Ebooks

Got Workflow? Step by Step to Better Books

16 October 2014

From book formatter and TPV regular JW Manus:

Sloth is my deadly sin of choice. But you know what they say, If you want to figure out the fastest, most efficient means of getting a job done, find a lazy person. That’s me. I want to get my work done for the day so I can kick back with a can of Pringles and watch Gordon Ramsay on Hulu.

Producing books for public consumption is not nearly as difficult, complicated or time-consuming as writing them in the first place. Even so, it is a real job (as opposed to an afterthought) and it takes some skill and planning. To do the job right–produce a great product–requires a workflow that makes sense and doesn’t involve anybody’s head exploding.

. . . .

The very first thing I do when I receive a manuscript is create a project folder and do a Save As of the original. Save As is important. There is no reason to NOT make multiple copies of the file. Your computer has plenty of room, and there will be cases when you NEED a previous version. I’ve come up with a file-naming system that helps me keep track of the files. I date the versions, too.

. . . .

I scan through my version of the original .doc file and make styling notes (chapter heads, special formatting). I note hyperlinks and images placement. Then I use Find/Replace to tag italics, bolding and underlining.

. . . .

I Select All and Copy, then transfer the text into a text editor. Here I do a thorough cleanup which includes finding “illegal” characters, deleting extra spaces, tidying special formatting (italics etc.), and making sure the punctuation is “printer” punctuation and not “manuscript” punctuation. I also start a simple text file that is called “Notes_…” where I jot down the table of contents entries, any special formatting required, and other bits.

. . . .

I always save the POD version for last. Production takes longer, not only in layout and design, but because it takes time for CreateSpace or Ingrams to approve the files, the cover has to be custom fit, then a proof edition ordered, mailed and gone over. It can take a few weeks. While this is being done, the writer/publisher can already have uploaded and started selling the ebook.

Link to the rest at JW Manus and thanks to Cal for the tip.

Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?

12 October 2014

From Douglas Quenqua at the New York Times

. . .

For years, child development experts have advised parents to read to their children early and often, citing studies showing its linguistic, verbal and social benefits. In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised doctors to remind parents at every visit that they should read to their children from birth, prescribing books as enthusiastically as vaccines and vegetables.

On the other hand, the academy strongly recommends no screen time for children under 2, and less than two hours a day for older children.

At a time when reading increasingly means swiping pages on a device, and app stores are bursting with reading programs and learning games aimed at infants and preschoolers, which bit of guidance should parents heed?

. . .

Part of the problem is the newness of the devices. Tablets and e-readers have not been in widespread use long enough for the sorts of extended studies that will reveal their effects on learning.

Dr. Pamela High, the pediatrician who wrote the June policy for the pediatrics group, said electronic books were intentionally not addressed. “We tried to do a strongly evidence-based policy statement on the issue of reading starting at a very young age,” she said. “And there isn’t any data, really, on e-books.”

But a handful of new studies suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.

. . .

Of course, e-book publishers and app developers point to interactivity as an educational advantage, not a distraction. Many of those bells and whistles — Clifford’s bark, the sleepy narration of “Goodnight Moon,” the appearance of the word “ham” when a child taps the ham in the Green Eggs and Ham app — help the child pick up language, they say.

. . .

Read the full article at the New York Times

The criticisms in the article seem to be directed at enhanced e-books of the sort that feature animation, narration, and extras. Neither the author nor the experts he quotes seems to know that there is such a thing as electronic books for children that function pretty much like paper books.

Welcoming-a-returning-PG vacation guest post by Bridget McKenna

HarperCollins Signs Deal With Bookmate – but Not Kindle Unlimited

9 October 2014

From Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader

Bookmate, which is primarily focused on Russia and ebook markets in eastern Europe, will now be able to offer its 1.5 million users ebooks published by HC. No one is talking specifics on the numbers, but the press release does say that “books by hundreds of authors, including CS Lewis are included in the deal”.

. . .

But I will note that Bookmate has a deal which Amazon has not yet secured for Kindle Unlimited. Following the deal between S&S and Denmark-based Mofibo, this is the second time in only a couple weeks that a smaller ebook subscription service scored a contract with a major US trade publisher which Amazon could not get.

. . .

