Monthly Archives: September 2013

Flood of New Books Coming Out

30 September 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Book publishers are expected to release a torrent of major new titles this week, giving the business a much-needed jolt ahead of the holiday season.

It’s an industry looking for answers as Barnes & Noble Inc. struggles with declining sales at its key consumer-store group. And on the digital front, publishers are still finding their footing at a time when e-books compete for would-be readers’ attention against a range of other entertainment options.

. . . .

[T]he physical book business remains meaningful. “Publishers still believe in print,” said Jim Milliot, co-editorial director at Publishers Weekly.

Publishers are also counting on independent booksellers, some of which continue to benefit two years after the liquidation of Borders Group Inc., once the second-largest bookstore chain in the U.S.

. . . .

Publishers continue to aggressively market e-books. Devices like Inc.’s coming Kindle Fire HDX and other tablets are making it easy for consumers to buy tiles, but the same devices also offer consumers a range of other tempting entertainment choices. “Publishing is competing with everything, from cable to Netflix, and there is a fear that the pie is getting sliced ever thinner,” said Lorraine Shanley, president of publishing-industry consultants Market Partners International Inc.

The first half of the year was relatively soft for the book business as the industry struggled to generate blockbuster must-read titles. Publisher net digital book sales actually fell 4.8% to $766.8 million for the first six months ended June 30, according to the Association of American Publishers, in part because recent titles were unable to match the previously published “Hunger Games” and “Fifty Shades” trilogies.

Publisher net sales of physical books also declined during the first six months of 2013, with hardcover and paperback editions of adult fiction and nonfiction, along with children’s and religious titles, dropping 7.4% to roughly $2.14 billion compared with the first half of 2012, according to the trade group.

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

Self-Publishing A Legal Casebook: An Ebook Success Story

30 September 2013

Explanatory preface: Casebooks are the most common type of textbook used in US law schools. They’re called casebooks because the bulk of the material is heavily-edited court case opinions illustrating various aspects of a legal topic.

From Forbes blogs:

I co-authored a casebook on Advertising and Marketing Law with Prof. Rebecca Tushnet of Georgetown Law. Last July, we self-published the casebook as an ebook via Scribd and Gumroad. Drawing on the past 14 months of data, this post explains why I consider the self-publishing experiment a success.

. . . .

The casebook supports Advertising & Marketing Law courses in U.S. law schools. In 2011, about a dozen of these courses were offered around the country. Before our book, no published casebooks was designed for those courses; instead, each professor individually compiled his/her own materials.

. . . .

It is a hefty piece of work by any standards: 870 pages, almost 400,000 words, nearly 40 megabytes. . . . Rebecca’s law school has an on-staff book manuscript editor who cleaned up the book’s formatting and typos and helped convert the book into the ePub format. Without her help, we might have paid a freelancer a few hundred bucks to provide those services.

We decided to self-publish the book as a DRM-free PDF. We deliberately chose a low price of $10. For comparison, the typical traditionally-published casebook run $150-$200 and some other legal casebook ebooks are trying to establish a $30 price point.

. . . .

Some advantages of self-publishing the casebook:

Ebooks are more useful to readers. Unlike physical books, ebook readers can conduct keyword searches in the PDF, can cut-and-paste material, can see graphics and photos in color without paying a premium for color printing, can increase the size of photos if they want, and can install the PDF on multiple devices. The traditional law school publishers are now offering DRMed ebooks for “rent” that expire after a period of time; without DRM, our buyers can enjoy the PDF forever.

We set our own deadlines. Nothing sucks the joy out of writing more thoroughly than writing on someone else’s deadlines. Without a publisher, we don’t have someone anxious to goose their revenues haranguing us for the next edition. We do have to satisfy the expectations of our casebook adopters; that provides ample motivation.

We retain the copyright. We own the copyright, so we control every aspect of the work. For example, we can give the PDFs free to our students instead of making them spend $150+ to buy our casebook from our publisher.

Some disadvantages:

No marketing support. Most casebook authors gripe about the publisher’s marketing support, but usually the publisher takes some efforts. In contrast, we have zero marketing support from anyone. Nevertheless, we already personally knew many of the actual or potential professors for the course, so we figured we could do most of the marketing ourselves. As it’s turned out, word of mouth has generated a number of potential professors we didn’t otherwise know.

No peer credit for a “publication.” I don’t think my colleagues view a self-published ebook with the same respect that they would afford a traditional casebook publication. Rebecca and I are both tenured, so this consideration really doesn’t matter to us.

Piracy risks. We don’t have any way to prevent piracy of the PDF. Instead, we hope the book price is so low that most people will choose to buy it rather than go look for the free version. We have no reason to believe that piracy has noticeably affected our sales.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs

I went through life like an idiot

30 September 2013
Comments Off on I went through life like an idiot

I went through life like an idiot for a great deal of the time, saying there’s nothing I would change. That was a very arrogant thing to say. There’s a lot I would change. There are people I would have steered clear of.

