Ebook Subscriptions

KU Crushed My Sales

29 November 2014

From author H.M. Ward via Kboards:

Ok, some of you already know, but I had my serials in it for 60 days and lost approx 75% of my income. Thats counting borrows and bonuses. My sales dropped like a stone. The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn’t compliment each other, as expected.

. . . .

And KU effected my whole list, not just KU titles.  At the time of enrollment I had about 60 titles total.

I planned on giving it 90 days, but I have a kid in the hospital for long term care and I noticed my spending was going to exceed my income-by a lot. I couldn’t wait and watch thing plummet further. I pulled my books. That was on Nov 1, & since then my net revenue has gone up. I’m now at 50% of where I was pre-KU. During the time I was in KU, I had 2 new releases. Neither preformed vastly different than before. They actually earned far less (including borrows).

This model needs to be changed for it to work. Authors shouldn’t be paid lottery style. For this system to work we need a flat rate for borrows, borrowed or not borrowed (not this 10% crap), and it needs to be win win for the reader AND the writer. <– That is the crux of the matter.

Id like to see Amazon create something new, something better instead of falling in step with Scribd and Oyster.

Link to the rest at Kboards and thanks to Dan for the tip.

Here’s a link to H.M. Ward’s books

The future of books is on your phone, not your tablet

5 November 2014

From The Verge:

Subscription book app Oyster has come a long way since launching just over a year ago. The service has more than quadrupled its library of books to 500,000, landed big publishers like Disney, and released apps on several new platforms like the web. This week, the company debuted a new feature called Book Lists that’s like GoodReads — except this time, the place to find new books is also the place to read them with one tap.

It seemed like a good time to catch up with Willem Van Lancker, the creative co-founder of Oyster.

. . . .

Even my friends with Kindles don’t seem to read a ton anymore. There are just so many distractions that seem to deliver quicker fixes of entertainment. How do you compete as an app sitting right next to Instagram and YouTube?

It’s funny — if an investor isn’t a big reader, they don’t see a market for this. But we’ve seen that for young people especially, reading has taken off and become a bigger form of entertainment than music or movies in certain situations. When you’re on the subway or laying in bed, what we want to do is make reaching for books as easy as possible. And when you see the YouTube logo and Oyster logo next to each other, that you can feel that you can dive into that book really easily. We want to be the premium entertainment source for that content.

It’s important to understand that the reading population in the US is massive. The books market, in terms of total books sold worldwide, is bigger than both movies and music. If you include educational books, it gets even bigger. Book reading is a huge attention-driving activity in the world. How many hours do you have to allocate per day for books, movies, etc? What we’ve found is that there’s a massive appetite for this.

. . . .

Is your selection part of package deals, or individually vetted?

We work with six of the top ten publishing houses. Those are the guys that when we sign with them, it adds thousands of books to the library, and that spans everything from literary fiction to sci-fi and the many imprints within them. On the other end of the spectrum we work with some of the best independents in the world, and we’ve been very targeted towards finding independents that maybe only have 20 or 30 ebooks, but those books are the caliber of the top titles on Penguin or Simon and Schuster, and those are like McSweeney’s, Melville House, Chronicle, Disney, Nat Geo, it’s a lot of big name brands with libraries that aren’t quite as large. On that end of the spectrum we’ve signed pretty much everyone meaningful and have deals with all of them. There are only a couple publishers that we still haven’t formed deals with.

. . . .

Amazon doesn’t release much info about the data it gleans from its many readers. What are you guys seeing?

The biggest thing is that our engagement is really off the charts. Our average user uses Oyster for over an hour every day. That’s on the level of Facebook. People are staring at Oyster, which counts for a lot in the mobile economy in a weird way. And most of the time that’s in a book. We get people to books really quickly. On average people tend to open about four books to each book they end up going on to read, so there’s that sense of sampling and browsing. We have the fastest downloads of any other ebook platform. The idea is that you tap the book and you’re on the first page, which really lowers the barrier to reading.

In terms of funny trends, romance books get read faster, especially towards the end. There’s a lot more highlighting in non-fiction. The movement around books is interesting, because with fiction it’s always just a straight line. And there are some books that people just don’t finish. Gatsby is started constantly and never finished.

Where are people reading more, tablets, phones, or on the web?

We’ve always been really big believers that the device of the future for books is the phone. That’s the first thing we went to publishers with when we started talking about the differentiation of Oyster, that we can provide the best possible mobile experience.

It’s hard to get the data on this with Android, because, what is a tablet? But between iPhone and iPad, it’s a 50 / 50 split. It might even be higher on the phone in recent months over the iPad. This is an app that people use on their phone constantly, and we see the actual activity spiking during the week at lunchtime, and through the evening and peaks around midnight, and on the weekends it’s pretty sustained. Unlike a lot of products, our biggest days are Saturdays and Sundays, but when we added the web reader, you see it spiking on weekdays because people are reading during work.

