Ebooks

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.

Evernote Now Lets Users Create eBooks

4 August 2014

From Galleycat:

The popular note taking app Evernote has a new feature that lets users produce an eBook or PDF directly from the app.

The new tool comes as part of an integration with self-publishing platform FastPencil. Users can publish a group of notes from Evernote or their entire notebook by importing the pages into FastPencil’s self-publishing platform from within the Evernote app.

Link to the rest at Galleycat and thanks to AD for the tip.

PG was an early adopter of Evernote and continues to use it on a regular basis. He doesn’t know that this is the best way to do an ebook but he’s open-minded because Evernote does other things so well.

Accidentally Going Digital

28 July 2014

From BookRiot:

If there’s one thing I spend a lot of time championing around here, it’s that everyone should read whatever they want without shame, and they should read it in whatever format gives them the most pleasure and ease of use. You want to read Shakespeare in giant gold-edged hardcover form? Go for it. You want to read 50 Shades of Gray on your Kindle? Sure, have fun. I hope you get some enjoyment out of it. I am open and accepting.

But that said…come on, I’ve got preferences and prejudices just like everybody else. I just recognize that they apply only to me and I try to keep them to myself.

One of those prejudices has been toward ebooks. I don’t like them. I poke at them a lot, I try out books on kindles and iPads and iPhones, on light-up screen Kindles, and so on and so forth. I enjoy them the way I enjoy experimenting with any piece of gadgetry…but then, when I want to stop fiddling around and get down to the brass tacks of reading (which would be more comfortable without all these brass tacks), I inevitably go physical. I have shelves and shelves of physical books, and even if I have a book digitally, I am inclined to buy a hard copy of it.

. . . .

Externally, I’d made my peace with all of this. Everyone else can read how they want, I’ll read how I want, and we’re just fine. Internally, I kept picking away at it because I don’t enjoy disliking things other people enjoy. I like figuring it out and enjoying it too (or understanding precisely why I can’t enjoy it and going on my own way).

Then something really interesting happened, which is that the past two months passed and I looked up the other day and realized…I hadn’t read a physical book in two months.

And then I said what the hell?

That is so weird. It’s like being a fish with primitive lungs who suddenly realizes he’s been out of the ocean for ages and stands around going how did that happen? And how indeed did it happen? What caused the shift, what caused me to so abruptly become comfortable with it that I didn’t even notice the shift happening?

. . . .

It’s the path of least resistance to reading, which is why even now that I’ve realized it, I haven’t been inclined to do anything about it. There hasn’t been any great and conscious rush back to physical books over digital. It just seems to have stopped being one-over-the-other all of a sudden. I’m happy to take books either way, which is a completely new experience.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

For PG, ebooks were love at first sight.

Two nights ago, PG finished a book on his Kindle, but wanted to keep reading. He looked over at a stack of very good and unread printed books sitting beside his bed, felt guilty about not reading them, and bought another ebook.

 

Why I went independent as an author

10 July 2014

From The BookBaby Blog:

[Warren Adler has published more than 30 novels and short story collections, including The War of the Roses, which was turned into a major motion picture and is currently in development for a Broadway production.]

I went into the e-book and Print on Demand mode in the nineties convinced that the new technology would radically change the future of book publishing, and would allow an author a chance to control his own destiny.

By then I had published 27 novels with major traditional publishers; many had been translated and published in various languages.

I had also sold or optioned a dozen of my books for film adaptation; three were made. One was “The War of the Roses,” which starred Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner; another was “Random Hearts” with Harrison Ford and Kirstin Scott-Thomas; and a third was a three-hour trilogy on the PBS network titled “The Sunset Gang.”

. . . .

I made the decision to become an independent publisher of my own work before the Kindle and other devices had made their debut. At that time there was a growing movement for digitization and various brave entrepreneurs had jumped on board with a similar vision. The history of that period is littered with failures.

. . . .

The motivation for my own authorial decision to turn my back on traditional publishers was both psychological and entrepreneurial. The psychological was purely personal. I am a Depression baby. My father was hard hit during the Depression and it was difficult for him to get and hold a job. He was always at the mercy of others, and I vowed early on never to be beholden to others to make my living. Controlling my own destiny has always been one of my principal obsessions.

I forced myself to learn the ropes of being my own boss. I learned to be entrepreneurial by starting various businesses. I had another overriding obsession, the need to write, to be an author, to tell stories, to write novels, plays, short stories, essays, poems, the whole caboodle.

It took me 25 years to get my first novel published.

. . . .

