Ebooks

Leaked Windows 10 build shows Microsoft filling a major content hole: Ebooks

19 January 2017

From PC World:

For years, Microsoft has sold movies, TV shows, and music, in addition to apps—but not ebooks. A leaked Windows 10 build, however, shows Microsoft plans to shore up that gap in an upcoming release.

The leaked build obtained by MSPowerUser reveals a dedicated section of the Windows Store where Microsoft plans to sell ebooks alongside its other content. According to the site, there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated Books app yet, just integration with Microsoft’s Edge browser, which will serve as the viewer application for the new ebooks.

Microsoft declined to confirm the new Books section, but a representative seemed to imply that new information could be coming soon. “The Windows Insider Program was created to enable Microsoft to test different features and functionality which will influence future versions of Windows,” the representative said in an emailed statement. “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans. Stay tuned for more information soon.”

Why this matters: If it’s going to succeed as a content provider, Microsoft simply has to have a presence in the ebook market. Whether it succeeds is, for now, irrelevant. Microsoft’s online storefronts aren’t much to write home about, but the Xbox Store is successful, and Microsoft’s Groove Music subscription isn’t bad, either.

. . . .

Microsoft has been easing its way toward ebooks. As MSPowerUser notes, Microsoft began adding support for the EPUB ebook format last year to Edge, paving the way for the new addition to the Store. You’ll be able to change the size and font of the text as well as add your own bookmarks. It remains to be seen, though, whether you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off when shifting from your phone to your PC and back again, as apps like Amazon’s e-reader do. A listing page shows both PC and mobile support for the ebooks, though, as you’d expect.

Microsoft clearly has its work cut out for it. Amazon has been virtually synonomous with ebooks for years, currently offering 10.9 million titles. Its Kindle Unlimited subscription makes over 1.4 million ebooks available to users for $10 per month, while Amazon Prime subscribers have access to “thousands.”

Link to the rest at PC World and thanks to Randall and several others for the tip.

PG says competition keeps everybody sharp.

Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

19 January 2017

From Observer.com:

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

 

. . . .

E-books, Data Guy told the crowd, “Never stopped growing.”

It looks as though sales stuttered because traditional publishers have been losing market share to indie authors who publish directly through online platforms. Amazon is by far the largest of these platforms.

. . . .

Reports on the e-book market tend to ignore Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s Netflix for ebooks. Amazon splits up each month’s Kindle Unlimited revenue among participating authors based on how many pages members read.

Science-fiction author Hugh Howey said that being part of the program increased his revenue so much that it was worth pulling his books from all other platforms, such as Kobo and iBooks.

Data Guy acknowledged that some industry watchers might argue that a Kindle Unlimited download isn’t really a sale, but Author Earnings takes the position that any money in a writer’s pocket counts.

. . . .

 

Local book stores saw a 5 percent growth in sales last year, but every other channel (such as big stores, Walmart and etc) saw a 5 percent decline. Those channels were so much larger that local stores’ growth was more than made up for by the declines everywhere else. “Perhaps 10 fold,” Data Guy said.

Let’s hear it for your favorite local shop, but the truth is that Amazon has been the one closing those new print sales.

 

Link to the rest at Observer.com and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Open Road CEO Hails ‘Tremendous’ Performance in 2016

14 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

In a year-end letter to staff, Open Road Integrated Media CEO Paul Slavin praised ORIM employees for a year of “consistent and continuous revenue growth,” marked by a 23% increase in fouth quarter revenue and a 14% increase in gross profits.

Praising staff for performing “tremendously,” Slavin wrote that Open Road Integrated Media, an e-publishing and digital marketing operation, “showed better-than-expected earnings across the board in revenues from e-books, print, distribution, subsidiary rights, and affiliate.” The company reported an average quarterly revenue growth of about 8.5% and “year-over-year gross profits increased by nearly 14%,” Slavin said.

ORIM specializes in publishing, marketing, and distributing a backlist of e-books by a distinctive group of acclaimed authors. Slavin highlighted “17 backlist e-books hitting the Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller lists.”

Pointing to ORIM’s founding principle—“you can bring great backlist to the forefront again”—Slavin said: “Our acquisitions selection process has been honed to a highly competitive edge, and thousands of backlist titles have undergone a complete transformation of descriptive copy, metadata, and cover design.”

. . . .

Early Bird Books, ORIM’s daily deals e-book newsletter, generated the biggest growth in revenue, increasing by 232% year-over-year, which was 40% over budget. ORIM newsletters reach more than 650,000 consumers, and the company has more than 3 million social media followers. Direct-to-consumer businesses, Slavin said, contributed 7.6% of total revenue in 2016, and those businesses are expected to continue to offer “significant” growth in 2017.

