Ebook Subscriptions

Bad News for Kindle Unlimited in France?

20 February 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

On Thursday, France’s Minister of Culture, Fleur Pellerin, announced that Kindle Unlimited (KU) and other unlimited ebook subscription services are illegal in France because they violate the country’s fixed book price law.

France’s fixed price law, called the Lang Law, was established in 1981 and says that publishers decide on the retail price of their books. Retailers are allowed sell the book for a maximum discount of 5% off the publisher’s price.

This announcement was based on a report written by Laurence Engel, the “mediator of the book” (la Médiatrice du livre) in France. Engel was commissioned by Pellerin to determine the legality of KU and other services in January 2015, about a month after KU launched in France.

The report by Engel found that, in the case of Kindle Unlimited and other ebook subscription services, the book prices are set not by the publishers, but by the subscription service — therefore violating the Lang Law. Engel recommended that the affected companies — Kindle Unlimited, Youboox and YouScribe — be given three months to comply with French law.

. . . .

Nicolas Gary of ActuaLitté writes that Amazon appears to be in the process of hiring an editor and establishing a publishing house in France. Through this new publishing company, Amazon could buy rights and sell its own editions at its own price via a book club model.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Why Millenials Don’t Want to Buy Stuff

7 February 2015

From Fast Company:

Compared to previous generations, Millennials seem to have some very different habits that have taken both established companies and small businesses by surprise. One of these is that Generation Y doesn’t seem to enjoy purchasing things.

The Atlantic‘s article “Why Don’t Young Americans Buy Cars?” mused recently about Millennials’ tendency to not care about owning a vehicle. The subtitle: “Is this a generational shift, or just a lousy economy at work?”

What if it’s not an “age thing” at all? What’s really causing this strange new behavior (or rather, lack of behavior)? Generational segments have profound impacts on perception and behavior, but an “ownership shift” isn’t isolated within the Millennial camp. A writer for USA Today shows that all ages are in on this trend, but instead of an age group, he blames the change on the cloud, the heavenly home our entertainment goes to when current media models die.

. . . .

So is technology the culprit, then? Though it often seems to be the driver, technology cannot be the cause either, because it is simply an extension of the way we think. New tech is created because someone has decided to think differently about the world. This may, in turn, spur new technology, but the new thinking is always first.

And there’s the culprit.

Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to “own” something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption. Though technology facilitates this evolution and new generations champion it, the big push behind it all is that our thinking is changing.

. . . .

Even in this strange new world, the economic laws of scarcity apply, and they are precisely what’s shifting. To “own something” in the traditional sense is becoming less important, because what’s scarce has changed. Ownership just isn’t hard anymore. We can now find and own practically anything we want, at any time, through the unending flea market of the Internet. Because of this, the balance between supply and demand has been altered, and the value has moved elsewhere.

. . . .

In other words, the reason we acquire “stuff” is becoming more about what we get from the acquisition. Purchasing something isn’t really about the thing itself anymore. Today, a product or service is powerful because of how it connects people to something—or someone—else. It has impact because we can do something worthwhile with it, tell others about it, or have it say something about us.

Link to the rest at Fast Company and thanks to Dave, who says this may bode well for ebook subscriptions, for the tip.

French Publisher Trade Group Charges that Kindle Unlimited is Illegal, American

6 February 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

While readers are flocking to subscription ebook services in droves, the concept is facing increased legal opposition in France.

In December Fleur Pellerin, the French Minister of Culture, called for the legality of subscription ebook services to be investigated, and now a group of French publishers are taking the position that it is illegal.

The Syndicat National de l’Edition  (SNE) released a statement today which reads (translated by Google):

After careful consideration and legal analysis, the Office of SNE is concluded last December that the subscription offers whose prices are not set by the publishers are not legal, and except as specified by the 2011 Law on the price of digital books, namely the collective use offers proposed for vocational purposes, higher education or research. In these sectors, in fact, multi-subscription offers publishers have long been at the initiative of the publishers themselves, and correspond to the specific characteristics of their business models. In contrast, the market for “mainstream”, the law does not allow multi-vendor subscription offers only subscription offers consist of one editor, who control the price.

. . . .

In letting users read as many books as they want for a flat monthly fee of 10 euros, Amazon is in effect setting the price itself, and SNE believes this is illegal. And they could well be correct, although we will need to wait for the French government to finish its investigation before we know for sure.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

Why “Spotify For Books” May Not Be The Future Of Publishing. (Yet.)

29 January 2015

From The Economist:

“BEWARE of the person of one book,” said Thomas Aquinas, a medieval friar and author. The risk of encountering such unscholarly types is rarer in modern times. Digital devices can hold dozens of e-books, so people can carry around a whole shelf of reading material with them. Now a new crop of e-book subscription companies is offering bibliophiles the chance to consume as many books as they like, from a huge range of titles, for a flat fee of around $10 a month.

