Twelve Ways to Update Print Production Habits

7 April 2015

From Digital Book World:

I was reading a novel today on a Kindle Paperwhite . . . . Despite the engaging content, I kept getting jarred out of the ebook by its low production quality. The formatting wasn’t even so horrible, but small mistakes kept punching me out of my immersive experience.

The problem originated, I am almost certain, from typesetting for print, followed by poor ebook QA after the conversion was made. It’s an issue that’s stubbornly pervasive in the industry, and there are a handful of straightforward ways to avoid it.

In my most recent case, the ebook was set not to hyphenate at all but was force-justified, which meant big, wide holes in the text. The editorial breaks that were so important to the story were frequently lost altogether, leaving the reader to figure out the switch in tone or character from the context, instead of from the typesetting. Section breaks were marked by small caps, which I imagine were designed to be the entire first line in the print edition but ended up as a line-and-a-half on the screen on which I was reading—a length that neither was attractive nor made any sense.

. . . .

One of my crusading themes as an ebook developer and trainer is how to keep content—formerly known as print assets—agile and clean for future output purposes.

And the key to agile assets is cleanly formatted print files. The idea here is to typeset from print but to keep the assets flexible and elastic. The focus of any set of assets should never be just print, as all content is destined for a print afterlife; laying out pages for the print page only renders that content dangerous or even useless for an ebook.

. . . .

2. Don’t use empty white-space items like paragraph returns, tabs and spaces to typeset.

3. All formatting should come from cleanly applied paragraph and character style sheets that aren’t overridden at the local level.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

What’s the Matter with Ebooks?

31 March 2015

From Dan Cohen, Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America:

Over the past two years I’ve been tracking ebook adoption, and the statistics are, frankly, perplexing. After Amazon released the Kindle in 2007, there was a rapid growth in ebook sales and readership, and the iPad’s launch three years later only accelerated the trend.

Then something odd happened. By most media accounts, ebook adoption has plateaued at about a third of the overall book market, and this stall has lasted for over a year now. Some are therefore taking it as a Permanent Law of Reading: There will be electronic books, but there will always be more physical books. Long live print!

I read both e- and print books, and I appreciate the arguments about the native advantages of print. I am a digital subscriber to the New York Times, but every Sunday I also get the printed version. The paper feels expansive, luxuriant. And I do read more of it than the daily paper on my iPad, as many articles catch my eye and the flipping of pages requires me to confront pieces that I might not choose to read based on a square inch of blue-tinged screen.

. . . .

[R]un through a simple mental exercise: jump forward 10 or 20 or 50 years, and you should have a hard time saying that the e-reading technology won’t be much better—perhaps even indistinguishable from print, and that adoption will be widespread. Even today, studies have shown that libraries that have training sessions for patrons with iPads and Kindles see the use of ebooks skyrocket—highlighting that the problem is in part that today’s devices and ebook services are hard to use. Availability of titles, pricing (compared to paperback), DRM, and a balkanization of ebook platforms and devices all dampen adoption as well.

But even the editor of the New York Times understands the changes ahead, despite his love for print:

How long will print be around? At a Loyola University gathering in New Orleans last week, the executive editor [of the Times], Dean Baquet, noted that he “has as much of a romance with print as anyone.” But he also admitted, according to a Times-Picayune report, that “no one thinks there will be a lot of print around in 40 years.”

. . . .

The tea leaves, even now, are hard to read, but I’ve come to believe that part of this cloudiness is because there’s much more dark reading going on than the stats are showing. Like dark matter, dark reading is the consumption of (e)books that somehow isn’t captured by current forms of measurement.

For instance, usually when you hear about the plateauing of ebook sales, you are actually hearing about the sales of ebooks from major publishers in relation to the sales of print books from those same publishers. That’s a crucial qualification. But sales of ebooks from these publishers is just a fraction of overall e-reading. By other accounts, which try to shine light on ebook adoption by looking at markets like Amazon (which accounts for a scary two-thirds of ebook sales), show that a huge and growing percentage of ebooks are being sold by indie publishers or authors themselves rather than the bigs, and a third of them don’t even have ISBNs, the universal ID used to track most books.

The commercial statistics also fail to account for free e-reading, such as from public libraries, which continues to grow apace. The Digital Public Library of America and other sites and apps have millions of open ebooks, which are never chalked up as a sale.

Link to the rest at Dan Cohen and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Amazon is Testing Bulk eBook Bundles in Japan

28 March 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

How would you like to have the option of buying an entire series with a single click?

If Amazon’s latest program catches on, you might. The retailer is now testing a new section of the Kindle Store in Japan called Kindle Buying Corner.

ITMedia reports that Amazon is selling bundles of single issue comic books. A total of 10 bundles are currently being offered. The bundles consist of 15 to 25 consecutive titles from a single series, and are being sold at a 10% to 15% discount. If a reader already owns one of the titles from the bundle, it is excluded from the sale to avoid duplicate purchases.

