Monthly Archives: February 2012

Science Fiction eBook Market Under the Microscope – Indies Dominate

28 February 2012

From scifi author Kevin O. McLaughlin:

So there’s two big questions on everyone’s minds about ebooks these days, right?

1) How much of the market do indies (self publishers) really have?

2) What price is working for folks?

. . . .

What follows is raw data mined from Amazon (which represents ~70% of the US ebook market, and is therefore a better tool for ebook numbers than Bookscan is for print).

. . . .

I picked science fiction for the genre to mine. A couple of reasons: SF was consistently a genre where indies had a lower presence in the top 25 bestselling list, for my December/January checks; and I write SF, and have read SF for over three decades, so I know the publisher names very well.

Analysis and data are from the top 200 bestselling science fiction ebooks on Amazon, February 26th 2012.

. . . .

Top 25 Bestselling breakdown was 72% indie, 28% traditional, with a 18/7 split.

Overall for the top 200 books, there were 154 indie books and 46 traditionally published books, or 77% indie and 23% traditional publisher.

Of interest: out of those 46 trad pub books, only 25 were recent books (which I define as originally published in the last ten years). The remaining 21 were older books, by authors like Burroughs, Heinlein, Asimov, Orwell, Anthony, and Adams. These older books represent most of the prices under $10 for traditionally published ebooks.

. . . .

The idea that “only a few” self publishers are doing well is false. This is 154 books all selling well in excess of a thousand copies per month, in one (rather smallish) genre.

. . . .

What’s next? Difficult to say. I feel that the 99 cent and $2.99 points will remain dominant for as long as Amazon continues to use their current pricing structure. The 99 cent point is the lowest price allowed; the $2.99 point is the lowest books can get a 70% royalty from Amazon. That makes these prices standard starting points for newer writers trying to “earn their chops”.

I believe we’re seeing a trend which will continue of self published authors starting at those points, then gradually moving prices up as they acquire more readership and audience. More books, more years of work in learning the craft, and more readers will enable writers to boost prices and therefore profit more from each sale.

On the trad pub side, I believe we’ll see less books published at prices over MMP price. Their ebook prices will trend down – *must* trend down, to compete with indie pricing – so we’ll see a settling into $5-8 for most traditionally published ebooks, with higher prices for books they believe will sell well at a higher price.

Link to the rest, including an interesting pricing graph, at Digital Delta and thanks to Anthea for the tip

E-Book Lawsuit Revives ‘New Technology’ Dispute

27 February 2012

From the New York Law Journal, a detailed history of HarperCollins v. Open Road and the earlier and similar Rosetta Books case:

Open Road effectively picks up where Rosetta Books left off (even the same firms are representing the respective parties in the district court). Given the significance of the issues, we will briefly summarize the pleadings in the new action and then review how many of the key issues were dealt with a decade ago.

. . . .

In its 2001 suit against Rosetta Books for copyright infringement and tortious interference, Random House argued that its publishing agreements with certain authors, dating back to the 1960s, 1970 and 1982, included an exclusive license to publish e-books. Its motion for a preliminary injunction was denied by the district court based on “the language of the contracts and basic principles of contract interpretation.”

Random House, which was founded in the 1920s, was and remains a major publisher of books. In 2001, Rosetta, like Open Road, sought to publish electronically back-list classics licensed to others under longstanding book publishing agreements. Its success depended on the exclusion of electronic book publishing rights from the scope of those agreements.

. . . .

The district court’s opinion first discussed the nature of e-books. The court noted that they are created by converting digitized text into a format that computer software could deal with, which readers downloaded to read on a desktop or laptop computer, personal digital assistant or dedicated handheld device. Although the text of an e-book matched its printed counterpart, “various features” were added to e-books such as electronic search, storage and manipulation of electronic notes by the reader, and the capacity to highlight text and to “bookmark” text that could then be accessed through hyper-links. Tables of contents of e-books could jump via hyperlinks to specific chapters and the “font size and style” of the text could be modified to show more or fewer words on a page. Users of e-books also could summon up the definition of any word in the text.

Turning next to the language of the Random House agreements with these authors, the court noted that there were various differences among them, but they all used the phrase “print, publish and sell the work[s] in book form” to convey rights to Random House. The Styron, Parker and one of two Vonnegut agreements also contained non-compete clauses, appearing in various forms, which restricted further use by the authors. Two agreements forbade the authors from publishing material that was reasonably likely to injure the sale of their books by Random House. Another agreement forbade the author from publishing any “edition, adaptation or abridgement” of the work. Two agreements granted Random House the exclusive right to “Xerox” and other forms of copying, “either now in use or hereafter developed.” One agreement granted “microfilming” rights. (The 1982 Parker agreement, however, reserved to the author “mechanical or electronic recordings of the text.”)

