Ebooks undermine your freedom and privacy

5 May 2017

From The Guardian:

It was disappointing to see yet another comparison of physical books and ebooks that focused on convenience, style or mere taste (Kindles now look clunky and unhip, G2, 27 April). There are substantive differences that affect the freedom of people who read. For many titles, the only copy you can buy is a printed one. The ebook versions are “licensed”, not sold, and the licence says you agree not to give away or lend “your” copy to anyone else, nor to make and redistribute more copies.

These requirements drive me away from them. My conscience balks at carrying out an agreement to be unhelpful to others; breaking the licence is a lesser evil, but I don’t want to make an agreement I know I would be obliged to break. I therefore refuse to agree to such a licence. Perforce, the books I pay for are printed copies that I truly buy.

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


In solidarity with those who understand what is happening with eBook sales

28 April 2017

From Talking New Media:

This post is about blogger solidarity… that is, it is response to the frustration expressed by Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader concerning the ongoing debate about eBook sales. He was reacting the recurring misreporting that eBook sales are down, when actually they are only down for the major publishers represented by the various trade associations.

Nate points to articles in some of the The Guardian, and The Telegraph, in particular, that can’t seem to get it through their heads that not all eBook sales are represented by the publishers that are members of these associations. There are other publishers, and self-publishers, that sell through other channels, and these sales won’t be included in the reports put out by the associations.

But there is another problem, that some media reporters are invested in believing that print is having a resurgence. There is, of course, no evidence for this, but faith is a powerful thing.

Now Nate covers the digital book field, but what is happening on that side of the business is happening on the magazine and newspaper side, as well. Despite falling print circulation and print advertising levels, there are those who simply want to believe that digital media may not be all its cracked up to be.

Link to the rest at Talking New Media and thanks to The Digital Reader for the tip.

PG wonders if the reporters and publications disseminating the ebooks are dead/print is back meme believe they can actually change the behavior of their readers. Or if the authors first developed sentience 15 minutes ago.

“Printed books are the new black.”

“All the right people will be carrying hardcovers this summer.”

“Look for more beautiful covers on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram account.”

“Headless body in topless bar . . . with a book!!!”



How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’

27 April 2017

From The Guardian:

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

A few years ago, I was given a Kindle. I had become a student again. I was reading lots of books and I needed them cheap and light. But now the Kindle has slipped to the back of the desk drawer behind the Blu-Tack that comes out only at Christmas. Meanwhile, the stack of hardbacks and paperbacks on the bedside table has grown so tall it has spawned sub-stacks on the floor; when I get into bed at night, it is like looking down on a miniature book city. I don’t want to speculate about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms but I suspect it might be something similar, because figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through?

Ten years ago, when the Kindle launched, the idea was miraculous. Here was the ability to carry hundreds of books enfolded in a tiny slip of plastic, countless stories in a few hundred grams. It seems hard to believe when you look at the thick, black plastic surround – stylistically it bears more resemblance to a cathode ray tube TV than a tablet – that it predated the iPad by two years. Within five hours, it had sold out, despite a price tag of $399 (then £195). A decade on, lay a Kindle next to a smartphone or tablet and it looks so much older, while the reading experience it delivers has scarcely progressed.

“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”

. . . .

“The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Daunt says. Publishers “cut back on the quality of the paper, so if you left a book in the sun it went yellow. They were gluing, not sewing. They would put a cover on a hardback but not do anything with the hard case underneath. Nowadays, if you take a cover off, there is likely to be something interesting underneath it.”

. . . .

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it. Summerhayes thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”.

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

PG says this is a big day for Amazon Derangement Syndrome at The Guardian. The books department must be cutting their pills in half again.

As for the Bookifer crowd, here’s a better alternative.


‘Screen fatigue’ sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print

27 April 2017

From The Guardian:

Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales.

Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.

It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.

“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.

“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”

. . . .

The issue with consumer ebooks aside the UK book industry is in fine fettle. Total sales of print and digital books and journals climbed 7% to £4.8bn last year, the largest growth since 2007 when digital sales were first included.

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

PG didn’t see any reference to how many ebooks were sold by publishers and authors who don’t report their sales to the Publishers Association. He also didn’t see Amazon’s name on the list of members on the Publishers Association website.

