Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Bentley Than Bentley!

As part of any author's e-book marketing strategy, they should take a look around and see where they are picking up momentum and where they are lagging. So this morning, I did a search in Amazon for "Bentley Little" (okay, I admit it, I was going to pick up a Kindle book of his) and lo and behold, check out what Amazon is showing readers:


Yes, that reads right: when someone in Amazon searches for Bentley Little, they find Jack Drew BEFORE they find Bentley Little. That is incredible, in terms of visibility. As such, I'm finding this reflects a really incredible surge in sales.

If you're an author looking to market your e-book and its similar in style to another author, I highly recommend you use that author's name in your search (meta) tags. It helps a lot.

And in other news, if any of you out there are interested in a Kindlegraph, THE TAKEOVER is available for me to Kindlegraph it for you.

Have a Happy Halloween!
-Jack

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Makin' the Most of Irene


So, a hurricane has blown through New Jersey. After spending a great deal of Thursday shoring up any loose items in the back yard and greatly testing the storage capacity of my new shed (everything fits, thank God), Irene paid us a visit overnight and brought down some trees, some power lines and effectively wreaked havoc with several of my friends' basements. Right now, the members of the family who didn't sleep last night are napping and the 3 year old (who got a full night's sleep last night) is watching TV.

The house is quiet and I'm sitting here with a reamful of THE BOG (still on track for an October release), a pen and Tweetdeck open. I'm hoping to get a little editing done today and get my notes together for a powerhouse run through a novel to meet my deadline.

So, I'm sitting here, winds blowing, making the best of a crappy situation (and sticking to my old motto--"take every free second and write"!).

Stay safe during the rest of Irene, folks!

-Jack

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is Horror?

"Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion."
- Douglas Winter, PRIME EVIL (1982)

With an immense amount of respect to Mr. Winter, this statement is only partially right. Emotion is, indeed, a factor in horror fiction. Emotion is necessary in any fiction, whether it is action-adventure, mystery, science fiction or space opera. Like all good fiction, when it comes to horror fiction (and horror movies, as well), emotion is merely one single thread in the blanket of dread we authors weave when telling a story.

But what makes horror, in fact, horror?

If an author wants to evoke from a reader true horror, there is only one element that will simply reach into any reader’s psyche and start to unhinge them: the removal of safety. Once you remove any amount of safety from a character or a place, you’ve now begun the process of unsettling the reader. This is only truly successful, however, if the other threads in your blanket of dread are present and working. The reader won’t care if you’ve pulled the proverbial carpet out from a character if you haven’t evoked the proper emotional bond between reader and character first. This is why sympathetic characters work best (but are not always the choice).

Take any horror novel you love and boil it down to its essence, the true nexus of the story, and you will see that the main reason a reader is drawn to that story is whatever safety the character initially had is gone.

The removal of safety can be complete and total, as is the case in such novels as THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy, SWAN SONG by Robert McCammon, or I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. Even THE RISING, DEAD SEA and CITY OF THE DEAD by Brian Keene (where zombies have taken over the world and only a few humans survive). In all these tales, most of the safety in the world (or at least the characters’ world) is gone. Armageddon of some sort has wiped it all out and changed the way the characters interact with their world. Their daily life is no longer in line with “the norm” a reader knows in their daily life and that tangent is the bread and butter of horror fiction.

The removal of safety can be of a more moderate nature. One of the most effect invocations of horror is the fa├žade of safety in the beginning of the tale and the removal of that safety after the author/creator has established how benign and peaceful a particular situation is at first. Some incredibly well done examples of this are THE FOG (film) by John Carpenter, ‘SALEM’S LOT and NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King, and THE BIRDS (film) by Alfred Hitchcock (and yes, to a lesser degree the short story by Daphne Du Maurier). In these tales, it is established early on that the town (Antonio Bay in the case of THE FOG, Jerusalem’s Lot and Castle Rock in the King tales and Bodega Bay in THE BIRDS) is a small, peaceful town where everyone knows everyone else and it would be a great place to raise a family. The introduction of outside elements (the ghosts of fishermen, vampires, the devil himself, and ravens and seagulls) throw the relative safety of the small town into chaos and this unsettlingly creates a tangent from what the reader or viewer knows in their own daily lives. This removal of safety creates the turmoil of emotion for the reader. In essence, it creates the horror of the situation.

