Ebooks

Hachette UK sales drop 6.7% in fourth quarter

11 February 2016

From The Bookseller:

Hachette UK saw overall sales fall by 6.7% in the fourth quarter of the year due to lower e-book sales, with its parent company Lagardere Publishing saying that “market trends have reversed in the US and the UK”.

. . . .

A note in the Lagadere release said: “In 2015 market trends have been reversed in the US and the UK, with a rebound in volumes of printed books to the detriment of e-books, due to new contracts terms with Amazon. For the time being this digital transition remains essentially confined to the English-speaking markets and only in the general literature segment, which represents about 40% of total sales of the division. In the UK, Lagardere Publishing digital sales represent 26% of Adult Trade compared to 31% in 2014.”

. . . .

Tim Hely Hutchinson, c.e.o. for Hachette, acknowledged e-book sales had “slowed”, “after six years of stratospheric growth”. However, he emphasised: “We estimate that we remain the number one publisher in e-books and that, in the year, Hachette UK’s estimated market share rose by 1% to 22% of the e-book market. Digital sales now represent over 20% of HUK’s total sales.”

Despite the sales dip, Hely Hutchinson hailed 2015 “another standout year for the Hachette UK group”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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Did Star Wars show us the future of digital publishing?

6 February 2016

From Booknet Canada:

Despite most of us cringing our way through the Star Wars prequels, any book nerd or tech enthusiast will remember a certain scene from Attack of the Clones that will stick with us forever:

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The Jedi Archives seemed to combine the beauty and splendor of physical books with their efficient digital counterparts to create this breathtaking temple of knowledge. And while some might argue that digitization has caused society in the Star Wars universe to evolve into one that operates in functional illiteracy, the Jedi at least value the preservation and utilization of knowledge through book form, even if that form is so technologically advanced our digital technology hasn’t yet begun to touch it.

But are the books in the Jedi Archive really so far removed from our current technology? Upon observation of the shelves, the digital books seem to be lined up as if they occupied physical space, spines facing out for ease of browsing (just like our regular, dusty print libraries). Some of the spines even seem to exhibit discolouration or dimness, causing one to wonder if digital deterioration, just like the breakdown of a paper book, might be an issue in this digital world.

. . . .

Digital books in the Star Wars universe also seem to have far more interactivity and advanced features built into them. Obi Wan can drill down to the information he wants in this galactic map, search, click on elements, and receive more information. Will future digital books allow us to harness the power of the internet’s full range of information in our hands? Are we already there with smartphones and book apps?

Link to the rest at Booknet Canada and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Google launches e-book ‘experiment’

4 February 2016

From The Bookseller:

Google has launched a new digital-only bookstore “for books that cannot be printed”.

The “experiment” into digital books, called Editions at Play, was created by London-based publisher Visual Editions and Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney and features books Visual Editions has commissioned, including a book set in Google street view.

The idea behind Editions at Play is “not to challenge conventional publishing” but to “open some doors”, according to its creators. It was born out of a “response” to the evolving digital publishing landscape, including e-books, enhanced e-books and online PDFs. The initiative’s goal is to “allow writers to create books that cannot be printed” and, said Google, “fit better with 21st century sensibilities”.

In a blog, Google said: “Editions At Play is an experiment by Visual Editions and Google’s Creative Lab to explore the potential of digital books: that is, books that change dynamically on your phone or tablet, using all the attributes of the modern mobile web to do things that printed books never could. Simply put, we wanted to see if we could keep the integrity of reading, but play with the book’s digital form.”

It added: “Books in Editions at Play are designed to make the most of the mobile web in order to ‘do things printed books never could’. They abide by the principles that books must be envisioned as ‘mobile-first’, have pages and “use the dynamic qualities of the interweb”.

Editions at Play’s two launch titles include a book that “travels the world” through Google Street View called Entrances & Exits by Reif Larsen; and a book that invites the reader to “take sides” called The Truth About Cats & Dogs by the authors Joe Dunthorne and Sam Riviere. The titles cost £2.99 each through the Google Play store and can be read through both Apple and Android devices.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

E-book sales abate for Big Five

2 February 2016

From The Bookseller:

For those who predicted the death of the physical book and digital dominating the market by the end of this decade, the print and digital sales figures (see below) from the Big Five for 2015 might force a reassessment.