Beyond moments of joy and fulfillment of which there have been many, the obsession of control lingers. Technology offered me the gift of independence and self–sovereignty, and I jumped at it. I quickly discovered that I had hurled myself from the frying pan into the fire.

I have been both very right and very wrong in the way the digital book publishing business is playing out. I was right to believe that technology was a disrupter to the traditional publishing business. Amazon has proven that conclusively.

. . . .

It has been only seven years since the Kindle was introduced. In another seven years traditional print publishing as practiced today will be a cottage industry worldwide.

. . . .

The traditional big-time publishers, merged and consolidated by corporate bean counters over the last few decades, are shell-shocked survivors of a by-gone age.

Link to the rest at The BookBaby Blog and thanks to Randal for the tip.

Amazon Finally Defends Itself Against Accusations That It’s A Bully Pushing Around Hachette

3 July 2014

From Business Insider:

Amazon has finally delivered a full defense of its actions against book publisher Hachette.

Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s SVP of Kindle content, told the Wall Street Journal that Amazon is acting “in the long-term interest of our customers.”

. . . .

Farhad Manjoo, who is typically reserved and level headed, wrote at the New York Times, “Amazon is confirming its critics’ worst fears and it is an ugly spectacle to behold.” Manjoo espoused the conventional viewpoint that Amazon was being a bully against Hachette.

The Journal says the dispute between the two companies comes down to revenue sharing and promotion. Amazon wants more revenue from e-books. Hachette doesn’t want to give up more money because it will cut in to its profits.

. . . .

“This discussion is all about e-book pricing,” Grandinetti tells the Journal. “The terms under which we trade will determine how good the prices are that we can offer consumers.”

Link to the rest at Business Insider

Breaking Free Part 2 – One Month Later

28 June 2014

From author Nick Stephenson:

I had a bunch of emails last time I posted on this subject, asking me to update how my adventures outside of KDP Select were going after a month – so, if you haven’t read the previous post, go check that out here.

For everyone else, here’s the skinny: From my very first book release in March 2013, there had always been a common trend. Book sales would spike massively around a promotion (usually Bookbub) and then fall right back down again within a few days. Not that I’m complaining, but my eventual goal was to try and keep sales consistently strong, rather than relying on a monthly spike in numbers and then thirty days of diddly-squat.

. . . .

So, I pulled my titles from KDP Select and uploaded them onto other vendors, then set my strongest-rated novel to permafree. I applied for a Bookbub free promotion, which went live on the 27th of June. The results have been better than I could have hoped. Sales have remained consistently higher for over a month, beating out my average daily revenue of $80 by a factor of four. This last month has easily been my strongest to date, and is set to overtake the $7,000 mark by the time July rolls round. And, best of all, sales on non-Amazon retailers make up a significant portion of that figure, and Amazon UK has opened up for the first time.

. . . .

I’ve also been extremely impressed with my first experiences with other retailers. iTunes has been easy to work with (despite it taking nearly a week to get a title approved), Nook was simple and fast (12 hours from submission to publication) and Kobo was a dream. Kobo were also kind enough to feature my permafree book as one of their “first free in series” titles, which gave my numbers there a little push. Kobo is now a nice little side earner – and the efforts these guys go to in order to accommodate indies is commendable – especially given the vacuum that opens up every time I try to email Apple or Barnes and Noble. Well done, Kobo!

Link to the rest, including sales charts at Nick Stephenson

Dispelling the Ebook Publishing Long Tail Myth

24 June 2014

From Digital Book World:

The myth of the Long Tail is possibly fading away as the digital book market grows, and it’s operated by few mega e-retailers.

. . . .

In a limitless world of digital goods, without inventory costs, huge search engines, near-zero marginal cost of digital production and distribution, niche products will get much more market relevance at expenses of the blockbusters. This is part of what the “Long Tail” theory (or myth if you like) has been preaching.

Does it apply to the creative industries? Will book publishers be able to reduce attention on blockbusters and increase focus on the Long Tail?

. . . .

The preliminary results, based on our actual sales in Italy, shows that the Tail is becoming less relevant (not more) as the digital market grows.

Interestingly this is also highly correlated with the growing concentration of the e-retail market. As the market share of the global players grows, the sales impact of small and independent retailers diminishes dramatically. A highly concentrated e-retail market appears to be less capable to foster and grow a long tail of digital books than it is a not concentrated e-retail market. In fact the overall ebook market has been growing very significantly, but the bestsellers have been taking a growing lion’s share.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG suggests the possibility that the impact of long tail ebook sales may look different to a publisher than it does to an indie author.

