Monthly Archives: October 2017

Self-Published ISBNs Hit 786,935 in 2016

22 October 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

A new report issued by Bowker found that a total of 786,935 ISBNs were issued to self-published authors in 2016, an 8.2% increase over 2015.

According to the report, ISBNs for print books rose 11.3% to 638,624 titles, while e-book ISBNs for self-publishers fell 3.2% to 148,311. Since Bowker measures the number of self-published books by ISBN, its count does not include e-books released by authors through Amazon’s KDP program, as they use ASIN identifiers rather than an ISBNs.

The 11% increase in print self-published titles was a slower gain than the 34% increase in 2015 over 2014. While the number of self-published e-books did fall in 2016, the decline was slower than the 11% drop reported in 2015.

“Overall, we believe that these numbers point toward an ongoing maturation and stabilization of the self-publishing industry,” said Beat Barblan, director of identifier services at Bowker.

Amazon’s CreateSpace was by far the largest publisher of self-published print books, releasing 501,043 titles. The output marked an increase of 18.2% over 2015. Lulu was second, publishing 41,907 titles in the year, a decline of 5.1%. Coming in third was Blurb, which released 21,365 self-published titles last year. Author Solutions released 19,270 self-published print titles (through multiple imprints) last year, for a decline of 6.4%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Often while reading a book

22 October 2017

Often while reading a book one feels the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colours.

Pablo Picasso

Barnes & Noble Digital Chief Creating Search With a Human Touch

22 October 2017

From Cheddar.com:

In the digital age of e-readers and podcasts, bookstores have struggled to remain relevant. Barnes & Noble was one of the first to feel the pressure from Amazon and is looking to up its digital game. Fred Argir, Chief Digital Officer at Barnes & Noble joins Cheddar to discuss the digital strategy of one of the last bookstore chains standing.

He says revamping the website was one of his first priorities when he signed on as Chief Digital Officer in 2015, and it has hugely impacted the foot traffic into the store, which is the most important aspect of its business. The company is still trying to make the process of buying online and then picking up in store much easier.

Link to the rest at Cheddar.com , including a video, and thanks to Dave for the tip.

 

go-harvest

22 October 2017

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

go-harvest, n.

. . . .

 The period of the year between harvest and the beginning of winter; late autumn (also) the weather within this period.

. . . .

1735  True Method treating Light Hazely Ground Buchan  i. 7 If the Owner of such Fields be not provided of Dung in the Go-Harvest, he may lay it on before Oat-Seed.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives

22 October 2017

From David Gaughran at Let’s Get Digital:

Phoenix Sullivan is well-known in the indie community – I’ve known her myself since 2009 or 2010 and consider her a close friend.

Aside from being exceptionally generous with her time and knowledge, tirelessly sharing her insights on marketing and algorithms, Phoenix is also well known as a vocal campaigner against scammers and cheaters – particularly on the current big issues of book stuffing and clickfarming.

And now she is being targeted.

Phoenix made a box set free for a few days at the very start of October, advertising on Freebooksy, KND/BookGorilla, and Digital Book Today – all legitimate sites – and there was no other promotion involved with this title. No BookBub CPM ads, no Facebook campaign, no tweets, no newsletter swaps, no mailing lists.

On the third day of her free run, Phoenix’s box set was rank-stripped by Amazon, a punishment normally reserved for those who have used clickfarms or bots. Phoenix reached out to Amazon to ask what was going on, but they only replied with a canned response accusing her of using artificial means to manipulate her rank.

Exactly one week later, they sent an automated mail with essentially the same content and implied threat:

We are reaching out to you because we detected purchases or borrows of your book(s) originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank.  As a result, the sales rank on the following book(s) will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

Wild Hearts Box Set (Books 1 & 2 + Bonus Novella)(ASIN: B01MYP56J8)

Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your book(s) comply with our Terms and Conditions. We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

Please be aware, any additional activity attempting to manipulate the Kindle services may result in account level action.

As I said, Phoenix is a close friend. I know her well and we are in contact almost every day. I know exactly what methods she uses to promote her books, and they are all legitimate. Her ethics are above reproach and she would never engage in any grey hat behavior, let alone go near the black hat territory of bots and clickfarms or mass gifting/incentivized purchasing.

In short, there is no possible way that Phoenix is guilty of any wrongdoing.

. . . .

Successive emails from her to KDP, the Compliance Team, and Executive Customer Relations achieved nothing other than repeated boilerplate about rank manipulation – accusing her of employing illicit methods to artificially inflate her downloads.

