Monthly Archives: May 2015

Amazon Debuts A $99 Kindle Bundle For Kids Including An E-Reader, Cover And Warranty

30 May 2015

From TechCrunch:

Amazon wants parents to buy Kindles for their children and is today launching a discounted “Kindle for Kids Bundle” to encourage them to do so. This new package includes the combination of a Kindle e-reader, a durable cover, and an extended warranty on the device which protects against spills and drops. The Bundle is being sold for $99, which is a savings of $39.98 if all three items were purchased separately, notes Amazon.

The Kindle e-reader is designed for books, meaning it doesn’t support apps and games as with Kindle tablets. The device’s 4 GB of storage can hold thousands of books, and stays charged up to four weeks, based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off. Parents can buy Kindle books from Amazon, which today offers over 250,000 titles, or they can borrow e-books from their public library to use with the device.

The ad-free Kindle also supports “Kindle FreeTime,” which is Amazon’s included system for measuring reading progress, tracking accomplishments and earning achievement badges for reaching various milestones.

. . . .

Also thanks to FreeTime, kids won’t have access to websites or social media, or be able to make purchases from the Kindle store. Instead, parents can choose specific books for their kids to read on their device.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Has Left Its Mark

30 May 2015

From National Public Radio:

Publishing’s big week is almost over. The industry’s annual convention, BookExpo America, ends Friday in New York, and on Saturday the publishing world opens its doors to the public with BookCon, where avid readers will get the chance to mix and mingle with their favorite authors.

Last year, the lack of diversity on author panels at BookCon spawned the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which in turn sparked renewed conversation about the lack of diversity in publishing. Ellen Oh, one of We Need Diverse Books’ co-founders, says anger about the lack of diversity in publishing had been brewing for a long time, but when BookCon announced its guest list last year, it struck a nerve.

“It was 30 authors that were all white and the only diversity was the Grumpy Cat,” she says. “And I think at that point the anger and the disappointment of a lot of people just kind of overflowed and we decided to really talk about why this was so important.”

The campaign, aimed at the lack of diversity in kids’ books, urged people of all ages to tweet about why diverse books were so important to them. It used the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and the response was enormous. “These were clear reflections … that diversity was not just important to a small section of authors who had been talking about it for years; that it was actually important to the world,” Oh says.

. . . .

Among the authors who will be taking part in BookCon is Daniel José Older. His panel will address the issue of diversity in science fiction. Older thinks the diverse books campaign did provoke a wider discussion in the publishing world, and he has seen some change in the past year, but he says the industry has a long way to go. “I think we have yet to see how deeply rooted that change is,” he says. “So it’s one thing to put the word ‘diversity’ on banners and things like that, and then it’s another to actually achieve equity and stop racist practices in publishing. Those are two different things.”

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

PG says one of the greatest weaknesses of Big Publishing is its insularity.

Free Same-Day Delivery Is Amazon’s Gambit to Own All Retail

29 May 2015

From Wired:

The battle to win same-day delivery has raged for years, but Amazon has remained a relatively quiet player—until now.

Today, the company unveiled free same-day delivery for members of its wildly popular Prime service in 14 US metro areas. The new service is a more limited version of Prime’s trademark free two-day shipping. A mere 1 million items are available for same-day delivery, as opposed to the 20 million eligible for standard-issue Prime. To qualify for the perks, orders must be placed before noon and total at least $35.

While Amazon has offered experimental versions of same-day delivery for years, it’s waited to offer such a service widely until it had built up its logistics infrastructure to make same-day scale. The company has spent massive amounts of money over the past several years to build huge fulfillment centers near major metro areas.

. . . .

Now, assuming the service works, Amazon appears to be well ahead of rivals both large and small. Both Google and eBay have taken stabs at same-day delivery, but neither has a physical infrastructure for handling inventory at scale, relying instead on local chain stores to fulfill orders. Walmart has also experimented with same-day, but it remains a primarily brick-and-mortar business.

The question for Amazon, however, is whether it’s really figured out how to make same-day delivery pay.

. . . .