“Screen fatigue” sounds like something the marketing department invented. PG wonders if they considered “bookstore fatigue” or “high prices fatigue” while they were brainstorming.

Here’s a link to an interesting analysis of last year’s Publisher’s Association Yearbook at Publishing Perspectives, ‘As We Trade Less Neurotically’: A Nice Chat About Those UK Publishing Numbers.

The Publishing Perspectives article raises an issue PG would like to address more directly: Absent Amazon Derangement Syndrome, a decline in ebook sales of traditional publishers is hardly something the traditional publishing business should be celebrating.

Ebooks are a great business for traditional publishers – send an ebook file to Amazon and check once a month thereafter to see how much money Amazon sends back. No printing and shipping bills to pay, no inventory to manage (or to pay someone else to manage), no returns to deal with.

If Amazon hadn’t opened the gates to the unwashed horde of self-published authors, demonstrated that lower ebook prices resulted in much larger sales and then started its own imprints when the first ADS plague hit traditional publishing, the Publishing Association would be giving Amazon an award each year at its annual meeting for improving the profitability of UK publishers.

A pound (or dollar) of profit from an ebook licensed to a reader by Amazon counts for just as much as a pound of profit from a printed book sold by Blackwell’s.

A 17% drop in ebook sales is a disaster for the UK publishing business. Any assumption that each ebook not acquired is offset by a printed version that is purchased instead doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

For one thing, obtaining an ebook by touching an iPad screen is a much more effortless transaction than going to a physical bookstore to locate and buy a printed book. The alternative to an iPad ebook transaction may well be tapping on the Amazon Video app to watch a show.



CoreSource® Connects 750+ Publishers to Microsoft’s Digital Bookstore

25 April 2017

From Ingram’s public relations department:

Ingram Content Group has been working with Microsoft to build inventory for the initial launch of the new books category in the Windows Store. CoreSource®, Ingram’s digital asset management and distribution platform, is already delivering content from over 750 publishers to the Windows Store.

With the Windows 10 Creators Update we are excited to bring books to the Windows Store,” said Alex Holzer, Director, Microsoft Digital Stores. “With books in Windows Store, you can discover and read e-books from your favorite authors across genres you love. We are pleased to work with Ingram’s team and CoreSource technology to bring content to readers.”

. . . .

“We’re always looking to add more distribution channels to CoreSource for our customers,” said Lewis Pennock, Director of Digital Retail Sales at Ingram Content Group. “Offering books in the Windows Store is one of the highest potential sales channels to come to the market in several years; it will be a great opportunity for our publishers to get their books into more readers’ hands across multiple devices.”

Link to the rest at Ingram

PG says there’s an art to writing good press releases. To quickly study that art, compare and contrast this Ingram press release with any press release issued by Amazon.


Sorry, Ebooks. These 9 Studies Show Why Print Is Better

15 April 2017

From The Huffington Post:

Don’t lament the lost days of cutting your fingers on pristine new novels or catching a whiff of that magical, transportive old book smell just yet! A slew of recent studies shows that print books are still popular, even among millennials. What’s more: further research suggests that this trend may save demonstrably successful learning habits from certain death. Take comfort in these 9 studies that show that print books have a promising future:

Younger people are more likely to believe that there’s useful information that’s only available offline.
While 62 percent of citizens under 30 subscribe to this belief, only 53 percent of those 30 and older agree. These findings are from a promising study released last year by Pew Research, which also found that millennials are more likely to visit their local library.

. . . .

Students opt for physical copies of humanities books, even when digital versions are available for free.
While students prefer reading digital texts for science and math classes, they like to study the humanities in print. A study conducted by the University of Washington in 2013, and quoted in The Washington Post, shows that 25 percent of humanities students bought physical versions of free ebooks.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Ron for the tip.

And because studies have shown that the audience remembers more from a live stage play than from a television show or movie, the latter two media formats have no future.


Book publishing in the digital age

11 April 2017

From TechCrunch:

In 2012, we launched Thought Catalog Books. With Thought Catalog the website, we mastered producing short-form writing for the web and we wanted a new challenge. We hoped to build a counterweight to Thought Catalog’s trendy digital brand with a more contemplative spin-off brand as a book publisher.

