Monthly Archives: July 2015

Amazon suggests a separate airspace for delivery drones

30 July 2015

From the BBC News:

US online retailer Amazon has called for a separate airspace zone for commercial drone flights that could deliver goods to customers.

The zone would have the unmanned vehicles flying below normal planes at a height of 200 to 400ft (61 to 122m).

Air traffic control for the suggested drone space would be handled by an automated computer system.

. . . .

Amazon, Google and other mail services see drones as future delivery vehicles, but still face regulatory hurdles.

“Drones have been around for a long time when it comes to non-commercial sectors,” Andrew Milroy, technology analyst with consultancy Frost & Sullivan, told the BBC.

“But there are in fact all kinds of commercial uses for drones with parcel deliveries being just one of them. Just think of building maintenance, architects, real estate agents, etc.”

. . . .

Laying out its suggestions at a NASA convention in California, Amazon says that clarifying the use of airspace was essential for harnessing the potential of small unmanned aircraft systems in civil airspace.

“So the commercial pressure in the US to enable that technology is becoming stronger and stronger,” Mr Milroy explained.

According to the Amazon draft, a segregated civil airspace would be carved out below 500ft to enable drones to fly unhindered and without endangering civilian or military planes.

The proposal suggests airspace below 200ft for low-speed localised drone traffic such as surveying, filming and private hobby drones.

The next level between 200ft and 400ft would become a “high-speed transit space”, for drones like the ones Amazon is aiming for with its future drone delivery plans.

. . . .

According to [an Amazon] patent, the drones would be able to track the location of the person it is delivering to by pulling data from their smartphone.

“So the technology is there, the issue they are facing is the regulators – and regulators always take some time to catch up with new technology,” said Mr Milroy.

Link to the rest at BBC News and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Taxes on Digital Books Are Called Unfair

30 July 2015

From The New York Times:

E-books, which according to PricewaterhouseCoopers represent a quarter to a third of consumer book sales in the United States and Britain, have largely failed to catch on outside English-language markets.

The reasons for this failure are complicated, rooted in cultural resistance from readers and economic policies that protect traditional publishers. Rules in countries like Germany and France prohibit the kind of deep discounts on digital books relative to print that have lifted e-book sales in English-language markets. But another, less publicized factor is taxation, which in the case of e-books is all over the map.

This month, the International Publishers Association released a survey of how digital and printed books are taxed in 79 countries, showing that e-books are on average taxed twice as highly as printed books, 12.25 percent to 5.75 percent. In many European countries, including Sweden, Ireland and Hungary, the value-added tax on a printed book is negligible or waived, while the same book’s digital version is taxed at more than 20 percent.

In its report, produced with the Federation of European Publishers, the association called this practice “unwarranted discrimination,” saying that it contributes to the anemic growth of e-books in small publishing markets.

. . . .

 Only four countries in Europe — France, Italy, Iceland and Turkey — have reduced their tax rates for e-books. Outside Europe, taxes on e-books are more aligned with taxes on printed books, especially in Latin America, where most countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, apply no taxes on books, regardless of format.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Kindle Unlimited Thoughts

29 July 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Like everyone else in KDP Select, I’ve been paying attention to my Kindle Unlimited page reads.

When the new accounting began at the beginning of this month, I had 33,000 daily page reads. I had no idea if this was good, or bad. It was what it was.

But I was intrigued to see my Amazon Author Rank go up. My best rank was #1, but for the past two years I’ve been hovering around #1000. On June 30 I was #854.

Now I hover around #400. I got to #267 last week, and now I’m at #441.

Since I haven’t released any new solo novels in two years (I have three coming out by fall, two Jack Daniels thrillers and a Jack Kilborn horror), the only explanation I have for this jump up was the new KU rules.

By the end of the first week, my daily reads were up to 60,000. By the end of this month, they’re at 85,000.

Now, this all could mean absolutely nothing. Maybe my page reads have remained static, and Amazon’s new accounting system is simply finding its groove.

Maybe people are finishing my books, and the more they read the more they want to read. Or maybe a lot of people are starting them and not finishing them. The likeliest answer is some readers finish, some don’t. Page reads, by themselves, don’t give us enough information.

