Monthly Archives: December 2013

Half of Britons now using a tablet

30 December 2013

From The Telegraph:

The Christmas leap in tablet computer sales means that half of Britons are now using them, following a flood of cheap devices on to the market.

Between 12m and 13m tablets have been sold in the UK this year, an increase of more than 50pc on 2012, according to research from Deloitte. This means that by the end of January, 50pc of Britons will own or have access to a tablet, up from 36pc in the summer.

In under four years, since the release of Apple’s iPad in 2010, the tablet has become one of Britain’s must-have products, and many retailers have counted on strong demand for them to improve sales during the lucrative Christmas period.

Deloitte said the tablet’s growth had been driven by the value end of the market, which had made the touch-screen devices available as children’s gifts and for those unwilling to pay for more expensive models.

. . . .

“Tablets have gained popularity with extraordinary speed, and manufacturers will have to work hard to stay on top of the evolution of the market,” Mr Lee said.

“There appear to be more users and use cases for tablets than many had imagined. Getting the balance of form, function and price right will likely be a moving target during 2014, especially at the lower end of the market,” he added.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph

Amazon says more than half of Christmas shoppers went mobile this year

30 December 2013


According to Amazon, more than half of this year’s Christmas shoppers placed their orders using a smartphone or tablet.

Amazon has revealed that during the 2013 holiday season – the busiest ever for the online retailer – more than half of Christmas shoppers placed their orders using mobile devices.

Traffic peaked on Cyber Monday – the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend in the US – when over 36.8 million items were ordered worldwide, or 426 per second, the company announced on Thursday (26 December).

Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, customers ordered more than five toys per second from smartphones or tablets.

Link to the rest at

Konrath’s Publishing Predictions 2014

30 December 2013

From Joe Konrath:

I’ve been looking to the future, wondering what is going to happen next, and I’ve got a few equally wild ideas.

1. The end of Barnes & Noble as we know it. In 2014, paper book sales will no longer be significant enough to sustain the nation’s largest bookstore chain. There may be bankruptcy and restructuring and the selling of assets (like the Nook), but ultimately it will result in many stores closing, and possibly the demise of the brand.

. . . .

4. Indie bookstores will need to start selling self-pubbed books, or perish. Paper isn’t going away anytime soon. But there won’t be enough of a legacy supply that will keep the necessary number of diverse titles on shelves to make indie stores a worthwhile destination for shoppers. If indie bookstores deal directly with self-pubbed authors, and print their own copies to sell in their stores, they can build inventory and cut out the share normally taken by publishers.

. . . .

5. Visibility will become harder. As more ebooks get published, and virtual shelf space expands, it is going to become harder to find eyeballs. Ebooks aren’t a competition–readers buy what they want to, without limits, even if TBR piles become impossible to ever finish within a lifetime. So someone who buys my ebook will also buy yours; there is no either/or. But only if the reader is aware of both.

The future will be about actively cultivating a readership. So far we’ve been lucky. With KDP Select and BookBub, authors have been able to get visible without reconnecting with longtime readers. There have always been enough new readers to sustain sales. But I believe maintaining a fanbase is going to become increasingly more important.

That means having an up-to-date website, making it easy to sign up for your newsletter, staying active in social media, and regenerating your brand with new titles and continued promotions.

My prediction: self-pubbed authors who don’t focus on their current, core readership will see sales diminish.

. . . .

7. Big 5 mergers and layoffs and bankruptcies. As the publishing cartel loses its quasi-monopoly on paper distribution, there will be no way to support its infrastructure. Manhattan rent, in-house employees with benefits, length of time to publish, and the temptation for authors to avoid legacy and self-pub, will bring down the industry. There is too much waste, their share of the pie is getting smaller, and when B&N disappears there will be no way to recover.

Link to the rest at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and thanks to Ant for the tip.

StorySkeleton, An Index-Card Story Mapping App

30 December 2013

From Cult of Mac:

StorySkeleton is an amazing app that’s been around for a little while, but a recent update to add iPad support has made it even better. At heart, it’s a kind of index-card-based note and outlining app for writers (screen, fiction and non-fiction) to help structure and plan stories. But the design is fantastic, making it easier to use than most other alternatives.

