Ebook Lending

Does Amazon’s New Payment Scheme Require Literary Surveillance?

28 June 2015

From Flavorwire:

Let’s say you go to dinner tonight, but the cook who makes your meal is paid only for the bites you take. How would the restaurant manager know? He’d have to watch you closely, counting the number of times you bring the fork to your mouth.

This week we learned that Amazon will launch a pay-per-page service that aims to replace its policy of paying full royalties to authors whose readers accessed at least 10% of their e-book. Now authors will be paid for the number of “pages” accessed by readers. To help enforce this policy — so that self-published authors can’t just ramp up the size of the text, for example — Amazon has simultaneously launched the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).

. . . .

According to Amazon, the change comes on the heels of a realization that the 10% marker was unfair to authors of longer books: it takes less effort — that is to say, less time — for a reader to reach the 10% threshold of a shorter book. Given that the total amount of earnable funds is limited by Amazon, this has meant a strained ecosystem of relatively short, mostly terrible books. And it has meant a market populated by bizarre quasi-literary themes — stepbrother sex novels are huge right now — meant to titillate the reader right up to the 10% threshold.

As usual, though, a shrewd business tactic lurks behind a self-professed act of charity. It’s not as if Amazon cares whether its self-published market is flooded with bad boy romances or dinosaur sex. They’ve known for yearsthat readers (consumers) prefer to read (buy) longer e-books. And that’s precisely why they will export this approach, whenever possible, beyond the limited domain of their lending library.

. . . .

You can see the refined efficiency of this factory approach, which chops up language into ever tinier bits of senseless trash, in Big Publishing’s renewed lust for the division of labor. Take, for example, Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online(2014), now the fast selling debut fiction of all time. Sugg, known widely in the UK as a Youtube megastar, did not, of course, write the book. It was ghostwritten. But Sugg is the book’s author, if you now understand authorship to mean “personality.” So the author isn’t dead so much as split in twain: now we have an author and a writer.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Dear J.K. Rowling, We Need a Hero

25 June 2015

From Many Kind Regards:

Dear J.K. Rowling,

We need a hero.

I’m sure you’ve seen by now the announcement from Amazon regarding its royalty payments to authors who take part in their Kindle Direct Program. But, just in case you haven’t, allow me to briefly fill you in.

The Kindle Direct Program, or KDP, is a self-publishing service offered by Amazon. Independent writers who are still in the process of finding an agent utilize it to publish their writings as a means of getting more eyes on their work. Amazon has recently announced that it will stop paying these writers for their work. Rather, writers who have opted in to a program that Amazon promises will “earn higher royalties,” “maximize your book’s sales potential,” and “reach a new audience” will actually only be paid for what Amazon determines the reader has read, despite Amazon’s own promise on their KDP FAQ that “you’ll continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today.”

This move appears to affect only authors who opt in to the lending library (who wouldn’t, at the promise of higher royalties, and the opportunity to get their novels in front of a larger audience?), but according to the Telegraph, this change is “initially” going to affect those in the lending program. So, eventually, this will affect all independent authors who choose to publish with Amazon.

I have a problem with this, and so does every independent author I know. Authors work hard, and anyone who doesn’t believe that doesn’t know an author. We spend countless hours over our work, stretching our minds, and sometimes breaking our own hearts, creating these lives and these intertwining stories that weave in and out of our own lives. Our families watch us crouched over our keyboards, lost in the work, and they sacrifice their time with us so that we might be able to put everything we have into the story that occupies our minds. You know just as well as the rest of us the labor of love that is a novel. You know the hard work, the re-writes, the stress and the tears that are part of the creation of a story. And that doesn’t even include the research, the agent search, the time spent crafting the perfect agent query…

Our very existence as authors depends on our ability to thrive, and this most recent move by Amazon threatens that existence.

Link to the rest at Many Kind Regards and thanks to W. for the tip.

Is PG the only one who perceives reactions to changes in Amazon’s lending programs by some authors as a new variety of ADS?

Amazon’s Plan to Pay Some Authors by Pages Read Is Smarter Than It Sounds

23 June 2015

From Slate:

Amazon has come up with a new way to pay authors for the e-books they self-publish, and almost everyone agrees it’s a dumb idea.

Almost everyone is wrong.

. . . .

The change has no effect on how authors will be paid for books sold in the Kindle Store, or on Amazon.com, or anywhere else. Nor does it affect how authors will be paid for books published through more traditional channels.