By offering same-day for free, Amazon looks to be relying on the same growth-before-profits strategy that has led to the massive growth of its core retail business. By making same-day free, many more customers will likely give same-day a try. If it becomes popular, consumers may come to expect that same level of service at the same price from everyone else—and everyone else will be hard-pressed to match it.

Link to the rest at Wired

B&N Partners With Bublish for a Free Two Month Trial Through Nook Press

29 May 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Here’s a freebie for those authors who still have an active Nook Press account.

I just came away from the Bublish table in the innovation zone here at BEA 2015. It hasn’t been widely announced, but Bublish was pleased to share the news that they had signed a promotional deal with Barnes & Noble. Authors who distribute books through Nook Press can now sign up for a two month free trial of Bubish’s platform (everyone else can get a one month free trial).

Bublish offers an author-centric marketing platform, with a free tier and a paid tier which costs $99 a year. The free tier is fairly basic, and the paid tier enables authors to set up author profiles and create “book bubbles” for each of their titles.

A book bubble is Bublish’s name the the promotional page for a book. Authors make each book bubble by uploading an excerpt of their book, adding links to where it can be bought, and (if they like) expanding on the excerpt with a background explanation.

The book bubbles are designed to be shared on twitter by the author and their fans.

. . . .

In a way, Bublish combines elements of an author’s site with easily shareable links, a clean layout, and analytics.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

A non-writing writer

29 May 2015

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.

Franz Kafka

Report Surveys Opportunities for English-Language Writers in China

29 May 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

A new report produced by Nesta in the UK, in collaboration with Literary Platform and Douban Read, looking at the potential for the Chinese book market for English-language writers has been released.

. . . .

China has nearly 1 billion mobile users and 100 million of these consumers use their devices for Alipay — the online payment service for China’s largest e-commerce site Taobao. Alipay already generates double the transaction volume of PayPal globally.

. . . .

By December 2014, the number of internet users in China had reached 649 million, of which the number of mobile internet users was 557 million (or 85.8%), according to the 35th Statistical Report on Internet Development in China.

Data from Nielsen’s 2013 Mobile Consumer Report showed that 89% of Chinese consumers aged 16+ had a mobile phone.

The Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China estimates that the business of English-language learning is worth 30 billion Yuan (£3.2 billion), with more than 50,000 companies operating in this area.

The International Publishers Association puts the value of the Chinese book (print and digital editions) market at €15.3 billion (£11.4 billion), naturally making it a market that all foreign publishers are looking to better understand.

China alone, by now the second largest publishing market worldwide, accounts for more than half of the BRIC countries’ global market share (to be exact, over 12% of global publishing).

. . . .

According to a survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, the average Chinese adult reads 4.77 books in 2013, about 0.38 books more than the equivalent figure in 2012. Reading times for an adult on a mobile phone averaged 21.7 minutes a day in 2013, 5.18 minutes longer than in 2012.24

. . . .

For British publishers and writers to understand the potential of China’s digital market, however, it is imperative not only to understand how traditional Chinese publishers are changing, but also to understand the strength and popularity of China’s online literature market, which sits outside of China’s traditional publishing sector.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Canadian Writers Working Harder While Earning Less

29 May 2015

From The Writers’ Union of Canada:

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has released today a summary report from its latest income survey of Canadian writers. Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity contains the very bad news that writers in Canada are making 27% less from their writing than they were making in 1998 (when last surveyed to this extent). What’s more, a full 45% of those surveyed indicated they are working harder in order to earn that lower amount.

The Writers’ Union believes these results represent a cultural emergency for Canada. For 81% of respondents, income from writing would not allow them to live above the poverty line, and the average writer’s income ($12,879) is a full $36,000 below the national average. This despite the fact that writers have invested in post-graduate education in large numbers.

“This is not a sustainable situation,” said TWUC Chair Harry Thurston. “If we want a strong and diverse publishing and cultural industry in Canada, it’s essential that creators are reasonably rewarded. Everyone — governments, corporations, institutions, and individual consumers — have a part to play in fairly compensating writers for the content they expect, need and enjoy.”

Similar findings have emerged from recent income surveys in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Writers’ incomes are in steep decline across the English-language publishing industry. Changes to contracts and publishing practices (declines in royalty percentages and advances on sales), industry consolidation, as well as worldwide pressure on professional creators to work in a disastrously weakened copyright environment are all likely contributors.