Oh, and it exports directly to native Scrivener files.

. . . .

The app arranges your notes (scenes, I guess) as index cards, and you can reorder them by drag and drop or by using a special rearranging mode (this mode was designed for the iPhone version and isn’t really needed on the iPad).

You can color-code your cards, assign a “type” and a “plot point” to the header of each card (these are both customizable), and you can group the cards into stacks (and stacks within stacks if you like).

Link to the rest at Cult of Mac and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

German Transmedia: Storytelling to Stimulate Several Senses

29 December 2013

From Publishing Perspectives:

Despite a firm distrust of term “enhanced ebook,” the buzz around transmedia storytelling has by no means died down. In fact, in the 10 years since media studies scholar Henry Jenkins helped popularize the term with his article “Transmedia Storytelling,” numerous examples of transmedia storytelling can be found in more and more disciplines. Jenkins’ initial definition characterized transmedia storytelling as storytelling in which “each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”

In the German publishing landscape, transmedia storytelling has been utilized to bring stories to life and enable reader involvement well beyond the book itself. Transmedia campaigns which combine media such as blogs, social media platforms, photos and videos to introduce readers to a book’s backstory are developed by creative digital and marketing agencies in cooperation with publishers and authors.

. . . .

One of their most recent collaborations is Deathbook, a serial thriller in 10 installments. Deathbook is more than a book — it’s a multimedia world that manifests itself throughout social media, on blogs and via QR codes, in which a horror story is brewing that threatens to spill over into real life. The concept is the brainchild of the German Rowohlt Verlag, a large publisher of trade fiction and nonfiction which belongs to the Holtzbrinck Group. Earlier this year, the publishing house enlisted thriller author Andreas Winkelmann to writeDeathbook, a digital serial novel about a string of inexplainable deaths related to the internet and a “network of death.” However, readers don’t have to wait for the first serial to be released to enter the story. On the “Posten und Sterben” (“post and die” ) blog, readers can delve into the story via the ramblings of a frightened blogger trying to warn the online community away from an evil force on the Internet.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Eric for the tip.

I don’t care

29 December 2013

I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.

Roald Dahl

The Argument for the English Major

29 December 2013

From Social Publishing House:

I’m sure many of you who dare to even consider mentioning that you want to major in English are approached by many with comments similar to the following:

“Don’t you want to get a real job after college?”

“You know people don’t read anymore right?

“What do you actually want to do with that degree?”

. . . .

The fact is that you wouldn’t run into these kinds of comments if you said that you were majoring in mechanical engineering, chemistry, business management, or any area of study not in the humanities department.

. . . .

Social media outlets and the internet are relatively new and evolving quickly in the grand scale of time. These developments are very new; say the last 20 to 30 years at maximum. It’s on the rise and a large part of the economy. The common engineer and computer tech are brand new professions that are in high demand.

But the writer has stood the test of time. Books have been printed for hundreds of years, as far back as 1500 AD in ancient china. The literate wrote human history and left behind works that people will study for generations ahead of us. Those works were filed in libraries, which have existed over 2,000 years in most ancient civilizations. Libraries and books have been around hundreds of times longer than the common hand held computer.

And those books were written none other by the simple writer who took the time to understand their written language.

. . . .

Blogs, Websites, social media, and almost everything on the internet revolve around one central item:


Some of that content is photo based, but a good majority of it is the written word. These tech-savvy individuals have created a new way in which the written word is shared. We need people who know how to write more than ever to populate these sites with rich and well put together paragraphs.

In a time where literacy is the highest in human history, we feel that people read less than our ancestors because we can stare at a screen littered with pictures. This is not the case. People read more not just through books, but through a computer screen.

Link to the rest at Social Publishing House and thanks to Brian for the tip.

Is Amazon Starting to Build a Physical Retail Business?

29 December 2013

From Jobs at Amazon:

Sr. Product Manager, Developer Platform

Job Description

Our team is charged with extending Amazon’s value proposition (price, selection, and convenience) from e-commerce to commerce in general. We are building products and services which will delight billions of customers as they buy and sell things in the real world (as opposed to online). We are hiring product managers with proven backgrounds in driving exceptional design, influencing a diverse set of stakeholders, and shipping groundbreaking consumer products.