The fact that Robert Neville is alone in the world (and yet, hauntingly, almost poignantly not alone) strips the world (in I AM LEGEND) Richard Matheson builds of its safety and throws the reader off-kilter. This is not the same world where we, the reader, get our Starbucks coffee or pick up a newspaper. This is a dead world, inhabited by things that you DON’T want to come across. This removal of safety drenches the story in dread. When the vampire hordes encircle Neville’s house each night, it invokes in the reader a creeping terror. Why? Because the vampires (representing the removal of safety) are infringing on the relative safety of Neville’s boarded up, garlic-strung house. The horror is evoked by the erosion of Neville’s perceived safety.

The most cringe-inducing moment in King’s ‘Salem’s Lot is when grave digger Mike Ryerson is staying in Matt Burke’s house as a guest overnight, Matt Burke hears things amiss in the darkness.

Softly yet clearly in the silent house the words came, spoken in Mike Ryerson’s voice, spoken in the dead accents of sleep:

‘Yes. Come in.’

Matt’s breath stopped, then whistled out in soundless scream. He felt faint with fear. His belly seemed to have turned to lead. His testicles had drawn up. What in God’s name had been invited into his house?”

The horror here is quite clear. The relative safety of the character’s surroundings (his house) has been violated by an outside force. The removal of safety sends any of us—all of us—into a disjointed semi-panic. Our world is not right, unless there’s a modicum of safety involved in it. Strip away that safety and you can induce some serious gooseflesh.

Serial killers terrorizing teenagers, vampires surrounding us in the dark, the flash of atomic weaponry minimizing the human race. It doesn’t matter what the catalyst, if you, the author remove the safety from a situation, you begin to weave terror or horror into your writing. It’s what drives us as humans. The want of safety, the need of safety drives our human instinct to survive. That’s what builds the emotion in a horror story. All of these are key elements for you, the author, to manipulate to make the best story you can.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Upcoming Novel Releases!!

I've got great news! My publisher, Screaming Aphony Press, and I have worked out a deal to release two new novels between now and March of 2012. Since I can officially talk about it now, I thought I'd share some of the details.

First, in October of 2011, Screaming Aphony Press will release my novel, THE BOG.

THE BOG - Release Date: 10/11/2011

Hidden in the desolate wilderness of The Pine Barrens, the village of Jamesbog, New Jersey is a quiet town that time forgot. A town square, residents that all know each other like family and a white clapboard church. But this town holds secrets. Secrets that have been buried for twenty-five years and like most secrets, this one should have stayed buried.

Twenty-five years ago two girls were murdered. One was drowned in the flooded bogs during the Autumn of '77. The other was never found.

One fine summer day, a sudden uncanny storm blows in savagely, threatening to dredge up the answers to mysteries that have remained hidden for nearly three decades. Huddled in a church during this freakish storm, a small group of survivors will find out the truth.


And then in March of 2012,

COMMUNITY - Release Date: 3/13/2012

Bill and Jenny Peters have just moved to the Shore town of Shoal Harbor. They moved for the friendly faces and the great schools, the quiet neighborhoods and the sense of community.

But not all is as it seems. Bill's neighbors begin to show an almost fanatical devotion to the town and the community. People keep disappearing all over town. And a dark pall has been cast over the whole town.

The Peters family, however, don't have the sense of community that the town leaders look for in residents. The Peters are shunning their friends and becoming "homebodies". They're finding that they don't belong.

The Peters family is not fitting in.



I'm really excited about these two new releases and I really can't wait to show you the awesome cover art these novels are getting dressed in. Make sure you join the Jack Drew mailing list (below and to the right) and I'll keep you up to date on all the details of these (and other) upcoming releases.

-Jack

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writing While on "The Bowl" (It's NOT what you think, folks)

So, I've been really quiet lately. Both on Twitter and this blog.
There's a reason for this silence that I'll delve into in a little bit. But, yes, I realize that I've been mostly quiet. And with most extended silences there's good news that's happened in the interim and there's bad news.

