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Humble eBook Bundle
October 10, 2012 11:55 AM   Subscribe

The new Humble Bundle (multipreviously) has been released. This time it's not games or music on pay-what-you-will offer, but DRM-free eBooks (in multiple formats including PDF, MOBI, and ePub). Featuring work by Kelly Link, Mercedes Lackey, Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, and bonus works by MeFi's Own John Scalzi, and Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean should you pay more than the average. Books, hooray!
posted by davidjmcgee (63 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would love to see more of this. I've dropped a few bucks on Humble Bundle games over the years, and I almost squealed to see that they are moving into ebooks. I already have a couple of these, and I've already read the Scalzi, but I still jumped in at over the average price, if for no other reason than to encourage them to do this again.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2012


Yep, I've already read the Scalzi book too, but I went ahead and bought at above the average price just to encourage them to keep doing this.
posted by COD at 12:10 PM on October 10, 2012


Man, the Humble Bundle concept is a great idea on so many levels.
posted by griphus at 12:10 PM on October 10, 2012


Unfortunately the supply of participating authors may be limited by certain publishers (ahem: no names, no pack-drill) insisting on mandatory DRM on ebooks. Which obviously isn't going to play with the Humble Bundle ethos or practice.

Put it another way: I would have liked to have been able to participate, and will in due course be rubbing my publishers' noses in the sales figures, but I'm not optimistic about my ability to make them change their minds in the near future.
posted by cstross at 12:11 PM on October 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


No option for giving the publisher a few bucks? I mean, if the usual gripe is that they ask too much, surely this is the place to let them know how much you think they should be getting.

Not everyone would necessarily say zero.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:18 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I been eyeing this.

I'm really not knowledgeable about publishing, but I've read quite a few screeds by Stephen King where he laments the death of the multitudes of short fiction magazines of yesteryear.

Will eBooks, particularly bundles, do anything to revive this? Can we look forward to "curated" bundles in the near future?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:28 PM on October 10, 2012


I have yet to get into ebooks, but this is great! And hooray for Kelly Link!
posted by sonmi at 12:36 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


cstross: Unfortunately the supply of participating authors may be limited by certain publishers (ahem: no names, no pack-drill) insisting on mandatory DRM on ebooks.

Yeah, I kind of figured that was the case. The lineup of authors is kind of the Usual Suspects for this kind of thing. Cory Doctorow goes without saying, I know Kelly Link's stuff has been available in cheap ebook format before this (that's why I have those two books), and Baen (publisher of the Mercedes Lackey book in the bundle) seems to "get it" when it comes to ebooks. Hopefully this is another datapoint to get other publishers on board.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2012


I thought Old Man's War was fairly enjoyable, its just a very tried and true formula. It has something of a Starship Troopers feel.

I would strongly recommend Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six which is a book of short stories. I do not tend to be a fan of short stories, but I love Paolo Bacigalupi's work, its just incredibly depressing. Read it on a day when you are feeling great and want to end it in a somewhat neutral mood.

I haven't read anything else on the list, but I personally would be wary of works by Cory Doctorow. I read Little Brother earlier in the year which I have to count among one of the worst books I've ever read. Theres something about name dropping, which will be irrelevant in 5 years, that really bothers me.

I tend to like the Humble Bundles for games and will buy them without giving them much thought, however I'm not very excited about them having ebook bundles. Its just not the same for me when I can go buy a paperback copy of a book.
posted by graxe at 12:50 PM on October 10, 2012


I like how Wil Wheaton's clown sweater has contributed slightly more than he has.
posted by jiawen at 1:01 PM on October 10, 2012


It strikes me that this would be a great way to bump sales of long-tail back catalogues. As Baen does with their free library, offer a mix of "forgotten" greats (Lenister, Cornbluth, Triptree etc..) and first-in-a-series novels for current writers.
posted by bonehead at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


bonehead: you are absolutely on the nail with that. Although I see it as being most useful for bumping up interest in long series works by hooking new readers. "The first hit is free," as the old school drug dealer used to say ...
posted by cstross at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2012


I'm really not knowledgeable about publishing, but I've read quite a few screeds by Stephen King where he laments the death of the multitudes of short fiction magazines of yesteryear.