. . . .

In any case, this bundle offer is a good way for readers who buy the single issues to fill in the holes in their collection in a single purchase.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

Online book shopping overtakes in-store for first time

26 March 2015

From The Bookseller:

Print book sales showed “continuing resilience” in 2014, with overall spending on print and digital titles increasing across the year. Meanwhile, online book buying overtook in-store book buying for the first time last year.

In 2014, sales of print and e-books stood at £2.2bn, up 4% from the previous year. The data was revealed today (25th March) at Nielsen Book’s annual conference, BookInsights.

Overall, e-books accounted for 30% of book units purchased in 2014, with the fastest growth coming in non-fiction and children’s categories. However, digital migration in those categories still remains limited, while there were signs that migration in categories such as romance and fantasy was slowing. Altogether 56% of the 36,000 book buyers in Nielsen Books & Consumers UK Survey owned a tablet by the end of 2014, up from 41% in the previous year, with 25% owning an e-reader.

. . . .

2014 also saw online spending on books overtake in-store spending on books for the first time. However, bookshops actually gained share in the print market, and remain ahead of online sales for children’s books, impulse buys and the gift market.

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

GfK Reports French Book Market Down, eBook Sales Up 60% in 2014

22 March 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

The market research firm GfK  reported this week that their latest estimates show that the French book market declined by 1.3% in 2014, to 3.9 billion euros. The decline was driven by a 1.4% drop in the number of units sold, to 351 million.

. . . .

While the loss was minimal, GfK noted that this was the fourth consecutive year in which French book purchases declined. They estimate that 26 million French aged 15 and older bought a book last year, with 60% of purchases made by women.

That includes ebooks, which were the one bright spot in this week’s report. Paid ebook downloads increased by 60% in 2014, to 8 million copies sold. The estimated market value was 64 million euros.

For those of you who don’t have a calculator handy (or whose mother and grandmother weren’t both teachers) GfK is telling us that ebooks made up about 1.54% of the French book market in 2014.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

Rakuten to Buy OverDrive

20 March 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

In a move to strengthen its global presence in the digital marketplace, Japan’s Rakuten, Inc., has agreed to acquire OverDrive for $410 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in April.

OverDrive founder and CEO Steve Potash will stay and continue to direct OverDrive operations. OverDrive will retain its brand name while operating under Rakuten USA, the U.S. division of Rakuten Inc.

Based in Cleveland, OverDrive was one of the first companies to get deeply involved in supplying digital content to libraries, first with audio and then e-books. Its digital distribution platform now has more than 2.5 million titles and OverDrive has relationships with 5,000 publishers and 30,000 libraries, schools, and retailers.

. . . .

 Rakuten has revenues of $22.8 billion and is one of the world’s largest Internet service companies operating in three main areas: digital content, e-commerce, and finance. In addition to acquiring Kobo, Rakuten has continued to grow its digital contents businesses, adding video streaming service Wuaki.tv in 2012 and global TV and video site Viki in 2013.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.

What Readers Say About Ebook Prices

19 March 2015

From The Fussy Librarian:

Let’s look at the one area that every author agonizes over — pricing. Also known as: Are ebook readers cheap moochers who don’t care if I eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life or are they willing to pay a reasonable price for this book that consumed two years and caused my children to resent me?

Question: What do you think is a fair price for a full novel in ebook format, that pays an author well, but remains affordable?

All ebooks should be free: 6 percent
99 cents: 8.7 percent
$1.99: 11.8 percent
$2.99: 16.5 percent
$3.99:  20.6 percent
$4.99: 18 percent
$5.99: 11.6 percent
More than $5.99: 6.4 percent

Now, I think it’s a mistake to look at this data and conclude, “Great, there are people willing to pay $4.99 and $5.99 for my book.” You’ve written off 64% of readers if you do that. And that’s not counting people who are turned off by the book synopsis or the cover … or maybe they see one of the “also-boughts” on your book’s page and buy that book instead. (It happens. I see it every day.)

Link to the rest at The Fussy Librarian and thanks to Vala for the tip.

China’s Amazon?

17 March 2015

From The South China Morning Post:

Two of China’s largest online publishing companies announced this week that they will merge, creating what some have called the ‘Amazon of eBooks’.

Tencent Literature and Shanda Cloudary will become Yuewen Group, the country’s largest online publishing and eBook company.

With 1,200 employees and more than three million books, the new company expects to attract around 100 million readers generating more than 200 million yuan (US$31.9 million) per year, said Yuewen CEO Wu Wenhui.

In a public letter to staff on Monday, Wu called on them to work together to achieve the dream of creating a “nationwide” reading system in the coming decade.

. . . .

He added that to achieve that goal, Yuewen will need to purchase more books, develop better reading apps, promote the creation of online literature and work to strengthen copyright protection for both electronic and print books.

