Amazon’s Kindle now lets you read e-books in Indian languages

3 December 2016

From Digital Journal:

Amazon has finally added support for several Indian languages to its Kindle e-reader. For the first time, books written in languages including Hindi, Tamil and Marathi are available to purchase from the Kindle store. “Thousands” are available at launch.

. . . .

Amazon has not previously offered content in local Indian languages, restricting the reach of the Kindle in the country. However, the company is increasingly focusing on growing its sales in India as the nation emerges into the digital age. Amazon expects India to surpass the U.S. market for Kindle sales within the next few years, The Times of India reported today. As such, it’s investing more resources into expanding the content available there.

Link to the rest at Digital Journal

Under pressure from national governments, Commission lowers VAT rates for e-books

2 December 2016

From EurActiv:

Booksellers will be able to sell e-books with low VAT rates to match the discounts already applied to paper books under a change to EU tax law announced today (1 December).

Most EU countries, except Bulgaria and Denmark, allow paper books to be sold with discounted value-added tax rates. The average rate for paper books in the EU is 7.6%; for e-books that figure stands at 19.9%, according to the European Parliament’s in-house think tank.

The move to change VAT law to allow a lower rate for e-books comes after a back-and-forth disagreement between the European Commission, member countries and the European Court of Justice over whether e-books should be sold at the same rates as paper books.

. . . .

The new proposal will allow but not require EU countries to apply lower rates for e-books, which currently make up only 5% of Europe’s bookselling market. The Commission predicts that will grow to a 20% share by 2021.

But e-book sales have already started to fall in some EU countries. The UK publishing association reported lower revenues from e-book sales in 2015 compared to the previous year.

. . . .

“VAT is probably one of the elements which might explain why the e-book market has been growing so slowly,” said Fran Dubruille, director of the European and International Booksellers Federation.

Dubruille says booksellers promote e-books mostly to cater to a small group of customers who prefer them, even though sales have floundered.

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

German e-Book Sales Increase by 1.7% in 2016

26 November 2016

From GoodEreader:

The German e-book market is profitable and for the past few years there is solid growth. Major publishers are responding well to consumer demands that digital prices should be more affordable. According to the German Publishers Association in the first nine months of 2016 the German e-book market increased by 1.7%, yet revenue from ebook sales increased by just 0.1%.

The vast majority of readers in Germany continue to buy hardcovers and paperbacks. Major publishers only see 5.2% of their revenue derive from audiobook and e-book sales. Still, the people who buy e-books tend to be repeat customers. German consumers bought an average of 6 e-books in 2016, which is an increase of 1.8% from 2015.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader


Future reading

19 November 2016

From Aeon:

From 2009 to 2013, every book I read, I read on a screen. And then I stopped. You could call my four years of devout screen‑reading an experiment. I felt a duty – not to anyone or anything specifically, but more vaguely to the idea of ‘books’. I wanted to understand how their boundaries were changing and being affected by technology. Committing myself to the screen felt like the best way to do it.

. . . .

The way we consume media changes over time. The largest changes can be explained, in part, through the lens of value proposition. For example: is the value proposition of reading a printed newspaper, with its physicality, its smell, its serendipity, its utility as a fly-swatter, greater than reading a newspaper’s website, which is immediate, universally accessible, networked, and sharable? Precipitous drops in print subscriptions indicate no. We readers see far greater value in the instant access and quick updates of the web than in the physicality of the printed broadsheet.

Granite, wood, wax, silk, paper, metal type, the Gutenberg press, Manutius’s octavo editions, Penguin paperbacks, desktop publishing software, digital type, on‑demand printing, .epub: the evolutionary path of ‘books’ has been punctuated by technological changes large and small. And so, too, with the Kindle.

. . . .

The Kindle set the imagination alight. It looked and felt like no ‘computer’ we had ever seen. And because its progenitor was paper – but yet it was digital – there was something magical in holding it. It was The Hitchhiker’s Guidemade manifest. (A role that the iPhone would go on to fulfill in totality.) Unlike a desktop – at which we read straight-backed, vertically, some distance away from the text – we could cradle a Kindle. And because it was globally networked and backed by a vast and instantaneously available library, we rarely found it to be limited. That 2007 object held implicit the promise of a universal book container.

. . . .

Containers matter. They shape stories and the experience of stories. Choose the right binding, cloth, trim size, texture of paper, margins and ink, and youwill strengthen the bond between reader and text. Choose badly and the object becomes a wedge between reader and text.

. . . .

