Monthly Archives: March 2012

Harry Potter And The Missing Middlemen: Where The Pottermore Store Goes Wrong

29 March 2012

From TechDirt:

[T]he Pottermore store serves as an example of why even creators like Rowling, who have the resources to build their own platforms for everything, shouldn’t necessarily shun the enabler-middlemen [online bookstores] at every turn.

For one thing, there was the timeframe. The store was originally supposed to launch last October, but was delayed until now, eight months after the announcement. Prior to this, there were no legal electronic copies of Harry Potter available anywhere—even though pirated copies of each book were available almost immediately. Had Rowling embraced existing ebook stores, she could have released electronic copies alongside physical ones, instead of making her fans wait (and often pirate) in the interval.

Then there are the unnecessary additional barriers to access the books. Downloading from Pottermore requires you to create yet another account with yet another website—a growing source of consumer fatigue online. Rowling has struck deals with major ebook stores to funnel people into her website, meaning if you pull up a Harry Potter title somewhere like the Kindle Store, you are asked to click through and set up a separate Pottermore account, then go through additional steps to link it to your Amazon account. Since many readers do all their ebook shopping this way, and since these stores have always focused on (and found success by)reducing the number of forms and clicks needed to buy a book, this is likely to put off a lot of customers. It also means the books won’t be available in the iBook store, since Apple, with their trademark stubbornness, did not agree to a special deal alongside Sony, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google.

Link to the rest at TechDirt

The excuses of a mean book critic

28 March 2012

From The Washington Post Style Blog:

A battle-scarred author lashed back at nasty book critics this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Arthur Krystal is an exceptional essayist whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, the Washington Post and many other places. But 15 years ago, he says, he stopped reviewing books because he didn’t like the supercilious impulse such assignments inspired in him. He realized he was tired of hurting other authors. “Recipients of unfavorable reviews suffer heartburn for months, perhaps years.”

. . . .

Krystal is right, of course, there’s no need to be cruel, but sometimes the exasperation of slogging through a dull, stupid or monumentally over-hyped book gets the best of even the nicest person.

. . . .

Suffering through Jimmy McDonough’s “truly empty, cliche-littered, bubble-headed” biography of Tammy Wynette on a long flight, my colleague Jon Yardley wrote, “I wished the plane would crash, just to put me out of my misery.”

And a dozen years ago, my other Pulitzer Prize-winning colleague,Michael Dirda, endured a romance novel he couldn’t abide. “Sometimes critics lament that good trees were felled to produce a certain book,” he concluded. “In the case of Judith Krantz’s ‘Dazzle,’ I even feel bad for the ink and the glue.”

But when corresponding with Michael this week, he expressed a sentiment that I think anyone in the business would agree with: “W.H. Auden said that writing negative reviews was bad for your character, and I believed him: They are fun to do, and relatively easy as well. Hence, my effort to write about books I’m fairly sure I’m going to like and that deserve wider notice. Still, every so often I let the Devil have his day.”

Link to the rest at the Washington Post Style Blog

An intellectual

28 March 2012

An intellectual is a person who’s found one thing that’s more interesting than sex.

Aldous Huxley

Hoax Author Clifford Irving Self-Publishes the Book that Earned Him a Cover Story in Time Magazine

28 March 2012

From a press release:

Best-selling author Clifford Irving, once the most newsworthy writer in America, announced that a dozen of his books, including the notorious The Autobiography of Howard Hughes, and Jailing, his unpublished prison journal, are released through Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Nobles’s Nook book platforms.

Irving’s books, long out of print, were transformed to digital format as a birthday present by his son who was 11 at the time of his father’s jailing.

. . . .

The Autobiography of Howard Hughes, the 1972 hoax that brought the eccentric billionaire storming out of seclusion to halt its publication, earned Irving 16 months of federal prison time. Tens of thousands of copies of the hardback were destroyed by publishers McGraw-Hill exactly 40 years ago, and since then, until now through Kindle, the book has never been published in the USA other than in a private edition.

Link to the rest at e-releases

Here are some further details of the Irving hoax from 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace:

When asked in early 1972, if his book was a fake, Irving declared, “It is not.”

Irving said he had met the recluse. “Hughes is a man almost as tall as I am, 6 foot 3,” Clifford Irving said in the Jan. 16, 1972, interview. Irving added that the millionaire weighs “under 140 pounds.”

When asked if Hughes wears a beard, Irving replied, “Not a real one.”

“He has on occasion worn false beards and false mustaches and wigs,” Irving said.

“There’s a James Bond setup here that’s out of the worst possible detective novel you could ever read,” he said.

