• 100 Influential Idahoans 2015
You can find it all here in the Pacific Northwest - much of the nation's most beautiful places, some appallingly trashed-out areas; politics running from just about as far left to just about as far right as anywhere in the country; economies of all sorts from the highly prosperous to the dying. It's all here.
 

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Of course, someone had to come up with “666.”

But there’s more than this to recent decisions that, at long last, Idaho will move out of its long-standing single area code and into the world of two of them.

The Public Utilities Commission, which oversees area codes, has faced the issue before and managed to kick it down the road. The need has been mentioned as far back as the 80s, but not really confronted head-on until 2001, when the national private company administering area codes figured that Idaho would run out of 208 numbers by the end of 2003. The PUC, putting off that day, cut the numbers assigned to phone companies in single blocks (from 10,000 to 1,000) for the Boise area, which bought some time. It used the same tactic a few years later, on a statewide basis, to buy more time. Now, at last, the game will be up in another three years.

After that, the state could go two ways: Either divide geographically (like it has with congressional districts), which would mean half of the state getting a new area code number. This would allow everyone to still make seven-digit local phone calls. But it would amount to a lot of hassle and changed phone numbers for a lot of people, so the likelihood is an “overlay” – starting a new area code right on top of 208, statewide. That would mean you have to dial an area code even if you’re calling two houses down. But it would also probably mean you can keep your existing phone numbers.

Much of Oregon uses an overlay system that works this way. On one hand, dialing the extra three numbers is a small annoyance. On the other hand, many numbers most of us call these days are programmed into smart phones and the like, so the practical difference is apt to be a lot smaller than in the days when people actually dialed their phone numbers. (Assuming here you’re among the shrinking group who used to use rotary phones? Never mind.) The overlay is a little complicated for callers, but keeping your accustomed number is probably a much bigger tradeoff, especially for businesses and other organizations but for many residents too. A lot of people still do, after all, have local phone tethers, even if they use wireless signals for their local numbers instead of wires (as our house does).

The PUC is taking comments on all this through October 6.

Comes next, of course, the question of what new three-number area code Idaho should get.

It can’t be one already in use elsewhere, which limits the possibilities. The “666” suggestion noted above actually would work, since for some reason no one has gotten it assigned to their local area. But it doesn’t seem very likely for Idaho.

The lively crowd at the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Huckleberries blog has come up with some additional suggestions too, based on the letters attached to the numbers. You could get GEM (436), which isn’t in use elsewhere. Someone suggested GOP (467), also not in use.

Others suggested that apparently would qualify include LDS (537), LOL (565), or 384 (DUH).

What’s your preference?

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E-books are all well and good, some new authors say, but what about piracy? Wouldn’t it be too easy for someone to steal my book if it’s out there in electronic form?

After all, you can look at the music and video industries and see the important commercial damage done by people illicitly copying and spreading songs and videos. The music industry is making a lot less money now than it was 20 years ago, partly because of copyright infringement. Why couldn’t the same happen to books?

It’s a fair question, and it has concerned even large book companies. In 2012 a group of large publishers and other related companies went to court to stop what they said was illegal sharing of book files (mainly PDF files) online by two websites, Library.nu and iFile.it. That effort reportedly shut down those sites.

There haven’t been many other reports of large-scale book piracy cases since. Piracy doesn’t seem to have become nearly so big a problem for book authors and publishers as it has been in other industries.

When a podcast on book marketing recently opened the topic to discussion, one commenter suggested, “I think the market for pirated books is pretty small compared to music. People listen to dozens of songs (or albums) per day, and collect them just to collect them and have them at their disposal. I don’t see that with books.”

Another pointed out that many e-books are already available either free or at a low cost. And, “Who would use a Napster for books?”

A study released last month by the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office found the numbers of book pirates are indeed small. While the numbers of music and video infringers remain significant, it said, “The e-book category has the lowest level of infringement with only 6% of category users accessing illegal content.” That’s about a quarter to a third the rate of music piracy.

