Monthly Archives: March 2012

World Catching Up to U.S. in E-Book Buying Habits

27 March 2012

From Digital Book World:

The world has caught up with the U.S. when it comes to e-book buying and overall engagement with digital books, according to a new study.

While the U.S. remains the largest e-book market, many readers in countries like Australia, Brazil and India have purchased e-books and intend to buy more in the future, according to R.R. Bowker’s Global eBook Monitor study.

“The world is ready for digital books and it’s a far bigger marketplace than we thought,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services at Bowker.

. . . .

Australia, India, the UK and the U.S. led the world in e-book adoption rates but Brazil and India may represent the best opportunities for publishers to sell e-books in the future.

Of survey respondents who indicated that they had never downloaded and purchased an e-book, only 16% of Brazilians and 11% of Indians said they would not try one.

Compare that with 66% of French and 72% of Japanese people who said they had not tried e-books and did not want to try them.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Winepress Publishing v. Mark Levine

27 March 2012

Someone sent me a tip about this litigation.

In short, author Mark Levine wrote a book, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fourth Edition – Everything You Need to Know About the Costs, Contracts, and Process of Self-Publishing that analyzed costs, contract terms, etc., for 45 self-publishing companies, including WinePress Publishing, DBA Pleasant Word.

Mr. Levine was not complimentary about the terms of the WinePress contract. Winepress sued Levine for defamation, intentional interference with a business expectancy and false light. After removal from the Washington state court system to the Federal District Court in Washington, the case rapidly came to an end.

Following is the ruling of the court granting Levine’s Motion for Summary Judgment, entered about six months after the court received the case.



Here’s a bit of interpretation – Slam-dunk win for Levine. The court couldn’t find much good to say about WinePress’ case. The last docket entry was June 21, 2010. The court docket does not indicate that WinePress asked the judge to reconsider his decision or that WinePress appealed that decision.

Literary agent Chip MacGregor reports his own experience with WinePress here. and thanks to David for the tip.

Despite Policy Changes, Pinterest Still Doesn’t Comply With DMCA

27 March 2012

From ReadWrite Web:

Despite changes over the weekend to its usage policies, Pinterest may still not be in compliance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act,according to copyright attorney and blogger Connie Mableson.

Pinterest said Amazon will be handling DMCA notices since Pinterest is hosted by the giant retailer. But Pinterest has still not updated its designated agent with the copyright office, as required under the DMCA, Mableson said, and that could cause problems if it tries to claim protections under the law.

“So, even though Amazon may be handling the DMCA notices, it still remains to be seen whether or not Pinterest qualifies for the DMCA safe harbor immunity,” she wrote.

. . . .

The change came about after the artist lobbying group, the Artists’ Bill of Rights, asked Amazon to take over DMCA issues from Pinterest. But it appears as if all Amazon is doing for now is collecting complaints through an online form and forwarding them to Pinterest, which then makes the decision to take down content that violates copyright laws.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite Web

Here are a few of the copyright problems of Pinterest from attorney Connie Mableson:

I took a look at Pinterest’s DMCA Policy and related terms and found lots of things they need to fix immediately.

1.     Pinterest’s DMCA Policy includes this sentence:

“Upon receipt of the Notice as described below, Pinterest will take whatever action, in its sole discretion, it deems appropriate, including removal of the challenged material from the Site.”

What is wrong with this?  Well, under the DMCA, if Pinterest receives a properly completed (effective) DMCA Notice, it MUST disable accesses or remove the content alleged as infringing. Pinterest has absolutely no “discretion” as it deems “appropriate” under DMCA to do anything else. This sentence only creates confusion and is technically incorrect.

. . . .

4.     It includes a potentially disastrous sentence when it says it:

“… will respond expeditiously to claims of copyright infringement committed using the Pinterest website (the “Site”) that are reported to Pinterest’s Designated Copyright Agent, identified in the sample notice below.” (bold emphasis added)

I am sure it doesn’t mean that infringement is committed by use of the Pinterest website, but that is what it says. This could get Pinterest into trouble with the courts because it may be used against them to prove it is a website devoted to inducing, encouraging, facilitating, fostering … infringement!  The storage safe harbor protects Pinterest against infringement “by reason of the storage at the direction of the user” as opposed to “infringement committed using the Pinterest website”.  At least one DMCA case has considered a related argument and it will be likely raised again in this context (see UMG v. Veoh).

