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The KND Kindle Chronicles Interview – In the Margins: Cheryl Strayed Walks Her Way to the Wild Rewards of a New Kind of Writer-Reader Collaboration … with Oprah! Len Edgerly Interviews Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, first selection of Oprah’s Book Club 2.0

By LEN EDGERLY, Contributing Editor

The other day someone asked Cheryl Strayed if she had her best-selling book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, on the family iPad.

Cheryl Strayed“I didn’t even know that I could,” she confessed in our interview this week. In fact, the author whose memoir convinced Oprah Winfrey to launch a digitally hip Book Club 2.0 has never even read an eBook.

Which doesn’t mean Cheryl has an attitude against digital books. She just gets tired of looking at screens all day and prefers the feel of reading a printed book.

While talking with her, I did not feel provoked or defensive on behalf of eBooks. Instead, I garnered some lessons about transformation from the way she talked about her 1,100-mile hike, her writing, and her wild ride as an Oprah-selected author.

Let’s begin with the hike. Cheryl had not been even a casual hiker before she set out on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 1995 when she was 26 years old, four years after the devastating loss of her mother to lung cancer. Her first set of boots was a size too small, and her pack, which she named Monster, was nearly too heavy for her to lift, never mind to haul up and down mountains from Mojave, California, to the border of Oregon and Washington.

What I learned from her hike is the power of putting one foot in front of the other. Her superbly written account filled that common phrase with unforgettable details, like a toenail turning black before she pulled it off. That happened six times. You’ll be glad to know they all grew back.

“Walking lends itself to metaphor,” Cheryl explained in the interview. “In a literal way, that is how you get from one place to another—you have to do it one step at a time and put one foot in front of the other.”

The word “metaphor” in Greek actually means “to transport.” Cheryl sees what she did in describing her heavy pack, the burden she couldn’t bear, as transporting meaning from one realm to another, from the literal realm of the PCT to the emotional realm in which she tried to bear grief that also seemed unbearable.

It’s a nice turn, and when an author dives all the way into her life, risking judgment or misunderstanding, meaning does in fact get transported, and we feel more in touch with what makes us human.

Step by step; that is how a transformation takes place.

Another lesson I took from Cheryl involves openness to change. I like to think of myself as an early adopter and big thinker, but how about if I’d worked on an extremely personal book for a year and a half and someone said they wanted to select it for their omigod-powerful Book Club, with this little detail: the eBook version would contain margin notes sprinkled through it by the Book Club creator.

“Well, it was a big conversation,” Cheryl replied when I asked her how that idea first struck her.  She and her editor at Knopf are book people, who have always considered a book to be something written by an author, so that what you find in the book are the author’s words. Period.

“I thought about it,” Cheryl said, “and really pretty quickly I realized that I thought it would be really cool and interesting.” She had a chance to see Oprah’s notes before they appeared linked to underlined passages of the eBook and did not request any changes.

That openness has served the author well during the whole wild ride of being an Oprah pick. She has replied to readers’ questions in short, eloquent videos online. She has engaged with readers on Twitter. In the process she has realized that, though she wrote the book, it’s the readers who define what the book is in the world.

And so Oprah’s margin notes, along with all the other digital engagement from Book Club 2.0, led this non-eBook-reading author to step with curiosity and open-mindedness into an entirely new experience of what it means to publish a book.

As an indication of how Cheryl’s open attitude rubbed off on an eBook evangelist who sometimes sees traditional publishers as obstacles to the advance of digital reading, I want to say that it pleased me greatly to receive a signed hardcover copy of Wild from Oprah’s social-media-savvy staff in response to some tweeting I did. I won’t read it, but I love having it.

And when Cheryl talked about the inspiration and skilled guidance that she received from her editor at Knopf, I experienced new appreciation for all it takes to bring writing of this quality into the world.

How will we get there, this new place we are going as people who love books and always have?

One step at a time, with an open mind.

That’s what I learned this week from an author who has never read an eBook.

And by the way, when I asked if she might bring a Kindle with her on her next long trip, Cheryl Strayed said maybe, and added, “Maybe I need to hike the Pacific Crest Trail all over again, so we can answer this question for sure.”

lenKindle Nation Weekender columnist Len Edgerly blogs at The Kindle Chronicles where you can hear his interview with Cheryl Strayed in its entirety at 24:05 of this week’s Kindle Chronicles episode 207.


