Digital Books, Decoded

It’s kinda funny — the About page of the sleekly designed e-books site 0s&1s Novels has no mention of its founder Andrew Lipstein on it, or anywhere else on the site for that matter (you’d have to do your own additional Googling for more info). Regardless, Lipstein’s name is one that is certainly getting around, especially within the ever-intimately small world of independent publishing. You should get to know him, too.

Lipstein launched 0s&1s in early 2014, making this e-retailer a little less than a year old. Its mission is radically simple: Put out titles from the most forward-thinking presses in an ebook format and cut out the middle man (ahem, Amazon); the publisher receives 80 percent of the profits, and at a consistent price of six bones, the reader gets a digital version of a great read that is also DRM-free (Digital Rights Management, folks). This essentially means that when you buy an ebook from 0s&1s, you keep it forever on your device — as opposed to, say, purchasing an ebook that lives on a random Cloud that could disappear at any moment. Jargon aside, this is important for indie presses and readers alike.

Just a few months away from the site’s one year anniversary, we chatted with the Gainesville-based Lipstein about what’s up next for 0s&1s Novels. Get ready to queue up all the titles — there’s a lot of good stuff headed our way in 2015.

Andrew Lipstein 0s and 1s

What was the impetus for starting 0s&1s?
My friend up in Toronto had written a novel that I thought was very good and I wanted to pursue being a small publisher, so I contacted a few that I admired to see how they do things. It seemed like a lot of them went through Amazon, reluctantly, on the digital side. A lot of the publishers weren’t getting a fair share and weren’t getting exposure so I decided to create an outlet for these small publishers under a curation model, the ones that are consistently putting out successful product, and give them place for them to sell ebooks.

Were you a total bookworm as a child?
When I was growing up I actually hated reading. Reading books in English class was probably the most harrowing thing I’ve had to do in school. It was such a labor for me to even read two chapters. I couldn’t find any voices that I could really get a grasp on. Maybe I was too young, I don’t know. But when I was in college, a little after even, I started reading books that really felt different than any other art form. James Salter is probably my favorite writer. A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years are two of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m definitely a late bloomer when it comes to reading.

What’s the story behind the name “0s&1s”?
The whole stripped-down idea is that converting a book into an ebook is literally the exchanging of data — a series of 0s and 1s — so I thought it’d be a funny play on words to have 0s&1s be the name. Binary code is literally what we’re selling.

Do you think ebooks are the future of publishing?
When ebooks first came out I was pretty against them. But my brother got me a Kindle as a gift and I found myself reading most of my books on it, even though I was telling myself I enjoy reading physical books more. I don’t actually think digital is where all reading is headed but the advantages of e-reading — environmentally, cost-wise, accessibility — are also obvious.

What do you look for in a 0s&1s release?
What we’re most attracted to is crossbreed between the literary and otherwise. On the website we separate titles into drama, sci-fi, short stories, but I make sure each book is nothing I’ve ever read before. My favorite thing when I pick up a book is to feel like I can’t think of another title that is similar. I think a big problem with the publishing world today is that a lot of publishers and agents want to know with a new title, What book is this like? And of course, the greatest books are the ones that aren’t comparable to the ones that have come before.

And you put out original works too, right?
Publishing our own books is a small part of 0s&1s. We’ve put out three books so far, and we’re working on another right now. I do read every single submission that is sent. Good works can get diluted in the daunting slush pile but it helps to talk to as many people as you can and network and to have people read your stuff. It’s very much the way the industry works.

We get a lot of submissions here at STET, too. What advice do you have for self-publishing writers?
We’re in the day of self-promotion but no one really wants to see that. There’s that inherent sense of advertising and marketing, and it doesn’t leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth. Find someone to champion your work for you, anyone who has a voice and who you don’t know personally to really champion your work. Even if it’s one small step outside of you, it’s easier to do that than you trying to sell your own book yourself.

Tell us a few titles that you’d recommend to a new reader coming to 0s&1s.
I’d definitely recommend Victoria Hetherington’s I Have to Tell You, which we’ve published, though we’ve also just started selling Cyrille Martinez’s The Sleepworker, which I think is so unusually great. José Saramago is probably our biggest name with The Lives of Things.

What’s up next for 0s&1s?
Soon we’ll be starting a poetry section. It’s been interesting for me to find out that poetry publishers aren’t even putting out their work digitally at all. Poetry publishers might be a little behind but also because poems have lineation and line breaks. And soon after poetry, we’ll get into digital versions of literary magazines — I think there’s tons of potential.

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