The woman who is trying to create a Netflix for books

26 April 2016

From The Times of India:

You’re pitching Juggernaut as India’s first phone publisher. Did you have to rethink the book for the small screen?

When the idea of Juggernaut first came to me in December 2014, I thought about what the phone can do that the book can’t, and I thought Sunny Leone – delicious stories on the screen. But we’re also turning her stories into a physical book. The idea is – Can the physical and digital talk to each other? Can I take the knowledge of who is going to buy our books on the phone and sell them other books?

Sunny will be appointment reading – one story on your mobile at 10pm every night for a week. But there’s a range of reading on the app, including short works of non-fiction, long serialized forms, and a set of short stories that you can buy one of. The cost will be around half of a physical book’s.

What will be your physical vs digital mix?

If we bring 100 books to digital, about 30 or 40 of those will have physical copies too. It will depend mostly on the book and the writer. When we publish authors Arundhati Roy, Prashant Kishore, Twinkle Khanna, Svetlana Alexievich, we’ll publish both physical and digital. But young authors will be tried and tested on digital first. On the phone, we think, people will come for areas around love, sex and romance – stuff you want privacy for. Crime and fantasy tend to naturally move to electronic so it will be a big part of our list. And there’s always going to be a big component of celebrities. Also, I think the only way to get great books in India is to make them up – I did that in Penguin (she was editor-in-chief) too. For instance, I knew I wanted a book on Aarushi so I went in search of a writer.

. . . .

Why would an author publish with Juggernaut and not self-publish with Amazon?

The question you should be asking is: why is an author coming to me and not, say a Penguin, Harper or a Picador? We’re not competing with Amazon; we’re a traditional publisher who is asking interesting questions about digital.

Link to the rest at Times of India and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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iBooks and iTunes Shut Down in China

22 April 2016

From The New York Times:

For years, there has been a limit to the success of American technology companies in China. Capture too much market share or wield too much influence, and Beijing will push back.

Apple has largely been an exception to that trend. Yet the Silicon Valley company is now facing a regulatory push against its services in China that could signal its good relations in the country may be turning.

Last week, Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies were shut down in China, just six months after they were started there. Initially, Apple apparently had the government’s approval to introduce the services. But then a regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, asserted its authority and demanded the closings, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“We hope to make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible,” an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement.

. . . .

To a degree more than many tech companies, Apple relies on the smooth operation of its software — including its App Store and services like iTunes, which are tightly integrated with the iPhone and iPad — to keep customers coming back to its devices. Apple, which is facing a slowdown in sales of its iPhones, is also reliant on China for growth, so further moves by Beijing to curtail services could crimp sales.

The company counts China as its second-largest market after the United States. Its China numbers will be dissected on Tuesday, when it reports quarterly earnings.

China’s pushback against Apple shows that the company may finally be vulnerable to the heightened scrutiny that other American tech companies have faced in recent years. That scrutiny was spurred by revelations from the former United States National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden in 2013 of the use of American companies to conduct cyberespionage for Washington.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Digital reading driven by older women

17 April 2016

From The Guardian:

Fuelled on a diet of romance and crime, new research claims the digital reading revolution is being powered by “prolific” readers who are predominantly female and over 45.

A study carried out for ebook retailer Kobo suggests that women represent 75% of the most active e-readers – defined as readers who spend at least 30 minutes a day using electronic books.

“They are the engine that powers the industry,” said chief executive Michael Tamblyn. “The industry has intuitively known this, but we wanted to shine a light on it.”

Around 77% of the most active readers – who make up a 10th of Kobo’s 28 million customers – are aged 45 and over, with the largest single group (30%) aged between 55 and 64. Kobo said this makes e-reading “the first technological revolution being driven by [those aged] 45 and older, rather than younger generations”.

. . . .

Kobo found that the average prolific reader used print and digital formats, reading two print books a month, and buying 16 print books a year, as well as 60 ebooks. Some 16% of Kobo’s most enthusiastic customers said they bought an ebook “almost every day”. They overwhelmingly preferred to read romance novels, the retailer reported, with the category accounting for more than twice the number of unit sales as general fiction, the second most popular category. Mystery novels came in third. Prolific readers who chose romance were reading for almost 90 minutes a day, and finding time more than six times a day to settle down with a book.

“Romance tends to be a little bit shorter, and more affordable,” said Tamblyn. “It’s a place where digital has become overrepresented – it’s quite difficult for a bricks and mortar store to stock the range and selection these passionate readers want, as they can’t devote the space to it. So these customers have come much more quickly to digital.”

. . . .

