Monthly Archives: October 2015

Blloon subscription service on brink of closure

31 October 2015

From The Bookseller:

Another e-book subscription service is teetering on the brink of collapse after finding the business model unsustainable.

Blloon, developed by the founders of e-reader Txtr, has stopped taking on new users and will make a decision as to whether to close for good today, its c.e.o Thomas Leliveld has told The Bookseller.

It follows the news from Oyster in the US last month that its service was to close in 2016, despite raising $17m in funding from Highland Capital Partners earlier in the year.

Blloon launched in October last year offering a raft of titles from notable independent publishers such as Bloomsbury, Profile, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, Allen & Unwin, Lonely Planet and more and had plans to roll out to the US and Germany, where its founders are based, after its UK launch.

. . . .

“The service can only continue if the three parties, the users, publishers and service providers are all happy, and the users wanted more books, from companies like Penguin Random House, in our service. A lot of publishers have an issue with the unlimited model, for good or bad reasons. I was just about to hit the button of some more investment but I couldn’t see this building in the mid to long term into a financially healthy business. Then Oyster shut down and these guys had significantly more investment that I did and I said ‘if they are having trouble, this is going to be a problem’.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG says one of the challenges tech startups face when trying to innovate in the book business is having to deal with publishers who are constitutionally anti-innovation.

The major reason Amazon has been able to make ebook lending and subscription work is that it partners with indie authors who aren’t afraid to join it in experiments and innovation.

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Virtue

31 October 2015

Virtue has a veil, vice a mask.

Victor Hugo

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Why Apple took its e-book fight to the Supreme Court

31 October 2015

From Fortune:

Having maintained its innocence throughout the federal district court trial, which it lost, and in the appeal, which it lost in a split decision, it should surprise no one that Apple is taking its e-book antitrust case to the highest court in the land.

Accompanying Thursday’s 250-page petition was a brief statement to the press:

“When Apple launched the iBooks Store in 2010, we brought choice to consumers and innovation to ebooks. We have always acted in the best interest of customers and content creators of all sizes. We did nothing wrong, and stand by our principles. At this point, our only recourse is to take this to the Supreme Court.”

 There’s no guarantee the Supreme Court will hear the case. And with two strikes against it, the odds of a favorable outcome for Apple are steep.

But that may not matter to Tim Cook and company.

With its war chest of cash, Apple can afford to wage quixotic fights. Especially if they are fights Steve Jobs started. Especially if a large segment of its customer base is inclined to see the case its way.

This is Apple “thinking different” to the bitter end.

Link to the rest at Fortune

For the benefit of those who may not have been visiting TPV during the extended legal battle of Apple and five major New York publishers against Justice Department antitrust charges, this was not a close case, just plain old price-fixing which has been illegal in the US since the passage of The Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890.

Apple may be sophisticated in product design and marketing, but it, and the big publishers involved, were crude and stupid when it came to violating antitrust law.

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Library Journal’s 2015 Survey of Library eBook Usage is Friendly to Self-Pub

31 October 2015

From The Digital Reader:

Library Journal published its 6th annual survey on ebook in public libraries last week.

The report, which you can download here (PDF), tells us that the number of US libraries that lend ebooks to their patrons dipped slightly in the past year (to 94%) while the average size of an ebook catalog grew from a median of 10,484 to 14,397 (this, in spite of the high prices for library ebooks).

The report is chock full of information, including the news that fiction continues to be more popular than non-fiction, with “three-quarters (74%) of public libraries’ ebook collections are fiction titles, while 26% are nonfiction titles.”

. . . .

And the report had this to say about self-published books:

There is no shortage of data on declining ebook sales—and declining book sales in general, especially fiction. The headline—“Ebook sales declining”— misses some crucial nuances. Traditional sales tracking methodologies don’t capture the rise of independent and self-­published ebooks, which should not be ignored. It’s not just “vanity publishing” anymore.

We have found that the majority of libraries do not offer self-published ebooks, with the primary difficulty being not knowing what’s available and what is of sufficient quality. There are few booklists and lists of new releases—or even reviews—to guide them, so unless it’s a patron-­driven acquisition or a local author, the library has no way of knowing such a book even exists.