It is a bit like having a whole lending library in your pocket—but with no need to return the books. In America the main providers of e-book subscriptions include Amazon, Oyster and Scribd.

. . . .

The subscription model has already taken off in music and television, with providers such as Spotify and Netflix. Consumers have shown an increasing preference for such all-you-can-eat bundles, as opposed to buying each item separately. That worries book publishers and authors, who still make most of their money from sales of single copies. So far they have approached subscription services cautiously, holding back their newest and most popular titles from them.

. . . .

The record companies tolerate music-streaming services like Spotify, which pay them only modest fees, because the alternative is a continued rise in music piracy—on which they earn nothing at all. However, piracy of e-books is not such a problem: it is perfectly feasible for publishers to keep back some titles from subscription services and make money by selling individual copies of them.

Link to the rest at The Economist and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

An Oyster subscription now gets you the entire Harry Potter series

29 January 2015

From The Verge:

Ebook subscription service Oyster just increased its value in the witchcraft and wizardry community: the company has added the entire Harry Potter series to its library. The app, which offers users a buffet of books for a flat monthly fee, will add all seven Harry Potternovels, plus J.K. Rowling’s faux-nonfiction titles, Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard to its catalog.

. . . .

Last year, Oyster co-founder Willem van Lancker told us the company’s goal was to foster “a deeper sense of community around books.” With Harry Potter, that work has already been done for Oyster — the franchise comes with its own built-in community.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Nielsen Shows Kindle Unlimited Users Buy More Books

28 January 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Late last month I asked whether consumers were buying fewer books after switching to subscription ebook services like Scribd, Oyster, or Kindle Unlimited, and according to the latest info from Neilsen Book the answer is No.

A few details from the latest edition of the Nielsen Books & Consumers Market Research crossed my desk today, and this report shows that the subscribers in the UK and the US spend more on average than non-subscribers.

The data I have shows that about 4% of book buyers have subscribed to one of the standalone ebook subscription services. Curiously, when you add in the Amazon Prime members that figure jumps to 10%. It also shows that subscribers are tend to be male (59%) while book buyers tended to be female.

. . . .

But no matter the age, the survey group was spending a lot of money on books. As a group, subscribers had a monthly budget of $58, while non-subscribers had a budget of $34. The survey also showed that subscription customers were willing to pay more for their subscription than the standard flat rate of $9 to $10. Men were willing to pay an average of $17, while women would pay $14.

. . . .

I don’t have all of the data, but one of my takeaways from what we do have is that publishers are right to be concerned about making their ebooks available through Oyster or Scribd.

In a trend which mirrors the rise of ebooks, the ebook subscriber base tends to be concentrated among the most profligate book buyers.  If more publishers signed up then those book buyers would have fewer reasons to buy outside of the service, and they could end up spending less money on books.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Amazon exec: Here’s why it pays to make your ebooks exclusive to us

15 January 2015

From Gigaom:

Amazon’s ebook subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, has attracted criticism recently, with some self-published authors complaining that the service devalues their work and chafing at the requirement that they make their ebooks exclusive to Amazon in order to participate.

But Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s VP of Kindle Content, suggested at the Digital Book World conference in New York on Wednesday that the vast majority of authors participating are satisfied with Kindle Unlimited — and he said that the program is helping them achieve earnings that have doubled since the program’s launch in July.

Authors who want their books to appear in Kindle Unlimited have to enroll in KDP Select, a program that requires them to make their ebooks exclusive to Amazon for three-month periods. “Every month authors have renewed availability of titles on KDP Select in excess of 95 percent before and after the launch of Kindle Unlimited,” Grandinetti said — suggesting that they are satisfied with the program despite a few high-profile complainers.

Furthermore, in the six months since Kindle Unlimited launched, “à la carte sales of authors in KDP Select are growing faster than KDP at large and Kindle at large,” Grandinetti said. Combine that à la carte income with “the money that authors earn or have earned from the subscription service as well as the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,” and “sales from August to December 2014 are more than double what they were in 2013.”

“I do think there will be ways that we tweak it over time,” Grandinetti said, but “overall the system’s pretty healthy. We’re incredibly motivated to make this work for that community. They only have to participate for three months.”

Link to the rest at Gigaom

Kindle Head Russ Grandinetti Offers the View from Amazon

15 January 2015

From Digital Book World:

Joining publishers at Digital Book World 2015 in New York City this morning, Kindle SVP Russ Grandinetti offered a frank explanation of Amazon’s perspective on the book business.

. . . .

