Monthly Archives: February 2013

Two Years

28 February 2013

Passive Guy missed the two-year anniversary of his first post on The Passive Voice earlier this month. 4,753 posts have appeared here since then.

PG is a little vague about why he started the blog and it took a few months before the Snark Monkey established residence behind PG’s desk and he began to hit his stride.

PG’s labors here would be immensely boring without visitors and, in particular, visitors who leave comments. PG often learns more from the comments than from the original subject of a post. It’s also nice to see that some of the very earliest commenters still return.

So, thanks to visitors and commenters for making this a delightful place for PG. Please keep coming back.

Bug In Kindle Update For iOS Deletes Users’ Entire Library

27 February 2013

From TechCrunch:

Amazon yesterday updated its Kindle for iOS app, which works across iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, to version 3.6.1. The update was meant to fix a few bugs as well as the registration process. Instead, that update seems to be wreaking havoc on bookworm-style iThing owners who watched as their Amazon digital libraries and saved settings were erased before their eyes.

Update: Amazon has responded with the following advice:

We have identified an issue with the app update that may cause your app to become deregistered. To register, enter your Amazon account e-mail address and password and all your Amazon content will be available in the cloud. We have submitted an update fix for this issue and are working with Apple to release.

. . . .

Update 2: It appears that Apple has pushed out Amazon’s update, to fix the deregistration problems with the update which was meant to fix registration problems. The latest version should keep your library safe.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

Dumb self-inflicted wound by Amazon.

Platform for indie authors to sell gift cards

27 February 2013

From BetaKit:

Los Angeles-based Livrada, the startup that lets users redeem a specific ebook title from a gift card, announced today that it has closed a $1 million seed funding round led by ICG Ventures, the investment arm of book distributor Ingram Content Group, and other angel and private investors. In addition to its ebook-specific gift cards, currently sold at Target and redeemable on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, the company also announced the launch of a new product platform it calls e-Book Cards for authors, which lets authors hand out or sell gift cards for their books at book signings, launches, and while meeting with publishers and publicists.

. . . .

“When we first launched…we thought that there’s a strong culture around gift-giving in books that had been lost in ebooks,” said co-founder and CEO Leonard Chen in an interview. “But, we found that authors started reaching out to us…in the world of ebooks, when they go around and have events…giving books to promoters, publishers, agents and the like, there’s no efficient way to do that with ebooks.”

The startup will now work with primarily self-published authors to create cards which they can distribute and sell at their events, similar to authors with a table of physical books to sell at a reading, which readers can redeem on the platform of their choice.

. . . .

Though Chen did not disclose the specifics of the company’s business model, he said the company charges publishers a marketing fee and makes affiliate revenue from the books it helps sell, in addition to a service fee it will now be charging for its new author platform.

. . . .

There are other companies like Canadian startup Enthrill in the title-specific ebook gift card market, and retail-specific gift cards from Amazon or Apple’s iBookstore that pose a threat to Livrada. However, the company’s focus on making the redemption process as seamless as possible, emphasis on title-specific over generic gift cards and now product extensions into the realm of authors and corporations are what it believes will allow it to thrive in the long run.

“Starting out with one product, we found that we’re solving other problems in the whole ecosystem of authors, publishers and ebooks, and we’re the only ones that can fulfill directly through multiple platforms,” Chen added. “My background is in the music industry so I have empathy for content owners and content creators and we’re hopeful what we’re building will bring a lot of value to everyone, starting with the authors.”

Link to the rest at BetaKit and thanks to L for the tip.

I deserve all the love

27 February 2013

I deserve all the love you can spare me. And I want a lot more than I deserve.

Dashiell Hammett

The Trouble With Finding Books Online – And A Few Solutions

27 February 2013

A detailed article on discoverability by David Vinjamuri on Forbes Blogs:

It is hard to pick a good book to read online.  Not for a lack of choice – over 340,000 books were published in 2011 according to Bowker and that doesn’t include eBooks.  The problem is two-fold: first, there are many more books to choose from than in generations past (in 1950, for example, just 11,000 titles were published).  Secondly, it’s harder to evaluate whether a book found online is worth reading.  Online peer reviews are notoriously unreliable, and although Amazon and other sites have made significant efforts to eliminate biased or untrustworthy reviews, it is still difficult to judge the quality of a book from consumer reviews alone.

I had the opportunity to discuss the problem of online discovery with Peter Hildick-Smith, President of the Codex Group.  Codex pioneered the field of book audience research and has interviewed almost 300,000 book buyers since 2004.  Hildick-Smith explained that a book purchase has three meaningful components: availability of the book, discovery by the reader, and conversion to purchase.    He noted that the dilemma for publishers is that in the eBook era, “As in-store discovery becomes less of a factor they’re not adding as much value to the equation.”  This is particularly true as marketing budgets for all but the top books have been reduced.  Surprisingly, online sellers – led by Amazon – haven’t been taking up the slack in lost discovery.