Why would Amazon make a change to the royalty formula for this specific group of authors? Because the old one was broken, as I’ll explain.

. . . .

When you charge readers to download an e-book, as Amazon does in the Kindle Store, it makes sense to pay publishers and their authors for each purchase. They’ve earned it.

But when e-book downloads come at zero marginal cost, as they do on Kindle Unlimited, there is no such thing as a “purchase.” A reader can download 10 titles as easily as she downloads one. If authors are paid by the download, then, they have an incentive to spread their work across as many titles as possible. A 10-part series, each 20 pages in length, would cost the reader no more than a single 200-page work—and yet the author of the 10-part series would earn 10 times the royalties. No wonder Amazon said it’s making the change in response to “feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.”

. . . .

On a more basic level, tying author payments to pages read makes sense for Kindle Unlimited titles from an economic perspective. Because while downloads are free and instantaneous once you’ve paid for your subscription, reading a page implies an additional investment on the reader’s part—not of money, but of time and attention. That makes page read a better proxy than downloads for the amount of value readers are deriving from a given author’s work. It isn’t a perfect proxy, of course, but then, no single metric ever will be.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

What If Authors Were Paid Every Time Someone Turned a Page?

21 June 2015

From The Atlantic:

When I recently learned of Amazon’s new plan to pay some authors for each page that a Kindle user reads, I remembered an editor who looked at my one of my book proposals and said something along the lines of, “It feels like you’ve only got 20,000 words of material. You need at least 80,000 words for a book. Can you pad it?”This was when books were printed on paper and sold in stores. My editor explained that readers wanted to feel like they got some heft, both physical and intellectual, for their money, and no one wanted a scrawny featherweight of book. Big thoughts were heavy and thick tomes telegraphed just how much work went into writing a book—and reading it. I’m slightly embarrassed to report that one of my early books included a fat appendix just so its thickness would stand out on the shelf.

Tablets, such as the Kindle, have started to change that system. Not only did they make it possible to read 50 Shades of Grey on the subway with no one the wiser, but the same is true of reading something thick and important, such as War and Peace.

Soon, the maker of the Kindle is going to flip the formula used for reimbursing some of the authors who depend on it for sales. Instead of paying these authors by the book, Amazon will soon start paying authors based on how many pages are read—not how many pages are downloaded, but how many pages are displayed on the screen long enough to be parsed. So much for the old publishing-industry cliche that it doesn’t matter how many people read your book, only how many buy it.

For the many authors who publish directly through Amazon, the new model could warp the priorities of writing: A system with per-page payouts is a system that rewards cliffhangers and mysteries across all genres. It rewards anything that keeps people hooked, even if that means putting less of an emphasis on nuance and complexity.

. . . .

Amazon is being clever: While the authors of big, long, and important books felt that they were shortchanged by a pay-by-the-borrow formula, they probably didn’t expect that Amazon would take their proposal a step further. Instead of paying the most ambitious, long-winded authors for each page written, Amazon will pay them for each page read.

Can the system be gamed? Authors won’t be able to rely on that old high-school trick of using a bigger font, because there’s a new standardized metric, the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), which kicks off at the “Start Reading Location.” However, the strategy of adding illustrations as filler could pay off. As the documentation notes, “Non-text elements within books including images, charts and graphs will count toward a book’s KENPC.”

. . . .

One latter-day Medici posted a review of my book on Amazon complaining that even 99 cents was too expensive for what was just a “blog post.” I’ve often wondered if he was writing that comment in a Starbucks, sipping a $6 cup of coffee that took two minutes to prepare.

. . . .

The sweet spot in this formula, then, must be books full of cliffhangers that keep people flipping the pages. The answer is now to pack a book with ticking time-bombs, unexplained plans, and lots of secrets to be revealed later. What did she whisper? Hold on, let’s jump to a different thread halfway around the globe!

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

Kindle Unlimited Pages Read

15 June 2015

From Kindle Direct Publishing:

Beginning July 1, 2015, we’ll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read. We’re making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.

Royalty payments under the new program

As with our current approach, we’ll continue to set a KDP Select Global Fund each month. Under the new payment method, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read instead of their share of total qualified borrows.