  • The Hachette dispute: Disagreements between publishers and booksellers are nothing new, but Amazon’s battle with Hachette was unusually public. “Our goal is to keep it rare,” says Grandinetti.
  • Authors: “We treat authors the same way we treat buying customers,” and Amazon is “highly motivated” to make its publishing services work for them. The indie community, Grandinetti says, is “incredibly vibrant” and vocal. “They like CAPSlock a lot when they tell us what’s going on.” Amazon finds that KDP Select remains very popular, more than doubling authors’ earnings through the platform in August–December last year over the same period in 2013.
  • Kindle Unlimited: Amazon is working to address authors’ concerns that the subscription-based program is diminishing their revenue, asking for patience in the meantime. “It’s only been six months,” Grandinetti adds. On the subscription ebook model overall, Grandinetti says, “More approaches to publishing is pretty healthy” and reminds publishers they weren’t happy at first when bookstores began selling used books. “In every single digital media category, subscriptions are succeeding at some level,” and books won’t be an exception.

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

Publishers Are Lining Up Behind ‘Netflix for Books’ Services. But Why?

14 January 2015

From Wired:

On Tuesday, startups Scribd and Oyster both announced partnerships with publishing heavyweight Macmillan to bring over a thousand new titles to their respective e-book subscription services. That means the two startups are now working with majority of the so-called Big Five publishers; both had previously offered books from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. The Macmillan partnership grows Scribd’s $8.99-a-month a la carte collection to more than 500,000 book titles, in addition to the 30,000 audiobooks available on the service after Scribd added them late last year. Meanwhile, Oyster says it now offers more than 1 million books to its subscribers for $9.95 a month.

. . . .

But while the addition of another publisher is an obvious win for the startups, what’s less clear is why publishers want in. Movie and TV studios can count on ticket sales and advertising dollars even as they offer their content on Netflix. Musicians can still sell concert tickets even if streaming services like Spotify cannibalize CD sales. But for book publishers and authors, the main source of revenue is still selling books. So why would they agree to participate in what amounts to an always-accessible lending library with an infinite number of copies?

. . . .

Scribd and Oyster say publishers do see revenue from making books available on their services—both startups pay publishers a sum of money each time what Weinstein calls “a fair portion” of a book is read. And apparently, people are reading. Scribd isn’t publicizing exactly how many users it has, but Weinstein says its service has seen 30 percent growth month over month. Oyster also doesn’t share its numbers publicly, but a representative says December was its biggest month ever.

The money may not be the real reason publishers are coming around, however. The greatest value of these “Netflix for books” services could be that these startups share valuable reader data, says James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research. Subscription services in other media rarely share information with content producers themselves on how their content is being consumed, he says. “That’s the way [these e-book subscription services] differentiate themselves in the minds of publishers, and convince publishers to join them,” says McQuivey.

Scribd and Oyster confirmed that they do share aggregated information about users’ reading activity.

. . . .

McQuivey points out that in particular, readers of genre literature are valuable to publishers because they typically read dozens of books in a year. Publishers don’t necessarily want to lose this reader to subscription services. But if those readers do sign up, getting them to go with a subscription service that shares data can give publishers an edge: with good data at their disposal, publishers can focus their marketing efforts with more precision.

McQuivey thinks the timing behind publishers’ new willingness to cooperate may have to do with Amazon’s decision to launch its Kindle Unlimited service in the summer. “Publishers could be trying to make sure Amazon doesn’t grow to dominate the space,” he says.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Kindle Unlimited and the ongoing commoditization of books

8 January 2015

From GigaOm:

If you know anyone who writes books, or if you follow any authors on social media, you’re probably used to regular cries of doom and gloom about the death of writing and how Amazon is killing the book as we know it. Some of this may even be true. But if anything, it’s the massive increase in writing of all kinds that is killing (or changing) the book industry, and Amazon is just one part of that phenomenon. Books — like so many other forms of media — are becoming a commodity.

Take Kindle Unlimited, for example, an Amazon feature that provides a kind of Spotify-for-books rental service, where users pay $9.99 per month and can borrow one of more than 700,000 books.

. . . .

The standard response to Kindle Unlimited, and most of Amazon’s other moves — including its repeated attempts to force publishers to reduce the prices of their e-books, occasionally through strong-arm tactics like its blockade of Hachette titles — is to complain that the company is devaluing the book, or book writing. And it is certainly playing a role in doing that, since it is the world’s largest online book retailer.

But Amazon isn’t the one devaluing books. In an economic sense, the internet is devaluing books, and almost every other kind of writing or media. Book writing and publishing used to be hard, and complicated, and time-consuming, and expensive — just like putting out a newspaper or magazine used to be, or distributing high-quality video. Now those things are trivially cheap. Virtually anyone can do them, and plenty of people are, in numbers far greater than we’ve seen at almost any point in human history.

But the vast majority of what’s being written or published or filmed or broadcast is crap, you will protest. And it probably is, by most people’s definition. But that doesn’t mean someone won’t want to see it, or read it, or rent it or maybe even buy it. And since there are oceans of similar content available for nothing, they aren’t going to pay as much as they used to for it — especially if it’s digital only.

So where does that leave authors? The same place it leaves everyone else in media: namely, trying to adapt to a marketplace where supply is almost unlimited, but demand has remained approximately the same. That’s not Amazon’s fault. If anything, I think it’s trying to help authors and publishers adapt — although it may not look that way.

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

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