Less than two months after the CBS News interview, Irving admitted that his book was a hoax. Time magazine dubbed him “Con Man of the Year.”

[Continuing from CBS News] So how exactly did Irving develop the idea to create an autobiography of Howard Hughes?

“I was reading a copy of Newsweek, which told of Hughes’ isolated state in the Bahamas…and I thought, ‘What a wonderful idea to write a biography of him, an authorized biography, and pretend that he’s giving me the information,'” Irving says.

Irving said he believed Howard Hughes was too ill to come forward and repudiate the book.

“I figured….I wasn’t thinking clearly,” Irving adds. “It was a wild idea. I was running away from home. I was being a bad boy. And I loved every minute of it.”

. . . .

“McGraw Hill came to me and said, ‘You have got to do something. You’ve got to stand up and fight and say this if for real. And we’ve arranged for you to go on 60 Minutes right after the Super Bowl,'” says Irving. “So with my heart fluttering and that manuscript clutched against my chest for protection, I–I faced you.”

Link to the rest at CBS News

Self-publishing for the 1%

28 March 2012

From the Los Angeles Times:

Got a story to tell? Got piles of cash? There’s a new self-publishing service just for you.

Venture Press will help you make a book. It provides hands-on custom service: It will set you up with a ghostwriter and designers for the cover and layout. The company acknowledges that creating a book isn’t easy: “It’s an enormous challenge,” according to its website, “requiring hours of concentration and hard work in front of a computer screen, followed by the arduous task of turning your words into an actual book.”

Just hours? Most writers labor for days, weeks and months to write a book.

. . . .

Venture Press’ self-publishing service is designed to ease, streamline and speed up that process. But that all comes at a premium: The cost for a Venture Press book starts at $100,000.

“Who knows, you might be able to pay $100,000 for that service,” said Bob Young, president of the online self-publishing service Lulu, when Jacket Copy reached him by phone. “If you have more money than God, why wouldn’t you?”

. . . .

Self-publishing grew out of what was once called vanity publishing — small private printings geared for friends, family and professional colleagues. With readily available technologies for making books emerging in tandem with online markets for selling books, self-publishing has become a robust and lively business. “What you’re seeing in publishing is this remarkable transformation,” Young said. “It’s creating a huge number of additional authors who want to be heard, and it’s putting pressure on the publishers to reduce the number of authors they pay to do the work.”

. . . .

No one knows exactly who might pay the $100,000-plus cost of a book with Venture Press. As yet, the company, launched March 9, has not signed up any clients.

Link to the rest at the Los Angeles Times

Just A few Questions, Ms. Rowling…

28 March 2012

From Future eBook commenting on the Pottermore ebook watermarking system:

This really feels like a watershed moment, doesn’t it?  So, briefly…

1) I’m a bit confused – how is watermarking not DRM by another name?

. . . .

4)  Are you sure that embedding personally identifiable information in the book itself is such a good idea?  No nagging privacy issues?

. . . .

6)  Hasn’t your customer database just become the ne plus ultra of hackers’ wet dreams?

Link to the rest at Future eBook

Amazon Plans Three New Kindle Fire Tablets

28 March 2012
Comments Off on Amazon Plans Three New Kindle Fire Tablets

From PC Magazine:

Amazon plans three new models of the Kindle Fire, according to a report from the China Economic News Service.

The service, citing reports from suppliers, claims that Amazon plans three new models of its popular tablet: three new models, a low-end 7-inch, 1,024-by-600 model; a midrange, 7-inch model with a higher 1,280-by-800 resolution; and a high-end, 8.9 inch tablet with a 1,920-by-1,200 display.

. . . .

Amazon hasn’t disclosed how many Kindle Fire tablets the company has sold, but Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan estimated that Amazon sold 4 million during the holiday season.

“Even if Amazon makes no incremental contribution on the sale of the hardware, the fact that the company has used its distribution prowess to define and dominate the low end of the device ecosystem is quite impressive,” Rohan continued. “And there is significant strategic value in becoming the third major device ecosystem after iOS and Android. We believe that shows up in both revenues and margins, longer term.”

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

Kindle Touch 3G Now Available in over 175 Countries But Aussies are Unhappy with Apple

28 March 2012

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon.com today announced Kindle Touch 3G – the most full-featured Kindle e-reader – with an easy-to-use touch screen and the unparalleled added convenience of free 3G wireless, is available today for pre-order from www.amazon.com to customers in over 175 countries and territories around the world.

. . . .

In addition, Kindle Touch 3G is available in seven languages – German, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and American or British English – so customers can read, take notes, and navigate their Kindle in any of these languages. Kindle Touch 3G will ship to customers beginning April 27.