We thought about making a button you could hit that would make Oyster look like Microsoft Word like they do for March Madness. It would be funny to bring that to books.

Link to the rest at The Verge

A good subscription for the ebook industry: Making books social

3 November 2014

From IT ProPortal:

The music, film and TV industries have all undergone radical transformations over the last fifteen years. In contrast, the publishing industry is only now feeling the full force of technological change.

Ebooks and ereaders are changing consumers’ reading habits and throwing up serious questions about how the industry can go forward on a sustainable footing. Major players in the music industry eventually solved their own sustainability issues by embracing change and incorporating subscription-based services in their business models. However, ebooks pose different problems. Subscription services alone particularly in emerging markets where content piracy is rife, do not seem viable. The magic bullet could be ‘social’.

In emerging markets subscription-based, or indeed any form of payment model has struggled to take off for companies producing media-rich content. Piracy is rife and compounded by cultural attitudes that generally regard content as something that should be free. Put simply, many people in countries like Russia don’t feel like they should pay for ebooks, digital music or TV media. This was the acute challenge that faced us when we started Bookmate in Moscow. Our solution was to build a sticky social layer with features like author pages and book playlists, coupled with access to ebooks via subscription on their phones. We found consumers became much more willing to pay as they came in search of a book on Bookmate but stayed for the all the other features.

But why are social features so appealing to ebook consumers? By integrating a user’s social network accounts, their reading is shared through several different and complimentary networks. This leads to exponential growth, as a book is shared, commented upon and recommended across several networks all at once. Research by Shoutly, a monetisation platform for the social web, revealed that a friend’s recommendation on social media is the most influential factor when buying software or ebooks, much more influential than an advert on TV or in online search results.

Link to the rest at IT ProPortal

Germany’s Blloon launches in UK

22 October 2014

From The Bookseller:

Subscription e-book service Blloon launched in the UK today (22nd October), with titles from publishers such as Allen & Unwin, Faber and Profile.

The German company founded by Txtr boss Thomas Leliveld plans to target young people who “read up to 12 books a year”.

. . . .

The Blloon app can be downloaded from the iTunes store for free and the company said it has designed “a beautiful app with gamification at its core” which it believes will engage young people.

Anyone can read 1,000 pages for free and can continue reading by sharing and recommending books – or by inviting others to join the service. “Research shows that 85% of young people would be likely to recommend books if rewarded for it – this gamification gets young people talking about books and Blloon, while getting something in return,” the company said.

Further pages can also be bought as top-ups or provided monthly by upgrading to a premium membership at a cost of £3.99 for 500 pages.

. . . .

We aren’t offering an expensive ‘unlimited’ service simply because that isn’t the demographic we are targeting. And people can only read so much. We’re welcoming young people, the majority of whom currently read up to 12 books a year.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

15,000 Harlequin Titles + Scribd = ?

6 October 2014

From Jane Litte at Dear Author

Harlequin has signed a deal to provide exclusive subscription access to 15,000 backlist titles to Scribd subscribers


Monthly subscribers to Scribd can now find titles from a variety of Harlequin imprints:
• Harlequin Series Romance (including Harlequin Presents, Harlequin Desire, Harlequin Superromance, etc.)
• HQN Books
• Carina Press


Scribd is offering a free 3-month subscription.

From Guest Blogger Randall with a thanks to Shelly for the tip.

See Shelly’s books here.

Randall can’t help but wonder what affect this will have on authors attempting to get their titles back from Harlequin.

Kindle Unlimited Becoming a Goldmine for Scam Artists

12 September 2014

From author and regular TPV regular M.P. McDonald:

As an author with books in Kindle Unlimited, I’m extremely worried about the scam artists who have sprung up in Kindle Unlimited like dandelions on a warm spring day. If they continue to spread unchecked, KU is going to fail. Why would anyone pay $10 a month to weed through all of these copycat 7 page books?

The scammers get paid when a reader reaches 10% in a book. With only 6-7 pages, all the reader has to do is basically open to the first page of the actual story. The front matter takes up at least 9%. They do that, and BAM! The scammer gets their cut of the pot Amazon allocates each month. It was $1.80 per 10% read the first month. I wouldn’t doubt that it is higher in August–however, these fake books are eating into that pot and taking away from all legitimate authors directly, as well as indirectly by lost readers who give up on KU.
It would be like if Netflix had hundreds of one minute ‘movies’ with many of them being the exact same movie but with a different title. Netflix would not stand for that.
A few weeks ago I reported two of these fake books as plagiarism to Amazon. They have different titles and authors, but the exact same contents in the Look Inside, and the exact same description. From the reviews on one of them, it was apparent they were the same book, so someone plagiarized someone. It shouldn’t matter if the authors are one and the same. Nothing was done. Both books are still available and I’ll be linking them further down.

