Publishers try on variations of the ebook format, from free samples to 'pamphlets' and mini-ebook instalments
February is a month with plenty of different types of ebook on offer, as publishers continue experimenting to find what strikes a chord with readers.
The Friday Project declares it is reviving the tradition of the political pamphlet with Sorry, But Has There Been a Coup? (99p) by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur, authors of the lugubrious humour book Is It Just Me, Or Is Everything Shit? The ebook takes a satirical look at the coalition and its politics, presented in brief sketches which poke snarky fun at such absurd but apparently quite true facts as that education minister Michael Gove had a brief TV career alongside David Baddiel and once played a chaplain in boarding-school comedy "A Feast After Midnight".
Is there a link between the Big Society and the occult, given that Cameron got his central idea from writers Hilaire Belloc and GK Chesterton, the latter a big fan of the Ouija board in his youth, ask the authors? And while tough, incisive Corby MP Louise Mensch claims to be the same person as novelist Louise Bagshawe, author of romance books with titles like Sparkles, has she in fact done away with her in some Faustian pact to gain power? Playful and amusing, but with the occasional sharp bite.
Meanwhile publisher Transworld says it is reviving another good old literary tradition for the ebook age, the serial, by issuing Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City in mini-ebook instalments, reminiscent of the way the stories first appeared as daily columns in the San Francisco Chronicle. The first episode – available to download for free – sees Mary Ann Singleton arriving in the city as a naive young secretary, to discover the delights of 28 Barbary Lane and its pot-loving landlady Mrs Madrigal; later instalments, to be charged for, will be released weekly. Maupin is instantly captivating and the e-chapters are nicely presented, so the idea could take.
February's offering from the Penguin Shorts series is a collection of Will Self's Real Meals columns from the New Statesman about dining out the way most people do it – not in the fancy surroundings of a celebrity chef's restaurant, but in McDonalds, Pizza Express, a curry house or Nando's. Titled The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Prawn Cracker (£1.99), it sees Self take an entertaining trip around the less celebrated of our eateries while dissecting his own fast-food addictions. The writer calculates he has eaten a running total of 6,530 or 5,128 square feet worth of pizza, mostly from Pizza Express, describing it as "for my kids … the staple food in the way that sorghum is for subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa". He also muses on the reasons for his enduring loyalty to Caffè Nero, and is very funny about that curious eating experience, the hotel breakfast. (But can it really be true, as the writer claims, that smart French bakery chain Paul is considered, in France, the equivalent only of our homely Greggs?)
Ebook original novels come both glossy and gritty this month. Dead Rich (£3.99) – from Bedford Square Books, a digital publishing venture run by high-profile agent Ed Victor – is written by Louise Fennell, who apparently moves in very glitzy circles, being married to a famous celebrity jeweller. It's a buoyant black comedy about beautiful A-listers living dissipated lives under the fascinated gaze of the media, and it comes with the firm approval of Joanna Lumley, whose "Absolutely Fabulous" alter ego Patsy would no doubt also have a good cackle.
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