I had seen older well-made books by the end of my teenage years – books such as the leather‑wrapped Overland Through Asia (1871), from the American Publishing Company in Hartford, found in the dusty stacks of a place called The Book Barn – but until City Secrets I had yet to come across a contemporary book as thoughtfully and deliberately made. Between its cover boards, the typography was elegant and readable. Its layouts functional. Its maps rendered with a perfect contrast. Despite having no means of visiting Rome, I bought it at once. Over the next decade, I’d go on to publish, write or design more than a dozen books, and City Secrets sat as my polestar. It affected the way I thought about every physical book I encountered.

. . . .

Once bought by a reader, a book moves through a routine. It is read and underlined, dog-eared and scuffed and, most importantly, reread. To read a book once is to know it in passing. To read it over and over is to become confidants. The relationship between a reader and a book is measured not in hours or minutes but, ideally, in months and years.

As a consumer of digital books I feel delighted, but as a reader, I feel crestfallen. All of the consumption parts of the Kindle experience are pitch-perfect: a boundless catalogue, instant distribution, reasonable prices (perhaps once too reasonable, now less so with recently updated contracts). It’s easy to forget that Amazon doesn’t just frustrate publishers, it also powers a huge chunk of the internet – hosting files and providing servers for many of the largest companies in the world. That business alone accounts for nearly $2 billion of their bottom line. So it’s no surprise that Amazon has built seamless, efficient plumbing for digital books. But after a book has made its way through the plumbing and onto the devices, the once-fresh experience now feels neglected.

Link to the rest at Aeon

Do We Really Need to Innovate the Reading Experience?

8 November 2016

From Digital Book World:

Reading a book used to be considered a fairly straightforward experience.

You opened the book (it was a print book) and you started reading.

Today we have ebooks and audiobooks, which, to varying degrees, have changed our reading experiences. With an ebook, we can read that same print book on our phones, on our computers, on our tablets or on our e-reader devices. And with digital audiobooks, we can now listen on our phones to someone else read the text from that print book.

I hear a lot of talk about how ebooks didn’t innovate enough, or how ebooks are unsatisfactory—that they’re stuck in this “print-under-glass” model that offers nothing new to the reading experience.

I also hear about companies, both within and outside of traditional publishing, that are trying to change the reading experience, be it through new platforms or apps that bring in other forms of media or break a book down into smaller segments.

Maybe I’m a bit naive, but my question is, why?

. . . .

Are print books and ebooks no longer effective? Do some people believe they are somehow antiquated?

. . . .

To that end, what is so wrong with the print-under-glass model of ebooks? What else were we expecting? To my eyes, an ebook on my Kindle looks a lot like a print book in my hands. And that’s exactly how I want it to be.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Digital sales down 19%, but print strong for trade publishers in first half

4 November 2016

From The Bookseller:

Trade publishers’ digital revenues have fallen by 19% in the first six months of the year, but print sales are holding strong, new figures from the Publishers Association (PA) have revealed.

Sales data provided to the PA by UK publishing houses across trade, education and academic sectors show that print sales increased by 1% in the first six months of the year (January-June 2016) to £898m in comparison to the same period a year earlier, driven in particular by a 6% growth of trade books.

However, digital sales have declined 7% year-on-year across the board to £182m, driven by a marked decline in digital revenue for trade publishers, which was down by a steep 19%. Digital revenues for education and English Language Teaching publishers by contrast were strong, up 32%, whilst academic/professional digital revenues were also up, by 9%.

Overall, book sales when combining physical and digital, have remained the same.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

It Looks Like Ebooks Won’t Kill Print Books After All

2 November 2016

From Slate:

After years of sales growth, major publishers reported a fall in their ebook sales for the first time this year, introducing new doubts about the potential of ebooks in the publishing industry. A Penguin executive even admitted recently that the ebooks hype may have driven unwise investment, with the company losing too much confidence in “the power of the word on the page.”

Yet despite the increasing realization that digital and print can easily coexist in the market, the question of whether the ebook will “kill” the print book continues to surface. It doesn’t matter if the intention is to predict or dismissthis possibility; the potential disappearance of the book does not cease to stimulate our imagination.
Why is this idea so powerful? Why do we continue to question the encounter between ebooks and print books in terms of a struggle, even if all evidence points to their peaceful coexistence?

The answers to these questions go beyond ebooks and tell us much more about the mixture of excitement and fear we feel about innovation and change. In our research, we discuss how the idea of one medium “killing” another has often followed the unveiling of new technologies.

. . . .

This happened again and again. Movies, radio, television, hyperlinks, and smartphones—all conspired to destroy print books as a source of culture and entertainment. Some claimed the end of books would result in cultural regression and decline. Others envisioned utopian digital futures, overstating the advantages of e-books.

It is not by chance that the idea of the death of the book surfaces in moments of technological change. This narrative, in fact, perfectly conveys the mixture of hopes and fears that characterize our deepest reactions to technological change.

. . . .

