Write Stuff – Spread the Word

If you love words, You’re probably revelling in the current climate of e-books, audiobooks, and more blogs than even Matilda Wormwood could devour. One of the driving forces behind this word resurgence has been generosity—an open-source, communal attitude That’s given readers access to more content than ever before. So as we approach the traditional season of giving, what better time to look at a few ways we fortunate readers can give back?

One easy way you can share some bookish awesomeness is to spread the word—literally. For up-and-coming authors, bloggers, and podcasters, it can be tough to build momentum, even if they’re putting out quality content. Genuine reader reviews (sorry, grandma’s glowing praise doesn’t count) do more than help other readers. they’re also gold to folks whose advertising budgets exist in the same realm as unicorns. So if you’ve enjoyed a new author or read something useful in a blog, take five or ten minutes to post a review or comment and give some literary goodness back.

And It’s not just wordsmiths who’ve brought you this access to content. It’s also the thousands of programmers, many of them volunteers, who devote their time to things like content management and themes. WordPress software powers over 60 million sites, everything from The New York Times to Martha Stewart’s page to small blogs like my own. All free and open-source. Joomla is another free, open-source content management system.

Throw in all the free templates, add-ins, and themes created by individual programmers, and you have a remarkably generous community that helps writers and podcasters bring their content straight to you, the audience.

If you want to return some of that generosity, many theme and template creators gladly accept small donations via PayPal. Haven’t used a theme yourself? Go to your favourite blogger’s site and scroll to the bottom of the homepage. Most sites include a small credit with the name of their theme and a link to the designer’s homepage. Post a comment saying you find the theme easy to navigate, or mention something else you like about it. Better yet, give a little shout-out on Facebook or Twitter and send some new visitors to the designer’s site.

One thing many e-book fans find confusing is which books to use on which reader. Since 2006, Kovid Goyal has been making things easier with Calibre, his e-book converter and organizer. Calibre has become wildly popular, but remains free and open-source. As Kovid writes on his site, one of his main goals “has always been to prevent either the fragmentation or the monopolization of the e-book market by entities that care solely for short-term goals.”

As a reader, you can’t put a price on that sort of check to the system of corporate monopolies. But you can support Calibre (or like-minded developers) in plenty of ways, from making a donation to writing code to helping out with translations.

Last but not least, Project Gutenberg welcomes all kinds of talent on its volunteering page. You can help put books on DVD for people without access to high-speed Internet; flip through your paper books to find pages that are missing from Project Gutenberg’s copies; help edit the Gutenberg Wiki pages; and proofread new titles in the Gutenberg library.

May these few suggestions help you carry the spirit of giving into the new year, and may your holidays be merry!

S.D. Livingston is the author of several novels, including the suspenseful Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing—and for more musings on the literary world.

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