The good news first:

1. I currently clock in at 204.5 lbs. That sounds like I'm heavy (and I am) but this is really good news for me as I'd previously struggled with maintaining my stunning reverse hourglass figure at 216 lbs. I've changed how I eat and have started a new routine that helps me with a great many tasks in life. What's interesting is this: I didn't drastically change what I eat. I've simply re-evaluated what tastes good to me and what I want to eat. For instance (and remember, kids, I am NOT a dietitian), I realized that, in the morning, I would stop at Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's for some sort of sandwich with my morning coffee. What never occurred to me is that, while I really enjoyed the sausage, bacon, whatever-fatty-thing-came-on-the-sandwich's salty goodness, I wasn't happy with how I felt afterward. I wasn't energized or ready for the day or, hell, ready for anything. I felt warm, full, greasy and above all, sleepy.

What I instead do now is grab coffee at the office (we actually get some decent coffee in from a local roaster) and have a bowl of watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries. I still enjoy my coffee in the morning but now I don't stuff myself full of things that just don't make me feel good later. With the fruit, I feel mobile and able to walk around my office without that sleepy feeling I used to get, when eating bacon-egg-sausage-spam-ham-and-spam.

My lunches are (mostly) healthier, with the occasional 2 slice of pizza run but I try to eat something lighter and healthier. It helps that I've got a SaladWorks nearby and I'm one of the few that enjoy some of the better salads at Wendy's. (No, not the 3000 calorie uber-salads, either). Just something sensible.

2. I've also changed up my daily routine for the summer and this has helped me greatly in nearly every aspect of my life.

Each morning, I wake up at 5:45 AM and drive my new putt putt to a nearby park and walk for an hour and change each morning. I do not run (I used to and my knees aren't what they once were) yet. I occasionally jog if the spirit moves me.

But for about an hour and 20 minutes each morning, I walk around a gravel trail and wave to deer and chipmunks I pass by.

And I think.

I've gotten a lot of thinking done while walking around "The Bowl", as the hiking trail I follow each morning is called. And it's helped me out all day long. First, I go over what needs to get done around the house or what chores I have to take care of that day: call the dentist, fax some paperwork, take out the garbage, etc. Then I quickly go over what I need to accomplish that day at work: help get answers from customer A about a report, ensure that employees A, B or C are working on project X. You know, the boring part of the day that makes up 8+ hours of it.

But then, once I've gotten my head clear of all that, I let my brain fall into neutral for a second, my pace evens out a bit and then I let my thoughts turn to the writing projects I've got on my plate.

I work out plot twists (who really dunnit?), character development (does Bobby go to high school or only say he's going to high school?), ideas, parts of towns/settings, whatever. The point is, I let my writer's mind wind its way from where I want it to go (the worst thing a writer can do) to where it wants to go (usually, the best place to figure out anything).

I'll give you an example: I've been plotting out 3 novels in a series lately. Not all together. One at a time. And after plotting the first one out, I moved onto the second story. And came up with a rather banal, run-of-the-mill novel plot. Yay. (The writers out there know what I'm talking about, we've all done it.) It was paltry and easy and didn't challenge anyone: me, the writer or you, the reader.

So, instead, I took a central image from this plot--the one part of the whole book idea I liked--and just played it over and over in my head while I paced around this track of dirt for forty five minutes. I let my mind drift and things ... morphed. This central image changed.

Where at first the dead body had been a man, it was then a female child. Where it was a female child, it was then a woman. Then, it was a matter of who was she and who had killed her. Why did they kill her?

And here's the thing: when I was done, my brain had worked it out completely: the first novel I'd plotted out came from a very personal experience for one of the main characters. Basically, the plot of the first novel revolves around something very personal that had happened to one of the two main characters (their really good friends). If I then made this central image from the second novel something that affects the other main character on a personal level, the whole series would work and I'd solidify these two characters in readers minds.

The thing is: I didn't come up with that idea. I didn't think of it.

Walking around The Bowl and letting my mind clear itself of all the driftwood that piles up on its shores (my daily tasks, etc.), had let my mind work out why I wasn't happy with that novel's plot. Call it Divine Intervention, call it Primordial Thinking, call it what you will. I let my mind work something out and the result was far, far better than the one I had forced.

