear and tear. The binding may be cracked. The cover might be dog-eared. And what are those funny stains on pages 236 and 237…the ones that look suspiciously like bodily fluids? 

2.) Limited resale potential: There is a one-for-one limit on the physical books you can resell. Buy one copy of Stephen King’s latest novel, you can resell one copy. 

Oh, and someone is going to have to pay for shipping, packaging, etc. This means that used book reselling is inherently a low-margin business. 

Ebook reselling would not be restrained by the above factors. 

Buy one copy of a digital book, and you can copy and resell the thing a gazillion times. There would be no limits, and few transaction costs.  

Amazon would probably attempt to establish a one-for-one resale limit. But there would be no such limit at the third-party sales sites. Ebooks would be copied by the millions, and resold by the millions.

The end game: the end of ebooks

I understand the argument in favor of resale rights. The argument exists. 

But here’s the rub: Once you establish mass, above-board resale rights for ebooks (or any digitally downloaded product), you completely eliminate the incentive for anyone to produce such a product in the first place. 

The excuse they’ve been looking for

Let’s start with the big five traditional publishers: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Traditional publishers have resisted ebooks since their inception, because ebooks cannibalize physical book sales. (Ebooks also opened up new avenues of competition from small publishers and indie writers.) 

Traditional publishers are itching for an excuse to simply stop issuing ebooks. A legally recognized secondary ebook market would be the excuse they are looking for. 

What will they do instead? Simple. They’ll go back to what they were doing a decade ago: They’ll only sell physical books. 

Ebooks aren’t inevitable. 

The digital utopians who predicted the demise of the paper book fifteen years ago have been proven wrong many times over. In fact, physical book sales have regained a portion of their market share in recent years, while ebook sales have leveled off. 

The simple fact of the matter is: The publishing industry doesn’t have to make ebooks available at all. Ebooks will exist only so long as they’re profitable to make and sell. 

Yes, scanned and digitized pirate ebooks of the megabestsellers would still find their way on to the Internet. But if the content stops coming through the regular channels, sooner or later the Kindle, the Nook, and all the other e-readers will be abandoned by their manufacturers. That sort of thing can and does happen, as anyone old enough to remember the Betamax or the 8-track can tell you. 

This means going back to the age of reading ebooks as RTF and PDF files in front of a computer screen….but only the ebooks that find their way onto the black market.  

What about indie authors? 

Indie publishers are already losing money from Amazon’s decision to move to a pay-for-play marketplace, in which almost no books are sold without paid advertising anymore. If every ebook sold can suddenly be resold a dozen or a thousand times, look for indie authors to stop publishing ebooks, too. The margins simply won’t be there. 

What would I do, you ask? 

I’m a big fan of free content. (I serialize a lot of my fiction on Edward Trimnell Books.) I’m not a fan, however, of giving online pirate sites new ways to make money off creators. I’d continue to publish free content here on my website, and sell paperbacks

But as for publishing Kindle versions of anything? Every Kindle book I sold would simply be copied many times over and (legally) resold. What would be the point? 

Conclusion: The ebook may be an endangered species.

Contrary to past predictions, many consumers still haven’t adopted the ebook. Publishers are suspicious of them because of intellectual property concerns. 

Far from being inevitable, the ebook is a tenuous thing. 

If a secondary ebook market becomes the law of the land, we may quickly reach the point where there are few new ebooks to resell, because so few are being published anymore. 

Walmart vs. Amazon

And some encouraging numbers for Walmart.

I love Amazon, both as an independent publisher, and as a customer of the retail giant.

But monopoly is generally a negative phenomenon, whether we’re talking about oil companies, search engines, or online retailers.

I only wish that Barnes & Noble would give Amazon a run for its money too, specifically in the online book market. But that doesn’t seem likely under the new management there.