Somewhat smugly, The Bookseller predicted 2015’s e-book decline in these very pages back in 2013—and endured ire (much of it in digital form, unsurprisingly) at the time. We were attempting to be objective about e-books, acknowledging that they were (and are) an exciting, vital part of the industry—but that they were also just another format, and one that was (and is) in its relative infancy.

But sales have dropped. Or, at the very least, we can without a shadow of a doubt say that e-book volume slid for the Big Five publishers for the first time since the digital age began, collectively down 2.4% to 47.9 million units last year. That 2.4% drop is probably shallower than many observers would have predicted.

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. . . .

The Big Five have a 56% share of 2015’s print volume through Nielsen BookScan. Assuming a broadly similar share in digital—the five probably garner a greater piece of the digital pie compared to other traditional publishers, but self-publishing makes up a decent percentage of e-books— that gives us 85.5 million e-books sold in Britain in 2015.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG says “self-publishing makes up a decent percentage of e-books” substantially underestimates both the number of ebooks sold and the ebook revenue generated by indie authors.

However, at least it’s a nod in the general direction of what’s happening in the hidden Amazon ebook market not measured by the tools Big Publishing uses.

The (Real) Future of Publishing

27 January 2016

From Digital Book World blog opinions:

Everything being said about the state of publishing is (relatively) true—but not everything that is true is being said, as there are data points and trends being left out of the broad discussion. I’d agree that ebook growth has slowed down for many of the major houses, and that it now accounts for 20-25 percent of their revenues.

. . . .

If we are painting the landscape with a broad brush, there are some significant shifts that have gotten mysteriously little attention. A few worth noting include:

• The U.K’s biggest publisher, Penguin Random House, is closing its largest distribution center and is citing the reason as “an increase in the people reading ebooks.” In the last sentence of the article, it states that print sales were down 5 percent while ebook sales were up 11 percent.
• According to the New York Times, Ron Boire, the new CEO of Barnes & Noble, is leading a push to rebrand the company as a “lifestyle brand,” which includes removing more print books and expanding its offerings in games, toys and other gadgets. Sales are down 4.5 percent for the same quarter year-over-year, and the Barnes & Noble stock is down 20 percent. The company plans to close an additional 10 stores next year.
• Wal-Mart has announced that it is committing $2 billion to expanding its digital footprint in 2016. The company is exploring new digital channels and opportunities in an effort to innovate at a speed similar to Amazon’s. This will most certainly affect all forms of media, including physical books and ebooks.
• In 2015, readers borrowed more than 169 million ebooks from libraries, a 24-percent increase over 2014. This is a record number and a significant increase.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World blog opinions and thanks to Jan for the tip.

There’s also the Costco index at PG’s Costco store. The amount of floor space devoted to selling books is about 20% of what it was 2-3 years ago. Sometimes it’s even smaller. Author book signings were formerly a regular Saturday feature at PG’s Costco. He hasn’t seen one of those in a year or more.

Has anyone seen a large national retailer increase the amount of floor space devoted to printed books in the last couple of years? Barnes & Noble certainly has not. BN’s bookselling floor space has been decreasing at startling rate.

Retailers vote on the success or failure of products with floor space. That’s why the checkout line at the last BN PG entered was lined with geegaws and gimcracks, not books.

Big Publishing and bookstore owners are quite public about their deep emotional commitment to the idea that ebook sales have leveled off and won’t seize more market share from print.

PG calls it an emotional commitment because it’s not really a rational response to the realities of the growing ebook market and declining print market. It’s not PG’s job to solve tradpub and bookstores’ problems, but he suggests denying reality is not a good strategy.

Are Paper Books Really Disappearing?

27 January 2016

From The BBC:

When Peter James published his novel Host on two floppy disks in 1993, he was ill-prepared for the “venomous backlash” that would follow. Journalists and fellow writers berated and condemned him; one reporter even dragged a PC and a generator out to the beach to demonstrate the ridiculousness of this new form of reading. “I was front-page news of many newspapers around the world, accused of killing the novel,”James told pop.edit.lit. “[But] I pointed out that the novel was already dying at an alarming rate without my assistance.”

