Ebooks

Ballard bookstore and gallery embraces ebooks

18 April 2014

From the Ballard News Tribune:

How do you like to read a book? Many readers have dumped the print for digital media reading devices like Kindle. Other’s cling to their age scented pages like a crucifix.

Amazon has had an influential role in changing the way we read, and with the way we read, publishing has changed too. More and more authors side step the traditional publishing house by contracting out all the work that goes into designing and editing a book to freelancers. With the change, new ways to sell books are emerging across the country and right here in Ballard.

Michael Matewauk is founder and curator of Factory vs. Academy (FA), a gallery and bookstore in a basement studio at 2220 N.W. Market Street. FA is part of this month’s Ballard Art walk. He launched FA in 2013, but this is his first showing. Every three months he plans to pair photography or paintings that lend to the featured indie writers’ books. Matewauk plans to expand the genre he features but right now is focusing on creative non-fiction. His current exhibit is called, “Thank you Bezos! A Self Publishers’ First Supper,” and features eleven books.
Along with the books, there is a large mural inspired by “The Last Supper,” by Leonardo da Vinci. Matewauk recruited Seattle mural artist, Andrew Morrison, to paint the walls of his gallery. Morrison painted the Native American heritage mural at Wilson-Pacific campus.

. . . .

“I don’t know where I got the idea to do this but I think it’s basically because Bezos sounds close to Jesus. I was thinking he’s a savior for a lot of writers by having readers buy their work online rather than going through the traditional publishing industry. I thought, ‘what would it be like to have him at the head of the table and have indie authors as the apostles?’ The mural shows that it’s a new idea – a new way to put a book out into the market place,” said Matewauk.

Link to the rest at Ballard News Tribune and thanks to Michael for the tip.

Innovation is in the blood

16 April 2014

From FutureBook:

If there was one dominant theme coming of out the London Book Fair last week it was of an industry taking a pause, drawing in a big deep breath and working out what comes next. At Digital Minds, the author Nick Harkaway said that publishers liked to reach a plateau and then wait for the next innovation to run them down.

. . . .

There isn’t a conversation I have with anyone in publishing these days that isn’t prefaced by a worried shrug, or a slightly nervous glance over the shoulder. Publishing is in confident mood right now, but that confidence is based on some brittle assumptions: that digital continues to not disrupt, and that physical book retail does not close down. Take either of those two pillars away, and all this talk of an orderly transition to digital, will vanish as quickly as a drunken tweet.

The question of what comes next, and how much we can influence that should now be foremost in our minds. Speaking at Digital Minds, Faber’s Stephen Page said it was difficult to lock a group of employees in a room (away from the wider business) and ask them to lose money for six months.

. . . .

Publishing’s other great problem is that its core product isn’t broke. What have we really found out from five years of Kindle? Readers like reading. And generally they like reading in an environment unencumbered by music, video and animation. If publishers don’t feel like their products are going out of fashion, how can we expect them to change them.

. . . .

Publishers innovate constantly but much of it occurs in niche areas, away from the glare of social media. Show me a reader in demand of a new way of reading, and I’ll show you six publishers trying to meet that demand. Show me a publisher innovating and I’ll show you six technologists explaining why they are wrong.

Link to the rest at FutureBook

Big Publishing’s inability to engage in meaningful innovation was encapsulated for PG in, “. . . it was difficult to lock a group of employees in a room (away from the wider business) and ask them to lose money for six months.”

If you’re afraid to lose money, you’ll never do serious innovation. If you think real innovation can happen on a six month time-table, you really don’t understand innovation.

This is a reflection of a classic bean-counter mentality which may be well-suited for optimizing revenue and profit in a stable business environment but practically guarantees the business will be roadkill during a period of change.

The book business is not in stasis and won’t be for awhile. Organizations that do well in a period of disruptive change are typically lead by people who are willing to bet the company on a great new idea. Jeff Bezos has done this over and over with Amazon.

And as for “taking a pause, drawing in a big deep breath,” PG doesn’t expect Amazon to do that any time soon.

Big Publishing has all the wrong people in management positions and probably can’t do anything about it.

Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests

11 April 2014

From The New York Times Motherlode blog:

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading?

That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse, Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books.

In a second study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.

. . . .

While young readers find these digital products very appealing, their multitude of features may diffuse children’s attention, interfering with their comprehension of the text, Ms. Smith and the Schugars found. It seems that the very “richness” of the multimedia environment that e-books provide — heralded as their advantage over printed books — may overwhelm children’s limited working memory, leading them to lose the thread of the narrative or to process the meaning of the story less deeply.

This is especially true of what the authors call some e-books’ “gimmicks and distractions.” In the book “Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure,” for example, children can touch “wiggly woos” to make the creatures emit noise and move around the screen. In another e-book, “Rocket Learns to Read,” a bird flutters and sounds play in the background.