Given the problems that librarians face in acquiring books through non-traditional channels (by which I mean all books, and not just self-pub), it’s no surprise that self-pub titles are lacking.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

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The Mysterious Case of the Fake Beatles Cover

31 October 2015

From Copyright and Technology:

Several big-name recording artists have been “digital holdouts” who have refused to license their material for distribution through interactive streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Rhapsody, and so on.  One by one, most of them eventually gave in and joined the crowd: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Kid Rock, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Frank Zappa.  Only a tiny number of artists remain digital holdouts by choice, including the biggest one of all: the Beatles.  Or are they?

A curious phenomenon occurs around digital holdouts: other artists distribute cover versions of the digital holdouts’ tunes and create appropriate metadata, so that users searching for the big-name artists find the cover versions and play them.  This results in royalties for the cover artists even if the music wasn’t what the users expected. Cover versions with the right metadata are also picked up by Internet radio services.  So, if you searched for “Led Zeppelin” or started a “Led Zeppelin Radio” channel before Led Zep licensed its music to the interactive services, you might have heard Zep covers from a band called Led Zepagain.  When Interscope held Carly Rae Jepsen’s monster hit “Call Me Maybe” back from interactive services a couple of years ago, users heard a cover version by an unknown singer.

If you listen to “Beatles Radio” on a pure Internet radio service like Pandora, you will hear Beatles tunes every once in a while.  That’s because Internet radio services have statutory licenses that allow them to play any song at all, as long as they pay appropriate royalties to record labels and songwriters.  (Similarly, anyone can record a cover version of any song.) But an interactive service can’t offer any song for on-demand listening unless the rights holders have licensed it to do so.

. . . .

Apparently, Liverpool Beat is one of a couple of Beatles cover bands that are designed to sub in for the Beatles in circumstances similar to Led Zepagain for the real Zeppelin.  (There are also a couple of Beatles tribute bands called Liverpool Beat that play bars, weddings, etc., but this is different.)  Liverpool Beat has dozens of Beatles songs available on the major interactive streaming services — including Spotify, Google Play, and Apple Music — from all phases of the Beatles’ career.  I listened to all of them.  They range in quality from mediocre to pretty decent imitations, but they are clearly not the Beatles… except for “In My Life.”  That’s definitely John Lennon singing and George Martin’s double-speed piano solo.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

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Popularity of e-readers declines

30 October 2015

From the Pew Research Center:

From getting news to playing games to reading a book, Americans now have a plethora of devices to choose from in order to meet their technology-based needs. For each type of device, the demographic makeup of owners can vary widely, so this section looks at these differences.

Smartphone ownership continues to grow

The rise of the smartphone has had a major social, political and cultural impact. It has changed the way people reach their friends, obtain data and media, and share their lives. Fully 68% of adults now have a smartphone, nearly double the share that Pew Research Center measured in its first survey on smartphone ownership in mid-2011. At that point, 35% of adults had smartphones.

. . . .

More than half of most demographic groups have a smartphone. Only those ages 65 and older (30% of whom own smartphones) and those who do not have a high school education (41% own smartphones) fall below majority ownership. On the other hand, those ages 18 to 49 and those in higher-income households are coming closer and closer to saturation adoption. There are no differences in smartphone ownership among different racial and ethnic groups.

. . . .

Close to half of all Americans own a tablet

The share of Americans who own a tablet computer has risen tenfold since 2010. Today, 45% of U.S. adults own a tablet – a substantial increase since Pew Research Center began measuring tablet ownership in 2010. Then, only 4% of adults in the U.S. were tablet owners. Ownership, however, is statistically the same as it was in 2014.

Tablet ownership varies across a number of demographic groups. Younger adults and those from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to own the devices, and differences tied to educational attainment are particularly pronounced: 62% of college graduates have a tablet, compared with 35% of those with a high school diploma and 19% who have not completed high school. Additionally, whites are more likely than Hispanics to own a tablet computer, while tablet ownership among blacks is not statistically different from that of whites or Hispanics.