This trend, if it exists, could well explain the speculation that Amazon is about to open up Kindle Unlimited to all KDP authors – with no exclusivity required. This would give Amazon a significantly larger catalog, and what’s more the idea is already getting positive responses from some indie authors.

. . .

Read the full article at The Digital Reader

So far we have only rumors and report of a possible tech glitch to support the opening up of KDP to all indies, but Nate Hoffelder lending weight says it’s still fertile ground for speculation.

Holding-the-digital-fort vacation guest post by Bridget McKenna

 

Have we fallen out of love with e-readers?

7 October 2014

From Caroline Corcoran at the Independent via The Digital Reader

“Print is where words go to die.” So went the theory in 2007 when Amazon launched the Kindle. . . .

But while it’s true that e-books show no signs of disappearing – the new Kindle Voyage launches next month hot on the heels of the “Kindle Unlimited” subscription service that came to the UK last month – neither does print.

Recently, I realised that I had become so addicted to the speed of new book buying on my Kindle that I had barely bought anything in print in the past year. . . .and I was sad that such great books were missing from my bookshelves. Worse than that, though, was a feeling that plots had started to blur, even with books that I had loved. The only way I could explain it is that they had never had a physicality.

So I decided to go back to books. On my first trip to Waterstones, I left with a hardback of the new Howard Jacobson that there is absolutely no way I can take on the bus. But I don’t care – somehow a story like that should have weight, and it feels so luxurious to get into bed and prop up that beast of a dystopia on my knees.

More at the Independent, including facts and figures about “falling ebook sales.”

Filling-in-for-PG vacation guest post by Bridget McKenna

Finally, a Big 5 publisher raises digital royalties

3 October 2014

From Laura Hazard Owen at GIGAOM

Digital royalties have been one of the major sticking points in the debate over traditional vs. self-publishing, with many people (even from the traditional publishing world) arguing that big publishers should raise digital royalties on ebooks to at least 50 percent. Nonetheless, until now, publishers’ standard royalty on new ebooks has been stuck at 25 percent.

****
“While our first priority is to sell books through as many different retail channels as possible, we are pleased to provide this platform for our authors who want to sell directly,” Brian Murray, HarperCollins president and CEO, said in a statement. In a veiled reference to the ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette and/or foreshadowing of similar disputes between Amazon and HarperCollins, he said, “Our authors can also be certain that their books will always be available to consumers through HarperCollins, even if they are difficult to find or experiencing shipping delays elsewhere.”

****

Nonetheless, it’s a step and it’s not difficult to imagine it expanding. Now let’s watch and see whether other big publishers do the same thing.

See the full article at GIGAOM

From Guest Blogger Randall

Speaking in the third person (as is tradition he thinks) Randall says 35% was still less than 70% last time he checked.

Amazon looks to launch e-books in Netherlands

24 September 2014

From Reuters:

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc is in talks with a number of Dutch publishers to sell e-books in the Netherlands, the Financial Times reported, citing a Dutch publisher.

“Within the book trade it has been a recurring message that Amazon might enter the market. But now Amazon has actually been in touch and so we are getting close,” the report quoted Sander Knol, the director of Xander, a Dutch publisher that has been approached by Amazon.

. . . .

Although the Netherlands does not allow print books to be sold below their cover price, posing a problem for Amazon that regularly sells books at discounts, there is no cap on how retailers can price e-books.

Link to the rest at Reuters

Apple and Amazon Take Baby Steps Toward Digital Sharing

19 September 2014

From The New York Times Bits blog:

Quietly nestled in Apple’s new iOS 8 mobile operating system is a feature called Family Sharing.

It lets you share books, movies, music and apps that you’ve bought at iTunes, iBooks and the App Store with up to six members of your family who are logged in using their own iTunes accounts.

So if you bought a song, app or book you really like, and you want to share it with your spouse or child or maybe a sister, you can register their email addresses with Apple and enable limited sharing of digital media.

Amazon announced a similar feature on Wednesday called Family Library, although it applies only to digital books, apps, movies and TV, and audiobooks bought through Amazon or its Prime Instant Video service — not music. And the sharing is restricted to the accounts of two adults and four children.

In theory, these services sound like a great benefit because if you’re an Apple user you don’t have to let your family log in with your iTunes account.

. . . .