The bad news now:

1. I'm fiddling with THE COMPLEX on the side but for the most part, I've put that project away. The "great, God A'mighty steam shovel", as Stephen King has said, is parked for now. I still want to complete it. Especially after reading this review at Amazon from a fan. I rather enjoy my horror novels and would like to put another one out by year's end. But for now, I'm working on a project that may not be as epic of scope, but it's meaningful to me. One I hope you can soon read and enjoy as much as I am.

2. Work. I don't want to get into it here because of the nature of the Interwebs and the ever-watchful eye of Big Brother.

This is the reason I've not been too chatty both here on this blog and on Twitter. When I get frustrated beyond a point or when I feel that a line has been crossed, I get mouthy. I mouth off to those I probably shouldn't. It's a personal trait of mine that I try to control (most of the time I don't do such a good job of that). So, I shut up. Completely. I feel that if I open my mouth to say something, I'll say the wrong thing entirely and it will eventually come back around and bite me in the ass. Basically, it's the nature of working in corporate America in 2011 and having a blog or Twitter account. You have to watch what you say. If any blogger were to say anything derogatory about work, their employer would have every right in the world to let them go.

... and lastly, more good news:

1. Got A Fire Pit

For Father's Day, I received a fire pit for my backyard. Why is this good news?

I get to burn stuff!

Mostly marshmallows and wine labels but I plan to spend an awful lot of time sitting around that baby, plotting and writing, so look for photos of a pair of my Chuck Taylors (I've got four) melting by the fire!


I'll be sending out more regular updates about the new mystery series I've been plotting and the progress on THE COMPLEX, so keep an eye out for those, too!

Enjoy your summer, everyone!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Retro Ain't That Bad ...

So, I’m in the middle of several writing projects right now. I’m working on my next novel, THE COMPLEX--another Bentley Little-esque weird horror novel. And while I do that, I’ll be steering clear of reading any of his novels, new or old. So, with that in mind, I decided to peruse the nearly overflowing night table drawer for something interesting to read that won’t color what I write too much.

After sorting through some excellent Charles L. Grant novels (he’s really an amazing author and if you haven’t given him a chance yet, you really need to check him out--I mean that most sincerely--he ranks right up there with “the gods” [more on “the gods” later] ), and casting aside the latest from Little, I picked up my old battered copy of NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King, entranced.

I gazed upon this gorgeous image, and fell back in love. In a blink of an eye, I was 19 again. First year of college had passed by (literally passed by me) and the next was just beginning. I spent an awful lot of time reading NEEDFUL THINGS when it came out and missed an awful lot of class because of it.

Yeah, this would do for the next buncha weeks. This would do, indeed.

Here’s the thing: in 1987, I went through some changes. No, not those changes. Get your mind up to the gutter, please. When I was 15 years old, I was an avid reader, much like I am now. Only a whole lot thinner and a whole lot less gray. But for the longest time in my teens, I was reading novels that were ... well, they were tame, at best. Sure, I’d read some Clive Cussler novels and they were thrilling enough. And I’d burned my way through all the novels Frederick Forsyth had written. At the time (1987), THE DAY OF THE JACKAL was one of my all-time favorite novels. I’d read plenty of historical action / adventure novels of the likes of SHARPE’S EAGLE, Horatio Hornblower and I’d started to swim in a deeper pool of weirdness when I read ON STRANGER TIDES by Tim Powers. I’d read nearly every single novel that Tor ever published in the sci fi series “V”.

But then, in 1987, something ... arrived. Something came into my world and changed everything.