And, this language may be used to infer that Pinterest has the right and ability to control the website thereby controlling the infringing activity which will make it ineligible for DMCA on that basis alone and may make it vicariously liable for copyright infringement.

Link to the rest at DMCA Handbook

Extending the life of bookstores is devilishly difficult

27 March 2012

From long-time publishing professional Mike Shatzkin:

One Big Six executive told me that ebook sales in their shop had reached the mid-30s as a percentage of units sold. That broke down to about 50% of fiction units and 25% of non-fiction.

Nonetheless, that same executive noted a real slowdown in the rate of ebook growth. This is to be expected as the base of sales grows, of course, but it slowed down faster than this house expected. They had seen a 120% increase in ebook units in 2010 and figured they’d see an 80% growth in 2011; it came in at 60%. In short, the rate of increase was cut in half.

These numbers gave this particular executive reason to believe that print demand was begining to stabilize and that it was reasonable to assume that 50% print units might persist into the future, with commensurate new stability for brick-and-mortar stores. I have since been told that a leading executive at another of the Big Six houses shares the same expectation, or hope. Perhaps they all do.

On the other hand…

Another publisher, substantial but not Big Six, has seen much more explosive growth continuing in ebooks and, for that publisher, unit sales for fiction have already gone to well beyond 50% digital.

. . . .

I’ve written time after time after time about the diminishing retail network for books and its potential impact. I have always seen this as existential for big trade houses, whose distinguishing value proposition for authors remains their ability to put books on retail shelves. (There are other things that matter, but I’d argue that all of them put together don’t equal that.) Publishing printed books is a complex endeavor best done by a large organization that can perform its various functions — warehousing, shipping, billing, commissioning the manufacturing, sales representation, and contact with marketing megaphones — at scale.

. . . .

[Peter] Hildick-Smith thinks a future without bookstores will be very different than the present. He makes the case that author brands established in the bookstore era will be largely unchallenged when the bookstore ladder gets pulled up and future authors can’t climb it. And he believes that publishers don’t appreciate that all measures, even desperate measures, are called for to preserve the brick store base as long as possible.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Passive Guy would suggest that at least one of the the reasons the Big Six are not seeing ebook sales rising as fast as others is the unreasonable prices they place on ebooks via agency pricing.

For executives operating on a quarter-by-quarter basis, this strategy seems perfectly reasonable, but it means when the bottom falls out, these publishers will fall further and harder than others because their prices have both encouraged and strengthened competition from smaller publishers and indie authors.

One of the standard responses to disruptive change on the part of establishment players is to devote their greatest focus and best thinking to ways to prevent or slow the change. This never works.

Either you learn to surf the new waves or you get wiped out.


Harry Potter e-books on sale today

27 March 2012

From The Bookseller:

The Harry Potter e-books will go on sale exclusively from the Pottermore website from midday today (27th March). It is the first time author J K Rowling has allowed e-book versions of the seven titles to be released, and the move marks the beginning of the roll-out of the Pottermore experience, a virtual world based on the author’s fictional creations originally announced last June.

. . . .

[Pottermore CEO Charlie] Redmayne also revealed that Pottermore was planning enhanced editions of the bestselling series, and confirmed that it would operate an affiliates scheme for retailers.

. . . .

The first three titles will be sold at £4.99 with the later four books priced at £6.99. The digital audio files, featuring the Stephen Fry narration, are also being made available exclusively from Pottermore priced at £17.99 for the first three books, and £32.99 for the end four. In the US the equivalent prices for the e-books are $7.99 and $9.99, with the audiobooks, read by actor Jim Dale, priced at $29.99 and $44.99.

. . . .

The e-books will feature on retailer websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but can only be bought from Pottermore. Readers will then be able to securely “push” the digital books to up to eight devices concurrently, including the Sony Reader, Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, or receive an ePub version. But the titles will not be available through Apple’s iBookstore after Pottermore and Apple failed to reach agreement ahead of the launch.

. . . .