. . . .

Now, I became a writer via the legacy publishing industry. I collected 500 rejections before I sold a word. For roughly a decade I worked and worked and worked to improve my craft, and when I finally got a pub deal I worked even harder. My publishers gave me feedback. I got better. I attended conferences, and made friends with peers, and we traded WIPs. I got better. By the time this Kindle thing happened, I had a pretty good idea of how to tell an engaging story.

But I never had the opportunity crowdsourcing presents.

While I’ve worked with professional editors and writers, the only true reader feedback I got was from friends and family, and they’re biased. Reviews are feedback after publication, but rarely are they specific enough to help authors (unless the author has really screwed up.)

But if I knew 1000 readers stopped on page 156 of one of my books, and never returned to it, that information would be worth a lot to me.

One of the big advantages to ebooks, which doesn’t get mentioned often, is their fluidity. A paper book pubbed by the Big 5 is static. Once it’s released, that is pretty much the version that exists forever. But ebooks have the ability to update. Change. Improve. Evolve.

We’re on the cusp of an unprecedented level of feedback. These are exciting times. What other medium can tailor its IP to its audience to this degree? Readers don’t like it? Fix it!

. . . .

Now, I invite you to share your KU data. Post anonymously if you feel uncomfortable going public with your numbers. But I’d like to know what your daily page read count was on July 1, and on July 28, and if you notice any upward/downward movement. Also, share your author ranks from those dates, and mention if you’ve released anything new this month.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like his posts, you can show your appreciation by buying his books.

Since when do we have to agree with people

29 July 2015

Since when do we have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?

Lillian Hellman

Uncle Sam wants YOU to read ‘popular’ scholarly books

29 July 2015

From The Washington Post:

If all goes as planned, there’s a fascinating book about Diderot in your future — and one about the history of photographic detection and another one about the economics of addiction.

Think that’s too heady for you? Think again.

The Public Scholar program, a major new initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities, is designed to promote the publication of scholarly nonfiction books for a general audience, and the first round of grants has just been announced: a total of $1.7 million to 36 writers across a broad collection of disciplines. The grants range from $25,200 to $50,400. (Full list at bottom.)

The winners include Pulitzer Prize-winner Diane McWhorter, who’s working on a book about the Moon landing and the civil rights era in Huntsville, Ala.,; National Book Award-winner Kevin Boyle, who’s writing about an early 20th-century anarchist; and National Book Award-winner Edward Ball, who will return to the territory of his bestselling “Slaves in the Family” to write a biography of his great-great grandfather.

. . . .

This program is a priority for NEH Chairman William D. Adams, who has just completed his first year in office. He’s determined to push back against the forces that make academic writing and research inaccessible to lay readers. Applicants for Public Scholar grants were told that they must aim “to engage broad audiences in exploring subjects of general interest . . . in a readily accessible style.” At $1.7 million, the Public Scholar program represents about 20 percent of the NEH budget for fellowships and other scholarship.

“Over the years,” Adams said, “some of the humanities disciplines became much more technical and much more professionally oriented. Their audience became much more internal to the profession. With this program, we’re trying to send a message that would legitimate scholarship that aims outside the profession with topics that have resonance more broadly.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Man Booker prize 2015: US literary agent among 13 writers on longlist

29 July 2015

From The Guardian:

An American literary agent known for his ruthless negotiating and memoirs recounting his struggles with crack-cocaine and alcohol, has made it on to the 2015 Man Booker longlist with his debut novel.

Bill Clegg is one of 13 writers who will compete for the £50,000 prize which, for the second year, allows in writers of all nationalities writing in English.

Previously restricted to Commonwealth and Irish writers, the rule change allowed American novelists in for the first time last year.

. . . .

The academic Michael Wood, who chaired the judging panel, said the judges had a great time choosing the list from the 156 books in contention. “Discussions weren’t always peaceful, but they were always very friendly,” he said. “We were lucky in our companions and the submissions were extraordinary. The longlist could have been twice as long, but we’re more than happy with our final choice.

“The range of different performances and forms of these novels is amazing. All of them do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use.”