Will eBooks, particularly bundles, do anything to revive this? Can we look forward to "curated" bundles in the near future?


Gods, let's hope so, because that's what I want to do for a living.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Zoo City, Pump Six and Old Man's War are all excellent and more than worth the price on their own - Zoo City in particular being a recent book I've read and loved.

Signal To Noise, the other one I've read, is a bit of a funny choice though - relying heavily on some lush Dave McKean art that I can't imagine translating well on screen. If anyone tries it out I'd be interested in hearing how well it does as an eBook.
posted by Artw at 1:31 PM on October 10, 2012


Is Tor still on the "no DRM" bandwagon or was that just a one time experiment?
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on October 10, 2012


Folks also might be interested in something similar by former Gizmodo person Jason Chen, Story Bundle.
posted by THAT William Mize at 1:34 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, and this isn't really a problem for me given my tastes, but doesn't this lean pretty hard towards SF/Fantasy?
posted by Artw at 1:35 PM on October 10, 2012


Excellent idea! I'm very excited that the Humble Bundle concept is expanding beyond its game incubator and into my own field, and each DRM-free book that gets out there helps the reader. As wastewater specialists say: "The solution to pollution is dilution." Could be the way forward, out of the current intellectual property spill.

I hope that these Humble Bundles continue and in the future include lesser-known authors, as seemed to be the spirit of the original Humble Indie Bundle.

Edit: stupid missing verbs mumble mumble
posted by burnfirewalls at 1:35 PM on October 10, 2012


Artw - As far as I know Tor is still DRM free, if you look at most of their stuff on Amazon there's a little "at the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied" notice.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I must admit that I don't understand the "average purchase" numbers. Do that many people really ignore the defaults and undercut the donations? That's kinda scummy.
posted by Runes at 1:39 PM on October 10, 2012


I must admit that I don't understand the "average purchase" numbers. Do that many people really ignore the defaults and undercut the donations? That's kinda scummy.

Part of the humble bundle schtick is that it's "pay what you want".
posted by Zed at 1:43 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


People will still pirate it too. Whadayagonnado? /shrugs
posted by Artw at 1:44 PM on October 10, 2012


Signal To Noise, the other one I've read, is a bit of a funny choice though - relying heavily on some lush Dave McKean art that I can't imagine translating well on screen. If anyone tries it out I'd be interested in hearing how well it does as an eBook.

I bought/downloaded the Bundle last night, and was able to transfer everything to my Nook Tablet pretty easily using Calibre. The only exception was Signal To Noise -- the ePub version in the Bundle is optimized for the iPad with Retina Display, so the formatting came out looking completely whopperjawed when I tried it on my Nook. Fortunately, they also offer hi-res/lower-res PDFs of the book which are useable on other devices, although I couldn't really make out most of the lettering (even on the decently-sized Nook screen) without having to zoom in. The McKean art is as pretty as always, though.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:54 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit, that's gotta be huge.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on October 10, 2012


(One nice thing about 2000ad as PDFs is that they leave the letterering as vector. Even if you zoom till the art is mush the text remains clear. Really that should be the default.)
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone hand-letter anymore?
posted by griphus at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2012


Shit, that's gotta be huge.

With Signal, the iPad ePub and hi-res PDF versions were ~50 megs each, so they were in about the same size ballpark as a typical full-color graphic novel or magazine app. The hi-res PDF is slow as molasses to load though, so I think I might grab the lo-res one tonight and see how it looks.
posted by Strange Interlude at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2012


Tor is DRM-free. This is both Tor in the USA and the Tor imprint in the UK. It's a permanent switch, mandated by the CEO of Macmillan (the English language arm of the multinational of which Tor is a second-tier subsidiary). Not a one-off stunt.