The e-books will also simultaneously be made available through OverDrive for library users in the US and UK. Libraries will be able to loan each e-book edition as many times as there is demand, but the license will only last for five years, after which libraries will need to purchase a new edition.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller and here’s the link on Amazon to the Kindle version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone which includes a “Buy at Pottermore” link that takes you to Pottermore where you have to open a new Pottermore account which seems pretty kludgy in PG’s endlessly humble opinion.

But the kludge is just starting.

  1. At Pottermore, you can download a sample “to your computer” which, apparently doesn’t include your Kindle (but why would you ever want to read a book sample on a Kindle?).
  2. The sample is in Epub format. (I followed the link from Amazon’s Kindle page so of course I want an Epub file.)
  3. When the Epub file hit PG’s computer, it caused the Nook for PC application to open. PG has no idea what you’ll see if you don’t have an Epub reader on your computer.
  4. Despite opening Nook for PC, the sample didn’t appear on Nook for PC (at least for PG).
  5. In his endless quest for knowledge, PG rooted around his download folder until he found the sample file. Although the file type showed as .epub, PG’s Windows computer analyzed it as a Zip file and suggested PG’s Opera browser as the ideal program for the file. Opera is a lovely program, but it didn’t know what to think of the file.
  6. PG finally dragged the sample file to his still-open Nook for PC application.
  7. The sample opened in two columns, but never appeared in Nook for PC’s My Library listing, so if PG clicked away from the sample, it disappeared unless he dragged over another copy from his download folder.
  8. PG will be interested in how this process works (or doesn’t) with Macs, tablets, etc.

Somewhere in the Pottermore organization, a decision was made that mere mortal bookstores like Amazon could not be permitted do anything strange and unusual like actually sell the Harry Potter ebooks.

That was a stupid decision. The Pottermore store looks like PG’s first attempt to create a website in 1994 and operates like it was programmed by North Korean prisoners working on half-rations.

And if Pottermore can’t even deliver a free sample properly, what’s it going to do with an ebook you bought with your hard-earned money?

Incidentally, the Pottermore Shop doesn’t list a phone number for you to call. You fill out an email form and wait. Or call Amazon and learn your problem can only be solved by Pottermore because all the ebook files come from Pottermore. Or here’s the FAQ page which will probably scare you off all by itself.

This strange division of responsibility between Pottermore and real online book stores is perfectly-designed to generate lots of finger-pointing among the partners.

All of this is, of course, in Passive Guy’s unremittingly humble opinion.

Trust Buster Takes Hard Line As E-Book Probe Continues

26 March 2012

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Justice Department’s top antitrust official says she won’t stand by quietly if companies make agreements with rivals on price, signaling a stern stance as the department conducts a high-profile probe into electronic-book publishing.

Without mentioning Apple Inc. or the five publishers that are the target of the investigation, Sharis Pozen says she won’t hesitate to act against “collusive behavior at the highest levels of companies.”

“Competitors can’t join together and make agreements on price,” she says in an interview. “We’re going to stop that.”

. . . .

The case centers on a change in how publishers charged for e-books as Apple prepared to introduce the iPad tablet computer in early 2010. Previously, publishers sold e-books in the same way as physical ones: charging booksellers roughly half the cover price and allowing the booksellers to decide the retail price.

Apple offered publishers the chance to change from that “wholesale” sales model to “agency pricing,” in which the publishers would set the retail price and Apple would take a 30% cut. Apple also insisted that the publishers not sell to other electronic bookstores more cheaply. The publishers then imposed the same terms on industry leader Inc.  The result was that many of the discounted titles that readers had grown used to disappeared almost overnight.

Publishers argue that the agency model promotes competition by allowing more booksellers to thrive. They say Amazon had sold e-books below cost and that agency pricing saved book publishers from the fate suffered by record companies.

But the Justice Department believes it has a strong case that Apple and the five publishers colluded to raise the price of e-books, people familiar with the matter say.

. . . .

The Justice Department isn’t taking aim at agency pricing itself. The department objects to, people familiar with the case say, coordination among companies that simultaneously decided to change their pricing policies.

