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A Boost for Enhanced E-books

18 February 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

For the first three weeks of the new year, the enhanced edition of Chris Kyle’s memoir, American Sniper, led Apple’s iBooks bestseller list, consistently landing several spots above the title’s standard e-book. Its hot streak was a rare victory for enhanced e-books (especially over their unenhanced counterparts). On the whole, sales of enhanced e-books have fallen short of expectations since publishers began investing in the format, which incorporates video and other interactive features, roughly five years ago.

Is American Sniper’s place at the top of Apple’s chart a one-off occurrence, owing to the popularity of the film adaptation (which raked in six Oscar nominations), or is it a harbinger of good things to come for enhanced e-books—pointing to a new trend, enhancing titles with TV and film adaptations, that may help publishers sell what has been a historically difficult format to market?

The enhanced e-book for American Sniper was released simultaneously with the hardcover in 2012, well before the film premiered on Jan. 16, 2015, and the supplemental material is not directly related to the movie. It contains 12 original interviews with Kyle interspersed between chapters, in which the NAVY Seal (who died in 2013) touches on the book’s themes—and it also includes a video with his wife, Taya Kyle.

“Instantly after publication [in 2012], American Sniperbecame a huge bestseller and the enhanced e-book sales were part of that frenzy, becoming the bestselling enhanced e-book of the time,” said Sharyn Rosenblum, v-p, senior director of media relations at HarperCollins. “With the explosion of book sales now that the movie is out and has become a blockbuster, it makes perfect sense that the e-book would be equally in demand again.” And it is—according to HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray, the enhanced e-book has now sold more than 166,000 copies.

. . . .

According to deGuzman, the enhanced movie tie-ins are a win for everyone involved. “The more marketing and exposure, the better the chances of success for the adaptations,” she said. “The bigger the success of these adaptations, the more likely we are to sell more copies of the underlying book. That’s a recipe for happiness for all parties—authors, agents, publishers, studios.”

Grand Central does rely, per deGuzman, on the movie studio’s recognition that movie tie-in editions serve as crucial marketing tools for the movie. “I cannot stress enough how appreciative we are that the movie studios spend time and effort and resources to provide us with [additional material],” noted deGuzman. The enhanced editions of Sparks’s novels include content from the studios, such as interviews with the actors in each film and behind-the-scenes footage.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Nate Hoffelder at Ink, Bits & Pixels points out that the price of the enhanced ebook of American Sniper is less than $6.00. When PG wrote this post it was $5.86 on Amazon.

It’s amazing how many ebooks you can sell when you stop setting your prices to prop up print sales.

Enhanced Ebooks

38 Comments to “A Boost for Enhanced E-books”

  1. (who died in 2013)

    was murdered by Eddie Ray Routh.
    FIFY

    • Barbara,

      RU permitted to say that, prior to conviction?

      Forgive me, just a bit puzzled about the free speech thing. I’m more or less certain that would be frowned on under UK crim law-for the possibility of influencing a jury.

      I thought the film was excellent well done-the book-hideous.

      brendan

      • The legal status may be in doubt but the facts are not. In the US we are welcome to state the facts of the situation.

      • Brendan, in the UK we have sub-judice, where the rights to a fair trial supersede the rights to free speech. The UK media (and indeed anybody, although the policing of social media is impossible) cannot report or speculate on anything relating to a case unless it has been revealed in court or finalised by a conviction, even if the facts are obvious. In the US, the first amendment trumps all other rights, so technically the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply outside a courtroom.

      • Texas Ranger Danny Briley, who interviewed Routh in the hours after the killings, testified on Monday that the defendant confessed to shooting the men. Further, he testified that Routh admitted he “knew it was wrong to kill them, that he wished he hadn’t done it,” which is potentially devastating to the defense’s claim that the suspect was in a state of “psychosis” so severe that he wasn’t aware his actions were criminal.

        http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/16/jurors-hear-taped-confession-of-chris-kyles-killer-why-latest-evidence-could-be-devastating-for-defense/

        Pretty definitive to me, Brendan.