Older women carried less purchasing heft in the print book market, Bohme continued, accounting for 20% by volume in 2015 – a figure influenced by parents buying books for their children. But the enthusiasm among older women for reading revealed by the Kobo survey was matched in figures on library usage.

“Older women are relatively likely to borrow (print) books from public libraries,” Bohme added, “accounting for 32% of borrowers in 2015.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Patrice for the tip.

Baen Books Adds Multiple Book Download Option

16 April 2016

From The Digital Reader:

The SF/Fantasy publisher Baen Books reminded us again this week why they are the only decent ebook retailer outside of Amazon.

Baen has added a new download option to its ebookstore, BaeneBooks.com. We have long had the option of downloading an entire order’s worth of ebooks as a single ZIP file of DRM-free ebooks, and now Baen is letting customers organize a volume download of any of the ebooks in a customer’s account.

Want to download just the 14 ebooks from a certain author? You can do that, and in fact Baen will let you download up to 100 titles at a time, in your choice of DRM-free formats.

And here’s a nifty feature: after you’ve downloaded the ebooks, they are rotated to the end of the list of ebooks in your account.This saves the top of the list for ebooks you have yet to download.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts

15 April 2016

From David Gaughran:

Last month, Amazon was caught up in a crisis at least partly of its own making when bungled attempts to deal with a growing Kindle Unlimited scammer problem resulted in the sanctioning of innocent authors.

Amazon has since apologized, and has also pledged to beef up its response to the KU scamming mess – but questions very much remain about whether Amazon is taking the problem seriously enough. A quick check shows that some of the main scammers are still operating, under the very same author names and book titles that were reported to Amazon in late February and early March. Which is very disappointing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with Phoenix Sullivan about the problem and she told me about something else she was witnessing – scammers taking over the free charts in the Kindle Store.

. . . .

Here’s Phoenix Sullivan with more:

. . . .

Over the Easter weekend, I was watching a carefully orchestrated promotional campaign of Steel Magnolia Press titles. By design, we’re back down to just the original founders of the micropress—Jennifer Blake and myself, with a couple of pen names and about 75 titles between us. Our catalog is currently exclusive to Amazon, meaning we’re all-in in Select and KU. Our promotions are planned to optimize visibility via a mix of Free and Countdown Deals and keep our back and front list afloat for a few weeks, then rinse and repeat.

For our Easter weekend promotion, we had 12 books sharing an ad budget of about $1300. Of that, $365 was allocated to our anchor ad—a BookBub placement for a free box of 3 of Jennifer’s backlist romances. Things were trundling along as expected on Saturday, and the anchor title hit #2 on the freebie list late afternoon. So far, so good.

But a curious thing was happening further up the Top 100 Free list. Two other free books of ours seemed to be garnering enough downloads for ranks that would put them in the Top 100, but they were sitting just outside that visibility. In fact, during the early evening, one of those titles lost a rank. Yes, a single rank, but at #107 with a good history of increasing downloads behind it, that was very telling movement.

Additionally, we had another book in the Top 100 that seemed stalled in the #70s despite increasing downloads that day.

A peek at the full Top 100 Free list revealed why. There were 22 books across 7 author names on the list that didn’t belong. Yet there they were, hanging together as a block, solid from #6 to #27. I saw books of two friends that a couple of hours before had been in the Top 20—and most importantly, on Page 1—shoved back to the #30s and Page 2.

. . . .

The majority of [the titles that suddenly appeared] were children’s picture books and cookbooks, with few to no reviews, keyword-stuffed titles (some with one or two misspelled words in the title), and blurbs that made it clear no English-speaking editor had touched them.

I’d seen this before periodically. A handful of freebies appearing high on the list out of nowhere, usually gone in 24-36 hours, most likely the result of click-farmed downloads.

. . . .

I went to sleep in the wee hours of Sunday morning—after firing off a letter to KDP Support—with our BB-backed freebie firmly ensconced at #2, only to wake up a few hours later to a front page of the Free list completely taken over, from #1 to #22, by those 22 books that didn’t belong.

Take a moment to absorb that. Our title was contemporary romance with a BookBub list of 2.2 million subscribers. That was the only promo site we bought for it, and it garnered about 25K downloads on the US site that day. The book ahead of Jennifer’s was a cozy mystery off a list of 3.3 million subscribers. Both were books by recognizable authors with a solid number of reviews. Yet 22 other books that day managed more than 25K downloads each. Plus the #1 book had zero reviews during the time it was at #1 and no author recognition factor.

That it happened over a weekend, especially a holiday weekend, was likely not a coincidence. Amazon Support is short-staffed on regular weekends, and they move slower to catch and correct.

. . . .