Random House contended that the phrase “in book form” meant “to faithfully reproduce the author’s text in its complete form as a reading experience and that since e-books concededly contain the complete text of the work, Rosetta cannot also possess those rights.” It also cited the non-compete clauses as evidence it was granted broad exclusive rights that included e-books.

In construing the scope of the copyright licenses, the district court looked to New York state contract law, which expressly governed the interpretation of each agreement. This required the court to “consider the entire contract and reconcile all parts, if possible, to avoid an inconsistency.” Citing Second Circuit precedents, the district court then focused on how the scope of licensee rights would be determined when “new marketing channels made possible by technologies developed after the licensing contract” came into being.

. . . .

The district court decided that “the most reasonable interpretation of the grant” in all of the contracts—to “print, publish and sell the work in book form”—does not include the right to publish as an e-book. It consulted a dictionary published by Random House for the meaning of “book”: “a written or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers.” References in the agreements to publication in “book club editions, reprint editions, abridged forms and editions in Braille” would have been superfluous if “in book form” embraced all types of books. The court also found that the phrase “is understood in the publishing industry to be a ‘limited’ grant.”

. . . .

Further, the court noted that the “new use” in question—electronic digital signals sent over the Internet—is a separate medium from the original use—printed words on paper—and could be manipulated in ways that analog information cannot. Accordingly, Second Circuit precedents that “apply to new uses within the same medium” (such as display of a motion picture on television or videocassette) were inapposite. Instead, the district looked to a New York state appellate decision, Tele-Pac Inc. v. Grainger,7 that distinguished Second Circuit “new use” principles and held that the right to broadcast by television “or any other similar device now known or hereafter to be made known” was “so dissimilar from display on videocassette and videodisc” as to preclude inclusion of video rights.

Link to much, much more at New York Law Journal. Click here for earlier posts on The Passive Voice about this litigation.

Ebooks: the giant disruption

27 February 2012

From The Guardian:

In the past 12 months, I’ve never bought fewer printed books – and I’ve never read so many books. I have switched to ebooks. My personal library is with me at all times, in my iPad and my iPhone (and in the cloud), allowing me to switch reading devices as conditions dictate. I also own a Kindle, I use it mostly during summer, to read in broad daylight: an iPad won’t work on a sunny cafe terrace.

. . . .

This leads to this thought about the coming ebook disruption: We’ve seen nothing yet. Eighteen months ago, I was asked to run an ebooks roundtable for the Forum d’Avignon (an ultra-elitist cultural gathering judiciously set in the Palais des Papes). Preparing for the event, I visited most of the French publishers and came to realise how blind they were to the looming earthquake. They viewed their ability to line up great authors as a seawall against the digital tsunami. In their minds, they might, at some point, have to make a deal with Amazon or Apple in order to channel digital distribution of their oeuvres to geeks such as me. But the bulk of their production would sagely remain stacked on book stores’ shelves. Too many publishing industry professionals still hope for a soft transition.

How wrong.

. . . .

“Vanity publishing” was often seen as the lousiest way to land on a book store shelf. In a country such as France, with a strong history of magisterial publishing houses, confessing to being published “à compte d’auteur” (at the writer’s expense) results in social banishment. In the UK or the US, this is no longer the case. Trade blogs and publications are filled with tales of out-of-nowhere self-publishing hits, or of prominent authors switching to DIY mode, at once cutting off both agent and publisher.

. . . .

Amazon is intent on taking over the bulk of the publishing business by capturing key layers of intermediation. At some point, for the market’s upper crust, by deploying agents under the leadership of Mr Kirshbaum and of its regional surrogates, Amazon will “own” the entire talent-scouting food chain. For the bottom-end, a tech company like Amazon is well-positioned for real-time monitoring and early detection of an author gaining traction in e-sales, agitating on the blogosphere or buzzing on social networks. (Pitching such schemes to French éditeurs is like speaking Urdu to them.)

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Die, my dear?

27 February 2012
Comments Off on Die, my dear?

Die, my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do!

Groucho Marx

Penguin E-Books Sales Revenue Doubles

27 February 2012

From Digital Book World:

Revenue from e-books was up 106% at Penguin Group to £127.4 ($201.9) in 2011, driving profit company-wide up 8% while overall sales were relatively flat.

E-book sales represented 12% of all Penguin revenue worldwide in 2011; in the U.S., e-book sales accounted for more than 20% of Penguin’s revenue. While overall revenues at the company were up 1%, profits were up 8%, according to a statement from the company, suggesting that e-book sales deliver a higher profit margin.

. . . .

Another big-six publisher, Simon & Schuster, showed a similar pattern in its 2011 results. According to a February 15 statement, publishing revenues were relatively flat (down 1%) while operating income was up 31%. The company attributed the numbers to “strong growth in the sale of digital content, which more than doubled from 2010″ and offset declines in print.