Link to the rest at The Writers’ Union of Canada and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

It’s interesting to PG that this announcement from Canada is released at the same time The Authors Guild announces a steep decline in the income of traditionally-published authors in the United States.

Both announcements fail to mention the incomes of indie authors.

Authors Guild Announces Fair Contract Initiative

29 May 2015

From The Authors Guild:

Times have changed in the world of publishing, but the “standard” book contract has not kept up. It’s filled with terms, conditions, and language that would be recognizable to authors of a century ago, remnant of a bygone era when e-books, print-on-demand, deep pricing discounts, and online booksellers weren’t even a gleam in the eye. At the same time, new overreaching clauses have been added to insulate the publishers from any potential loss, placing all risk on the author. Yet today’s authors are often asked to sign these standard agreements “no questions asked,” and if they question author-unfriendly terms, they are often told the clauses are “not negotiable.”

In April 2015, the Authors Guild conducted its first major member survey since 2009. Though the complete results are still being compiled, our preliminary findings suggest that fulltime and part-time U.S. authors have experienced a significant decrease in writing income over the last five years. Median writing-related income decreased 24% in that time frame—to only $8,000, with full-time authors’ median income down 30%, from $25,000 to $17,500. Authors who have been writing between 25 and 40 years have seen the greatest drop in income, from a median of $28,750 to just $9,500.  While there are many reasons for this decline in income, unfair terms in publishing agreements don’t help. Notably, during the same period, publishers’ revenue has seen steady annual growth. There’s something very wrong about that disparity.

. . . .

The traditional publishing enterprise was conceived as a joint venture, with authors and publishers working as partners to produce and distribute books. In the pre-digital climate, this meant that publishers split their profits more or less equally with authors. Publishers earned an equal split of profits as compensation for their efforts in shepherding a book through the publishing process, from creation to distribution to sub-licensing. But that is far from today’s reality.

Many publishers are doing less than ever for their authors. In many cases the companies provide less editing, little to no marketing, and no promotional budget. Instead, they ask authors to do their own marketing by engaging in time-consuming social media campaigns. Rather than compensate authors for this additional work, publishers usually insist on keeping a whopping 75% of income from e-book sales. That’s just one of many unacceptable policies.

. . . .

Here are just some of the unfair terms in today’s standard book agreements:

  • In exchange for some money, you give the publisher all rights to your book for 35 years—or your lifetime plus 70 years (let’s just call it “forever”) if you or your heirs forget to terminate after those first 35.
  • The publisher gets to reject your manuscript for any reason or no reason, and if that happens, you have to give back all the money you’ve received before you can publish the book with somebody else.
  • The publisher can publish your book when the company gets around to it, which may take as long as two years from the time it accepts your manuscript—or even longer. You have no control, and you may have to wait for the last part of your “advance” until the book finally appears in print.
  • If you are even one day late delivering the work (time is of the essence, it seems, only when it comes to the author), the publisher can opt to terminate the agreement and ask for the advance back.
  • You can’t publish another book under your name or even a pseudonym anywhere in the world until this one is published—even if the publisher has put it off.
  • You have to offer the publisher the rights to your next book, but the publisher can wait to decide whether to offer you a deal on it until two months after this one comes out.
  • You have no say in what the cover, jacket flap, and ad copy will look like.
  • If the publisher does anything you don’t happen to like, such as assign you an incompetent editor, fail to exploit subsidiary and foreign rights, print too few copies to satisfy customer demand, forget to register your copyright, consistently forget to pay you on time, or go bankrupt, you have no real recourse.

Like authors, publishers have had to adapt to the new realities of the digital age; one unfortunate way they have adapted is by squeezing the author.

. . . .

If authors can’t make a living producing works of quality, there will be very, very few people who can afford to write books.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild and thanks to Michael for the tip. Here’s a link to the announcement of the initiative.

PG would have added a few items to the list of unfair contract terms, but this isn’t a bad start.

The progress or lack of progress on this initiative will be one way of demonstrating whether The Authors Guild is a relevant organization for 21st century authors or not.

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