. . . .

Popularity of e-readers declines

Some 19% of adults report owning an e-reader – a handheld device such as a Kindle or Nook primarily used for reading e-books. This is a sizable drop from early 2014, when 32% of adults owned this type of device. Ownership of e-readers is somewhat more common among women (22%) than men (15%). Whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to own an e-reading device, while ownership also tends to be higher among those who are more affluent and those with more education.

Link to the rest at Pew Research Center

While PG prefers using an ereader for long-form text, in a world with $50 Fire tablets, ereaders are going to be more and more of a niche product.

However, a decline in ereader sales does not imply a decline in ebook sales. PG thinks the best thing for ebook sales is a device, like a smart phone, that readers always have nearby.

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The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing

30 October 2015

From The Atlantic:

“Persistence is one of the great characteristics of a pitbull, and I guess owners take after their dogs,” says Annetta Cheek, the co-founder of the D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Plain Language. Cheek, an anthropologist by training who left academia in the early 1980s to work for the Federal Aviation Commission, is responsible for something few people realize exists: the 2010 Plain Writing Act.In fact, Cheek was among the first government employees to champion the use of clear, concise language. Once she retired in 2007 from the FAA and gained the freedom to lobby, she leveraged her hatred for gobbledygook to create an actual law. Take a look at recent information put out by many government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—if it lacks needlessly complex sentences or bizarre bureaucratic jargon, it’s largely because of Cheek and her colleagues.

The idea that writing should be clear, concise, and low-jargon isn’t a new one—and it isn’t limited to government agencies, of course. The problem of needlessly complex writing—sometimes referred to as an “opaque writing style”—has been explored in fields ranging from law to science. Yet in academia, unwieldy writing has become something of a protected tradition. Take this example:

The work of the text is to literalize the signifiers of the first encounter, dismantling the ideal as an idol. In this literalization, the idolatrous deception of the first moment becomes readable. The ideal will reveal itself to be an idol. Step by step, the ideal is pursued by a devouring doppelganger, tearing apart all transcendence. This de-idealization follows the path of reification, or, to invoke Augustine, the path of carnalization of the spiritual. Rhetorically, this is effected through literalization. A Sentimental Education does little more than elaborate the progressive literalization of the Annunciation.

That little doozy appears in Barbara Vinken’s Flaubert Postsecular: Modernity Crossed Out, published by Stanford University Press, and was recently posted to a listserv used by clear-language zealots—many of whom are highly qualified academics who are willing to call their colleagues out for being habitual offenders of opaque writing. Yet the battle to make clear and elegant prose the new status quo is far from won.

Last year, Harvard’s Steven Pinker (who’s also written about his grammar peeves for The Atlantic) authored an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education in which he used adjectives like “turgid, soggy, wooden, bloated, clumsy, obscure, unpleasant to read, and impossible to understand” to describe academic writing. In an email, Pinker told me that the reaction to his article “has been completely positive, which is not the typical reaction to articles I write, and particularly surprising given my deliberately impolite tone.”

. . . .

A nonacademic might think the campaign against opaque writing is a no-brainer; of course, researchers should want to maximize comprehension of their work. Cynics charge, however, that academics play an elitist game with their words: They want to exclude interlopers. Others say that academics have traditionally been forced to write in an opaque style to be taken seriously by the gatekeepers—academic journal editors, for example. The main reason, though, may not be as sinister or calculated. Pinker, a cognitive scientist, says it boils down to “brain training”: the years of deep study required of academics to become specialists in their chosen fields actually work against them being able to unpack their complicated ideas in a coherent, concrete manner suitable for average folks. Translation: Experts find it really hard to be simple and straightforward when writing about their expertise. He calls this the “curse of knowledge” and says academics aren’t aware they’re doing it or properly trained to identify their blindspots—when they know too much and struggle to ascertain what others don’t know. In other words, sometimes it’s simply more intellectually challenging to write clearly. “It’s easy to be complex, it’s harder to be simple,” Bosley said. “It would make academics better researchers and better writers, though, if they had to translate their thinking into plain language.” It would probably also mean more people, including colleagues, would read their work.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to James for the tip.