Link to the rest at Jobs at Amazon and thanks to William for the tip.

A Look Back At How The Content Industry Almost Killed Blockbuster And Netflix (And The VCR)

29 December 2013

From TechCrunch:

In 1977, the first video-rental store opened. It was 600 square feet and located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. George Atkinson, the entrepreneur who decided to launch this idea, charged $50 for an “annual membership” and $100 for a “lifetime membership” but the memberships only allowed people to rent videos for $10 a day. Despite an unusual business model, Atkinson’s store was an enormous success, growing to 42 affiliated stores in fewer than 20 months and resulting in numerous competitors.

In retrospect, Atkinson’s success represented the emergence of an entirely new market: home consumption of paid content. It would become an $18 billion dollar domestic market, and, rather than cannibalize from the existing movie theater market, it would eclipse it and thereby become a massive revenue source for the industry.

Atkinson’s success in 1977 is particularly remarkable as the Sony Betamax (the first VCR) had only gone on sale domestically in 1975 at a cost of $1,400 (which in 2013 U.S. dollars is $6,093). As a comparison, the first DVD player in 1997 cost $1,458 in 2013 dollars and the first Blu-ray player in 2006 cost $1,161 in 2013 dollars. And unlike the DVD and Blu-ray player, it would take eight years, until 1983, for the VCR to reach 10 percent of U.S. television households. Atkinson’s success, and that of his early competitors, was in catering to a market of well under 10 percent of U.S. households.

While many content companies realized this as a massive new revenue stream — e.g. 20th Century Fox buying one video rental company for $7.5 million in 1979 — the content industry lawyers and lobbyists tried to stop the home content market through litigation and regulation.

The content industry sued to ban the sale of the Betamax, the first VCR. This legal strategy was coupled by leveraging the overwhelming firepower of the content industry in Washington. If they lost in court to ban the technology and rental business model, then they would ban the technology and rental business model in Congress.

. . . .

While Sony won at the district court level in 1979, in 1981 it lost at the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit where the court found that Sony was liable for copyright infringement by their users — recording broadcast television. The Appellate court ordered the lower court to impose an appropriate remedy, advising in favor of an injunction to block the sale of the Betamax.

And in 1981, under normal circumstances, the VCR would have been banned then and there. Sony faced liability well beyond its net worth, so it may well have been the end of Sony, or at least its U.S. subsidiary, and the end of the VCR. Millions of private citizens could have been liable for damages for copyright infringement for recording television shows for personal use. But Sony appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court.

. . . .

After an oral hearing, the justices took a vote internally, and originally only one of them was persuaded to keep the VCR as legal (but after discussion, the number of justices in favor of the VCR would eventually increase to four).

With five votes in favor of affirming the previous ruling the Betamax (VCR) was to be illegal in the United States (see Justice Blackmun’s papers).

But then, something even more unusual happened – which is why we have the VCR and subsequent technologies: The Supreme Court decided for both sides to re-argue a portion of the case. Under the Burger Court (when he was Chief Justice), this only happened in 2.6 percent of the cases that received oral argument. In the re-argument of the case, a crucial vote switched sides, which resulted in a 5-4 decision in favor of Sony. The VCR was legal. There would be no injunction barring its sale.

The majority opinion characterized the lawsuit as an “unprecedented attempt to impose copyright liability upon the distributors of copying equipment and rejected “[s]uch an expansion of the copyright privilege” as “beyond the limits” given by Congress. The Court even cited Mr. Rogers who testified during the trial:

I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the ‘Neighborhood’ off-the-air . . . Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others.

On the absolute narrowest of legal grounds, through a highly unusual legal process (and significant luck), the VCR was saved by one vote at the Supreme Court in 1984.

. . . .

In 1982 legislation was introduced in Congress to give copyright holders the exclusive right to authorize the rental of prerecorded videos. Legislation was reintroduced in 1983, the Consumer Video Sales Rental Act of 1983. This legislation would have allowed the content industry to shut down the rental market, or charge exorbitant fees, by making it a crime to rent out movies purchased commercially. In effect, this legislation would have ended the existing market model of rental stores.