Shortly after Host’s debut, James also issued a prediction: that e-books would spike in popularity once they became as easy and enjoyable to read as printed books. What was a novelty in the 90s, in other words, would eventually mature to the point that it threatened traditional books with extinction. Two decades later, James’ vision is well on its way to being realised.

That e-books have surged in popularity in recent years is not news, but where they are headed – and what effect this will ultimately have on the printed word – is unknown. Are printed books destined to eventually join the ranks of clay tablets, scrolls and typewritten pages, to be displayed in collectors’ glass cases with other curious items of the distant past?

. . . .

Indeed, despite the hand wringing that Jones’ Host – said by some to be the first digital novel – caused in 1993, publishers weren’t too concerned. “In 1992, I spoke to CEOs at probably five of the seven major publishing companies, and they all said ‘This has nothing to do with us. People will never read on screens’,” says Robert Stein, founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book and co-founder of Voyager and the Criterion Collection.

In 2007, with Amazon’s release of the Kindle, that attitude abruptly changed. Almost immediately, the device began causing palpitations in the publishing industry. “Amazon had the clout to go to publishers and say, ‘This is serious. We want your books,’” Shatzkin says. “And because Amazon is Amazon, they also didn’t really care as much about profit on every unit sale as they did for lifetime customer value, so they were happy to sell their e-books for cheap.”

From 2008 to 2010 e-book sales skyrocketed, jumping up to 1,260%, the New York Times reports. Adding fuel to the e-book fire, Nook debuted, as did the iPad, which was released alongside the iBooks Store. “By that time, the publishing industry had lost all possible ability to regain any initiative and momentum,” Stein says. In 2011, as Borders Books declared bankruptcy, e-books’ popularity continued to steadily rise – though not exponentially, as it turns out.

. . . .

While no one can say with certainty what the future holds for paper books, Stein believes that what is a plateau now will, at some point, return to a steep incline. “We’re in a transitional period,” he says. “The affordances of screen reading will continuously improve and expand, offering people a reason to switch to screens.”

. . . .

Stein imagines, for example, that future forms of books might be developed not by conventional publishers but by the gaming industry. He also envisions that the distinction between writer and reader will be blurred by a social reading experience in which authors and consumers can digitally interact with each other to discuss any passage, sentence or line. Indeed, his latest project, Social Book, allows members to insert comments directly into digital book texts and is already used by teachers at several high schools and universities to stimulate discussions. “For my grandchildren, the idea that reading is something you do by yourself will seem arcane,” he says. “Why would you want to read by yourself if you can have access to the ideas of others you know and trust, or to the insights of people from all over the world?”

. . . .

“I think printed books just for plain old reading will, in 10 years from now, be unusual,” Shatzkin adds. “Not so unusual that a kid will say, ‘Mommy, what’s that?’ but unusual enough that on the train you’ll see one or two people reading something printed, while everyone else is reading off of a device.”

. . . .

Shatzkin does believe, however, that the eventual and total demise of print “is inevitable,” though such a day won’t arrive for perhaps 50 to 100 or more years. “It will get harder and harder to understand why anyone would print something that’s heavy, hard to ship and not customisable,” he says. “I think there will come a point where print just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Frankly, I reached that point years ago for books that you just read.”

. . . .

But for all the worries about e-books changing the way we comprehend the written word and interact with one another, Wolf points out that “never before have we had such a democratisation of knowledge made possible.” While too much time on devices might mean problems for children and adults in places like Europe and the US, for those in developing countries, they may be a godsend, Wolf says – “the most important mechanism for giving literacy.”

Link to the rest at The BBC

iBook Author templates: sameness of eBook templates limits their usefulness

26 January 2016

From Talking New Media:

The Apple eBook publishing platform iBooks Author has had its critics since its first launch, but it has also its fans. Those who work with the platform like it for the same reasons many like working with other Apple apps: it is easy to learn and consistent with other Apple programs such as Pages.