PG says lawyers sometimes do the same thing in contracts. When he sees opaque language, PG automatically suspects the author is trying to hide something.

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Talking To Writers

30 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I just got back from MileHiCon in Denver. Not only did the con committee and the attendees treat me well, I had an absolute blast. I met a lot of people—readers, fans, wannabe writers, published writers—and I saw a lot of old friends.

. . . .

I have no idea how to talk to a room full of writers any more.

I know that sounds weird. I talk to writers all the time. Just before I went to MileHiCon, I helped Dean teach the first four days of the week-long Master Class for professional writers that we hold here on the coast.

. . . .

It used to be that everyone on the panel would give the same answer to basic questions. On the basic how-to-get published questions, there was only one answer, and it was the same for writer after writer after writer.

In fact, those of us on the panel were interchangeable. It didn’t matter if I sat there or another writer sat there or a relatively new writer sat there, we all gave the same answer. So did editor after editor, agent after agent.

Everyone who had the smallest bit of writing experience stopped attending publishing panels at cons because those writers had the basics down.

Now, the basics differ depending on who you talk to. We all agree on craft issues. To sell, whether traditionally or direct to readers, writers have to tell a good story. A good story includes all elements of craft—good plot, memorable characters, a clearly defined setting, and so on and so forth. Writers need to learn all of that, and never stop learning. We all can improve our craft and we should work at it, day after day after day after day.

But…

When we move to how to get published, writing panels actually get contentious now. When Dean and I spoke at a writers conference in Idaho in May, we debated whether or not we would say what we really believed. Because if we said what we believed, we would anger half the room. And (bonus!) we would piss off every agent in the place.

I have a lot of trouble fudging my answers if I believe someone will get hurt if I don’t speak up. And on the topic of agents, my beliefs have shifted strongly. I believe (and have seen) most writers get seriously harmed by having an agent.

I can’t, in good conscience, recommend a writer have an agent for any reason.

Before I accept a writers conference request, I always explain that I will anger every agent and book doctor who shows up. I anger agents because I think they’re no longer useful. Some agents I’ve met at writers conferences are not only no longer useful, they are actively harming writers. I know this, because I’ve seen it or experienced it.

. . . .

The book doctors who show up at mainstream writers conferences fall into two categories. Those book doctors are either scammers who want to make money off writers who don’t believe in their own work or the book doctors are well-intentioned souls who have never sold a book of their own yet somehow believe they can make a book marketable.

Both types are complete and utter waste of money. There are real book doctors who work in traditional publishing. They’re hired (for a minimum of five figures—usually more like six) by a traditional publishing house to either improve a manuscript or to write it from scratch. Generally, those book doctors work on guaranteed bestsellers, whether they are written (or should I say bylined) by a celebrity like Snooki or whether they are written by a former bestselling writer who has gotten ill or has writer’s block or a wide variety of other problems.

If a publishing house has spent millions on a project and that project suuuuuuucks, then a book doctor gets brought in to make the project acceptable so that it can recoup its investment. If it wasn’t fixed, the project wouldn’t last longer than a day or two on the bestseller list before word-of-mouth put the book out of its misery.

Those book doctors never show up at writers conferences.

. . . .

I sigh, and say that with all honesty, I can’t recommend any agent. I mention the fact that it’s illegal in all 50 states to practice law without a license, which most agents are doing, and I mention that you just don’t need them for anything, and on and on, trying to keep my answer relatively short.

The woman who worked for the agency was incredibly cool. We agreed on most things. She’s bright and is a writer herself, and handled me with aplomb. Of course, she rebutted some of what I said, but not all of it (turns out, I learned after two panels with her, we agreed more than we disagreed), and she ended her statement with a sentence that I hate.

I’m sure Kris can do these things because she’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Hell, no. I can do these things because there’s this thing called “the internet” and writers I know who do not have the credentials that I do have done the same things and more because they have a “contact” button on their website. Good books are good books, and foreign rights offers as well as movie/TV offers follow the good work, not the big names.