There are five US writers, the biggest contingent on the longlist. Clegg is interesting because he is best known for pushing other writers and for securing million-dollar deals in his role as an agent.

His yet-to-be-published Did You Ever Have a Family tells the story of a middle-aged woman struggling to recover after an explosion kills her family.

The book was so coveted by publishers that the winning bidder, Gallery Books, even set up a new imprint for literary fiction, Scout, with the Clegg novel as its opener.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter Hashtag Has Famous Authors Venting and Bonding on Twitter

29 July 2015

From Observer:

Writing is not a career for the weak.

It comes with seemingly everlasting periods of writer’s block, glooming fits of self-doubt and often little recognition or remuneration in return for great dedication. Perhaps the biggest bother, though, is constantly having to defend who you are, what you write and why you write it.

For many people, because they know how to write, they carry an assumption that writing is easy. What they don’t realize, however, is that writing, the tool you learn in school and use to jot texts, refrigerator memos and the occasional letter, is quite a ways away from writing, what novelists, poets, journalists and others who connect words professionally do.

Today, hobbyists and professional writers got the chance to vent the everyday frustrations associated with writing on Twitter when the hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter began trending. Authors of best-selling novels, journalists and passionate just for fun-writers participated, and they pretty much covered all of the bases. As they tweeted, RTs, favorites and replies were all plentiful as the writers digitally bonded over their work problems—we’ll call it a water cooler vent session.

. . . .


. . . .

. . . .

. . . .


.

Link to the rest at Observer

Will Traditional Publishing Retain Its Dominance by Mandating That Its Authors Keep Their Distance From Self-Published Authors?

29 July 2015

From HuffPost Books:

Imagine my dismay this week to discover that one of the Big Five houses has a policy that bars its authors from endorsing print-on-demand books. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Traditional publishing actively works to position itself against nontraditional publishing yet has no issue whatsoever with scooping up self-published success stories. Double standard? Yes.

. . . .

That a traditional publisher would institute a policy against blurbing POD books suggests a few things:

1) They’re equating print-on-demand with self-publishing. Inaccurate. Many self-published books are not print-on-demand, and many traditionally published books are flipped to POD status, oftentimes as soon as a year following publication. During my years at Seal Press, I sat in on countless meetings where we decided, based on sluggish sales, which books should become print-on-demand, since it makes no business sense whatsoever to reprint 500 books (what offset printing requires to benefit from economies of scale) for titles that aren’t moving. And I know for a fact that the big houses practice this as well.

2) They’re operating from the worst kind of scarcity mentality. They must believe that endorsing POD (or self-published) books will shine a negative light on their authors.

Link to the rest at HuffPost Books

A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever

28 July 2015

From The Authors Guild:

From The Authors Guild:

Diamonds may be forever, but book contracts should not be. There’s no good reason why a book should be held hostage by a publisher for the lifetime of the copyright, the life of the author plus seventy years—essentially forever. Yet that’s precisely what happens today. A publisher may go bankrupt or be bought by a conglomerate, the editors who championed the author may go on to other companies, the sales force may fail to establish the title in the marketplace and ignore it thereafter, but no matter how badly the publisher mishandles the book, the author’s agreement with the original publisher is likely to remain in effect for many decades.

That’s the way most book contracts have been drafted for more than a century, and publishers take it for granted; only a few brave souls have asked why or argued with it because that’s the way it has always been. In the ideal traditional publishing partnership—where the publisher nourished the author’s career; where the same editor worked closely with the author over decades, editing and reworking books and new book ideas; where the publisher actively marketed and promoted the author and gave the author a sufficient advance to live on between books—then it might have made sense for the publisher to own the rights for the entire copyright term. But that is the rare author-publisher relationship today.

. . . .

Authors victimized by this status quo know that it’s long past time for publishers to offer a fair deal. We believe three basic changes are urgently needed: (1) time-limited contracts, (2) a clause that provides for reversion of unexploited rights, and (3) a specific new unchallengeable definition to replace historic “out of print” clauses that are not remotely relevant in the electronic age.