When those gamers steal visibility, they are stealing profits from others, pure and simple. The two books of ours in the Top 100 Free were impacted by the loss of visibility by being knocked back from Page 1 to Page 2 and from Page 5 to Page 7. The two books that hit just outside the list suffered even more from not getting deserved visibility. Not in some abstract, esoteric sense or bragging rights sense, but quantifiable dollars. Ethical authors and publishers are the ones having to pour more and more of our profits into the system to stay ahead of the scammers in terms of visibility.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Dale for the tip.

Here are links to David Gaughran’s books and Phoenix Sullivan’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Amazon to Release New Kindle With Rechargeable Protective Case

6 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. is betting on batteries to drum up more sales of its popular line of Kindle e-readers.

In a first for the Seattle online retailer, Amazon will soon sell a higher-end Kindle with a rechargeable protective case for extended battery life, according to a person familiar with the matter. This removable cover will allow the Kindle to be thinner than earlier devices.

Also under development is a separate Kindle case with a battery that can be charged using solar power. It is unlikely this case will be released in the immediate future, another person familiar with the matter said.

. . . .

The latest devices would help to solidify Amazon’s dominance in e-readers. Rivals likeRakuten Inc.’s Kobo and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook have failed to gain significant traction, in part because of Mr. Bezos’s stated commitment to selling devices at or near cost to keep prices low.

. . . .

Because the devices are durable, one challenge has been compelling readers to buy upgraded versions, according to people familiar with the matter, though Amazon says it is content to make money off e-book sales even for older model Kindles. The company has never released details about Kindle sales.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Pam and others for the tip.

Libraries Call on Multinational Publishers for Fair Ebook Pricing

5 April 2016

From CNW:

Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Ebook Pricing continue to advocate for more reasonable prices and terms for ebooks from multinational publishers with an open letter to Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.

Some multinational publishers charge libraries as much as three to five times more for ebooks than the consumer price, while others place caps and time limits on use. Current ebook pricing models lead to fewer titles and fewer copies for readers to discover, despite booming borrowing rates and high demand.

Public libraries are key players in the publishing industry, both as major purchasers of books and ebooks, and promoters of reading and literacy. With the open letter, libraries are advocating for a pricing model that introduces fairness and flexibility, specifically:

  • A hybrid of existing pricing models that would offer libraries of all sizes the ability to buy the number of copies and also the type of copies (perpetual or limited access) that meet their needs.

The hybrid model includes:

  • A reasonable premium price for ebook copies with ongoing and perpetual access, as the $85 and $100+ pricing is not sustainable.
  • A lower price option for ebook copies with limited access because of time or use restrictions. This pricing should be slightly higher than the consumer price.

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

There’s No One Way to Sell an E-book

4 April 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

As e-books sales soften at the large trade houses, some independent digital (or mostly digital) publishers continue to see their e-book sales grow. Interviews with five independent publishers show a range of publishing practices with the e-books they publish and highlight the ways in which they promote and market their lists. The publishers PW contacted include startup ventures Brown Girls Books and Polis Books, more mature ventures such as Open Road Integrated Media and Diversion Books, as well as Start Media, the acquisitions-driven media content firm, and its Start Publishing division.

These publishers represent widely diverging business models. Open Road focuses almost entirely on digital backlist reissues. Polis Books and Diversion Books, which began as digital-first publishers, now feature a substantial number of print frontlist releases as they move closer to a traditional publishing model.

. . . .

All the publishers interviewed said they continue to see growth in e-book sales overall. These companies also share a number of promotional and marketing strategies—including the use of social media of all kinds and promotional newsletters, the creation of genre-focused online communities, and the building up of backlists.

In an interview at the Open Road offices, CEO Jane Friedman and president Paul Slavin said its e-books sales in the first quarter of 2016 were “doing fine.” Friedman, the former CEO of HarperCollins, emphasized that the Open Road business model—which is focused on backlist titles and occasional original releases—“makes a big difference” in how it sells e-books when compared with larger traditional houses, which are focused primarily on frontlist publishing. “We spend a lot of time marketing backlist, and that’s not what happens at the Big Five,” she said. She also pointed out that consumer “price sensitivity” over the costs of e-books is an issue.

Open Road releases about 200 e-books per month, focusing on the backlists of more than 2,000 authors, including such notable writers as Roger Angell, Thomas Berger, Pearl Buck, Pat Conroy, John Jakes, and Joyce Johnson. The company, Friedman said, now offers more than 10,000 titles, and although it has slowed down its pace of acquisitions, it will release about 1,000 titles in 2016.