Here are some examples of how it would work if the fund was $10M and 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:

  • The author of a 100 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
  • The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
  • The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed 100 times but only read halfway through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

We will similarly change the way we pay KDP Select All-Star bonuses which will be awarded to authors and titles based on total KU and KOLL pages read.

. . . .

To determine a book’s page count in a way that works across genres and devices, we’ve developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we’ll use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.

This standardized approach allows us to identify pages in a way that works across genres and devices.

When we make this change on July 1, 2015, you’ll be able to see your book’s KENPC listed on the “Promote and Advertise” page in your Bookshelf, and we’ll report on total pages read on your Sales Dashboard report. Because it’s based on default settings, KENPC may vary from page counts listed on your Amazon detail page, which are derived from other sources.

Link to the rest at Kindle Direct Publishing and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.

Kindle Unlimited Payout Ties Record Low $1.33 in March 2015

21 April 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Kindle Unlimited adoption continued to grow last month, but unfortunately it grew faster than Amazon ‘s willingness to fund it.

Earlier this week Amazon released the latest statistics on KDP Select, the program used to fund indie author and publisher participation in Kindle Unlimited. Amazon reported that the pool for KDP Select for March 2015 had been increased to $9.5 million. They also announced separately that the payout for each time an ebook was read had dropped to $1.33.

Grab an envelope and crunch the numbers, and you’ll see that ebooks in KDP Select accounted for about 7.14 million reads.

That is a new record for KDP Select, and compared to January 2015 it represents an increase of about a million additional ebooks being read.

Link to the rest at Inc, Bits & Pixels

Ebooks for Libraries

27 March 2015
From Joe Konrath:

TL;DR

  • I want to help authors get their ebooks into libraries.
  • I want to help libraries acquire indie ebooks.
  • To do this, I started a business called EAF – EbooksAreForever.com.
  • I want to sell your ebooks to libraries.

What’s going on with libraries and ebooks?

There are 120,000 libraries in the US. These libraries, and their patrons, are eager for popular ebooks. Many libraries have a budget they must spend, or they risk having that budget cut.

Currently, libraries have no allies in the ebook market. They aren’t happy with the restrictions and costs of the current leader in supplying libraries with ebook content, Overdrive. Through Overdrive, many publishers charge high prices for ebooks, some higher than $80 a title. They also require yearly license renewals, and may force libraries to re-buy licenses after a certain arbitrary number of borrows.

Just one example of the perils of this approach for America’s libraries is that a library must pay for extensions of time-limited licenses of old ebooks and purchases of licenses for new ones. All kinds of sustainability and predictability issues aris

. . . .

Some indies are on Overdrive and 3M. I’ve been on Overdrive for a few years. My last quarterly check was about $60, and I have a large catalog. This is small money, not just for me, but for any writer. And I was fortunate enough to have been invited into Overdrive. Many authors are not.

The vast majority of libraries don’t have access to many of the ebooks that readers are seeking. The latest AuthorEarnings.com report showed that 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon are from indie authors. Libraries are missing out on 1/3 of available titles, because they have no way easy way to acquire them.

Just as important, these are quality titles. People are reading, enjoying, and recommending them. Indie authors are hooking readers, and selling as well as the major publishing houses, but there isn’t a way for libraries to offer them to their patrons.

. . . .

For the past year, my business partner, August Wainwright, and I have been talking to acquisitions librarians across the country, and they crave an alternative to the status quo. These libraries are looking to buy thousands of ebooks at once in order to best serve their patrons and community.

Their main wish is to be treated fairly – which means they want to own the ebooks they purchase, acquire good content at a reasonable price, and have access to as many copies as they need.

Our solution? Give libraries what they’re asking for, and in a way that gives libraries the sustainable purchasing model they deserve. We’re striving to offer a large, curated collection of popular ebooks that libraries can easily purchase with just one click.

. . . .

EbooksAreForever distributes to libraries at $7.99 for full length novels, and $3.99-$4.99 for shorter works. We’re offering 70% royalties to the author, and the library will have the ability to purchase more copies as needed.

The way this works is that if a library wants to allow 3 patrons to borrow your ebook at any given time, they’d need to have purchased 3 “copies”. Most libraries adhere to a strict hold ratio (usually around 3:1) in order to present patrons with the best user experience possible. Our hope is that by making ebooks both affordable and sustainable, then libraries in response will automatically purchase more copies.

