Picking a Digital Publishing Format

20 August 2016

From The New York Times:

Q. What is the “best” publishing method for digital books? I don’t want my readership to be limited to users who have Apple devices if I use iBooks Author. Is the .pdf format viable?

A. One major factor in picking the “best” format for publishing your electronic book is finding the format that works best for your book. Depending on where you put your book up for sale, you may also be able to export it into multiple formats to reach the widest audience.

The PDF (Portable Document Format) standard works well for visually oriented books that need a fixed layout to present content effectively — like children’s storybooks, photography books, graphics-heavy textbooks, travel guides and the like. Unlike some other e-book formats, standard PDF files do not allow the text in the book to be resized or to change fonts or to spill onto different pages than originally intended.

. . . .

Apple’s free iBooks Author software for the Mac also includes features for making visually complex interactive books in the company’s iBooks format for iOS devices. While some interactive elements may not work, books created in iBooks Author can be exported to PDF format for use on other mobile platforms.

If your book is mostly text with minimal (or no) visual elements, the EPUB format works on many e-readers, computers and mobile devices.

. . . .

Amazon has its own Kindle Direct Publishing system for creating books (including textbooks) supported by the company’s Kindle e-readers, tablets and apps. Once the book has been properly formatted, it can be sold in the company’s Kindle Store.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Jan for the tip.

This app turns your physical books into free e-books

4 August 2016

From Androidpit:

Shelfie is a free app that provides free and heavily discounted e-book versions of your physical books; an attractive prospect for serious readers. Yet it has fewer than 50,000 downloads and an average Google Play review rating of 3.5 stars. Why isn’t this app – which sounds so appealing, ahem, on paper – more popular? We spoke to Shelfie CEO Peter Hudson to find out.

Here’s the situation. You take a photo – or a Shelfie – of your bookshelf and the app will recognize the book spines to create a digital library. However, not all of your books are likely to be recognized. Of those that are, a portion will be available to download as an e-book. A portion of those will be available for free.

If you install this app expecting to simply take a quick snap of your bookshelf and instantaneously receive a free copy of every title, you’re likely going to be disappointed. This expectation, reasonable or not, is a hurdle for Shelfie.

“For today, if you take a picture of your bookshelf, about 22 percent of the books on that shelf will be from publishers that we have deals with,” Hudson told me during our telephone interview. “You can either say 22 percent is awesome, because it’s something, or 22 percent sucks because it’s not 100 percent.” A number of Google Play reviews reflect the latter.

“Of those 22 books,” Hudson continued, “33 percent, probably around seven books, are going to be outright free […] the rest are going to be insanely discounted.”

That’s the reality of Shelfie right now. In the past five years, Hudson claims he has made 10,000 cold calls to get to this point. The point where three out of the big five book publishers have deals with Shelfie. The point where Shelfie can provide a digital version of 22 percent of the books in a person’s collection for free or at a discount.

. . . .

Hudson believes that if you bought a physical book at full price, you shouldn’t have to pay full price for a digital copy. That’s the vision, but Hudson is challenged with convincing the publishers that this is a good idea as well.

. . . .

“We won’t even list a book unless it’s a 75 percent off discount,” he said. “The average discount is 85 percent”.

In other words, of the e-books they currently have available, Shelfie can provide users with at least 75 percent off the e-book price, providing they can prove that the book is theirs. So, what’s to stop someone going to a library and scanning all the books?

To prove a book is yours, you must scan the barcode, take a picture of the front cover, and write your name inside the book on the copyright page. This is the method which would ultimately convince publishers that a physical book legally belongs to a person.

“It was just so obvious that that was the solution that worked because it meant that the book couldn’t be returned, it meant that the book was identified as yours, it was just such a simple solution [for] validating ownership.”

. . . .

“One of the things that online has never done well is book recommendation,” said Hudson. “If you’re a bookworm, the problem of ‘what book do I read next?’ is a real, persistent problem.”