. . . .

While iBA may be easy to work with, creating a truly stunning eBook for the iPad and Mac is still a matter of the publisher’s design skills. Many of the early eBooks released looked very much like the early templates Apple supplied with the program itself. To help novice designers out, a few developers launched template apps for iBA – some free, some costing $9.99 or more.

. . . .

Are these template programs worth buying? It really all depends on your skill level as a designer, and how comfortable one feels customizing a template. The real value of these apps is for getting ideas that you can apply yourself, rather than finding a perfect template that requires no customization.

There are a couple of free template apps, which you might want to check out first before paying for others.

Templates for iBooks Author Free was just updated this month, adding 30 new templates. But all the themes here are in portrait, and a link inside the program takes you to Themes for iBooks Author, which was also recently updated, but costs $19.99, the most expensive add-on out there.

Another, Designs for iBooks Author, has not been updated since 2013.

. . . .

One thing one notices right away is that the artwork in these templates is often gorgeous – far better than the artwork many novice designers end up using. So once one deletes the placeholder graphic with the one that will be used the look of the eBook suddenly declines. The lesson is obvious: make sure you have good, high resolution artwork.

. . . .

But when examining these template apps one sees a sameness to the templates. These apps, it appears, are all designed by one hand, rather than multiple designers. That means the variation between themes is minimal, a good reason to make sure you look at all the template apps and their screenshots rather than just one or two.

In the end, the two most important things about working with iBooks Author is feeling comfortable customizing templates yourself, and stealing borrowing ideas.

Link to the rest at Talking New Media

What authors need to know about the new Kindle warning system

23 January 2016

From GoodEreader:

Amazon has announced that they will be publicly warning users if an e-book has spelling mistakes or formatting errors. This is meant to protect the average reader so they don’t make an impulse purchase and regret it. Thousands of authors are asking a ton of questions about this new warning system and today we will answer the most common issues.

One of the most common questions we have been fielding from authors  are those who have written fantasy or science-fiction e-books. Many of them have developed their own vocabulary or intentionally misspell words.  If this is applicable to your book, I recommend updating your title via Kindle Direct Publishing and implement a lexicon. This is a a page or two at the beginning of the novel that provides a rundown of the words and their meaning. This will insure the book is not reported for spelling mistakes and if they are, you have a point of reference to show the Amazon rep when they contact you.

. . . .

Beware Editing Services – Since we broke the story that Amazon is implementing the warning system, I have seen hundreds of editors try and get authors to pay them to fix up any spelling or grammar mistakes.  I think its important to insure that you find a good editor and not someone who is just hyping their services with a newly created website or via social media.

What’s the deal with this warning system anyways?  Amazon is simply making warnings public. In the past, it was always between a KDP representative and the author.  Some authors simply opted to ignore the warnings and nothing really happened to their title, unless it had gross formatting errors, in which case Amazon would remove it from the Kindle bookstore.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

The Deep Space of Digital Reading

20 January 2016

From Nautilus:

In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading. Human beings have been reading for thousands of years, but in antiquity, the normal thing was to read aloud. When Augustine (the future St. Augustine) went to see his teacher, Ambrose, in Milan, in 384 A.D., he was stunned to see him looking at a book and not saying anything. With the advent of silent reading, Manguel writes,

… the reader was at last able to establish an unrestricted relationship with the book and the words. The words no longer needed to occupy the time required to pronounce them. They could exist in interior space, rushing on or barely begun, fully deciphered or only half-said, while the reader’s thoughts inspected them at leisure, drawing new notions from them, allowing comparisons from memory or from other books left open for simultaneous perusal.

To read silently is to free your mind to reflect, to remember, to question and compare. The cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf calls this freedom “the secret gift of time to think”: When the reading brain becomes able to process written symbols automatically, the thinking brain, the I, has time to go beyond those symbols, to develop itself and the culture in which it lives.

. . . .

