Ebook Lending

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

Is Kindle Unlimited Devaluing Books?

23 December 2014

From Mark Coker:

Budget-minded power-readers at Amazon now have 700,000 fewer reasons to purchase indie ebooks thanks to Kindle Unlimited. Oh, and authors earn less too.

Back in July, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, an ebook subscription service where for $9.99 a month, customers gain access to a catalog of over 700,000 ebooks. Nearly all of these titles are supplied by indie authors who participate in KDP Select, Amazon’s ebook self-publishing option that requires exclusivity.

I first wrote about Kindle Unlimited here in July. Although I’m a fan of ebook subscription services (see my two-part series analyzing the subscription business model), I concluded Kindle Unlimited was a bad deal for authors because it required exclusivity and gave Amazon free reign to control author compensation.

Five months in, let’s take a fresh look at how Kindle Unlimited’s unique business model is affecting authors.

For the month of November, Amazon paid $1.39 for each qualifying read. This is half of what an indie author earns when a $3.99 ebook is purchased at Amazon, or when the same book is read at KU’s ebook subscription competitors, Oyster and Scribd.

. . . .

Many indies have announced they’re abandoning KDP Select after suffering massive sales drops since July.

Authors are in a difficult spot at Amazon. A few KU authors have publicly reported increased sales and readership, but that appears to be the exception rather than the norm. For most KU participants, it’s unclear if the promised benefits outweigh the harm of excluding the millions of readers at other retailers. No other retailer makes authors play Russian Roulette with their books and careers like this.

KU authors have no control over their per-copy earnings because KU pays the same for a 99 cent book as a $9.99 book. Amazon determines the value of each read, and determines how this value is shared among participating authors.

Link to the rest at Smashwords and thanks to Scath for the tip.

Konrath Decamps From Kindle Unlimited

22 December 2014

From The Digital Reader:

Noted author and firebrand JA Konrath was one of the first indie authors recruited by Amazon to join KDP Select when it launched with Kindle Owner’s Lending Library in late 2011 and now he’s the latest high profile indie author to make an exit.

Konrath revealed on his blog today that he’s in the process of pulling his titles from KDP Select, which supplies indie ebooks to both Kindle Unlimited and KOLL. He made the decision a few weeks ago, and the ebooks will be out of KDP Select by the end of January.

When one commenter assumed that Konrath knew all along that subscription services devalued books and asked why leave the party now, Konrath explained:

I still don’t know that. Some authors’ sales have dropped. Others have risen. I need more data, so I opted out several weeks ago. But the period is three months, so they’re still enrolled until January.

Here’s what you missed; a KDP author CAN opt out. It’s our choice.

McM doesn’t seem to be offering a choice. That’s bad. Really bad.

The reason most writers sign legacy deals, other than getting an advance, is legacy’s ability to get paper books onto retail shelves.

This sounds as if McM is foresaking paper–the one part of the industry they controlled–and short-selling their authors.

If I was a McM author, I’d be worried, pissed off, and wondering why the hell my publisher did a complete about-face from the stance that made them collude and price-fix.

Konrath is at least the second prominent indie author to announce his exit from KDP Select in the past month. He follows HM Ward and other authors in abandoning an idea which had seemed so promising 3 years ago.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Kindle Unlimited Launches In France, Brazil

12 December 2014

From The Digital Reader:

Local sources are reporting that Kindle Unlimited launched today in Brazil and France. Readers in those two countries can now subscribe and pay Amazon 10 euros or 19.90 reals per month for access to a catalog of over 700,000 titles, although given the limited number of local titles I am not sure they will want to do so.

Actualitte broke the news that Kindle Unlimited launched in France with 20,000 titles in French. The service costs the same as in Germany, Italy, and Spain, and enables readers to read as many books as they like each month from a catalog of 700,000 mostly indie titles.

. . . .

I thought Amazon would have trouble rounding up enough titles that they wouldn’t be able to hit their minimum quota, and it seems I was right. Amazon launched KU in Brazil with far fewer titles in Portuguese than in any other local language. Whether that will negatively impact reader adoption is going to have to be left up to the market.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Stamford library faces changing reading habits

12 December 2014

From the Danbury (Connecticut) News-Times:

Along with the rest of the media world, libraries have been evolving rapidly to keep up with a public that has access to nearly limitless options for reading in many forms other than a traditional, shelved book.

Libraries are offering more classes, are making increasing numbers of e-Books available to their customers and are scheduling more author appearances to make up for the decline in area bookstores.

. . . .

The Stamford library entered the world of e-Books 11 years ago, offering mostly academic books to a relatively small audience, but as the platforms for reading have expanded from Kindles and Nooks to iPads and iPhones, the interest in getting electronic books has steadily increased.

“We had a huge increase (last year) just from December to January. It seemed to start overnight,” she said.

While e-Books still only account for about 5 percent of the material used by library patrons, this year has seen 19 percent growth in e-Books at the Ferguson. October was up 29 percent over the same month last year.

. . . .

“E-books can be very expensive and you don’t own the material,” he said, adding that in most cases libraries purchase a fixed number of downloads on a title (this is why the waiting time for an e-Book loan can be just as long or longer than the wait for an ink-and-paper book).

Shell said that very often two traditional books can be bought and shelved in the permanent collection for the cost of one temporarily leased e-Book.

. . . .

The emergence of e-Books has made it easier and cheaper for writers to self-publish and circulate their work.

The Danbury Library has offered regular sessions on “the ABCs” of e-Books, Shell said.

“We want people to understand self-publishing,” he said.