ORIM also operates a network of genre-focused websites, among them the Line Up (True Crime/Horror) and the Portalist (science fiction/fantasy), that attracted 22 million users in 2016.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Here’s Another Way Digital Could Complement Print

10 January 2017

From Digital Book World:

As I’ve said before, the publishing industry needs to get beyond the current “print or digital” mindset and instead explore ways for one to complement the other. Plenty of industry stats show that most readers are comfortable with either format and that many prefer the convenience of switching between the two (e.g., reading the news digitally but mostly sticking with print books).

After several years of going exclusively digital with books, I have to admit I’ve been reading a few more print books lately as well. Sometimes it’s because the book was given to me, and other times I simply opted for the format that was right in front of me at the store.

What I’m finding, though, is that the reading experience would be better if we could narrow the gap between print and digital. Here’s a great example: As I continue reading The Content Trap, I’m highlighting more and more passages. When I do that with an ebook, I can quickly search and retrieve those highlights using my phone, my iPad or whatever device is handy. With print books, however, those highlights and notes are only accessible if the physical book is nearby.

I’d love to see someone develop a service where I can take pictures of the print pages with my yellow highlights and allow me to upload them to a cloud service where they’ll be converted to a digital format. Since I’ve now got a nice library of both Kindle and Google Play ebooks, it would be even better if I could add those print highlights to my existing bookshelves.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says he finds it quite simple to use his phone to take photos of printed documents (or pages) he wants to keep, then save them to Dropbox and/or Evernote, where they’re stored in digital form in the cloud and on each of his computers if he needs them offline. Evernote even performs OCR on the document so it’s full-text searchable.

If PG wants to have a printed document (or photo) automatically transformed into a cleaner image, he takes a photo with his phone using an app called PhotoScan from Google. PhotoScan automatically improves the quality of the image, frames it properly in the photo, instantly uploads it to Google Photos in the cloud and saves it to his phone’s camera roll.

He doesn’t get any OCR or text searching capabilities with the PhotoScan documents, but nothing prevents him from sending those documents from his phone to Dropbox.

2017 Book Industry Predictions: Intrigue and Angst amid Boundless Opportunity

8 January 2017

From Mark Coker via Smashwords Blog:

If you could see into the future, what would you do to change it?

Each year I polish off my imaginary crystal ball and attempt to divine how the boiling crosscurrents of technology, competitive intrigue, author aspirations, and reader tastes will shape the opportunities facing authors, publishers and retailers for the year ahead.

. . . .

2017 will mark a special milestone for the ebook industry.  It marks the ten year anniversary of the Kindle.  It’s also the ten year anniversary of Smashwords’ incorporation.  In early 2007, after three years of crafting our business plan, I hired our first programmer and began active development on the Smashwords platform which we launched in early 2008.

Although my prediction track record has been pretty good over the years (see the end of this post for a complete list of my past predictions), my overarching objective is not to be correct.  Instead, these predictions are meant to spark conversation and contemplation.

. . . .

Before we get into my ten predictions for 2017, let’s take a moment to review the amazing transformational change over the last decade, and celebrate how far the indie author movement has come in such a short period of time.

Ten years ago traditional publishers controlled the means of book production, distribution and sales.  It was a print-centric world where print books accounted for 99.8% of book sales, and where publishers were the bouncers at the pearly gates of authordom.

Publishers controlled which writers graduated to become published authors, which books readers could read, which authors remained in print, and which authors would be allowed to publish another book.

. . . .

In the last ten years ebooks took off.  Ebooks today account for maybe 25% of book sales, up from essentially nothing a decade ago.  In genres like romance, the percentage is much higher.

When I look back at the rise of the indie author movement the last ten years, romance authors and their readers have always led at the tip of the spear.  They were first to embrace the indie ebook publishing, the first to achieve significant commercial success as indies, and the first to pioneer many of today’s best practices for ebook publishing and promotion.

Romance authors – predominantly women – are the some of the smartest players in this business, and their readers are the most coveted and voracious.  These are the readers who often read a book a day.

Romance authors are the canaries in the coal mine.  Romance authors were first to benefit from the rise of ebooks and the first to experience the deleterious effects when the market became saturated.  They’ve also been the first to fall prey to some of the more troubling developments in the industry now affecting writers and publishers in every category.

In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of writers have joined the indie author movement, drawn by the advantages of self-publishing ebooks.  What are these advantages?  In a nutshell, indie authors enjoy faster time to market, greater global distribution, complete creative control, greater pricing and promotion flexibility, greater opportunity to serve their readers with high-quality low-cost ebooks, and the opportunity to earn royalty rates up to five times higher than what the traditional publishers pay.

. . . .