Link to the rest at M.P. McDonald and thanks to Al for the tip.

Here’s a link to M.P. McDonald’s books

Kindle Unlimited Titles Off the DBW Ebook Best-Seller List

30 July 2014

From Digital Book World:

Kindle Unlimited’s effect on the best-seller list has indeed grown.

Kindle Unlimited titles have been removed from the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list due to an inability to sort out retail purchases from Kindle Unlimited “reads” when creating the list.

After discussing several possibilities with Amazon as to how to include titles that had robust sales but also had reads on the new ebook subscription platform counted toward Amazon Kindle sales ranking, no solution was found.

. . . .

If “reads,” where the user isn’t paying to purchase a book each time, are counted toward best-seller rankings on the Kindle list and they are unable to be separated out from regular purchases, then it would be unfair to include those titles on the list.

Had those titles been included, they would have elevated several Amazon Publishing, self-published and back-list ebooks onto the best-seller list, including MockingjayThe GiverRhett by J.S. Cooper,Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and more.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Richard for the tip.


How To Save Books

26 July 2014

From TechCrunch:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was a time of triumph, it was a time of disaster, it was the publishing industry in 2014, just after mighty Amazon fired a new salvo in its war on traditional publishing by announcing its $10/month Kindle Unlimited book subscription service. At first glance this might have seemed useless and ridiculous…

…given the absence of any books from the “Big Five” publishers. But, according to Author Earnings,

self-published authors now account for 31% of total daily [Amazon] ebook sales regardless of genre … self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all ebook royalties on the Kindle store

meaning that Kindle Unlimited is unlikely to be a complete flop. Which is all that Amazon wants from it, for now; it seems clear that their long-term strategy is to slowly ratchet up the pressure on traditional publishers until they give in and accept a model like Amazon Video, wherein consumers can either purchase individual episodes/shows/movies (Instant Video) or join a subscription service (Prime Instant Video.) That’s the same model that Apple has adopted for music: iTunes for purchases, Beats for subscriptions.

I have been banging the drum for subscription services myself, largely because, as Danny Crichton points out, we’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends:

The plot remains the same: The traditional publishers of content defend their business models against the assault of the Internet. There’s some suspense, and then the Internet wins … But unlike up-and-coming artists in video or audio, the plot twist for books is that there are almost no alternative revenue sources for writers.

…or are there?

. . . .

So I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I’m beginning to think that treating books like music or movies might be bad for us all.

Authors don’t get performance revenue unless they are already at the top of the heap. But we want good authors to be paid well, because if there’s no money in the literary talent pool, it will get very shallow indeed. So maybe we should focus on what books do offer that music and movies mostly don’t; the intimate, personal, long-term connection between author and reader, forged over many hours.

It seems to me that asking people to pay for a book before that connection is forged is kind of crazy, if you want to maximize revenue; and asking people to pay for books that don’t connect is just plain wrong. So I’m somewhat amazed that no start-up or e-book platform has, as far as I know, yet tried a model wherein readers pay for books after they read them.

. . . .

I’m not talking about “read three chapters and pay for the rest” or any irritating nonsense like that. I’m talking about giving entire e-books away for free and then asking their readers to pay for them immediately after they finish reading them. The single moment when readers most want to give authors their money is the moment they finish a book that has transported them to another world or revolutionized their view of this one. It seems senseless not to take advantage of that, now that technology makes it possible.

. . . .

This model would mean bad books won’t make any money; I’m very OK with that. It’s true that readers may be reluctant to give as much to authors known to be zillionaires; I’m OK with that too. And obviously it implicitly puts an enormous amount of trust and faith in the average reader; again, I don’t see this as a problem.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

BISG study: A buffet of digital book subscriptions

22 July 2014

From Futurebook:

With almost the kind of timing that Amazon Prime promises its members, Len Vlahos’ Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has arrived to deepen the debate about subscriptions and their potential in publishing.

Only days after Seattle launched its Kindle Unlimited subscription program — quickly pulling up alongside Oyster and Scribd (pronounced “Scribbed”) as one of the most-debated elements of the topic — BISG’s Digital Books and the New Subscription Economy is being released with a message that sounds like the voice of the digital disruption, itself.

While we are still in the early days, our findings suggest that most book publishers will accept that subscription businesses are an inevitable part of the transformation from print to digital book publishing.

If anything, three forces seem to converge in the pages of this 86-page report, culminating in a deep sea both of potential and concern for publishing:

  • Inevitability
  • Change
  • Consumer preference

. . . .