Hudson discussed Amazon’s ‘customers who bought this also bought’ algorithm for book recommendation, a service which he feels has stagnated. “Literally, that’s as good as online book recommendation has been for twenty years. It literally has not gotten any better.”

Link to the rest at Androidpit


Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House Don’t Want to Talk About Their eBook Sales

31 July 2016

From The Digital Reader:

In past years the Big Five/Six touted their ebook sales as a percentage of total revenue. You sometimes had to dig for the details, but they were there to be found.

That changed this week. Something tells me that they aren’t quite so eager to let us in on just how poor their ebook sales have been since they regained control of their ebook prices in early 2015.

Over the past week three of the Big Five publishers have posted either quarterly, half-annual, or annual reports, and only one even came close to telling a complete story about its ebook sales.

First up is CBS Corp and the few nuggets they shared about Simon & Schuster in the second quarter CBS financial report. Revenues were down overall, and so were ebook sales as a share of said revenues (from 24% last year):

Publishing revenues for the second quarter of 2016 were $187 million compared with $199 million for the same prior-year period. Digital revenues represented 23% of Publishing’s total revenues for the second quarter of 2016. Best-selling titles included End of Watch by Stephen King and Foreign Agent by Brad Thor.

Publishing operating income of $26 million for the second quarter of 2016 was up 4% from $25 million for the same prior-year period, as the revenue decline was more than offset by lower production, selling, and inventory costs.

. . . .

This is the entirety of PRH’s report on ebook revenue stats (aside from a few useless factoids):

Penguin Random House had a solid performance in the first half of 2016 with reduced demand for e-books following last year’s industry-wide digital-terms changes offset by the phasing of further integration benefits.


Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Karen for the tip.

2016 Romance Writers of America RWA PAN Presentation

16 July 2016

From Author Earnings:



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Link to the rest at Author Earnings and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Why is the Iranian government opening the world’s biggest bookstore?

9 July 2016

There is a conundrum facing Iranian officials. The government, on the one hand, wants Iranians to read more. At the same time, with the other hand, it wants to cover their eyes.

Love of the written word is deeply rooted in Iranian society, due to its extraordinary history of arts, sciences and literature. However, Iranians aren’t reading enough. Bookstores in Iran are a rarity, with some 1,500 shops for a population of almost 80 million. There was a time when publishers gave books a print run of 3,300-5,500 copies. Now, the numbers have dropped drastically to 500, sometimes even 300 copies.

That’s why the Iranian government recently announced it would be opening the largest bookstore in the world – by square footage – during the coming months. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this title was held by the Barnes & Noble bookstore in New York City, which covered 154,250ft². Unfortunately, the 5th Avenue flagship store closed down in 2014.

Mahamoud Salahi, the head of the Art and Cultural Organization of Tehran Municipality, announced that Bagh-e-Ketab (the Book Orchard/Garden) will be 484,376ft² (45,000m²), triple the size of the once world-record holder. This bookstore is expected to cater to all walks of life and ages, but will focus on youth and include an auditorium for theatre performances, and four research departments for university professors to hold workshops and study sessions. The Tehran municipality has reportedly already spent 100 billion rials (more than $3 million) on the project.

Much of the reason for Iranians’ lack of interest in reading printed books has to do with censorship. Iran is ranked as one of the top 10 censored countries in the world. When it comes to publishing, the process is very meticulous: it can take months, sometimes years, to pass a book through the country’s Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Books must first be submitted to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to be reviewed by at least one anonymous censor, whose job is to make sure the text follow the rules and regulations of the Islamic Republic – albeit through the censor’s interpretations of the law. The censor’s work is described in Persian as momayezi, a polite word for ‘evaluating’. The process is intricate and usually relies on the use of the ‘Ctrl+F’ approach to find specific words and phrases that might be deemed anti-Islamic, against Iranian security or immoral. For example, the kissing and dancing scenes, as well as any mention of alcohol, are changed in the Persian translation of the Harry Potter series. Sometimes, entire chapters are removed, and certain books never make into print.