        • But if the defence may make claims of self-defence, insanity or that the confession was given under duress, all of which could lead to an acquittal, so it is surely not definitive, not until a verdict. This is why in Britain, you can never call make such comments about British trials. Even when Lee Rigby’s killers, who had videoed themselves confessing after the slaying and was broadcast nationally at the time, went to trial, it would have been illegal to refer to them as murderers or make suggestions they were guilty, which I guess is why us Brits find it astonishing when you say such things in the US.

          • “us Brits find it astonishing when you say such things in the US.”

            Robert,

            I make my comments without judgement-either way. I have some difficulties with freedom of speech as embraced and celebrated by most Americans I know. I had enormous difficulties with The Westboro Baptist church, (I’d have had ’em all locked up) but eventually reconciled myself with the fact that they are the canary in the coal mine.

            As a retired UK legal professional-I often hear stuff said on media and places like here, and my natural kick is-whoah! We’ll never get a conviction if you go on like that:) I can’t help it.

            As I’ve now been here (USA) 20 years, I really ought to have assimilated…I suspect my ears will always do a Spock when I hear that one.

            brendan

          • Reply to Brendan. I wasn’t implying you were being judgmental, nor I hope does anyone assert the same of me. In many ways, I’m envious of the first amendment, especially as a journalist, but having sat in plenty of murder trials, the notion of a similar thing in the UK sits uneasily with me. As recent celebrity trials in the UK have shown, you don’t even need to be found guilty or even taken to court, for accusations to be enough to ruin your life.

      • @Brendan… just a note: in the US, in news media, despite first amendment, the usual professional way is not to call anyone, pre-trail conclusion, a ‘murderer’ or to say that So and So definitively ran over mr. jones, or other conclusive judgement. The word ‘alleged’ is to be used. Even if there is direct film of the critical incident. As in, Mr So and So is alleged to have entered the pub at 0500 and to have shot Mr. Such and Such.

        THere are those in US broadcasting who might violate that for they are opiners, not professional journalists. But the trope of not indicting pre-trial exists for many reasons in responsible journalism including not to pollute the pool of potential jurors in that jurisdiction. But even more so because we have in the US, unfortunately [as elsewhere in the world] too much history with ‘rush to errant judgement’ –done in the name of ‘justice’ that was not just. In pro journalism, there is to be this strong binding of restraint, that is, that follows this: ‘each person is Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.’

        That last is speaking only to the words used by those bound by professional ethics, not to quality of any ‘court of law’ or other. And that last, along with ‘speedy trial’ and ‘clear charges’ etc, are a huge bone of contention in the US with regard to persons held without charges or trial currently, a whole different story.

        • USAF,

          Yus. Thank you. I appreciate the explanation. I usually get it both barrels from the POV of FOS.

          I know my own wariness around the subject is precisely for those reasons you enumerate-because you can lose a case that took two years in preparation, by a single word out of place.

          I get the FOS thing…mostly…I just don’t think I’ll ever fully understand it as those who have grown up with it have.

          I’m grateful for your comments.

          brendan

  2. Having worked 20 years in interactive entertainment of all kinds, “enhanced” E-Books seem ridiculous for a lot of reasons. They’re at least an order of magnitude more expensive to produce, introduce almost endless possibilities for mistakes, and are far more likely to confuse the user than entertain them.

  3. Very nice. ‘A’ book did well using enhancements. (but the subject made have made it just as popular without the extra bells and whistles.)

    Anyone want to bet that there will now be a craze of publishers ‘enhancing’ every book they can — even those that don’t need/shouldn’t be messed with?

    .

    Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities. — Mark Twain

    • maybe we can have tom sawyer enhanced with sounds and old timey music… or to kill a mockingbird with sound of trudges and a whole history of atticus’ in photos.

      wait. that’s called radio drama and film. Old school ideas might lift off, but also might crash and burn.

      no doubt there’s an app for that

      • Deities help us!

        Somehow I don’t see them adding the songs I’d want to hear while reading, just as they probably wouldn’t like the songs I’d use for a song track. 😉

        • @ Allen F

          By Jove and all!