(I suspect if an author badgered them to apply DRM to their ebooks they might shrug and humour the idiot — but I don't think this has happened so far. And it certainly won't be happening with my future Tor titles.)
posted by cstross at 2:01 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Does anyone hand-letter anymore?

Pretty much only in the realm of the self publisher or writer artist - it's time consuming and doesn't pay much, and for most purposes most people don't notice the difference if it's done well. Of the various tiers of comic pro-dom it's the letterers that get by on volume the most.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the topic of free electronic copies boosting sales, I was amused by this from John Barnes:
Much as it pains my fingers to type "Corey Doctorow appears to be absolutely right" I am forced to by sheer statistics.
posted by Zed at 2:16 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Mercedes Lackey is an interesting beast in that it's basically serial-numbers-filed-off collaborative City of Heroes fanfic. Having been part of guild MMO roleplaying myself, I was fascinated to see what happened when a group took the time to polish it all the way up. It's not bad at all, although it's probably a lot more interesting as an experiment than as a novel in itself.

(There is totally an FPP somewhere in the imminent City of Heroes closure, Lackey's attempt to save it, and MMO closures in general, but I am way too close to the material to do it myself.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:27 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Canonical asks ubuntu users to "pay what you like" to support the OS, guiding donations into features.
posted by boo_radley at 2:29 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad: "The Mercedes Lackey is an interesting beast in that it's basically serial-numbers-filed-off collaborative City of Heroes fanfic. "

You have to be kidding me. Please make this post. Please.
posted by boo_radley at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh. I cruised right past that without paying only this morning.

I suppose I should chip something in...

On the other hand, work machine, shouldn't they do the chipping in?

/avoids problem by paying nothing for now.
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on October 10, 2012


I really can't - I worked on City of Heroes, have friends who got/are getting laid off, and I am not objective in the least about it. But the books actually have an "inspired by City of Heroes" bit on the cover - it's not a secret in any way.

(One of the more hilarious emails of my life was from my friend who was the CoH community manager, asking me who Mercedes Lackey was because she had sent an email to verify that she was in fact a semi-famous person offering to help edit people's fanfic on the forums. She was, and I think still is, active in the RP community there.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:36 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


restless_nomad: "I worked on City of Heroes"

this is the moment where I shout, "I've never seen an ocelot!" from offscreen.

oh geez, that book cover is... wow..
posted by boo_radley at 2:38 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I didn’t buy it because I don’t have an ereader, but the only thing I know here is "Pump Six". I’ll vouch for that, if you like dystopian stories. That’s a pretty great collection to make you question why you should get up in the morning.

Any more opinions on the rest of them?
posted by bongo_x at 2:47 PM on October 10, 2012


I just put 'em on my e-reader, and I think my reading order will be: Pump 6 (I've read a couple of the stories elsewhere), Zoo City (I've heard a lot of good things about it), and the Kelly Links (who is a mad genius writing stuff completely unlike anything else.)
posted by Zed at 3:09 PM on October 10, 2012


Have we not had a Zoo City FPP? Seems like we would have.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on October 10, 2012


Yeah, I found myself at Mercedes Lackey's website and saw the CoX mourning, and felt weird; it was like a reminder that hey, famous nerds are still nerdy. I dunno, like it would feel strange to go to Neil Gaiman's site and see him analyzing Affliction Warlock nerfs.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:55 PM on October 10, 2012


I haven't read most of what's on offer here. But I have read both Kelly Link collections and this is an excellent opportunity for you to be introduced to an author who is quite seriously Gene Wolfe level good. And I do not say that lightly, or often.
posted by selfnoise at 4:56 PM on October 10, 2012


John Scalzi, if you're reading this, the reason I didn't give you any money for the copy of Old Man's War in the Humble Bundle is because I've got this fine store-bought copy of it right here on the shelf of books that'll go to the used book store in a few months hmmmm
posted by jepler at 7:44 PM on October 10, 2012


I would strongly recommend Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six which is a book of short stories. I do not tend to be a fan of short stories, but I love Paolo Bacigalupi's work, its just incredibly depressing.