So, if you have a catalog of 10 ebooks that we then distribute to 1000 libraries, you’ve just earned $56,000 in royalties from making your books available to the library marketplace if they each buy one copy. If your titles are popular, they’ll buy more copies and you’ll earn more.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Sabrina for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

UPDATE: PG put this post together and scheduled it to appear a couple of days ago. He couldn’t figure out why so many people kept sending him tips about Joe’s plan. Then he checked and discovered that WordPress had failed to publish this at the proper time.

Is this why Kindle Unlimited affects sales?

5 February 2015

From author and TPV regular Diana Kimpton:

Several months after the introduction of Kindle Unlimited, several indie authors have blogged about the way their sales have dropped while they were in the system and have picked up again after they left.

I’ve noticed the same. In fact, while it’s been in Kindle Unlimited, the ebook of There Must Be Horses has often sold slower than the print edition – a situation that is not usually the case.

It’s easy to assume that the drop in sales was due to readers borrowing the book instead of buying it. If that were true, I’d expect the number of borrows to be roughly equivalent to the drop in ebook sales, but it’s not. It’s much lower.

. . . .

It was only the other day that I noticed something significant about books in the KU library: they are listed on search results with a price of zero for Kindle Unlimited. The real price does show below it, but you naturally read the zero first and may not even notice the other number.

Amazon is probably hoping that this will lure people into joining Kindle Unlimited. However, it could also be having several less desirable effects.

  1. People who see the zero and think the book is free will be disappointed when they find it isn’t. As a result, they may neither join the library nor buy the book.
  2. The real price automatically looks expensive when compared with the zero offer.
  3. The zero may put off potential readers who equate free with poor quality.

. . . .

[T]he current way of listing prices for books in Kindle Unlimited my be restricting the effectiveness of our pricing strategies because the real price is less obvious.

Link to the rest at Horses and Dragons

Here’s a link to Diana Kimpton’s books

Scribd Raises $22M For Its Subscription E-Book Service

4 January 2015

From TechCrunch:

Scribd, a company offering unlimited access to half a million e-books for $8.99 a month, is announcing that it has raised $22 million in additional funding.

The round was led by Khosla Ventures, with Khosla partner Keith Rabois (previously an executive at PayPal, LinkedIn, Slide, and Square) joining the Scribd’s board as an observer. Asked via email about how the subscription business will play out for books, Rabois noted that the model has “already transformed the way we consume other forms of content.”

. . . .

“With over 80 million users in nearly every country, the Scribd team is well positioned to grow to a massive global audience,” he said.

Launched in 2007 and incubated at Y Combinator, Scribd started out as a document-sharing service. While it still supports those features (and we still use it at TechCrunch when we want to embed documents in our posts), its focus shifted last year to subscription e-books, where competitors include startup Oyster and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service.

Echoing Rabois’ comment, co-founder and CEO Trip Adler told me that Scribd now reaches more than 80 million unique visitors each month. He didn’t specify how many of those visitors are actually paying subscribers, but he did say subscriptions have been growing an average of 31 percent each month since the service was officially unveiled in October 2013.

. . . .

Asked if he thinks the subscription model has now proven itself in the e-book world, Adler replied, “From my perspective it’s proved out. From the industry perspective, there are still people at both ends of the spectrum.” He noted that Scribd is now working with two of the big five publishers (HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — they’re mostly offering older “backlist” titles).

“I can’t say where we are with the other ones, but they’re all going really well,” he added. “By the end of [2015], we’ll be able to basically say almost all of the significant players in the industry are on-board.”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

PG says this is a rare occurrence – a prominent VC firm making an investment in a company that competes with Amazon. The investment is not very large, but it will keep an ebook subscription business operating and competing with Amazon for at least a few more years.

And, yes, PG has his doubts that standard Big Publishing contracts made adequate provisions to allow publishers to enter into this business in the way they seem to be proceeding.

Ten library systems pass one million digital checkouts in OverDrive in 2014

29 December 2014

From TeleRead:

OverDrive announced that 10 public libraries surpassed one million digital checkouts for 2014. Six did it in 2013. Checkouts include ebooks, audiobooks, music and video streaming, and periodicals from OverDrive’s collection.

Two libraries hit the two million mark.

. . . .

2 Million or more digital checkouts
• Toronto Public Library (ON): (49% growth over 2013)
• King County Library System (WA): (33%)

Link to the rest at TeleRead

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