But this seemingly generous allowance could also be viewed as a limit that’s a result of rigid copyright laws and licensing restrictions.

In the physical world, you can share a book or DVD or CD that you bought with as many friends and family as you like. You can even sell those items if you want, thanks to the first sale doctrine.

But digital media has been excluded from that doctrine, because, essentially, when you buy a digital song or movie or book, you’re being granted a license to use that media, but you don’t actually own it.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Authors receive higher royalties on new HC website

4 September 2014

From The Bookseller:

Authors who have e-books sold through the HarperCollins website will receive a higher net royalty than if they were sold through another site, the publisher has confirmed.

HarperCollins unveiled its new site last week, which features a direct-to-consumer function, allowing visitors to the site to download e-books to read through a free HarperCollins app.

. . . .

The publisher has confirmed that authors will earn more through direct e-books sales through the site. A spokesperson said: “I can confirm that authors’ net royalty is higher on e-books sold through our website because we don’t have to share a commission with a third party.”

However, HarperCollins would not say what the exact rate was.

The new website offers a range of discounts on titles, although Amazon offers a higher discount on those titles.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Under a typical New York publishing contract, the author receives 25% of the net revenues received by the publisher for ebook sales.

For an ebook sold through Amazon at a 70% price level, this translates to about 17% of the sales price of the ebook before agent’s fees.

PG assumes that ebook sales through the HC website will pay the author a 25% royalty based on the discounted price for which HC sells the ebook.

This should be the case for direct sales by almost every major publisher, except Harlequin, which generally pays less because sells through an affiliated HQ company instead of directly through the corporate entity named in the publishing contract.

The Proof is in the Proofreading

1 September 2014

From TPV regular JW Manus:

My biggest gripe with ebooks is a lack of proofreading.

. . . .

When I produce an ebook I have two hard and fast rules, Number One: squeaky clean text going into production. Number Two: the ebook must be proofread post-production. I charge people to proofread their ebooks for them, and a lot of clients take me up on it, but I’m more than happy for the writer to do it him/herself or hire a third party.

. . . .

Even though proofreading is essential, some would like to argue that they can skip it. They’ve already polished the manuscript to a high gloss, even had a professional editor have a crack at it, and, in some cases I’m sure, they are sick to death of that particular project and want to get on to something else. I get that. Been there. Even so, it’s part of being a publisher and it must be done.

Before I continue, let me explain what proofreading is NOT:

  • It’s not copy-editing
  • It’s not line-editing
  • It’s not editing at all

What proofreading IS:

  • Format checking
  • Typo searching
  • Error seeking

Link to the rest at JW Manus

Disruptive Innovation Theory Revisited

26 August 2014

From Off White Papers:

Perhaps it was on the limb-strewn battlefields during the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870s that one disruptive innovation gained great favor with a whole generation of adherents. Young doctors on the frontlines readily embraced Dr. Joseph Lister’s new and rather simple technique for combat triage using anti-septic surgery for life-saving amputations and skin piercing compound bone fractures. Previously almost any large incision resulted in death from infection caused by unsanitary conditions.

Lister’s carbolic acid concoction was easy to use and quite effective at getting the job done even in the field of battle. It prevented infection from what turned out to be airborne microbes. Unfortunately the U.S. medical establishment did not embrace Lister’s radical idea of germ theory even when presented with incontrovertible evidence. They defended the long-standing medical wisdom that bad air or miasma were the source of infection, and not invisible microbes. Germ theory was outright rejected. While there was ample documentation and statistics provided by Lister to the AMA and the establishment, it would take a public outcry after the assassination attempt and the unfortunate, and probably avoidable, death of U. S. President James Garfield to create a serious enough crisis to challenge the entrenched thinking of the old guard. A paradigm shift was at hand.

The medical establishment’s resistance to Lister’s technique is an instructive narrative in trying to better understand innovations that, on the face of things, should catch on and spread rapidly. Yet in certain domains, where entrenched worldviews, attitudes and values are deeply woven into the societal architecture, innovation can come to a grinding halt. This is particularly noticeable in those domains with multiple stakeholders whose identities and livelihoods are being challenged by the threat of innovation. In those situations where simply getting well-defined jobs done a product or service’s utility is the main driver. But in those domains where stakeholders’ identities are being challenged the identity function can often overwhelm the more straightforward utility of the innovation. In turn, the predictive power of disruptive innovation theory is diminished.