The Windup Girl was amazing. I picked up Pump Six, and it's really good stuff, but yeah, it's not Cute Overload.

I've been looking forward to reading Old Man's War, so this I'll probably pick this up.

I have to say (again) I love the future we're living in. Kickstarter, Etsy, The Humble Bundle, Make magazine and O'Reilly publishing: all of these platforms are bringing the dreams of sci-fi authors of the past alive. I know Cory Doctorow gets crap for his attitude sometimes, but his passion for building an equitable world of creators is inspiring.

And I hate to call it out, but the fact that most of the raves in this post are about female sci-fi and fantasy authors is also incredibly inspiring.

Fuck yeah! To the future!
posted by formless at 9:32 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Windup Girl was amazing. I picked up Pump Six, and it's really good stuff, but yeah, it's not Cute Overload.

No, no, no. It's racist, sexist crap set in a future that just does not make sense, where instead of using nuclear power or wind or solar or tidal or biofuels, everybody got really into springs and genetically enginered animals to wind the springs, written by somebody who went to China and could find only one likeable person in the whole country.

It really isn't anything better than what a Dan Simmons or Orson Scott Card might've written, just set in an for the most readers unfamiliar country and gussed up with a lot of pseudorealism and a soupcon of semi-leftist politics.

Instead read Zoo City, which also has a few problems, mainly in plotting, but hasn't got the same racism or sexism and is set in a country that again is unfamiliar to most readers, but the author is actually from.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:33 AM on October 11, 2012


I've just been holidaying in Malaysia and Singapore and my newish Kindle was awesome. I took Reamde and Old Man's War as ebooks plus a few others and some non-fiction. For those times when a device was a hindrance, I took a paper copy of Wind up girl. A great read as I explored Penang.
So I just went and bought this, and hope the other inclusions are as good.
That said, at the moment, I am tending to buy physical books and read, er. other versions of them on my reader. I like being able to hand a friend a book to borrow, and most titles I am interested in seem to be available cheaper printed than electronic.
I've got the shelf full of hard copy Neal Stephenson tomes, so take the approach he won't begrudge me loading an informally acquired electronic copy on a kindle to save the strain on my wrist, and a kilo or two of paper in my carry on luggage.
posted by bystander at 2:38 AM on October 11, 2012


I think a factor that makes me feel lukewarm about HB's branching out to music and e-books is that it deals in stereotypical things "gamers would like". So the first music bundle is chiptunes and the first games bundle is SF&F. I like both, but for some reason I wasn't as enthused about the spinoffs.
posted by ersatz at 3:14 AM on October 11, 2012


YAY DOCTOROW! I just downloaded all his books onto my Kindle (relax! He offers them for free on his website!) and am re-reading Little Brother right now. I've only read 2 of his books - that and Down & Out in the Magic Kindgom - and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work. I hope it's as good. Although, Little Brother seems to be more scaremongering than I remember it to be.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:57 AM on October 11, 2012


Does anyone hand-letter anymore?

Dave Sim does. Then again, he's also certifiably insane.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:47 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think a factor that makes me feel lukewarm about HB's branching out to music and e-books is that it deals in stereotypical things "gamers would like".

I don't see this as stereotyping so much as knowing your audience. The primary genre for most electronic games (outside of abstract puzzlers) is SF/Fantasy, and the internet itself is built on a pretty solid bed of SF fandom. Since HB already has lots of gamers on its mailing list from the previous Bundles, it makes sense that their first e-book Bundle would focus on similar genre themes. Perhaps the apparently overwhelming success of the first HBEBB will allow them to jump off into other genres later on.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:59 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"John Scalzi, if you're reading this"

I AM ALWAYS READING.