To understand why these reactions are so common, one has to consider that we create emotional bonds with media as they become an integral part of our life. Numerous studies have shown how people develop a close relationship with objects such as books, televisions, and computers. Sometimes, we even humanize them, giving a name to our car or shouting at our laptop for not working properly.

. . . .

The ones who still worry for the disappearance of print books may rest assured: Books have endured many technical revolutions and are in the best position to survive this one.
Yet the myth of the disappearing medium will continue to provide an appealing narrative about both the transformative power of technology and our aversion to change.

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

Inside the final days of Borders’ bankruptcy

2 November 2016

From RetailDive:

When Mike Edwards stepped onto his flight from New York back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in July 2011, he was the still CEO of the second-largest bookstore chain in the U.S. But the 40-year-old retailer was crumbling fast beneath his feet.

Edwards was in New York that day to submit a plan of reorganization and refinancing for Borders Group Inc. to a bankruptcy judge. Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2011, Edwards spent months courting investors, asking them to throw Borders’ sinking business a buoy of capital.

The deal was 90% done, Edwards thought in the days leading up to that flight. But at 5 p.m. the day before he was going to meet the judge, the CEO found out he would need to file an altogether different document: a plan for liquidation.

“It was at the last minute where [investors] backed out because they weren’t comfortable with the publishers’ support going forward — and they thought that would put the investment at risk, so they pulled the plug,” Edwards told Retail Dive in an interview about his last days as Borders’ CEO.

Up to that point, Edwards maintained optimism that the once family-owned, Michigan-grown bookshop would emerge from its decline into bankruptcy. Under the turnaround plan he was spearheading, the idea was that Borders would come out smaller yet profitable. Now, Edwards found himself coming back to Michigan empty-handed — unsure of what he would tell his waiting employees.

. . . .

At the turn of the century, Borders made a fateful move that looks especially bad in hindsight: The retailer struck a deal with Amazon to sell its books online, and it wasn’t too long afterward that the retailer began to struggle. In the mid 2000s, the company’s finances began to falter despite efforts to turn around the business, such as concept stores and a partnership with Starbucks. Borders lost $157.4 million in 2007 and put itself up for sale a year later.

Mike Edwards, a merchandising veteran with stints at Target and Lucy Activewear among others, first came to Borders in 2008. The retailer had already begun to shed hundreds of stores in its bid to stay afloat, and executives rotated in and out of the CEO position like a game of musical chairs.

Soon, it would be Edwards’ turn. On Jan. 26, 2010, Ron Marshall resigned as Borders Inc.’s CEO after only a year at the helm. The board of directors then tapped Edwards, an executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at the time, to temporarily take over the role.

Edwards became the company’s fourth CEO in five years.

. . . .

Amazon released its first Kindle e-reader in 2007 and it sold out within hours. Over the next few years, the trend grew and eventually culminated with the release of the iPad in 2010 — a device that was “petrifying” to Edwards and Borders’ future.

“The iPad, in a sense, is a Borders store in your hand,” he said. “You have music, you have video and you have books. And you have access to the largest selection in the world and you don’t have to walk to a bookstore.”

. . . .

Most of the decisions that led to the end of Borders were made long before Edwards’ plan to save the business. By the time he became CEO, the company had already spent years employing Amazon to sell its books online and had failed to seize on the e-book trend before it was too late.

. . . .

When Borders finally fell, Edwards said his “eyes were wide open” to what retailers need to do to avoid the pitfalls that led to the bookstore chain’s demise. If there’s just one lesson retailers should take away from Borders’ fall, it’s this: never underestimate a transformational trend.

“What I mean by that is you can be the best ice salesman in America until the refrigerator comes out,” Edwards said. “You can be driving your taxi one day and Uber knocks you out the next day. You can be in the hotel business and then Airbnb can surround you with 20 properties with a great size at a lower cost. I think you have to face the digital impact head on and not go through denial and don’t rely on past tactics to change the trajectory of the company because it doesn’t work anymore.”

The retail industry has evolved rapidly over the last decade thanks to mobile phones and the “looming Amazon effect,” which Edwards says is having a massive impact on all searchable product categories. Store traffic is under tremendous pressure, and for retailers who haven’t already, they need to downsize their store footprints and adopt a digital culture as quickly as possible. From experience, Edwards says crafting the right omnichannel experience for an over-stored traditional retailer is no easy task.

“A lot of retailers, if they are publicly traded, they can’t take that earnings hit, so they just do just enough to have an online presence, an omnichannel presence, develop marketplaces and try to turn their stores into marketplaces,” he said. “But it kind of goes beyond that because now the customer wants a digital relationship with their brands and that’s a very different thinking than the marketing in the past.”

Link to the rest at RetailDive and thanks to Ron for the tip.