1.  Indie authors will continue to capture greater ebook market share in 2017 

Indies will capture a greater share of digital reading in 2017.  Factors driving this include:

  • Each year the indie author community raises its game to become more sophisticated and more professional.  Indies are learning to implement – and in many cases pioneering – the best practices that motivate readers to choose one ebook over another.
  • Indie ebook authors combine quality with lower prices, providing readers tremendous reading value.
  • Even though indie ebooks are already low-priced, indie authors have greater flexibility to lower prices further than do the large publishers.  This is a mixed blessing.  This also means indies are vulnerable to some of the greatest devaluation pressures because indies don’t wield the collective bargaining power of large publishers.

2.  The glut will grow more pronounced

Over the last few years here at the Smashwords blog I’ve talked a lot about how there’s a glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks.  These ebooks are immortal and will never go out of print.  Thanks to low-cost virtual shelf space, retailers can stock these ebooks forever – even if the books don’t sell.  Although it’s great that your book will forever occupy the shelf, and forever be discoverable and purchasable by new readers, it also means that the virtual shelves are becoming more overcrowded every day.   The major ebook retailers each stock millions of ebook titles in their online stores, with Amazon fast approaching five million titles.  Every day from yesterday forward it will become more challenging to stand out, which leads me to my third prediction.

. . . .

10.   Amazon to face anti-trust scrutiny for unfair business practices

This is a long shot, but in the spirit of prediction folly I’m going to go out on a limb here.  In anti-trust law, there’s nothing illegal about operating a monopoly (where you have exclusive control over a commodity and can manipulate prices) or a monopsony (when there’s only one major buyer).  What’s illegal however, is when a company exploits their monopoly or monopsony for unfair business advantage that makes it impossible for other competitors to compete on a level playing field.

Amazon defenders will argue that Amazon is a brilliant competitor and innovator, and that those who think Amazon plays unfair should stop whining and start innovating.  But this argument rings hollow.  The other retailers have innovated, and continue to innovate.  I work with them.  I see it.  This specious argument by Amazon defenders confuses market share for commitment.  If Kobo earns authors 1/10th of what they earn at Amazon, it’s not necessarily a failing of Kobo, it’s a function of market share.  If you decide to open an indie ebook store specializing in personalized recommendations for cookbooks, the fact that you can’t grow sales to billions of dollars overnight is not a failure to innovate.

One industry watcher explained Amazon’s anti-competitive business practices to me with an analogy about trains, which I’ll paraphrase and expand upon:

Let’s say you own the railroad network that connects farms to the largest marketplace (which your railroad also owns) 1,000 miles away where 70% of corn is bought and sold; and your railroad also owns some corn fields along the rail lines.  If the railroad operator decides to give its own corn first priority on shipments, then their corn will reach the market first while the corn of other producers spoils or is late to market.  If the railroad also gives its own corn preferential display in the marketplace, or if it denies other producers the option to sell under favorable terms in their marketplace, or gives them poor placement within the marketplace, then what are the other farmers to do?  Shame on the other farmers for not buying their own railroad or operating their own marketplace!

Bringing this back to Amazon, Amazon operates the world’s largest ebook retailer providing access to 70% of the world’s ebook readers.  They operate their own publishing imprints.  This means Amazon has the ability to give its exclusive titles first class priority on the train and in the marketplace, and they do.  They operate the Kindle store where all books are allowed but exclusive KDP Select books and Amazon-imprint books are given preferential store placement.  They operate marketplaces such as Kindle Unlimited where only exclusive books are available and non-exclusive books are shut out.  Shame on you Mr. Retailer or Ms. Author for failing to innovate.

This is anti-competitive and unfair, and these facts have led some anti-trust experts to conclude that the only way to solve this problem is for Amazon to be broken up into smaller, independent companies that operate at arms length.

Amazon has so far been able to skirt anti-trust scrutiny by arguing that the network they operate benefits consumers because of Amazon’s track record of lowering consumer prices for ebooks, and this is very true.

But what about the producers?  Do they have any rights?  You’re a producer, you tell me.

Link to the rest at Smashwords

The Italian e-book market is on the rise

27 December 2016

From GoodEreader:

The Italian publishing market has experienced a 21% increase in e-book sales in the first six months of 2016. One of the big reasons why the number of units sold is so high, is primarily due to the sheer number of titles that have been digitized. 65,000 print books were released and of those, 63,000 were converted into e-books.

The e-book market in Italy has been growing significantly in the past four years. The Italian Publishers Association has cited that in 2015 almost 4.7 million people claim to have read at least one e-book in the last three months, which equates to 8.2% of the total population.

. . . .

The average price of an e-book is €6.65, whereas a new hardcover book will cost on average of €18.41 and paperbacks retail for €10.39.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

Amazon Mark-downs on NYT Bestsellers

26 December 2016

Amazon is marking down Kindle versions of a variety of New York Times Bestsellers and lots of other books as well. Supposedly, the sale ends today.

Here’s the link. You’ll see the Holiday Deals below the Shop by Category listings.

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

 

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