Monday, October 25, 2010

'Adderall Diaries App ' Brings The Reader Into Discussion Group With Author

The Author, The Book, Now the App: The Adderall Diaries

Stephen Elliott's new app for his book, The Adderall Diaries, is “Blurring the Lines Between Apps and Books,” says the New York Times Noam Cohen in yesterday's report.

The Adderall Diaries App now available in the iBook Store for the iPad and iPhone follows the September 2009 release of the printed book by the same name.

App users can get the and read the Diaries as an ebook, and then some, from the iStore.  It is also available in the Amazon Kindle Bookstore, but the app isn't mentioned (yet) on the Amazon page for the book.

The Adderall App is yet another wrinkle in the oft-confusing world of ebook publishing, and the battle between Apple and Amazon for the hearts and bucks of readers. 

The app and the book bring readers into a a virtual book discussion group in a dedicated chat room where readers can talk about the book among themselves and with the author.
The app was created for Elliott by Electric Literature, where the stated mission is “to use new media and innovative distribution.”  The company offers app building services to individual authors as well as publishing houses at its web site for Electric Publisher.  The company says it has had 20,000 downloads from the site in the last year.

That ups the ante for Amazon, which for over two years has allowed individual authors to very easily publish their books and other writings and sell them on Amazon.  Called Digital Text Publishing, the system is easy enough for a grade schooler to use it, yet offers a sophisticated tracking and reporting system that would satisfy the most profit minded writer or publishing magnate.  And fat royalties of 70% of the books asking price if its between $2.99 and $9.99  make self-publishing more financially appealing that it has ever been.  This writer, your intrepid Planet iPad reporter, can assure you that you can publish your novel in under an hour on the first try.  The second go-around might take you 10 minutes.  Round one burns up 50 minutes because you can't believe it is so easy, and keep looking for the catch.

The Adderall Diaries App prompts key questions for iPad readers, a huge chunk of whom like to shop in Amazon's hugely stocked Kindle Store.  Item 1 for them: Will apps bought on Amazon or elsewhere function on the iPad?  For writers, a question is whether or not Amazon will erase Apple's seeming advantage when it comes to interactive "enhanced book" reading on the iPad and its sister devices.

But back to the book and the trial which it covered;  Both seem to get lost in the frenzy of media coverage of the new technology.

The book gets its name from Elliott's “drug of choice” while he covered and wrote about a sensational murder trial. Elliott ventured--stumbled?-- into the world Gonzo Journalism pioneered by Hunter Thompson. Thompson's Fear and Loating in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey To The Heart of the American Dream is the classic gonzo journalism, which can be called “Writing Under the Influence.”

Elliott's influence was the drug Adderall, a highly addictive “psychostimulant.” The Diaries covers the case of Hans Reiser, convicted of killing his wife, Nina. He plea bargained his way down to second degree murder charges after agreeing to show the police where to find the body. But Sean Sturgeon, a member of Reiser's BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism) group muddied the waters with oblique references to killing some people.

Amazon readers give the Adderall Diaries 17 five-star ratings, plus 3 more at 3 stars. But the marquee slot on the book's Amazon page is held by a rather scathing review by Publisher's Weekly. It trashes author Stephen Elliott as a “writer stymied by past success, writer's block, substance abuse...Elliott's cracked-out chronicle of a bizarre murder trial amounts to less than the sum of its parts” and “A self-indulgent romp.”

Yet Vanity Fair says: “Elliott may be writing under the influence, but it's the influence of genius.” The Boston Globe praises: “Elliott writes with grace and precision that calls to mind Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.” The San Francisco Chronicle promises: “You won't find a more provocative, masterful, thrilling ride than this.”

For the iPad, readers can get the app here. It's pricey. The app is $14.99; the book is $9.99.

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