At least that’s what we think Amazon is accusing her of doing. In keeping with the general Kafkaesque vibe of the whole situation, Phoenix is being warned not to do it again, but in the half-dozen emails Phoenix has received on this issue, Amazon hasn’t explained what “it” means exactly, and has refused point blank to elaborate (my emphasis):

As we previously stated, we still detect purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. You are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.

We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations.

Please be aware we will not be providing additional details.

This all unfolded while I was at NINC. I approached a senior Amazon person and explained the situation. He seemed genuinely concerned and said that he would investigate.

All that seemed to achieve was that the rank was eventually returned to Phoenix’s book fifteen days later, but her promo was ruined at that point and, most importantly, she is still being accused of rank manipulation and is on a warning as to her future conduct.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to T. for the tip.

Tolstoy’s Classics Are Still Fresh a Century and a Half Later

21 October 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

I read Tolstoy this year to plug a literary gap unbefitting a book-review editor. Getting started was no easy task. His two pre-eminent novels, “War and Peace” and “ Anna Karenina, ” clock in at more than 1,200 and 800 pages respectively, the former so massive that Henry James called it a “loose, baggy monster.”

Count me a fan of monsters.

Published in 1869, “War and Peace” nominally centers on Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia, but it more broadly surveys the effects of Europe’s early-19th-century conflicts on several Russian families. Its scenes shift from the landed estates of Moscow and St. Petersburg to the battlefields of Austerlitz and Borodino. Its main characters include Pierre Bezukhov, by turns an illegitimate son, Freemason and Napoleon’s would-be-slayer; Andrei Bolkonsky, the sardonic and military-minded prince; Natasha Rostova, the young woman who comes to love both; and of course, Bonaparte, le petit caporal himself.

“Anna Karenina” came eight years later. It relates the trials of its title heroine, a strong-willed woman who has an affair with the charming Count Vronsky, bearing his child and the wrath of Russian society in turn. “Anna Karenina” has its own cast of unforgettable characters—Stepan “Stiva” Arkadyich Oblonsky, Anna’s jaunty, epicurean brother; and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin, the idealistic landowner (and Tolstoy’s self-modeled proxy).

Like Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna,” the settings and people that populate these two books have conquered my mind. It’s a common experience for readers of great literature. In last year’s “Books for Living,” Will Schwalbe recounts how he sobbed after he’d read “David Copperfield” for the first time, distraught that he’d miss the characters so much. Later in life, when asked if writing a book about his late mother would give him closure, Mr. Schwalbe remembered reading Dickens as a teenager and realized that closure wasn’t necessary when you could continue to talk with the deceased and the fictional alike.

“Just because someone is gone,” Mr. Schwalbe observes, “doesn’t mean that person exits your life. I remember vividly the day during that hot summer when I finished David Copperfield. But my engagement with David and Little Emily and Steerforth and Dora . . . had just begun.” So it is with Pierre and Prince Andrei and Anna and Stiva.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

If asked to name his favorite novel ever, PG will always name War and Peace.

How Amazon Took Seattle’s Soul

21 October 2017

From The New York Times:

I live in the city that hit the Amazon jackpot, now the biggest company town in America. Long before the mad dash to land the second headquarters for the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon found us. Since then, we’ve been overwhelmed by a future we never had any say over.

With the passing of Thursday’s deadline for final bids, it’s been strange to watch nearly every city in the United States pimp itself out for the right to become HQ2 — and us. Tax breaks. Free land. Champagne in the drinking fountains. Anything!

In this pageant for prosperity, the desperation is understandable. Amazon’s offer to create 50,000 high-paying jobs and invest $5 billion in your town is a once-in-a-century, destiny-shaping event.

Amazon is not mining coal or cooking chemicals or offering minimum wage to hapless “associates.” The new jobs will pay $100,000 or more in salary and benefits. In Seattle, Amazon employees are the kind of young, educated, mass-transit-taking, innovative types that municipal planners dream of.

So, if you’re lucky enough to land HQ2 — congrats! But be careful, all you urban suitors longing for a hip, creative class. You think you can shape Amazon? Not a chance. It will shape you. Well before Amazon disrupted books, music, television, furniture — everything — it disrupted Seattle.

. . . .

At first, it was quirky in the Seattle way: Jeff Bezos, an oversize mailbox and his little online start-up. His thing was books, remember? How quaint. How retro. Almost any book, delivered to your doorstep, cheap. But soon, publishers came to see Amazon as the evil empire, bringing chaos to an industry that hadn’t changed much since Herman Melville’s day.