. . . .

As Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), explained before Congress in 1982:

We are going to bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects [our industry against the VCR]. . .we cannot live in a marketplace. . . where there is one unleashed animal [the VCR] in that marketplace, unlicensed. It would no longer be a marketplace; it would be a kind of a jungle, where this one unlicensed instrument is capable of devouring all that people had invested in…

Valenti’s comments were stark and designed to scare Congress to act: “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” Jack Valenti even threatened that if Congress didn’t regulate the VCR then movie producers may cut their movie production in half.

. . . .

One year after the Sony case, with the legal issues on less precarious grounds, David Cook opened the first Blockbuster store in in Dallas, Texas, in 1985. Within two years it became one of the top 10 video-rental chains with 67 stores. Blockbuster expanded outside the U.S. with over 1,000 stores in 1989. And by 1992, Blockbuster was the undisputed video-rental leader with over 2,800 stores worldwide.

. . . .

Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings founded Netflix in 1997 with a completely different market model. As Larry Downes explains in the Harvard Business Review:

The scrappy start-up built a distribution model that relied exclusively on mailing DVDs to customers through the low-cost U.S. postal service. It was almost as convenient as a neighborhood retail store but at a fraction of the price—and without the late fees that annoyed Blockbuster customers.

Reed Hastings has explained that the idea of Netflix came to him when he was forced to pay $40 in overdue fines after returning Apollo 13 past its due date.

In 2002 Netflix went public. Early on the bandwagon of streaming video, by 2010, Netflix went from “being the fastest-growing first-class mail customer” to being the “biggest source of streaming Web traffic” during peak evening hours. The old brick-and-mortar-style rental market was being disrupted at an incredible pace, and Blockbuster was ultimately unable or unwilling to adapt. By the time Blockbuster realized these market trends and disruption, it was too late.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

Can a Fixed Book Price Law Stem Poland’s Sales Slump?

28 December 2013

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Polish Chamber of Books has drafted a bill which is set to introduce fixed prices for new book releases for 18 months after publication, with an exemption for ebooks (which have the higher VAT rate of 23%, as opposed to the 5% levied on print books). The chamber sees the proposed regulations as a remedy to the continuing decline of book sales in Poland. But some local observers accuse the chamber of hampering competition and fostering protectionism in the publishing market.

. . . .

The data released by the PIK draws a gloomy picture of the state of the country’s publishing industry. Between 2010 and 2012, books sales decreased from 139.2 million copies to 107.9 million. Last year, only 11.1% of Poles read more than 7 books, compared with 11.6% two years later. An average Pole spent only about 60 zloty (US$19.2) on books in 2012.

. . . .

The bill is designed to bring significant change to the market. According to the PIK, it will introduce “fixed prices for new releases” and enable publishers to “create mechanisms of internal subsidies” which will allow [them] to finance non-commercial releases with profits generated by bestsellers.

The chamber believes that the bill, based on France’s Lang law from 1981 which was last revised in 2008, will “increase the level of readership through ensuring popular access to books throughout the country and making the publishing offer more diversified.”

“Owing to this, readers will have easy access to non-commercial literature, bookstores will be able to offer a wider range of books,” the PIK said in a statement. “The number of published titles will increase, and the interest in local literature will also become stronger.”

. . . .

[T]he industry association says that various European countries have introduced similar regulations to those which are now proposed by the PIK. These, in addition to France, include Germany, Austria, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Croatia, the PIK said.

. . . .

“We should think about [using] models which proved their efficiency in other countries, so that a book which is about to enter the market … had a fixed price adequate to its publishing cost for a limited period of time,” Zdrojewski said at the 17th Krakow Book Fair in late October.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Without wanting to brag, Passive Guy has been capitalist for longer than modern Poland has.

If he wanted to sell more books, PG would get rid of the VAT taxes and make sure there were no barriers to Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, etc., selling books in Poland at whatever price they wanted to charge.

Non-commercial books are called that because not very many people buy them. A physical bookstore with an increased number of books most people won’t buy is not a very good way to sell more books.

Ebook bestsellers for 3 zloty would work much better.

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