The KND Kindle Chronicles Interview: Could Social Reading with Tools Like Goodreads Ever Become as Cool as Your Neighborhood Book Group?

Len Edgerly Interviews Kevin Eagan, an Early Adopter of Social Reading 


By LEN EDGERLY, Contributing Editor

Kevin Eagan, creator of the Critical Margins blog, is an early adopter of social reading technology, so I was eager to see what I could learn from him about a topic that perplexes me.

An early adopter can show you what’s probably ahead in your own use of technology, even as you resist its arrival.

And thank goodness for early adopters, because they are willing to put up with the brambly frustrations of new technology. My father was the very model of a non-early adopter when I pestered him as a boy about how come we didn’t have a color TV yet. “It’s best to wait till they get the bugs worked out,” Dad would always say.

I find plenty of bugs in digital social reading tools that create new ways to share the experience of reading books with other readers.

The main bug is that there are too many new tools to choose from. You can make some or all of the Kindle books you are reading public at kindle.amazon.com, Amazon’s experimental social-reading area. You can join Goodreads or LibraryThing and list the books you are reading, find people to follow, and join in discussions about books.

And new tools for social reading keep arriving. Today I requested an invite for something named Riffle. The invitation page offers this teaser: “Riffle is about books. Get inspired and read more.”

By the nature of social reading, it makes sense to choose one tool and stick with it. But which one?

I’ve done most of my social-reading experimenting so far at the Amazon site. Its big advantage is that I can see notes and highlights of people I follow right on my Kindle. The disadvantage is its complexity. It’s going to take a serious time commitment for me to become adept at even half of what can be done via kindle.amazon.com.

Kevin Eagan has chosen Goodreads as his preferred social-reading tool. Launched in January, 2007, 10 months before the debut of the original Kindle, Goodreads now has more than 9 million members who have added more than 320 million books to their digital shelves.

“I use Goodreads primarily because a lot of my friends who are really into books are using Goodreads,” Kevin told me. “It seems like more of my friends are using that than Kindle services or some of the other social sites. I also find that there’s a larger and maybe more personable community built up around Goodreads.”

The personality of the community matters. This is an intangible quality, but you know it when you see it. If Goodreads feels personable to Kevin, that’s significant. I would not be able to make the same claim yet for my interactions via kindle.amazon.com. But you don’t experience the vibe of a social network until you jump in and participate. Lurkers learn less than posters.

One thing that perplexes me about social reading tools is how much is meant to be shared. This is always a question when you transition from real-life interactions to online relationships. The rules differ, and for book-sharing sites the rules are being written by the early adopters. Kevin’s experience shows that sharing is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You make choices and proceed carefully.

“There are times where I have been sitting down and reading a book,” Kevin said, “and it’s just had a real profound effect on me in a way that I don’t know if I could really share with people.”

He cited as an example his first reading of a Virginia Woolf novel, in a graduate seminar. “Something about it just really impacted me, in a way that I couldn’t really explain,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I can’t talk about reading Virginia Wolf; in that way it is social. But those solitary experiences, I think, are very important when you read as well.”

Although Kevin’s social reading takes place via Goodreads, he can imagine features that would make the Kindle platform a better tool than it is now for sharing the experience of books.

“For example,” he said, “if you had friends who all owned the same Kindle book, you could set up your own book discussion group virtually. I would love to see the ability to do that without having to go to a browser or a computer or some other app in order to do that. I’d love to be able to just do that within the book itself.”

At this point, you can’t select which followers see your public notes and highlights on a Kindle book. If you make them public, anyone who follows you can see them. I just called Kindle Support to make sure I’m not missing anything, and they confirmed that this is not a feature that is available yet.

As a Kindle partisan, I find myself dreaming of what might be the best of both worlds—Goodreads tools that I could access directly from my Kindle and Kindle apps. At that point, I would probably go all in with Kevin and other early adopters of social reading.

After all, even my Dad eventually bought a color television.

lenKindle Nation Weekender columnist Len Edgerly blogs at The Kindle Chronicles where you can hear his interview with Kevin Eagan in its entirety at 22:42 of this week’s Kindle Chronicles podcast Episode 203.