To fight censorship, authors and readers at home and abroad are uploading banned books to the internet, where Iranians download them for free. Iraj Pezeshkzad’s classic coming-of-age novel My Uncle Napoleon (1973) and Sadegh Hedayat’s The Blind Owl (1937) are readily available online, together with countless other banned Western titles translated into Persian. This includes Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (2006) and The Blind Watchmaker (1986) as well as TheSatanic Verses (1988) by Salman Rushdie – the very book that caused Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s revolution in 1979, to issue a death fatwa for the author, which is still in place today.

Iranians have also come up with online publishing houses to bring out writer’s works as ebooks, either from their own websites or via apps such as Google Books. The Iran-based Nogaam has published 25 books since 2013, mostly by authors who reside in the country and would otherwise have no chance of being published due to censorship. Books are crowdfunded, and once writers are compensated for their work, the titles become available for free download. Other companies such as Fidibo serve as digital libraries that feature ebooks with publishing permission from the Iranian government.

Read the rest at Aeon.co. And thanks Julia for the tip


Publishing platforms update their apps

1 July 2016

From Talking New Media:

Barnes & Noble also has updated its eBook reading app for NOOK, adding support for its own enhanced book format.

I must note that it is incredible that here we are in mid-year 2016, and Barnes & Noble is finally realizing that they can’t continue to fight Amazon and Apple by pretending that eBooks, and the various forms they will take, will disappear. I have had conversations with B&N managers that were beyond incredible. Denial is too weak a word for what I encountered.

Sadly, B&N should have been a leader in the development of interactive eBooks, but only Apple showed any enthusiasm for the potential – and they stopped caring a couple of years ago.

Nonetheless, here is the update.

What’s New in Version 4.6.0
• Now supporting the Enhanced NOOK Book format (embedded video and audio clips)
• Search and download FREE books (including Free Friday books)
• Search for your books using iOS Spotlight search (iOS9 only)
• Find even more related books in product details page
• Serial Reads: Font Size Control
• New Evening Theme (easier on the eyes at night)
• Bug fixes and performance improvements

Link to the rest at Talking New Media and thanks to MKS for the tip.

Amazon Announces Page Flip– A New Way to Hop, Skim, and Jump through Kindle Books

28 June 2016

From the Amazon Media Room:

Today, Amazon announced Page Flip, a reimagined Kindle navigation experience that makes it easy to explore books while always saving your place. With Page Flip, readers can easily flip back and forth between pages to reference different parts of the book while they read. Page Flip will be delivered as part of a free, over-the-air update starting today to Kindle E-readers, Fire tablets, and the free Kindle app for iOS and Android.

“Page Flip makes it easier than ever to refer back to pictures in a political memoir, flip back and forth between a map and your current page in an epic fantasy series, or find passages you’ve highlighted in an investing guide,” said Chuck Moore, Vice President, Kindle. “With Page Flip, we’ve taken inspiration from how people read print books and improved upon it.”

. . . .

Zoom out to get a bird’s eye view of the book and quickly find what you’re looking for. At a glance, easily recognize specific pages as you jump around. Pictures, charts, your highlights, and the layout of each page are easy to see with Page Flip’s pixel-accurate thumbnails that automatically adjust as you change your font and margin settings.

. . . .

Page Flip automatically saves the page you’re reading in a book, pinning it to the side of your screen for easy navigation. Flip back and forth in a book with confidence, knowing you can instantly jump back to reading with a simple tap of your pinned page.

“As an author, I love knowing that my work is presented with fluid clarity, freeing my readers from the page shuffling that can cloud and spoil the narrative,” said Laura Hillenbrand, best-selling author of Unbroken. “With Page Flip, books become vastly more accessible, navigable, interactive, and enthralling. As a ravenous reader and scholar, I savor the ease with which Page Flip allows me to keep thumbnails of maps and diagrams, my notes and highlighted passages, and bookmarked pages before me as I read, so that all I wish to see is accessible with the tap of a finger and my focus never has to leave the storytelling.”