And that's fine. If you paid me once at any point, we're all good.
posted by jscalzi at 7:49 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I AM ALWAYS READING.

Scalzi, you just made me imagine you turning into the Hulk and punching a monstrous book right in the spine. Just for that, I'm moving Old Man's War to the top of my Nook's to-read shelf. Thank you.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:00 AM on October 11, 2012


I think this is the third time I've paid for Old Man's War now---paperback, kindle and now this. Thanks anyway for doing this. Certainly this shouldn't be the way all books are sold, but as a promo/charity device, I'd like to see a lot more of these.
posted by bonehead at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2012


How about, say, a Big Idea pack to showcase upcoming writers? I used to love those "Writers of the Future" collections. One of the best things L. Ron Hubbard ever did.
posted by bonehead at 10:04 AM on October 11, 2012


One of the best things L. Ron Hubbard ever did.

Aside from making the Rifftrax for Battlefield Earth both possible and necessary, that is.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:16 AM on October 11, 2012


That also applies to P.T. Anderson's The Master.
posted by griphus at 10:26 AM on October 11, 2012


scalzi: ...as the old school drug dealer used to say...

Do ya'll need a hyphen between "old" and "school," or was your schooling significantly different from my own? I went to this Catholic, Junior ROTC high school, see, and we didn't have a dealer. Then again, I'm not from southern California.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:36 AM on October 11, 2012


It would be neat to have publishers offer a menu of some of their authors that could be combined into custom bundles. And by combining multiple publishers' offerings, we could move from "big sale at Tor Books" to "roll your own Humble E-Book Bundle."
posted by wenestvedt at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2012


as to paying for Ubuntu... Software in the Public Interest is the non-profit Debian set up for making contributions to it and other open source projects. I'm still using Ubuntu, but the best thing about Ubuntu is that it's a Debian derivative, and I'd sooner make a tax-deductible donation to Debian than a post-tax contribution to Ubuntu.
posted by Zed at 11:59 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


wenestvedt: "It would be neat to have publishers offer a menu of some of their authors that could be combined into custom bundles. And by combining multiple publishers' offerings, we could move from "big sale at Tor Books" to "roll your own Humble E-Book Bundle.""

One of the things that game distributors like Good Old Games do from time to time is have an incremental bundle. So, if you buy one game (or book, stay with me here), you get no discount. If you buy all the books in a bundle, you get the maximum discount, and there's breaks inbetween.
posted by boo_radley at 12:00 PM on October 11, 2012


The more I travel, the more I e-book. The more I e-book, the more I look for physical copies of the cream of the crop to put into the ever expanding shelves of the envygreen family library so that I can shove them into the hands of friends, family, and random strangers and yell "READ THIS, IT IS INVENTIVE AND FORWARD LOOKING AND WORTH YOUR TIME." (scalzi and cstross, you're on those shelves, and I'd just like to say thank you for that)

I admit that the ghost of the poor as dirt college student still flinches from paying the prices that most publishers want from me, and I haunt good used book stores as a habit looking for that third or fourth copy of ___ to give away, but I will continue to go out of my way to purchase first copies that hopefully benefit the pubs and the editors and the writers so that you all keep providing me my precious precious nectar.

Now, if we can drop the prices of production and distro, encourage more sales per title, and still net you guys a profit, then carry on!
posted by envygreen at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2012


Haven't started reading them yet, but I snarfed this as soon as I saw it.

A great idea.
posted by zog at 2:48 PM on October 11, 2012


oh hell yes. I already bought Old Man's War legit but hey! Now I can give it to someone.
posted by mwhybark at 4:54 PM on October 11, 2012


They've just added to the bundle 5 comic books, including two volumes of Penny Arcade comics, two volumes of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and xkcd volume 0. It's all a bunch of comics you can view online, but not bad.
posted by zabuni at 11:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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