Paying to Have and Not to Hold

26 October 2016

From Slate:

Imagine, for a moment, that you want to buy The Complete Works of Primo Levi edited by talented translator Ann Goldstein. If you were to buy a new version of the hardcover collection on Amazon, the price is $58.40. If, however, you decided that rather than adorning your shelves with Levi, you wanted to download it to your e-reader, saving yourself paper and time, you would need to pay $59.49. It would cost you more not to physically own the books.

Of course, it’s just a difference of $1.09. But spend some time on Amazon and a trend becomes clear: Many (though certainly not all) digital versions cost more than their physical counterparts. The Blu-ray Disc of the Christmas classic Love, Actually costs a very reasonable $8.68, but to download and buy the HD version on Amazon Video costs $14.99. (To download and rent it costs $3.99, while a used version is only $2.37). Download Beyoncé’s Lemonade from Apple to your iPhone for $17.99, but get the CD on Amazon for just $15.76.

Certainly this is far from the case in every instance—there are lots of examples of the digital version being cheaper than the physical. But the list will only get longer, raising the question: Why are we increasingly paying more money to notactually have the thing we’re buying? Amazon and Apple acknowledged receipt of but did not respond to requests for comment.

. . . .

For one thing, we’ve reached a point at which it’s the digital version that won’t let us down. Mark Dean, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at Columbia University, surmised in an email that while he could try to create “some clever behavioral econ explanation,” he thinks the real answer is that we are paying more to download because we are learning to trust the digital, easily available version. It used to be that to have the physical copy was to have reliability and consistency. But that isn’t true anymore, he said. The internet is now reliable, and with it Amazon and Netflix. In fact, they’re more durable than thephysical copy, as anyone who has scratched a CD or had a package get lost in the mail or misplaced a beloved book would likely agree.

. . . .

Physical formats, on the other hand, so quickly become outdated. Richard Wilks, anthropologist and co-director of Indiana University’s Food Institute, noted in a phone interview that millennials (of course it’s the millennials) have seen their parents lug VHS tapes to Goodwill. In other words, they have seen, and are currently seeing, the technologies with which they themselves grew up become obsolete. Why pay extra for the DVD when you know your next computer probably won’t have a DVD drive?

This is true, of course, true of movies and music, but not of books. What is true of all three, however, is that the digital version is often more trusted and more convenient, and that the digital is an accepted part of the way we live now.

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

Vistaar is trying to solve the e-book pricing problem

26 October 2016

From GoodEreader:

Major publishers have all reported declining e-book revenue over the past two years. The main problem is that the average price per title has increased from $9.99 to $17.99 for a mainstream bestseller. This has resulted in the paperback being significantly more affordable than the digital edition and readers are gravitatating back to print.  The biggest issue facing publishers is how to make the price of an e-book dynamic, so when the paperback comes out, the price of the e-book price comes down. Vistaar is hoping to solve this problem with their drive optimized price management software to react faster to the latest market trends and effectively scale the price via algorithms.

Bryan Glass the Director of Business Development at Vistaar explained the premise of their technology to Good e-Reader “Vistaar provides pricing software called Market Price Optimization (MPO). MPO prices every title at the right price at the right time. This is accomplished through Vistaar’s pricing framework; Opportunity Driven Price Management.  We start with business rules framework to ensure alignment with strategy and a science based recommendation as a starting point. We provide visual aids and readily available data for decision making as well as a prescriptive opportunity identification to help focus on pricing opportunities. MPO uses self-correcting methodology that ‘learns’ over time and provides continuous price change monitoring & prescriptive course correction.

“Vistaar provides pricing software called Market Price Optimization (MPO). MPO prices every title at the right price at the right time. This is accomplished through Vistaar’s pricing framework; Opportunity Driven Price Management.  We start with business rules framework to ensure alignment with strategy and a science based recommendation as a starting point.”

. . . .

In late October Vistaar established a relationship with Open Road Integrated Media to give their e-book portfolio an advantage by making sure their prices remain competitive.  Matthew Shatz, senior vice president for sales & business development at Open Road commented, “We are at the forefront of innovation in publishing and we are looking for ways to improve our ability to operate in an increasingly dynamic market. With our large e-Book catalog, Vistaar’s technology will enable us to be more market and data driven in our pricing approach and in turn increase sales for our authors and our partners. In Vistaar, we have an ideal partner with proven technology, team and pricing expertise. We’re very pleased to partner with them on this strategic initiative.”

. . . .

“The Open Road deal involves e-books initially with the intention of adding print books at a later date. They wanted to start with digital first since they felt it would make them most impact and then tackle print books later. Our pricing software can handle both physical and digital, it’s a matter of where you want to start, pick an area that makes the most impact or go with a big bang approach.”

. . . .

“With Open Road they paid for the SaaS software license subscription fee upfront, we don’t get a cut of their sales as part of the license fee.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

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