Pirated books may increase sales more than dampen them. In 2009 publishing consultant Brian O’Leary looked at sales figures for several books (for the technical books publisher O’Reilly Media) after they had appeared on pirate websites, and found that legal sales actually increased. The economic theory behind free copies driving sales is what has encouraged, in more recent years, the rush of many indie publishers to offer their e-books for free, on dozens of websites devoted to the practice, in hopes of generating larger sales down the road.

Indie writers probably have less to worry about in this area anyway than, say, authors of bestsellers whose legal prices for e-book and print versions remain considerably higher.

Still, if you see your book’s electronic file being offered for free by someone who has no right to do that, you probably should take action. One of the benefits of free offerings by indie publishers, for example, is being able to control and analyze the results, which pirates wouldn’t let you do.

If you spot one case of copyright infringement, run a search through Google or other search engines to see if you can find others – either of the same book or a different one you wrote. Record where they’re located.

Check on the web page for a link to either the webmaster or copyright policy, or reports of abuse. Contact through that link and report the abuse, and save your email in a record. Often the “take down” request is enough to kill the link from the site. If you see a link to the specific person who has posted the pirated material, send a “take down” notice, warning that they have no right to disseminate the book, to them too. That warning may be enough to get them to quit. Then, check a few days or a week later to see if the link is gone.

You have the option, as the book companies did, of taking the matter to a lawyer and heading to court. But as in so many other kinds of disputes, everyone (the lawyers excepted) probably will be happier if it doesn’t come to that.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
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People tend to forget now, but Joe Albertson started out working at someone else’s supermarket.

Dropping out of the College of Idaho, he started as a clerk for the Safeway grocery chain. He was successful there, moving into midmanagement in his early 30s, but it wasn’t satisfying. Albertson thought he had a better way to run a grocery – they didn’t call them “supermarkets” then – and wanted to try running one on his own. Merging some of his own savings and some investments from a few other Safeway executives who believed in him, he launched his first Albertson’s at 17tth and State streets in Boise in 1939.

Befitting a store bearing its founder’s name, the Albertsons stores, which expanded quickly to Nampa and Caldwell, had a distinctive approach for the era, emphasizing not only a broad selection of food and other goods but also both self-service and strong customer service. The approach would eventually become standard in the industry, but it was new then, and Albertson’s personal insight and focus, and in many place community involvement, helped make his stores winners. Over the years he ran the company, the stores proliferated into the hundreds in many parts of the country.

Albertson’s company went public in 1959, but its founder kept a close watch until his death in 1986. In the years after that came the mass acquisitions: Seesel’s, Buttry, SuperOne, Bruno, and finally in 1999 swallowed the giant American Stores Company, which operated Jewel-Osco, Sav-on Drugs, Lucky and other stores. Closures and sales of stores followed. The public company, concerned as all public companies are about improving stock prices, began to be, apparently, more about buying and selling properties than it was about creating an innovative and popular supermarket – the basis of Joe Albertson’s successful business.

Financial indigestion was the near-term result, and in 2006 Albertsons was sold to SuperValu, and one of Idaho’s landmark businesses ceased to exist as an independent company. The Albertsons-labeled stores were slips up into various groups, bought and sold and swapped like trading cards.

Then it got a second chance.

Following a series of additional sales and mergers, which remarkably included important involvement by Safeway, Albertsons became a separate, freestanding company again. The Albertsons stores (and some others) were brought together with Safeway and some other store groups, and started operation as Albertsons LLC, still owned by an investor group. It has become again a massive company, running more than 2,200 stores around the country.

Last week, the investor group said it plans to take the company public – to again place Albertsons stock on the public stock exchanges.

What will Albertsons do now?

It could go back to the way it did business in the 90s, and some years down the road go through another round of swallowing and regurgitation.

The suggestion here, though, is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Make that little memorial at 17th and State in Boise to Joe Albertson’s first store something of a touchstone. And remember that while much in the world may have changed since 1939, the basic business sense Albertson displayed back then is, or can be, something more durable.

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Authors find few pieces of marketing advice repeated more often than this: Get thee to a website!

But once you have a website, what do you do with it?

The primary purpose of your website is to promote yourself and your book. Part of the process of selling your book is in connecting with your reader, and a good author website offers many ways to do that.