          I was thinking, what say, Led Zep for prayer books and monks chanting Tibetan exorcism ritual [truly intense deep drones/groans] for violent suspense. You know, a little snake bite for what is left out. lol

          • Or Meat Loaf’s “I’ll do anything for love (but I won’t do that)” as they betray their lover?

            Forgot to add, I’ve ‘not’ watched some shows/movies due to them blasting me with rap at the opening (to me rap should be spelled with a leading ‘C’, but each to their own.)

            So why would you want to risk turning a sale into a ‘no way in hell if that’s on it!’ by adding something that may turn off your readers?

            .

            Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. — Mark Twain

  4. I am curious to know how many readers had devices/settings capable of utilizing the enhanced features? I wonder how many cared or found the enhancements interesting/useful/desirable? I wonder what the sales would have been if the ebook hadn’t been enhanced?

    I keep reading/hearing how publishers are so entranced by enhanced ebooks. I haven’t heard zero/zip/zilch demand by readers.

    Personally, I am intrigued by the features and possibilities of ebooks. But the questions are: Does its usability depend on a specific device: ie, does it require an iPad or other expensive tablet?; Where is the line between reader enjoyment and readers feeling as if a bunch of junk they don’t want or need is being foisted on them?

    I predict in the very near future that we’ll see a ton of enhanced ebooks coming from the Big5. A good way to catch their digital costs up to print costs.

    • The iBooks only work on Apple hardware.

      The Kindle version enhancements only work on iDevices and Fire tablets.

      So there is a limited market, yes.

      • “The iBooks only work on Apple hardware.

        The Kindle version enhancements only work on iDevices and Fire tablets.”

        Nate,

        Ugh…Pig dogs.

        They never moved on from dongles, and they won’t, will they?

        Eejits.

        brendan

  5. I already bought the regular kindle version, so the enhanced is selling for 5.86 and the regular kindle version is selling for 4 dollars. Pay almost 50% more just for some interviews with the author. Does that seem worth it to anyone?

    If I was buying it today, I still think I’d go with the 4 dollar regular version and save my 1.86 (plus tax) to spend on another book.

  6. As a reader, enhancements don’t interest me. I love to be immersed in the book’s world (big fantasy reader). I already have issues with some covers that have the characters photographed, when they don’t agree with what I imagined. Additional music or whatever, is not going to appeal to readers like me.

    As an author, I find it daunting. Not a skillset I plan on learning.

  7. I think I’ve missed something in the occasional discussions of enhanced ebooks. I don’t understand why so many Indies have such disdain for them.

    Yes, costs are greater to produce. The cost of an audio version of a book is greater, too, but many of us produce them. And yes, there is a proven market for audio books, and an unproven market for ebooks enhanced in other ways, but I don’t think that means we should dismiss them.

    Many of us are purists and don’t want extras mucking up our books. I understand that. But I also think there’s a huge opportunity for tapping into our creativity and offering our readers a new experience. Once upon a time, an ebook was a new experience. What am I missing?

    • It’s not so much being a purist when it comes to fiction as wanting uninterrupted entertainment. Enhanced DVDs were the rage at one point. I found the pop-ups in the middle of the movie or TV I was trying to watch incredibly annoying, too.

      I don’t mind extra content as long as it’s not interrupting the flow of the story narrative. I often watch the extras and “making of’s” afterwards.

      Non-fiction is a whole ‘nuther animal. But in the case of a memoir like Kyle’s, I don’t want to be interrupted either, which is what his enhanced e-book does. I’d want to read his story, not listen to other people’s perspectives. (Sorry, but to me that is what an interview truly is. The producers and editors create their own narrative by how they put together footage.)

    • I think it’s more ‘what/why the heck?’ than true disdain.

      Audio books are a whole ‘nother critter, in which the readers are not reading but hearing the words (unless this is a ‘read along with uncle Jake’ type book with sound …)

      Let’s say I’m deep into reading your book — why would you want to pull me out of it? Unless it’s your life story then the author chiming in to add/say something just pulled me out of reading … (and other than an illustration of what/who’s being talked about/walked through, what else can you really add without taking away from your story?)