There were two questions driving the identity of our book startup: In the age of algorithms and social media, can we create an enclave where creative and intellectual sophistication still matter? Can we build a publishing model where readers instead of advertisers are the main stakeholders?

It’s critical to understand Thought Catalog Books in the context of the website because when ThoughtCatalog.com went live in 2010, it wasn’t a viral publisher. The non-buzzworthy “Thought Catalog” name reveals a total lack of foresight into the viral publisher trend. Thought Catalog was supposed to be an “experimental cultural magazine.”

The problem was, the experiment with journalistic writing had a conclusive and dire result. Long-form writing like profiles of musicians, book reviews and cultural analysis would bankrupt us, and we pivoted. Audience insights from Facebook data become our publisher, Google data our editor in chief, and Twitter signals our managing editor. Thought Catalog was one of the first magazines built by data from social media and that made us, along with BuzzFeed and a few others, part of the first gold rush of digital publishing.

Money wasn’t the only goal, though. Money is a lifeblood for any company, but we still had higher ideals. We wanted readers, not just visitors; artistic appreciation, not just social likes. This desire to elevate the conversation is what separates a content company from a media company, and we consider ourselves the latter. Well-funded media companies deal with this by commissioning what is deemed the “important stuff” as a loss leader.

. . . .

The book business model is kinder to long-reads. A 5,000-word piece commissioned at $1.00 a word requires about one million reads for the publisher to break even on an optimized ad setup. Often even viral lists won’t get one million visitors, let alone long-form investigative journalism or in-depth creative work. With book publishing, you would only need about 2,000 people to buy the e-book at $4.99 to recoup your investment.

. . . .

We were surprised to learn that print books and digital books were almost two distinct businesses with totally different operating models. While a print book and an e-book share identical content, they reflect diametrically opposed media formats. Print books are luxury goods and e-books are utility, and this has real implications in the strategy and workflow behind the marketing and production of each.

. . . .

You can’t create much markup on utility, whereas you can create a great deal of markup on luxury. This has been perhaps one of the most important insights driving Thought Catalog Books’ growth. The print books department needs to be run like a luxury goods company, while the e-book department needs to be run like a technology company. The content is the same, but the medium dictates an entirely different business model.

. . . .

Online native content is effective for short-form stories, but if a brand wants to cut deeper and build an in-depth story, the print book is the perfect medium. Native and sponsored content is short-form content that readers only engage with for a few minutes. With sponsored books, advertisers tap into an in-depth branding opportunity using the most time-tested storytelling technology out there — a printed book, where readers often spend hours if not days with their content and keep it perhaps forever on their bookshelf.

. . . .

As e-books become increasingly popular, selling physical books on Amazon might make less sense. At Thought Catalog Books, Amazon is a dream partner for digital distribution and certain kinds of print distribution. Amazon doesn’t make sense, though, for selling our premium print books. For us, there is more personality in ordering the book through a more custom e-commerce experience or through an independent brick-and-mortar retailer. If books are truly luxury items, then just as a high-end clothing brand doesn’t want to sell on Amazon, we, as a specialty book publisher, don’t want our products there either. This might eventually be the case with other, larger publishers at some point which, at the very least, may begin limiting their print distribution on Amazon.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Felix, who says “A couple interesting insights surrounded by a lot of weird ideas. The weird won,” for the tip.

PG says another difference between “online native content” and printed books with advertising is that an advertiser can measure whether anyone actually reads online content and can’t measure whether anyone reads a printed book.

As for publishers “limiting their print distribution on Amazon,” readers seem to be helping to limit the distribution of printed books on and off Amazon.


eBook Sales Are Dead & Connecting with Readers

4 April 2017

From Indies Unlimited:

“My sales have flat-lined. Nobody is selling any books.”

“There are no readers left. We’ve swamped them with too many free books.”

“Print is more popular, eBook sales are dead.”

Have we officially entered the season of dread and negativity? Is there no positive energy left in IndieBook Land? I heard variations of the above statements recently and I didn’t like it. And, I don’t agree.