The basic components of your website should be:
1. Contact information (if you don’t want to provide an email address, then include a message form)
2. Your social media contact information (to Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or any others you use)
3. Information about your books
4. Biographical information – all about you, your professional background, why you decided to write this book
5. News about your books
6. Events where you will be appearing

Aside from a good photo (a professional shot is recommended), include some memoir material. Kate McMillan, a web designer for many books and authors for more than a decade, advised in a 2012 web article, “frame the content around what led you to writing, and why you write the kinds of books that you do and what you love about it. If you’re also promoting yourself for speaking engagements, or if your book is one aspect of your larger professional career, consider making your photo larger or putting it in a more prominent position on the page.”

This is good, basic advice but not enough to pull lots of people to your site. To do that, remember what the cable television channel AMC does when it promotes the web pages attached to its programs. It points out specific files, video material, games, links of all kinds available only through the website, and uses the tag line, “there’s always more on AMC.com.” It’s an approach worth keeping in mind as you design your site. The more extra information you post, the more traffic you’re likely to get. So as you post it, use the social media to let people know it’s there.

R.C. Butler of Bulldog Press, advised, “The key to a good website or blog, however, is not the information about you or your book. It is the alternative information you post that adds value to the visitor. It is this information that will keep your readers returning to your site which will help to increase your SEO scores, incoming links, and overall presence in the market.”

McMillan suggested that “Depending on the kinds of books you write, you might include a slideshow of photographs, or an audio file, or a YouTube video, or a quiz, or myriad other things that tie into the content of your books. Some authors are experts in their field and their books are an extension of a larger career – this is a great opportunity to include something interesting from the larger context of your career, such as a discount code for signing up for a related service.”

One article from USA Today (January 15, 2015) suggests more possibilities: “leaving their more compelling content on the site longer; creating clutter-free website designs to make it easier to find the best material; posting more quizzes; using prominent “embeds” of videos, links and tweets in stories; assigning long-form articles; creating never-ending pages that just scroll on with more content loads; showcasing photo galleries that stay on one long page rather than flipped pages.”

Dropping by the websites of some of your favorite writers could help too. Observe how bestselling writers, indie and traditional both, use their web space. The site for novelist E.L. James (www.eljames.com) includes soundtracks and wine lists – all background material for her novels. The site for Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), www.paulahawkinsbooks.com has excerpts and useful material for readers’ groups. Blake Crouch (www.blakecrouch.com), of the Wayward Pines series, posts videos and a regular weekly show to keep in touch with his readers.

Blogging – if it’s done regularly – can keep the site fresh. Writer and marketer Joanna Penn strongly endorses blogging: “Starting a blog changed my life – seriously. It has freed my writing style up completely, and given me the confidence to get into fiction. Without the millions of words I’ve written on my blog, I would never have been able to write Desecration, my latest crime novel.”

A couple of other points to keep in mind as you pull together material for the site.

Make sure your site is “responsive,” which means smartphones, tablets and other devices will be able to read it easily. That’s a good idea generally, but Google has started to give “responsive” sites an extra push, saying that “non-responsive” websites will be downgraded in search lists. Early in 2015 I threw out a web theme I’d had in place on my site for years and replaced it with another one which, unlike the old one, is fully responsive. Fortunately, the fix for this probably won’t be especially difficult if your website is relatively small and simple: It may only involve changing the design on the web site, which often is just a matter of pushing a few buttons.

Be sure also to incorporate keywords and tags that will make the site more visible to searchers.

Visibility and two-way communication are, after all, the key to any successful wevsite.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.

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The changes keep on coming around here.

I’ve added a new and more extensive bio page for myself, which I hope will mark the development of more such pages here for our authors. The idea is to offer a little more insight into the authors than we’ve given before.

Is it too much? This one started out like a memoir, and then I found it was getting out of hand in terms of length, and decided to wrap it. Suggestions and comments are welcome.

And for our other authors: Collect some material for use on your own pages.

The picture here? I think it was taken sometime in the early 90s (the sign behind me seemed to refer to the centennial, which was in 1990), when I was speaking to some group, probably somewhere in Idaho. Further I knoweth not.

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