A publisher’s journey to tech and back

17 June 2014

From Arthur Atwell:

I used to be a textbook publisher for two multinational companies. And when you’re a book publisher you realise pretty quickly that you either make books for rich people, or you sell cookie-cutter textbooks to government. Most people in the world – perhaps six or seven billion – could never buy the books you make.

Most South Africans, we can be fairly sure, live their entire lives without owning a book.

A 2006 study showed that “80% of South African children were not yet reading with comprehension after five years of schooling.”

. . . .

Well, all traditional publishing works like this:

  1. The publisher develops a finished product, based on their best guess of market needs.
  2. Then manufactures it.
  3. Stores it.
  4. Ships it.
  5. Then a retailer displays it.
  6. Sells a few copies.
  7. And returns or destroys the copies not sold.

This is very expensive: not only are there multiple links in the supply chain adding costs and very little value, but the risk of getting the initial product design wrong is high. Many publishers will tell you that only one in ten books makes money. So, as a result, the industry’s customers must be wealthy to pay for all this, and its retailers must be located close to those wealthy consumers. This is as true online as it is in bricks.

. . . .

Only a disruptive innovation could solve this problem, an innovation that fundamentally changes the way that books are made and distributed.

. . . .

Importantly, none of these innovations really spurred more reading among those who hadn’t bought books before. Maybe 45 million South Africans, ninety per cent of us. We were just making more products for the wealthy, and leaving everyone else behind.

Meanwhile, the digital divide, between the Internet haves and have-nots, kept getting worse as the lure of technology drew in more and more institutions, leading them to provide digital products for the wealthy, and to stop providing paper products that the poor once shared in.

. . . .

It took several years for me to realise that the innovation we needed in South Africa would not come from a new, first-world technology. Adopting new technologies requires disposable income and the space and time to learn new things, and human beings are stingy and don’t change quickly.

. . . .

Given the ecosystem of devices, data, support and credit cards that they require, ebooks are just as exclusive as traditional books. Their overheads are just easier to take for granted when you’re rich.

. . . .

So I realised we wouldn’t solve the problem in South Africa by throwing ereaders at schoolchildren, or asking everyone to read their textbooks on tiny feature phone screens. I’m glad some of my closest friends are working on that stuff, it’s important for the future, but right now we need something really simple to bandage our reading crisis. Something that requires no new infrastructure or technology.

Link to the rest at Arthur Atwell and thanks to Alicia for the tip.

Ebook Pricing Hikes Amount to Price-Gouging

28 May 2014

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Since about 2010, the electronic book, or ebook, has rapidly increased its market share in the publishing business, and in 2013 it accounted for 27 percent of adult trade-book sales. Academic audiences have been somewhat slower to adopt this format, but as the general market for ebooks has begun to plateau, the academic market has been picking up. Now—and probably not coincidentally—academic libraries find themselves facing sharply increased pricing for commercially published electronic books.

. . . .

In the BLC program, publishers charge libraries for ebooks based on a model that combines payment for short-term use of a title by a student or researcher with the purchase of the title after a few short-term uses. In this way, libraries pay full price for an ebook that meets the needs of multiple readers, and pay a fractional price for ebooks that are of use to only one or two people. This month the BLC was surprised to learn that a number of the publishers in this program planned immediate, significant, and unexplained increases in price. Even worse, the new pricing goes into effect at a time when library budgets are already committed for the 2015 fiscal year.

These newly announced price increases, amounting to several hundred percent in some cases, are levied on short-term uses, and this regressive pricing model is being adopted by the publishers whose ebooks are already among the most expensive in the scholarly market.

. . . .

[T]his move looks like an experiment in predatory pricing, designed to make the most of rising demand, but without justification in terms of either production cost or use value. Academic libraries and the universities they serve have already seen the results of this kind of experiment, in the pricing of scientific journals, which sky-rocketed as publishers transitioned from print to electronic delivery. And although electronic publications have some new costs not attached to print, it is abundantly clear that a small number of commercial publishers, who control over 40 percent of the scientific journals, have reaped major profits in this transition. Price inflation in scientific journals (which has been four times the general rate of inflation since 1986) has taken a major toll on academic-library budgets for books, including ebooks. This shift in resource allocation is not discipline-neutral, either: science and technical disciplines publish primarily in the form of the journal article, but the book remains central to the humanities and the social sciences. These new ebook price increases (by some of the same publishers who have hiked the price of science journals) are unjustified and therefore ethically unacceptable, and they are economically insupportable.

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education and thanks to Mary Lou for the tip.

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