The prosperity bomb, as it’s called around here, came when Amazon took over what had been a clutter of parking lots and car dealers near downtown, and decided to build a very urban campus. This neighborhood had been proposed as a grand central city park, our own Champs-Élysées, with land gifted by Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder. But voters rejected it. I still remember an architect friend telling me that cities should grow “organically,” not by design.

Cities used to be tied to geography: a river, a port, the lee side of a mountain range. Boeing grew up here, in part, because of its proximity to spruce timber used to make early airplanes. And then, water turned the industrial engines that helped to win World War II.

The new era dawned with Microsoft, after the local boy Bill Gates returned with a fledgling company. From then on, the mark of a successful city was one that could cluster well-educated people in a cool place. “The Smartest Americans Are Heading West” was the headline in the recent listing of the Bloomberg Brain Concentration Index. This pattern is likely to continue, as my colleagues at the Upshot calculated in picking Denver to win the Amazon sweepstakes.

At the bottom of the brain index was Muskegon, Mich., a place I recently visited. I found the city lovely, with its lakeside setting, fine old houses and world-class museum. When I told a handful of Muskegonites about the problems in Seattle from the metastatic growth of Amazon, they were not sympathetic.

What comes with the title of being the fastest growing big city in the country, with having the nation’s hottest real estate market, is that the city no longer works for some people. For many others, the pace of change, not to mention the traffic, has been disorienting. The character of Seattle, a rain-loving communal shrug, has changed. Now we’re a city on amphetamines.

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

PG says the author of this piece should have paid more attention to Muskegon. Seattle used to be Muskegon.

 

If you can’t

21 October 2017

If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.

Kingsley Amis

Amazon running bar in Tokyo’s Ginza to boost liquor business

21 October 2017

From Kyodo News:

Amazon Japan K.K. is running a bar in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district for 10 days through Oct. 29, with the aim of promoting a broad lineup of alcohol products the online shopping giant offers, in addition to its traditional business of books and commodity goods.

Inside the “amazon bar,” shelves are lined with around 5,000 bottles of wine, sake and other alcoholic beverages, and customers order a drink using a tablet, which asks them a set of questions about their preference and mood for the day to show beverage recommendations that fit their tastes.

Link to the rest at Kyodo News

The attention economy

21 October 2017

From Aeon:

How many other things are you doing right now while you’re reading this piece? Are you also checking your email, glancing at your Twitter feed, and updating your Facebook page? What five years ago David Foster Wallace labelled ‘Total Noise’ — ‘the seething static of every particular thing and experience, and one’s total freedom of infinite choice about what to choose to attend to’ — is today just part of the texture of living on a planet that will, by next year, boast one mobile phone for each of its seven billion inhabitants. We are all amateur attention economists, hoarding and bartering our moments — or watching them slip away down the cracks of a thousand YouTube clips.

If you’re using a free online service, the adage goes, you are the product. It’s an arresting line, but one that deserves putting more precisely: it’s not you, but your behavioural data and the quantifiable facts of your engagement that are constantly blended for sale, with the aggregate of every single interaction (yours included) becoming a mechanism for ever-more-finely tuning the business of attracting and retaining users.

Consider the confessional slide show released in December 2012 by Upworthy, the ‘website for viral content’, which detailed the mechanics of its online attention-seeking. To be truly viral, they note, content needs to make people want to click on it and share it with others who will also click and share. This means selecting stuff with instant appeal — and then precisely calibrating the summary text, headline, excerpt, image and tweet that will spread it. This in turn means producing at least 25 different versions of your material, testing the best ones, and being prepared to constantly tweak every aspect of your site. To play the odds, you also need to publish content constantly, in quantity, to maximise the likelihood of a hit — while keeping one eye glued to Facebook. That’s how Upworthy got its most viral hit ever, under the headline ‘Bully Calls News Anchor Fat, News Anchor Destroys Him On Live TV’, with more than 800,000 Facebook likes and 11 million views on YouTube.

. . . .

Attention, thus conceived, is an inert and finite resource, like oil or gold: a tradable asset that the wise manipulator auctions off to the highest bidder, or speculates upon to lucrative effect. There has even been talk of the world reaching ‘peak attention’, by analogy to peak oil production, meaning the moment at which there is no more spare attention left to spend.

Link to the rest at Aeon

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