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Here’s Amazon’s Page Flip Page


Book Length, Cliffhangers, and the Economics of Paper Publishing

27 June 2016

From M.C.A. Hogarth:

This issue comes up often enough that I think having a permanent post about it would be good. Here it is then: “Why does Jaguar write so many cliffhangers! It’s annoying!”

I feel your pain, my readers. I, too, dislike cliffhangers. (Actually, I hate them.) But as Business Manager Jaguar implies, this is an economic issue, not an artistic one… or rather, a place where art and practical reality collide, and art loses.

Physical books have a presence. We know this because when we rhapsodize about them, it’s what we talk about: their weight, their heft, their smell, the sight of them, the sound of the pages whispering as we ruffle them. But in particular, I want to talk about weight, because this is a primary point of interaction between the reader and the material. The weight of a book will influence how long you want to hold the book, how comfortable you are while reading it, and the ability of the book—the physical object—to disappear and the story to seem to form in your head without aid. If the book is too large or too heavy, you will get dragged out of the story when your wrists or arms start complaining. Likewise, if the book is too small, eyestrain will pull you away.

. . . .

Here, then, is the takeaway: If you write big stories, stories that take hundreds of pages to unravel, you will quickly run into the problem that they don’t fit into a comfortable-sized print book.

What do you do, then?

Some publishers handle this by decreasing the font size and the whitespace of the layout. You can squeeze a lot of text into a “four-hundred page” book if you mess with those variables. For a while, in fact, this is what I did in order to make my books more handy. But I had one reader tell me one day, “I really wish you would make the font bigger on your print books. I find them hard to read.”

. . . .

So here’s the rock and the hard place: my choice is to fit an entire story into a single package and have it be impossible to read and uncomfortable to hold, or to break up a story into bits that might not have satisfactory endings. If you’ve read commercial series fiction, you know the choice that publishers have historically made: they chop the books up. (Lord of the Rings is a famous example.) Despite hating cliffhangers with a passion, I too found myself making the same choice, and consoling myself that at least I wrote fast enough that my readers wouldn’t have to wait long for the conclusion of the story.

But wait! you say. E-books aren’t affected by length at all! Why don’t you break up the story into pieces for the print books, but have the e-book sold as a single story?

Would that I could! But unfortunately, when you post books for sale, they’re linked to their various editions. This is not just a computer/sales/data issue, but a reader issue. Say you’re a reader who read the (enormous uncut) e-book version of The Godkin Saga, a story that was cut into two volumes, Flight of the Godkin Griffin and The Godson’s Triumph. You enjoyed that book and want the print book because you’d like to see the illustrations on paper. You go to Amazon and there’s no print edition linked to the e-book edition that you bought. Confused, you search for ‘godkin hogarth’ and discover there are two other books with different names (Flight of the Godkin Griffin and The Godson’s Triumph) with print editions but no e-book editions. Are these sequels? If you buy Flight, does that include everything you remember from The Godkin Saga? Or do you need Triumph as well? You try buying one of them, receive it, and are extremely irritated to discover that it’s not the entire book. Now you feel Extremely Cheated.

Link to the rest at M.C.A. Hogarth

Here’s a link to M.C.A. Hogarth’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Purchased by accident? Cancel Order

27 June 2016

From Trout Nation:

On April 26th, I bought Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful on my Kindle Fire. On May 2nd, I still had the option to return it. I’m not a fast reader, and honestly, I haven’t even cracked it open yet (I read it years ago, before it went out of print, and desperately needed it in my library again), but when my eyes were younger and my attention span longer, I could have easily devoured it in a few days, with room to spare to request that Amazon return my money.

Amazon will refund readers for an e-book purchase within seven days, regardless of how much content has been read. At first glance, this might seem like good customer service. I’ve certainly thought so in the past when I’ve accidentally purchased a digital duplicate copy of a paperback I already owned. Still, this is something I’ve done rarely–twice, if I remember correctly–and each time I worried that my return might affect the book’s sales ranking.