. . . .

The 1995 answers don’t really work any more. It’s a shark tank in the traditional publishing world, and if a minnow enters, it will become chum within the first five seconds of its attempted tenure in the tank.

So many writers are minnows with no desire to swim with the sharks. And the problem is that in today’s publishing environment, the writers have to be able to swim with the sharks comfortably and easily to survive.

Writers who’ve gotten their feet wet in the publishing industry, writers who’ve finished more than one book, who’ve submitted more than one short story, who are driven and work hard, know this. They’re coming to panels and conferences to learn how to become sharks—at least when it comes to business.

But the minnows, they don’t want to learn anything except how to be sell that one project. And the poor things, they’re going to get screwed.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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Author Solutions and German Publisher GABAL Establish GABAL Global Editions

30 October 2015

From Author Solutions:

Author Solutions, LLC, a Penguin Random House company and the world’s leading supported self-publishing services provider, and GABAL, a German publisher dedicated to publishing books for readers seeking knowledge about current issues in business and education, announced Monday the launch of GABAL Global Editions.

Offered through Author Solutions’ iUniverse imprint, GABAL Global Editions enables GABAL authors to publish their books in English for English-speaking readers worldwide. The service is an exclusive package offering available only to GABAL authors.

“Our authors are highly professional trainers, motivational speakers and outstanding leaders in their fields. Helping them expand their purview in a global market by engaging in English books as a strategic tool is part of our philosophy and our self-understanding as our authors’ partner,” commented GABAL publisher Andre Juenger. “We are proud to be one of the first German publishers who offer this kind of service to authors. And we are delighted to have iUniverse on board as our partner.”

Link to the rest at Author Solutions

Lest there be any doubt, PG advises against any association with Author Solutions.

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Best Practices for Ebook Front Matter: Copyright Page, Part 2

29 October 2015

From Digital Book World:

The front matter of a book communicates a lot of helpful and important information to readers. But publishers and authors often find themselves wondering how to handle that information in their ebook files. In the current installments of my column here on Digital Book World, I am delving into some best practices, ideas and options for these opening and ending parts of your ebook. In my last installment, we started talking about the copyright page. We will continue that discussion below.

. . . .

Some books, especially older ones, have a colophon page that includes basic information about the publisher, including a logo, location and other details. This page is often combined with the copyright page in current publishing approaches, so you probably have that information on your copyright page.

The colophon also sometimes includes information about the paper and fonts used in creating the print book. If you have that information in your ebook, be sure it matches the actual details of the ebook itself. For example, saying “Printed on acid-free paper” is not really appropriate. You can change that to “The print edition of this book is printed on acid-free paper” or something similar, or you can just remove it.

Fonts are a common concern in ebooks, and many publishers do not use the same fonts in their ebook files as they do in their print books due to licensing difficulties and support across devices. If your copyright page includes information about the fonts used in the print book, be sure that still applies to the ebook you are creating.

. . . .

The CIP section of the copyright page contains information generated by the Library of Congress about your book. According to the Library of Congress’s website, “The CIP Program limits eligibility to titles that are most likely to be widely acquired by the nation’s libraries.

. . . .

It is also important to note that the CIP program is not available to “books paid for or subsidized by individual authors.” So if you are a self-published author who would like to register with the Library of Congress and get a CIP section, you will probably need to set up a publishing company first.

. . . .

Version numbers are common in software publishing, but less so in ebooks right now. That is changing, however, and you can benefit greatly from using them. A version number is not that hard to decipher. Take, for example, this one:

Version 1.2.3

If you were going to create a version number for your ebook, you would start out at “1.0.0” (or just “1”). If you need to come back and make a small change to the file, such as to fix a typo, you would increment the last number in the chain, making the new version number “1.0.1”. If you later found out that you needed to change a lot of things in the ebook at once you might update the version number to “1.1.0” to show that a lot of changes were made. If you decided to do a major re-write or make other major changes to the book, then you might change the version number to “2.0.0”.

Cling to the rest at Digital Book World

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