      .

      “NOTICE: Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot will be shot.”
      ~ Mark Twain(?)

  8. A popular book that has a very popular movie based on it, is hardly a good example of whether enhanced e-books are likely to generally succeed in the marketplace. It’s just not relevant for the vast majority of writers or publishers. This seems more reminiscent of a new kind of commercial tie-ins, than anything else.

  9. Not again! Sounds annoying rather than entertaining, and not something I’d want or need in a book, especially if the enhanced version cost more. And I don’t think it could be cost effective for publishers unless it was strictly for a blockbuster novel selling many many copies. Not for the midlist for sure.

    I don’t understand the fascination with expensive gimmicks. Are big publishers thinking this will create competition for indie books? Is it to justify charging higher, or even hard cover prices for ebooks?

    Just proves, to me at least, that big publisher’s customers are not the people who are readers.

    • In economics, the term is “barriers to entry”. So, yes, big publishers would love for this to catch on, as it would be a barrier to entry to Indies and small publishers.

      • Heh, here’s hoping they team up with Microsoft for their ‘enhancements’. I can see the return of ‘Clippy!’

        “I see your reading of this story slowed after the first ten pages. Would you like me to refer you to some of our other books of this type?”

        • “I can see the return of ‘Clippy!’”

          Allen,

          I refer the honourable member to the comments made earlier by the esteemed Mark Twain.

          “persons attempting to find a clippy will be shot”

          Arghhh, I so hated that winking, maddening thing in werd:)

          brendan

          • Which is why we can only hope that they use it — to drive others away from the madness! 😉

            And the original on windows was bad enough — first thing to be killed when loading word or office …

            (and you didn’t notice just who left that quote I guess? 😛 )

  10. “Is it to justify charging higher, or even hard cover prices for ebooks?”

    Lydia,

    Precisely that. Anything to get that till ringing higher figures.

    I’ve enough aggro with the DRM, which is justifiable dependent on your viewpoint, but annoying for most honest customers. Making it proprietorial to format for Kindle or Apple, absolutely forget it. I won’t touch it with a barge-pole.

    brendan

  11. What exactly would they enhance this with? A sniper game?

  12. People have been yapping about encanced ebooks since before I got into self-publishing in 2011, and their day hasn’t come yet. I suspect readers haven’t missed them one whit.

    I don’t like all that added crap. I don’t like to sync my tablet to watch TV shows (I tried it once with The Walking Dead, and missed half the show. I did, however, get all the trivia questions correct. :P), my K3 won’t work with any of the enhanced stuff, and my computer is too old and slow for any of it to work properly anyway, even if I wanted to sit at the desk and read.

  13. “Enhancing” fiction books seems superfluous (until everybody’s doing it?)

    But, enhancing some non-fiction would make a lot of sense, though the barriers could be overwhelming to an author.

    I’m writing a music history book. “Now you can include the music!” Duh. That would be great. It’s always annoying to be reading about some music (film books could do this too I suppose) and you want to hear what the author is talking about. I make lists and try to find copies of the tunes later. Be nice to be able to clink on a link in the text to hear it. Yea!

    But, licensing. For my book I might be able to include recordings that are out of copyright. But if you’re not writing about old cylinder recordings, it’s gonna cost a mint to include that stuff. The promise is so great, but the reality is so far out of reach.

    What we need is some way for me to link my book to existing media, so readers can access extra material, but I don’t have to host it or sponsor it. Then books would be advertising and facilitating access for interested readers. Who knows, but we don’t seem to be heading that way. These enhanced books are just big-media productions far from what most people can afford to create.

    So frustrating. With cheap links though there’d be the issue of longevity. If we’re doing anything worthwhile in non-fiction it’d be nice if it would last. I gather that scientific papers today are full of online links that have an average lifespan of about six years. So scientific research is erasing itself as it goes. Yikes.

    Maybe I should release the book with a series of Edison cylinders? Some of those are still playing 120 years later!

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