One day in 1987, I picked up a paperback novel that surely was the demise of three or four trees. IT weighed about as much as a brick and its cover was drop dead sexy. IT was enticing. IT was scary looking

IT by Stephen King was an intimidating novel. But, I’d gazed upon it for several weeks when accompanying my mother to PathMark for weekly groceries. Finally, one day, I plunked down my money and picked up a copy for myself. And over the next two weeks, I fell in love. My parents had rented a summer house in Long Beach Island for a handful of weeks and I spent every single day sitting in the sand and every single night sitting on the porch (and laying on the sofa) reading IT by Stephen King. This was a big, beautiful, amazing story of children near my age at the time (sure, there was an age gap but not by much) and mixed in, there was horror and clowns and some awful stuff going on. I had found my greatest literary love: the horror genre.
Which brings me to the main focus of this article. Every single time I see King’s name in that stylized fashion that Viking used to use (think like this:



I get utterly and completely nostalgic. Seeing King’s name in that particular font brings me back to when I first realized I loved reading scary stories and when my world truly opened up. It came at a time in my life when things for me, personally, were a little dark: I didn’t have many friends, I wore glasses and was typecast as the quintessential nerd. Late Middle School, High School was not really a great time for me. And because of that, I clung to stories that weren’t exactly upbeat. Most of King’s work (and even moreso his Bachman books like RAGE and THE LONG ROAD) spoke to me in ways that those swash-buckling heroes or the political potboilers couldn’t.

If you were to fill a room with a bunch of horror authors and ask them “who’s your favorite author?” 8 out of 10 would probably still answer, “Stephen King”. The other 2 are lying.

So, I find it very apropos that, at a time when I’ve got to crunch down and grind out a novel, at a time when I’ve got to mentally set a bunch of things aside, I grab a book that not only makes me reminisce about the “old days” but helps bring back the reason I got excited about horror in the first place.

Re-reading NEEDFUL THINGS isn’t just something to do while I write THE COMPLEX. For me, it’s getting back just a little slice of my high school days. Getting back just a little bit of that feeling of what it was like to discover things again. Like the first time you realized you really liked that girl with the dark hair you saw at the Boardwalk or the first time you take a swig of beer, sitting on a beach with your friends, under the stars and listening to the surf pound away at the shore.

This is what inspires me to write.

What inspires you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Havin' Fun with Amazon...

So, last week Screaming Aphony Press released both my novel, The Takeover, and my brand new short story collection,The Whispered Voices Screamed The Truth, on Amazon for the Kindle.

For those of you who are considering publishing your work this way, I highly recommend it.
It is really the most informative publishing service around. Smashwords is great and works well for barnes & noble and other bookstores. But they're sales info lags (which isn't a criticism, I know that's just the way it works) and Amazon's numbers are very nearly real time.
If you're looking for a good way to track your sales, Amazon is a great way to go.
Furthermore, their sales are international. For example, I have had sales from AmazonUK. An audience, im sorry to say, I hadn't considered before.
Im very happy to have them, I simply never considered selling books to an international audience before.
Overall, amazon's publishing service is cool stuff.

On a side note, I've worked out plot kinks in my next novel and am at work tweaking some already existing material. If you liked The Takeover, you're going to be a fan of the next book.
Trust me.

As always, be good, Friends
-Jack

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Horror Collection!



Out now from Screaming Aphony Press, my new horror collection, THE WHISPERED VOICES SCREAMED THE TRUTH is debuting on Amazon Kindle first ... and it's ONLY 99 CENTS!!!!!

Pick up a copy here: http://amzn.to/fGmwrL












Also, good news and some free love for Kindle fans! My novel THE TAKEOVER is now out on Amazon and available for 99 CENTS!!!!

Grab your copy of THE TAKEOVER now!!! http://amzn.to/hDxUUQ


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hacking Articles

For those of you who are interested, I'm writing up some articles on the art of hacking over at Hack On A dime. You can follow along at http://hackonadime.blogspot.com.

So far, we've put together a list of tools we want to include in our Hacker's Toolkit and we've covered a few other topics and are about to dive into different ways to gather information on our targets.

Over the next few weeks, we'll cover different scan techniques as well as some very interesting side projects that take a hacker's skills to cover.

Come along for the ride, won't you?


-Jack

New Short Story Collection!


Soon to be released from Screaming Aphony Press, THE WHISPERED VOICES SCREAMED THE TRUTH, a new collection of short stories that will make you sleep with the lights on!

This collection will contain some previously published short stories and some brand new stories, including the controversial tale, "The Clinic".