Other people, it seems, do not feel that kind of guilt. Last week, a story circulated on social media that outraged readers, writers, and book bloggers alike. An author (who appears to have removed their original post) received an email from a reader who, writer M.A. Knopp reports, wasn’t happy with the price point of the books they’d enjoyed:

Dear Ms. Author.

I really like your books. I think they are well-written and I enjoyed reading them. (So far, so good, right? Hang on.) However, I have returned them all because you priced them at $0.99 to $2.99, and that is too much to pay for them. I can’t afford to pay that much for a book, even though I liked it. In the future, can you make sure you make all your books free so I don’t have to return them?

Free e-books, which were once considered a promotional tool or a gift from authors to their loyal readers, are now an expectation. Despite the endless options for free digital reading from sites like Wattpad and An Archive Of Our Own, some readers feel that all content should be free, regardless of whether or not the author is a professional who relies on writing for their income.

. . . .

On the surface, Amazon return scams seem no different from piracy. But whereas readers who pirate ebooks seek out a particular torrent with a title already in mind, Amazon’s return policy allows unscrupulous readers to browse at their leisure and easily download the content to their devices.

Author Bianca Sommerland understands the difference between piracy and what’s happening at Amazon: “With pirates, it sucks. It’s horrible, but those people aren’t buying books. That isn’t money I would have made. They wouldn’t have given me a cent.”

. . . .

The results of an informal survey asking authors to report their April sales and returns showed numbers ranging anywhere from 1.2% in overall returns, to a whopping 40.1%. Losing 40% of a monthly income would be devastating to any household; to authors, it could mean future releases are spaced out further or cancelled altogether.

The timing of the returns is also particularly cruel. Author Stella Price reported that her return rate can be devastating during the week of a book’s release, usually the most financially profitable time for an indie author: “I might end up selling 70, but I have 20-30 returned in a day.” It’s become such a problem that it has influenced Price’s recent decision to stop publishing in the e-book market. It’s a choice that has made some of her readers unhappy, but with such a high digital return rate, she sees no other option.

That’s not to say that all returns are fraudulent. Books purchased by accident in the Kindle app can be easily returned within seconds by clicking a link on the purchase screen. Honest mistakes happen; anyone can fumble their device and hit the One-Click button. But not all mistakes are so honest.

“I had a group of at least 5 returns on each book in the Cobra series last month,” Sommerland says. “They came close together. Maybe I’m imagining things, but the way they were spaced, it seemed like the books were read, then returned as each person in this group finished the book.”

Link to the rest at Trout Nation

Typography Aficionados Still Not Happy With Kindle Fonts

26 June 2016

From The Digital Reader:

Typography snobs have never been happy with ebooks. Even though ebooks in their modern incarnation are less than two decades old, the snobs still object to the fact that the current ebook tech can’t equal the beauty of a paper book. Never mind that a paper book draws on a couple thousand years worth of art and engineering, ebooks still don’t measure up.

Design Week was inspired by the launch of the new basic Kindle this week to ask what a couple typography experts thought of Amazon’s new fonts, Ember and Bookerly.

. . . .

One of the responses caught my eye, and not in a good way. Edenspiekermann co-founder Erik Spiekermann expressed a disappointing view ebooks:

“The Bookerly typeface is lovely and appropriate but nothing new for book designers. The layout also looks like a proper book page, albeit with bad hyphenation – 4 hyphens in a row already on the first page!”

“In other words, a page on a Kindle has finally almost achieved the look we’ve had in books for 500 years. But it still runs out of batteries, cannot be read in bright light and won’t survive a fall.”

Yes, folks, he thinks a Kindle can’t be read in sun light and won’t survive a fall, and he faults ebooks because in  twenty years they have not achieved the same progress that paper books made in a millennia and a half.

That’s why Spiekermann  thinks ebooks are doomed.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader


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