Such flourishes can interrupt the fluency of children’s reading and cause their comprehension to fragment, the authors found. They can also lead children to spend less time reading over all: One study cited by Ms. Smith and the Schugars reported that children spent 43 percent of their e-book engagement time playing games embedded in the e-books rather than reading the text.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

A 25 Cent Book in 1950 Would Be $2.44 Today

10 April 2014

From author Scott William Carter:

Amazon lists most of their genre fiction ebooks at $4.99, with backlist often at $3.99.  Is this the correct price?  Four years after publication, Simon and Schuster still sells the ebook edition of my first novel for $11.76, a price I think is insane, but who knows, perhaps they’re onto something.  My sharp friends Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith generally advocate pricing a little higher than most indie authors, andthey have valid reasoning behind their approach, especially when you consider they have started a traditional publishing company, albeit one that’s smartly taking advantage of all the new technologies.  And of course there are loads of writers, like Joe Konrath, who happily price at $2.99 or $3.99 and are doing very well.  Who’s correct?

No one, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Or everyone. With ebooks, price can’t primarily be about supply and demand, because supply is infinite, but it is affected by not only what consumers are willing to pay, but also by your goals as a publisher. There is no correct price for all ebooks.

Now, that said, where do I come down? I think Amazon is probably onto something, but even they, with their mountains of proprietary data on their own customer’s buying habits, which you would think would give them an enormous advantage, currently only have five out of the top twenty books on their own Kindle bestseller list.  A twenty-five percent hit rate is pretty good, but that’s their own bestseller list on their own site for a product they created!  (And look at how prices are all over the map on that list; that alone should tell you something.) Still, I think ebooks are closer in parallel to movie rentals, and no one says that a .99 movie rental at your local Redbox is somehow devaluing the movie.  Louis CK now sells his comedy specials direct to his fans for $4.99, and he’s made millions doing so.  It’s a pretty safe bet that his fans don’t think he’s devaluing his work, but instead think they’re getting a good deal.  That’s what I think, anyway, and I’m one of them.

. . . .

When the paperback novel was released in Britain, and here in America, it was just as much a gamechanger as the ebook.  That’s why the arguments about cheap book prices devaluing literature sound so familiar.  We’re just rehashing the same argument that was had about paperbacks.  “My books are certainly worth more than a Big Mac at McDonalds!” the writer claims.  Well, that certainly may be true to that writer, but who cares?  The average price of a Big Mac in America in January 2014 was $4.64, which is pretty close to where Amazon prices their genre ebooks, and most writers would be happy to move as many ebooks as McDonalds moves Big Macs. Pocket Books priced paperbacks in the forties and early fifties at 25 cents and sold millions — a price that would be the equivalent of just under $3 today.  Boy, did some folks howl about how books priced so low couldn’t be “real books,” just as the reincarnated literati, like zombies who eat books instead of brains, say the same thing today.

What’s wrong with giving people a good deal?

Link to the rest at Scott William Carter

Content Pricing Consultant: Ebooks Should Be (Much) More Expensive

3 April 2014

From Digital Book World:

Imagine a cold winter day in New England. Now, imagine wanting a particular book. You have three options, according to Frank Luby, a pricing consultant and former journalist, speaking at the Copy Right Clearance Center’s OnCopyright 2014 conference in New York.

You could brave the cold and, presumably, snow, get in your car, drive to the nearest Barnes & Noble to hope that the store has a copy. If it doesn’t have one, perhaps a nearby location does. You can buy the book from the store and drive home.

Alternatively, you could log on to Amazon.com and purchase the book and have it delivered to your door in a matter of days.

Or, you can pick up your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other e-reading device and have the book in your hands in a matter of moments.

“Ebooks are terribly misnamed,” said Luby. “They’re not a product. They’re a reader service.”

Luby argued that the convenience that ebooks offer over their print counterparts are a great benefit that publishers and retailers should charge readers more for.

“Ebooks should be more expensive than they are, more than print books — a lot more,” said Luby, adding that ebooks are relatively cheap because publishers and retailers don’t properly explain their benefits, namely, convenience.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Paper vs digital reading is an exhausted debate

2 April 2014

From The Guardian:

The digital revolution is going into a decline, Tim Waterstone told the Oxford literary festival. Well, it’s an attention-grabbing statement, ideally suited to our culture of assertive headlines, but it’s probably not true. That’s not to say that the rapid growth of digital will necessarily continue, either, certainly not in markets that are already saturated with handheld devices.

Why? Because the future is – as William Gibson told us quite a long time ago now – not evenly distributed.

. . . .