The KND Kindle Chronicles Interview: Len Edgerly Interviews Paul Slack, author of Social Rules: A Common Sense Guide to Social Media Marketing

Len Edgerly

(Editor’s Note: In case you missed it Saturday’s return issue of the Kindle Nation WEEKENDER, it’s a great pleasure to introduce friend, colleague and college classmate Len Edgerly as a contributing editor here at the Kindle Nation Weekender. Len, at right, will be writing a weekly column for us based on his always interesting interviews at the Kindle Chronicles podcast. Welcome, Len! While it’s likely that the majority of his columns will be pretty Kindle-focused, Len understands well how closely related the Kindlesphere is to this week’s topic, the explosion and uses of social media marketing. We’re certainly paying close attention here at Kindle Nation! -S.W.)


Contributing Editor

Paul Slack, a co-founder of the Dallas-based Splash Media, has written a 319-page manual for entrepreneurs and small-business owners who are ready to graduate from buzzwords and get serious about social media. During an in-person interview with Paul at Splash’s state-of-the-art media studio on May 3rd, I learned these lessons about social media marketing:

  1. In social media, there are no quick fixes. Unlike search engine optimization, where Google is the only gorilla, a social-media plan must coordinate multiple sites with multiple purposes.  For starters, those sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and your blog. “If you’re going to start today,” Paul tells new clients, “in terms of return on investment—if you’re counting return on investment as leads and sales for your business—you shouldn’t even consider that for the first six months.”
  2. To succeed in social media marketing, you need to build new habits for sustained building of community. Otherwise, your initial enthusiasm will lead to nothing more than a social-media ghost town, as in the Facebook page that no one has updated for six months.
  3. Because “people do business with people,” a business using social media must be transparent and let potential customers sense the presence of a real person on the Twitter or Facebook account.
  4. That doesn’t mean tweeting about what you had for lunch. The test of all shared content, Paul advises, is that it can benefit the people following you.

Although this new book about social media is aimed at entrepreneurs and business owners, it may also interest readers who have a more general curiosity about these powerful tools. For example, I asked Paul how social media can serve as a way to curate the torrent of new eBooks published every month, perhaps filling the void that would be left if the eBook revolution overthrows the unquestioned authority of traditional publishers to decide which books are good enough to present to readers and which ones are not.

Paul Slack

“I do believe that social media plays an interesting role just in media consumption in general,” Paul replied, “and I would say that books and eBooks would fall into that.” The reason social media qualifies as a revolution, he said, is that we have all become micro-publishers and critics, adding: “In the old days—five years ago—you would do a search on Google to find something relevant, but you had no context. It was what Google told you was relevant.” By comparison, he said, today you can rely on what someone in your personal network has to say about which eBooks might be relevant to you.

Social Rules! went live this week at the Kindle Store for 99 cents a copy. It is also available for free borrowing at the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, if you have an Amazon Prime membership. The bargain price is part of Splash Media’s strategy of sharing practical social-media tips with as wide an audience as possible.  In the past they have presented free social media boot camps all over the country, and now the medium is a full-length book. You can even buy it on paper, for $16.95.

“I’m not a technical person,” Paul told me. “I’m much more of a marketer. And so I wanted to write a book that an entrepreneur or a small-business owner could read and go, ‘Oh, I finally get what Twitter’s all about.’ Or:  ‘I finally get how social media works together and can help me do something within my business.’”

At the end of our conversation, I invited Paul to step into a time machine and envision, decades hence, a time when social media itself will be the tired, old medium that the next media revolution will replace. What might that look like?

“The one thing that I know that seems to hold true,” he replied, “is that technology is going to continue to lend a hand in things, that the fundamental truths will never go away—that people do love to connect with one another, they do love to associate with one another, they love to share their thoughts and opinions, that we hate to be sold but we love to buy things—and so whatever’s going to happen in the future is going to facilitate that and make it easier and easier.”

Meanwhile, if you have a business—or even a book or a podcast—that could benefit from a disciplined, patient, no-nonsense engagement with potential customers through social media, you might want to download a copy of Social Rules! and get started.

Len Edgerly blogs at The Kindle Chronicles where you can hear his interview with Paul Slack in its entirety at 21:39 of this week’s Kindle Chronicles podcast episode 199. Click here for video of the interview.