“We don’t pick business models—that’s not our job,” Ms. Pozen says, without mentioning the case explicitly. “But when you see collusive behavior at the highest levels of companies, you know something’s wrong. And you’ve got to do something about it.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

A man never knows how

26 March 2012
Comments Off on A man never knows how

A man never knows how to say goodbye; a woman never knows when to say it.

Helen Rowland

Word Needs To Die

26 March 2012

From Novelr:

I was working on a eBook conversion workflow for a small publishing house last week, as a favour to the owners. I thought I could get away with a couple hours of work: maybe write a few scripts, chain a couple of existing libraries together, and then email them my code. I was dead wrong. I gave up after two days of work.

. . . .

The problem was with Word. Word’s doc and docx formats are proprietary, clunky to work with, and incredibly hard to convert to ePub and mobi without weird artifacts and edge cases. It doesn’t help that the standard publishing workflow is in Word — many writers, editors, and publishers use Word source files in their daily lives.

. . . .

There are two likely solutions for this:

1) Write a perfect converter from Word to X, where X is any other text-based markup format. This is a technological problem, and is incredibly hard.

2) Get writers to write in non-Word formats. This is a social problem, and is incredibly hard.

. . . .

My point: moving away from Word enables writers and publishers saner publishing workflows. It doesn’t make sense for the writing/editing process to be done in a format separate from the ones used in the publishing process.

Word is a curse on digital publishing workflows. The sooner we move away from it, the better.

Link to the rest at Novelr

Passive Guy has managed to become fairly proficient at using Word to format files that he can then turn into Mobi and Epub files with Jutoh, but he still has a deep-seated dislike of the program, which manages to waste large chunks of his time with sporadic weird formatting problems.

He would jump at an alternative in a heartbeat if he found a good one. He’s been playing with LibreOffice Writer, but isn’t sure that’s the one yet.

Hunger Games Spam Book

26 March 2012

From Paid Content:

If you liked The Hunger GamesHarry Potter and Twilight, you’ll love Popular Book Series of the 21st Century: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Millenium Trilogy, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, The Southern Vampire Mysteries and The Uglies Series. Too bad it’s just a collection of Wikipedia articles repackaged into a $17.66 paperback.

. . . .

The book is literally all of the Wikipedia articles about each series. We’ve seen plenty of spammy content on Amazon before, but this one stands out because Hunger Games interest is driving it up in Amazon’s recommendation algorithm and it is a pricey paperback rather than an e-book.

The book is also accompanied by two phony “customer images” showing shelves of hardcover books.

. . . .

The publisher is listed as “Webster’s Digital Services” and the book’s description notes:

Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. The trend in reading material this century, seems to be series which attract such a devoted following that they become their own subculture. Many of these series earn film or television versions of their stories, furthering their popularity. This book introduces you to the definitive series of the 21st century: discussing the series as a whole and then turning to each book within.

Project Webster represents a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant, and informative books. To date, this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing, although as Project Webster continues to increase in scope and dimension, more licensed and public domain content is being added. We believe books such as this represent a new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge.

Link to the rest at Paid Content

PG just checked and it appears Amazon took the book down.

Web Tools for Superior Writing

26 March 2012

From Working Writers:

With the long list of helpful and easy-to-use online writing tools available today, there is virtually no excuse for shoddy writing habits. Whether you are writing for personal or professional reasons, take the time to familiarize yourself with the many sites that can help you with word selection, check spelling and grammar, and remind you of those grade school writing rules you may have forgotten.

. . . .


This one’s for the more advanced writer. Sometimes a second set of eyes can see problems with your writing that you may overlook when you have read and re-read your own work. Since most of us don’t have access to a staff editor, there is a great site called Branded as an “editing wizard” and named one of Writer’s Digest’s Top 101 Sites for Writers, this site is especially helpful for those writing manuscripts, lengthy proposals and the like. No downloads are required on the easy-to-use site—simply copy and paste your text into the Wizard and await your complete report. The Wizard catches problems like overused words, poor sentence structure, slow pacing, redundancies and more. Subscriptions range from free to $117 per year, based mainly on the length of the documents you need edited.

Link to the rest at Working Writers

Passive Guy hadn’t seen AutoCrit before, but it looked like it might be helpful for him.

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