There are fewer and fewer venues where digital technology has made no impact – and where there’s a digital device, there are ebooks, at least in potential. They need not be anyone’s primary method of consuming literature, but in some situations they will be the best one. Rather than circling the wagons as other media industries did (to no good outcome, it has to be acknowleged) publishers need to learn the more recent lessons from music and film and consider, for example, providing digital copies as standard with hardback editions.

Digital will continue to grow for a while at least, and continue to exist, because it is becoming part of the world we inhabit at a level below our notice, no more remarkable than roads or supermarkets. Ebooks are here to stay because digital is, and quite shortly we’ll stop having this debate about paper vs ebooks because it will no longer make a lot of sense.

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

Different people adapt to new technologies in different ways. PG has no doubt that somewhere, people still stroll around listening to Walkmans and Diskmans. However, digital music isn’t tied to a particular device and people listen to music on their smart phones or tablets or their Sonos speakers (PG is currently in love with Sonos). Similarly, people watch digital video on a variety of different devices.

PG does think ebooks will replace paper books. For one thing, paper books require industrial-age scale to be sold at a reasonable price and still earn a profit for everyone in the supply chain. Publishers, distributors, bookstores and authors can earn money on a hardcover that costs $3 to print in China. A POD hardcover is going to require a higher price to generate the same profits or, more likely, cut organizations out of the supply chain in order to sell at a reasonable price that’s still higher than the same ebook would cost.

It’s dangerous to extend one’s own preferences and experiences to the rest of the world, but PG rarely buys paper books any more. He received a paper book in the mail yesterday because it was much cheaper as a used book than the ebook was. However, he immediately regretted the impulse purchase because he’s unlikely to read it. He much prefers a featherweight Kindle that doesn’t lose his place if he falls asleep and it slips from his fingers. PG’s stack of very good yet unread paper books is collecting dust.

Publishers Are Warming to Fan Fiction, But Can It Go Mainstream?

1 April 2014

From Wired:

Kady Morrison’s debut novel, Juniper Lane, won’t be on store shelves for months, but already her fans number in the six figures. They’re familiar with her work from Archive of Our Own, a fanwork site where Morrison writes fanfic under the handle gyzym.

Her publisher, Big Bang Press, is well aware—in fact, it links to her Ao3 page directly from its website. For a conventional publisher to acknowledge, let alone link directly to, a writers’ fan fiction is unprecedented, but Big Bang specializes in original works by authors recruited from the fan-fiction community.

The overlap between the professional and fan literary communities is one of those uncomfortable secrets no one denies, but few discuss. Fan fiction is mostly published pseudonymously, and the stigma surrounding it often causes writers to keep their professional and fan identities carefully compartmentalized.

Literary publishing’s uneasy relationship with fan fiction has been complicated by the realization that fandom is a huge potential market—one stocked with both prolific authors and enthusiastic readers.  But tapping that market is a dilemma few publishers seem quite prepared to engage.

. . . .

To Morgan Davies, Big Bang’s editor-in-chief, mainstream publishing’s difficulty tapping the fan market is a byproduct of its cultivated distance from fandom. “They know there’s something there, and they know they should be doing something about it, but they don’t really understand how it works,” Davies says. Most publishers who scout fanfiction, she says, simply look for popular works that can be repurposed as original novels–50 Shades of Grey, for example, started as a fan’s reimagining of Twilight.

Big Bang takes a different approach: Instead of trawling platforms like Archive of Our Own or Wattpad for stories, Davies decided to focus her search on authors: “We want to take people who have been writing a lot of fan ficiton and honing their writing talent, but who are interested in writing original stuff and clearly have the talent and ability to do so.”

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

You can’t buy that! The great e-book royalty war

28 March 2014

From Salon:

A recent lawsuit brought before the U.S. District Court in New York offers readers a glimpse into a battle raging behind the scenes in traditional publishing. The dispute, between authors and publishers, has been going on for several years and there are times it affects which titles you’re able to get as e-books.

Much of the e-book market is for new titles, but by no means all. The first e-books I wanted to load onto my new tablet were classics I hoped to reread but found too bulky to lug around in print form and old favorites I wanted to revisit.

. . . .

However, if I wanted to reread the 1973 YA classic “Julie of the Wolves” on my iPad and I was shopping before 2011, I would have been out of luck. The author of that novel (about an Eskimo girl who runs away from home to live with a pack of wolves), Jean Craighead George, could not come to terms with HarperCollins, the longtime publisher of “Julie.” Like most large, traditional publishers, HarperCollins insisted that George accept a 25 percent royalty on digital sales of her book, a cut George considered too small. Instead, George opted for Open Road Integrated Media, a company founded with the express purpose of bringing backlist titles to the e-book marketplace. Open Road offered George a deal in which she received half of the proceeds from the sale of “Julie of the Wolves.”