Around the Kindlesphere, April 30, 2010: Top Teleread Picks, $9.99 New Release Hardcovers, Kindle’s 2.5 Upgrade, The Kindle Chronicles Scores B List Talent, and Cisco’s Valet Hotspot

A big thank you and shout out to estimable Teleread editor Paul K. Biba for including two of my posts among his nine choices in his weekly round-up, “The Editor’s pick of the week’s top posts.” All’s fair in love and the ebook wars: one of mine (Summing Up the Last Week for Amazon: Phases I, II, and III of the Kindle Revolution Are Over, and Amazon Has Won All Three) was from Kindle Nation Daily and the other (High Quality free audiobooks can be read on app for iPhone/iPad) was from iPad Nation Daily. Here’s a rundown of Paul’s other top choices:

What else is going on in the Kindlesphere? Plenty, and here are a few nuggets that may be of interest:

  • It would be silly of me not to acknowledge that most citizens of Kindle Nation, myself included, have grown to prefer reading books on our Kindles, as opposed to other formats. However, sometimes we just want to read the book in whatever way it is available to us, right? So it’s worth mentioning that, while we may lament the current unavailability of Kindle editions of many Penguin/Pearson titles due to the difficult ongoing negotiations between Amazon and the Big Six publisher over the agency price-fixing model, it’s refreshing to find that Amazon is now offering a number of recently released Penguin and Viking hardcovers, including a few bestsellers, at the

    same $9.99 price to which we have grown accustomed for their ebook editions in the Kindle Store. We won’t try to figure out Amazon’s strategy here or to psychologize about exactly how the authors or publisher in question feel about it all, but here are some of the titles we’ve found: The Black Cat: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes, Lies of the Heart: A Novel by Michelle Boyajian, The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch, Miss Julia Renews Her Vows by Ann B. Ross, The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein, This is Just Exactly Like You by Drew Perry, The Line by Olga Grushin, Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott, and Stuart Woods’ novel Lucid Intervals Most of these titles have been released this month, and our assumption is that Amazon is paying the publisher $12 to $15, or half of suggested list price, for each copy. Most forthcoming Penguin titles for release during the next few months are discounted more modestly for pre-order, at about $17.

  • We’ll be drilling down in detail soon on some of the elements in Amazon’s recent upgrade, but we like it, from the “Collections” folders to the larger snappier fonts to the social networking features to another element that should make for improvements in the delivery of blogs like Kindle Nation Daily to our loyal Kindle edition subscribers. That being said, of course there are other things we would have loved to see included, include the audible menuing accessibility features promised by Amazon for “the first half of 2010,” an extension of the Twitter and Facebook features to include Amazon’s own reading-oriented Shelfari and some kind of Kindle Store credit for Kindle owners whose social sharing leads others to purchase Kindle content or, for that matter, Kindle hardware and accessories. Of course we’ve been calling for that since early in 2008, so I’m just saying…. But I’ll choose to hope that these things are in the pipeline rather than seeing the glass as half empty.
  • Not to get too relentlessly self-referential in my Around the Kindlesphere round-up here, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned Len Edgerly’s excellent The Kindle Chronicles podcast in a few weeks, and more often than not it makes for 40 minutes of interesting, informative, easy-on-the-ears enrichment. Will that be true of this week’s show with yours truly as the featured guest?

    To quote a pop song that rather dates me (leave Donny & Marie out of this, I’m thinking Dale & Grace covered here by the King), I’m leaving it all up to you.

  • Okay, we know Jeff Bezos has got our backs when it comes to free wireless connectivity for our Kindles, but if you are an early adopter with an increasing number of computers, gadgets, and devices taxing your home or home office internet connection, you may be interested in a new Cisco Systems product line that is getting a big roll-out on Amazon’s website this week: Introducing the Valet Hotspot: Home Wireless Made Easy. Products like the iPad, the Ipod Touch, and the Roku system that so many of us are getting to bring Amazon’s Video on Demand to our TV sets are bringing some of us to the point where we have more connected devices than matching socks, or Tony Soprano. (Sorry, couldn’t make a decision). The concomitant device compatibility issues can sometimes lead to wifi drops and other problems, but Cisco’s Valet Hotspot promises to clean up and streamline all of this for us:

With the Valet Hotspot, home wireless has never been easier. Valet gives you the power to quickly and simply make your home wireless. The included Easy Setup Key gets you connected to the Internet in just a few minutes. Simple-to-use Cisco Connect software is included and lets you quickly link your other wireless devices and manage your home wireless with ease. Remember when going wireless required technical expertise and hours of effort? Not anymore–the Valet Hotspot just works. (Click on the link for a multimedia presentation!)