. . . .

Inherent in every product or service is both a utility function and an identity function. Understanding each of these functions and the interaction between the two might shed light on some of the anomalies observed in the original theory. It appears that in utility-centric products and services such as mini-mills, semi-conductors, disk drives, MP3 files, Wikipedia, Amazon and the like, the original theory does keep its predictive potency. Consumers and non-consumers with no vested interest in anything other than “getting the job done” will change behaviors quickly and readily with little anxiety. They are simply focused on the product or service’s utility—and the incumbent will be disrupted. All you need to think about is how quickly we “consumers” (or the new “non-consumers” as the case may be) migrated from vinyl to cartridge to cassette to CDs to MP3s on our iPods; from Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia; from Borders to Amazon.

In utility-centric innovations water runs downhill; there seems to be very little consumer resistance to successful adoption and diffusion. Resistance to change, however, does often come from within from industry incumbents whose jobs are dependent on maintaining the existing business model and power dynamics. As Upton Sinclair said “never expect someone to understand change when their livelihood depends on not understanding it.”

. . . .

ITunes successfully introduced modularity to the consumer who could now buy singles rather than an entire album to the dismay of most record industry executives and to the occasional artist protestation. The interdependence created by having to buy 16 songs when you only really wanted four might have been highly profitable for the record companies but over-served the consumer at a cost substantially higher than purchasing the four singles. No wonder, as the original theory neatly predicted, disruption in the music industry was fast and ugly.

In high-identity domains, however, products and services are almost always highly interdependent and successful modular architecture is elusive. Even when the consumer is over-served and the price too expensive, and modular solutions are “good enough” resistance is still encountered.

Link to the rest at Off White Papers

“in certain domains, where entrenched worldviews, attitudes and values are deeply woven into the societal architecture, innovation can come to a grinding halt. ”

Sounds like traditional publishing.

For PG, understanding the difference in disruptive innovation for products that present a utility function vs. those that present an identity function was useful.

He would suggest that for most readers, books serve a utility function. Whoever can provide the reader with a book that pleases the reader most efficiently will get the reader’s business.

On the other hand, for publishers and agents and booksellers and many traditionally-published authors, books are definitely the basis of identity and serve an identity function. “Literary culture” is a pure identity construct.

Clearly, the value of the identity as an author whose books are the product of a well-known publisher outweighs the increased monetary value that self-publishing presents to a significant number of traditionally-published authors. Hence, some tradpubbed authors feel impelled to vociferously trash indie authors to protect the value of their identity. Indie authors are breaking the rules that underlie that identity.

The identity function is also prominent in the rapturous descriptions of the joys of purchasing physical books in an physical bookstore. For a reader who finds a basis for identity in being a “book person,” as well as for booksellers and producers of physical books, the physical-bookstores-for-physical-books meme, complete with deep conversations concerning the merits of one book over another, Amazon is anathema. Clicking “Add to Cart”  just doesn’t bring on the rapture for these people.

However, pursuing the book-person identity as a reader requires access to a bookstore and a decision to devote time to the browsing/discussion/purchasing pursuits instead of competing pursuits like making a living, family life, GOT or actually reading books.

PG suggests that the Amazon vs. the rest of the world battle will be fought and won with readers and that, for the vast majority of readers, books serve a utility function. For utility-focused readers, the combination of ebooks and Amazon’s convenience and pricing are the clear winner, disrupting and replacing the traditional world of books.

The book identity group is simply unable to impose its will on the online Amazon market at least in the United States. We do see organized attempts by book identity people to hamstring Amazon with pricing, taxation and other impediments in some non-US jurisdictions, but PG believes any success in these attempts would be a Pyrrhic victory because interfering with the tremendous reader benefits of ecommerce coupled with ebooks with lower prices would result in fewer readers buying fewer books.

No one has compared Jeff Bezos to Joseph Lister, but PG suggests Amazon’s efforts to make books cheap and easy to purchase is, in its own way, just as life-saving for literature and reading in the 21st century as carbolic acid was for the wounded combatants in the Franco-Prussian War.

And ebooks smell a lot better than carbolic acid does.

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