Slavin said the Open Road model is centered on title selection, and the house uses sales data and “gut reactions” to pick and promote books. Slavin also pointed to the importance of mobile devices, including larger phones and tablets, pointing to the likelihood of a “uptick in e-book sales” as more people read on phones. “We’re looking to make older books appeal to today’s audiences,” Friedman said, outlining a marketing strategy that focuses on “verticals and milestones” to promote its titles. Milestones, she explained, are “opportunistic” events such as anniversaries of deaths and births, Black History Month, and Women’s History Month, which are useful for promoting titles.

Selling e-books “isn’t magic,” Friedman said. “It’s focus and being aware of anything new that happens even if you have to create the event yourself.” Slavin said that Open Road uses Facebook and social media as well as launching its own online promotions. Those include Early Bird Books, a daily newsletter with discounted e-book offers (with 375,000 subscribers), and the Lineup, a true-crime community site (with books from all publishers) that attracts 2.5 million page views and 1.3 million unique visitors per month. Friedman said Open Road plans to add two more online communities (she declined to specify the verticals), one in late 2016 and another in early 2017.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The Great Transmogrification of Atoms to Bits

3 April 2016

From IEEE Spectrum:

Yes, the print and electronic copies of the same book contain the same words, but it’s obvious to most people (and, increasingly, to researchers) that the two reading experiences are quite different.

We need to understand such differences because the world is going to see a lot more digital data in the near future. This includes born-digital [pdf] data, which is originally created in an electronic format, as well as born-analog data, which starts life as a physical object and then is reborn digital. A great example of this digitization came earlier this year when the New York Public Library announced that it was making more than 180,000 digitized items available to anyone with an Internet connection, no questions asked.

That librarians would turn themselves into digital curators is no surprise, since as analog curators for the past few centuries they have been constantly bumping into the physical constraints of storage space and material decay. One approach is to get rid of stuff, and librarians and archivists employ a pleasing variety of terms related to the removal of unwanted or duplicate material from their collections: Weeding and culling generally refer to the removal of individual items, while purging, screening, and stripping are most often used for the removal of multiple related items. But the main problem with physical materials is that they possess what archivists call, poetically, inherent vice: the tendency for something to deteriorate over time because of some fault in the material itself (for example, the presence of lignin in cheap paper, which causes the paper to yellow) or the way the material reacts with its surroundings (for instance, the fact that bugs eat some books because they’re attracted to the mold that grows in damp paper).

. . . .

Having digitized some data, the archivist now faces a new problem: the eventual obsolescence of the data structures or media used to store the data, necessitating a format migration (or a media migration) to something newer. Copying the data without changing the format or media type is called refreshing.

Link to the rest at IEEE Spectrum

Ahmedabad-based MatruBharti is quenching the thirst of multilingual readers, set to publish ebooks in 21 languages

30 March 2016

From Your Story:

Language and literature had been a soothing presence since childhood days for Gujarat-based Mahendra Sharma. He was a wordsmith even back then and known for his poetry, stories and essays. But the appetite to write more went on the backburner when he decided to pursue a diploma in computer engineering from Government Polytechnic Gandhinagar.

But, even after spending 17 years in the IT industry, Mahendra (37) was yet to have a fulfilling day. In 2014, he decided to finally do something about it and went on to explore his passion by combining literature, language and technology. This led him to start MatruBharti, a self-publishing platform, which publishes 15 to 20 ebooks per day in regional languages. The e-books are available in various categories, such as fiction, non-fiction, biographies, philosophy, motivational essays etc.

. . . .

Mahendra and Nilesh infused a seed capital of Rs 10 lakh and about Rs 40 lakh in three years to develop and market Matrubharti. They had faced multiple rejections from publishers who were of the view that the concept of ebook can harm the business of physical bookstores. For the first six months, they failed to get a single book from any publisher.

On digging deeper, they found the authors to be quite taken with MatruBharti’s concept, but they were not computer-literate. Initially, it took more than six days to publish a single e-book, because the operator had to transcribe the entire script into digital version. The same process took 15 days if the content was of a larger size. Today, MatruBharti publishes 300 ebooks per month.

MatruBharti accepts works in authors’ preferred language for publishing. Each ebook is typically 100 KB and takes 10 to 15 minutes to download.

. . . .

Mahendra explains that there are different payment slots: a minimum payment is given to authors having total downloads of 1,000 and above and the highest is given to authors having total downloads above 50,000.

The startup generates revenue by monetising Google Ads from free readers, subscription fee from premium users, and local ads from local businesses. MatruBharti is growing at a rate of 25 per cent month on month.

The app has seen 36,000 downloads so far with 32,000 active users and nine million screen viewers per month. “Our analytics show that our app has been used in 42 countries,” says Mahendra.

Link to the rest at Your Story

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