Hugh Leonard

Big W’s New eBookstore is a Sign of an Impending eBook Bubble in Australia

30 September 2013

From The Digital Reader:

One of the ways to tell that you’re in a bubble is to look for companies making ill-advised and poorly developed investments into markets or industries they don’t really understand. Today I came across one such example.

Big W is a big box retailer in Australia with 178 locations, and they’ve just announced a new ebookstore that will supposedly offer great deals and focus on the Australian ebook market:

Retail chain Big W has launched its own electronic bookstore business focusing on Australian content in a bid to offer “a bit of homegrown competition to the likes of iTunes and Amazon”.

Launching the site, which opens with a library of 300,000 titles, Big W said it would offer “hundreds of titles each month for as little as 99c or free”, aiming to provide “books Australians love including Australian fiction”.

To be honest I don’t see how Big W is going to be a threat to anyone.

It’s not just that they offer an incredibly limited selection of only 300,000 titles (against ebookstores that offer millions of titles) but I also doubt Big W will have much of an impact due to their lack of reading apps.

I spent a few minutes this morning looking at the ebookstore, FAQ, and help pages, and I was surprised when I discovered that Big W doesn’t have their own reading apps for Android and iOS. Having an app with an integrated ebookstore is de rigueur for the modern ebook market because it makes it a lot easier for customers to access their purchases, and yet Big W didn’t bother to invest in the apps.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Amazon regional depots deliver blow to embattled high street

30 September 2013
Comments Off on Amazon regional depots deliver blow to embattled high street

From The Telegraph and The Bookseller:

Amazon is stepping up its battle against Britain’s high street chains by opening a series of small, regional distribution depots under the brand “Amazon Logistics” to speed up customer deliveries.

. . . .

Seven 50,000 sq ft “fulfilment centres” have so far opened at leased sites around Birmingham, Oxford, Milton Keynes and several locations around London – including Croydon and Southall – to allow for faster deliveries to customers in and around the “spokes”.

Four more “mini” centres will be opened next year in the north-west of England, south-west, the Midlands and Yorkshire.

. . . .

An Amazon spokesperson said the new depots were part of a £1bn investment in the UK. “We work with a variety of carriers to deliver the many millions of orders that we dispatch on a weekly basis. Amazon measures itself on its ability to deliver items by the estimated delivery date we provide customers, and the delivery performance is very strong,” a spokesperson said. The company is teaming up with smaller companies such as City Sprint and Transline to take the product to customers’ doors.

. . . .

Amazon has also pledged to create 15,000 seasonal jobs across the UK in its warehouses in the run up to Christmas. Catherine McDermott, director of operations at said: “On our busiest shopping day last Christmas, customers ordered a total of 3.5 million items during one 24-hour period at a rate of 44 items a second.”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and The Bookseller

Author pleads: Please don’t buy my new novel on Amazon

30 September 2013

From CNet:

Author Jaime Clarke’s new novel “Vernon Downs” will be available on Amazon in April of next year, but fans and new readers who heed the author’s plea can get a copy this December. His only request: Buy “Vernon Downs” straight from the publisher and not from Amazon.

In a Web site aptly named, Clarke lays out his call to support independent publishing and push back against the aggressive cost-cutting tactics of Amazon that, he says, are great for consumers but detrimental to the livelihood of independent publishing.

Clarke — who also published the novel “We’re So Famous,” edited and co-edited a number of other titles and was a founding editor of the Boston College-published literary magazine Post Road — is co-owner of an independent bookstore in Boston called Newtonville Books.

“As a bookstore owner, I see small presses come and go — they usually publish a book or two and then fold after running out of money,” Clarke writes. “For many small publishers like Roundabout, Amazon accounts for a large portion of sales, but the publisher realizes very little of the purchase price owing to Amazon’s discounting policies.”

. . . .

Q: Why would you urge people not to buy books, or at least your book, from Amazon? Is it simply that people should not buy books published from independent publishers on Amazon, or that people should avoid all book buying on Amazon because of what you think it’s done to the industry?

Clarke: My campaign to urge interested readers to purchase my novel “Vernon Downs” directly from the publisher is mostly economical, which is to say small, independent publishers like Roundabout Press need all the capital they can lay their hands on.

Unfortunately, most indie publishers rely on Amazon to sell their books, and to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, the price is high. Indie publishers realize a fraction of the purchase price and are at the mercy of Amazon’s discounting policies. As a bookstore owner, my obvious preference is that readers buy books at bookstores, but I know a lot of readers don’t live in proximity to a bookstore.

. . . .

What will happen to independent publishers and bookstores as Amazon’s hold continues to solidify?

