In his former occupation as a programmer at Microsoft, Daniel Oran developed the "start" button for the Windows 95 taskbar. As an author about to publish his second novel, Oran continues to innovate, this time by using the recently released Amazon Kindle e-book reader to let early readers help him refine a draft of his latest book. Oran's use of the Kindle is one of the more interesting we've seen, and really demonstrates the device's read/write potential.
Oran's first book, "Ulterior Motive," published 1999, is a murder mystery that takes place at a Seattle-based software giant called "Megasoft." For it, Oran went the traditional publishing route: he found an agent, who queried publishers, who printed an initial run of the book and got onto bookstore shelves.
"I was struck by how one-sided the process was: the primary feedback from readers came in the form of sales figures," he told us. "This time, I wanted something more interactive, and the Kindle seems like a breakthrough."
Oran decided that for his sophomore novel, "Believe," he would do what he knew from the software world: he was would run a beta test. The problem was how to easily share a novel length manuscript with people willing to read it and give him feedback. Sharing content on the web has long been possible, but reading anything longer than a couple of pages on a computer screen is painful, and downloading and printing a few hundred pages isn't something most people are willing to do either.
Print on demand self publishers like Lulu offered Oran a way to publish beta print versions of his book, but they were not economical for readers (a 300-page, perfect bound paperback book has a Lulu base price of $10.53) and offer no easy way to collect feedback from readers.
Amazon's Kindle (see our full review) seemed like the perfect solution for Oran's online book beta test. Not only does the Kindle making reading an electronic book far easier on the reader, but it offers Oran a way to cheaply distribute the beta version of his manuscript to readers -- he's charging $.99 for the Kindle edition of "Believe."
Because Amazon's sales pages include reader feedback features (like a message board and reviews), Oran is also using the site to solicit and gather thoughts from early readers. "This is a publishing experiment, made possible by the new Amazon Kindle," Oran informs readers on the book's sales page. "I hope you'll give it a try, then share your feedback in an Amazon review."
Oran classifies the book as a "late beta" -- "just about ready for the bookstore" -- and after gathering feedback from brave beta readers, he plans to go the traditional publishing route once more and get "Believe" on store shelves. "But, with Kindle, I think there's a new first step available, involving the writer and the reader in a conversation that couldn't have taken place in quite this way even a few months ago," he said.
During the beta period, all proceeds from the book will be donated to the Neediest Cases Fund, which last year raised over $4 million to help families and individuals in distress in New York City.