HarperCollins then sued, claiming it retained the right to publish “Julie” as an e-book, and — because of the wording of George’s 1970s contract — they won. But the results (and the rather complex finer points) of that particular case are less important that the essence of George’s choice: 25 or 50 percent. At one time, several publishers allowed 50 percent royalties on e-book sales, but today, the five biggest book publishers are holding the line at 25 percent.

Authors and their agents are fighting tooth and claw to move back that line. Their argument, as expressed by Susan Golomb, agent for such writers as Jonathan Franzen and William Vollmann, is that, with an e-book, “all the hard costs of publishing have evaporated. No printing, binding, warehousing, shipping. They have no costs.” Many authors are willing to hold out on agreeing to the publication of e-books until publishers’ terms improve.

. . . .

While literary agents tend to be vocal on this topic, the publishers I contacted, with the exception of Dennis Loy Johnson, publisher of Melville House Books, were unwilling to speak on the record. As a small press, Melville House pays even smaller e-book royalties than the majors: 20 percent. However, Johnson says that e-books constitute such a tiny part of the company’s sales that this has not been a great bone of contention. “Showrooming is real,” Johnson said, referring to book buyers’ habit of browsing in physical bookstores to find out about interesting new titles, then going online to purchase an e-book at a lower price. “In a way, the print book is an advertisement for the e-book and the e-book royalties subsidize the expense of getting those print books out to the stores where people can discover it.”

. . . .

Publishers also argue that the money they make on backlist titles like “Julie of the Wolves” funds the risks they take in publishing new authors. They see it as a model a bit like that of a health insurance company, where the contributions of people who use fewer services even out the costs of the people who use more.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to James for the tip.

Diesel eBooks is Closing Shop

26 March 2014

From Diesel eBook Store:

Diesel eBooks will be closing at the end of this month. It’s been a great ride!  We’re exploring our options – eBooks are still in the infant years and there are many opportunities opening up now and in the future.

IMPORTANT: you must download your eBooks by month end. Downloads will not be possible on April 1st.

Link to the rest at Diesel eBook Store and thanks to Russell for the tip.

Is Apple Now the No. 2 Ebook Retailer in the U.S.?

25 March 2014

From Digital Book World:

Over the past month, I’ve spoken to over a dozen large, medium and small publishers of ebooks and a handful of important ebook distributors which cater to indie authors. Many of them have shared with me their ebook retailer market share breakdown for the past three months (December, January and February). At the same time, due to the sensitivity of the matter (no publisher wants to publicly acknowledge what percentage of revenue comes from Amazon, for instance), many publishers officially declined to share data with me.

. . . .

Among the largest publishers, Barnes & Noble seems to still be solidly No. 2 behind Amazon, but both Apple and Amazon are gaining market share and B&N is losing it.

. . . .

One surprise in looking at large publishers is that Google kept on coming up as a retailer that is gaining market share.

. . . .

Among medium-sized publishers, Apple and Barnes & Noble are closer.

Among the medium-sized publishers I spoke with, some are making more money with Apple, and some with B&N. I was told that month-to-month, genre-to-genre and book-to-book it changes.

Among small publishers, Apple seems to have taken the market share lead.

I was told by small publishers that Apple has become very attentive to their needs while the opposite has happened at Barnes & Noble. Apple’s efforts, they told me, have paid off.

At a small publisher, one book can make a huge difference in retailer market-share over the course of a month. I was told several stories of how clever marketing by Apple for titles with momentum resulted in huge market-share swings in Apple’s direction over the course of a month or two. I was even told by one small publisher that for one book, Apple far eclipsed Amazon in sales.

Among indie authors, Barnes & Noble is likely the leader still, but it’s unclear.

One major distributor had Barnes & Noble in the lead, but not by much and with the margin shrinking. Another said Apple was far ahead.

“Apple is our No. 2 ebook retailer over the past year – and a strong No. 2,” said Matt Cavnar, co-founder of Vook, which distributes about 5,000 ebooks for authors, small- and medium-sized publishers and its own publishing operations.

. . . .

Among all categories, Amazon seems to be gaining market share.

Among all the groups we spoke with, the overall narrative seemed to be that Amazon and Apple were gaining market share and that Barnes & Noble was losing it.

The going thinking right now is that the shift away from agency pricing by the largest publishers has helped Amazon grow its ebook market share because it’s doing the most discounting. I don’t think that’s quite right. Amazon’s competitors are discounting, too.

What I think has happened is that because Nook, for instance, is now selling many, many titles without making a profit (or at a loss — I’m talking about best-selling titles from the publishers which were previously agency), the bleeding of 2011 and 2012, when the company was losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, has turned to a full-on hemorrhage.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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