I ran a contest the other day. It was simple. Click on a free eBook then email me the title and you’re entered to win one of two $10 Amazon gift certificates. I sent it out in a newsletter that also advertised a bunch of free eBooks from various authors. I wasn’t sure whether ten bucks would be enough to entice readers to enter but I thought I’d try anyway. It was enough. It worked. The results were really interesting.

The open rate for my newsletter was 70%, and the click rate was just a shade under 40%. Those are strong numbers. I’ve never sent out a newsletter with those kinds of returns.

. . . .

The readers who emailed me their entries talked to me. Some just sent the title of the book they had downloaded, but many of them sent me messages.

. . . .

“I’m on a limited budget. Thank you for sending me the links to the books.”

“I had already downloaded Pam of Babylon, and now I’ve found another that I liked. Thanks!”

“What a great project for us. I’ve already got lots of books from these giveaways.”

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

Author Earnings has also demonstrated that a huge proportion of ebook sales are by indie authors and don’t show up on any of the traditional sales reporting services.


Tencent plans e-book IPO

25 March 2017

From LiveMint:

Tencent Holdings Ltd is planning to spin off its e-book business as it boosts spending on payments and content to lure users and keep them glued to its WeChat service.

An initial public offering of the Kindle-like business is planned for Hong Kong, the Shenzhen-based company said on Wednesday after posting quarterly earnings that trailed analyst estimates. While net income surged 47% to 10.5 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), that trailed the 11 billion yuan expected by analysts.

. . . .

China Reading Ltd, as Tencent’s literature unit is known, is said to have asked bankers to pitch for a role arranging an IPO that could raise about $500 million. President Martin Lau said it would also consider other spinoffs without identifying targets. The company also operates a music and video-streaming service.

While Tencent’s services have a massive reach in China, growth is slowing as it nears saturation in its home market. In addition to new games, it’s funding blockbusters including “Kong: Skull Island” and “Warcraft” and sitting atop a plethora of intellectual property for anime and online novels distributed via its websites. The company has aspirations to eventually create a Marvel-like movie empire, as it competes with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd for users.

Link to the rest at LiveMint


eBook Pirates Are Relatively Old and Wealthy, Study Finds

24 March 2017

From TorrentFreak:

A new study has found that people who illegally download eBooks are older and wealthier than most people’s perception of the average pirate. Commissioned by anti-piracy company Digimarc, the study suggests that people aged between 30 and 44 years old with a household income of between $60k and $99k are most likely to grab a book without paying for it.

In 2017, people can download any digital content they like from the Internet, but that’s still most likely to be movies, TV shows and music. Bubbling underneath, however, is a steady demand for pirated eBooks.

Ebooks are relatively cheap when compared to other digital content, but their handy file size and ubiquity ensures that millions of titles are just a few convenient clicks away.

A new study, commissioned by anti-piracy company Digimarc and conducted by Nielsen, aims to shine light on eBook piracy. It was presented yesterday at The London Book Fair and aims to better understand how eBook piracy affects revenue and how publishers can prevent it.

In previous studies, it has been younger downloaders that have grabbed much of the attention, and this one is no different. Digimarc reveals that 41% of all adult pirates are aged between 18 and 29 but perhaps surprisingly, 47% fall into the 30 to 44-year-old bracket. At this point, things tail off very quickly, as the remaining ~13% are aged 45 or up.

There are also some surprises when it comes to pirates’ income. Cost is often cited as a factor when justifying downloading for free, and this study has similar findings. In this case, however, richer persons are generally more likely they are to download.

Around 13% of pirates have an annual household income of under $30k, with those earning between $30k and $59k making up 19% of the total. At this point there is a sizeable leap, with 36% of pirates claiming to earn between $60k and $99k per annum. Around 29% make more than $100k a year.

Overall, the majority of illegal downloaders are relatively well-educated, with more than 70% having either graduated from college or in possession of a post graduate degree.

. . . .

Also of interest are the methods used by pirates to obtain their eBook fix. Sharing joint top position with 31% are public torrent sites (such as The Pirate Bay) and cyberlocker sources such as 4shared or Uploaded.

Link to the rest at TorrentFreak and thanks to M. for the tip.

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