. . . .

At Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, digital also drove profits. Digital revenues were up 18% in 2011 to £2 billion ($3.17 billion) and represented a third of all revenues at the company. Overall revenues were up 6% and operating profit was up 12% to £942 million.

The company expects that digital revenues will exceed revenues from print publishing in 2012, it said in a statement this morning.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Bleating Against Amazon

27 February 2012

From author Sarah A. Hoyt:

So, what has got me off my cherubic and positively laid-back posture lately?  Well, this morning when I innocently opened face book, to see if a friend had answered on our latest message exchange, I found that people all over are posting against Amazon.

Now, this is of course nothing new.  For the last several months we’ve been hearing the rumblings of this, as people whine, complain and moan about everything in Amazon, from the fact that they point out big publishers DO set those outrageous e-book prices, to the fact that they’ll lower your prices if they find you’re selling cheaper elsewhere.  Oh, yeah, also if you are a small press and refuse to give them the authority to do that, they won’t do business with you.

This is more of the same, with a sustained, high pitch whine (yes, this is reference to dog whistle, why?) that “someone” do something to stop Amazon having this dreadful power to… control the way they wish to run their own business?

To every one – particularly the geniuses calling themselves “progressive writers and poets” – echoing this load of nonsense: are you crazy or stupid?

. . . .

I’m not going to deny that Amazon is an 800 lb gorilla or that Amazon is a corporation.  Of course that last, for most of you, is enough to consider them eeeeeevil.  That is because most of you are either college students or are living like college students in your parents’ basement, from stolen cheetos.

. . . .

So far Amazon is keeping “with it” in the sense that the decisions it has made have benefited its business, which, btw, is the goal of any commercial enterprise, corporation or not.  In the process and probably not deliberately – but as a result of the fact that New York Publishing has been determined to stay on course to suicide – they have made it possible for people to self publish and to circumvent the gatekeepers which were NOT ONLY picking winners and losers but also effectively dissuading people from reading as a form of entertainment (Look up how print runs have fallen since the seventies.  No, it’s not TV.  News flash:  There was TV in the seventies too.)

. . . .

IF you think it’s already making mistakes and that its decisions no longer benefit you, then for the love of Mike and all the little angels, start your own competitor.  Exploit what you see as weaknesses on Amazon and go for it.  Trust me, starting a business on the web requires remarkably little investment.  If the lot of you who are posting this nonsense can’t each of you chip in five dollars and get the five thousand or so to start your own model, you don’t have the courage of your convictions.

And don’t come bleating at me that Amazon is too big and you can’t compete with it.  When Amazon started out, big chain bookstores were at the apex of their power and people laughed at Amazon.  “Who wants to buy books online?” they said.  And “Why do they allow everyone to do reviews without credentials?” they said.

Link to the rest at According to Hoyt and thanks to Keith for the tip.


Amazon Book Coupons

27 February 2012

Passive Guy just discovered Amazon’s book coupons page.

It looks like O’Reilly loves it.

Have any PV visitors used it?

Publishers have called on readers to be okay with their high priced ebooks

27 February 2012

From Dear Author:

Last week, IPG had all of the buy buttons pulled on the ebooks it sold through Amazon. The two could not come to agreement on terms. IPG wanted to have the same terms and Amazon wanted better terms. IPG took to the internet and sent out an email aka press release denouncing Amazon, encouraging its client publishers to stand firm, and asking that all future retail traffic be diverted from Amazon to other retailers.

Essentially IPG wants the 10 million plus Kindle owners to stop using their Kindles just to read IPG’s books. Do we think that is likely to happen? Oh sure, there is going to be some who will peel away, but not in major numbers. And yes, Amazon might relent.

. . . .

Publishers have called on readers to be okay with their high priced ebooks, forego discounts, struggle with DRM, limit sharing, turned their backs on libraries, reject the money of our reading brethren outside of North America, but they want our help in shunning Amazon? What have you done for me lately?

. . . .

In sum, publishers are jacking readers over in regards to digital books but now we are supposed to act against our own financial interest or our own convenience to help publishers fight against Amazon?

We recognize that an Amazon as the exclusive vendor of books would be bad for us but what are publishers doing about it? Why is it the reader, the only party who does not make money in this equation, have to be the one to take the financial hit in the fight against Amazon? Why aren’t publishers making it easier for readers to move away from Amazon? Why aren’t they trying to appeal to our wallets instead of our morality? And what if we want to stay with Amazon for moral reasons such as that someone needs to compete with Apple and Amazon is the only one that is making an inroads there.

Here are some recommendations to win over readers. Eliminate DRM. Sell direct to Kindle owners using a mobi format. Remove agency pricing.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

Next Page »