. . . .

Both Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G feature X-Ray, a feature that Amazon invented to help customers explore the “bones of the book.” With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

From News.com.au:

Apple has announced it will offer a refund to Australians who believe they were misled by claims its latest iPad is capable of connecting to the next generation 4G network.

Apple’s new iPad, launched on March 16, is advertised on its website as an “iPad with WiFi + 4G,” though the tablet cannot access Australia’s existing 4G network that uses the 1800MHz frequency.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken Federal Court action against Apple for what it says are misleading claims about the connectivity speed of the latest iPad.

Link to the rest at News.com.au and thanks to Diane for the tip.

Publishing in the Digital Age

27 March 2012

From Shelf Awareness:

During a keynote address at last week’s Publishing Business Conference & Expo, held in New York City, Marcus Leaver, the outgoing president of Sterling Publishing, offered what he described as some “common-sense prescriptions” for book publishers. “We must offer consumers an amazing value for their dollars,” Leaver said, arguing for a shift in emphasis on quality over quantity. “The world does not need another book,” he added. “We’re still publishing far too many.”

Leaver went on to predict the rise of niche publishers who would confront the problem of discoverability by marketing their books to readers, not to the publishing and bookselling industries, and who would recruit authors to take an even greater part in that marketing process. “Our biggest challenge will not be e-books,” he predicted, “but in proving that publishers will continue to be necessary.” He proposed that bundling print and digital editions as a joint purchase would become a necessary option, one that would offer consumers greater choice in how they want to read.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Why is it that every publishing executive who speaks about the necessity of publishers manages to generate so few compelling arguments in support of the proposition?

On an IQ test basis, these are not stupid people, but they sound like they’ve spent the last few years on Mars.

Does Marcus really think readers want fewer books to choose from? Is he ignorant of the explosion of titles, particularly successful indie titles on, for example, the scifi list of Amazon bestsellers?

This bundling of print and digital editions as a joint purchase — how does that work unless the purchase takes place on Amazon? It’s much less convenient to purchase such bundles in a physical bookstore than it is online.

Whenever Passive Guy reads things like, “recruit authors to take an even greater part in that marketing process,” he hears publisherspeak for “use free labor.”

PG thought publishers were supposed to provide great marketing as part of their indispensable services. Authors who are really good at marketing  their own books are headed to indieworld where none of the proceeds of their book sales go to pay the salaries of guys like Marcus.

And more comments on this speech from author Amanda S. Green:

After all, he also said, “The world does not need another book . . . We’re still publishing far too many.” Now, if he is including all the small press and self-published e-books, he may have a point. But if all he is talking about are mainstream publishers who are trying to make the transition from purely print to a print-digital format, I have to disagree. I don’t think too many books are being published. What I think is that there are too many books pushing the “correct” way to think and too many poor clones of the latest trend book. We went through that with Harry Potter and Twilight and we’ll soon be going through it with The Hunger Games. And can any of us forget all the Dan Brown-lite books that came out after The Da Vinci Code?

. . . .

When talking about book marketing,Leaver said that “book publishers should ‘go to where the audience is’ and no longer rely on mass-marketing like book publicity. Book marketing should also be ‘ubiquitous’ and rely more heavily on author participation.”

Wait a minute. I don’t recall much being done in the way of publicity for any book except those framed as best sellers or as the “newest, bestest thing”. When is the last time a solid mid-lister had any sort of real PR push for a new release? And, honestly, if authors were asked to provide even more marketing participation, when would they have time to write? As I said, this has me scratching my head.

And then I read further. Mid-listers, I warn you now. This is scary stuff and it explains so much. According to Leaver, “[t]he mid-list, however, is ‘toast’ . . . because mid-list books aren’t either beautiful and essential or workmanlike and utilitarian. Books that are neither of these things shouldn’t exist.” In other words, if you aren’t a best seller or don’t have a huge back list you are willing to let a publisher have, you are now worthless.

. . . .

Mid-listers are the backbone of publishing and have been for years. Mid-listers have been the one constant publishers could rely upon for sales. They could always predict X-number of sales. Mid-listers aren’t the risk that so-called best sellers are. Remember, best sellers are based on pre-orders which, in turn, come from the push at such events like BEA. You remember BEA, the event Leaver said should be thrown open to the public. How many of these so-called best sellers never came close to earning out their six or seven or eight digit advances?

Link to the rest at MadGeniusClub and thanks to Sarah for the tip.

A Bad Book

27 March 2012

A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one, it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.

Aldous Huxley

 

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