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An e-ssential guide to finding military e-titles in the e-volving world of books

Dec. 6, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By J. FORD HUFFMAN   |   Comments
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Websites that might help you locate the books you want:
Amazon Kindle store
Apostrophe Books, a British e-publisher hoping “to become the go-to place for military titles”
Apple iTunes’ iBooks
Barnes & Noble Nook store
Booklist, from the American Library Association
eBooks, “the world’s leading source of eBooks”
ForeWord Reviews, a “resource that will show you only indie voices”
Good Reads, “the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations”
Kobo, “one of the world’s largest eReading catalogs” with e-readers Kobo Touch and Kobo Vox
Library Journal’s reviews by librarians
Military Book Club lists titles the club offers members
Publisher’s Weekly (PW) is a chief industry source for news
PW’s list of fall titles includes 14,000 books from 1,300 publishers
The Quivering Pen is one veteran and author’s blog about writing and writers
St. Martin’s Press provides articles about military “history, current events and fiction”
Sony ReaderStore
Safari Books Online, available to all service members through AKO, NKO, Air Force Online or Military OneSource

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You hope that, in a few weeks, you’ll open a holiday present with an e-reader inside.

Or you hope to make time, finally, to find military-friendly sources for e-books to populate the e-reader you got last year.

Where do you look for e-books that a military-savvy reader wants to read? Especially digital-only and/or independent titles outside mainstream publishers’ catalogs?

We asked experts for advice: Authors who are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Veterans’ writing groups. Publishers, publicists, a poet and a West Point professor. Bloggers and book-industry watchers. Editors and reporters. Librarians.

So ... what’s the consensus go-to site for military e-books?

There isn’t one.

Or, if there is a single resource for finding what’s new in digital military titles, the experts don’t know about it.

“I do not know of such a service for military readers per se,” says John Kremer of BookMarket.com, a marketing service. “Many digital or e-book websites and blogs out there ... notify people of new e-books, especially the free ones [available] on Kindle Select.”

The big sites can offer powerful search capacities. But “even to an insider,” says Martyn Forrester of Apostrophe Books, “navigating around Amazon and iTunes to find military titles can be very frustrating.”

Not to mention imprecise. Angela Bole, executive director of the Independent Book Publishers Association, searched for “Kindle eBooks — Military History — New and Popular,” and one title that popped up was the apocalyptic novel (and 2013 Brad Pitt movie) “World War Z.”

“We all know ‘World War Z’ isn’t really military history,” she says. “So you’re starting to get a sense of the limitations of searching metadata online — or the improper assignment of metadata to this title.”

Erroneously tagged book descriptions and the volume of titles can make a search seem insurmountable. In a Library Journal post, Heather Lisa Maneiro of the Minnesota State University library in Moorhead aptly describes the plus and the minus of e-book searching:

(Page 2 of 2)

“E-books can fill niches quickly without high up-front publishing costs, making publishers more likely to take a chance on new writers in varied markets and genres,” she writes. “It is these very benefits that have left this reviewer, however, often slogging through e-book drivel to find a gem.”

How to avoid slogging?

“The most obvious — and most easily accessible — places [are] Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the two electronic-book market powerhouses,” says David Abrams, who writes The Quivering Pen blog and is author of the satirical 2012 novel “Fobbit,” which this reviewer recommends as “a laugh that resonates.”

“I think a lot of people use the best-seller lists and Amazon to find out what is new in e-books,” says Mary K. Hickey, librarian at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. Another source is eBooks.com, “where you can sort e-books by date to find the most current.”

What would a librarian do?

“I usually go directly to an individual publisher to find their new e-book titles,” she says. “I also use traditional resources for new book titles, like Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Booklist.”

Your neighborhood bookstore won’t be offended if you inquire about e-books.

“Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t just for what we call ‘dead-tree books’ anymore,” says Abrams, a former Army master sergeant. “Most bookstores are embracing the electronic revolution.”

When you visit a store or library, look at the “new arrivals” shelves. “Public libraries also showcase their new e-book titles on their websites,” Hickey says.

Some niche websites can be showcases, says Marc Resnick, a military nonfiction editor at St. Martin’s Press. Besides Amazon, Resnick reads news on Goodreads, St. Martin’s own Command Posts site, and the Special Operations Forces Situation Report (sofrep.com).

Forrester also recommends Goodreads, as well as his own Apostrophe Books, which says its e-book version of Christopher Robbins’ nonfiction 1987 “The Ravens: The True Story of a Secret War” is the “No. 1 Amazon best-selling Vietnam War download for eight months running.”

Wilson Center scholar James Reston Jr.’s work has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker and in 15 nonfiction and fiction books. He went the e-book route with his latest work, which contends that Lee Harvey Oswald intended to kill Texas Gov. John Connally and not President John F. Kennedy. Why? Oswald was angry that his Marine Corps discharge went from honorable to dishonorable when Connally was secretary of the Navy.

“What drew me to an e-book initially was the speedy publication process,” Reston says. “The ability to reach a wide readership in new screen-based formats was exciting.”

Reston says he feels as though he’s “operating in the future of publishing.”

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