In the next few weeks, THE WHISPERED VOICES SCREAMED THE TRUTH will be available through bn.com, kobo, deisel-ebooks and other outlets.

-Jack

Saturday, March 19, 2011

CEH? Been there, done that. Got the T-Shirt.

This past week, I attended the Pilot Course for CEH V7 and passed the exam. Yep, as of yesterday, I am a Certfied Ethical Hacker. I couldn't have done it without the help of my instructor, Larry Greenblatt and his team from Internetwork Defense (www.internetworkdefense.com). I can't thank them enough.

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I'm pretty damn stoked.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Upcoming Fiction Collection!

Tonight, I find myself with free time because I finished all my CISSP class slides early. So, I started piecing together my new collection of fiction. I've decided to include everything I've previously published, as well as a couple of new pieces that have a similar flavor.

So, I've cobbled together nearly all the stories but one. As I review them for inclusion in the anthology, I have to say I'm proud of these things I've created. My babies. I've nurtured them from infancy to full-grown idea and to this day, when I read them, they still make me proud.

I'll release some more information when I have it but, for now, keep your eyes peeled for an announcement here.

-Jack

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Readin' and Writin' Tools


The one on the top is what I read with. The one on the bottom is what I write with.

Up top: a Pandigital Novel running Android with Aldiko reader. Might very well be the best e-reader for those who like all things Android.

Below, a pocket-sized Pinnacle notebook I keep on me at all times. My own private brain dump. It's where I work out the ideas I've saved from oblivion in Evernote.

These past few weeks, I can't live without either. It's really turned into one of the busiest times of my life and I find myself still pummeled by good fiction ideas along the way. Got a place to write 'em. And with the PDN, I've torched my way through like 3 novels over the past few weeks (an unheard of feat, normally).

-Jack

Friday, January 28, 2011

Timeout from Fiction

Lately, I've had to step away from my fiction in support of a new effort -- I've become a teacher!

Saturday mornings, I teach a class that helps prepare candidates to take the CISSP exam (CISSP stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional). This is a class that teaches the students what a corporate, enterprise security model/plan should be and what security subjects they should understand thoroughly to be able to pass the exam.

Basically, it's a class on network security. I've been teaching it the past few Saturdays and I've got a bunch more weeks to go (8, I think). Because of this new job, I've stepped away from the fiction while I draft up my training materials (which takes a while to create).

It's a shame because, while I've paused the physical act of writing, I'm still getting barraged with story ideas on a daily basis. Each morning when I drive to work, I see at least ONE thing that puts an idea in my head. Whether it be someone walking, someone driving, an unassuming tree sticking out of the FEET of snow we've recently fallen victim to in the northeast or the way some garbage was strewn about the street.

So, what's an author to do? Well, I've been keeping copious notes so that I don't miss an idea. Unfortunately, it's going to be a while before I can start to pound them out at the keyboard.

By then, I hope I can still read my chicken scratch.

-Jack

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THE TAKEOVER now on sale - $2.99!!!!!

Because I've recently been blessed with a very favorable review of my novel, THE TAKEOVER, Screaming Aphony Press has decided to offer the novel for a discounted price for a limited time!

Right now, you can order your e-book copy of THE TAKEOVER from Smashwords for only $2.99!!!

Click here and grab your copy now! Enter the coupon code, "HF23L" into the Coupon Code box when checking out and the price of the book will drop from $5.99 to $2.99.

And, as always, thanks, guys!

-Jack

Awesome Review of "THE TAKEOVER"

Larry Hoffer over at "It's Either Sadness or Euphoria" recently set aside some time to read my novel, THE TAKEOVER. (And on a plane, no less!) He's also been kind enough to write up his thoughts on it. (Thanks, Larry!) I'll let you read the review but I'm absolutely stoked that someone enjoyed reading the novel as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Just to give you a little flavor, Larry said, "I don't read a lot of horror books ... boy, this book was creepy. ... At times I wanted to shout at the characters to make them realize what was going to happen, but people on a plane don't take kindly to other passengers shouting at inanimate objects. This definitely kept me turning the pages, even when I didn't want to."

(Big Smiles! BIG SMILES!)

THE TAKEOVER is available from smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books and the Apple iBooks application.