A thousand years later, critics fear that digital technology has put this gift in peril. The Internet’s flood of information, together with the distractions of social media, threaten to overwhelm the interior space of reading, stranding us in what the journalist Nicholas Carr has called “the shallows,” a frenzied flitting from one fact to the next. In Carr’s view, the “endless, mesmerizing buzz” of the Internet imperils our very being: “One of the greatest dangers we face,” he writes, “as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system, is … a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity.”

There’s no question that digital technology presents challenges to the reading brain, but, seen from a historical perspective, these look like differences of degree, rather than of kind. To the extent that digital reading represents something new, its potential cuts both ways. Done badly (which is to say, done cynically), the Internet reduces us to mindless clickers, racing numbly to the bottom of a bottomless feed; but done well, it has the potential to expand and augment the very contemplative space that we have prized in ourselves ever since we learned to read without moving our lips.

The fear of technology is not new. In the fifth century B.C., Socrates worried that writing would weaken human memory, and stifle judgment. In fact, as Wolf notes in her 2007 book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, the opposite happened: Faced with the written page, the reader’s brain develops new capacities. The visual cortex forms networks of cells that are capable of recognizing letterforms almost instantaneously; increasingly efficient pathways connect these networks to the phonological and semantic areas of the cortex, freeing up other parts of the brain to put the words we read into sentences, stories, views of the world. We may not keep the Iliadin our heads any longer, but we’re exquisitely capable of reflecting on it, comparing it to other stories we know, and forming conclusions about human beings ancient and modern.

Link to the rest at Nautilus

A New App Turns Your Romance Novel Fantasy Into Reality

19 January 2016

From The Huffington Post:

Reading a novel isn’t what it used to be.

There you sit, nose stuck in a book, á la Belle the Disney princess, when your phone buzzes with a text from your mom. After a long back-and-forth with her about when you’ll be able to make it back for a visit, you finally turn back to the book. Oops, another buzz — a text from your bestie containing just a string of random emojis. While you laugh, you swipe over to Instagram. I mean, as long as you’re checking your phone. Maybe you should just toggle over to Twitter too — surely you have some new faves on that last tweet; it was so clever. No? Well, it’s only been a couple minutes. OK, back to the book; you can check Twitter again after a page.

Bookworm Belle might have been able to remain engrossed in a book even as she wandered through a plaza packed with singing villagers, but she probably wouldn’t be any match for a smartphone’s endless stream of alerts.

So, what if all these distractions were part of the story?

. . . .

A new romance book app, Crave, which launched late in 2015, claims to reimagine the reading experience for today’s Snapchat-addicted consumer, and it looks like part of that means embracing those breaks in concentration.

As you scroll through an ebook on Crave, the app periodically breaks into the narrative to show you a text message conversation between two characters, a video of an actor portraying one of the characters doing an interview about the book’s events, a filmed moment (like the hero first looking up at the heroine) or even a reaction GIF.

But after around 1,000 words, you’re cut off. Crave slices each book into mini-chapters intended to take only three or four minutes to read, including multimedia. You can tune back in the next day for another bite-sized installment, generously salted with supplementary videos and text exchanges. Later, after you’ve returned to scrolling aimlessly through Twitter, you might receive a text alert from the book’s author, or even from the romantic lead of the novel you’re currently following.

Texts, notifications, GIFs — every part of how we communicate on mobile now becomes part of the storytelling medium in Crave’s platform.

And the folks behind Crave think this format might just save the novel.

. . . .

While the first week is free, a monthly subscription fee of $3.99 then kicks in — basically, once the reader is hooked, Crave starts to charge. But real devotees may find the price worthwhile; the app’s version of the book is packed with bonuses that provide behind-the-scenes glimpses at their favorite characters.

Paragraph created Crave after a meeting with Judith Curr, the president of Atria Publishing Group, a division of Simon and Schuster, in which she mentioned she’d like to forge still-stronger connections between their best-selling authors and fans. The app currently features major authors from Atria’s New Adult and romance offerings, like Hoover and Abbi Glines. These authors already have well-rooted fan bases and books that sell like hotcakes — ripe audiences for ambitious marketing.

“Romance readers are voracious,” Navoth pointed out, eagerly. “They read twice as many books as any other reader does. And when they discover an author that they love, they’ll read all of her back catalog.”

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

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