. . . .

As of December, 2012, nearly two-thirds of frequent book buyers have e-readers or tablets.  Codex defines frequent book buyers as those who buy books at least monthly.  These buyers who represent about one-fifth of adults (43mm) buy nearly four-fifths of all books (79%).

. . . .

Finally, eBooks are more likely to be discovered online than print books.  While under a third of people who visit an online book retailer to buy a print book discover a book there, half of those who visit an online retailer to buy an ebook discover it on the site.

. . . .

In June of 2010, nearly a third (32%) of frequent book buyers said they’d found their last book at a physical store.  By December of 2012, only a fifth of purchasers said the same thing.

The cause of this change wasn’t driven by independent bookstores going out of business, either.   The number of bookstores has declined only fractionally over the past two decades from 12,363 in 1997 to 10,800 in 2012.   A bigger cause is the collapse of Borders and a shift in the merchandising strategy of Barnes & Noble and other big book retailers away from books into gifts, toys and other specialty items.

Link to the rest at Forbes Blogs

Is trade publishing’s situation more like the newspapers or more like the advertisers?

27 February 2013

From veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin:

It has been an important tenet of my thinking about digital change in the book business to understand that books are different from other media — music, TV, movies, newspapers, magazines — as we try to anticipate the future.

. . . .

But while book publishing people tend to focus on the changes enabled by Gutenberg, Gray’s newspaper-centric view makes the high-speed rotary press, which enabled publications cheap enough to be daily purchases by masses of people, the seminal moment.

High-speed presses made all print cheap for the incremental copy. In the case of radio and televison, of course, the incremental copy is free. So all these media, as well as movies, which used scale in a slightly different way, were about amortizing the costs of content creation across “mass market” consumption.

If Karl Marx had been writing a bit later than he did, he might have seen that controlling the “means of distribution” had become as important as he saw controlling the “means of production” to be.

. . . .

And that’s what the Internet has blown up. Because now the distribution mechanism for expensive-to-create content is precisely the same as the distribution mechanism for any content. In the book business, we’ve been tracking that as “purchased in stores” (which is, in itself, expensive and pretty much restricted to expensive-to-create content) as opposed to “purchased online” (which is a channel open to all of us).

Gray calls this a change from the “mass media era” to the “infinite media era”.

. . . .

But that micro-targeting might affect newspapers and magazines and radio and TV stations far differently than it affects book publishers. And that’s because, when it comes to advertising, book publishers are, in a way, on the opposite side of the fence from these other media.

Those media don’t build an audience uniquely for every issue the way book publishers do for every new book (and that’s somewhat true even for vertical publishers). They’re trying to sell captive audiences; we in book publishing are trying to corral disparate audiences. That makes us more like the newspapers’ advertisers than like the newspapers themselves.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

50 Unpublished Rudyard Kipling Poems Discovered

27 February 2013

From Time:

Dozens of unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling have been discovered, nearly 80 years after the author’s death.

American scholar Thomas Pinney found more than 50 works by the Nobel laureate in a number of different locations, including a Manhattan home which was being renovated, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and buried among Kipling’s family papers, reports the BBC.

The poet and short story writer, who was born in Mumbai, lived from 1865 to 1936. His best-known works include the Jungle Book and the poem If–.

. . . .

One poem, “The Gambler”, ends with the couplet: “Three times wounded; three times gassed / Three times wrecked – I lost at last”.

. . . .

“Kipling has long been neglected by scholars probably for political reasons,” Pinney, who is emeritus professor of English at the University of California, told the Guardian.

Link to the rest at Time

Kipling reveled in the British Empire and the military men who forged it, a certain recipe for politically-based obscurity these days. There’s no mistaking his unique style and voice, however.

An excerpt from Mandalay:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”

The Digital Age Will Produce “a Montaigne and a Shakespeare”

27 February 2013
Comments Off on The Digital Age Will Produce “a Montaigne and a Shakespeare”

From Publishing Perspectives:

“Goethe said he who cannot draw on 3,000 years of history is living hand-to-mouth,” says Lewis Lapham, the 78-year-old éminence grise of the publishing world.

. . . .

“The historical record is our inheritance — it is on ships’ logs and bronze coins — and lots gets lost. But mankind tends to preserve what’s beautiful, useful and true.”

At the same time, notes Lapham, “America is about perpetual self-reinvention. The historian Daniel Boorstin calls it ‘America’s transpiration’: You need to be prepared at all times to become someone else.”

Nowhere is this more evident than on the Internet, where identity is fluid and communication is increasingly ephemeral. “We live in a ‘once upon a time’ world where the present comes and goes so quickly, and the future doesn’t exist.”

In the digital age, Lapham says, what gets lost is context — and, often, it’s history that provides the context. “Without context you have no cause and effect. The Renaissance, for example, comes out of the rediscovery of classical antiquity. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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