The growth of self-publishing via e-Book has resulted in more of these writers having their work added to library collections in Danbury and Stamford.

“We read it and vet it and put it in our collection,” Shell said.

. . . .

“Some of our prejudices about self-publishing have disappeared,” Knapp said. “Some of them are fantastic. When it comes to Stamford authors — (traditionally) published or self-published — we’re going to collect them. But they have to earn a place on the shelf.”

Link to the rest at Danbury News-Times 

What the closure of Bilbary tells us about the market

21 October 2014

From Futurebook:

Full disclosure. I liked Bilbary. I even went on BBC Radio 4 to say so. The site seemed to be an attempt to take the skills of the shop-floor bookseller or librarian onto the web, while at the same introducing a new way of acquiring that content, lending. I also thought its link-up with libraries was smart. There’s no particular reason why libraries should acquire e-books in the same way they acquire print titles, and Bilbary offered an alternative model. Was it then doomed to failure? Probably.

According to the liquidator’s account, which The Bookseller reports on today, while there was initial “interest from publishers, they later proved unwilling to enter into contracts allowing the trade books to be loaned, consequently the company secured content for sales only to enable it to get to the market sooner”. Liquidator Portland blamed “fundamental gaps in the company’s understanding of the market and the rise in level of competition that had developed” for Bilbary’s demise. “Despite the company’s efforts to cut costs by terminating staff contracts, vacating the rented premises and closing the Luxembourg office, funds of £1.5m was needed to continue with a re-structure of the business. An external investor had pledged to invest £750k, provided this was matched by existing or new shareholders, unfortunately the investor later took the decision not to invest.”

Bilbary’s likeable founder Tim Coates has his own take. The former Waterstones m.d. told my colleague Benedicte Page that the site was hampered by the terms discussions between Amazon and Hachette USA, meaning that investors could not be certain what business model would arise in the future. “The dispute between Amazon and publishers on e-book pricing [and the agency model] makes it impossible to invest. We are in a situation where investors are terrified of risking a new venture because no-one knows what the pricing structure will be. As long as the argument has been going on, any investor says, ‘What is the pricing model?’ and you can’t answer them. Bilbary was caught in the crossfire from the industry dispute and we weren’t alone.”

The liquidators were appointed on 29th April 2014—just as the dispute between Hachette and Amazon broke cover, but it is possible to understand why investors were jittery even before that. The shift to agency four years before meant a new way of doing business with publishers gaining new controls over how e-book content could be sold and at what prices. Surprisingly, a lot of booksellers were against agency: they recognised that it removed a key lever from their customer offer, and knew that publishers would take years to understand how to price to the consumer. The Department of Justice’s intervention in 2012 meant even this new way of doing business had to be re-written. During that time Amazon first lost, and then gained marketshare, with competitors such as Apple, Kobo, and Nook largely failing to make significant head-way in the major markets of the US and UK. At the same time, the massive growth in those two markets halted, at least for the major publishers, while a huge shadow market around self-published books rose – virtually out of nowhere.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

Amazon launches Kindle Unlimited in the UK

24 September 2014

From The Bookseller:

Amazon has today (24th September) launched its Kindle Unlimited subscription service in the UK.

For £7.99 a month, customers will have unlimited access to more than 650,000 Kindle books and thousands of Audible audiobooks.

Titles from all the independents in the Independent Alliance are available, as are those from Bloomsbury, and the Harry Potter series from Pottermore. Also among the titles on offer are Kindle Singles from authors such as Stephen King and Susan Hill, and Kindle exclusives. However none of the UK’s major publishers is believed to have signed up directly with Kindle Unlimited.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

KDP Select Global Fund Updates

17 September 2014

From Kindle Direct Publishing:

We have continued to see significant early trial response from customers to Kindle Unlimited (KU). Similar to what we’ve done in the past around holiday spikes in borrowing activity, we are adding a bonus of $2.7 million in August on top of the regular base fund amount of $2 million.

To further highlight the KDP Select books and authors that are most popular with customers, we are introducing a new element to the program: “KDP Select All-Stars”. Based on what KDPS titles are being read the most during the month, we will identify each All-Star author and title on each applicable KDPS title’s detail page. In addition, KDP Select All-Stars will earn financial bonuses. Anyone with titles in KDPS–even a debut author with a single title–can qualify if their work becomes a customer favorite.

For August, we will pay out All-Star bonuses to the top 100 most-read authors and, separately, the top 100 most-read titles. We will calculate ‘most-read’ by combining books sold plus qualified borrows from KU and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) during the month. Calculations only include sales and qualified borrows for titles enrolled in KDPS. Recipients will be contacted in the next few days.

The top 100 most-read KDPS authors will each be awarded the following amounts:

  • Authors 1 through 10 will receive $25,000
  • Authors 11 through 20 will receive $10,000
  • Authors 21 through 30 will receive $5,000
  • Authors 31 through 50 will receive $2,500
  • Authors 51 through 100 will receive $1,000

Authors of the top 100 KDPS titles will each earn the following amounts:

  • Titles 1 through 10 will receive $2,500
  • Titles 11 through 50 will receive $1,000
  • Titles 51 through 100 will receive $500

Denoting All-Stars on detail pages is a new element of KDPS and we expect our approach to this will evolve over time. We hope it adds a little fun and adventure to the program!

Finally, many authors outside the U.S. derive most of their qualified borrows from the KOLL and have not been able to benefit from the growth of KU. This has meaningfully altered their ability to compete within the wider pool of KDPS loans. To adjust for this, we are adding an additional bonus of $80,000 to be paid out on all KOLL loans outside of the U.S.

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

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