Wu said the company will design eBook readers designed to satisfy Chinese useage habits, unlike the Amazon Kindle, which was originally designed for English readers.

. . . .

The company plans to achieve its ambitious goals by taking advantage of Tencent’s huge market share in online and mobile messaging and social media through QQ and WeChat, which have more than 800 million users between them.

Yuewen’s new CEO is an online publishing veteran, having been in the industry for 12 years. Wu was one of the founders of e-literature site Qidian.com in 2002.

Wu dedicated himself to promoting online novelists, writers who often went overlooked by traditional print publishers, and signed contracts with hundreds of them. Under his leadership, Qidian debuted an innovative system to let readers vote and pay for their favourite books and writers.

Link to the rest at South China Morning Post

Total BooX: Ebooks for the Way the 21st-Century Reader Reads

13 March 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

“It’s important to understand we are creating a radically new ebook distribution platform. It’s a new way of thinking. Our philosophy is ‘radical simplicity': we deliver all books, to all people, all the time, you can download online and offline, and keep them on the device forever, it’s raining books,” says Yoav Lorch, CEO of the Tel Aviv-based ebook platform Total BooX. With Total BooX, a reader downloads a book for free and only pays for what they read.

. . . .

When it comes to catering to Millennials, Lorch believes that eliminating the confusing purchasing decisions and the friction in the traditional ebook purchasing process is key. “The idea that there is a ritual to reading — to finding a quiet corner, indulging in the book, putting away all the things running around in our mind — that is such a rarity today. You’re constantly being interrupted. If you watch how young people behave, you see that if one sends an SMS and they don’t get an answer in 3 minutes, they send it again, then if they don’t get an answer in 30 seconds, they call out of fear to ask ‘what’s wrong?’ The ability to maintain the unwinding experience of reading, the basic experience of narrative fiction and nonfiction, it doesn’t happen…”

Today, says Lorch, people are used to consuming content in small pieces. “Some people say if you don’t complete the books then you are not a serious person. But this is basically fine. This is a natural way of reading content that people are reading anyway. Young people are smart, they know a lot and are curious. By the fact that you are offering them a plethora of sensations and information for you to pick and choose, it is actually a step forward for them.”

. . . .

“Today, everything is shared,” says Lorch. “The whole world today is based on the idea of what books are worthwhile, then they send you to a physical bookstore or an Amazonian one. The idea with us is that sending a book to your friend is as easy as sending a photo.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Dave for the tip.

What We Got Wrong About Books

13 March 2015

From The Scholarly Kitchen:

It is one of the cruel truisms of the book business that publishers rarely have much insight into how their products are actually used. This is not for lack of curiosity on a publisher’s part but because of the structure of the industry:  books are almost never sold directly to end-users. They are sold to libraries and the wholesalers that service libraries; they are sold to your local bookshop; and they are sold to online vendors; but rarely is a book sold directly by a publisher to the person who reads it.

. . . .

Book publishing, in other words, is a game of intermediaries. Sitting upstream, publishers have little insight into what is happening downstream. This is an invitation to make bad business decisions based on unproven assumptions about how books are actually used, and as an industry, book publishers have accepted that invitation over the past few years and made a series of big mistakes.

. . . .

Kobo itself has a huge readership around the world, second only to Amazon, which makes it possible to discern patterns in all the data it collects. But why would they release this information? Amazon notoriously is a very tight-lipped organization, but Kobo is headed the other way. Perhaps this is simple marketing–get out a good story about books and feature the Kobo name in it–but I suspect that Kobo is preparing to sell reports on that usage to publishers. Indeed, Kobo makes a good, if limited, case for how information on reader engagement could help a publisher acquire titles more effectively and market them better. So the sale of the data surrounding books could represent a new revenue stream, opening up the possibility that books could be sold at breakeven or even at a loss, with data sales comprising all of an online retailer’s profit. And here we have one of the fundamental truths of publishing in the twenty-first century: economic value is migrating from content to the metadata that surrounds that content.

What Kobo has zeroed in on is a new alternative metric, reader engagement. While we talk about altmetrics endlessly (immeasurably) in the journals world, for books we mostly talk about sales, measured in units: How many copies did you sell? Engagement is a different beast. I am an outlier forThe Goldfinch, having completed a book that 54% of readers did not. I give it a “B.” But the number of books that I have actually finished in my lifetime is very small. I would be surprised if I have finished 10% of the books I’ve read. For nonfiction that percentage is barely discernible. My science fiction addiction fares little better:  50 pages and throw the book across the room. Not finishing a book is the norm for me. This is because there are so many good ones to choose from; why waste time with one that is not up to snuff or for which the argument becomes apparent before reaching the final page?

Link to the rest at The Scholarly Kitchen and thanks to Michael for the tip.

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