Clarke: Amazon has done all it’s going to do to the industry, I think. It’s interesting that Amazon’s early ambitions were to be the Walmart of the Internet. Books were incidental to their plans — books just happened to be sitting in warehouses across the country ready to be shipped. It could easily have been lawn furniture.

Now that Amazon is the Walmart of the Internet, it’s clear they want to take on technology service providers like Apple. They seem to be hanging around books and publishing mostly out of spite.

Link to the rest at CNet and thanks to Barron for the tip.

PG will limit himself to commenting that when a small publisher runs out of money and folds, its authors almost never get paid.

The Truth About Author Websites

30 September 2013

From Digital Book World:

For some writers, their author website is a thing of pride of beauty. It’s an active well of new material, a place of engagement and connection, an extension of their books, even an invitation into their writing life. It gathers email addresses, expands audience, benefits SEO, and is their personal beachhead on the Web.

For others, the author website is an annoyance, an obligation, and a static reminder of all they hate about digital media’s encroachment on their writing life. The landing page is three books old, and the author photo three years outdated. The blog page whose latest post is dated 6 months ago makes them feel both guilt for not updating weekly as they’d promised, and resentment that anyone would expect them to.

. . . .

During the pre-lunch panel at Digital Book World’s Marketing and Publishing Services Conference (DBWMP), Rachel Chou of Open Road, Kristin Fassler of Penguin Random House, Brian Parsons of Houghton Mifflin and Peter McCarthy of McCarthy Digital debated the value of the author site.

Their consensus: for most authors, it’s not very valuable at all.

  • Parsons: Facebook has replaced author sites — especially for comments…
  • Chou: I don’t believe in author sites for most authors. I’d rather them spend time on social…
  • McCarthy: I think about the first page of Google. Author websites don’t often help you get there…

. . . .

The difference in perspective derives from where you’re sitting. From a publisher’s chair, there’s very little to gain in the near-term from most author websites (big author brands are exceptions, of course). Author websites don’t often sell books, they don’t often drive traffic to retailers, and they don’t often find their way into conversations on the web. Social does. So it makes sense that, when asked, publishers would privilege management of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc over an individual author site.

But in an author’s calculation, short-term gains are weighed against long-term results. In an email exchange after the panel, Jane Friedman: wrote me:

I have a hard time endorsing a social-only approach when you, the author, are at the mercy of the social media tool for reaching your audience. You can never control what Facebook or any other site does—with its design, with its user interface, with your likes/followers, with its functionality, with its ad displays. And if and when it goes out of favor, you’ll have to rebuild somewhere else—whereas with a website, you only get stronger and better over time, assuming you don’t abandon it (and why would you, if you’re still writing and publishing?). This is part of being a capable author in the digital age, if you want to grow your career over the next 5, 10, or 20 years.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

This item will probably generate comments about author web sites pro and con.

PG’s only observation is that he doesn’t think big publishers know much about effective websites.

Exhibit A supporting his argument would be the websites of big publishers.

You Are Free, Act Like It

30 September 2013

From author Susan Kaye Quinn:

Sometimes I think I was made for indie publishing: it’s writing and wild creativity mixed with massive amounts of rule breaking. And indies don’t just break rules. We blow them up, reducing them to subatomic particle sized pieces. Indie publishing isn’t just changing publishing, it’s changing writers.

It may take a while for this to sink in.

. . . .

There’s an invisible, oppressive tangle of influences pressing down on writers, telling them the “rules” from the very first moment they set pen to paper, saying what things are “acceptable” and “not acceptable” to write. It starts young, too. You should see the looks of shock on children’s faces when I teach writing workshops and lead them in a writing exercise and tell them they can write anything they like.

“Anything?” they ask. The deer-in-headlights look is somewhat from blank-page syndrome. But we’ve just finished talking about conflict being the root of the story and that they should use X vs. Y as a starting point, fill in the blanks. So, I’m not leaving them totally in the wind. Still, they’re agog. “We can write anything?” It’s like they’re just sure they heard me wrong.

“Yes, anything,” I say. “Monkeys vs. Zebras. Lettuce vs. Tomato. Pick something. Anything.”

“What if I want to write about zombies?”

“Zombies versus what?”


“Zombies vs. Aliens!” I point at her dramatically, doing my best Robin Williams impression from Dead Poet’s Society. “Now you’re thinking. Be daring!”

A small girl is looking at me intensely, so I turn to her. “What are you going to write about?” She doesn’t say anything. “You don’t have to share,” I say, lowering my Robin-Williams-volume. “Just write it.”

She hesitates. Then she says in this tiny voice, smaller even than she is, “Can I write about brain vs. body? Because the brain wants to live by itself and learn new things and go out into the world, but it can’t because it needs the body and the body doesn’t want to go. The body is afraid.”

Link to the rest at Susan Kaye Quinn and thanks to Lynn for the tip.

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