“The big point in the study,” says Ted Hill, “is that these models — whether you call them subscriptions or not — have been around in various parts of the publishing industry for a while. And they’re growing. And they’re not going away.”

. . . .

In fact, attempts to counter the “Netflix of books” idea on the basis that literature knows no “binge” tendencies like binge-viewing of TV shows or binge-listening to music are hopeless, too, Hill says. Some readers of genres including romance, mystery, and science fiction may be prone to “binge-reading” of a kind that really does correlate to the binge-viewer or -listener.

“You fall into the trap that everyone does in publishing, in talking about it ‘in general.'” Hill says. “There are many sub-sets and types of readers. Who is the ‘general reader’? Is it an 8-year-old reading Dr. Seuss? Is it someone reading literary fiction? Somebody in Book-of-the-Month? Somebody who reads those two romances a day?

“Once you get into a more granular view of it, there are many more exceptions. The question becomes whether the markets are large enough to pursue” as the specificity of various sub-sets of the readership come into view. And even in the relatively small size of a niche interest, he concedes, avid interest may support some sort of subscription context.

. . . .

“You know, we’ve had the big-publishers-are-evil and the little-publishers-are-good” phases, “and the Barnes & Noble is evil and the mom-and-pop bookstore is good” phases in the When Harry Met Sally days, and now that’s flipped around, of course, and it’s just hard to use terms like ‘good’ and ‘evil’ when you’re talking about business entities.”

Link to the rest at Futurebook

Kindle Unlimited’s Two-Tier System Makes Some Authors Second-Class Citizens

22 July 2014

From Digital Book World:

On Friday, Amazon rolled out it’s Kindle Unlimited feature, where for a fixed fee of $9.99 a month readers can read as many books as they want from a certain subset of the ebooks sold by Amazon. It also includes a limited number of audio books from Audible.com. Here is how the numbers break down:

– 2,769,500+ ebooks in Amazon
– 645,790 books in Kindle Unlimited (about 23%)
– 2,157 audio books (about 0.3% of the Kindle Unlimited Books
– 2,773 books in KU are free (even if the reader isn’t subscribed to Kindle Unlimited)

How a title gets into Kindle Unlimited

Before I discuss the two-tier system. Let me explain how an author’s book gets into Kindle Unlimited.

– Kindle Direct Publishing titles enrolled in Select: this is by far the largest group of ebooks in Kindle Unlimited and is mainly self-published titles, although I suspect there are a fair number of small-presses that use KDP to list their books with Amazon. For those that don’t know, Select titles have added features such as the ability to be sold for free for five days out of 90, ability to do time-bound sales, can be borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and now they are available to those who are subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. While that’s a lot of advantages, it comes with a big down-side. You must be EXCLUSIVE to Amazon. You can’t sell those titles anywhere else. Not your own site, not Barnes and Noble or the iBooks store.

. . . .

How a publisher/author is compensated

– For books enrolled in KDP & Select: Amazon has a pool of funds which is established at the start of each month. This is the same fund that has been used for “borrows” for people who are enrolled in Prime (they get 1 borrow a month). The fund does not take into account the size of the book or it’s price. Instead it takes the total amount of the pool divided by the number of borrows to calculate a unit price. This unit price is then multiplied by the number of times an author’s books are borrowed. Historically, the per unit price has been about $2 (sometimes a bit more, other times a bit less). The “downloads” from KU will be treated like a “borrow” once the reader gets past the first 10% of the book.

– For publishers/authors who opt-in to KU: they are paid the same price that they would receive if the reader had bought the book outright. Again, this amount is only credited once the reader has passed the 10% mark.

– For titles added without consent: Publishers are paid as if a regular sale were made without any minimum reading requirement.

. . . .

Historically, Amazon has been good about treating self-published authors and traditionally published authors equally. There are some exceptions (for instance traditionally published titles can be pre-ordered, and most self-published authors cannot get this feature. Again there have been exceptions made for best-selling self-published authors), but for the most part both self- and traditionally published authors have enjoyed equal treatment. They share similar exposure on best-seller lists and top-rated lists, and Amazon’s “cut” from sales have been the same for both groups (30% under the agency model). In fact, when the agency model went into affect, Amazon raised self-publisher’s royalty from 35% to 70% to match what traditional publishers were getting. But now with the roll-out of Kindle Unlimited, we see two very different treatments:

Self-published authors MUST be exclusive to Amazon (except for a handful of best-selling authors) and can’t sell their books on other sites. Traditionally published books have no such exclusivity requirement and can be sold wherever the publisher wishes.

Self-published authors are paid from a pool set by Amazon each month. They have no idea how much they will be paid per book. Traditionally published books get paid exactly as they would if a sale were made. They know exactly what the unit price will be for each book and are not relying on the Amazon’s whim as far as what their unit price will be.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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