When it comes to time limits in agreements, publishers historically have positioned themselves on the lucrative side of the line. With authors, the deal they offer basically lasts forever. But when they’re on the other side of the deal, licensing things like paperback reprints or foreign rights to other companies, publishers typically don’t make agreements that continue for the life of a book’s copyright. Instead, the contracts are good only for fixed periods—seven years, for example. If publishers can routinely demand licenses that expire, why shouldn’t authors?

We think the “standard” contract should last for a limited period of time from the date of publication; it should end well before the 35-year termination window opens. When the contract expires, if a book is still doing well, the author and publisher might negotiate another time-limited deal—or the author might choose to move the book to a house that has put more effort into marketing the author’s later works. If the book is no longer gaining support from the original publisher, the author might choose to self-publish it or take it to another publisher. In any case, a time-limited contract gives authors the leverage and flexibility that they need in today’s publishing environment.

. . . .

That brings us to the third step: the “out of print” clause, which has failed woefully to keep up with modern publishing practices and must be replaced. The original concept was straightforward: When a publisher fails to keep a book on the market in a profitable way, the author should get all the rights back. This is more important today than ever, since e-books and print-on-demand make it easy for authors to republish their backlists: a recent study conducted by the British Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) showed that 70% of authors who were able to reclaim their rights were able to earn more money from the work in question.

. . . .

The remedy is simple: Kill the entire outmoded concept of “out of print.” Instead, the contract should define when book rights are being “inadequately exploited” and therefore available for reversion to the author when the book fails to generate a certain amount of income—say, $250–$500—in a one-year period. Using income as the yardstick, not a specific number of sales, is essential: Publishers might otherwise be able to game the clause by offering one-cent e-books the way they’ve gamed existing clauses by using e-books and print-on-demand.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild and thanks to Melinda for the tip.

PG will note that The Authors Guild proposal for revised out of print provisions is identical to A Minimum Wage for Authors which PG first publicly suggested in 2011.

He believes that the $250-500 per year threshold for reversion is too low, however. This is especially true if the threshold amount is not indexed for inflation (another PG suggestion from 2011). In the US at least, we’ve become accustomed to very low rates of inflation during the past several years. However, PG believes this is not the new normal.

$250 might not buy you a hamburger at McDonalds or a deposit and 10 minutes of fun on any mobile casino apps in a few decades. In 1964, a McDonalds hamburger cost 15 cents.

The smart book for a new market

28 July 2015

From FutureBook:

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the audio download market was rising to the challenge of a flagging e-book market, with growth at sustainable pricing levels and investment in new original content. But could the enhanced e-book also be making a return to bolster publisher income and re-spark interest in what some are now describing as “complex” books?

Last week The Bookseller looked at the e-book market with first half figures from the major publishers, concluding that what was once booming is now maturing. Volume e-book figures, supplied by Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, show a collective 5.3% rise in unit sales for the first six months of 2015.

The five per cent jump in sales is the shallowest collective rise since The Bookseller began collating e-book volume data from trade publishing’s biggest players in six and 12-month cycles. Caveats abound of course: this is just the Big Five, so it not only excludes other traditional publishers’ sales, but the self-published sector too. Nevertheless, the figures supplied suggest a market worth around £172m, or 24% of the entire print and digital market’s value.

. . . .

Why these two distinct markets are behaving as they are is tough to call. The indie author community will tell you that their sales remain healthy (although somewhat impacted by Kindle Unlimited) and that they are gaining share in key areas (such as romance) from traditional publishers, a situation that will become exacerbated as the big publishers return to full agency contracts.

. . . .

Enter the complex e-book. Penguin Random House UK deputy c.e.o. Ian  Hudson told my colleagues that increasingly an important factor for the digital landscape in 2015 was that vanilla e-books “aren’t the only digital success story” for publishers, with Hudson pointing to its investment in audio and new distribution channels that service the non e-ink markets.

. . . .

In The Bookseller’s piece last week, Hudson referenced an increased investment in a wide variety of apps and enhanced—or “complex”, as Hudson calls them—e-books, such as a special digital edition of Graham Greene’s The Third Man, featuring the full text of the novella alongside film clips and archive material.

Link to the rest at FutureBook

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